Quantcast

Acceptable pressures for hotter modern self defense loadings in older revolvers?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by becket, Oct 15, 2019.

  1. becket

    becket Member

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2006
    Messages:
    87
    Could the S&W Model 10, Colt Official Police, and such quality .38 cal revolvers of the 60’s and 70’s handle what are considered +p loads of today, if not shot too often? Loads over the Sami .38 pressures of 17,000 (iirc?)
    Example: modern Hornady +p fired in an early 60’s Official Police or Standard weight barrel model 10 or later stainless mod. 64.
    I believe the classic FBI load was considered a bit hotter for the time when issued and I have heard of no concerns when used in duty
    Revolvers of the time. I shot plenty of those loads out of a Detective’s special but not a steady diet. What say you handloaders whom have pushed the pressures in the older classics?
    Let’s leave the max Buffalo bore modern hot hot stuff out of the equation for now.
     
  2. .38 Special

    .38 Special Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Messages:
    2,460
    I have fired +p in several different S&W model 10s with no apparent damage.
     
  3. boom boom
    • Contributing Member

    boom boom Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2007
    Messages:
    3,681
    Location:
    GA
    I believe if you root around Smith's webpage, you will find that basically their numbered models (about 1958 and e.g. Model 10) forward can handle +p ammunition on a regular basis. However, it will put take more wear and tear on timing parts. As far as the frame and cylinder should not be a problem unless your revolver already has existing issues. The Colt Official Police were brutes to begin with and can handle +p certainly from the 1950's forward but once again you have to measure that versus the cost and difficulty of getting an out of time Colt fixed and Colt revolver smiths are getting scarce on the ground. I would not shoot such in a Police Positive model even postwar. I'm sure that others may have a different opinion than mine and different experiences but I generally treat older firearms gently as repair is more difficult on older firearms because of parts and sometimes lack of skilled labor such as in Colts.

    It is not so much the kaboom problem with these as it is accelerated wear on small mechanical parts that are the issue with +p ammo which puts them out of time.

    In snubbies like the Detective Special, Cobra, Chief's Special models 36 and 60, I would shoot +p sparingly. I have a model 60 that can fire +p but a steady dose of it can do things like back out screws, and so forth along with accelerated mechanical wear due to enhanced recoil from a lighter firearm. If you go with dead soft swaged hollow point SWC bullets, they will expand with relatively low velocities and short barrels found in snubbies. A while back Federal made some of their Nyclad .38 Special hollow point rounds that have a good reputation but not sure if they make it now.

    The old FBI load works according to Sanow and Marshall about as well as .45 ball ammo but it is harder on snubbie revolvers unless you can find a K-Frame snubbie. The police service revolvers in regular 4 or more inches of barrel should do okay unless you plan on shooting thousands of rounds of this.

    If all you want is to shoot +p loads all the time for competition purposes, etc, then maybe look up to getting a K-Frame .357 magnum if you like the Model 19 or other .357 magnums such as the Ruger Security Six/Speed Six, the Smith L Frame, or the post E Frame Colts such as the Colt Trooper Mark III , or the new Ruger poly .357 magnum snubbies. These will last almost forever with +p loads of .38 Special but you may have to scrub out the cylinders every so often if you fire .38's consistently in a .357.
     
    40-82 and Slamfire like this.
  4. Tallball

    Tallball Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2014
    Messages:
    4,010
    Like boom boom, I use mild ammo in my older revolvers. I have a Model 10 from 1915/16 and a Colt Army Special from the 1920's. I doubt that a few +p's would hurt them, but I would prefer to put as little wear on them as possible. It's remarkable that they've survived this long in what appears to be their original condition. Hopefully my kids and grandkids will also enjoy them one day.
     
    Slamfire and boom boom like this.
  5. Dave T

    Dave T Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    Messages:
    1,121
    Location:
    Mesa, AZ
    The +P 38 Special ammunition of today is loaded about like the standard 38 Special of the 1960s. Back then the standard 38 Special round was the 158g RNL at 870 fps from a 6" barrel and 800+ from a 4" barrel. That's considered +P performance today.

    Don't worry about it.

    Dave
     
  6. tubeshooter

    tubeshooter Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2006
    Messages:
    1,480
    I have basically heard everything said previously in some form or fashion.


    There is a point where the amount of steel used and modern metallurgy come into play. When researching this point for myself, I had read that the cutoff would be sometime in the '50s. Anybody reading is free to take that with a grain or 2 of salt; YMMV.
     
    Slamfire and boom boom like this.
  7. LaneP

    LaneP Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2019
    Messages:
    523
    I shot a fair amount of +P through my model 10 S&W in the 70's with no problems. Jeff Cooper developed a load for the model 60 J frame .38 that pushed a 158 grain LSWC to 1000 fps and felt it was the bare minimum power needed by the .38 Spl to be effective, but also recommended against a steady diet of such loads in the small frame.

    I believe (correct me if wrong) that most makers of +P ammo keep pressures to a level that they consider safe in "mechanically sound, properly functioning handguns specifically chambered" for the cartridge in question.
     
  8. ontarget

    ontarget Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2009
    Messages:
    2,085
    Location:
    Michigan (Gods country)
    OP you mentioned the Smith model 64. IIRC my model 64 is stamped +P. I called S&W to ask if my model 10 was safe with +P and they told me that occasionally using +P was fine.
    I reload all my own 38s and 357s but never push them too hot. I carry factory loaded +P in my EDC. Also I shoot 38s in 38s and 357s in 357s.
     
    boom boom likes this.
  9. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    25,922
    It takes +P to make Minor power factor, a 158 gr .38 at 792 fps minimum, better figure on 825 fps for a little margin on temperature, chronograph calibration, etc.
    Ted Murphy wore out a couple of M-10s but he was shooting it all the time in IDPA matches and frequent practice. IDPA reduced SSR power factor to 105 to spare the guns and let you use econoball.
    I doubt a box a month for familiarization will matter.
     
    boom boom likes this.
  10. becket

    becket Member

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2006
    Messages:
    87
    Thanks all; I have an early 20’s Hand ejector I do not risk with anything but standard .38 and shoot such things more for the history of the revolver than anything. I may acquire an earl 60’s Official Police and would just occasionally fire higher pressure rounds through it , but have also heard our +p are more tame than the marketers would have us believe when compared to standard .38 of the past when handloading was the only way to up the pressures. My Det. Special was a 57’ and was fine with a cyl here and there (as practice for carrying it defensively) of the fbi stuff and such pressure rounds. The timing going off was something I hadn’t considered; tho I rarely shot double action Colts with any regularity other than the snubbie. As an aside I have heard the same possible timing issues with the larger frame Colts like Pythons. What was it about the Colt da, The more complicated design ? I’ve been in and done work on Smiths’ and Rugers, Charter arms and such but not Colts. I only have schematics/videos and word of mouth (rumor) to form my thoughts on, so those that have actually dealt with any timing issues please feel free to enlighten me.
     
    boom boom likes this.
  11. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2006
    Messages:
    10,160
    Location:
    Alabama
    As @boom boom said, the extra pressure will add wear. Try to find someone who has parts for those older revolvers. S&W refuses to work on older revolvers, and my example was something from around 1980. They said they did not have parts, and that was it.

    When you get into pre WW2 revolvers, somewhere in the 1930's S&W started heat treating their revolvers. And I no idea where you get parts for five screw models. You will have to pay out the ying yang for repairs!.

    Also, Jeff Cooper was making those hot reload recommendations in the 1970's, when gunsmiths and parts for relics were more common. Times have changed!

    More means more, but is the difference in performance, that is crush space and penetration depth all that different? My recommendation: keep your ammunition standard velocity and standard pressure in vintage revolvers. If you want magnum performance, buy a new one.
     
  12. becket

    becket Member

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2006
    Messages:
    87
    Afa old parts go there are lots of nos and good used parts still around and not so hard to find since the net’ really blew up. Forum members help each other source the most hard to get things; while E-auction and online gun parts stores are stocked with many of them (in between every third listing being Hogue finger groove grips, jeez). I was able to find parts for the 20’s Hand Ejector np on da’bay and Numrich. Had to replace the trigger spring, crane screw, and get a set of side plate screws, and proper change hammer block. Of course modern gun parts are almost always readily available. Except having to wait a weeks on a gp100 hammer for Ruger to make another run of them.
     
    boom boom and Slamfire like this.
  13. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2011
    Messages:
    3,929
    Location:
    Land of the Pilgrims
    Howdy

    According to the Standard Catalog of Smith and Wesson, S&W began heat treating cylinders for the 38 Military and Police Model of 1905, 4th Change (the predecessor to the Model 10) at about SN 316648. Unfortunately, the SCSW does not say when that was. I have a 38 M&P 4th Change with a SN of 3394XX. Roy Jinks told me it shipped in April of 1920. So I am reasonably sure that revolver has a heat treated cylinder. Even so, I always shoot mild loads through all of my early (1930s and earlier) S&W revolvers.

    You should be able to compare your SN to the 316648 number to see if yours has a heat treated cylinder or not.

    Even if it has a heat treated cylinder, I would still recommend going easy on the loads. The old steel of the barrel will probably be more susceptible to wear than a more modern barrel with modern steel.
     
    40-82 and boom boom like this.
  14. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    25,922
    Not to mention what Chic Gaylord was saying in 1960 and what Phil Sharpe was doing in the 1930s-1950s.


    What puts wear and tear on a revolver, pressure or recoil?
    Load A has a cheap fast powder that reaches maximum chamber pressure before attaining high velocity.
    Load B has a progressive powder that delivers high velocity at modest chamber pressure. Recoil is stout.
    So which is going to wear out the gun sooner, A by stretching the topstrap or B by shaking the fit of working parts loose?
     
    Slamfire and boom boom like this.
  15. Ratshooter

    Ratshooter Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2007
    Messages:
    3,829
    Location:
    Burleson,Texas
    In an article by Gil Sengal in Handloader Magazine he made the point that older guns generally had wider lands and grooves and displaced a lot of lead. He stated he had seen barrels damaged by using hard cast lead bullets in older barrels. So you may want to stick with swaged bullets or if you cast your own don't water quench them to make them hard. At 38 special speeds hard bullets are not needed.
     
    Slamfire, boom boom and 40-82 like this.
  16. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2006
    Messages:
    10,160
    Location:
    Alabama

    Ignoring corrosion, impact damage from being run over by a truck, and other forms of abuse, I will claim pressure wears out a revolver. F=MA works through out the universe, higher pressures will result in a greater recoil force and hoop and longitudinal stresses on the cylinder. The back thrust of the cartridge will cause shifting of the cylinder in the frame, and put stress on the frame. No pressure, no hoop stress or back thrust, or recoil. Pressure, is not your friend, it will bite you in the butt if you give it a chance!
     
    boom boom likes this.
  17. BSA1

    BSA1 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2011
    Messages:
    7,280
    Location:
    West of the Big Muddy, East of the Rockies and Nor
    I have no concerns whatever about shooting a steady diet of +P ammunition in my S&W Model 10 & 64.

    I have a Model 10 that shortly after I brought it the cylinder would not rotate any farther after only firing three rounds in it. The gun was a trade from a Security Company and showed signs of heavy use. It has a lot of the blue finish worn off and the right grip panel was badly damaged from banging against car doors. I ended up sending the gun back to the S&W mothership. They charged me $100.00 to correct “Ammo Binding.” It appears to me that they replaced all of the internal parts. The inside of barrel is sharp and free of pits as is the cylinder also. I replaced the worn out grips with new ones I had on hand and if I was to get it reblued it would pass for being new.

    On the flip side I have a very nice Colt Police Positive Special that is in 98% condition with only slight finish wear on the end of the barrel. The grips are in perfect condition. However when I took it to range it will skip one chamber making it a five shooter. Even though I got it repaired it is a non +P ammunition gun.

    I also avoid +P ammo in my J-Frame 38 revolvers. Not so much because of concerns wearing it out prematurely but because JHP bullets do not expand and the gun is not fun to shoot with hot ammo. For it and my P.P.S. I use lead semi-wadcutter bullets.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
    Slamfire and boom boom like this.
  18. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    25,922
    OK, here is an example, extreme, but right out of Hodgdon data.
    .357 Magnum 158 gr XTP
    16.0 gr LilGun 1504 fps 29100 CUP
    6.3 gr Universal 1133 fps 39300 CUP

    Which is harder on the gun, 35% more pressure or 33% more velocity/recoil?
     
  19. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2006
    Messages:
    10,160
    Location:
    Alabama
    This is a rifle cartridge pressure curve, not a pistol, obviously.

    ajaLyaj.jpg

    In 0.3 miliseconds pressure reaches a peak. If the gun reached full recoil in that time you would not be able to hold it. Human reaction touch stimulus reaction time, 150 milliseconds . Pressure reaches a peak faster than human perception.

    Steels in any firearm have to hold this pressure and they react to it. They have expanded and contracted before you perceive the event.

    0M6d39J.jpg


    Therefore I am going to say, pressure is harder on the gun.
     
    LaneP and boom boom like this.
  20. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    25,922
    OK
    As an old time gunzine writer said of barrel life "A firm answer would require systematically wearing out several guns and I do not have the time, money, or inclination for that."
     
    boom boom, Walkalong and Slamfire like this.
  21. Steve C

    Steve C Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Messages:
    4,780
    [QUOTE}Could the S&W Model 10, Colt Official Police, and such quality .38 cal revolvers of the 60’s and 70’s handle what are considered +p loads of today, if not shot too often?[/QUOTE]

    The K frame revolvers made in the 1950 (Post WWII) on are considered well made and as durable as any modern made K frame. The Colt "official police" has the same size frame as the Python and the Old Model Trooper, .357, Officers Models etc. 38 Specials built on these frames can withstand +p loads. The D size frames are the lighter steel frames used in the Cold Detective Special, Police Positive and Diamondback.

    When I first started hand loading in the 70's there was no +P designation for ammo. Higher pressure ammo was still made by the ammo companies for police. It was called Police loads, Hi-Vel, etc. not +P but the same thing. Some time later the term +P was codified by SAAMI and a few years after that +P data began to be published in loading manuals. Back then just as now some manuals publish higher load levels with velocities that would be considered +P or even +P+ loading's.

    The attached PDF shows the .38 spl data in my first loading manual the 1973 Hornady Vol II. Most of the powders used in the load data are no longer available except for Unique, Bullseye, Red Dot, and 2400. Compare the data to current load data and the max loads are definitely heavier than what we see today as +P.

    I had loaded some 158gr LSWCHPs with 5.5gr of Unique for a defense load using this Hornady data reduced 10% off the max and figured it would be safe. Years later when I bought a chrono I shot these old loads over it and got an average velocity of 878 fps from my Colt DS 2" and 1,058 fps from my 4" S&W 67.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
    Lucky Derby and Dave T like this.
  22. becket

    becket Member

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2006
    Messages:
    87
    Thanks all, excellent info! Interesting Ratshooter about bullet hardness. I still have some old reloads kicking around from decades ago when we poured our own. As per my fathers recipe it was usually 90% lead with 10% antimony. Dunno if that is good or bad or standard compared to the current position of the ever swinging pendulum. 10% Antimony put them a bit more into the hard-cast range. Helped keep barrel fouling down a bit. Our range trips back then consisted mainly of going out the front door with a black Magic Marker circle colored in on some paper plates; and empty soda/beer cans to a huge oak stump that is prob more lead than wood; but still there!
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2019
    Lucky Derby likes this.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice