Quantcast
  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

S&w 38/44

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by pale horse, Jan 10, 2003.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. pale horse

    pale horse Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2002
    Messages:
    216
    Does anyone have any info on these?

    I guess the better question is Has anyone any personal experience with them?

    I have been reading about them and they sound really neet.
     
  2. JMLV

    JMLV Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    233
    Location:
    Morrisville PA
    One of the nicest revolvers of the old style

    these are a fised sight N frame designed for a special hi power loading of the 38 special that slightly predates the 357 magnum (and some say open the way for the 357 by expermenters like Phil Sharp and Elmer Keith and the loads they used in their example of these fine examples of the gunmakers art. the heavy duty was the fixed sight version the Outdoorsman was the adjustable version. heavy workhorse of a gun. similar to a current model 28 S&W. Excellent value these days if a bit oversized for a 38.
     
  3. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2002
    Messages:
    7,956
    Location:
    Below the Manson-Nixon line in Virginia...
    Which .38/44?

    The .38/44 target model, built on break-top New Model No. 3s in the 1880s/90s, or the swing-cylinder hand ejectors?

    There's a HUGE power difference between the cartridges of the two guns.

    Not really sure that the .38/44 Hand Ejectors were issued in response to Colt's .38 Super given that both were announced to police within a few months of each other.

    Both were developed to address pretty constant police calls at that point for more powerful handguns firing cartridges capable of penetrating car bodies.

    It's likely that both companies were working on solutions at the same time, only in different ways.

    At the same time Remington and Winchester both were working with Colt and S&W on ammo solutions to the problem. Both introduced lines of metal piercing ammo in .38 Super, .38/44, and .45 ACP.
     
  4. BigG

    BigG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    7,081
    Location:
    Dixieland
    38/44 Hand Ejector

    They are are a really B-I-G 38 Special. Elmer Keith used them to develop his powerful loads while lobbying S&W to put out a true Magnum which became the 357 in 1935.

    BTW, the Colt Super 38 was the MOST POWERFUL handgun in the world up until the 357 Magnum was introduced.
     
  5. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2002
    Messages:
    7,956
    Location:
    Below the Manson-Nixon line in Virginia...
    "BTW, the Colt Super 38 was the MOST POWERFUL handgun in the world up until the 357 Magnum was introduced."

    Not too sure about that either, G.

    Traditional Colt ballistics for the .38 Super were a 130-gr. bullet at around 1,250 fps, IIRC, or about 450 ft. lbs. of energy.

    Traditional ballistics for the.38/44 HD round was a 158-gr. bullet nominally at roughly 1400 fps. At the upper end that's almost 700 ft. lbs. of energy.

    Some of the first .357 Magnum loads broke the 1,000 ft. lb. barrier.
     
  6. pale horse

    pale horse Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2002
    Messages:
    216
    Thanks guys just the kind of info I was looking for.
     
  7. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2002
    Messages:
    7,956
    Location:
    Below the Manson-Nixon line in Virginia...
    G,

    A little more research now that I'm home.

    The .38 Super was the most powerful SEMI-AUTO cartridge regularly loaded and chambered in the United States until the 1960s or so.

    Other, European rounds, such as the 9mm Mauser, generated more power, but were virtually unknown here.
     
  8. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2002
    Messages:
    7,956
    Location:
    Below the Manson-Nixon line in Virginia...
    .38 SuperVel was a brand name from the 1950s/60s, wasn't it?

    I don't think it was collected with Smith & Wesson at all.
     
  9. BigG

    BigG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    7,081
    Location:
    Dixieland
    Sorry, Mike. I had a brain fart. I meant auto pistol round, I'm sure.
     
  10. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2002
    Messages:
    7,956
    Location:
    Below the Manson-Nixon line in Virginia...
    Saxon,

    I've heard what you're mentioning argued before, regarding the HD being a direct response to Colt's .38 Super, but I'm just not sure that it really fits with what was going on at the time.

    Different police agencies and groups had been approaching both Colt and S&W at the same time trying to get them to offer more powerful handguns. Given that the two companies are located in cities less than 30 miles apart, I don't think it's too much to imagine that these people were at Colt in the morning and S&W in the afternoon.

    I really think that you've got a situation where both companies were responding to a known need by a third party, but one got to the finish line first.

    There was never really any true competition between the two companies on this subject above and beyond what already existed over the entire semi-auto/revolver thing. Even more interestingly, to the best of my knowledge Colt never actively promoted their New Service as being suitable for use with the .38/44 Heavy Duty, even though most police in the United States carried revolvers and not semi-autos.

    Then we've also got the interesting situation as to the ammo.

    I'm pretty sure that Winchester developed BOTH the .38 Super and the .38/44, which meant that the projects were essentially on-going at roughly the same time.

    More tellingly, though, is the apparent lack of a Colt initiatitive to develop a similar cartridge for a revolver. Why?

    At the time, Colt had a pretty substantial chunk of the police revolver market, as much as, or even more, than S&W's market share in this area.

    Yet, it would appear that Colt pretty much surrendered the revolver market to Colt.

    Throw in one final bit of interesting trivia, and you've got a real head scratcher...

    S&W introduced the .357 Magnum in 1935. The Colt New Service was chambered in .357 Magnum within 2 years. Colt's actions don't mesh with it's apparent previous actions.

    There's something in this equasion that's missing -- for some reason Colt didn't step into a very logical product area in 1929/30. I don't think anyone will ever know for sure, but to me all of this REALLY smacks of the possibility for a Gentleman's agreement between S&W and Colt, that they would each concentrate R&D on a specific item so that they could meet the customer's needs as quickly as possible.

    That's my reasoning for believing that S&W wasn't reacting to Colt's .38 Super when they brought out the the .38/44 HD.

    As for the velocity on the .38/44 rounds, I'm trying to find it, but I'm sure that I've got a Winchester catelog around here from around 1933 that states the velocity of the round as being close to 1,400 fps. from a 6.5" barrel.
     
  11. Quantrill

    Quantrill Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    698
    Location:
    Flagstaff, Az., USA
    SuperVel was a brand name of handgun ammunition in the 1960s and 1970s championed by Lee Jurras. Basically it's philosophy was a lighter weight bullet than normal loaded to what we today would call "plus P". The .38Auto (.38acp) was a round invented by John Moses Browning for his .38 automatic handgun. Later on a much hotter load for the same case and bullet (much like a .454Casull is to a .45Colt) was brought out and called the .38 Super. Quantrill
     
  12. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2002
    Messages:
    7,956
    Location:
    Below the Manson-Nixon line in Virginia...
    "Colt took a short-cut and simply loaded an existing cartridge to higher pressure and performance levels."

    See, that's where I'm not certain I buy the argument that S&W was simply reacting to Colt at all.

    Why didn't Colt do this with the .38 Super AND the .38 Spl.? That's the huge cognative gap here. Colt had already shown itself to be more than willing to take an S&W developed cartridge and change it to make it better -- the .32 New Police and .38 New and Super Police cartridges come immediately to mind.

    The New Service was already chambered for .38 Spl., the N-frame at the time wasn't.

    Colt supposedly had Winchester working on the .38 Super project at the time, it wouldn't have been a stretch at all to get them working on a .38 Super Special project at the same time.

    "As you know, tooling up for a new and innovative cartridge takes a little time..."

    Yes, it does, but here another problem raises its head...

    S&W had retained the services of Phil Sharpe to develop the loads for the .38/44. Roy Jinks book doesn't come out and say how long it took, but it sounds as if it took quite a bit of time, perhaps a year or longer, to actually develop the loads that went into the gun. Sharpe also pushed S&W to develop the .357 Mag., but it would seem that S&W didn't even begin serious development of the round with Winchester until sometime in 1932 or even 1933.

    I've not been able to tack it down definitively, but my research so far indicates that the Colt .38 Super went public sometime in the summer to early fall of 1929 -- less than a year before S&W began offering the .38/44 for sale to police.

    Right there the apparent facts don't match the supposition that S&W was reacting to Colt. The timeline is completely wrong.

    There's just something else going on here, Saxon, and I think only extensive reviews each company's archives, along with a review of the Winchester archives, would really give the whole picture.

    But I'm certain that Smith didn't simply wake up to the fact that Colt had a .38 Super, and decide that it needed a revolver to somehow reply to that. Colt's actions in this area simply don't make sense.

    There's no way that could would have willingly left S&W to poach it's police market at this time. Colt was still one of the most innovative firearms companies in the nation and had maintained its police revolver contracts rigorously.

    And yet Colt didn't. That's the most baffling thing here. Colt didn't do what you would expect them to do, and the only reason I can come up with for it is that Colt and S&W reached some sort of agreement. Perhaps Colt had large revolver contracts at the time and simply didn't feel that it could develop a new revolver round. Perhaps it was a concession to keep S&W out of the semi-auto market. I really don't know, but I do know that the "conventional wisdom" on this scenario simply doesn't add it.

    Finally, Colt's loss of the police market post WW II wasn't an act of complacency, it was a calculated, reasoned decision -- Colt went after large military contracts and surrendered the civilian and police revolver markets. S&W simply walked in and took what Colt didn't want anymore.
     
  13. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2002
    Messages:
    7,956
    Location:
    Below the Manson-Nixon line in Virginia...
    Another question I've pondered over the years...

    Colt did have decent market share for the .45 auto in the US police market in the 1920s.

    Why didn't Colt develop a .45 Super cartridge to go along with the .38 Super?
     
  14. BigG

    BigG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    7,081
    Location:
    Dixieland
    Could the Depression have had anything to do with difficulty in introducing new calibers?
     
  15. Archie

    Archie Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2002
    Messages:
    1,925
    Location:
    Hastings, Nebraska - the Heartland!
    The Colt New Service

    was chambered in 38 Special, also. I don't know if it was labeled as being a high level revolver, but the cylinder has enough metal to make a railroad wheel. Most of the shooters new it, too.
    One of my old Border 'Trol buddies had a New Service in 38 Spec ISSUED to him as a duty gun. He said he loaded it hot, and Danforth was no shrinking violet.

    So Colt didn't need to "develop" a new revolver for the 38/44 round, they already had one.

    *****
    The 45 Super concept is not a defense or police round. In terms of self-defense (which is what police guns are for), the only difference is in recovery time. The extra power is more useful in hunting applications, and "everybody knows" hunters use revolvers anyway.
    They probably figured they were taking enough risk with the Super 38.
     
  16. Lone Star

    Lone Star Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2003
    Messages:
    1,754
    Location:
    SW USA
    I've been so disappointed that no one knew the ballistics for the .38/44 that I decided to log in and post it.

    The 150-158 grain bullet moved at 1100-1150 FPS, depending on the time frame in which it was listed. It was loaded from 1930- at least the late 1950's, and specs varied a little, depending on the maker and the date.

    Skeeter Skelton's HANDLOAD in .38 Special cases was about like Elmer Keith's .38/44 load: 13.5 grains of no. 2400 and a 358156 lead gascheck bullet at a realistic 1200 FPS; it was a low-end .357 round.

    Lone Star
     
  17. BigG

    BigG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    7,081
    Location:
    Dixieland
    Charley Askins got NS 38 Specials issued to the BP in the '30s, replacing the older 45 ACP versions.
     
  18. Lone Star

    Lone Star Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2003
    Messages:
    1,754
    Location:
    SW USA
    Big G: True, and he told me that the main reason why he didn't like S&W products is that the Colt people at that time were much nicer to deal with. The S&W guys were too snobby and acted like they were doing the customer a favor to deal with them.

    However, Colts tend to need the barrels rotated slightly to get them sighted-in, so the Border Patrol had to turn the barrels of most of those guns to get them shooting right. I noticed the same thing, a prime reason why I quit buying fixed-sight Colt guns. I've had much better luck with Ruger, Webley, and S&W fixed sights.

    I think the Texas Highway Patrol also used New Service .38's in the 1940's and '50's, but that was before my time. I think Skelton said that.

    Lone Star
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2003
  19. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2002
    Messages:
    7,956
    Location:
    Below the Manson-Nixon line in Virginia...
    Arch,

    You're missing my point. I know the New Service was chambered for .38 Spl., I noted that.

    What Colt apparently did NOT do, however, was market the New Service as being suitable for use with the .38/44 HD round, or develop their own round in response to law enforcement requests BEFORE S&W hit the market with their .38/44 revolver round.

    As I noted, Colt had no problems taking an S&W developed round and putting their name on it. There are a lot of Colt revolvers chambered for .38 Colt Special...

    And that's the quandry. Colt took the initiative in developing a semi-auto round to meet police requests, but why didn't they run a project for revolvers at the same time? Colt already owned the lion's share of the police revolver market, while the semi-auto was not a really big player in police hands.

    WHY did Colt defer to S&W? That's what I can't figure out.

    "The 45 Super concept is not a defense or police round. In terms of self-defense (which is what police guns are for), the only difference is in recovery time. The extra power is more useful in hunting applications, and "everybody knows" hunters use revolvers anyway."

    Absolute non sequitor to the reasons why these rounds were developed -- to give police MORE powerful weapons capable of greater offensive power.

    Colt wasn't going out on a limb in developing the .38 Super any more than S&W was in developing the .38/44. Again, both of those rounds were developed SPECIFICALLY at the request of law-enforcement agencies.

    Also note that the reason for these rounds wasn't strictly self-defense, it was mainly OFFENSIVE. Punching through car bodies when you're chasing a criminal is an offensive use of a handgun, and police were finding that the typical .38 Spl. of the day simply wouldn't get through a car body.

    Developing a .45 Super would have been in keeping with these requests for offensive firepower.

    Perhaps police found that the metal piercing ammunition that Remington and Winchester brought out for the .45 (along with similar bullets for the .38 Super and .38/44) was sufficient and that an up-powered .45 round wasn't necessary. I don't know for certain, but it does seem to me to be a gray area.

    Quite frankly, this is the first time in Colt's history that I really see them acting in a manner in which they've never really acted before. They've walked away from an obvious market dominance position.

    By allowing S&W to come out with the round AND the handgun, Colt allowed S&W to position themselves well and you start seeing a change in company attitudes where Colt starts reacting to S&W instead of the other way around.

    Again, though, I simply don't buy the "conventional wisdom" that states that S&W was reacting to Colt when it introducted the .38/44 Heavy Duty. Had Colt introduced an uploaded .38 Spl. round and marketed the New Service to police in conjunction with this round, then I'd say yes, it would have been a case of S&W reacting.

    But police in the United States had already proven that they weren't going to rearm wholesale with semi-automatics -- Colt had been trying that for years with its automatics, and never got much headway into the market.
     
  20. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2002
    Messages:
    7,956
    Location:
    Below the Manson-Nixon line in Virginia...
    Lone,

    Don't be too disappointed. I'm still looking for it, but I'm CERTAIN that I have a 1930s Winchester catalog around here that lists the velocity out of a 6.5" barrel as being right around 1,400 fps.

    Where did you come by your information?

    I think, but I'm not certain, that the revolvers that Askins replaced with the Border Patrol were a combination of Colt and S&W Model 1917 .45 ACPs, military cast-offs that were surplussed from WW I.

    As for turning the barrels, I don't recall that. I do, however, remember Askins saying in an article he wrote for American Rifleman that he sighted in every gun for the standard BP issue ammo (which I believe was standard velocity .38 Spl. ammo, not the .38/44 HD ammo) by filing the front sight or rear notch and by bending the front sight with a device he made.

    He then crated the guns back up and shipped them on for distribution. What he didn't include, though, was a note saying WHY the front sights were bent, and someone at the Border Patrol ended up calling Colt, VERY pissed off, demanding to know why the front sights were bent on so many of their new handguns. :)
     
  21. BigG

    BigG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    7,081
    Location:
    Dixieland
    The typical 38 Specials of today still won't get thru a car body, Mike. :eek:

    Also, no offense but the quoted bullistics of the 38/44 sound a mite optimistic. ;)
     
  22. BigG

    BigG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    7,081
    Location:
    Dixieland
    Thanks for the input and the Askins lore, Lone Star.

    Mike - you have the honor of being the first guy I can remember championing the 38 Special as a serious handgun round. Marginally effective, yes, I've read that; the smallest somebody should consider, yes I've read that too; but never have I read somebody opine it had some kinda lightning bolt performance like you wrote. :cool:

    NOTE: This should appear after Lone Star's post giving the references to Keith's Sixguns but the server's time stamp was goofed up.
     
  23. Lone Star

    Lone Star Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2003
    Messages:
    1,754
    Location:
    SW USA
    Mike-

    I got the .38/44 data from ballistics charts and articles that I've read over the years. I remember things!

    Two quick sources that I just dug out are the very obvious source Keith's, "Sixguns", which has a manufacturers' ballistics list showing the .38 Special Super-X (the 1950's name for the .38/44) at 1175FPS with 150 grain bullet. You could get it in metal point or Lubaloy, and the tested bbl. length was five inches, the most common length for the .38/44 Heavy Duty S&W. However, that was probably a solid test bbl. they used.

    I aso have a Remington catalog from 1963 and it shows the ".38 Special High Velocity" at 1090 FPS. The highest velocity for any .38 special round that I've seen is here, too, with a 110 grain bullet, Metal Penetrating, at 1320 FPS.

    S&W advised me when I was still in high school in the early 1960's that these high velocity loads wouldn't blow up a M&P (Model 10), but that if very many would be fired, their .38/44 Heavy Duty or Outdoorsman were the appropriate guns to use.

    I have never seen a .38/44 load at 1400 FPS; that's .357 Magnum territory. It is possible that certain writers may have developed handloads that would reach that velocity, but today, that would be considered overpressure for the round. There are certain men whose published handloads I just don't use!

    By the way, anyone interested in the .38/44 should beat feet over to www.smith-wessonforum.com They publish quite often on it there, and have shown some fine photos.
    Lone Star
     
  24. bfoster

    bfoster Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    114
    Location:
    N. of Fords Switch OK
    Mike & SaxonPig,

    This isn't strictly germane to the police market, but the 1933 ad reproduced in Belden & Haven for the Shooting Master specifically lists this revolver as being suitable for use with the 38-44. I simply don't know if the New Service was listed by Colt as being fit for use with this cartridge, though doubtless it was used with this cartridge.

    I've read somewhere that during this time period Colt had Remington produce for test purposes three lots of a cartridge remarkably similar to what today we call the 41 Special. I can find the references you'd like.

    Bob
     
  25. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2002
    Messages:
    7,956
    Location:
    Below the Manson-Nixon line in Virginia...
    I've not found my 1933 Winchester catalog, but I did find a pretty neat 1943-published book talking about civilian firearms that are suitable for use by essentiall the militia during WW II.

    It gives Remington ballistics for the .38/44 at 1150 fps. It looks like I am wrong on the ballistics for this cartridge.

    I'd love, however, to find some original Winchester .38/44 and chronograph it. I did that with some original Winchester .357 Mag. and got nearly 1,700 fps. out of a 6" barrel.


    Bfoster,

    The shooting master was the high end version of the New Service, wasn't it? Sort of like what the Model 27 became when the .357 Mag. round came out.

    As for references on the .41 Special, yes, I'd love to know where there's some printed information. I've heard about this cartridge, but never seen anything in print.

    I'd be very curious on knowing whether it was an up-powered .41 Long Colt round, or whether it was dimensionally different from the .41 Long Colt to give a true .41-caliber bullet as opposed to the .41 LC's .387 bullet (after it was changed to inside lubricated).


    G,

    "Mike - you have the honor of being the first guy I can remember championing the 38 Special as a serious handgun round."

    I beg your pardon? Where have I been "championing" the round any more or less than the other people here and at TFL who carry .38 Spl. revolvers?


    Saxon,

    Why? Don't you occasionally like to challenge the "conventional wisdom," or are you content to believe everything that you're told?

    If the latter, why are you here on a firearms forum instead of on an anti website? After all, the "conventional wisdom" is that guns are bad, guns are evil, guns in the house will result your immediately being murdered, raped, murdered again, and then decapitated.

    Conventional wisdom is a wonderful thing. Until it turns out to be conventional legend. But of course, George Washington chopped down a cherry tree, Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag, and the first English settlement in the US was Plymouth, where men and women wearing wide brimmed hats with big buckles on their shoes stepped onto a big rock that already had 1620 chiseled on it...
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page