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.38 Ammo question

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Clyde K., Sep 20, 2009.

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  1. Clyde K.

    Clyde K. Member

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    I would like smokeless ammo recommendations, if you please.
    I recently acquired a Thames Arms Co .38 5 shot Top Break. It has excellent mechanics, good lockup. good timing. cyl clearance and trigger pull are good. I know it's a blackpowder load pistol but I would like to fire it occasionally, and use it for ccw.
     
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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  3. David E

    David E Member

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    Carrying this gun on purpose for CCW would be an extremely unwise thing to do.
     
  4. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Why?
    Because:

    It's a 100+ year old gun that might decide to break the next time you shoot it?

    Or, because it's a .38 S&W giving more muzzle energy with twice as much bullet weight as the .32 ACP many people use for SD?

    Or, because it gives about equal performance to the .38 Spl 148 grain match wad-cutter load many folks recommend in the .38 Special snub guns?

    The age & strength of the gun might raise questions.

    And it would not be my first choice of caliber either.
    But the somewhat enemic power of the cartridge is still probably enough to get the job done. At least it did for most of the first half of the 20th century.

    rc
     
  5. Clyde K.

    Clyde K. Member

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    I appreciate the input,guys. Would a lighter slug be better? Would a 90gr need less powder to move it or would that defeat stopping power (I don't know how that works). (I reread RC's comment about the anemic power of the cartridge and answered my own question but, I'll leave it as fodder for more comments) What would the "preferred" caliber for CCW be?
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2009
  6. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Member

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    Images?


    Barrel Length?


    Anyway....yeahhhhh...".38 S&W" is considered below the power threshold for effective defensive Shooting.


    If you are crackshot, fast, and up-close, then, m-a-y-b-e it'd do.


    Good for pressed-against-the-flesh 'Contact' Wounds, if into a vital area...or, a shot straight into the Eye...otherwise, it's quite a gamble, as for whether the recipient will be nice-enough to bother stopping or pausing, or slowing down.


    I have carried various old .38 S&W Cartridge Break-Tops, and I love them.


    None the less, if one is going to carry at all, wisdom, and or good sense would recommend a heftier, peppier Calibre.


    Probably, .38 S&W is about on par with .380 ACP, though typically, the Revolvers chambered for .38 S&W have only 'five' Shots...


    So .380, with it's Arms' larger capacity of rounds, and, larger choice of Ammo types, tends to find grudging or marginal acceptance, where, .38 S&W does not.


    Absolutely better than nothing!


    But not likely to stop anyone unless both up close, and, a very fortuitous Shot is placed.
     
  7. David E

    David E Member

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    Not a good choice for defense.

    No, there are other guns that are 100 yrs or more I'd carry if I had to, such as the S&W M&P .38 Spl, Colt 1911 or even Colt SAA

    Better check your stats here. Corbon's 60 grain JHP @ 1050 from a 2.5" barrel churns up 147 ft lbs. This compared to 150 ft lbs for the 145 grain Round Nose Lead when fired from a 4" barrel, not the 3" barrel the Thames gun has. The shorter barrel wouldn't acheive that velocity, and I bet the age of the gun didn't help the flash gap any, further reducing the velocity.

    These loads are comparable, energy-wise. But people don't suggest the full wadcutter bullet for the ballistics, they suggest it for people that can't handle more powerful loadings. For those folks, the full caliber hole that controllable load punches into targets becomes a viable choice. The RNL is notorious for making tiny holes going in and coming out. Further, a modern .38 spl snub is extremely lightweight, has no projections like that "snag-a-matic" hammer the Thames has on it, not to mention a lower bore axis on the modern snubby.

    And you base this one what, exactly ? How far back do Marshall and Sanow go ? :D

    The bottom line is, the Thames will be a fun gun for the range. But for the same size and weight, if not less, you can get guns far better suited for personal defense.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2009
  8. Nicodemus38

    Nicodemus38 Member

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    standard factory ballistical assumptions has the 154 grain bullet in 38 sw producing 206 foot pounds of muzzle enenergy from a 4 inch barrel. nothing to sneeze at when you consider what the 32acp puts out.

    prolonged shooting will be bad for your revolver as if a part breaks, the trigger and hand springs are going to be verry prone to breakage at this age that you should try to get a newer model revolver in a 32 mag or 38 special cartridge.
     
  9. woad_yurt

    woad_yurt Member

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    Post a picture!

    Modern .38 S&W is loaded down from original power levels; it's intentionally made weaker to spare borderline-safe guns. If yours is good mechanically, shoot away. Your gun didn't get structurally weaker by sitting around. Neither do springs. I have a few old .38 short topbreaks and they're good guns. Yours is small, right? You can carry them conveniently. Yes, there are better choices, but, there are also worse.

    Mag-Tech .38 S&W is cheap, relatively. Fiocchi makes .38 S&W but I couldn't find ballistics for it. It's worth looking into because Fiocchi loads 'em up a bit more powerfully than others with some calibers.

    Springs are cheap and available from Wolff's, too.

    I've carried this one on occasion and felt quite armed:

    IverJohnson38hammerlessrt.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2009
  10. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    "Anyway....yeahhhhh...".38 S&W" is considered below the power threshold for effective defensive Shooting."

    I wonder if the people who say that have ever been shot with one.

    The major problems with the old time guns is that most depend on leaf springs which can break at any time, and most are just plain worn out. If the latter is not the case, and the owner is willing to accept the possibility of the former, that gun will be a fairly effective defense handgun. Would I carry it? Not by choice, but if that is all I had, I would not feel helpless.

    Jim
     
  11. Clyde K.

    Clyde K. Member

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    Yes, my Thames is a small frame with a 3.25 in bbl. I recently came across a thread outlining how to buy a revolver at a gun show. I used that criteria to determine whether or not I wanted to use or junk the Thames. As stated in my original post my junker is tighter than a frogs behind, that said, I am confident that if it doesn't disintegrate after 10 rounds of .38 S&W I can carry it comfortably concealed and probably never fire it again.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2009
  12. Ron James

    Ron James Member

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    Thames Arms Company, Norwich, Connecticut, 1870 to 1900. The odds are dead on that this is a Black Powder firearm. I don't know for sure, but if it was mine, I would automatically assume it was B/P and hang it on the wall. That within itself is a good reason not to even load it with modern ammo. Your choice, your body parts, by the way , are you sure it is not rim fire, that's about all Thames made??? :banghead:
     
  13. David E

    David E Member

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    Winchester has the 145 grain RNL bullet only getting 150 ft lbs, but there may be for powerful loadings for this round. Of course, there are much more powerful .38 Special rounds, too.
     
  14. David E

    David E Member

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    Then all this is moot.
     
  15. Clyde K.

    Clyde K. Member

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    David E. NO, all of this is not moot. The data I received, pro AND con, from you gentlemen HELPED me to decide that I could carry my weapon of choice as long as I recognize and respect its limitations. I thank you, one and all.

    Incidentially, I fail to see how the hammer on my Thames is any more likely to be a "snag-o-matic" than that of any other revolver. It has the same "below the level the of the sights" profile as my 1911 and .32, and since I am not dumb enough to carry it in my pocket, where the hammer IS likely to snag, I consider THAT to be moot. P.S. I will pass on the .38 special round.

    Again, I thank you, one and ALL. Semper Fi, Clyde
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2009
  16. Clyde K.

    Clyde K. Member

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    Duplicate post.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2009
  17. Clyde K.

    Clyde K. Member

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    Command SgtMaj, with all due respect, the .22s were the only rim fire revolvers (that I am aware of) that Thames made. I have fired my .38 (and survived) and am able to report that it is definately a center fire weapon.

    Semper Fi, Clyde
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2009
  18. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Member

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    Hi Clyde C,



    Iver Johnson, 3rd Model ( the 3rd Model was intended/re-designed for 'Smokeless') Factory 'Snub Nose', or, 'Bicycle Gun'...38 S&W C'tg, made around 1930 -

    [​IMG]

    Smith & Wesson 4th Model, made around 1906 I think,.38 S&W C'tg.

    Targets shows first time shooting this Revolver, rapid fire, double Action, 5 rounds one handed, five rounds two handed, at 10yards.

    Wind blew my slow fire Target off, and I did not bother retrieving it...but, it had a 10 shot group of around 3 inches.

    I seem very natural with this one, even though it is very small for my Hands...and, given it was my first time shooting it, and was very Windy out, possibly I could better the results with practice.

    [​IMG]


    Would I carry either of these?


    Sure...(But, generally, I would prefer to carry something with a little more heft...)


    Of the two, would I expect the longer Barrel to deliver higher FPS?


    Yes...


    When I said that ".38 S&W is considered below the threshold for defensive shooting'', I am simply restating what the general consensus has seemed to have been for quite awhile.

    I am not saying it can not be an effective Cartridge for defensive shooting.

    But probably I am saying, if a target is robust or willfully determined or beefy, or intoxicated in some way, it is not likely to be, unless shots are well placed, and, fortuitous.


    Small, difficult to see, short-sight-radius-sights, also are a factor if wishing to place shots precisely at any distance.




    Ideally, if one has a strong, well build Revolver, one could re-load to higher Ballistics, using more defensively-effective Bullet shapes (Wadcutter, say, but of right diameter of course) and, remain within the range of what the Revolver will handle, thus having more powerful Ammunition than the off-the-shelf Cartridges will deliver.


    Probably, such re-loaded Cartridges could safely equal Standard .38 Special Ballistics in some cases, depending on the Revolver.
     
  19. Dave Markowitz

    Dave Markowitz Member

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    So you don't intend to practice with your CCW piece? Ever? A gun isn't a totem. You need to be proficient with it.
     
  20. woad_yurt

    woad_yurt Member

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    Clyde:
    You are/were a marine, right? If so, I don't think you'd be too squeamish to get up close and personal with an aggressor, right? Your gun is a belly gun now and was the day it was made. A little situational awareness will prompt you to have your hand on it when necessary. The sights bite it sine qua non but, if you get used to them, you'd see just how accurate the gun is also. But, it's a close-up gun, first and foremost.

    For those who poo-poo round nosed ammo: When dealing with weaker loads, it's the way to go because you'll want all the penetration you can get.

    If it's what you want to carry and if you know its qualities, it'll do. One thing I know, it'll never jam on you and, if the gun is sound, any modern factory ammo won't blow it up. I say this because that's been my experience that the 10-12 or so old .38 short topbreaks I've owned have all survived many hours of shooting without a hiccup.

    Stick to your gun!

    If you ever break a spring, Wolff's has 'em.
     
  21. Clyde K.

    Clyde K. Member

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    woad yurt (a distinctively unique handle) you are absolutely correct about a number of things. First and foremost, I was an active duty Marine from 62-82 now, I am a retired Marine and the expiration date on my retired ID card reads "Indefinate". I'm sure you've heard the adage "Once a Marine, always a Marine". Secondly, you seem to have picked up on an unspoken trueism: I never have been/will not be squeamish about getting up close and personal with an agressor, especially if he has a couple of .38holes in him.

    Dave Markowitz. "A gun isn't a totem", do tell. Never picked up a totally unfamiliar pistol/revolver and fired center mass on a rectangle 24"w x 36"h from 15'? It has been my experience that even if the target is running towards you can still get 2 or 3 rounds into it (regardless of proficiency rating), then you'll have his attention. Not being arogant or bragging, just "been there, done that" more than once and, I'm still here.

    Semper Fi. Clyde
     
  22. Clyde K.

    Clyde K. Member

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    Oyeboten: couple of nice examples there, thanks for the photos and commentary. My Thames Arms Co looks almost itentical to your S&W, except for the trigger guard and grips (and of course the logo). If I ever get bright enough to figure out to post photos I'll submit copies of mine. Semper Fi, Clyde
     
  23. David E

    David E Member

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    Take a look at a S&W Model 642 and tell me it'll snag as much as yours.

    The point I was making, and was echoed, is that if you don't shoot or practice with your gun, then it doesn't matter which one it is, what ammo you load it with or anything else. Unless you DO have to use it for real, you can say it's the perfect choice, etc. Of course, since you're "been there, done that and still here," you already have your mind made up as to what'll "work" for you.

    Kinda like saying a Ford Pinto, with YOU behind the wheel, is just as adept on the 4x4 roads as a Jeep. Until you take it on said 4x4 road, no one can prove you wrong.

    If it's the biggest, hardest kicking caliber you can handle, then it is a good fit.


    Thank you for your service.
     
  24. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Member

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    Hi Clyde C,


    Is your 'Thames' about as this example?


    http://v4.beta.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=140300512


    Now...another thing to bear in mind with various of these old 'Top-Breaks' -


    Earlier Model Cylinders did not tend to have an indexing 'slots' for positively registering the align of the Cylinder Bores with the Barrel.


    This align, was instead accomplished by the internal 'Hand' when it advanced the Cylinder.


    One liability of this, is, that if you begin to advance the Cylinder abruptly by Double-Action, then pause before the Hammer can fall...the Cylinder can rotate past the actual alignment, and, you will have to go on to the next Chamber, thus, by-passing a 'live' round, and or, having a live round inconveniently situated between already fired rounds.


    Later versions tended to have a proper indicing 'slot' for each chamber, in the Cylinder's periphery, for the Cylinder to rightly 'Lock' and Index for each shot, with no likelyhood of over-travel, or, accidental 'free rotation' between times.


    You may notice, in the thus-far Images of this Thread, that, the two Pistols I had shown, and, the 3rd Model Iver Johnson which Woad Yurt has Posted, have this Indexing 'slot', and, the 'Thames', who's images I posted the link to on 'Gunbroker', does not.


    As it happens, were I to be asked for advice, I would recommend one consider the 3rd Model 'Iver Johnson', if one were considering an older Top Break for 'carry' and other potentially earnest use.


    They were deliberately re-designed from their prior particulars in 1912-1913, for 'Smokeless', and, were over-designed even, for the stress and pressures anticipated.

    They are very well made, excellent Metallurgy, durable, reliable, and, available in many attractive Models/variations, even if all are rather old now.


    Probably, their Metallurgy was superior to that of the 'Smith and Wesson' Models of comparable design...or, at any rate, I have found no information suggesting S&W had revamped their Break-Top Models, for 'Smokeless'.


    Not trying to take anything away from the 'Thames'...but...just sayin' in overview...
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2009
  25. Clyde K.

    Clyde K. Member

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    David E. The the 642 doesn't have a hammer. What ever would I rest my thumb upon s I draw my weapon (not gun) from its holster? I asked for a recommendation for suitable ammo for my weapon, and gave background info on said weapon (such as it being a black powder weapon) in order to help facilitate that recommendation. More folks said "it would handle the light S&W loads" than said "it was a POS wall hanger" so, I decided to use it. My dear fellow I didn't know that proving me wrong was at issue, or that disagreeing with you would put such a kink in your tail and potentially spark a I can handle a harder kicking caliber than you p****ing contest (ever fired a Quad .50 setup?). The point you were making about my not needing to "fire my weapon again after the initial 10 rounds" was echoed by one (1) other (oddly enough, named Dave also). I never said it was the "perfect" choice, just MY choice, ultimately, what I think will "work" for me based on input from those more experienced than I with civilian weaponry. My "been there, done that, and still here" remark was intended to indicate that I probably have enough experience to persevere in the event my wimpy little .38 doesn't totally incapasitate an agressor with one round (like a cannon would). Furthermore, I have never driven a Pinto, so I can not say how well it would work on a 4x4 road, even with ME behind the wheel.

    Semper Fi, Clyde
     
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