.38 spl; what do you mean by accelerated wear for +P?


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il_10
October 3, 2010, 11:54 PM
I'm considering carrying my old Colt Police Positive Special as a backup gun in the woods deer hunting this fall, but VA regs state that a handgun used to take deer has to meet a manufacturer's rating of at least 350 ft/lbs of energy.
As far as I can find so far, only the heavy buffalo bore +p is rated to reach that 350.
Colt advertised these guns from the early 30's on up as being safe to shoot with S&W's .38-44 cartridge, which was a bit hotter than the buffalo bore +p. Still, I keep hearing that the .38-44, by default the BB ammo, and even standard +P will greatly accelerate the wear of these pistols. I'm not really concerned with standard +P ammo, because it really isn't much hotter than standard pressure ammo. In a lot of cases it's not as powerful. But I'm curious about the old loads or the BB, what exactly is meant by "accelerated wear." Are we talking 20 rounds, 100 rounds, 1000 rounds? Will 6 shots throughout a deer season appreciably diminish the functionality of my gun?

As an aside, I got the gun for cheap, and it's really a project for me. It's far and away not a collector's item, so I'm not too concerned about having to do a little bit more maintenance than normal. I just want to gauge how long it would really take to kill it.
Thanks!

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Guillermo
October 4, 2010, 12:12 AM
this is a common question

It comes down to 2 camps

Some say "+P will shoot your gun loose"

Others will say "+P is less powerful than REGULAR 38's used to be"

I shoot D Frame Colts and have never had a problem with the mild rounds that we now call +P.

Other folks have has similar experiences.

Some people act like +P is a hand held Polaris missile.

I say shoot the +P which is a pretty wimpy cartridge. But the other side is right. The less powerful the round, the less wear your gun will experience. In fact, if you only use Speer plastic practice rounds, with only the primer as a propellant, your gun will last forever.

Me...I shoot my 38 specials with the wimpy "+P" rounds, which are less powerful than my guns were made for.

Sport45
October 4, 2010, 01:25 AM
I'm considering carrying my old Colt Police Positive Special as a backup gun in the woods deer hunting this fall, but VA regs state that a handgun used to take deer has to meet a manufacturer's rating of at least 350 ft/lbs of energy.


The way I read that, VA requires 350 ft-lb of energy for a handgun used for hunting. If you are carrying a rifle does that apply? I'm thinking if you are hunting with a rifle you could carry a .22lr handgun if you wanted to. But I'm not a lawyer and didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Expresss last night.

il_10
October 4, 2010, 01:53 AM
I could carry whatever I want. My cz82 is my usual companion, a .22 would be fine, etc.
But I'd like for my handgun to be able to legally do the job that I'm out there to do, which is kill a deer. I can keep a couple shotshells handy for snakes and the like (not likely to be around, but you never know), handily dispatch smaller game, and in the case of a rifle malfunction while I'm setting up on the white whale of all bucks, I can still take it without legal worry.
The moral question is another one entirely; .38spl, even in the 350+ ft/lb BB ammo, is only going to be conducive to a clean kill on a dear at pretty close range. For this reason a .38 would certainly not be a primary hunting arm for me.

But a scenario that is far more likely is a finishing shot on a wounded but still not quite dead deer. Rifles are tricky to maneuver in the brush, and not particularly humane at close ranges. You end up blowing the deer into little chunks. The .38 makes a lot of sense there. As the Colt is the only pistol I own that I can find ammo for which is 350+ ft/lbs, it'll probably be what I use if I'm not going to kill the gun in 20 rounds of the legal ammo.

Steve C
October 4, 2010, 02:29 AM
Heavy loads of any kind can and will cause end shake and general looseness in lighter weight less heavily built revolvers. In older tech alloy frame pistols the frame will stretch by using +P or "Police" loads. I don't worry about using +P ammunition or hand loads in steel frame .38 pistols but limit their use in older J frames and lighter Colt positive frames but don't worry a bit about using them in the Official Police pistols with the heavier frame.

If you don't think heavy loads can damage a gun quickly, I have a nice looking 4" police positive that I'd picked up at a sale that had to have been shot with heavy hand loads. The end shake is so excessive that there are drag marks from the cases on the recoil shield that will cause shooting stoppages. Good thing I didn't pay much for it and figure it will make a decent parts pistol.

ArchAngelCD
October 4, 2010, 03:06 AM
Why not carry a .357 Magnum instead of a .38 Special if you are wanting to take a deer with your handgun? A .357 Magnum will do a much better job out past 20+ yards than a .38 Special even at current +P pressures.

Sport45
October 4, 2010, 03:50 AM
But a scenario that is far more likely is a finishing shot on a wounded but still not quite dead deer. Rifles are tricky to maneuver in the brush, and not particularly humane at close ranges. You end up blowing the deer into little chunks. The .38 makes a lot of sense there. As the Colt is the only pistol I own that I can find ammo for which is 350+ ft/lbs, it'll probably be what I use if I'm not going to kill the gun in 20 rounds of the legal ammo.

For a finishing shot just about any handgun will do. What kind of rifle do you carry that blows deer into little chunks? Sounds like it will save some processing cost. Instant sausage!

I'll second the .357mag suggestion. And forget the shotshell for snake business. If you have time to reload with snake shot you have time to walk around the snake. Shooting it will ruin any chance you had of seeing the "white whale of all bucks"

1911Tuner
October 4, 2010, 08:57 AM
It comes down to 2 camps

Some say "+P will shoot your gun loose"

Others will say "+P is less powerful than REGULAR 38's used to be"

"They" are wrong on both counts, assuming that we're not including small-framed revolvers made 30 years ago.

While a steady diet of +P will hasten the arrival of the day that the gun will need a tuneup...limiting the use of such ammunition to the times when a little more punch is needed won't hurt a thing, even in the small revolvers that weren't rated for +P.

Older .38 Special ammunition that predated Super Vel and +P consisted of a 158 grain lead bullet...either a round nose or a SWC...at an advertised velocity of 770 fps from a 4-inch barrel, and that hit it pretty close in most guns. +P 158-grain LSWCHP...advertised at 940 fps...will average about 890-920 from the same length barrel, and in some guns will hover around the claimed numbers.

.38-.44 is a whole different animal. Back in the day that .357 Magnum ammunition was truly .357 Magnum...the .38-.44 ammo was low-end .357 and it's nearly the equal of most modern loadings. While a strong, modern K frame-sized revolver may handle a few rounds of it, I wouldn't bet on it too heavily...and I surely wouldn't used it in a J-frame unless I really hated the gun.

CajunBass
October 4, 2010, 11:22 AM
The way I read that, VA requires 350 ft-lb of energy for a handgun used for hunting. If you are carrying a rifle does that apply? I'm thinking if you are hunting with a rifle you could carry a .22lr handgun if you wanted to. But I'm not a lawyer and didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Expresss last night.

That's the way I read it too. I'm not HUNTING with the pistol. I'm hunting with the rifle. I carry a 22 pistol to pop a squirrel or two with if I get the chance.

To the OP. I wouldn't worry about it. Load the 38 with whatever you got.

Old Fuff
October 4, 2010, 12:11 PM
Colt's Police Positive Special is an all-steel gun, but since it was introduced in 1908, just how old is "old?"

Anyway, what concerns gun manufacturers is that truly excessive loads (which most plus-p ammunition isn't) may over a long time period with regular use cause cylinder end-shake (back & forth movement of the cylinder as opposed to rotational movement), and in a worse (but unlikely) case cause the frame to become distorted. For the limited use you have in mind none of this should cause you any worry. Less then 50 rounds might last a lifetime.

CraigC
October 4, 2010, 12:15 PM
Unless you are a seasoned veteran sixgunner, I would not try to turn the Police Positive into a deer gun. If all you need is something to finish off a wounded deer (by you, with your rifle) then anything will do. Although there is nothing "inhumane" about finishing one off with a rifle. There's little difference between shooting one in the head at 5yds vs 100yds. It's actually about the most "humane" (a far overused term) to do, because regardless of how it looks to you, vaporizing the brain is about as painless as you can get.

But I wouldn't use any .38-44 load in the gun regardless. Save those for N-frames and .357's.

Guillermo
October 4, 2010, 12:17 PM
Old Fuff

You might want to clarify your position on this.

You first say "most +P" loads are "not excessive"

Then go on to explain what excessive loads can possibly do.

(you and I have talked about this in the past so I know your thoughts but others might not understand)


Haven't seen you around in a while...how you been?

Old Fuff
October 4, 2010, 07:51 PM
You might want to clarify your position on this.

Most if not all of the Plus-P ammunition being produced by mainline manufacturers are more name then performance. On the other hand some smaller outfits are making product that is at the top or even pushing the envelope. Gun manufacturers have no control over what ammunition companies offer so they go by recognized industry standards. Consumers have to depend on the manufacturer's advertising.

If one subjects an older handgun to a steady diet of the truly hot-loaded stuff over a long period some problems may develop. The most common one is cylinder end-shake which I covered before.

There are those that say - with justification in some cases - that today's Plus-P is under-loaded rather then overloaded, but in the past I have examined used police trade-in revolvers that were used extensively with Plus-P ammunition and had serious cylinder end-shake and timing issues as a result.

None of this is particularly important in the present case because the O.P. is not likely to become an extensive user by any measure.

Now I'll lay another story to rest.

During the 1930's Great Depression gun sales for both Colt and Smith & Wesson were slow and hard to come by. When S&W introduced a .38 revolver built on their largest (N) frame and a matching extra hot loading of the .38 Special cartridge they specified that this round should not be used in a lighter (K) frame Military & Police. Colt experimented with the new round and discovered that while it would not blow up a smaller Police Positive Special or Detective Special it would give both the revolver and shooter a beating. Desperate for sales they decided to advertise that the .38/44 Heavy Duty loading could be used in any of their current .38 Special revolvers. They were pretty sure that only a few users would fire much of the hard-kicking ammunition, and if they did the company would repair or replace the handful of guns that might be sent in. In the meantime additional sales generated in response to their claims would more then pay for the cost of servicing the beat and battered ones. After World War Two strong sales returned and the .38/44 load was quietly dropped from their new advertising.

Guillermo
October 4, 2010, 10:15 PM
wow Fuffster!!
when you clarify you REALLY clarify

Lucky Derby
October 4, 2010, 10:52 PM
Old Fuff, Thank you for the history lesson.

Old Fuff
October 4, 2010, 10:55 PM
when you clarify you REALLY clarify

Well you did ask... :D

At least I didn't go into the story of this police detective I knew that had his 1960's era Detective Special (.38) rechambered by some gunsmith (???!!) into a .357 Magnum. :what:

No, it didn't blow up, but even Colt couldn't make it work again. They did offer him a new gun at factory cost, and he jumped at the chance. I was never sure if the revolver was his, or belonged to the department he worked for. :uhoh:

Guillermo
October 4, 2010, 11:01 PM
rechambered by some gunsmith

that man is a dork and lucky he didn't hurt anyone

Stumper
October 4, 2010, 11:12 PM
I believe that in days of yore Colt specified an armorer's review of their little 38s after 1000 or 2000 rounds of high velocity loads. It seems unlikely that a few +Ps would be much cause for concern. When S&W sent Elmer Keith a new Chief's Special at the introduction of the same he claimed that he ran 5000 rounds of heavy loads through it without any damage whatsoever.

il_10
October 5, 2010, 12:49 AM
Good deal then. I'll pick up a box for the woods, as well as some of their hotter standard pressure loads for general defense purposes. 158gr LRN's will, of course, remain the norm.

Old Fuff, I always appreciate your input, particularly on the older wheelguns. If you have any more reading on the 30's battle between S&W and Colt, I'd love to learn more.

Old Fuff
October 5, 2010, 10:12 AM
If you have any more reading on the 30's battle between S&W and Colt, I'd love to learn more.

If, or when I can find the time... :D

Both companies put out catalogs that went to great lengths to explain the superior features of their products, while taking digs at the perceived faults of the compitition. During the later '30's Colt target revolvers were very popular with bullseye target competitors, especially those who were big winners at the NRA National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. Colt exploited this to the hilt. Smith & Wesson pointed toward Ed McGivern's fantastic double-action shooting with their revolvers. Colt then hired Border Patrol ace Charles Askins to write an article (reprinted in the Colt catalogs) that exclusively featured their revolvers...

And so it went...

Guillermo
October 5, 2010, 10:41 AM
RCMODEL pretty much summed it up in another thread

The SAAMI .38 Spl +P rating system came about in 1974.
At that time standard pressure was lowered, +P was increased very slightly over what used to be standard pressure, and Hi-Speed ammo was dropped from production.

Prior to 1974:
The Standard pressure 158 LRN grain factory load was rated at 855 FPS.
The Hi-Speed load was rated at 1,090 FPS.

Under todays standard, the same 158 grain load is rated at 755 FPS.
The +P is rated at 890 FPS.

John Wayne
October 5, 2010, 03:16 PM
Buy a box of Buffalo Bore, or whatever else meets the ft pound requirements. Shoot a cylinder through the gun to make sure it shoots to POA and that there are no problems with the ammo.

Then, keep the BB ammo for only when you're in the woods. As a backup gun to a rifle, you're not likely to have to shoot your revolver often, if at all.

I don't think one box is going to shoot your gun loose, but I wouldn't fire it all the time either. For your purposes you should be fine...if you had a S&W with an aluminum cylinder or something then you definately should not be firing anything but spitwad loads in it.

Gary A
October 6, 2010, 02:01 AM
Old Fuff's tale of Colt's Marketing of the .38/44 to generate sales during the Great Depression is interesting. It reminds me, on a smaller scale perhaps, that when Smith and Wesson first re-introduced the Model 642 (as the 642-1) on the new "magnum"-styled frame, they did not say anything about plus P. About the same time, Taurus began to aggressively advertise their small-frame revolver line as being Plus P capable and so-rated. Very shortly thereafter, Smith and Wesson began touting the Plus P capabilities of their re-designed J-frames. Now, I ain't saying the guns aren't up to it, but I'm pretty sure Smith felt constrained to answer Taurus' marketing campaign. I remember calling Smith at the time to ask about the 642-1 that I had purchased, which was not marked as being plus P rated and I was not sure when such a rating began. They said it was fine if it had a suffix, i.e. was the "magnumized" frame.

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