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.38 super or 10mm for defense?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by jason41987, Apr 30, 2012.

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  1. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    hey everyone.. im looking to get a 1911 for a self defense handgun.. probably 4" barrel, single-stack grip.. and well, i was wondering what would be the better choice?.. 10mm, or .38 super?...

    i was looking at 10mm loads, and theyre VERY powerful, pack quite a punch.. however, .38 super ammo ive been finding doesnt seem so potent, obviously, less case capacity... but the max loads ive been finding for it are around 510fpe..

    what i dont get about this, is there are some 9x19mm loads that equal about that, +P rounds of course, but the 9x19mm has a case capacity of 13 grains, the 38 super has a capacity of 18 grains with a thicker wall... so why not use one of these potent 9x19mm loads, scaled up to the size of the .38 super case which would give you a muzzle energy of 650-700FPE and still be within the limits of the case, and the pistol itself?...

    thats very potent for a relatively small round.. what do you guys think? think a hot 38 super with its lighter recoil, higher ammunition capacity, and flatter shooting bullet beats out the 10 mil which does have a bit more energy, but also a lot more recoil and not as accurate?...
  2. jmr40

    jmr40 Well-Known Member

    Personally I like the 10mm much better. It is much more versatile in my opinion. Anything I need to do with a 9mm bullet can be accomplished with standard 9mm rounds instead of 38 super.
  3. fletcher

    fletcher Well-Known Member

    Both rounds (nearly all, for that matter) will be plenty accurate for self-defense, and both are capable of providing more than enough power. For a 1911, keep in mind that there will be more options in .38 super than 10mm. This will likely translate into a notably higher cost firearm for the latter.

    To me, neither has any cons that are real deal-breakers - go for whatever you're leaning towards.
  4. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator

    Defense Against What?

    Against vicious animals, where penetration in excess of that provided by most handguns is desirable, the 10MM would be the better choice.

    A 12 gauge shotgun with slugs or a rifle would be far better.

    If you are referring to self defense against human attackers, the ability to fire very fast--say, putting four or five shots per second on a fast moving target--is far more important than flash and boom. That indicates in favor of the 9MM or .45.

    Handguns in .38-44 Heavy Duty and later, .38 Super and .357 Magnum, and still later, .40 S&W, were adopted by law enforcement organizations because of their ability to penetrate car bodies and plate glass. That ability is not needed in civilian self defense, and those cartridges actually put the shooter at a disadvantage.

    It is a misconception that great penetration and the ability to blow up water jugs dramatically make for good self defense loads.
  5. Scimmia

    Scimmia Well-Known Member

    Because you start to blow out the case head. People were running into this with 38 Super while trying to make Major PF before the minimum was lowered. This lead to the creation of 9x23 Winchester, which is very similar in size to 38 Super but can run at much higher pressures.
  6. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    im actually leaning towards the 38 super.. less frontal area at similar energy levels would mean deeper penetration if neccessary, and better accuracy is good to... also, i can go for a more moderate 500FPE load in the 38 super without juicing it up to +P levels, makes the brass last longer too...

    i was mostly looking for a versitile defense handgun, for carry, and for camping/backpacking/fishing as well

    ive also considered 9x23 winchester, though it seems .38 supers more plentiful, and easier to find brass/ammo for
  7. Radagast

    Radagast Well-Known Member

    AFAIK you will not find either caliber chambered in a 4 inch gun. You will have to have a custom gunsmith build one for you.
    I would go with the 9x23 rather than .38 super, you can buy factory ammo that has the oomph you are looking for.
    The first 10mm 1911s (Colt Delta Elite) suffered from cracking, I doubt a shorter barrel gun would have a longer life as it wil have less slide mass to absorb recoil and prevent frame battering.
  8. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    oh id build it myself from parts, i have no problem with that... if i can fire .38 super in a 9x23 barrel, that seems like it would be the best option then
  9. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    hmm.. could .38 super be fired from the 9x23mm barrel?.. if so, ill just go 9x23mm, but i cant seem to find any barrels for it... so... ream out a .38 super or 9mm barrel?
  10. Radagast

    Radagast Well-Known Member

    There is a dealer here in Australia who regularly reams .38 super barrels with a 9x23 reamer. He told me that he could then run both cartridges.
    I simply bought a spare 9mm barrel to go with my .38 super barrel. No other changes required other than adjusting the extractor.
  11. Scimmia

    Scimmia Well-Known Member

    Some people shoot one out of a barrel made for the other, but the chamber dimensions are different so I wouldn't recommend it. Reaming a 9x19 barrel with a 9x23 reamer will work perfectly, reaming a 38 Super barrel won't do the same as the 38 Super chamber is slightly larger at the mouth. I've for a 9x23 reamer I've used to convert 9mm barrels.

    Remember, 9x23 is a tapered round similar to 9x19 where 38 Super is straight walled.
  12. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    wow.. its considerably cheaper to buy a 9x23 winchester reamer and a 9x19mm barrel than it is to buy a 9x23mm barrel
  13. Teachu2

    Teachu2 Well-Known Member

    No. In a 4" 1911 self defense handgun, .45 acp is the way to go. 10mm is too much for the frame to sustain, and .38 super (while a fine target round in a 5" gun) might as well be a 9mm. The 1911 was designed for the .45acp, and functions best with it. Everything else is a deviation from design parameters, and require extra work to function well. When you are building up a range pistol, you can afford to deal with the issues caused by using other cartridges, but when 100% reliability is required - and stopping power is also required - the .45 acp is the cartridge of choice. It's also a pleasant gun to shoot, and ammo is widely available.

    My father-in-law has recently started shooting pistols, and he bought a couple 9mms and a 45acp Commander. He'd always bring the 9mms to the range, never the Commander. One day I got him to try one of my .45s, and he was surprised at the mild recoil. The Commander was there the next trip, and now he likes it best.
  14. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Well-Known Member

    Well, all the talk about custom work and odd barrel lengths for a 1911 aside (might want to recall the KISS principle) either cartridge will stop a human being. The 10mm with full loads is more powerful but that means it kicks harder. I recall when the 10 came out many experienced shooters objected to the harsh recoil.

    I like the Super and own a couple. Mainstream factory ammo has been down graded to the old 38 ACP level in recent years. For defense I want a full load (traditionally a 130 at 1250 FPS but factory ammo in my tests now runs 1080) so either specialty ammo makers or hand loads. I load 115 JHPs at 1425 in my guns.

  15. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    115 at 1425fps sounds a lot like the 9x19mm buffalo bore load.. i guess you get the same performance without over-pressurizing the cartridge and the pistol... which is one reason the 38 super seemed attractive... getting that performance with less stress to the brass and the pistol itself
  16. orionengnr

    orionengnr Well-Known Member

    I have owned 1911s in .45acp, 9mm, 10mm, and .50GI. I have not yet owned a .38 Super...I may one day, but so far have not been able to justify it.

    In my experience, a 9mm 1911 is...um, okay...if you want to save money on ammo. To buy a 1911 in 9mm just to save mobney on ammo? Nah.

    The real advantage of any 9mm is the ability to either carry a really small light pistol, or to maximize magazine capacity. The 1911 excels at neither.

    A 10mm 1911 is a fun handgun, but the recoil makes it somewhat less conducive to quick, accurate follow-up shots. At best, you gain one round over a .45acp. At worst, the recoil may shorten frame life dramatically (alternately, you can shoot 10mm "lite" load which approximate 40 S&W loads...why bother?).

    Once again IMHO, the best use of a 1911 is in .45acp. There is at least one good reason that the 1911 has survived 100+ years. It is a very effective combination of platform and cartridge.

    DW CBOB 10mm. :)
  17. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    cmon... 45acp just looks bigger, but the energy behind it is on par with 9x19mm and .40S&W due to being only a 21,000PSI round vs 35,000... if 45acp could operate at 35,000PSI the energy behind it would be absolutely enormous.. exceeding 10mm easily
  18. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    besides, i was looking for somethnig that would be a great outdoor/survival pistol too, accurate enough for small game within 50 yards.. but powerful enough for a deer at 25 if desperate enough, but with more rounds to carry in case of a bear, while still being compact enough for CCW... so thats why i came up with the idea of a 4" 1911 in .38 super
  19. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Well-Known Member

    All else being equal, yes. But you have to remember sectional density and momentum, too. The 10mm is well known for it's astonishing penetration. In point of fact, on several mediums, it penetrated deeper than my .50 AE making twice the energy.

    The 10mm is definitely the better choice for critter defense and hunting applications.

    There's also the 9x25 Dillon, if you want a really wicked 9mm round. Second only to the 9mm Win Mag, and not by much.
  20. Edarnold

    Edarnold Well-Known Member

    If you are thinking about hunting deer-sized game with your new pistol, you better check your local game laws. !0mm Auto and (maybe) .45 ACP are probably the only legal auto-pistol calibers based on energy in many states, .38 Super almost certainly not.
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