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.38 Super vs. .45ACP: If you've Owned Both, Which Do You Prefer?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by SharpsDressedMan, Jun 16, 2013.

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  1. SharpsDressedMan

    SharpsDressedMan member

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    I am torn. All my exposure and instincts tell me the .45 is a better choice, but I have this unexplainable fondness for the .38 Super, and believe it to be a fine cartridge. When I carry the Super, I have 147gr JHP's running about 1200fps, and this approaches the .357 Mag from a similar sized gun, but more fairly, exceeds most 9mm's with similar weight bullets. The Super comes into its own with the heavier bullets; the 9mm can't keep up without excessive pressures. Whether it clearly BEATS the .45 in incapacitation, I don't know, but I do not feel undergunned when I pack the Super. I know there are lots of .45 fans, but of you who have experience with both, anyone also giving creedence to the .38 Super?
     
  2. SharpsDressedMan

    SharpsDressedMan member

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    :banghead: Wrong area! Sorry.
     
  3. mavracer

    mavracer Member

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    I like the Super 38 as well, properly loaded I'm as confident in it as any SD round. IMHO it also makes a pretty good woods gun loaded with a 150gr cast SWC at 1200fps. my Kimber stainless target is very accurate with this load.
     
  4. Dframe

    Dframe Member

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    I see NOTHING wrong with either. Carry the one YOU like.
     
  5. Phaedrus/69

    Phaedrus/69 Member

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    I also am a fan of the Super. Years ago I had a Colt Commander in .38 Super but traded it off. To this day I kick myself for it!:banghead:
     
  6. Hanshi

    Hanshi Member

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    I have the .38sup and .45 both in 1911s. Both have been to the experts and have adjustable sights and stainless match barrels among other ministrations. I like them both a lot.

    IMHO the two cartridges do not serve the same purpose. I've always shot a lot of .45acp and reloaded it by the thousands. On the other hand I never seem to have enough .38sup brass. The sup is a premier field/hunting cartridge that can double as a general carry round. The .45acp is a premier carry round that can double in other roles.I like two bullets in my super, a Saeco mold cast 140grn tc for general use and a Hornady 115grn hp for "just in case. The JHP load clocks around 1250fps; the cast load around 1000fps (+ or -). This is just enough to work the slide is any situation and keep the ejected brass close.
     
  7. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    When these threads come up, I always pay attention: I own a .45, shot qualification for my carry permit with my .45, shoot local gun club military match with mine. But I have always been intrigued with the lore about the .38 Super. Please continue.
     
  8. allaroundhunter

    allaroundhunter Member

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    I carry a Colt Lightweight Commander in .38 super. I inherited the gun from my grandfather when he passed, so it has a considerable amount of sentimental value to me.

    When comparing capacity you get 9+1 with the super and 7+1 with the .45 so I wouldn't give too much advantage either way.

    I honestly shoot .45s slightly better, but as I said, I carry my .38 for sentimental reasons.

    Is there any reason to discount the viability of the .38 Super as a defensive round? Absolutely not.
     
  9. huntershooter

    huntershooter Member

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    Own, and am a fan of both.
    The Super is a 9/10 rd. .357 in my mind-a great self defense cartridge.
    I find the Super easier to shoot rapidly/accurately.
    That said; I carry a .45 much more frequently as a SD gun.
    Guess I subscribe to the "large and slow", as opposed to the "fast and light" school.
    I do NOT feel disadvantaged carrying either.
     
  10. Officers'Wife

    Officers'Wife Member

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    I much prefer my Commander in 38 Super than Dad's 1911 45 ACP. Mainly from the lighter weight of the design and the recoil. Besides, with the Commander I can put 7 in the X ring at 50 yards. with the .45 I'm lucky to three and not lucky all that often.
     
  11. hgte2001

    hgte2001 Member

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    45 ACP Has well established stats. 38 Supra Does not. Since it slightly out performs 9mm +p+ I would add a couple of performance slots up to about 93% putting up with 357SIG. I would consider the 125 gr HP at 1250 to 1300 FPS range to better duplicate the magic of 357MAG golden performance of the 125 gr HP round . In the limited reports I have read because of its penetration it may zip through the human body without delivering the shock value of Big slow tissue crushing effect of 45 ACP creating the issue that 158GR bullets had with 357mag. Yes it will kill you, but minutes later as opposed to right now.

    Having said all that. Good shot placement in the magic triangle with good HPs should rapidly end the confrontation with either 45ACP or the 38 SUPRA. The magic of 45 ACP is it breaks 90% in one stop shots with a variety of bullet weights. 357MAG, 38 SUPRA, 357SIG, AND 9MM do not. 40 S&W breaks 90% and many rounds with high 80s.

    Edge to 45 ACP, 40S/W, 10MM, 357 SIG, then 38 SUPRA.

    Would I carry one. No, I subscribe to big slow! with the exception of 357mag which I use as my back-up.



    Total ONE SHOT% EXPANSION--PENETRATION
    Remington 185 gr GS 83 80 96% 0.69" 12.4"
    Federal 230 gr HS 173 166 96% 0.76" 13.9"
    CCI 230 gr GD 45 42 93% 0.68" 12.2"
    Corbon 185 gr JHP 20 18 90% 0.78" 11.1"
    Remington 185 gr GS 39 35 90% 0.62" 11.3" 4" barrel or less
    Remington 230 gr GS 10 9 90% 0.73" 12.9"
    Federal 230 gr HS 28 25 89% 0.68" 12.9" 4" barrel or less
    Federal 185 gr HS 78 69 88% 0.67" 12.9"
    Federal 185 gr JHP 128 112 88% 0.71" 11.6"
    CCI 200 gr JHP 139 122 88% 0.73" 12.4"
    Winchester 230 gr BT 96 84 88% 0.75" 13.9"
    Winchester 185 gr ST 121 106 88% 0.78" 11.5"
    Winchester 185 gr ST 27 23 85% 0.67" 10.2" 4" barrel or less http://www.handloads.com/misc/stoppingpower.asp?Caliber=18&Weight=All
     
  12. Officers'Wife

    Officers'Wife Member

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    You are correct, the .45 has much better stats. But I am confident that should I need my Commander for what my late uncle called a "social situation" while two rounds "in the breadbasket" may not stop the aggressor, they will surely give him the impression he may have made a mistake.
     
  13. BADUNAME2

    BADUNAME2 Member

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    I've owned a bunch of .45s, and two .38 Supers. The first was an all steel RIA 1911 GI. It was a very mild shooter, felt almost like shooting a .22 conversion, but I didn't really have a use for it, so I sold it. The current Super is a Colt LW Commander, which I bought as a carry gun when I got tired of schlepping around heavy steel guns, but didn't want to compromise shootability. I find that the LW Super has very similar recoil to a steel full size .45. Also, it carries a few more rounds, which addresses one of many people's qualms about 1911s.
     
  14. hgte2001

    hgte2001 Member

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    Really if you like at this way! You can take the 38SUPRA and get 3 quick shots on target very easily and faster than most people can with 45ACP. Truthfully with my Glock 36 I am just as fast. I am faster with my 357mag 2" rhino as there is no muzzle flip and I can work the trigger and place them because once you lock out with it all you do is pull trigger while staying on target with each full house round, man I love that gun. I practiced lots to get to that level. I have new tucks for 1911s and I am carrying them more. But let me tell you the G36 and G27 carry so much nicer and conceal easily in suits, jeans, shorts, and all manner of clothing easier than 1911s.

    45ACP stops the confrontation quicker.

    38 SUPRA in the bread basket preferably centered and it is an effective round. The magic Triangle is between the nipples to the throat. A 38 SUPRA centered on the breadbasket will provide hydrostatic shock on the spine and if you are using 147gr, you likely over penetrate, meaning rapid bleed out plus hydrostatic shock on the spine effectively collapsing the perpetrator. The issue is if you outside of the spine by 6" on the edges of the bread basket, the shock value drops dramatically. I am darn accurate with the SUPRA, but right now I can do the same thing with the bigger guns. My dad was a 45 ACP guy for life, in his old age late 60s to 80s he carried a 32ACP, with an explanation I can place 3 in the head before you can blink. I wonder what my old age gun will be.

    I do not subscribe to much small fast. I went through the 380 thing and occasional carry a 38 J Frame. Give me my choice and it looks like this G36 (45acp), G27 (40S&W) as primary, one or the other. My standard backup is Rhino 357. Sometimes other something based on my mood.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2013
  15. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

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    The only thing that pulls me away from the super is that it is a bit more obscure. I would like to get one eventually. I would have no problem at all using premium defense loads in it.
     
  16. BADUNAME2

    BADUNAME2 Member

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    It should be noted that hydrostatic shock isn't a phenomenon of much value in handgun rounds. It does indeed exist, and for a demonstration of its power, one need only look at the wounds caused by high power rifles. The problem is that even the so-called small and fast handgun rounds are still too slow to achieve those kinds of results. It would be more apt to describe the alternatives in handguns as big and really slow, vs small and kinda slow. Because neither achieves sufficient velocities for hydrostatic shock to be a viable wounding mechanism, what one must instead rely on is direct tissue damage, leading to neural disruption and/ or blood loss.

    More simply, high velocity rifle bullets have enough energy that they damage not only what they touch directly, but a good deal of surrounding tissue, as well. Handgun bullets don't. They're too slow to cause pressure based secondary tissue damage. They have to actually touch something to affect it.

    That being the case, naturally a larger bullet is going to contact more tissue on its way through the target, thus increasing the chances that it will hit something important. When all you're really doing is poking holes, you want to make them big holes.

    So far, all that argues in favor of the .45. However, big heavy bullets come at a price. They bring with them larger recoil. Thus, to put them where you want them, quickly and accurately, it's best to use a big heavy gun.

    Personally, after enough years of toting that big heavy gun, and not needing it, I decided that it was a big, hairy nuisance. This is where a smaller caliber becomes helpful. You can make the gun smaller and lighter, as well, but still retain the necessary speed and accuracy.

    So much for Caliber Choices 101. To me, the only reason to pick the Super over the ACP is if you wanted to retain the excellent controllability and handling characteristics of a full size steel 1911 in a lighter package.

    But why pick the Super over the 9MM? It's not for the rather trivial few extra FPS, but rather because the Super is the right length to feed well in a 1911. If one's chosen platform were actually designed around the 9MM cartridge length, then well and good. But the 1911, for its excellences, is not. Short rounds have a tendency to nosedive, which is something I'd just as soon not deal with in a defensive situation.

    In sum: the .38 Super is sort of a niche round. To me, it's the ideal cartridge for a lightweight 1911. In that niche, it shines. But if I were to carry a steel 1911, I'd make it a .45. If I were to carry something other than a 1911, it'd probably be a 9MM.

    Sent from my C771 using Tapatalk 2
     
  17. jdh

    jdh Member

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    First what is 38SUPRA?

    I would prefer the 35 Super IF ammo were readily available in loads that were up to the potential of the cartridge, not the watered down stuff on the gun shop shelves to keep the less informed from blowing up their 38 ACP or 9mm Largo chambered pistols.
     
  18. allaroundhunter

    allaroundhunter Member

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    Like buffalo bore stuff? I have used it and they can definitely be some stout loads for that size cartridge.
     
  19. BADUNAME2

    BADUNAME2 Member

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    I don't know. But then again, I'm none too sure about .35 Super, either. ;p

    Sent from my C771 using Tapatalk 2
     
  20. jdh

    jdh Member

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    Mat,
    Ok, I'll give you that one. Never said I could type, the 8 is right above the 5 on my keyboard. Still I don't claim to know everything firearms related. There may be a new cartridge named 38SUPRA out there that I haven't heard of.

    allaround,
    When shooting off the shelf ammo from either my RIA or Kimber most was just about even with 9mm+P. Being the cautious person I am I choose not to carry hand loaded ammo for duty or self defense.
     
  21. allaroundhunter

    allaroundhunter Member

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    Jdh, Buffalo bore is a manufacturer.
     
  22. jdh

    jdh Member

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    Well aware of them. The problem around here is the cost of their stuff is so much higher than "normal" loads the shops don't stock it and treat it as a special order item. So in addition to paying the premium price for BB I also have to pay the shipping and wait for it to come in.
     
  23. Phaedrus/69

    Phaedrus/69 Member

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    One thing I forgot to mention is ammo availability. With a good loading I'd be very confident in the .38 Super as a defensive sidearm but for every factory offering for it there are probably twenty for the .45 ACP. Not an awful lot of different rounds out there. I don't recall ever seeing a Gold Dot or Federal HST offering in .38 Super, for example. Although I know Underwood and Buffalo Bore do offer some excellent loads for it.
     
  24. BADUNAME2

    BADUNAME2 Member

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    How many different loads do you need? Now I like variety as much as most, but if you've got one load that functions reliably in your gun, the rest is gravy. Just because a caliber doesn't offer enough loadings to fill a couple of 33 rd Glock mag with no duplications is no reason to discount it.
     
  25. BigG

    BigG Member

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    I have the 38 Super as well as the 45. What hasn't been mentioned is the pregnant guppy appearance of the extractor groove - web area of the case where the case upon firing expands to fit the feed ramp. They are not good for many reloads after that. The 45 ACP is better with milder loads.
     
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