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Why Older Non-Lock 442 and 642 Not +P

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by GDW, Mar 12, 2010.

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  1. GDW

    GDW Member

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    Hi,

    I have an early 90's 442 and 642. I have heard these are not +P rated. How do they differ from the current versions? Did S&W change the receipe on the metal or what? I'm considering picking up a new non-lock version just because it is +P rated. Not that I practice with much +P rounds, but still I think I might be more at ease with a +P rated version shooting occasional +P rounds. Thoughts?

    Thanks.
     
  2. aHFo3

    aHFo3 Member

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    From what I've heard occasional +p's are okay, so long as it is not a steady diet. I don't know what the difference is between the +p and non +p versions.
     
  3. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    +P are fine. Current +P cartridges create less pressure than old regular pressure .38 specials.

    If you want to be super careful limit them but in reality there is not need to do so
     
  4. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Member

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    Agree with above. Factory +P is a marketing myth. It is loaded WELL BELOW allowable pressure limits. If it says 38 Special on the barrel it's OK with +P.
     
  5. jad0110

    jad0110 Member

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    I assume yours is either a no dash or a -1?

    The -1s are +P rated, though they usually don't say so on the barrel (the -2s do say +P).

    Also, the -1s and -2s are built on the slightly more durable "magnum J Frame", even though they are chambered in .38 special, wheras the no dash x42s are true J Frames. Don't know if that has anything to do with it or not, but it may.
     
  6. Cocked & Locked
    • Contributing Member

    Cocked & Locked Member

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    Mine is a 642-1 I bought new in the mid 1990's. It does not have +P roll marked on the barrel or gun anywhere. The paperwork that came with the gun did not even mention the "-1" version I had just bought. It only referred to the 642 (no dash #).

    There was a chart in the booklet that showed S&W model numbers. My new 642-1 was not mentioned there, only the 642 which was indicated as not being a +P type gun.

    Later versions of the 642-1 were marked as being OK for +P. That used to bug me since mine is a -1 and not approved. I called S&W one day and asked if mine was OK for +P. I was asked, "whats your gun's serial number?" The reply I got was, "No, your gun is too old and not approved for +P."

    Do I believe that? Nope...just releases S&W from potential liability by saying that I suppose. I carry mine loaded with Remington 158 grain LSWCHP +P. I've shot some in it also of course, but usually stick with standard pressure loads when plinking, etc. Mine is built on what later became know as the J-magnum frame. It appears no different from the +P marked guns...other than not saying "+P."

    360125090.gif
     
  7. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    For the first 25 years or so the J-Frame was made, there was no +P ammo, because SAAMI had not thunk it up yet.
    Thus, those early guns were not +P rated.

    There were however .38 Special High-Speed, and there were .38/44 loads which were much closer to .357 Mag then .38 Spl.

    After +P came out in the early 70's, S&W when ask, would say that a limited diet of +P ammo would not hurt the Chiefs Special and other J-Frames, including the alloy frame ones. But naturally if shot extensivly, would loosen them up faster then standard ammo. Just as it would do in any size gun.

    Still, a lot of old cops had carried and shot hotter ammo in them then anything you can buy today in +P .38 Special.

    If you call S&W today and ask the same question, you get a different answer.
    Because of Lawyers.

    If you compare a J-Frame of any age to a Model 19/66 K-Frame magnum?
    The J-Frame is as strong or stronger in several importent areas.
    *The five-shot cylinder puts the bolt cuts between the chambers.
    *The chamber walls are almost as thick.
    *The barrel forcing cone is fully supported inside the frame with no gas ring cut on the bottom.
    *They were all heat treated hi-grade steel from day one and could safely contain Hi-Speed & 38-44 magnum class ammo then available without blowing up.

    If you want to use +P as carry ammo, do so.
    If you want to shoot 500 rounds a week in practice?
    Shoot standard pressure ammo, or buy an L-Frame.

    rc
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2010
  8. GDW

    GDW Member

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    I was curious, so I called S&W. I talked to a fellow there that told me they have since improved the forgings and the C&C process has improved quite a bit over the last 15 years. At any rate, he did say that S&W's intent is to move away from ILS with DAO and keep the ILS with guns that have an external hammer. Maybe I'll get another no-lock anyway. Thanks.
     
  9. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Boy, you sure couldn't tell it buy comparing a brand new J-Frame with a Chiefs Special made about 1955-60!

    rc
     
  10. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Member

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    All this talk about +P being safe in any particular gun is still based on a misconception: that +P is a hot load. It is not. A 125@925? Give me a break!

    As for the J frame, I routinely shoot my own loads using the 125 JHP loaded to a clocked 1,100 FPS from my M40s without incident. This load far surpasses +P and I think it is quite safe in the J frame.

    In 1955 Elmer Keith wrote of shooting 38/44 ammo in a Chiefs Special. The 38/44 load was a 158 bullet at 1,150 FPS making +P look like the pipsqueak it really is. He reported no problems other than stout recoil.

    Again, if it says 38 Special on the barrel then +P is fine as it is loaded below maximum pressure.
     
  11. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    SaxonPig has spoken

    So it is written
    So shall it be done
     
  12. stealth

    stealth Member

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    In addition, from everything I see factory +P aren't much at all hotter than their own standard .38spl, the difference is so small. If it can't take a 'steady diet' of +P I honestly don't think It should be taking a steady diet of standard either. I think the question shouldn't be "Can it take it" but "Should I try to limit wear & tear"

    To me the OPs question was more about S&W and less about the gun, others have covered that much better than I.

    SaxonPig, what J-Frame in particular do you shoot those loads with (and have you chronod them from the snub)
     
  13. stiab

    stiab Member

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    Here's a link to a thread on the S&W forum with recent actual testing results that would not agree with that. Two +P and one +P+ loads are compared with non +P. Note the anemic numbers from the older standard loads...

    http://smith-wessonforum.com/ammo/103664-38-special-vintage-ammo-test.html
     
  14. 19-3Ben

    19-3Ben Member

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    :D:D:D

    It's CNC, not C&C. But I can see how if you heard it said over the phone it would certainly sound like someone was saying C&C.
     
  15. Gary A

    Gary A Member

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    I think there are a number of factors that play into this discussion and there is not a "one size fits all" answer. There is "plus P" and "plus P". The SAAMI standard for plus P when the earlier versions of the J-frames were produced was 18,500 psi for plus P. Many loads today are loaded to 20,000 psi. If S&W was leery of the 18,500 psi loads, they would look less favorably on the 20,000 psi loads. Furthermore, few people have doubted over the years that a steel-framed J-frame could handle at least a limited amount of plus P loads. The question, though, becomes more problematic when dealing with the earlier airweights with their aluminum frame and, more particularly, their aluminum topstrap. Plus P under the old standard was 8.8% over standard pressure. A 20,000 psi load is a little above 17.6% over standard pressure. Not insignificant, perhaps, for an aluminum topstrap designed for 17,000 psi. When Smith and Wesson "magnumized" the J-frames, incorporating features developed while designing the .357 J-frames, they subtly changed some features on the frame, .e.g. radiusing the square-cut corners on the cylinder window in order that the frame could better stand the forces involved without developing tiny cracks and, I believe, they subtly increased the thickness of the topstrap (could be wrong on that). No one questions the cylinder being strong enough to contain the pressures. Many question the aluminum topstrap being able to handle a steady diet of higher-pressure rounds without stretching. Topstrap stretching will, either quickly or slowly, ruin a perfectly good gun because it will eventually result in light strikes and misfires. Will an older airweight blow up with plus P? No, it won't. Will it have its service life significantly reduced? Many think so, including Smith and Wesson, and I agree with them. Anyone can shoot whatever they want in their own gun in the final analysis. Just my opinion and I've been wrong before, but there it is.

    By the way, I had an early 642-1 not marked plus P and a call to Smith and Wesson resulted in them telling me that any of the 642s with a "-1" were plus P rated, including my 642-1. This was about the time that Taurus had a very large advertising campaign touting the +P capability of their small framed .38 revolver, the Model 85. Methinks, that campaign influenced Smith and Wesson in their rating decision.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2010
  16. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    the +P of today is about like standard pressure .38 Special was loaded 35 years ago

    shoot it at will
     
  17. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    +P ratings are like test poundage for fishing line.

    You can take what would be standard 100 lb test line and only test it for 2 lbs and say that it is 2 lb test line and catch a Marlin with it.

    You can take an K frame and rate it for plus P and and S&W will say it is safe and you can take an N frame 38 (which doesnt exist) and never test it or rate it for +P and the factory will say that you cannot shoot it. CYA at its finest.

    Someone needs to test some old 38 Hi Speed.
     
  18. stiab

    stiab Member

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    There are none in current production, but there are many N frames 38's out there.

    That's been done. Do a search on THR for 38-44 and you will find a good thread where people who own Heavy Dutys and Outdoorsman (the N frame 38's you think don't exist) have chrono-ed original 38-44 factory ammo, and reported 1125 to 1150 fps, depending on barrel length.

    I think the post from Gary A correctly addresses the OP's question.
     
  19. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    Not calling you out. I just would like to be educated on which ones they are. Smith and Wessons only with true N frame designation from after when model numbers were introduced.
     
  20. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    S&W's first N-Frame .38 Special was the .38/44 Heavy Duty Prewar introduced in 1930.
    That was followed by the .38/44 Outdooorsman Prewar in 1931.
    Followed by the .38/44 Heavy Duty & Outdoorsman Transition in 1946.
    Followed by the .38/44 Heavy Duty & Outdoorsman Model of 1950, in 1950.
    Followed by the Model 20 .38/44 Heavy Duty (1958 - 1966) & Model 23 Outdoorsman (1957 - 1966).

    All were true N-Frame .38 Specials.

    rc
     
  21. stiab

    stiab Member

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    True N frames existed long before model numbers were assigned, that is well documented in S&W history, and easily confirmed. Rcmodel did a good job (better than I could have done) in setting out the .38 Special N frame versions.

    Having said that, I understand the point you were making in the post using fishing line and the N frame example, and it does have some validity, in my opinion.
     
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