.38 Ammo question


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Clyde K.
September 20, 2009, 03:28 PM
I would like smokeless ammo recommendations, if you please.
I recently acquired a Thames Arms Co .38 5 shot Top Break. It has excellent mechanics, good lockup. good timing. cyl clearance and trigger pull are good. I know it's a blackpowder load pistol but I would like to fire it occasionally, and use it for ccw.

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rcmodel
September 20, 2009, 03:38 PM
All modern .38 S&W (NOT .38 S&W Special) should be reletavely safe in it.

All U.S. manufactured .38 S&W ammo is loaded to low pressure and probably will not harm the gun.

Although, yours was not at the top of the food chain when it was new, so extensive shooting will loosen it up in the joints.

http://www.midwayusa.com/browse/BrowseProducts.aspx?pageNum=1&tabId=3&categoryId=7549&categoryString=653***691***

rc

David E
September 20, 2009, 03:58 PM
I would like to... use it for ccw.



Carrying this gun on purpose for CCW would be an extremely unwise thing to do.

rcmodel
September 20, 2009, 04:13 PM
Why?
Because:

It's a 100+ year old gun that might decide to break the next time you shoot it?

Or, because it's a .38 S&W giving more muzzle energy with twice as much bullet weight as the .32 ACP many people use for SD?

Or, because it gives about equal performance to the .38 Spl 148 grain match wad-cutter load many folks recommend in the .38 Special snub guns?

The age & strength of the gun might raise questions.

And it would not be my first choice of caliber either.
But the somewhat enemic power of the cartridge is still probably enough to get the job done. At least it did for most of the first half of the 20th century.

rc

Clyde K.
September 20, 2009, 04:47 PM
I appreciate the input,guys. Would a lighter slug be better? Would a 90gr need less powder to move it or would that defeat stopping power (I don't know how that works). (I reread RC's comment about the anemic power of the cartridge and answered my own question but, I'll leave it as fodder for more comments) What would the "preferred" caliber for CCW be?

Oyeboten
September 20, 2009, 05:16 PM
Images?


Barrel Length?


Anyway....yeahhhhh...".38 S&W" is considered below the power threshold for effective defensive Shooting.


If you are crackshot, fast, and up-close, then, m-a-y-b-e it'd do.


Good for pressed-against-the-flesh 'Contact' Wounds, if into a vital area...or, a shot straight into the Eye...otherwise, it's quite a gamble, as for whether the recipient will be nice-enough to bother stopping or pausing, or slowing down.


I have carried various old .38 S&W Cartridge Break-Tops, and I love them.


None the less, if one is going to carry at all, wisdom, and or good sense would recommend a heftier, peppier Calibre.


Probably, .38 S&W is about on par with .380 ACP, though typically, the Revolvers chambered for .38 S&W have only 'five' Shots...


So .380, with it's Arms' larger capacity of rounds, and, larger choice of Ammo types, tends to find grudging or marginal acceptance, where, .38 S&W does not.


Absolutely better than nothing!


But not likely to stop anyone unless both up close, and, a very fortuitous Shot is placed.

David E
September 20, 2009, 08:43 PM
Not a good choice for defense.

Why?
Because:

It's a 100+ year old gun that might decide to break the next time you shoot it?

No, there are other guns that are 100 yrs or more I'd carry if I had to, such as the S&W M&P .38 Spl, Colt 1911 or even Colt SAA

Or, because it's a .38 S&W giving more muzzle energy with twice as much bullet weight as the .32 ACP many people use for SD?

Better check your stats here. Corbon's 60 grain JHP @ 1050 from a 2.5" barrel churns up 147 ft lbs. This compared to 150 ft lbs for the 145 grain Round Nose Lead when fired from a 4" barrel, not the 3" barrel the Thames gun has. The shorter barrel wouldn't acheive that velocity, and I bet the age of the gun didn't help the flash gap any, further reducing the velocity.

Or, because it gives about equal performance to the .38 Spl 148 grain match wad-cutter load many folks recommend in the .38 Special snub guns?

These loads are comparable, energy-wise. But people don't suggest the full wadcutter bullet for the ballistics, they suggest it for people that can't handle more powerful loadings. For those folks, the full caliber hole that controllable load punches into targets becomes a viable choice. The RNL is notorious for making tiny holes going in and coming out. Further, a modern .38 spl snub is extremely lightweight, has no projections like that "snag-a-matic" hammer the Thames has on it, not to mention a lower bore axis on the modern snubby.

But the somewhat enemic power of the cartridge is still probably enough to get the job done. At least it did for most of the first half of the 20th century.

And you base this one what, exactly ? How far back do Marshall and Sanow go ? :D

The bottom line is, the Thames will be a fun gun for the range. But for the same size and weight, if not less, you can get guns far better suited for personal defense.

Nicodemus38
September 20, 2009, 09:16 PM
standard factory ballistical assumptions has the 154 grain bullet in 38 sw producing 206 foot pounds of muzzle enenergy from a 4 inch barrel. nothing to sneeze at when you consider what the 32acp puts out.

prolonged shooting will be bad for your revolver as if a part breaks, the trigger and hand springs are going to be verry prone to breakage at this age that you should try to get a newer model revolver in a 32 mag or 38 special cartridge.

woad_yurt
September 20, 2009, 10:32 PM
Post a picture!

Modern .38 S&W is loaded down from original power levels; it's intentionally made weaker to spare borderline-safe guns. If yours is good mechanically, shoot away. Your gun didn't get structurally weaker by sitting around. Neither do springs. I have a few old .38 short topbreaks and they're good guns. Yours is small, right? You can carry them conveniently. Yes, there are better choices, but, there are also worse.

Mag-Tech .38 S&W is cheap, relatively. Fiocchi makes .38 S&W but I couldn't find ballistics for it. It's worth looking into because Fiocchi loads 'em up a bit more powerfully than others with some calibers.

Springs are cheap and available from Wolff's, too.

I've carried this one on occasion and felt quite armed:

http://i232.photobucket.com/albums/ee150/woad_yurt/IverJohnson38hammerlessrt.jpg

Jim K
September 20, 2009, 10:55 PM
"Anyway....yeahhhhh...".38 S&W" is considered below the power threshold for effective defensive Shooting."

I wonder if the people who say that have ever been shot with one.

The major problems with the old time guns is that most depend on leaf springs which can break at any time, and most are just plain worn out. If the latter is not the case, and the owner is willing to accept the possibility of the former, that gun will be a fairly effective defense handgun. Would I carry it? Not by choice, but if that is all I had, I would not feel helpless.

Jim

Clyde K.
September 20, 2009, 11:59 PM
Yes, my Thames is a small frame with a 3.25 in bbl. I recently came across a thread outlining how to buy a revolver at a gun show. I used that criteria to determine whether or not I wanted to use or junk the Thames. As stated in my original post my junker is tighter than a frogs behind, that said, I am confident that if it doesn't disintegrate after 10 rounds of .38 S&W I can carry it comfortably concealed and probably never fire it again.

Ron James
September 21, 2009, 12:23 AM
Thames Arms Company, Norwich, Connecticut, 1870 to 1900. The odds are dead on that this is a Black Powder firearm. I don't know for sure, but if it was mine, I would automatically assume it was B/P and hang it on the wall. That within itself is a good reason not to even load it with modern ammo. Your choice, your body parts, by the way , are you sure it is not rim fire, that's about all Thames made??? :banghead:

David E
September 21, 2009, 01:45 AM
standard factory ballistical assumptions has the 154 grain bullet in 38 sw producing 206 foot pounds of muzzle enenergy from a 4 inch barrel.

Winchester has the 145 grain RNL bullet only getting 150 ft lbs, but there may be for powerful loadings for this round. Of course, there are much more powerful .38 Special rounds, too.

David E
September 21, 2009, 01:47 AM
I am confident that if it doesn't disintegrate after 10 rounds of .38 S&W I can carry it comfortably concealed and probably never fire it again.

Then all this is moot.

Clyde K.
September 21, 2009, 02:36 PM
David E. NO, all of this is not moot. The data I received, pro AND con, from you gentlemen HELPED me to decide that I could carry my weapon of choice as long as I recognize and respect its limitations. I thank you, one and all.

Incidentially, I fail to see how the hammer on my Thames is any more likely to be a "snag-o-matic" than that of any other revolver. It has the same "below the level the of the sights" profile as my 1911 and .32, and since I am not dumb enough to carry it in my pocket, where the hammer IS likely to snag, I consider THAT to be moot. P.S. I will pass on the .38 special round.

Again, I thank you, one and ALL. Semper Fi, Clyde

Clyde K.
September 21, 2009, 02:58 PM
Duplicate post.

Clyde K.
September 21, 2009, 03:09 PM
Command SgtMaj, with all due respect, the .22s were the only rim fire revolvers (that I am aware of) that Thames made. I have fired my .38 (and survived) and am able to report that it is definately a center fire weapon.

Semper Fi, Clyde

Oyeboten
September 21, 2009, 03:51 PM
Hi Clyde C,



Iver Johnson, 3rd Model ( the 3rd Model was intended/re-designed for 'Smokeless') Factory 'Snub Nose', or, 'Bicycle Gun'...38 S&W C'tg, made around 1930 -

http://inlinethumb41.webshots.com/42088/2177561840067835264S600x600Q85.jpg (http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/photo/2177561840067835264IRzfMt)

Smith & Wesson 4th Model, made around 1906 I think,.38 S&W C'tg.

Targets shows first time shooting this Revolver, rapid fire, double Action, 5 rounds one handed, five rounds two handed, at 10yards.

Wind blew my slow fire Target off, and I did not bother retrieving it...but, it had a 10 shot group of around 3 inches.

I seem very natural with this one, even though it is very small for my Hands...and, given it was my first time shooting it, and was very Windy out, possibly I could better the results with practice.

http://inlinethumb31.webshots.com/43230/2871542640067835264S600x600Q85.jpg (http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/photo/2871542640067835264LtHDYS)


Would I carry either of these?


Sure...(But, generally, I would prefer to carry something with a little more heft...)


Of the two, would I expect the longer Barrel to deliver higher FPS?


Yes...


When I said that ".38 S&W is considered below the threshold for defensive shooting'', I am simply restating what the general consensus has seemed to have been for quite awhile.

I am not saying it can not be an effective Cartridge for defensive shooting.

But probably I am saying, if a target is robust or willfully determined or beefy, or intoxicated in some way, it is not likely to be, unless shots are well placed, and, fortuitous.


Small, difficult to see, short-sight-radius-sights, also are a factor if wishing to place shots precisely at any distance.




Ideally, if one has a strong, well build Revolver, one could re-load to higher Ballistics, using more defensively-effective Bullet shapes (Wadcutter, say, but of right diameter of course) and, remain within the range of what the Revolver will handle, thus having more powerful Ammunition than the off-the-shelf Cartridges will deliver.


Probably, such re-loaded Cartridges could safely equal Standard .38 Special Ballistics in some cases, depending on the Revolver.

Dave Markowitz
September 21, 2009, 04:29 PM
...I am confident that if it doesn't disintegrate after 10 rounds of .38 S&W I can carry it comfortably concealed and probably never fire it again.

So you don't intend to practice with your CCW piece? Ever? A gun isn't a totem. You need to be proficient with it.

woad_yurt
September 21, 2009, 05:21 PM
Clyde:
You are/were a marine, right? If so, I don't think you'd be too squeamish to get up close and personal with an aggressor, right? Your gun is a belly gun now and was the day it was made. A little situational awareness will prompt you to have your hand on it when necessary. The sights bite it sine qua non but, if you get used to them, you'd see just how accurate the gun is also. But, it's a close-up gun, first and foremost.

For those who poo-poo round nosed ammo: When dealing with weaker loads, it's the way to go because you'll want all the penetration you can get.

If it's what you want to carry and if you know its qualities, it'll do. One thing I know, it'll never jam on you and, if the gun is sound, any modern factory ammo won't blow it up. I say this because that's been my experience that the 10-12 or so old .38 short topbreaks I've owned have all survived many hours of shooting without a hiccup.

Stick to your gun!

If you ever break a spring, Wolff's has 'em.

Clyde K.
September 21, 2009, 07:41 PM
woad yurt (a distinctively unique handle) you are absolutely correct about a number of things. First and foremost, I was an active duty Marine from 62-82 now, I am a retired Marine and the expiration date on my retired ID card reads "Indefinate". I'm sure you've heard the adage "Once a Marine, always a Marine". Secondly, you seem to have picked up on an unspoken trueism: I never have been/will not be squeamish about getting up close and personal with an agressor, especially if he has a couple of .38holes in him.

Dave Markowitz. "A gun isn't a totem", do tell. Never picked up a totally unfamiliar pistol/revolver and fired center mass on a rectangle 24"w x 36"h from 15'? It has been my experience that even if the target is running towards you can still get 2 or 3 rounds into it (regardless of proficiency rating), then you'll have his attention. Not being arogant or bragging, just "been there, done that" more than once and, I'm still here.

Semper Fi. Clyde

Clyde K.
September 21, 2009, 07:58 PM
Oyeboten: couple of nice examples there, thanks for the photos and commentary. My Thames Arms Co looks almost itentical to your S&W, except for the trigger guard and grips (and of course the logo). If I ever get bright enough to figure out to post photos I'll submit copies of mine. Semper Fi, Clyde

David E
September 21, 2009, 08:39 PM
Incidentially, I fail to see how the hammer on my Thames is any more likely to be a "snag-o-matic" than that of any other revolver.

Take a look at a S&W Model 642 and tell me it'll snag as much as yours.

The point I was making, and was echoed, is that if you don't shoot or practice with your gun, then it doesn't matter which one it is, what ammo you load it with or anything else. Unless you DO have to use it for real, you can say it's the perfect choice, etc. Of course, since you're "been there, done that and still here," you already have your mind made up as to what'll "work" for you.

Kinda like saying a Ford Pinto, with YOU behind the wheel, is just as adept on the 4x4 roads as a Jeep. Until you take it on said 4x4 road, no one can prove you wrong.

If it's the biggest, hardest kicking caliber you can handle, then it is a good fit.


Thank you for your service.

Oyeboten
September 22, 2009, 02:25 AM
Hi Clyde C,


Is your 'Thames' about as this example?


http://v4.beta.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=140300512


Now...another thing to bear in mind with various of these old 'Top-Breaks' -


Earlier Model Cylinders did not tend to have an indexing 'slots' for positively registering the align of the Cylinder Bores with the Barrel.


This align, was instead accomplished by the internal 'Hand' when it advanced the Cylinder.


One liability of this, is, that if you begin to advance the Cylinder abruptly by Double-Action, then pause before the Hammer can fall...the Cylinder can rotate past the actual alignment, and, you will have to go on to the next Chamber, thus, by-passing a 'live' round, and or, having a live round inconveniently situated between already fired rounds.


Later versions tended to have a proper indicing 'slot' for each chamber, in the Cylinder's periphery, for the Cylinder to rightly 'Lock' and Index for each shot, with no likelyhood of over-travel, or, accidental 'free rotation' between times.


You may notice, in the thus-far Images of this Thread, that, the two Pistols I had shown, and, the 3rd Model Iver Johnson which Woad Yurt has Posted, have this Indexing 'slot', and, the 'Thames', who's images I posted the link to on 'Gunbroker', does not.


As it happens, were I to be asked for advice, I would recommend one consider the 3rd Model 'Iver Johnson', if one were considering an older Top Break for 'carry' and other potentially earnest use.


They were deliberately re-designed from their prior particulars in 1912-1913, for 'Smokeless', and, were over-designed even, for the stress and pressures anticipated.

They are very well made, excellent Metallurgy, durable, reliable, and, available in many attractive Models/variations, even if all are rather old now.


Probably, their Metallurgy was superior to that of the 'Smith and Wesson' Models of comparable design...or, at any rate, I have found no information suggesting S&W had revamped their Break-Top Models, for 'Smokeless'.


Not trying to take anything away from the 'Thames'...but...just sayin' in overview...

Clyde K.
September 22, 2009, 03:28 AM
David E. The the 642 doesn't have a hammer. What ever would I rest my thumb upon s I draw my weapon (not gun) from its holster? I asked for a recommendation for suitable ammo for my weapon, and gave background info on said weapon (such as it being a black powder weapon) in order to help facilitate that recommendation. More folks said "it would handle the light S&W loads" than said "it was a POS wall hanger" so, I decided to use it. My dear fellow I didn't know that proving me wrong was at issue, or that disagreeing with you would put such a kink in your tail and potentially spark a I can handle a harder kicking caliber than you p****ing contest (ever fired a Quad .50 setup?). The point you were making about my not needing to "fire my weapon again after the initial 10 rounds" was echoed by one (1) other (oddly enough, named Dave also). I never said it was the "perfect" choice, just MY choice, ultimately, what I think will "work" for me based on input from those more experienced than I with civilian weaponry. My "been there, done that, and still here" remark was intended to indicate that I probably have enough experience to persevere in the event my wimpy little .38 doesn't totally incapasitate an agressor with one round (like a cannon would). Furthermore, I have never driven a Pinto, so I can not say how well it would work on a 4x4 road, even with ME behind the wheel.

Semper Fi, Clyde

Clyde K.
September 22, 2009, 04:05 AM
Oyeboten. That is similar to mine except mine has plated trigger guard, hammer and barrel release thingy. Also, I have one small area at the end of the barrel where the finish has burned otherwise its nearly a perfect finish. Now that you mention it, I do see the indexing notch difference and have experienced some of the pecularities you described. The IJ in parfticular seems to be a superior weapon. You aren't taking anything away from the Thames, just speaking the truth. The Thames history is extremely sketchy. As best as I can ascertain, they farmed out their entire production (1905-1910) to H&R (most likely) or Hopkins & Allen (least likely). I have it now, and it works, so I'll use it for now. If it weren't in such good shape I'd use my .45 auto until I could find something physically smaller. I am in no hurry though. Not much crime way up here and I probably won't travel anymore until spring.

Thank you for the continuious information. Semper Fi, Clyde

P.S. That was good grouping for a first effort. Looks like you were working them in.

Oyeboten
September 22, 2009, 04:49 AM
Lol...my vision is poor...and, at 10 Yards, all I see is a rough 'blurr'...so...Target Wise, I fire at the center of 'that', and, once done, walk up to see how things had printed...and, turned out they'd printed to one side there on that Target, probably from me 'heeling'.

It's a tiny Revolver...not easy to hold right for me.


Oddly maybe, I am best with an old S&W 'M&P' .38 Special Snubby I have, or, any plain, regular M1911, Colt .45 Auto, far as getting nice 'good' concise groups.


I used to Target shoot a lot years ago, Pistols...always one handed, and, could not see for squat then either, but, I fared well in competitions, no matter, using old Guns with tiny plain sights, against modern Target Sighted and Custom Pistols and every one else shooing two-handed.

I never 'won', but I was often second or third...or fourth...

I'd line up the front Sight with the distal 'blurr', and, seemed like things always worked out alright.

Anyway, it'd been about 20 years since any shooting other than a couple CCW qualifyings, when I did the little Break Top try-out...and, it was semi-rapid fire, likely all five rounds, of each string, in three seconds or less.


If I had any time for practice, I could probably reclaim some lost ground, but, as it is, if on-the-ready, I can draw and deliver fairly forthrightly and in a reasonably alright 'grouping' with just about anything I have...though some I had never tried out before.


You know, your 'Thames' WOULD be happy with Black Powder Loads, and, with a simple single-stage old-style Press or 'Lee' or 'Ideal' or 'Lyman' Field kit, you could re-load easily...and, not be into the doing-so for much dough, either...well, I dunno, 3f Powder, Primers, Lead, Mould, Press or Kit...dies...with patience and some luck, maybe $200.00 and you are 'set' for a long long while.


These, Full-Charge Black Powder Loadings, would almost certainly have superior Ballistics over present day Factory Loadings, and, would not likely ever strain your Revolver one bit.


If you ever have to use it, the doubtless resutling HUGE Smoke Cloud could be a 'plus' too...

BornLoser
September 22, 2009, 07:51 AM
I think that's a neat little gun. I would definitely carry one.

You can carry a .22 LR effectively for self defense.... it doesn't take much to stop a fight, or kill someone.

David E
September 22, 2009, 08:54 PM
potentially spark a I can handle a harder kicking caliber than you p****ing contest

You're taking this waaaay to personally. :rolleyes:

The general answer to: "What's the best handgun for defense?" is, "The biggest one you can control."

The gun may end up being a .22, 380, 9mm, .40 or a .45 acp and all of them are "right" for the person in question.

But it is puzzling when someone can handle a larger caliber, but willingly chooses a wimpy load in an antiquated gun.

I hope it works well for you.

Jim K
September 22, 2009, 09:27 PM
In my experience, the big problem for accuracy in most of the old time guns is that the rear sight is a small notch and the front sight is a narrow blade. Both tend to disappear in almost any light condition. Aside from that, the accuracy of most of those old guns is quite good, equal to most modern equivalents.

FWIW, I shoot modern ammo in all my .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long, and .38 S&W revolvers. It is loaded to BP pressure levels and I have never had any problem. A number of old time guns would certainly take higher pressures, but I won't load above factory specs.

Jim

Clyde K.
September 23, 2009, 01:50 AM
My eyesight is also not what it used to be also, so I put a slim piece of safety tape (orange or red) on the back edge of the sight blade. I haven't tried it on the Thames yet, but it works great on my .45, .32, and my rifles. It's funny to think that back in the "good old days" in Marine Recon and in the Red Eye (Scout/Sniper) platoon I used to blacken my front sight blade (rifle or pistol) to aid with sight picture, now I have to doctor them up just to see 'em.

Clyde K.
September 23, 2009, 02:03 AM
I am curious to find out, how many of you have had encounters requiring use of your ccw. Is there a thread/subthread I should address this to?

ArchAngelCD
September 23, 2009, 05:12 AM
Clyde K.,
Since you said this particular weapon will be used up close and personal I'm guessing a .38 S&W "Cowboy Load" will be perfectly safe in your revolver and still serve the intended purpose. Most of the Cowboy loads are lighter and usually only generate the velocities associate with Black Powder loads. I'm guessing the pressures will still be a little higher with smokeless powder but not by much. Ten-X (http://www.tenxammo.com/) has a 150gr HBFP .38 S&W round. Another option could be the 160gr load from Old Western Scrounger (http://www.ows-ammo.com/catalog/product_info.php/cPath/21/products_id/1046). (but they are currently backordered)

Just another idea to think about that might fit your needs...

1911Tuner
September 23, 2009, 05:55 AM
The old .38 Short&Weak was actually a pretty nasty little cartridge, and perfectly capable of sendin' ya on to glory. It acted a lot like .22 rimfire. It'd get in and wallow around a while before stoppin' who knows where.

There were a few Iver Johnson Owl's Head revolvers in that caliber used by the Edwards and Allen clan to shoot up the Hillsville, Virginia courthouse back in 1912. People fell and died on the spot. Google Hillsville Courthouse Tragedy for an interesting read.

Beware.


If the story is intriguing enough to convince you to make a pligrimage and go see the bullet holes that are still in the walls of the courthouse and get some of the insider skinny from the families of people who were there...you can get a fight started today, depending on which faction you happen to side with. So, listen...but keep your opinions to yourself. Hill people live by the feud...and this one ain't dead yet.

calaverasslim
September 23, 2009, 09:15 AM
Again, I'm with RC on this. The 38 S&W is for sure a great CC weapon. I often carry my 1922 Regulation Police with hand loads or factory. Plenty good enuf for SD.

This old top break? I think I would put it away except for the occasional trip to the range. TOOOOO old and a BP gun at that.

Old Fuff
September 23, 2009, 11:07 AM
Dave E.

In a handgun, I don't think that kinetic energy makes any difference. It’s a meaningless number and nothing more. Ask any surgeon with bullet wound experience and they’ll tell you that they don’t find any evidence of it. Rifles are another matter.

I occasionally carry a Smith & Wesson Safety Hammerless .38 revolver (top-break/5 shot) chambered in .38 S&W, and it isn’t because I lack any other choices. The cartridge was introduced around 1876, and since then a lot of individuals have been planted in the ground because of it. If a bullet hits a vital spot it will more then do the job, and if it doesn’t the most modern of high performance ammunition won’t.

That said, the revolver in question had a cast iron frame and barrel, and neither they nor the cylinder were heat-treated. The best-of-the-breed Smith & Wesson’s had forged steel construction, and the .38 was made as late as 1940, which indicates its popularity.

As for the .380 ACP, it’s a very popular round, and for good reason. But notice that it’s usually loaded with bullets in the 80 to 90+ grain weight range. If you drop the slug usually found in the .38 S&W (146 grains) to .380 weights you can increase velocity without increasing pressure. Personally I wouldn’t bother.

If the Thames proved to be accurate (something I doubt, as they weren’t renowned for that) I wouldn’t hesitate to carry it on rare occasion if I didn’t have something better. I would understand its limitations though.

David E
September 23, 2009, 12:12 PM
Judging from some of these posts, the anemic .38 S&W and even the .22 rimfire is "more than enough" for personal defense. IE; stopping someone, perhaps a 300 pound drug-crazed psycho, who is in the act of trying to kill you BEFORE they accomplish the task.

Could those cartridges do it? Of course, but so could a knitting needle. That doesn't mean they're the best choice, or even a good choice.

If these rounds were so effective, then why does no Law Enforcement agencies issue the .38 S&W or .22 rimfire for duty?

If all I had was a .38 S&W, I certainly wouldn't give up, but I'd also go for face/neck shots only. This requires a level of skill that is not achieved firing only 10 rds, then never firing it again, per the OP.

But that's me.

zxcvbob
September 23, 2009, 12:36 PM
I'm currently looking for a S&W 4th model Hammerless Safety (that will be about 100 years old) and I plan on shooting it and maybe even carrying it. What I haven't decided is whether I'll need to reload for it using black powder or 777, or moderate loads of a slow-burning shotgun powder like Herco or WSF. The conventional wisdom is very light loads of Bullseye. Conventional wisdom is wrong sometimes...

1911Tuner
September 23, 2009, 02:17 PM
Judging from some of these posts, the anemic .38 S&W and even the .22 rimfire is "more than enough"

Didn't see anybody state that...

Any more than anybody stating that all personal atttacks come from a 300-pound drug crazed psycho...


Only that, just because a cartridge isn't capable of knocking King Kong on his keister means that it's completely useless...

And that there have been a lotta graves filled with anemic cartridges...

Yes. We're all aware that lethal often isn't enough to halt an attack in time...

But sometimes it is...

Clyde K.
September 23, 2009, 03:45 PM
You guys are great, full of useful experience based information, a bit of history and, some humor too! I have a new friend (that makes 2 now) who is a local gunnie. He has given my weapon an A+ for condition and range worthiness. Further, if I am not happy with conventional loads or cowboys, we can work on a load for it. I am intrigued by some of your suggestions. Please, let's keep this thread going. It's been very informative.

:cuss:David E. I did the OP and did NOT ask for a GUN recommendation. I asked about AMMO. You decided to inject an irrelivant comment, then proceeded to eviscerate any following posts that disagreed with your edict. In post #5, in trying to perhaps change the tone of things, I did ask: "What would the preferred caliber for CCW be?", again, not asking for your analysis of my weapon of choice. In post #11 I blithly allowed: "...if it doesn't disintegrate after 10 rounds of .38 S&W I can carry it" ..... "and probably never fire it again.". GET REAL. The entire last sentence, including above citation, was ment in JEST. As to the ability of the weapon, and my ability to handle said weapon in an adversarial situation I must reiteriate "Been there, done that", albeit never against a 300# drug-crazed psycho. Have you? Rant over with.

Gentlemen, I do truely apologize if I have breached THR etiquete, and will try not to do so again.

I highly value and strongly consider any and all data provided by fellow members, and appreciate the time you take to answer my questions. Clyde

zxcvbob
September 23, 2009, 03:58 PM
The British determined that the .38 S&W loaded with 200 grain bullets created tissue damage totally out of proportion to its size and energy. About like a hit with a .45. The theory was that the bullets were only minimally stabilized in the air and started tumbling as soon as they hit a soft target. This may be useless information because:

Their old Webley's and S&W Victory models were a lot beefier than an I-frame top-break.
The twist rates might be different.

Clyde K.
September 23, 2009, 04:36 PM
I think the effect of looking at the business end of a revolver and seeing that the bullets in the cylinder are much bigger than .22 might deter a number of people. As I stated in post #15, recognizing and respecting a weapons limitations should play a part in selecting a CCW. Also, recognizing and respecting ones physical capabilities should also come in to play (i.e., can I drop the 300# drug-crazed psycho with my pea shooter, or do I run like hell?). Maybe I should carry my .45 1911 model, with FJM wadcutters (alternating with plain lead wadcutters and hollow points).

Old Fuff
September 23, 2009, 04:43 PM
Dave E.

You're missing my point and Tuner's too. We are not saying that bigger isn't better, or that a mid-bore bullet going at low velocity is the ideal cartridge for personal combat. What we are saying is that these older cartridges can still get the job done.

Why, you must wonder, would someone with well over a half century of experience carry a relic? The answer is, because I feel comfortable with it and am sure it will do what's ever required under the circumstances. On those occasions when I believe otherwise (which is most of the time) I carry something else.

What makes you think that one of the new super-performance cartridges, in and of themselves, will put down a "300 pound drug-crazed psycho, who is in the act of trying to kill you BEFORE they accomplish the task." To do what you need to do, you still have to hit a limited number of vital organs. Otherwise this 300-pound drug-crazed psycho, who is in the act of trying to kill you, is just going to be annoyed.

In and of itself, high performance ammunition is no guarantee of success, but too many people use it as a crutch or security blanket to avoid the reality of understanding the prime importance of marksmanship and bullet placement.

All we are saying is that if these older cartridges worked before they will still do so now, if the shooter does his part. If the bullet is well placed it doesn’t matter how big, drugged up, or crazy the other guy is, and if the bullet is not well placed it won’t insure your survival no matter what kind it is.

If you believe otherwise explain how anyone was ever seriously wounded or killed by a handgun prior to the 1960’s – especially with a smaller caliber one.

Clyde K.
September 23, 2009, 04:51 PM
zxcvbob. Seems to me that the only (relevant) information that is useless is that which is not considered. JMHO.

Clyde K.
September 23, 2009, 05:06 PM
Old Fuff, Old Fuff, Old Fuff!!! Your last post was a MASTERPIECE.

I would like to ad that going to the range, even every other day, does not "proficiency" make. Being another person with well over half a century of experience, some of which in combat, I am confident that that my competence with firearms will stand me in good stead.

Oyeboten
September 23, 2009, 05:46 PM
Far as I recall reading, many Police Department's Uniformed personel did used to carry 5-shot Top Break Revolvers chambered in .38 S&W, and also .32.

As did various Guard, Seurity personel and so on.

US made Top Break Revolvers chambering the .38 S&W also found a good welcome overseas, and, many were exported or purchased by Foreign Agencies or Governments.


I am confident that their original Black Powder Loadings would be more powerful than present Factory loadings, unless out of a very short Barrel.

Probably, a long Barrel Break-Top, shooting original BP .38 S&W Loadings, would equal the terminal Ballistics of a modern short Barreled .38 Special shooting Standard 158 grn RNL Loads.


The Short Barrel 'Snubby', Swing-out-cylinder S&W five-shot revolvers, such as the 'Terrier' or it's predecessors, and, also, the very similar Colt 'Bankers Special' were chambered for the .38 S&W Cartridge, and, were popular Arms even up into the 1950s, possibly even 1960s.

Similarly the Colt 'Police Positive' was usually a .38 S&W Chambering, though they were not available as 'Snubby' versions usually...and their four-inch version was a very common Police Revolver in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, even 1950s.


One thing also, in all this...generally, people were smaller 80 or a 100 years ago.

The average War-Between-the-States or WWI Uniform would barely fit most 11 year olds now.


People, and hence, possible assailants, now, are likely to be bigger/thicker people than was the case when these small Break Tops were in their Hay Day.

rcmodel
September 23, 2009, 05:59 PM
In those pre-antibiotic & penicillin days, getting shot with one in the belly was almost sure to result in a slow painful death from infection.

Even a hit to a limb might result in amputation if it got infected.

I have read that experienced gunmen would rather take a through & through wound from a larger caliber then to have a dirty outside lubricated bullet stuck in their craw.

rc

Oyeboten
September 23, 2009, 07:33 PM
Hi rcmodel,


Yes...


Although any able Surgeon of the day, if making a large-enough opening incision, finding the perforations/lacerations in the Intestines, suturing these...and, removing any foreign debris the Bullet carried in...washing out the abdominal cavity and the Intestines with any of various simple Herbal infusions, simple dilute Peroxide, dilute Carbolic Acid or other disinfectant...the Patient would be fine and have an excellent prognosis.

Intestines are really quite strong and elastic, so, usually, if a low or medium power Handgun wound, there might not even be very many perforations, or, might not even be any, if the person had a strongly developed musular abdomon wall.


Disinfectants/Antibacterials were poo-poo'd by mainstream Medicine, dismissed as 'Quackery', and those who favored the use had to be pretty quiet/discrete about it or face ridicule or being fired or other hardship.


Sad...the knowledge was there, and readily demonstrable, but, not believed very widely...

It was a long hard uphill battle.

David E
September 23, 2009, 09:32 PM
David E: Judging from some of these posts, the anemic .38 S&W and even the .22 rimfire is "more than enough"

1911 Tuner: Didn't see anybody state that...

BornLoser said this: You can carry a .22 LR effectively for self defense.... it doesn't take much to stop a fight, or kill someone.

1911 Tuner said this: The old .38 Short&Weak was actually a pretty nasty little cartridge,

Maybe I'm misinterpreting those statements. :rolleyes:

Any more than anybody stating that all personal atttacks come from a 300-pound drug crazed psycho...

I didn't say, "all." Oh, wait, now I get it..... we get to pick our assailant? Cool !!! ;)

Yes, placement is king, but it might be hard to place shots with the required surgical precision under stress. Especially for someone that only expects to fire 10 shots, but maybe he's unusually gifted or lucky.

Old Fluff, how do you know the .38 S&W "worked before?" Have any stats or citations to that effect?

Granted, from five feet, a .22 LR thru the eye is just as deadly as a .500 magnum thru the eye. I never argued otherwise. But the smaller you go in caliber or power, then the more precise you need to be.

I'm sure most here acknowledge that "stopping" and "killing" are not necessarily the same thing. If we're citing "the old days," then let's remember that many "killings" were the result of infection days or weeks after getting shot.

I've stated twice before that I hope the OP's choice works for him. Wait, make that three times! :D

1911Tuner
September 23, 2009, 09:42 PM
Fluff, how do you know the .38 S&W "worked before?"

Google the Hillsville Courthouse Massacre. The most prevalent gun in that fracas was the Iver Johnson Owl Head revolver in .38 S&W, and several people who were shot that day fell to the shot...and died where they fell.

It might be interesting to note that Floyd was shot several times by Dexter Goad, who had a Colt .38 Auto, along with one of the court officers who had one as well...and he made it out of the courthouse, and was nearly into the saddle of his Quarter Horse when he collapsed.

The reason for the choice of weapons was simple. Economics, availability, and concealability.

Floyd Allen sold'em at his general store in Fancy Gap for about 3 or 4 bucks...and everybody and his brother had one...including all of the Allen-Edwards clan who were in attendance.

And it's Fuff...not Fluff. :)

David E
September 23, 2009, 10:03 PM
Ok, I did.

Seems like at least 4 people were shooting, probably from arm's length away. No caliber mention of the other 3 guns. (couldn't find one ID'ing Allen's as a .38 S&W, but I presume it was, since you cite the case) This interesting anecdotal "evidence" doesn't change anything, tho.

Hey, if you want to risk your life on that gun and cartridge, that's cool with me.

Old Fuff
September 23, 2009, 10:32 PM
Hey, if you want to risk your life on that gun and cartridge, that's cool with me.

I don't want to risk my life on anything smaller then what gets pulled around on wheels, but then..... :scrutiny:

Between 1876 when it was introduced and the beginning of World War Two, the .38 S&W cartridge was "the" most popular round used in pocket revolvers, and extensively issued by urban police departments. Up unti the middle 1920's it was standard issue within the New York City Police Department - the largest in the country. One of the Safety Hammerless revolvers I mentioned as a CCW was also carried by Teddy Roosevelt - who I understand knew something about guns...

Now with such a wide distribution for so long a time it must have worked. If it had developed a wide reputation for failure it wouldn't have lasted for so long. In fact, Smith & Wesson didn't get around to offering their mainline .38 M&P (pre-model 10) with a 2" barrel until 1936.

Last but not least, it was adopted as the standard military service revolver round of the entire British Empire and Commonwealth between 1927 and about 1952 - and that included use in both World War Two and the Korean War.

It would seem that if I'm risking my neck I'm in pretty good company... :cool:

Do understand though that I do this risking business as seldom as I can... ;)

1911Tuner
September 23, 2009, 11:42 PM
David, you'll have to get the whole story...more than Wiki tells. Books are available. Since I grew up in the neighboring county...Surry County, NC...I know some of the extended families...so I've heard a lot from them. The fight started in the courtroom, and spilled out onto the yard and in the street, and it wasn't all at arm's length...and because it happened in March, and still pretty cold weather in the mountains...the clothing worn by the participants was fairly heavy. Not even the courthouse had central heat in 1912.

And...Most self-defense shootings do occur at arm's length or not much more than that.

And for about the fourth time...nobody is arguing that the .38 S&W is a top choice...only that it's a...bit better than the paper ballistics suggest. Having fired several, I'd place it above the .36 Colt Navy using conical bullets and a full powder charge.

David E
September 24, 2009, 01:11 AM
I followed several links about that story. I don't think any of them were Wikipedia. At least 4 people were shooting, probably more. Allen himself was wounded. It proves any caliber CAN kill, but little else.

I do recall an old article detailing how to load the target wadcutter backwards in that caliber, as opposed to the .38 Special where that practice probably originated. If I only had that caliber and could reload for it for defense (perish the thought!) then I'd prefer soft lead hollowpoints over the RNL it comes loaded with.

As for the NYPD, if it worked so well, why did they change?

I happen to have two old H&R revolvers in .32 S&W Short and .32 S&W Long. Fun guns, but for me, they're for novelty use only. Plus it bothers me that the cylinder doesn't stay locked in alignment with the barrel until the trigger is pulled.

As for the OP wanting to carry this gun, I'm happy when anyone exercises their gun rights.

Oyeboten
September 24, 2009, 03:54 AM
Oooops...doublepost

Oyeboten
September 24, 2009, 04:01 AM
By the way...


An "HKS36" Speed loader will work for just about any .38 S&W chambered Break-Top, regardless of make.

Or...

Any Speed loader intended for a .38 Special J-Frame Smith and Wesson, should work fine for any five-shot .38 S&W C'tg chambering Top-Break.

I just happen to like the old small knurled Aluminum Knob "HKS" ones...


If one intends to carry an old Top-Break...may as well have a charged Speed loader in your Pocket also...

Oyeboten
September 24, 2009, 05:22 AM
Hi David E


You'd asked-

As for the NYPD, if it worked so well, why did they change?


Given that the Top-Break S&W in .38 S&W, or, emulation of it's design by others, was very popular as a Police or other LEO related Arm as well as being popular with the public, from the mid 1870s through the 1930s...and various Swing-Out-Cylinder Revolvers chambered for the .38 S&W being popular as Police and other LEO/Guard/Security-personel related use from the early 1900s till around WWII and even well into the 1950s and '60s...


The question may be more nearly one of 'Why did so many stay with it so long?'

Or, 'Why was it felt to be satisfactory by so many, for over 70 years, or even almost 90 years, in practice, and in actual choice and use?'



I do not have an answer.


Clearly, the Cavalry had found to their own satisfaction, by experience and conord, that .44 Cap and Ball, then, .45 Long Colt, then .45 ACP, and nothing less, would suit the exercise of their responsibilities.


When .38 Long Colt was forced upon them, the Cavalry was not happy, and, (of course,) found the Cartridge wanting.

medmo
September 24, 2009, 06:36 AM
Clyde K., Once a Marine always a Marine. Semper Fi, than I'm still a Marine also. P.I., not the Hollywood version. There is a boat load of options I would rather stake my life on other than your revolver and this round. I own a Iver Johnson in this caliber and use it only for range fun. It's in pretty good shape and think it will last awhile. If it is what I needed to use for defensive purposes I would experiment with hand loaded 200 grain lead loads. From what I remember reading about ballistics is that the 200 grain loads go slower but penetrate deeper.

Old Fuff
September 24, 2009, 08:31 AM
medmo:

I know that your intentions are good, but the use of 200-grain bullets is not recommended in any American-made top-break revolvers, including the superior quality Smith & Wesson's.

The only exceptions I know of are Webley and Enfield revolvers used by the British as military service revolvers. Also 200-grain loads are O.K. in Colt or Smith & Wesson hand ejectors. This is especially so in Smith & Wesson Military & Police (Victory Model's) and Colt Official Police revolvers made during, and for a time after World War Two.

Smith & Wesson invented the top-break revolver as it was made in the United States, and controlled the market until their patents ran out. Thereafter the market was flooded with inexpensive and much lower quality copies. These were attractively priced and literally made by the hundreds of thousands. Most of them were intended to be used with black powder cartridges. One flaw in many is that while the trigger is held back the cylinder will be locked rock solid - but usually with the chamber not concentric with the bore. This causes the bullet to shave lead on one side, spit lead out of the cylinder/barrel gap, and have relatively poor accuracy. The principal exceptions are later production, post-1900 guns made by Iver Johnson and Harrington & Richardson.

While there are better cartridges for personal defense today, it is also true that the .38 S&W cartridge was used in this role for many decades, and some of those that carried it did indeed save their necks. In quality revolvers - especially a hand ejector - it is still viable for it's intended purpose. Later developments do not necessarily erase previous history. A member of the U.K.’s famed S.A.S. once remarked to me that “Americans are far too obsessed with bullet design, while ignorant about more important considerations.” He was in a position, and had the experience to know.

1911Tuner
September 24, 2009, 10:19 AM
Fuff...I've come to the conclusion that the .38 S&W is inadequate for anything larger than an irate Daschund. :D

zxcvbob
September 24, 2009, 12:30 PM
This causes the bullet to shave lead on one side, spit lead out of the cylinder/barrel gap, and have relatively poor accuracy. The principal exceptions are later production, post-1900 guns made by Iver Johnson and Harrington & Richardson.So an H&R or Iver Johnson is likely to be a better shooter than a S&W? I didn't expect that.

The only example I've seen and held (but not shot) was a really old S&W, before I knew what they were so I'm not sure which model. It was a Hammerless Safety, with a lot of ornate scrollwork engraved all over it.

David E
September 24, 2009, 01:08 PM
.38 S&W: ---------Weight: 146 grains----Velocity: 685 fps-----Foot Lbs: 150

.38 Long Colt:-----Weight: 150 grains----Velocity: 777 fps-----Foot Lbs: 201


The anemic .38 Long Colt had more power than the .38 S&W yet, inexplicably, was found wanting on the battlefield and was replaced.

zxcvbob
September 24, 2009, 01:44 PM
Maybe more power is sometimes a bad thing? It actually makes sense if the slower bullet destabilized and does loopy-loops in you gut while the faster one has enough energy to keep going straight and punch a clean hole.

Just speculatin'

woad_yurt
September 24, 2009, 02:38 PM
David E:
The .38 S&W was more powerful, maybe 33% more, back in the day. That 150 ft lbs rating is for modern, weaker ammo. I don't know about the .38 LC

Old Fuff
September 24, 2009, 02:50 PM
Fuff...I've come to the conclusion that the .38 S&W is inadequate for anything larger than an irate Daschund.

Well there was this time I was charged by an aggressive grasshopper... :what:

They have BIG grasshoppers in Arizona... :scrutiny: :uhoh:

Old Fuff
September 24, 2009, 03:47 PM
.38 S&W: ---------Weight: 146 grains----Velocity: 685 fps-----Foot Lbs: 150

.38 Long Colt:-----Weight: 150 grains----Velocity: 777 fps-----Foot Lbs: 201
The anemic .38 Long Colt had more power than the .38 S&W yet, inexplicably, was found wanting on the battlefield and was replaced.

Ballistic data on the .38 S&W was usually compiled using a 3 ˝ or 4 inch barrel. The .38 Long Colt with a 6-inch one. You are making an apples-to-oranges comparison.

“Back when,” handgun ammunition performance was determined by firing bullets through clear pine wood baffles mounted one inch apart. This is rather meaningless except as a method of comparison. At any rate, both the .38 Long Colt and .38 S&W were rated at 4 boards. In my 1951 reference, picked because the data was collected before ammunition makers became worried about lawsuits, the .38 S&W is rated at 179 ft/lbs, where the .38 Colt at 205 – a relatively meaningless spread.

The .38 Long Colt is often maligned as a worthless man stopper, but the Navy adopted the cartridge in converted Colt 1851 Navy cap & ball revolvers, and still used it in other revolvers into the 19th century. As for the Army, they adopted it in 1892, and were still issuing them in the First World War. The only time the cartridge got into trouble was in the Philippine Islands when it proved to be ineffective against Maro tribesmen. Uncle Sam then shipped Colt Single Actions, Followed by the Colt New Service (Model 1909) .45's. Admittedly they did the job, but few people ever considered the New Service to be a pocket pistol, John FitzGerald not withstanding.

Again I will point out that without question there are better cartridges then the .38 S&W in a personal defense handgun. However, this does not mean that one who is armed with a revolver chambered to use it is hopelessly lost in a fight, any more then it is dead certain that someone will survive simply because they are using the latest fad in high performance ammunition.

The issue will be determined by whichever shooter makes the first hit where it counts and disables an opponent so they cannot continue to attack. Doing this does not necessitate using a particular cartridge so long as the bullet has enough velocity to penetrate to where it has to get.

If this weren’t true no one would have ever been disabled or killed by a bullet prior to the time our so-called high performance ammunition became available.

Oyeboten
September 24, 2009, 04:46 PM
The latter period production Smith and Wesson Top-Break Revolvers in .38 S&W and 3rd Model Iver Johnson Revolvers ditto, having positive Indexing Slots to register the Cylinder-Bore align for each shot, when in good mechanical condition, would not shave lead.

Revolvers not having the Indexing slots, relying on the Hand and maybe an up-rising over-travel stop-lug alone to hold the Cylinder in alignment with the Barrel, are likely to have alignment issues and to be Lead Shavers, especially once the Hand is worn from however much prior use.


The 200 Grain Bullet -as Old Fuff reminds - unless in a British/UK Top-Break or US WWII period Swing-out Cylinder Revolver or other Revolver made with the anticipation of shooting it, in my opinion also, would probably over-stress a 'regular' Style (light weight) Top-Break.


Again...if one wishes for optimum performance, definitely exceeding present day off the shelf Ammo...consider to simply duplicate the original Black Powder Loadings.


This will be safe for any of these old "in-good-enough-condition" Revolvers, and, allow them far superior Ballistics than otherwise.


A pure Lead, 156grn, .361 diameter, hollow-base Wadcutter would be a very good close-range defensive-situation Bullet for these, if such were obtainable.



Possibly, some of the smaller, friendlier, more creative Companies who offer Bullets of their own make, could be petitioned to make and offer such a Bullet for those people wishing to be Hand Loading the .38 S&W Cartridge.


In fact...I will contact a few and ask them.

zxcvbob
September 24, 2009, 05:09 PM
A pure Lead, 156grn, .361 diameter, hollow-base Wadcutter would be a very good close-range defensive-situation Bullet for these, if such were obtainable.
I'm pretty sure a 148 grain HBWC at .358" will work just fine if you seat it with half of the bullet hanging out the case to normal .38 S&W overall length. That's what I intend to use, with a case full of 777. Then maybe try to find a Herco or Blue Dot load that duplicates it.

Old Fuff
September 24, 2009, 07:14 PM
zxcvbob:

So an H&R or Iver Johnson is likely to be a better shooter than a S&W? I didn't expect that.

I wouldn't expect that either... :scrutiny:

You misunderstood. I was refering to the various copies of S&W top-breaks, none of which equaled the original.

But of the bunch (excluding S&W) the best were made by Iver Johnson and Harrington & Richardson. Of their guns, those that were made with coil mainsprings and positive cylinder latches were the best. Workmanship was close to that of S&W, but the materials they used were very inferior.

David R. Chicoine, who has an excellent reputation as a gunsmith who repairs and restores antique firearms -top-break revolvers in particular - takes the position that of the pocket model top-breaks, the later Smith & Wessons are the only ones to consider for shooting. Part of that evaluation is based on quality, and partly on the degree of accuracy that can be expected.

If seated out in the case, 148-grain/hollow base wadcutters work fine, although they don't have a round nose to help center the bullet if the chambers and bore are not concentric. If you take regular flat-base cast wadcutters (or for that matter other .38 bullets as they come out of the mold and not sized), you'll find them to be close to the .361 diameter you're looking for. If not, the mold can be lapped to produce a bigger bullet.

zxcvbob
September 24, 2009, 07:45 PM
I have 2 boxes of Remington 158 grain SWC bullets that have a round nose (little ridge at the base of the ogive is why they call 'em SWC) and a hollow base. I think those should be perfect. I've loaded a few in .38 Special cases cut off to .38SW length and they shot very well in my Model 15. I used 9mm dies with a .38 Special shellholder to load them. That might work in a .38SW, or the cases might split because they fit too loose. I'll find out when I find me a shooter :) But I'm also going to try the 148 HBWC's because they are a lot easier to find and closer to the right weight. The 158's will probably shoot high.

I have real .38SW brass on order from Cabela's but they keep delaying the backorder...

1911Tuner
September 24, 2009, 08:03 PM
of the pocket model top-breaks, the later Smith & Wessons are the only ones to consider for shooting. Part of that evaluation is based on quality, and partly on the degree of accuracy that can be expected.

Which brings up a point that I've made a few times...

These little revolvers weren't very accurate, even at their best. At least, none that I've fired have been...not even the ones that were in near pristine shape.

They didn't have to be. They were never intended to be used for target or even plinking...so they didn't really have to be all that durable, either. They were small, portable revolvers meant to be dropped into a pocket, and their role was strictly business rather than recreation. That being the business of providing a means of self defense at powder burning distances. Much easier to carry than a heavier revolver like the Colt SAA, they filled a real need. A tool to be used for personal protection that was both portable and affordable. No tellin' how many rode along with doctors, lawyers, judges, town constables, and merchants during their daily routines...or served as "hideouts" and backup weapons for law dogs of the day. There's also no way of knowing how many lives they've saved...or taken...because they were there instead of being left at home...and they're just as capable of doing the same thing today. Compare the 146-grain bullet at 650 fps to a standard .38 Special 158 grain bullet at a little over 700 from a 1.9-inch Chief's Special, and like the old .38 loading...it's capable of better effectiveness than its paper ballistics suggest. As one poster observed...lacking the power to punch straight through...wandering around in the gut for a while would produce some pretty frightful wounding...not to mention extremely painful.

I know that there are many people who feel that if a sidearm doesn't belch fire and brimstone, with muzzle energies reckoned in the hundreds of foot pounds, it's more useless than a swagger stick...but as Jim Keenan observed...try gettin' shot with one.

David E
September 25, 2009, 12:51 AM
Ballistic data on the .38 S&W was usually compiled using a 3 ˝ or 4 inch barrel. The .38 Long Colt with a 6-inch one. You are making an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Not really, since most .38 S&W's (and certainly the one in question) had the shorter barrel. There may have been some 6" barreled .38 S&W's out there, but most were the shorter, pocketable guns.

So the comparison is valid concerning "performance on target."

If the more powerful .38 Long Colt was seriously found wanting, then I'm puzzled how a cartridge of lesser power would be more effective.

Even if they loaded the .38 S&W hotter "back then," it's a moot point, since that's not what's available now.

Placement, as I previously agreed, is king. But you can't always place them exactly where you want to under stress.

Old Fuff
September 25, 2009, 08:22 AM
But you can't always place them exactly where you want to under stress.

But a "misplaced" hit is... well... misplaced. It leaves the attacker still able to continue. Your super-tactical, high-energy bullet, in and of itself doesn't buy you anything. Bigger is of course usually better, but this doesn't always work either. Also the better, bigger cartridge doesn't fit in smaller platforms. "Get a bigger gun," is often good advise, but may not fit the situation or circumstances.

There are many instances of individuals who were hit by several "misplaced" hits made by high performance ammunition, were not incapacited, and survived to talk about it.

Again, we come to the ultimate truth when it comes to a shooting:

The issue will be determined by whichever shooter makes the first hit where it counts and disables an opponent so they cannot continue to attack. Doing this does not necessitate using a particular cartridge so long as the bullet has enough velocity to penetrate to where it has to get.

1911Tuner
September 25, 2009, 09:48 AM
I often wonder where the notion came from...that a deadly encounter will always involve a gunfight...with both sides cranking off rounds at one another across a parking lot. Many of them...if not most...will be defending against a knife or bludgeon, or even a bare-handed assault with a disparity of force issue in play.

Most private citizen deadly force events occur in low light, at arm's length, and in very short time frames. In such situations, precise placement is mostly a matter of luck as the shots are often delivered with one hand...gun at waist level while backpedaling in the attempt to avoid being cut, clubbed, or beaten down by a larger, stronger opponent. There are a good many seasoned street fighters who are capable of crippling or killing you with no weapon at all...in less time than it took me to type that.

Snub-nosed .38s and other guns in the same class were dubbed "Belly Guns" not because they were carried tucked into waistbands...but because they were most often deployed by pressing the barrel against the attacker's belly and pulling the trigger until the gun ran dry. Low mass, low recoil double-action revolvers excel in such situations...for older folks with arthritic hands...women who lack the hand strength to control a more powerful weapon and/or the unwillingness to tote a large-caliber handgun around...and the average Joe who doesn't really have a need to carry a gun, but wants to carry one anyway for that just-in-case scenario that will probably never happen...but could.

Is the belly gun ideal for all possible situations? No...but then again, nothing is...short of a Browning .50 caliber machine gun. Does everybody need to go armed to the teeth with a hi-cap autopistol, draped with spare magazines and a backup piece? No. If I really felt the need to walk around like that, I think I'd stay home.

For the private citizen, the purpose of the carry gun is to get you home alive in the event that somebody attempts to keep you from that. Engaging in a running gunfight with one or more adversaries is a very good way to get killed, and...if you stand your ground longer than is reasonably necessary to extract yourself from the scene...you run the risk of a vacation, courtesy of the state penal system for being a willing combatant.

So, the belly gun doesn't need to possess wrecking ball/knock'em down and stomp on'em power...and in a hand-to-hand fight for life...it can even be counterproductive.

Clyde K.
September 25, 2009, 12:14 PM
Old Fuff & 1911Tuner: You have both stated my position incredibally better than I could ever hope to. I have a .45 that I could (and do) carry but, short of using a shoulder harness, is to hard for me to conceal and still be able to reach. My wife has a 7 shop .32 long, revolver loaded with 98gr Colt New Police. It conceals well, but I'm not totally comfortable with the caliber. Given that the thoughts/rationale expressed by the two of you, (and partially reinforced by others of your esteemed group) so closely mirror mine I am sure you will understand my preference for my Thames. I have been made aware of the mechanical short comings of that type of pistol however, the pistol is in MY hand and I am very confident of it's condition and choose to carry it regardless. I will insure a copy of my obituary is posted on THR in the event I have to use it and it fails.

Oyeboten
September 25, 2009, 12:55 PM
Oh yeah...(as for the last two Posts...)


One thing seldom mentioned about a 'Hammerless' Revolver...is, not only does it offer less potential snags/hang-ups for being drawn...but, it offers less potential snags/hang-ups if being used in a very close or contact-wound scenario on an adversary.

Oyeboten
September 26, 2009, 12:48 AM
Found this...


http://cgi.ebay.com/LYMAN-IDEAL-310-TOOL-WITH-38-S-W-RELOADING-DIES_W0QQitemZ220483130901QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3355d19615&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14


I got a set of re-loading Dies recently for the .38 S&W, but the larger Thread ones...rather than the '310' kind...

medmo
September 27, 2009, 04:48 AM
Old Fuff said:

"A member of the U.K.’s famed S.A.S. once remarked to me that “Americans are far too obsessed with bullet design, while ignorant about more important considerations.” "

Sounds right to me. We tend to obsess on a lot of things. Could you imagine how lonely The High Road would be if we all didn't?

Thanks for the scoop on using 200 grain lead in break opens. I figured an Iver in good mechanical shape would be okay.

Old Fuff
September 27, 2009, 09:19 AM
Iver Johnson and Harrington & Richardson (H&R) made top-break pocket revolvers starting in the late 1890's when Smith & Wesson's patents ran out, to the beginning of World War Two. During that long time span material specifications changed. Earlier guns were intended for use with black powder, while later ones were O.K. with smokeless powder. None of the .38's were intended to be used with bullets weighing over 150 grains or so. That included the much-better quality Smith & Wesson's.

Winchester developed the so-called "Super Police" load with a 200-grain bullet in both .38 S&W and .38 Special. Both were intended to be used in hand ejector Smith & Wesson or Colt revolvers. Both were reputed to be better "man-stopper's" then their respective standard loads. The .38 S&W version was the basis of the .38-200 cartridge used as a service revolver round by the English and associated countries during World War Two.

Old Fuff
September 27, 2009, 09:45 AM
Those of you that are interested in Smith & Wesson's first enclosed hammer revolver - the Safety Hammerless or New Departure model, should follow the link listed below to see one of the largest collections of these revolvers ever offered for sale.

The Safety Hammerless was made in two sizes - .32 and .38. A top-break design, it had besides the enclosed hammer a grip safety. The company advertised that this made it absolutely safe to carry, even when fully loaded. It was so popular that production lasted from 1887 to about 1942 and the beginning of World War Two. Notice that the ejection system allowed the barrel to be shorted to as little as 1 3/8 inches without affecting ejection of fired cases.

http://www.proxibid.com/asp/catalog.asp?aid=22342

zxcvbob
September 27, 2009, 02:55 PM
There's some gorgeous guns there. I drooled all over my computer. I was tempted to place an opening bid on several (I would be maxed out at that point and wouldn't bid again, but what a sweet deal if I won one.)

I bought a 5th model S&W .38 Hammerless Safety with a very low serial number yesterday on Gunbroker. Made in 1907. It's in Very Good condition, with kind of a blotchy nickel finish, and the grips look good. Should be a good shooter, and I'm assuming a 5th model will be OK with smokeless powder.

Old Fuff
September 27, 2009, 05:45 PM
I'm assuming a 5th model will be OK with smokeless powder.

If it is in good mechanical shape and locks up tight it should be. Back when, S&W specifically warned against using smokeless powder through the 3rd, model, which ended at approximately serial number 116,002 in 1898. The 5th. model was made between 1907 and about 1940, within a serial number range running from 220,001 to termination at 261,493.

From a shooter's point of view, the later the better... ;)

Nicodemus38
September 28, 2009, 03:55 PM
does that recommendation go for just the barrel and cylinder or does it include the frame as well? buddy has a smokeless rated barrel and cylinder assembly mounted on a late blackpowder era grip frame, what should he be using?

Old Fuff
September 28, 2009, 04:33 PM
I'm a bit confused here - something that isn't unusual. :confused:

I presume you are refering to a S&W .38 Safety Hammerless revolver. From the 1st through 3rd models the compamy recommended black powder only. In 1898 they, among other things, changed the design of the barrel latch and created the 4th model - at which point they dropped the restriction on smokeless powder. However because of the latch change you couldn't put a 4th or 5th model barrel/cylinder assembly on a pre-1898 frame.

It would require some very careful fitting, but in theory a 5th model barrel and cylinder could be mounted on a 4th model frame. If it latched up tightly you could use smokeless ammunition.

Nicodemus38
September 28, 2009, 09:39 PM
5 shot 38 sw made by sw. it has a hammer that works in both double and single action. the serial numbering on the reciever puts his revolver into production just before the "antique" cut off date of 1898.
the patent data engraved ito my friends barrel and cylinder assembly indicate those parts were made 1900-1908. the factory could only help so much with him.

Oyeboten
September 29, 2009, 03:39 AM
Hi Nicodemus38,



Images?


Might be easier to understand...

Old Fuff
September 29, 2009, 08:04 AM
If you carefully examine one of these late 1890's - early 1900's revolvers you'll usually find the following parts stamped with part or all of the serial number.

Frame - Most likely on the bottom of the butt.
Barrel - Inside the latch cut-out (remove latch to see).
Barrel Latch (on the bottom or side (may be necessary to remove to see).
Cylinder - Rear face
Extractor - On bottom of the star (probably necessary to remove to see).
Stocks - Penciled or stamped on the inside of at least one pannel.

Why all of these numbers? Because each of the above parts were fitted to a particular frame, and were not considered to be interchangeable between different guns. The numbers were a way to identify what parts went to which frame after they were blued, casehardened or plated.

Switching pre-fitted parts around may or may not work, and if they do, it wasn't intentional.

How well Nicodemus38's friend's gun will work largely depends on the frame/barrel lock-up, and if the cylinder/lockwork are still correctly timed. Also there may, or may not be, a cylinder/barrel gap issue.

What this revolver must have is a 3rd model frame within a serial number range running from 119,001 to 322,700 (1884 to 1895) or a 4th model, within a serial number range running from 322,701 to 539.000 (1895 to 1909) or a 5th (and last) model, within a serial number range running from 359,001 to 554,077 (1909 to 1911 and end of production). The barrel/cylinder assembly falls into this somewhere.

It was simply known as the .38 Double Action Model, as as to being safe with smokeless loads - The Old Fuff won't say until he knows a lot more then he does now.

Clyde K.
October 3, 2009, 12:24 AM
Well Gents, I finally got enough on the ball to figure out how to take pictures and load them onto the computer. Now, lets see if I can figure the posting part out. OK, looks like it worked. The nickle plated top break is the .38 Thames (serno 5566) that I started this post over. The group picture shows: (top) .45 Star, model PD; (center) .38 Thames; and (bottom) .32 Burgo, 7 shot.

Oyeboten
October 3, 2009, 01:35 AM
Thames looks very nice...Perky-and-alert-as-a-Squirrel.


Old Guns always seem to have a presence...


So...are you going to re-load for it?

Or...rely on off-the-shelf Ammo?


Good either way, of course..

David E
October 3, 2009, 02:44 AM
That's not a Star PD, as that was a compact .45 with adjustable sights and aluminum frame. That one appears to be a Star BM, which is an all-steel single-action semiautomatic that resembles the 1911 pattern pistol. Some features are shared but it is not a clone. Parts do not interchange and internal systems are quite different.

Good gun, tho.

Between those two revolvers, I'd pick the Thames, also !

Old Fuff
October 3, 2009, 08:13 AM
The following might be of interest to some who are following this thread, as it clears up some of the questions relative to the effectiveness of handgun ammunition in relationship to what does or doesn’t cause an immediate secession of a lethal attack. Also consider the source, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation is generally considered to be authoritive. The quote is from another thread currently running on The High Road, that also contains a link to the full report.

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=478357

CONCLUSIONS

Physiologically, no caliber or bullet is certain to incapacitate any individual unless the brain is hit. Psychologically, some individuals can be incapacitated by minor or small caliber wounds. Those individuals who are stimulated by fear, adrenaline, drugs, alcohol, and/or sheer will and survival determination may not be incapacitated even if mortally wounded.

The will to survive and to fight despite horrific damage to the body is commonplace on the battlefield, and on the street. Barring a hit to the brain, the only way to force incapacitation is to cause sufficient blood loss that the subject can no longer function, and that takes time. Even if the heart is instantly destroyed, there is sufficient oxygen in the brain to support full and complete voluntary action for 10-15 seconds.

Kinetic energy does not wound. Temporary cavity does not wound. The much discussed "shock" of bullet impact is a fable and "knock down" power is a myth. The critical element is penetration. The bullet must pass through the large, blood bearing organs and be of sufficient diameter to promote rapid bleeding. Penetration less than 12 inches is too little, and, in the words of two of the participants in the 1987 Wound Ballistics Workshop, "too little penetration will get you killed."

Given desirable and reliable penetration, the only way to increase bullet effectiveness is to increase the severity of the wound by increasing the size of hole made by the bullet. Any bullet which will not penetrate through vital organs from less than optimal angles is not acceptable. Of those that will penetrate, the edge is always with the bigger bullet.

LINK: Human Wounding Factors and Effectiveness
__________________

kanook
October 3, 2009, 08:48 AM
Kinda funny how they dropped the 45acp to go to the 10mm, then went to the 40S&W. Although the SWAT still carries the 45acp.

Clyde K.
October 3, 2009, 07:26 PM
I was wrong about my .45 Star being a Mod PD. It is in fact a Mod PS.

Additionally, "Mod BM is a compact, steel framed, 9mm Parabellum/Lugar variant of a series of 1911-inspired pistols that led Star design for the next 60 years". http://www.star-firearms.com/firearms/guns/

In regards to the .38 ammo, I'm still undecided wether to go commercial, Cowboy or custom loads.

Oyeboten
October 4, 2009, 03:39 AM
If you can reload your own, trying various things it'd be a good excuse to practice with the Revolver more...


I used to use a foot long piece of 4x8, and, 8x12xGlue-Lam Beam...fire to hit at parallel to four inches up from it's bottom..measure how far it moves back on a smooth level surface...was a nice way of roughly comparing energy-delivered by various loads, re-loads or respective Calibres.


Edit...to add:


It may be that "777" or possibly ''Pyrodex-P" would permit a higher FPS than traditional BP, in re-loading .38 S&W for a short to medium length Barrels.


Also...'Magnum' Primers may also help...


I will try these things eventually and find out...


Now...just musing...wondering...inviting input and wisdom from those more experienced...





Old Fuff?


What say ye?

woad_yurt
October 4, 2009, 06:04 AM
In regards to the .38 ammo, I'm still undecided wether to go commercial, Cowboy or custom loads.

Clyde K:
Huh? Wasn't it for carry? If you don't re-load, buy the most powerful stuff you can find. Why the cowboy stuff?

Old Fuff
October 4, 2009, 07:19 AM
Why the cowboy stuff?


1. Because it's appropriate for use in his 19th. century revolver.

2. Because "more powerful" ammunition isn't available over-the-counter, and if it was it wouldn't be appropriate to use in his older gun.

3. Because "more powerful" ammunition may be desireable, but it isn't absolutely necessary.

While it is true that they're better choices, the regular .38 S&W cartridge has a track record. It's been doing the job since 1876, and still is. Sometimes people get this outrageous idea that they can make-do with what they have, rather then run out and spend the money to get a new gun, just because someone on the Internet they don't know says what they have is no good. :scrutiny:

Clyde K.
October 4, 2009, 02:02 PM
Oyeboten, please continue "....musing, wondering, inviting input..." etc. I'm learning so much from you guys, the possibalities make my head spin.

Woad Yurt, I don't have the gear to hand load, yet. Next time I can get ahold of my gunnie I'll try to set something up to run a few varied loads for experimentation, but in the mean time, I am waiting on a delivery of 146gr S&W.

Opinions, please: Is 146gr S&W powerful enough or too much for my old Thames?

Oyeboten
October 4, 2009, 03:59 PM
Opinions, please: Is 146gr S&W powerful enough or too much for my old Thames?


Some info for your files-

http://www.chuckhawks.com/forgotten_38SW.htm


&


http://www.reloadammo.com/38sw.htm



Any Commercial Ammo for .38 S&W has been 'downloaded' for many decades now, in deference to the many 'iffy' old Top-Breaks still out there.



Shotshell Loads would be interesting...as would 'Double-Ball'...if one were doing reloading...

Old Fuff
October 4, 2009, 04:34 PM
The problem is that your Thames is a medium-quality revolver made during the black powder era. Since it was not proofed with smokeless powder, no one can say for sure that it's safe or not.

Smokeless loads do not generate more pressure then the black powder ones did, and occasionally they may not equal black powder charges. However smokeless powder is faster burning so it generates more pressure in the cylinder and rear areas of the barrel. Some cylinders were made from bar stock that has seams and other flaws. While they stood up well to slower burning black powder, a smokeless charge might cause a chamber to crack or rupture. I know of no way to tell in advance, which is part of the reason no one in this thread has said, "don't worry - just go shoot it."

Past history is in your favor, because most of these elderly top-breaks don't have a wide reputation for blowing up - but there are always exceptions.

Oyeboten
October 4, 2009, 08:52 PM
Yes...



Conversing and brain-storming about ".38 S&W" generally, and, doing so for this particular Revolver, are somewhat two different things.


My own acceptance, is that old Mr.Thames here, would be fine with 'Original' Loadings, in Black Powder...and, I'd expect it to p-r-o-b-a-b-l-y be fine with any present off-the-shelf 'SAMMI' blessed Loadings.


However...Mr. Thames Bore diameter may be a little large, for now-a-days .38 S&W Bullets, and, should be measured to see where it is at.


I think the old Land diameter later more or less became the 'new' Bore diameter, around the late 1890s or very early 1900s with the advent of inside-lubricated Bullets (verses the older Outside Lubricated and thus 'Heeled' and Hollow-Base Bullets)...but I may be wrong...though this did happen to other Calibres/Cartridges.



If I owned that Revolver and was going to carry it...I'd lean toward doing my own Loadings in 3f BP...and, I'd elect Bullets to suit the Bore diameter as-it-actually is for having measured it.

woad_yurt
October 4, 2009, 09:04 PM
New .38 S&W ammo is made with .360 or .361 bullets, which are proper for the bore.

If the gun is sound, the new ammo won't damage it; it's loaded rather lightly to prevent it.

Old Fuff
October 4, 2009, 09:46 PM
I think the old Land diameter later more or less became the 'new' Bore diameter, around the late 1890s or very early 1900s with the advent of inside-lubricated Bullets (verses the older Outside Lubricated and thus 'Heeled' and Hollow-Base Bullets)...but I may be wrong

In this instance you're wrong... :uhoh: ;)

The .38 S&W cartridge always used internal lubricated bullets. However both the .38 Short Colt and .38 Long Colt did use heeled bullets. The .38 Special followed the .38 Long Colt, and that's how we ended up with a .38 that used a .358" diameter bullet... :)

Oyeboten
October 4, 2009, 10:54 PM
Oh, okay...wasn't sure.

Old Fuff
October 5, 2009, 07:36 AM
After the cartridge was introduced S&W came up with the ultimate bullet. It had a large, hollow base that was filled with grease and sealed with a plug. Then several small holes were drilled from the outer circumference into the inner cavity. When the cartridge was fired, gas pressure would push the plug forward, causing the grease to extrude onto the walls of the bore as the bullet passed by.

Somehow it never caught on… I have no idea why. :uhoh: :D

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