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View Full Version : Shooting 38S&W out of a 357


atlctyslkr
January 3, 2011, 09:51 AM
Will I really mess my cylinders up if I do this? I've got a bunch of old 38S&W rounds that I could get rid of. I've heard people say that shooting alot of 38Specials can mess up a 357 cylinder. I"m guessing that 38S&W would be worse.

DiscoRacing
January 3, 2011, 09:52 AM
Wont hurt it... I do it all the time.

aarondhgraham
January 3, 2011, 09:58 AM
What it will do is leave a small ring of carbon that must be cleaned thoroughly.

The buildup of "gunk" makes it difficult to load the longer .357 Mag cartridges.

Just clean the cylinders very well and you will have no problem at all.

Aarond

XD Gunner
January 3, 2011, 10:02 AM
It doesn't mess anything up, just leaves a carbon "ledge" where the .38 Special is shorter than the .357. Just be sure to clean it and you'll be fine.

MrBorland
January 3, 2011, 10:16 AM
I've got a bunch of old 38S&W rounds

Folks, the OP is asking about .38S&W, not .38spl. Different round entirely, and AFAIK, they're not interchangeable. The .38S&W is shorter and fatter (.361" vs .358" bullet), and probably won't fit in your .357 mag. Even if they do, I don't recommend shooting them.

FlyFish
January 3, 2011, 10:27 AM
Diameter of .38 S&W is .3855 at the case mouth, .3865 at the base; the .357 (and .38 Special) is .379. Unless you've got a very sloppy chamber they won't fit.

shootn4fun
January 3, 2011, 10:36 AM
If they are .38 Special, it'll work just fine. If they really are .38S&W, I know someone in the ATL area who could use 'em. Might trade you 38 special for 'em.

willr
January 3, 2011, 11:47 AM
Recently, I read the suggestion that you take a .357 case and give it a very wide bell so that it scrapes the chambers. This apparently is one way to get rid of the carbon buildup and not have to resort to complete cleaning.

willr

oneounceload
January 3, 2011, 12:01 PM
It seems too many are equating 38 S&W with the 38 Special - it sounds like the OP has the older 38 S&W cartridges, which as mentioned above, shouldn't fit

carguychris
January 3, 2011, 02:11 PM
Diameter of .38 S&W is .3855 at the case mouth, .3865 at the base; the .357 (and .38 Special) is .379. Unless you've got a very sloppy chamber they won't fit.
+1. Just for grins, I once tried chambering .38S&W rounds in several S&W and Ruger .38Spl and .357Mag revolvers, and I couldn't close the cylinder on any of them. I've been told that .38S&W rounds will fit in some off-brand .38Spl revolvers with unusually sloppy chambers, and you can use them in converted British milsurp S&W Victory revolvers that were originally built for .38S&W and had the chambers lengthened to fit .38Spl rounds, but the idea is generally a no-go.

This topic has come up numerous times, and my advice remains the same- sell it or find someone willing to trade for the proper ammo you CAN use. Although .38S&W factory ammo is still offered, the caliber is so obsolescent that many gun dealers don't carry it or charge exorbitant prices. Buyers can be readily found if you advertise in the right place (try GB).

armoredman
January 3, 2011, 04:57 PM
I found a 38 Special revolver that chambered and fired 38 S&W years ago. Being young and ignorant, I thought nothing of it. I traded it off for my stepfather many years later so I could get him a real revolver, the Smith 10-8 I now own as his inheritance.
The sloppy chambered 38 Special? A Taurus Model 82, so old it had ridged cylinder flutes.

FlyFish
January 3, 2011, 05:03 PM
Diameter of .38 S&W is .3855 at the case mouth, .3865 at the base; the .357 (and .38 Special) is .379. Unless you've got a very sloppy chamber they won't fit.

I'm going to post a correction to my own statement (above) which, as it turns out (and much to my surprise), is absolutely incorrect.

I was in the gun room just a little while ago, and I happen to have one revolver chambered in .38 S&W (an S&W Terrier) and a couple boxes of factory-new .38 S&W ammo. I also have too many revolvers chambered in .357 Mag and .38 Special, so decided to run a little experiment.

Come to find out, in spite of the size difference - which is as I stated - the .38 S&W ammo fit easily into the chambers of every .357 and .38 revolver I tested it in! And that included some guns that are anything but sloppily made, e.g., a Colt Three-Five-Seven, a couple of Trooper Mark IIIs, and a Python; S&W Models 27, 10, 586, 15, and 19, among others. The case rim even fit very nicely into the recess on the Model 27 chambers.

So, I think you probably could fire .38 S&W in a .357 Mag revolver, even with the somewhat larger bullet diameter (.360 vs. .358). That might raise pressures a little bit, but I doubt enough to be a problem in a gun designed for .357 Mag pressures. That said, I'm a great believer in only firing the ammo that a gun is intended to fire, and I don't think I'll be trying it anytime soon in any of my guns.

jhvaughan2
January 3, 2011, 05:11 PM
If you really have factory loaded 38 s&w in ATL. I'll trade you 38 specials for them.

armoredman
January 3, 2011, 05:25 PM
There's your solution.

zippy13
January 3, 2011, 06:06 PM
To add to the confusion, the .38 Special was once known as the .38 Smith & Wesson Special. These days, while most folks simply call it the .38 Special, S&W still refers to the cartridge as the .38 S&W Special. The .38 Special has been around about 110-years and the confusion persists.

Dropping a competitor's name from a standard caliber's name is quite common. Look at the .44 Remington Magnum, Speer and Hornady call it simply .44 Mag. Remington calls the .45 ACP simply .45 Auto (they don't wanna mention Colt). As for the .45 Auto Rim, there's enough confusion that it mat be listed as .45 Auto Rim (Not .45 ACP).

gyvel
January 3, 2011, 06:54 PM
A note of caution: If you were to fire a steady diet of .38 specials in a .357 chamber, you would get the gas erosion effect, much the same way that a steady diet of .22 shorts in a .22 long rifle chamber will form a gas erosion ring at the point where the .22 short case ends which eventually leads to extraction problems when you try to fire long rifle. Likewise, a gas erosion ring will form where the .38 special case ends, eventually leading to extraction problems for .357 cases.

Jim Watson
January 3, 2011, 06:59 PM
Yes, eventually; but I shot thousands of .38 wadcutters at PPC in my Python and all it took to move up to low end .357s to make f - 180,000 for IPSC was a good cleaning.


.38 S&W cartridge O.D. and .38 Special chamber I.D. overlap in tolerance limits. I'd say Flyfish had some small S&Ws to chamber in ALL his .38/.357 revolvers, but I have seen a number of cases where one gun would take them and the next would not.

Winchester_73
January 3, 2011, 08:25 PM
No matter how many 38 S&Ws you have (not special) it would be a waste to fire them in 357 mag or 38 special revolver. The chief reason being that someone such as myself, would trade for them. You should be able to get 2 or more to 1 for 38 S&W if you want a common caliber in exchange. They wouldn't be very enjoyable either because they're relatively weak compared to 38 special and esp 357 mag. So they're worth money, and sought after, so you might as well make a business move and get something you could really use. You could probably sell them as well.

Here is 1 reason why I would like to get some 38 S&Ws (weakly loaded ones)

My S&W 38 SA first model aka baby russian

http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww332/357SandW/babyrussian1.jpg

twhidd
January 3, 2011, 09:52 PM
Now that there is purdy.

Magnum Wheel Man
January 4, 2011, 08:59 AM
I agree with the trading for 38 specials... though since I reload 38 S&W, I could see myself shooting them ( I use .360 round balls for weak guns, & .359 light cast bullets both with very good results ) in my close to a dozen 38 S&W's... I could shoot them for very low recoil loads... I've honestly never tried any of my 38 S&W loads in one of my 357 mags, I'd supect they could be tight, but if they fit, it shouldn't be a problem... if they do fit, I would not recomend shooting them in anything with a barrel longer than 4", & if they are old original loads, or lighter fresh loads, making sure the bullet leaves the barrel each time... the slightly larger bullet, coupled with the much lower pressure greatly increases the risk of the bullet not exiting the barrel... the longer the barrel, the greater the risk...

BTW... great looking "baby" you got there WINCHESTER... I have several model 2's one still does CCW duty :)

44 AMP
January 4, 2011, 10:46 AM
There was also a .38 Colt Special. It came out a couple years after the .38 S&W SPecial. The only physical difference was that he .38 Colt Special was loaded with a flat point bullet, while the .38 S&W Special used a round nosed one. Other than that and the name, they were identical.

This is probably why the round becme known as simply the .38 Special. As others have noted, the .38 S&W (not Special) is a different, shorter and slightly larger diameter case. It should not chamber in a .38 Special (or .357), however, tolerances being what they are, it might chamber in some guns.

Now that there is purdy.
NO, its not, Purdy is a high grade shotgun, and a few fine rifles!:D
It is a very nice old S&W though! Pretty. Pret-tey....pur-tey (with a T) for you southern types.:rolleyes:

carguychris
January 4, 2011, 11:08 AM
I've honestly never tried any of my 38 S&W loads in one of my 357 mags, I'd supect they could be tight, but if they fit, it shouldn't be a problem... if they do fit, I would not recomend shooting them in anything with a barrel longer than 4", & if they are old original loads, or lighter fresh loads, making sure the bullet leaves the barrel each time... the slightly larger bullet, coupled with the much lower pressure greatly increases the risk of the bullet not exiting the barrel... the longer the barrel, the greater the risk...
+1 Magnum, but I'd like to add one other warning:

Do NOT try this with jacketed bullets!

The vast majority of historic .38S&W ammo is been loaded with very soft lead bullets that will squeeze down from 0.361" to 0.357" caliber with no ill effects other than the possibility of long-barrel squibs as Magnum already mentioned. There will be a slight increase in pressure, but since .38S&W is loaded to very low pressure to begin with, it is generally inconsequential in a well-built .38Spl or .357Mag revolver. (In fact, I've been told that at some point in the late 1950s, S&W began using 0.357"-caliber barrels in their .38S&W products to simplify inventories, although I've been unable to verify this.)

OTOH copper jacketed rounds are much harder than lead and don't take to "dynamic resizing" very well. There is a very real possibility of an immediate squib if you try this with FMJ, and considering the round's low pressure, the squib may occur in the forcing cone and lock up the gun. :(

carguychris
January 4, 2011, 11:15 AM
There was also a .38 Colt Special. It came out a couple years after the .38 S&W SPecial. The only physical difference was that he .38 Colt Special was loaded with a flat point bullet, while the .38 S&W Special used a round nosed one. Other than that and the name, they were identical.
FWIW Colt did the exact same thing with the .38S&W round, and their flat-nosed loading was called the ".38 Colt New Police". Both were prompted by Colt's unwillingness to put the name of their arch rival on their guns. :rolleyes:
Come to find out, in spite of the size difference - which is as I stated - the .38 S&W ammo fit easily into the chambers of every .357 and .38 revolver I tested it in!
That's interesting compared to my test results, but (1) I did my test with a single round of new-production Magtech .38S&W that may have been sized on the large side of the tolerances, and (2) it almost fit in some of the chambers, but I didn't try to force it because I didn't want to wind up with a live round stuck in a cylinder of a gun I didn't own. :eek:

FlyFish
January 4, 2011, 11:31 AM
I'd say Flyfish had some small S&Ws to chamber in ALL his .38/.357 revolvers, but I have seen a number of cases where one gun would take them and the next would not.

That appears to be the case, Jim. Partly in response to your post, "Phase 2" of my little experiment was to run some of the .38 S&W ammo (Remington, if anyone cares) through the micrometer. The case mouths were consistently .3800-.3810 and the bases were .3810-.3820, both well below the SAAMI max of .3855 and .3865, respectively. I don't know how that might compare to other lots of factory .38 S&W - seems like carguychris's Magtech round was larger, but these Remingtons are definitely on the small side.

For comparison, I ran a few different brands of factory .38 Special through as well (don't have any factory .357 on hand), and all were approximately .3760-.3770 at both case mouth and base, much closer to the nominal SAAMI .3790.

atlctyslkr
January 4, 2011, 12:17 PM
I have one box 50rd made by Remmington. I have an old Colt Police Positive 38S&W so I have the right gun chambered for these rounds. I just haven't shot it in about 8 years and I might not ever. I was just wondering if it would hurt to squeeze off a few rounds in the woods. I'll just stick with some cheap week 38 Specials.

Magnum Wheel Man
January 4, 2011, 12:29 PM
my personal opinion... ( as a collector ) keep that box of ammo with the gun... old guns are always worth more money if you have ammo for them, than they are with an obsolite or impossible to get chambering...

I have a pristine 30 rimfire, that I made rifled chamber inserts to fit 22 shorts, or Colibri ammo, just so it could shoot somethin if you wanted... 30 rimfire dried up long ago...

I also picked up a box of 32 rim fire to keep with my old S&W tip up in 32 rimfire... I may never shoot the gun, but I feel the gun is more valuable as a shooter, than just a paperweight

Jim Watson
January 4, 2011, 12:35 PM
If your Police Positive is chambered in and marked for .38 S&W (Colt .38 Police Positive) then even "cheap weak" .38 Specials are not right for it.

carguychris
January 4, 2011, 01:48 PM
If your Police Positive is chambered in and marked for .38 S&W (Colt .38 Police Positive) then even "cheap weak" .38 Specials are not right for it.
+1, and if even if the .38Spl rounds will chamber, do NOT fire them!

As referenced in my earlier post, late 19th and early 20th-century swing-out cylinder Colts chambered in .38S&W were marked ".38 COLT NEW POLICE". Those simply marked ".38" are chambered in .38 Long Colt, the shorter and lower-powered predecessor of .38Spl.

Some shorter .38Spl loads will fit in the cylinders of .38 Long Colt and .38S&W* guns that lack stepped chambers (or have had the chambers lengthened by some dimwitted former owner), but that does not make .38Spl safe to fire! It is a substantially higher-pressure round that may cause a gun-destroying and shooter-injuring kB! :eek:

*FOOTNOTE: This warning does not necessarily apply to WWII-era British milsurp S&W K (medium) frame revolvers that were built to .38Spl standards and had the chambers lengthened by an importer. These guns suffer from split and bulged cases and related extraction problems, but they're not necessarily unsafe. This warning primarily applies to small-frame prewar revolvers such as the Colt Police Positive and S&W Regulation Police. These guns CAN and most likely WILL blow up if .38Spl ammo is fired through them.

Slimbo
January 10, 2011, 09:13 PM
i do believe in his last post he was referring to shooting 38 special from the 357 chambered gun, not the police positive.

i own a police positive that was built in 1928 that i regularly run wadcutter thru, fun shooting little pistol. :)

carguychris
January 11, 2011, 12:05 PM
Slimbo, atlctyslkr's last post states fairly clearly that he's firing .38Spl in a .38S&W Colt Police Positive.
i own a police positive that was built in 1928 that i regularly run wadcutter thru, fun shooting little pistol.
If it's chambered in .38 Long Colt or .38S&W, low-powered .38Spl "mouse phart" target loads might be loaded within the permissible pressure range, but I still strongly recommend against firing them. Please use the ammo the gun is intended to fire.

Slimbo
January 11, 2011, 01:04 PM
My police positive is chambered in 38 special.

carguychris
January 11, 2011, 03:40 PM
My police positive is chambered in 38 special.
Then it is a Police Positive Special and it is perfectly safe to fire using .38Spl ammo.

I realize it probably doesn't say "SPECIAL" on the revolver other than the caliber marking, but the .38Spl models are built on a slightly lengthened frame to accommodate the longer cylinder. The problem is that there's considerable confusion regarding standard Police Positives because many people nowadays don't understand that guns marked only with ".38" are chambered in .38 Long Colt and guns marked ".38 COLT NEW POLICE" are chambered in .38S&W.

bighead46
January 13, 2011, 12:25 PM
Yeah, trading is the way to go, the brass would be of value to a reloader.