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M1911 chambered for 38 AMU

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by cfullgraf, Dec 7, 2018.

  1. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    I have a hankering, for grins and giggles, to have an M1911 chambered for 38 AMU. My plan would be to re-barrel a current production Colt Gold Cup.

    For those "not in the the know", the 38 AMU, which stands for 38 Army Marksman Unit, is a rimless 38 Special cartridge for shooting wadcutters in bullseye completion. Timeframe was around 1960-1970 or so.

    Does anyone know of a shop that would make a 38 AMU barrel for an M1911?

    I know that Colt barrels chambered in 38 AMU come up for sale on the various gun sales sites. I'd rather a new barrel but a used barrel maybe my only option.

    I have a 38 AMU barrel and bushing that came with a mid 1950 vintage 38 Super M1911 I bought in the 1980's but the barrel has been "bubba'd" to chamber 38 Super. I converted the pistol back to 38 Super with a new 38 Super barrel.

    It is not like I need another project but it should be interesting and I like working with M1911 pistols.

    Thanks for your help and suggestions.

    FYI, I already have converted a Gold Cup from 45 ACP to 38/45 Clerke. Another cartridge developed for bullseye competition to allow the use of the same frame and slide for bullseye competition around 1960.
     
  2. fxvr5

    fxvr5 Member

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  3. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    Thanks
     
  4. Havok7416
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    Havok7416 Member

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    Where would you find magazines for a 1911 in .38 Special?

    ....And I answered my own question by poking around their website a bit more. Neat idea, but I couldn't justify all that.
     
  5. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Got AMU ammo or brass to put in it?

    As best I recall, the AMU is a Special case with a Super (semi)rim.
    So a GC breechface will be too wide.
     
  6. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    I can make the cases, or some facsimile of them. Although, with 38 Special barrels available, I might just skip the modification step.

    I'd plan to use a 38 Super or 9x19 Gold Cup as the donor gun. There should be material to remove from the breech face if necessary.
     
  7. Deanimator

    Deanimator Member

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    Personally, I'd stick with .38 Special.

    I've got a Giles .38 Special M1911 and have no feeding issues with flush seated 148gr. wadcutters in standard .38 Special brass.

    My Giles is the single most accurate centerfire semi-auto I've ever fired. It's also the most pleasant to shoot.
     
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  8. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    I have a 38 AMU magazine although I have not looked at in a while. There may be some difference but if I remember, it is not alot different than a 38 Super magazine. The most important difference that I remember is that the 38 AMU magazine has a longer tang on the follower to limit the number of rounds the magazine.

    Before I re-installed a 38 Super barrel in the 38 Super I bought that had been converted to 38 AMU, I shot some 38 Special wadcutters in it. I do not have any bad memories of the experience but I have slept some since then.

    I like tinkering with the M1911. I've built a couple from parts and re-barreled a couple. A 38 AMU or 38 Special seems like the next potential project.
     
  9. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    Not modifying cases is a major incentive to go the 38 Special route.
     
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  10. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Didn't know they were making GC Supers but that would be the base for AMU.
    Turning cases would be a major liability.
    Will a .45 extractor pull a .38 Special?
    10mm ?

    Trying to avoid breechface modification, too.
     
  11. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Didn't know those existed, very cool.
     
  12. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    Gold Cups from Colt are available in 45 ACP, 38 Super and 9x19 as of today. I ordered a 38 Super Gold Cup Lite a day or so ago. I got a 9x19 a few months ago. I'm a sucker for 38 Super, it is a great cartridge..

    I've obtained at least one Gold Cup of each cartridge in the last few months. I'm sure they are not capable of competing with the custom/special built pistols for bullseye competition, but the ones that I have obtained shoot better than I can. I do not plan to compete with these pistols, my bullseye type competition days are well behind me. But, I enjoy shooting specialized pistols.

    I rebarreled a 45 Colt Gold Cup to 38/45 Clerke last fall, another cartridge that I am a sucker for. It shoots great, better than the 38/45 Clerke that I built in the early 2000's on a standard 45 ACP frame/slide.

    From all the wonderful comments, I'll probably head down the 38 Special path. It looks like barrels and magazines are available and I do not have to modify cases.

    Thanks for all the help but I'll be glad to continue the discussions. Colt M1911's rock in my opinion.

    I'll try to remember to give updates but don't hold your breath. I may not have anything in place until later in 2019. I'm working on some prairie dog AR projects at present and working with my horses takes a fair amount of time during the winter months.
     
  13. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    Yes, that is a serious concern.

    While I have several 38 Super M1911s, I did just order a 38 Super Gold Cup Lite. When I receive it, I'll see what I might need to do to accept 38 Special or 38 AMU cases. Not having to machine 38 AMU cases from 38 Special cases is definite advantage.

    In any case, I have some good information to see what I need to do to get a wadcutter shooting M1911.

    As I understand it, the Gold Cup Lite's do not have some of the external features of a standard Gold Cup. The guns look more like standard M1911s but I'm probably wrong in this assessment.
     
  14. Deanimator

    Deanimator Member

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    Over the years, Colt and several gunmiths have made .38 Special M1911s. Giles was probably the best.
     
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  15. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Clark is probably the best known but Giles did great work.
    The Colt factory .38 Wadcutter gun is a weird in-house design, operating in blowback; not a 1911 at all above the lockwork.

    I had the NRA gunsmithing book, apparently a compilation of many years of American Rifleman articles.
    One of the old line bullseye gunsmiths undertook to accurize a .38 Super instead of converting it to .38 Special. He put a bushing in the barrel and chambered it for the now-standard case mouth headspace control. Everything else tightened up as usual. He shot it with 2.7 gr Bullseye and a 146 gr semiwadcutter and reported it just as accurate as a Special. He considered it an easier gun to build, no breechface work, no funny magazine. Super brass was more expensive but he found it would last longer than Specials.
     
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  16. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    An update for anyone that is interested.

    Thanks for all the comments and help. I have a number of sources for barrels, etc.

    With my 1950's vintage 38 Super originally modified for 38 AMU, I did shoot some full rimmed 38 Special ammunition in the gun before installing the 38 Super barrel so the breech face is large enough to accept full rimmed38 Special cases. I have to check to make sure.

    I have other 38 Super guns to play with so the old 38 Super 1911 will be a good donor gun for this project.

    I'll probably order a Kart 38 Special barrel after the holidays for the old girl. I've seen some sites on the internet where folks have modified 38 Super magazines for 38 Special cases. So, I have some info on modifying magazines. The magazines offered by Clark or the Triple-K magazines I think are more for the 38 Special blow back guns that were available in the 1960s. If my modified magazines do not work, there is an alternative to try.

    As an aside bit of information, the first 38 Super barrel that I installed in the 1950s vintage 38 Super gun was a "headspace on the rim" barrel. I loaded a bunch of 158 grain 38 caliber semi-wadcutters and they shot great. Excellent accuracy and the cases fell in a pile just off my feet. For what ever reason, I rebarreled the gun again to a "headspace on the case mouth barrel" and the 158 Semi-wadcutters would no longer chamber.

    The gun has Ellison adjustable sights on it so it will be a good platform to play with the 38 Special.

    Aside number 2, I'll pick up my Gold Cup Lite 38 Super on December 12. I have bullet moulds for some SWC bullets to use in the 38 Super and 9x19 Gold Cup loads. I'll see how they work out.

    I'll let you all know how things work out but don't hold your breath. It will be after the holidays. Thanks for the help.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2018 at 3:33 PM
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