2007 .38 Special +P versus 1977 .38 Special +P


July 23, 2008, 08:45 PM

There is always a back and forth discussion about whether ammo companies continue to detune there products over liability concerns, etc.

Here is my input for the debate…

While I don’t have access to much vintage .38 special ammo, I did happen to a have full box of Remington’s (now discontinued :() +P loading of a 158 gr. LRN made in 1977 (box date code). The best comparison would be to the current +P loading of a 158 gr. LSWC-HP, bought from Bass Pro Shops in 2007.

Here are the results, out of my 1942 production Colt Official Police with the 6” heavy barrel:

1977 Remington .38 Special +P (158 gr. LRN)

Average Velocity (3 shots) = 1007 fps
Average Energy (3 shots) = 356 fpe

2007 Remington .38 Special +P (158 gr. LSWC-HP)

Average Velocity (3 shots) = 1000 fps
Average Energy (3 shots) = 351 fpe


1007 fps vs 1000 fps

It appears that Remington has maintained the exact performance of their +P lead loads very well over the past 30 years. Any difference between them is purely academic due to the low number of shots fired. Out course different ammo lots/guns could yield different results, but that’s OK.

Please comment!

I know somebody will complain that I should have done the testing in a 2” j-frame because nobody uses 6” .38 revolvers anymore. Funny thing is that I DO carry my 6” .38 for real defensive use. :rolleyes:

Take Care,


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July 23, 2008, 08:50 PM
I have never seen a box date code on any ammo. Is something the mfg. puts on or something else?

July 24, 2008, 12:45 AM
Good question!

The date code is technically for the box itself and was stamped on by the manufacturer who did the printing. It indicates a date of 4/77. Of course, that does not mean that the ammo was loaded the same month, but I am willing to bet that Remington's box backlog was on the order of months, not years ("Just-In-Time" manufacturing was already in place during the 70's).

FYI- The nomenclature for the load tested is "38 Special (+P) 158 GRAIN LEAD R38S8"

July 24, 2008, 05:23 AM
You actually carry the 1942 Colt???

I wouldnt carry it. Those old revolvers are just to pretty to be carried. I request pictures.

July 24, 2008, 11:22 AM
The Colt is either open carried or held in something like my Mountainsmith lumbar pack.

Pics here...


July 24, 2008, 12:05 PM
I have no scientific data to back up my perceptions, but a few months ago I toted several boxes of older .38 ammo to the range.

My dad had cleaned out his closet and given them to me.

They included green/yellow Remington boxes and blue/white S&W boxes. All of them probably came from the '60's and '70's.

I was grateful to get some extra, free ammo to shoot through my Smith Model 36.


After I'd torched off a few even the Range Master noticed how "peppy" they were.

Then I couldn't get one ejected from the cylinder. Popped it with a small screw driver and found this:

I don't know how hot they were originally loaded, but they seemed to be significantly hotter than the WWB 130 gn +P's I was shooting. I didn't shoot any more of them after this split case round.

They seemed to shoot more like a mild .357 mag to me.:confused:

Could it be that some "standard, over-the-counter" .38 +P's manufactured in the '60's and '70's was loaded hotter than current +P's?

July 24, 2008, 07:52 PM
Attached is a S&W ammo specification sheet from some years back that someone had on a website recently. I believe I've read that S&W brand ammo was actually manufactured by Fiocchi. The specs on .38+p look more like a .357 magnum of today. No wonder that box of S&W ammo I had back then seemed so hot!

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