1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

38 S&W

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by 4v50 Gary, Sep 15, 2003.

  1. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    You know, that shorty bullet that you can cut down a 38 Special to fit into. Was told at a gunshop today that it was all the rage back in the early days before the 38 Special came out. Hmmmm?

    Anyway, I bought about 6 boxes of 38 Special (reloads @ $5.95 a box of 50) that was marketed by a gunstore that closed over 15 years ago. Ammo is in excellent condition and I plan to shoot it from my Diamondback.
  2. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    I trust you’re not serious …..

    The .38 S&W is both shorter then a .38 Special and slightly larger in diameter. You could cut down .38 Special cases but they’d likely split if you shot them in a .38 S&W chamber. Thirty-eight S&W bores are .360 as opposed to the Special’s at .356-.358.

    You can shoot .38 Short Colt and .38 Long Colt in a .38 Special, but the .38 S&W only interchanges with the .38 Colt New Police, which no one has manufactured in decades.
  3. Johnny Guest

    Johnny Guest Moderator Emeritus

    UMMmmmmmm - - - -

    Gary, I'm not sure I follow you here.

    Yep, the .38 S&W ctg came out some years prior to the .38 Spl, and all the observations made by Old Fuff concerning same are correct, AFAIK. And, yes, it was a good little ctg - - Continued in first line use with the Brits til after WW-II, as the .380-200 and .380 2Z.

    And, there were a lot of the Brit .38 S&W revolvers bored out to accept the .38 Spl ctg - - This was post- WWII. It worked after a fashion, but something over a third of the Spl cases would split when fired in such a conversion.

    But I don't see the relaitonship of your first paragraph with the second.

    The .38 Spl reloads will probably work fine in your Diamondback - - It was only ever made in .38 Spl and .22 rimfire. How does this pertain to the .38 S&W ctg or firearms?

  4. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Regarding 1st paragraph, was told that but never checked dimensions in loading manual. Thanks Old Fuff.

    On 2nd, no relation at all but it was all at the same gun shop. The ammo is 38 special ammo that I bought for the Diamondback in 38 special (not 38 S&W). The ammo is over 20 years old and the price was about the same as it was 20 years ago.
  5. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member

    Hey Gary,

    If you trim it enough on all sides, a .44 Spl. will fit into a .38 S&W... ;)
  6. DMK

    DMK Well-Known Member

    I've got a WWII British Service revolver (actually Canadian Service) which is basically an S&W Military and Police (or Model 10) that shoots 38 S&W (actually 38/200). Whew! :rolleyes: I can never find ammo for the dang thing anyway. However, it does shoot pretty well and has negligable recoil.
  7. Hand_Rifle_Guy

    Hand_Rifle_Guy Well-Known Member

    Hyphen-happy post...about a "good little cartridge"...

    My Secret Service Special, an H&R-manufactured five-shot top-break revolver chambered for the oldy-but-goody .38 S&W, is a 'teens/twenties finely-built, deep-blued piece of wishes-it-was-a-REAL-S&W-but-still-excellent workmanship that puts modern work by the aspired-to company to shame.

    With modern black-equivalent reloads, this gun displays superb accuracy, no doubt assisted by the infinitesmal grooved-latch rear sight, and almost-sharp blade front sight. If you can SEE the sights, they require nothing short of precision alignment. Beyond that, the relatively cheap reloads I've been able to find ($11-$13/50) have been very consistent despite an equally-consistent tendency to leave funny yellow unburned powder flakes behind.

    This flyweight, dinky little gun has negligible recoil, is actually very quiet, and point-shoots at about 25' range easily as well as my Astra 600, of all things. (That tranlates into keeping 4/5 on a 1-gallon OJ jug on the first try, where the Astra was 7/8, and I do not practice any kind of point shooting. Both surprised the heck outta me.) It's smaller than a j-frame, too.

    Typically loaded with a 145-grain LRN bullet rated at a piddling 685 FPS from a 3" barrel, what really interested me in this cartridge was Elmer Kieth's endorsement of it in Sixguns. He called it a good little cartridge that was accurate, and had a place in small top-break revolvers of which there are many and numerous examples. For that reason he thought it should be continued in the factory line-up. He particularly credited an old S&W top-break pocket pistol he had that would regularly out-shoot other, larger guns, much to the consternation of a few wager-willing lawmen.

    Kieth's endorsement was also balanced against the competition of a few different Colt calibers that used heeled hollow-base bullets, as these calibers were notoriously less accurate than inside-lubed rounds. The Colt calibers, while adequately accurate for defense purposes, could not withstand the marketing claims of greater accuracy by the S&W line, and have since fallen by the wayside. (Formal target shooting was a big part of everyone's advertising then, back before handguns developed that well-known penchant for going off by themselves, and shooting children on purpose.) This includes the very good .41 Colt, which has no supplanting equivalent inside-lubed round like the .41 Special. (A lack I feel someone should try and fill, and not with a .357 Mag or a .44 Special. Colt frames are more properly .41 size. But that's another discussion.)

    In my direct experience, Elmer's right. The .38 S&W IS a good little cartridge, particularly in guns sized to it's output, and I'm more enamored of it's 145-grain bullet than the .380's and 9mm Mak's lighter 90-grain loads. The dinkum little top-break revolvers made by decent builders have accumulated an undeserved reputation as "Suicide Specials", and I think they still have a legitimate place in a self-defense battery. They work, they're small, they're accurate. What else does one need? They sure beat a .32. (Except maybe those tiny Iver-Johnson 5-shot .32's. Those lethal little toys are like watchmaker's guns. They can go where even an I/J-frame can't.)

    And while everyone goes on about the Detective Special, one shouldn't forget the Banker's Special that preceeded it. Those are gems. I want one, especially now that I have a Police Positive Special so I knop what Colt D-frames are all about.

    And ask C.R. Sam about his I-frame S&W. See if he'd part with it, or trade it for a 9mm. 'Nuff said.
  8. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Bankers’ Specials cost a fortune on the collector’s market, but Police Positive revolvers, which are the same gun with a longer barrel are considerably cheaper. One can have a Detective Special barrel fitted to a Police Positive frame and have a homebuilt Banker’s Special for much less cost then the real thing, or save even more money by shortening the original barrel to 2 inches, or even less and replacing the front sight.

    Also, because of the “V†mainspring, that is located in the upper part of the handle, one can have the butt shortened to use grips made for the later Agent model. All of this translates into an interesting pocket gun that doesn’t require a lot of investment.
  9. telewinz

    telewinz Well-Known Member

    I use to enjoy shooting a Webley MKIV 380/200. I reloaded it with 38 Super dies and cast 175 grain RN bullets which just about equalled the 180 grain load the British used during WW2. Of course it is a very mild load but was considered by the British to have the same stopping power of the 455 Webley! It seems that with the (original load) 200 grain lead bullet (Colt Super Police load ?)and the rate of twist, the 200 grain lead bullet would tumble (unstable) on impact which it was designed to do. Hence the stopping power equal to the 455 Webley.
  10. Hardtarget

    Hardtarget Well-Known Member

    Three years ago my wife's uncle died. When we cleaned his place I found a box of S&W.38 ammo...too bad we never found the pistol. :( I'll always wonder what happened to it.

    edit:I can't type.
  11. Gunhamr

    Gunhamr Well-Known Member

    I still have one of the WWII Lend-Lease Victory model S&W that was made and shipped to Britian. It has Bitish proof marks and is still in the original .38 S&W caliber [38/200 Brit.] I shoot it frequently and enjoy it.
    I like it so well that I bought dies for it and load it on my Dillon RL550B. It is surprisingly accurate allowing for the fact that the original bullet diameter was .360 and I use .358 cast bullets.

    Right after WWII I saw literally thousands of these fine old guns butchered by reaming the cylinder take a .38 Special case. Not only were they not accurate but as stated above, the cases usually split. Many times I have heard a shooter make the statement that he didn't care for them splitting because he wasn't going to reload them anyway. What a waste of good old guns.

    This was a variation of the Military & Police which was later called the Model 10. Smith never catalogued this model but after the war they called it the Model 11 just for calarification. There are still a few around for about $150/175. If I didn't already have one would latch onto one right now.
  12. C.R.Sam

    C.R.Sam Moderator Emeritus

    I have a couple little break tops that , though not all powerfull, I would have no qualms defending myself with.

    And....I would trade an I frame for a 9mm......9X32R that is. If I wanted that particular gun.

    Sam...be wary of the codger with a wheel. He might dot your eyes.
  13. Hand_Rifle_Guy

    Hand_Rifle_Guy Well-Known Member

    I meant 9 x 19, and you know it!

    You wouldn't trade that snazzy little I-frame for a 9 Sillymeter, would you Sam?

    Well, I could see it going for a prize Luger, I suppose. That might actually have enough Style and History to be worthwhile.
  14. tex_n_cal

    tex_n_cal Well-Known Member

    As someone who has loaded a bunch of odd things, let me say that I wouldn't search a .38 S&W out on purpose, but if a nice one happened along at a fair price, I wouldn't turn up my nose at it, either.

    Although good ammo must be handloaded for it, the short case is a better match to mild subsonic loads, than the Special case. With good correctly sized bullets, in a good revo, it's capable of bagging bullets, rabbits, or goblins with good economy and mild recoil.
  15. slabsides

    slabsides Member In Memoriam

    My wife's uncle spent over 25 years in the NYPD, most of that time in a plain-clothes pawn-shop detail. He wasn't a gunny, but he could shoot well enough to earn extra days off on qualification day...and his carry gun was a 4" barrel nickled, pearl-gripped Colt Police Positive (not Special) in .38 S&W. We have the gun now, and it still shoots well, though it is somewhat loose. It usually rests in my wife's dresser, loaded with six wadcutters "against the day". Every so often we take it out and check it for function. It's no magnum, but I'd not want to stand in front of it. Its long-gripped D-frame is just right for a woman's hand, as is the light report and recoil.
    I've cut down top-break .38 S&W Iver Johnsons for belly guns, too. Hammerless DA only, they are a remarkable foretaste of today's pocket rockets. A couple of police officers are still carrying those. The ammo is a bit hard to find, but it's still around. I reload it with regular .38 special dies and soft lead bullets, which probably shouldn't be done, but works.
  16. jar

    jar Well-Known Member

    Another fan of the 38S&W. I have a couple of them, a S&W M-3 4th change and an early Police Positive. Of the two, the slightly larger grip on the PP makes me a little more accurate. But the Smith is the one that ganers the most attention at the range.
  17. Keith

    Keith Well-Known Member

    Let us know how the recoil is when you do find some ammo!


  18. C.R.Sam

    C.R.Sam Moderator Emeritus

  19. DMK

    DMK Well-Known Member

    Yea, I'll be sure to let you know. :rolleyes: :D

    Maybe I'll feel a little better about it's stopping power then also. ;)
  20. Gordon

    Gordon Well-Known Member

    My favorite 38S&W is a Merwin & Hulbert I have. It has a 3.5" barrel and a folding hammer spur. It is nickle with about 85% finish remaining. It was fired very little before I got it. I've fired it a couple hundred times with factory ammo,it groups about 3" at 15yds and hits on the money, cleaning very carefully between sessions(over a 20 year period). To see how finely finished would bring tears to a machinists eyes! The cylinder is supported on the pin by a column of air that is compressed when cylinder is slid in(because of unbelievablly tight tolerences ,yet smooth like oil)!!! I can see carrying one of these 100years ago. Mine was made in middle 90's. I carried it concealed a few times going to SF ect., it felt right and I felt secure!:D

Share This Page