What if the .38 spc. really was .38 hundredths ??


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MIL-DOT
February 16, 2011, 08:58 PM
.....instead of .35 ? That would have put it just a little shy of the now-in-vogue .40, so I'm wondering if the .38 really was a .38, would it's popularity not have waned in recent years?
( :D I ask this as a once-commited "bottom-feeder" fan, that has recently become enomored with .38's,.357's and old Smiths.)

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The Lone Haranguer
February 16, 2011, 09:09 PM
Thirty-eight thousandths (.038") would be a mighty small bullet. :neener: I am sure you meant if it were a true .38 caliber (.380"). It is very hard to say if it would have affected its popularity, but probably not.

Don357
February 16, 2011, 09:11 PM
Of course you know that when the .38 was .38, it was designed like a .22 rimfire. If you measure the outside of a .38/.357mag case, it should be .38 in. I think that the TRUE .38 would actually be a .41, if it were of a modern design. The inside measurement of a .41 Remington case would probably be close to .38 in.

Just some brain fodder to chew on.

MIL-DOT
February 16, 2011, 09:15 PM
Uh, OK.....Uh.....nevermind. :D

franco45
February 16, 2011, 09:18 PM
I just bought another 38 special, a Charter Arms Undercover. In the past year I have bought a S&W 642, 2 Charter Arms 38s and a S&W pre model 10 M&P K frame. As you can tell I still like them.

Waywatcher
February 16, 2011, 09:24 PM
Yeah, the outside dimension of the brass case of a .38 special is 0.379" and the bullets are 0.357" to 0.358"

The bullet is really closest to 0.36"

Jim Watson
February 16, 2011, 10:25 PM
Well, there was the 9.8 mm Colt; a true .38.
How many of them do you see around?
(They made two prototypes, got some ammo made, but abandoned the project when the 1911 was adopted by the US Army and guaranteed them a lot of sales.)

flightsimmer
February 16, 2011, 10:51 PM
Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't the 38-40 a pre 10mm .380-.401 sized bullet?

Jim Watson
February 16, 2011, 11:21 PM
Well, it was very close to .40 but it sure wasn't in a .380-.400" range.

The .41 Long Colt started out with a .401" heel type bullet but later got a .386" hollowbase so they could have inside lubrication to try to keep up with .38 Special and .44 Special.

evan price
February 17, 2011, 02:05 AM
OK, What if the 44 special was really .440" instead of .429"?

Would anyone care?

David E
February 17, 2011, 02:53 AM
The 38-40 uses .401 diameter bullets.

Davidsons had a sprecial run Ruger Blackhawk convertible with a cylinder for 38-40 and another for .40 S&W.

Oyeboten
February 17, 2011, 04:56 AM
Don't forget, the .357 - .358 Diameter of the .38 Special Bullets, the Bullets tend to become a larger Diameter once they are experiencing a rapid deceleration in a resistive Target medium.

Buck Snort
February 17, 2011, 05:03 AM
To answer your question Mil Dot, if the "38" actually measured .380 inches across then the world would be a wonderful place, the lamb would lay down with the lion, and peace and harmony would reign everywhere!! What else would you expect?

MCgunner
February 17, 2011, 11:40 AM
The value of a few thousanths of an inch difference in bullet diameter is highly over-blown. Learn to place the bullet where it counts. A few thousanths of an inch will not make up for poor marksmanship. If you want more horsepower, add 1/10th inch to the case length, load it with, say, 17 grains of 2400 instead of 5 grains of unique, and top it with a good 140 grain JHP like Speer makes. THEN, you'll blow that .40 right out of the water. ;) Of course, you STILL need to know how to put that bullet where it counts. There's no getting around that.

sixgunner455
February 17, 2011, 12:17 PM
If the .38 Special had actually been a true .38 caliber bullet ... then the .357 MAGNUM might never have been born. I mean, really, how uncool would .380 MAGNUM sound? Nobody would buy that! And then SIG's bastard stepchild, .357 SIG, wouldn't have the same cachet as a 9mm SIG, or a .38 SIG, now would it? :D


As far as the .38-40 - the 10mm LITE and the .40 S&W originally were loaded up with 180 gr .38-40 bullets, because it is actually a .40. Not really a shock, but most calibers are only labeled in the ballpark of what their actual diameter is.

Dave T
February 17, 2011, 03:17 PM
The value of a few thousanths of an inch difference in bullet diameter is highly over-blown. Learn to place the bullet where it counts.
and
Of course, you STILL need to know how to put that bullet where it counts. There's no getting around that.

Hear this all the time and up to a point it is true. However, I just saw a secutiry camera footage of a street shooting in Philadelphia. Victim fired 6 rounds of 380 right into the center chest of his assailant. The attacker just kept coming. A bit more power would have been very helpful.

Dave

sixgunner455
February 17, 2011, 04:18 PM
Dave, any handgun caliber can have a failure to stop. .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, 9mm, .22 - doesn't matter. Any of them can fail to stop the target. Friend of mine got shot in Sacramento by a gang-member. .22 bullet went through his arm and into his chest.

That was 20 years ago. He's still got that bullet in there. Not near anything important, just resting against a rib. Sure, a more powerful round might have done more, but it might not.

MCgunner
February 17, 2011, 04:35 PM
A .45 isn't necessarily more powerful than a .357, just has a bigger bullet for what THAT'S worth, and you won't do much if you shoot him in the shoulder and it's always a crap shoot whether shooting him in the chest will stop him. A good JHP would be preferable to a FMJ, too, which most carry in the .380 due to lack of penetration with JHPs. However, a .38 does not have that penetration problem pushing a much heavier bullet with more momentum AND energy.

Yeah, I'd carry a high cap .458 win mag pistol if they made one, if I could conceal it, and if I could control it after the first shot. There are trade offs one must accept.

The original question was wheather a .38 in .380" would be any better than a .357" and I say no. I don't think it'd sell any better, either, not that .38 special is a poor seller even today!

randytrapper
February 18, 2011, 01:37 AM
"Dave, any handgun caliber can have a failure to stop. .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, 9mm, .22 - doesn't matter. Any of them can fail to stop the target. Friend of mine got shot in Sacramento by a gang-member. .22 bullet went through his arm and into his chest."

Thats just it, there are so many unknowns.
We had a fellow working for us that flew to coop and shot his GF. In defence she put her hands up and the bullet went threw her hand and up her arm exiting and hitting her in the neck. Killing her. He then put the gun in his mouth and managed 3 shots before unconsciousness. Afterwards, on the news he looked like he had 2 black eyes, but all in all not to bad.. Go figure. It was a .25 ACP. There are always extremes and this case happened to have them both!

Manco
February 18, 2011, 01:22 PM
If most people believe that the bullet's diameter is .38" because it's called .38 Special, which is probably the case, then the actual diameter doesn't matter much in terms of perception and popularity.

CraigC
February 18, 2011, 02:39 PM
Ruger made .38-40/10mm convertible Blackhawks in 1990 for Buckeye Sports. The .38-40/.40S&W convertible made for Davidson's was a large frame Vaquero.

sixgunner455
February 18, 2011, 02:46 PM
Saw one of those Vaqueros the other day. Sweet revolver.

texlaw67235
February 18, 2011, 02:52 PM
I had always read that your handgun was just enough to get to your rifle,that you should have had to begin with.

Haxby
February 18, 2011, 03:00 PM
The 41 Magnum would have been a lot more popular if the bullets had really measured .410 inch.

Oh. Wait. Never mind.

jhvaughan2
February 18, 2011, 05:32 PM
If the .38 was .38 back in '99, it would have been a .41.

(Dig the 41 Long Colt)

Mr.Davis
February 18, 2011, 08:40 PM
The diameter of a bullet is only one attribute that contributes to it's effectiveness.

A "real" .38 caliber bullet with a corresponding increase in bullet weight and powder charge would only be a tiny bit more effective than the actual, .36ish caliber .38 spl. The .40 S&W's diameter is only one aspect of its wounding potential.

ironhead7544
February 18, 2011, 09:51 PM
I think the .38 came about due to the common 3/8 inch drill bit size. Drill the barrel and then rifle with grooves. Comes out about .38 inch or close. When the cartridges came out they used an outside lubed heeled bullet and straight through drilled cylinder. Then the idea of inside lubed bullets came out. They just kept the same cartridges, stepped the cylinder and shrunk the bore to match.

Owen Sparks
February 18, 2011, 11:37 PM
What if a 2X4 was really 2"X4"?

Sunray
February 18, 2011, 11:49 PM
Most cartridge names are about marketing and have little to do with the bullet diameter. Would you buy a .35 or .36 Special?

GP100man
February 18, 2011, 11:55 PM
The 38specials roots come from the british 38-200 round , which in fact I

think was a heeled bullet with a very short case ,then the 38S&W was the

american version & we changed it to the dia. of the heel .357 , then the

military developed the actual 38special round & eventually the 357 Mag &

MAX!!


I think !

sig220mw
February 19, 2011, 07:44 AM
Dave T you said victim. Did he make it and finally stop the attacker?

sixgunner455
February 19, 2011, 01:05 PM
The .38/200 is a completely different case from the .38 Special. The .38/200 was the British service round for many, many years, but it was never really a major U.S. round, and while we can't say that it never walked around in a GI's holster, it was never a service cartridge of the U.S. military. S&W marketed a cartridge called the .38 S&W which is remarkably almost identical to the .38/200 (imagine that!), but the .38 S&W Special is actually based on the .38 Army round.

Many, many S&W K-frames were chambered for the .38/200 (or .38 S&W), especially Victory models that were lend-leased to the UK during WWII, and there were commercially marketed ones to boot. Colt used to chamber guns for it as well. You can still find .38 S&W rounds around. In fact, the swap meet I wandered through last weekend had a guy selling all kinds of vintage rounds, including about 10 boxes of .38 S&W. (If I actually owned something chambered for it, I'd have been happy as a pig in mud. :D ) .38/200 is still in service in some of the UK's former colonies as a police and military round, and used to be just as dominant in many of those colonies as .38 Special always has been here and many other places, especially South America.

.38 S&W Special is higher pressure, slightly smaller diameter, and longer OAL than the .38 S&W. They are not compatible cartridges. The .38 S&W is not a .38 short that can be fired in the .38 Special chamber, as .32 Longs can be from .32 H&R Magnums, or even .38 Specials from .357 Magnums.

The .38 S&W Special (commonly shortened to .38 Special, especially on Colt's revolvers and boxes of ammunition, but always marked ".38 S&W Special" on S&W revolvers) has its true roots in the cap'n ball era. The .36 Navy Colt, a cap'n ball revolver, was actually .36 caliber or thereabouts. When companies started to do cartridge conversions of those guns, various cartridge designs were attempted. Some were heeled bullets, some inside lubricated, but they all kept on with the nominal .36 caliber.

When the Army decided in the late 1800's to switch to a lighter-kicking revolver than the .45 Colt SAA, Colt submitted a double-action, swing-out cylinder revolver very similar to what we use today. It was chambered for what they called the .38 Long Colt, which had its roots in the old conversion guns Colt made before S&W's patents on modern cylinders expired. The chambers were not stepped, but were through bored. I have never seen any ammunition for these old guns, so I cannot say whether they were heeled or inside lubricated. I recall reading a warning in a very old American Rifleman not to attempt to fire .38 Specials or .357 Magnums in those old guns, even though it is entirely possible to put the cartridges in them due to the through-bored chambers. I can only imagine that a .357 would be like an overpressured proof load. Hand-grenade time, I think.

Regardless, after the Phillipine insurrection, the Army was entirely dissatisfied with the combat effect of the light-kicking revolver's cartridge, and several avenues were tried to step things up a bit. One became the 1911 pistol in .45 ACP, though the design was originally for a .38 auto cartridge that was quite a bit hotter than the .38 Army. Another was from S&W, who added weight to the slug, increased the powder charge, lengthened the case, stepped the chambers, and dubbed it the .38 S&W Special. That load was a .357 caliber, 158 grain, inside lubricated RNL bullet at over 900 FPS from a full-sized revolver, which was quite a jump up in power from the 150 grain/700 fps Army load.

Though the official military loading for the .38 Special was eventually a very anemic 130 grain FMJ, and S&W's "Military and Police" revolver (the original K-frame) was never adopted as the standard issue for any of the major services, it was taken as substitute standard and served in every branch of service, all over the world, through Desert Storm. It was not completely removed from military service until well into the 1990's. Additionally, it was, by far, the dominant police pistol cartridge of the 20th century, and has been used in police pistol marksmanship competitions and bullseye competitions ever since it was introduced.

So, there's some history. The bullets for the .38 Special are .357". They aren't .38" because the Navy Colt was .36". "And that's the troof." (channelling funny-looking clown from 70's children's show).

MCgunner
February 19, 2011, 04:03 PM
Thats just it, there are so many unknowns.
We had a fellow working for us that flew to coop and shot his GF. In defence she put her hands up and the bullet went threw her hand and up her arm exiting and hitting her in the neck. Killing her. He then put the gun in his mouth and managed 3 shots before unconsciousness. Afterwards, on the news he looked like he had 2 black eyes, but all in all not to bad.. Go figure. It was a .25 ACP. There are always extremes and this case happened to have them both!

Note to self.....if you ever commit suicide, use something other than a .25. The .25 might actually be painful, but success is iffy. At least, keeps some Tylonol around in case you get a headache afterwards. :uhoh:

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