.38 s&w?


March 12, 2012, 11:34 PM
At my LGS there are a pair of top-break revolvers in .38 S & W and I would like to know where I could buy ammo if I were to purchase one, and what you guys thought of them. They are both H&R, though model I am unsure. Thoughts?

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March 13, 2012, 09:04 AM
.38 S&W is available at most online retail ammo sources, and even my LGS has it...

It is still made in many countries around the world...

CheaperThanDirt only shows Remington in stock, but I found cheap (appx $20/50rds) Partizan ammo on a few other sites...

March 13, 2012, 12:28 PM
Correct, .38 S&W ammo is still available but it's on the expensive side. I like those older top-break revolvers especially in .38 S&W or even .32 S&W.

I just found some online that's not all that expensive compared to the Remington Express ammo I've seen around. This one (http://www.ammunitiontogo.com/product_info.php/pName/50rds-38-sw-prvi-partizan-145gr-lrn-ammo/cName/pistol-ammo-38-sw) is only $19.95/50 rounds, not all that bad today!

March 13, 2012, 04:26 PM
Might have to pick one up then. Get paid Monday, so... :roll eyes:

March 13, 2012, 04:32 PM
>>38 S&W or even .32 S&W.<<

Anemic and more anemic yet.............. :p

March 13, 2012, 04:54 PM
I've an affinity for top-breaks. Lol

March 13, 2012, 04:59 PM
Well, I have one of each, and they're pretty much relegated to the "paper weight" department. :D

March 14, 2012, 12:52 AM
I would say .38S&W is at least as good as .380, though bullet selection in factory ammo limits you to only 146gr RNL or maybe copper plated bullets. Its a whole lot better than .32ACP or .25ACP/.22LR. If one reloads, a full 147gr wadcutter at 700 FPS will do the job just fine.

March 14, 2012, 12:59 AM
My grandmother kept an Iver Johnson .38 S&W in her bedside table. None of us worried about her being under-gunned.

March 14, 2012, 12:59 AM
Well like someone stated on a similar post, they would probably last longer when loaded with black powder for the propellant. Any thoughts?

March 14, 2012, 01:00 AM
And I'm not planning to carry it. Just my affinity with top breaks and an occasional range session.

March 14, 2012, 01:06 AM
The British used them in both wars and then some with 200gr bullets!!

March 14, 2012, 01:39 AM
The British used them in both wars and then some with 200gr bullets!!
I load up and shoot some 38/200 rounds in my Enfield revolver. It's fun to try and replicate those wartime rounds. (I know they went to FMJ bullets because of the Geneva Convention rules)

Old Fuff
March 14, 2012, 11:29 AM
Harrington & Richardson top-break pocket revolvers are roughly divided between "Old," and "New" models. The first have a flat mainspring, and the cylinder can be rotated by hand when the trigger and hammer are forward. These were made up to about 1908, and should not be fired unless the cartridges are loaded with black powder.

The New Models were made up to about 1941, and have coil mainsprings. When the hammer and trigger are in the forward position the cylinder cannot be rotated. They are considered to be safe to fire using current-day ammunition loaded with smokeless powder.

With occasional exceptions, accuracy is not particularly outstanding, partly because of the revolver's construction, and partly because the sights are difficult to see, even under the best of conditions.

In recent years they have attracted some collector interest, but only if they are in outstanding condition.

If one has to be repaired by a gunsmith (if it can indeed be repaired) the bill may come to more then the revolver’s worth. If you buy one keep this in mind.

March 14, 2012, 11:51 AM

March 14, 2012, 01:12 PM
Well like someone stated on a similar post, they would probably last longer when loaded with black powder for the propellant. Any thoughts?

Depends on the year of manufacture. Some of them were built during an era when there were only black powder cartridges and these should only be fired with cartridges loaded with that propellant. Later production, were produced during the smokeless era.

I would think anything made after 1910 should be OK with smokeless (Some sources put the smokeless era back to 1900). Modern 38 S&Ws are loaded fairly light because of the older guns. You could always go with caution and re-load with black powder. It is easier on the gun. Black powder is a little more trouble - gotta keep the gun clean because of its corrosive nature. But, I have had a lot more fun shooting the black powder cartridges than the smokeless. I have a Perfected Model S&W that dates to 1914 that is one of my all time favorite guns.

March 14, 2012, 01:18 PM
One thing I notice when shooting my older revolver in 38 S&W is regardless of how much it's supposed to only bounce off an attacker and make them laugh, the suckers are accurate! Like ten yards one hole accurate. And the recoil feels just right for such a small gun.
Gonna be honest here. I like the round. If I'm gonna fight the proverbial methed up ex-Marine crack addict fire-team with their stolen M4s, Interceptor vests and kevlars, when they come stealing my XBox I won't want to use a handgun no matter the caliber anyways.

Owen Sparks
March 14, 2012, 01:30 PM
If you decide to reload the .38 S&W is a safer round because the case is short and if you accidently double charge one you can see the powder. The .38 special case is so long that you can double or even tripple charge it and still not see deep enough into the case to notice. This is a danger with older revolver rounds that were originally designed for bulkey black powder.

March 14, 2012, 01:55 PM
There's been one in the family for a while and I kind of liked it, and did reload it with some nominal charge of fast smokeless --enough to go bang. The tactical implications of it were significant, though, because after using it, I realized how awkward side-breaking revolvers were to load and reload in comparison.

With the top-break, you just flip the barrel and the cases are extracted automatically to the point where only a flip of the wrist is enough to shuck out the empties, and reloading was much easier with the whole face of the cylinder open for a refill. I also loved the fact that the cylinder came off easily for cleaning.

Oh, and the fit, finish, and machining were outstanding on the Smith brand model. There's beauty there, even if you never shoot it. The rifling in that thing is mirror-smooth!

When I got a five-shot J-frame, I often wondered if the HKS 36 speed loader would have been suitable for fast reloading, but the S&W .38 is no longer immediately available to me to try it. (The .38 S&W cartridge case is slightly bigger in diameter than the .38 Special / .357 Magnum case.)

I did reload cut-down .38 Special cases for it, but (A)I had a lathe, and (B) the .38 SPL cases expanded a little too much for me to continue experimenting in that direction. In addition, the bullets were larger than .357, so I used unsized .38 SPL cast bullets from a mold I had. One thing that bothered me about it was the bolt notches in the cylinder were cut directly over the chamber walls, resuting in an apparent (to me) weakness.

I've often thought that if they could beef up the locking system for higher-powered cartridges it would be almost ideal for a defense revolver from a fast-reload standpoint, and when I voiced this opinion on-line, someone pointed out that the Russians had made (are making?) a top-break in .357.

Conclusion? If I were in your LGS, I'd buy it, but only use factory ammo.

Terry, 230RN


(Ballistics for .38 S&W 146 grain bullet --not too bad, if that's all you got --152 ft-lb at bellybutton distance):


Note there is no +P loading... in capital letters, no less. :)

(Comparison to .380 ACP 95 grain bullet, 190 ft-lb):



My personal preference would be to go for the heavier bullet with slightly less energy with no other choices. But that's just me.

March 14, 2012, 03:33 PM
When I carry my old .38 S&W I.J top break snub, I carry the reload in a slightly modified HKS 36 speedloader. The modification was just a little sanding on the star piece so that it didn't hold the cartridges so tight. Works great!

March 14, 2012, 06:05 PM
Thanks guys. Might be talking to the shop owner about purchasing then. Gotta go renew my purchase permit, though.

March 14, 2012, 07:46 PM
"Gotta go renew my purchase permit, though" = "infringement"

Good to know about the HKS 36 at least lining up the cartridges right, and the tip about trimming the star. Thanks.

Hondo 60
March 14, 2012, 08:07 PM
Just another reason to learn how to reload.

I find it very relaxing and fun all in the same breath.

Plus you can tailor your ammo to your liking.
For example: you can make "OH MY GOSH" 44 magnums that Dirty Harry wouldn't fire,
or you make what are called "mouse fart loads" - Very soft shooting loads
(I have a box of OMG, but mostly mouse farts)

My point is, if ammo is hard to find or expensive, I can just load up a couple hundred & go to the range.

Deaf Smith
March 14, 2012, 10:49 PM
Nuth'en funner than my old Webley!


I think there is a few bullet manufactures that make .360 diameter lead slugs to.


March 14, 2012, 10:52 PM
Nuth'en funner than my old Webley!

I think there is a few bullet manufactures that make .360 diameter lead slugs to.


I ... want .... that gun! So bad.


As in, where can I buy one? Where do I find one?

March 14, 2012, 11:13 PM
That's the same link I put in Post #3.

Thanks guys. Might be talking to the shop owner about purchasing then. Gotta go renew my purchase permit, though.
Purchase Permit? Really? You need a permit to buy a gun? WOW!!

Owen Sparks
March 14, 2012, 11:28 PM
While we are on the subject of top break revolvers;
what if some company made one in .45ACP that took moon clips? How fast would that be to reload?

March 15, 2012, 02:19 AM
You righties never want to give us southpaws a fair shake on any handgun. That's the real reason you don't like em....come on tell the truth :neener:.
So that's what it feels like to get a fair shake...:uhoh:...pretty damn good if you ask me.:cool:
Are they fast?....Is a frogs *ss water tight?

hks 22hr speedloader



March 15, 2012, 08:02 AM
My old Enfield was a fun gun to play with in .38 S&W. Mild and accurate if you can get past the DAO lockwork. I got my limited supply of ammo from the local gun shop and I miss her.

March 15, 2012, 10:57 AM
Iowa has come a long way, but we're not perfect. We don't really need the permit, but if we don't have one we have to wait a week to take it home, as opposed to same-day-bring-home with the permit. My LGS, however, requires the purchase permit to make his job a little easier. Not like he does much anyway, but the point is there.

But really, the purchase permit, or, "Permit to Acquire Pistols and Revolvers," is just that; for pistols and revolvers. Long guns do not apply to this permit. A CCW permit will also fill in for a purchase permit in my neck of the woods, though I'm sure it's the same way all across Iowa.

Deaf Smith
March 15, 2012, 10:51 PM

That's a Webley Pocket Pistol in .38 S&W.


Sometimes such places as these below have them for sale:



Webley also made a 'pocket hammerless' I'd die for!

I found mine in a pawnshop in Dallas a year or so ago.

You remember Emma Peel of the Avengers? Well she used a nickel plated version of the kind I have.


Funny thing is, the FIRST Avenger, Honor Blackman, I have her Judo book (yes she wrote one and was a big Judo fan.)



March 15, 2012, 11:30 PM
My LGS, however, requires the purchase permit to make his job a little easier.
Now that would cause me to shop at a different store. If a dealer wants my business he shouldn't make things harder on the buyer than the unreasonable government is already doing.

Sorry, back on topic... Did you buy the revolver? I like it and think you should buy it!

March 16, 2012, 07:04 AM
Won't be able to afford to, gotta get some stuff paid that I forgot about. And he's the only FFL in Council Bluffs who isn't a big box store, i.e. WalMart, and Bass Pro Shops.

March 17, 2012, 01:23 PM
"We don't really need the permit, but if we don't have one we have to wait a week to take it home, as opposed to same-day-bring-home with the permit" = "infringement"

As I said, I think top-breaks have a lot of advantages.

I luvs me that Dame Diana:



Terry, 230RN

March 17, 2012, 03:51 PM
Lol. Well there's always sometime in my next 60 years of life, if I make it to my 80's

March 18, 2012, 02:21 AM
Looking at the pix and the links I hadda go get a lobster bib (http://www.cookingmarvellous.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/7/L/7LOB08_lg.jpg) to catch the drool.

March 18, 2012, 03:25 AM
What are you talking about? Lol

March 18, 2012, 07:46 AM
My drooling over these guns.

August 14, 2012, 10:30 AM
I ran across this thread looking for info on the S&W 38 DA top break.

Noticed the comments about wanting a .45 ACP with moon clips. Back in the 1980's I did an IPSC shoot in the revolver class with a Webly that had the cylinder rear ground down to accept .45ACP in Moon clips. I had just gotten some of the then fairly new full moon clips and I will say they ran great. When an unrated shooter with a 70 year old beater walks up to the line and takes the cake in class, even at a little bitty club shoot, I think it says something about ease and speed of reloading. Wish I still had that gun these days.

..and while I am here I am looking for parts and how to's on the .38 S&W DA top breaks of the 1880's, square back trigger guard and all that.


August 14, 2012, 08:31 PM
I know this thread is old, but yes you can get .38 S&W at a decent sized gun show. At least I did.

It was for a friend who inherited one.

The person I bought it from double-checked to make sure I didn't actually want .38 Special, and I thanked him for that. I'm sure this has happened to a few people.

I think the box of 50 was around $20, and this was about a year ago. The ballistics of the round are very mild, and I think it should work pretty nicely for small game/woods bumming. Point being - it's not common, but yes the round is available without too much trouble.

August 15, 2012, 06:35 AM
http://www.gunpartscorp.com/catalog/Products.aspx?catid=8051 for the .38 Double Action schematic and parts.

The use of .45 ACP in cut down Webleys is a bad idea. The standard pressure .45 ACP round is a proof load in a Webley. If you get another such gun I suggest you check the top strap for stretching / cracking and that you only shoot soft handloads that emulate .455 velocities and pressures.

pic very related.

August 15, 2012, 08:43 AM

Interesting as most of the Webleys I have ever seen were cut guns having the rear of the cylinder cut down to allow the .45ACP to be used in Moon clips. Makes me wonder if the gun shown blew because the of a headspacing issue from an attempt to use it without a moon clip rather than just an over load for the system.

I was in the previously meantioned post shooting a handloaded 200 grain SWC with just enough Unique powder to reliably cycle a M1911A1 with standard springs which was about all I loaded and shot at the time for gaming so I doubt if I even approached proof load pressure.

The kid that ended up with it was shooting mostly W-W 185 grain target loads, though his night stand load was the Speer 200 grain HP factory load.....which I warned him against. It was originally his gun and I gave it back after having played with it a few months.

I recently ran accross a Webley in a Local Gun Store with an exorbitant price tag that also described it as a .455. The owner would not comedown a bit since such a gun is so "rare" locally. It had no marks on the cylinder face and only half or less of the last number on the cylinder was visable

None of that gets me one wit closer to fixing up that old S&W Top Break .38 DA though.


Old Fuff
August 15, 2012, 09:54 AM
David Chicoine is one of the very few gunsmiths that specializes in repairing and restoring 19th century Smith & Wesson top-break revolvers, and he has written a book, Gunsmithing Guns of the Old West that has (among a whole lot of other interesting things) instructions on assembly/disassembly and working on S&W top-breaks and tip-up's of all sizes.

At this point the Old Fuff will point out that the internal lockwork of these guns is usually complicated and hand fitted like a fine Swiss watch. Do not expect parts taken from another revolver (especially a used one) to go into, and work in another gun! They might, but it's no sure thing.

Also you will need a collection of special pin punches with cup ends and screwdriver bits ground to fit the screws you will encounter. (Go to www.brownells.com)

After working on one you might go and have a root cannel done to ease the pain of the prior experience. :banghead:


August 15, 2012, 03:01 PM
Old Fluff,

Thanks. I may buy a less expensive book I found while searching e-bay. Weird thing was when I asked for a preveiw of the book with a page at random, the No4 S&W 38 DA top break was what the site showed me....weird. I take that as a sign.

Because of the parts availaility issues the gun may be ]ust a wall hanger but won't know until we get there.

Same guy had a Ruger Security six get ruined by someone holding it for him and the person took it to a "gunsmith" that proclaimed it "not worth keeping" Fortunately the guy insisted on getting his gun back and it is in pieces and atleast one part buggered by someone trying to fix it. I showed the guy a few parts right quick that would have been useful to a smith, especially with availability issues and he is a bit peeved at the folks that wanted him to throw away his revolver by leaving it with them. I also think that while ugly the ruger will shoot again. Might not have been worth the smith's time to get working but sure worth more than the smith offered the fella (nothing) AND I think repairable by someone working for free.

Not holding out a lot of hope on the top break though it will be fun for him to mess with.


Old Fuff
August 15, 2012, 06:25 PM
Mess away, but don't say I didn't warn you. :uhoh:

Old Fuff, World-Class Messer-Uper... :eek:

Hint: If you must play, see if you can find an English .38 No. 2 Mk 1 or Mk 1* revolver that are more robust, and usually don't command out-of-sight prices. I think Numrich still has most parts, and if you can disassemble a current day S&W or Colt hand ejector you shouldn't have too much trouble.

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