Colt .38 Super


February 27, 2010, 12:00 PM
My bro-in-law was interested in a Colt .38 Super we saw at shop here. I told him I would do a little research on it and the cartridge, I am not too familiar with it. I did a quick search but I am still a little confused about it. Is this cartridge similar to a 9mm or .357 sig? It sounds like he wants something comparable to a .357 in an auto platform. I was also wondering about ammo cost and availability on this, it seems like it may be hard to come by. Thanks.

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February 27, 2010, 01:17 PM
38 Super is like a slightly longer 9mm, but with an un-tapered straight-wall cartridge. 9mm bullets are .355" diameter, 38 Super is .356". OAL on the 9mm is 1.169", compared to 1.280" for the 38 Super. Both loaded at "normal" load levels, with 125 gr. jacketed hollow point bullets, 38 Super will have an extra 200-250 fps over the 9mm.

So the 38 Super is going to fall 200-300 fps short of "normal" .357 Magnum loads.

If you don't reload, I think you'll find 38 Super to be harder to find and more expensive. It's hard to beat 9mm for ammo availability and cost.


February 27, 2010, 01:33 PM
Thanks Matt, that is kind of along the lines of what I was thinking. It seems like an interesting cartidge but overlaps with a few others, so maybe 9mm+p could be a good alternative?

February 27, 2010, 01:58 PM
You will need to find out when the 38 Super was made. For decades Colt chose to headspace the 38 Super off of the Rim. My experience with a 1911 70 Series 38 Super was it was horribly inaccurate. It wasn't till somewhere in the late 80s or early 90s they stated to headspace the 38 Super off the case mouth and accuracy improved.

February 27, 2010, 02:58 PM
38 super is usually not loaded very hot in commercial offerings. You will either want to reload or get corbon ammunition in order to unleash its potential. However, I rarely see it at the gun stores so you very well might be better off getting 357 SIG or 9mm +p. It is a fun cartridge to shoot in the 1911 platform however if your willing to go through the effort to obtain it. And the Runningman makes a great point about the headspacing issue.

February 27, 2010, 05:48 PM
Thanks guys, those are good points to consider. I'll have to admit I'm not too familiar with the 1911 platform so I am not aware of some of those issues that you mentioned. I guess he sould at least check and make sure it was made post early 1990's anyway based on the headspace issue described.

I agree that it is probably best to look at pistols in 9mm and .357 sig chamberings though in any case.

February 27, 2010, 06:18 PM
I kind of got to wondering what if anything is out there .357 sig in a 1911 platform, I don't recall seeing anything, but I guess I don't get out much.

February 27, 2010, 06:27 PM
I saw an article in a magazine once where someone converted a 40 cal 1911 to a 357 SIG 1911. As far as I know this is the only way you can do it.

February 27, 2010, 07:21 PM
Thanks Mike, I was just curious, it seems like it would be pretty cool though.

February 27, 2010, 08:13 PM
The 38 Super is a great round. It really comes into its own if you reload. If you don't, the ammo runs little more than the more "conventional" rounds.

A 38 Super 1911 can have a barrel fitted to shoot 9mm. All I need to do with mine is swap the barrels and recoil spring out. Many people find that a well-made 38 Super barrel can chamber the 9x23 Winchester, which makes true hot .357 magnum velocities. But I'd advise having someone knowledgeable check it first.

February 27, 2010, 09:36 PM
I have a 38 super 1911 and have not done much with it, but can agree with the earlier posts that the ammo can be very hard to find in some areas, and is more expensive, and no one seems to have any of the hi performance defense loads. 9x19 is so much more common and cheaper, and much of the 9x19 out there is loaded hot and steps out about the same as factory 38 super.

I bought some very nice mags from CDNN for a good price; they have several options between $14 and $17 IIRC for blue or stainless high quality mags.

If you need a 9mm barrel, Sarco has a good price on a basic 9x19 barrel. I was thinking of buying one. There are better barrels at higher prices from Barsto and others. I have a 9x19 1911 also and run it with different mags meant for the 9mm. My understanding is you could use 38S mags for a 9x19 but that you would likely have a lot of failures to feed.

I'd like to get some loads that provide some significant advantage over 9x19 but they have been elusive. I think Corbon is the way to go, else handloads. 9x23 is another intriguing idea and MidwayUSA does carry 9x23 ammo. The problem is finding a good barrel at a good price.

Oh - almost forgot to mention 357 Sig. I have done a lot of internet research (so take with a grain of salt) but there is a concern with using in a 1911. 357Sig has a short neck and does not have a great amount of bearing on the bullet. Pressure to the bullet nose can overcome the seal and crimp and push the bullet deeper into the case on any cartridge, but apparently 357 Sig is more vulnerable to this than average. The 1911 design results in the bullet nose riding the feed ramp on the way up an into the chamber. I'm not sure this is as prevalent in a smaller diamer cartridge than 45, but 45 rounds definitely make contact with the ramp. So the concern is that you have a combination of a design that has impact to the bullet nose coupled with a cartridge that is more susceptible than average to bullet set back. I suspect that is why you do not see 1911 barrels in 357 sig. I have looked as I wanted one. Apparently in a Sig or Glock (etc) this is less of a concern.

February 27, 2010, 11:23 PM
Go to loads of info there.

February 28, 2010, 12:13 PM
Thanks a lot guys, lot of great info to think about there.

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