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Need Ammunition Education

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by dancersx, Mar 3, 2012.

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  1. dancersx

    dancersx Member

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    Are there any undesirable consequences, particularly as regards safety, from firing 38 S&W, 146 gr, in a revolver chambered for .38 special, please?:confused:
     
  2. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

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    I think the first obstacle you'd encounter would be that the .38 S&W will not fit into the chambers
     
  3. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    No, not if it will fit in the chamber.

    The .38 S&W uses a larger .361" dia lead bullet then the .357"-.358" dia bullet used in the .38 Special.

    Also, the .38 S&W case is nominally .007" larger in dia then the .38 Special.

    SO, they won't chamber in a lot of .38 Spl guns.

    If they do chamber, there is no risk in shooting them, as they are loaded to very low pressure to start with.

    rc
     
  4. Overkilll0084

    Overkilll0084 Member

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    .38 Special bullet diameter: .357
    .38 S&W bullet diameter: .361
    If by some twist of fate they do fit, don't fire it. Nothing good can come of it. It PROBABLY won't damage anything. Which then leaves the possibility of sticking a bullet in the barrel.
     
  5. Pyro

    Pyro Member

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    38 S&W is not 38 Special.
    I've heard you can cut the chamber down on a 38 S&W to accept 38 Special, is that true?
     
  6. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Member

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    That difference in bullet diameter is not a problem. But they probably wont chamber.
     
  7. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Yes, a gazillion surplus S&W .38/200's were sold as surplus after WWII with the chambers reamed out to .38 Spl.

    However, there are also a lot of much older & weaker guns made in .38 S&W, and they are not safe to rechamber to .38 Special.

    rc
     
  8. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    OK, for starters here is a photo of a 38S&W on the left and a 38 Special on the right.


    [​IMG]


    Now let's look at a few guns. All three of these guns are about the same size. But look at the difference in cylinder lengths. The Model 36 in the center is chambered for 38 Special. The two old Top Breaks are chambered for 38 S&W. What does that tell us?


    [​IMG]


    I have a reprint of a turn of the Century S&W catalog in front of me. The 38 Special was introduced in 1899 and it was originally loaded with a 158 grain bullet and 21 1/2 grains of Black Powder. 38 S&W had a 146 grain bullet and 15 grains of Black Powder. With Black Powder, there is no empty space in the cartridge. Both of those rounds would have been filled right up to under the bullet with powder. Clearly, 38 Special was a more powerful round and a gun chambered for it would have needed a longer cylinder. I don't have the SAAMI spec for 38 S&W handy right now, but I measured a few rounds of each, and I can tell you that case diameter of the 38 Specials is right around .372. Case diameter of the 38 S&W is right around .382. But the 38 Sp case is much longer, approx .370 longer. Just by eye with a caliper, but that gives you a good idea.


    As already stated, there were thousands of K frame Victory models that were sent to Britain in WWII chambered for 38S&W, most of them were Lend Lease guns. Part of the deal of Lend Lease was that we were only 'loaning' weapons to our allies, they were eventually supposed to be shipped back here. A lot of them were shipped back here, and a lot of them got their chambers lengthened for 38 Sp. when they got into private hands. But if you lengthen a 38 S&W chamber by roughly .370, to 38 Sp chamber diameter, you are not going to touch the original 38 S&W chamber diameter. It will be oversized for the 38 Sp round, with roughly .720 of the 38 Sp case sitting in a chamber about .010 too big in diameter.

    I was just downstairs and I tried to chamber some 38 S&Ws in three different 38 Special revolvers and a 357 Mag. No go. The 38 S&W is too large in diameter. Given manufacturing tolerances, it did go a little bit farther into the chambers of one gun, but still there was no way it was going to seat.

    Clearly, unless the chambers are way out of spec, a 38S&W cannot be chambered in a 38 Special revolver.

    So what happens if you fire a 38 Sp round in a 38 S&W chamber that has been lengthened for 38 Sp? Usually the case will split down at the unsupported part.

    It's not going to blow up the gun, but it makes it difficult to reload your cases.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2012
  9. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    A lot of Victory Model S&Ws were chambered for .38 S&W which the British called the .38-200 and adopted as their standard military revlover cartridge. Many of these guns were re-imported into the US and .38 Special chamber reamers run into the chambers. They may or may not shoot fine -- often you will badly bulge or even split .38 Specials in these guns.
     
  10. dancersx

    dancersx Member

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    My thanks to each and all for your responses. I purchased the 38 S&W ammunition as a result of information from the thread "Need Help with Identification of Handguns" I posted in Firearms Research in January this year(rcmodel may recall that discussion). I have since retired the S&W(which fired .38 Special with no apparent problem) from active duty and replaced it with a new Taurus Model 817SS .38 Special. Not wanting the box of S&W 38 to become nothing more than a paperweight prompted me to post this thread.
    Regarding chambering of the S&W 38:
    In the old S&W - only the bullet would go into four chambers, about 1/16th" of the cartridge would go into a chamber, and with a gentle push all but about 1/4th" of the round would go into a chamber.
    In the new Taurus - all seven chambers accept the rounds as easily as it accepts the .38 Special rounds.
     
  11. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    If they fit in the Taurus .38 chambers?

    Choot'm Lisbeth!

    It can't hurt anything.

    Pressure is lower then .38 Spl, and the lead bullets will easily swage down to fit the bore.

    It would be like shooting .22 Shorts in a .22 LR chambered gun.

    rc
     
  12. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Member

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    :what: Eek! Can you do that without it blowing up in your face, or sticking a bullet in the barrel to blow up next time?

    (just kidding)
     
  13. dancersx

    dancersx Member

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    Again, thanks to all.
    Guess I'll close this thread and go "choot'm".:)

    "Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." William James
     
  14. Bubba613

    Bubba613 member

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    Factories do not make 38S&W to original spec and instead use 357 bullets. Consequently they will chamber in S&Ws, although surprisingly I found they would not chamber in Taurus'.
    The main objection is expense: 38S&W is hard to get and expensive.
     
  15. Frank V

    Frank V Member

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    Don't Don't Don't!!!:( Even if you can get it in the chamber, it's not the proper ammo. Use proper ammo in the gun.
    Frank
     
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