Shot some real 38/44 ammo today.


Peter M. Eick
October 6, 2011, 08:17 PM
This is real 1940’s vintage 38/44 ammo. It says “.38-44 S.&W. Special” 158 grn Lead bullet. The box says “r266” as the version of the load an it specifically says “specially adapted for the .38-44 Smith and Wesson Special”.
This is the 38/44 ammo that was chrono-ed.

6.5” 1198+ 1057- 141e 1121m 82s
5.0” 1131+ 1002- 129e 1079m 71s
4.0” 1069+ 739- 330e 1010m 103s (one bad round)

I had a bunch of misfires so I was barely able to get my 12 rounds for testing of each. That is why I was stuck with the one bad round on the 4”. I just ran out of decent ammo otherwise I would have voided the round and shot another one. So do I believe that original 38/44 ammo would have done about 1175 fps out of a 6.5” and 1150 fps out of a 5”? Yes. The degradation of the ammo in the last 70 years could explain my results running a bit slow compared to expectations. We are certainly not far outside the range of belief on the commercial of that vintage. Given the number of duds I had in the box, it would be quite believable that 1175 and 1150 are the targets.

I have a long thread I will post over in reloading if you are interested in 38/44 ammo.

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October 6, 2011, 10:48 PM
That's really cool to see those numbers. It beats arguing about what it was and how whimpified .38 special has gotten since then. Buffalo Bore +P really is on the money for duplicating the .38-44 ammo isn't it.

Time to go check your other thread as I'd love to be able to duplicate this performance level, safely, in my handloads.

October 7, 2011, 12:57 AM
The .38-44; the original +P .38 Special.

I read the thread you posted in the reloading forum. Excellent information. I would have liked to have seen a 173gr bullet tested but those loads are easily found at other locations on the internet. Thank you for your time and work on a job well done, sir.

October 7, 2011, 10:37 AM
I will use the information in my carry gun.

October 7, 2011, 11:00 AM
That ammo is sure closer to the .357 Magnum than the .38 Special.
Thanks for the information.

October 7, 2011, 11:40 AM
Very interesting!

October 7, 2011, 12:03 PM
Thanks for taking the time. Interesting. :cool:

October 7, 2011, 08:12 PM
I don't remember where I read it but it was said that the .38/44 from a 6.5" barrel was meant to do 1250 fps with a 158 grain LSWC. And that in the lighter grained bullets it had the potential to outperform the .357 magnum in a 6.5" with slower burning powders. The sad thing is that all the power calibers meant to be fired from revolvers with barrel lengths in excess of 6" when most folks buy revolvers with 4" barrels and shorter.

Jim K
October 7, 2011, 08:45 PM
That ammunition was intended for the .38-44 S&W revolvers, which were .38 Specials on a .44 (N) frame. The .38-44 was the gun Keith and others used in working up what became the .357 Magnum. That .38-44 was just a hot-loaded .38 Special, as the figures show. There were two .38-44 revolvers, the Heavy Duty, which was popular with highway patrols, had fixed sights and 5" and 6 1/2" barrels. The Outdoorsman, with adjustable sights and 6 1/2" and 8 3/4" barrels was liked, but more expensive. Both, in good condition, are highly desireable collectors' items, but especially the Outdoorsman.

But there was an earlier .38-44, chambered in the New Model No. 3 revolver. Its case was the same length as the revolver cylinder and the bullet was completely contained within the case, which is longer than the .38 Special case by about .3". In diameter, it is between the .38 Special and the .38 S&W. Lightly loaded, and purely a target round, it was sometimes called the .38-44 S&W Gallery Special.


October 7, 2011, 09:16 PM
That really makes me want to dig up a New Service in 38 Special.

They were all rated for the .38/44 loads.

October 7, 2011, 11:11 PM
Thanks for doing this!

A good use of some vintage ammo--experiment and education.

So cool.

October 8, 2011, 04:12 AM
Hey, I could use some of that.... :D

Peter M. Eick
October 9, 2011, 08:51 AM
Nice looking HD!

October 9, 2011, 07:43 PM
Thanks! Haven't shot it yet.... got a friend who handloads, maybe he can work something up that's appropriate... ;)

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