38 Special Brass


November 24, 2007, 09:31 PM
Is there any difference between regular and +P brass besides the headstamp? I load regular to +P pressures and haven't noticed a problem yet. I don't own any old .38s where +P could maybe be a problem so an ammo mixup isn't a factor.

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November 24, 2007, 09:45 PM
There can be a difference. Some WW cases I have from DEWC factory loads (i.e., the softball target load) are definitely lighter weight.

The only brass I know of that meets 38+P specs with a standard headstamp is Starline--and they have so stated on their site.

Functionally, I am not sure you will be able to see any issues with standard factory brass shot at +P levels; they will probably simply wear out sooner.

Jim H.

November 24, 2007, 10:52 PM
I do the same thing. I pay it no mind.

If I need to load some +p I just grab some cases and have at it.

The Bushmaster
November 25, 2007, 12:02 AM
The factory stamp (+P or +P+) is so that when you purchase factory rounds you know that they are loaded to +P or +P+ rating. Some.38 Specials, mostly older models, could not be fired with +P or hotter. When reloading I ignore it and load em. Most of my .38 Special loadings are +P...

November 25, 2007, 12:28 AM
There are differences between .38 cases, but usually not between commercial .38 and .38+P or +P+.

However, Winchester has loaded a LOT of .38 for Uncle Sam, and it IS to a diffferent spec.

Particularily, the PCU-B ammo, originally loaded for the Air Force with a 130gr FMJ to approx. 1300fps from a 4" bbl (yes, nearly .357mag, and yes, I've chrono'd some my brother "retained" when he retired from USAF Security Police) that were essentially a +P+ and had considerably thicker brass than the usual .38special commercial ammo. Some lot's of this were profoundly accurate. My brother has his "leg" match from a civilian PPC Regional match he shot with it. With a box-stock Ruger Sec.-6, no less ! (requires using factory loaded ammo. Not bad for a Marksman class shooter).

The further downside is that the brass had the same knurled cannulure above a single thin ring turned into the brass, EXACTLY LIKE THAT OF THE .38spl W-W Super-Match.

I recieved a bunch of it in a lot of .38 re-manf. reloads aquired from Master Cartridge (predecessor of Georgia Arms). I had it get mixed in with my "stash" of W-W match brass. Ammo loaded in that brass shot like Sh## due to the excessivly thick brass and occasionaly wouldn't chamber. Try shooting a PPC match under time with a few "Gotcha's" like that in the "mix".

Needless to say, of the 40,000+ .38spl cases I have, only a few hundred have the W-W headstamp and the double cannulure............ and that's because I haven't taken them to a recycler.......yet !!

There CAN be a difference !!!!!

November 25, 2007, 02:44 AM
I thought there wasn't a difference between .38 Special and .38 Special +P Brass until I read an article in Handloader Magazine a few months ago. In the article the writer warned about using +P Brass with some Lead bullets because the +P Brass was thicker than the normal .38 Special Brass and wouldn't expand as much when fired thus creating excessive pressure when using a Max charge. I'm sorry I can't find the article right now or I would quote it directly and provide more information.

November 25, 2007, 09:58 AM
I notice a difference when sizing the brass, since we go through several thousand rounds of .38 special brass a year. Some brands are noticably thicker when headstamped +P, particularly Winchester. There is more resistance when sizing the thicker brass.

I have several boxes of the old Winchester "Treasury Load", headstamped +P+, and that brass is thicker. This load was used by the Secret Service and California Highway Patrol in the late 1970's, and is considerably hotter than even +P ammunition.

Hope this helps.


November 25, 2007, 10:10 AM
I double checked my loading sources, which it what we should all do first, and there is no mention of differences in brass between 38spl and +p's. As a matter of fact, Hornady and Lee show +p mixed in with the regular 38spl loads using the same brass. Speer book lists the +p in a separate section but using the same brass as the 38spl.

I can't prove of disprove there is or ever was a difference in brass, but if you follow the approved recipies in the load manuals you should be fine.

Bad Flynch
November 25, 2007, 12:30 PM
QuickLoad, which uses SAAMI specifications for maximum case capacity while doing its internal ballistics calculations, says there is no difference in the case capacities at max between regular and +P cases.

Tht leads me to believe the +P stamp is to warn purchasers and users as to the nature of the cartridge, not the real dimensions of the brass.

November 25, 2007, 12:40 PM
I agree that there have been differences, at least once upon a time.

And heed what GooseGestapo said about GI .38 Spl. brass.
The brass from the 130 grain FMJ load is noticeably thicker in the web, and will cause case bulges when seating 158 grain bullets that may prevent chambering. In addition, the decreased case capacity will raise pressure.

If in doubt about the +P cases you have, the easiest way to find out is to weigh some of them and compare them against standard pressure case weight.

If they weigh more, they have thicker webs, and less capacity.


November 25, 2007, 01:03 PM
I do sort my brass by headstamp--and in 38 Special, I also sort by the "+P" stamp as well.

I use my Starline brass for all "serious" reloading; the rest if for the plinking loads.

Jim H.

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