.38 Super


March 1, 2008, 03:04 PM
O.K. I am requesting help again from the wizened members of this august assemblage (am I laying it on too thick?). I have come across a used R.I.A. in .38 super, I know the R.I.A. is a "low budget" pistol brand, but the fit was really nice and the previous owner had the front-strap checkered, trigger job and high profile fixed sites installed.

The gun is parkerized, no idiot mark and looks N.I.B. What can you tell me about the .38 super cartridge? I have been told that it can emulate .357 magnum ballistics. Is it going to be dramatically more expensive to feed tahn a similar pistol in .45? Allright, folks, have at it!


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March 1, 2008, 03:08 PM
not quite 357mag power
doug koenig the shooting champ shoots this round
i think youll find with the 38super that all rounds will be premium bullet prices more so
where as with a 45 you can find cheap ammo
if you are looking for 357mag performance in an pistol look into the 10mm

Old Dog
March 1, 2008, 03:19 PM
If you reload, great caliber. And jgo296 notes, factory ammo is becoming prohibitively expensive, and a variety of .38 Super is a bit harder to find.

What's not to like, though? 9+1 in a slim 1911, good packin' pistol, excellent ballistics, and manageable recoil.

I saw a bright nickel RIA 1911 in .38 Super that looked pretty darn good.

March 1, 2008, 04:34 PM
I would not take anything for my series 70 MK IV Colt in 38 Super, but it does not see a lot of range time. A quick check on Natchess shows the ammo considerably higher than 45 ACP. I also agree that there is not a lot of variety in types of ammo.

March 1, 2008, 04:44 PM
I have a ria in .38 super and love it, sure the ammo can be pricey, but what ammo isnt'
If you don't have one (38super) in the 1911 platform, go for it , buy it and don't look back, you wont regret it, if you do, just sell it off and put it on your list not to fool with.
One never knows what he has till he has it, anothers idea is anothers jewel.
good luck

March 1, 2008, 06:22 PM
After years without one, I finally got a Springfield in .38 Super. Great cartridge. You can load it from 9MM levels to pretty danged hot. Lots of fun, cheaper to shoot than .40 or .45, although you will have to buy brass since it isn't laying around everywhere like 9MM and .40 along with some .45.

Go for it. Sounds like a nice gun. Let us know how it shoots. :)

March 1, 2008, 06:31 PM
The 9x23mm Winchester can almost fully match .357 Magnum velocities.

Attempting to load .38 Super to those pressures is a recipe for a spectacular KB, and is the reason for the creation of the 9x23 (which has much thicker case walls, and can take far higher pressures).

March 1, 2008, 06:38 PM
Nailed it!

R.I.A, I am not familiar with.

.38 Super I am familiar with in a Colt, and as it is designed with its loads is a very fine gun.

9x23 is a very old ctg as well, IIRC dates back to circa 1900. This for all the reasons John shared. I especially like the thicker case walls.

My question is, why is it folks have to take a fine ctg and try to make it something is not supposed to be?

Get a ctg, and use that ctg as designed. If that does not work, get a ctg that will work.

March 2, 2008, 03:31 PM

The .38 Super came out in 1929 as a more potent version of Colt's .38ACP. Most factory loadings have been fairly tame due to the rather remote chance that someone could have used them in an older .38ACP chambered pistol (the .38ACP design couldn't handle the hotter .38 Super). One of the nice things about the .38 Super M1911 design is that it can easily be converted to 9mm. All you need is a complete 9mm barrel assembly and a 9mm magazine. That way you're shooting on the same platform with the two calibers, and you can use the somewhat cheaper 9mm ammo for practice.

March 2, 2008, 04:07 PM
THank you one and all for the replies, and just to clarify, I never said that I intended to "hot-rod" this cartridge, I merely wanted to be sure that I understood it's abilities. A fellow forum member here has graciously offered me the use of his re-loading set-up if I supply the dies.

Now the question remains; Do I get the Rock? The model 65 at the other pawn shop had an awfully nice trigger and a 3" barrel would be a nice ccw setup. Then there was the that used Kimber compact...and the kelt-tec..and the....oh hang it all. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, so many decisions, oh and did I mention that my CCW class is on the 15th of this month?:banghead: Yeah, I got "issues" Lol

March 2, 2008, 04:08 PM
I like the Super. But you must load your own to take full advantage of it. Factory ammo is seriously underpowered for fear of someone shooting it in an old .38 ACP gun (Super ammo fits but is loaded much hotter- well, it used to be much hotter).

The RIA is a good value. Solid and reliable in most cases (a few clinkers have been reported but that's true of anything). I have loaded my Supers to a max of 1525 FPS with a 115 JHP but settled on around 1450 for carry. Pretty warm (beats the 9mm by around 200 FPS) but not up to .357 Magnum level.

March 4, 2008, 01:44 AM
I have a 3" model 65, and it's a heck of a gun.

Eric F
March 4, 2008, 02:08 AM
Ok I must interject at this time. Some folks claim the downers are the following......cost of ammo, underpowered factory amunition, and difficulty in locating reloading componets.

Ok all well and fine -sorta- look up The armory in Virginia beach Va. They sell bulk ammo the cheapest you will ever find it. its Agulia 130 gr. The box claims to be 1200 fps..WRONG a friend and I cronographed multiple rounds out of 3 diffrent pistols and got an average of 1450 fps. His guns were STI and mine is an RIA. As far as components Buy the agulia from the armory not sure if shipping makes it worth it I made a local pickup. Use this brass to reload with powder valley inc has the best prices for bullets and brass man is the best for once fired brass. There are alot of diffrent powders to use I went with AA#2 because I have alot of it. I load 135 gr bullets to 950 fps.

The 9mm trick is great and all but I think the ejectors are diffrent also.

March 4, 2008, 02:19 AM
The .38 Super is a terrific cartridge. It is popular in certain countries that prohibit civilian ownership of military or policia caliber rounds. Thus, the .38 super gives civilian gun owners that 9mm feeling without the jailtime that goes with owning a 9 mm.

The .38 super has it's distractors, but many fans also. The .38 super can be loaded to better velocities than the 9 mm, thus, allowing it to play in IPSC major power factors and also have the advantage of 9mm doublestack magazine capacity.

I have 2 RIA's in .45 and my experience with the guns from this company have been superb. I used to own a Colt Mk IV in .38 super and it was the most fun I had. If you reload, then you could just get a bunch of brass and load up some .38 super with your 9mm dies backed out of the press the appropriate distance.

Definitely sounds like a winner.

March 4, 2008, 02:49 AM
Eric F

Indeed the ejectors are different, but the .38 Super's will work with both cartridges. The problem with the 9mm. ejector is that it's too long for the .38 Super case. If you started with a 9mm. pistol and wanted to convert it to .38 Super, then you would need to install a .38 Super ejector.

March 4, 2008, 03:13 AM
bannockburn said:

Indeed the ejectors are different, but the .38 Super's will work with both cartridges. The problem with the 9mm. ejector is that it's too long for the .38 Super case. If you started with a 9mm. pistol and wanted to convert it to .38 Super, then you would need to install a .38 Super ejector.

That would be the difference between the ejectors that you need to worry about. A .38 Super ejector will eject 9mm cases just fine. I have such a set up in my 9x23 Commander and its not an issue.

You won't need 9mm mags, either. A standard .38 Super mag will work with 9mms. There will be some gap in the magazine, as the rounds are longer, but they work.

The .38 Super is a good round. Its not as widely available as the .45 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, etc. . . . But it is out there. The cost savings comes into play when you reload. 9mm bullet components are cheaper than the larger calibers, and most .38 Super reloaders use a 9mm bullet component. It's not .357 Magnum velocity. The 9x23 Winchester is, and its not difficult to set up a .38 Super to shoot 9x23. Most .38 Super guns will shoot it with no work, some need a little attention first. Its a very hot round. While you might get away with just loading them up in the magazine and dropping the hammer, I'd have it looked at by someone knowledgeable first.

You can have a lot of fun with a .38 Super. You can have a lot more fun with one fitted for a drop-in 9mm barrel for range practice.

March 4, 2008, 05:28 AM
Hmmmm decisions, decisions.... That Rock Island had really been worked over by someone who knew what they were doing, the triger was smoother than the prom queen's...er cheek, yeah, cheek was what I meant..honest

March 4, 2008, 06:15 AM
Pick it up. The .38 Super is an excellent round. In terms of the availability of ammo, look here...www.midwayusa.com

look under ammunition.


March 4, 2008, 06:17 AM
double post.

March 4, 2008, 02:12 PM
Oddly enough, I read a review of the Rock Island .38 Super on an M1911 forum this morning. The reviewer seemed to like it a lot 45' accuracy seemed excellent. Allegedly it doesn't like Winchester .38 Super, which is apparently of significantly longer OAL, at least in the FMJ. I'm thinking about one now, although I'd prefer a Series 70 [or earlier] Colt or a Springfield.

March 4, 2008, 02:21 PM
I love my RIA .38 Super. Its a great round, especially if you reload.

March 4, 2008, 09:44 PM
I picked up a Rock Island 38 Super not long ago. Brand new plain GI formt. I've put about 500 rounds through it so far without any stoppages. The Rock Island guns are actually quite well made. I have 3 of them and they have all proven to be reliable. I going to have to say you should get it. Can never have enough guns or calibers now can you....:D

March 4, 2008, 10:02 PM
I love my RIA 38 Super. This is a very good calliber & perfect for the re-loader to play around with.

March 4, 2008, 11:21 PM
I picked up a RAI 38 Super recently. They are a good value, but they can have problems. If you are buying a used pistol, the previous owner could have addressed them. I had an extractor clocking, I sent an email to the rep and I had replacement parts in a week. My pistol does not like Win WB 130 FMJ FN. I found an article on 38Super net that explained the problem - the diagonal length of the cartridge creates a long OAL. I got brass from Starline and 9mm 125 g LTN for my reload setup.

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