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View Full Version : +P ammo thru non+P guns??


Biff Tannen
June 15, 2011, 02:34 PM
I have several handguns, stamped with ".38 special" (a Ruger Police Service Six and a Cobra Derringer to be exact). They are NOT stamped +P, however...

When I asked around if they will shoot +P ammo, I was met with the following advice:

GUN STORE GUY said: "They should."

FRIEND said: "125 +P and 158 +P should be fine. Keep them heavy and slow."

COUSIN said: "It's okay to shoot +P through non +P guns, but only every now and then. Keep it loaded with +P for self defense, but don't shoot +P at the range."

CO-WORKER said "No! Never! The gun might be severely damaged and might possibly malfunction or blow up in your hand!"

ANY ADVICE, EXPERIENCE, THOUGHTS, & OPINIONS?

BFR 475
June 15, 2011, 02:56 PM
If it is not rated for +P, I wouldn't. It may hold up, but they are tested at certain pressures and may not hold up to repeated firing of higher pressure rounds. With that said, if it is a Ruger, it is most likely over built like most all Rugers, and would probably be ok.

Wishoot
June 15, 2011, 03:02 PM
COUSIN is probably right.

Carry_24/7
June 15, 2011, 03:07 PM
I concur with BFR, if it was not engineered for it, it should not be done. This is for the sake of your safety, the health of the gun, and most importantly, the safety of other shooters around you.

C0untZer0
June 15, 2011, 03:09 PM
If you pour rubbing alcohol or linseed oil in your gas tank every now and then, it shouldn't blow up the engine.

If you do go fire +P rounds through a pistol that's not rated for it, please keep a video camera rolling so we can see the results on YouTube.

micromontenegro
June 15, 2011, 03:18 PM
Food for thought: +P ammo existed long before any gun was +P rated.

Edited to add: this thread will probably be the proverbial can of worms. Will get some corn for poppin', just in case.

oneounceload
June 15, 2011, 03:24 PM
More food for thought:

Many a nice older gun has been ruined because folks listened to keyboard commandos and shot wrong ammo through their vintage guns and ruined them

Eazmo
June 15, 2011, 03:36 PM
Listen to your co-worker, he gave the best advice.

BarryLee
June 15, 2011, 04:10 PM
Well, without sounding like too much of a smart a__ the answer is: you just don’t know and that is the problem.

Jim Watson
June 15, 2011, 04:25 PM
Is it a secret just what guns you have that are stamped ".38?"

Smith & Wesson says that any steel framed .38 Special (are yours .38 Special?) with a model number marking (post-1957) is strong enough for +P ammunition. Personally, I am at the Cousin level for the J frames although I would not worry about more shooting in a K frame gun.

Back when Colt made DA revolvers, they OKed their steel framed guns clear up to .38-44 High Velocity which is pretty much +P+.
Mind you, I wouldn't DO that now, because Colt parts and gunsmiths are scarce and if you beat one up, it is going to be a lot of trouble to fix.
But if I still had my Police Positive Special, it would certainly be loaded with +P "around the house" or on my person, with enough fired for occasional familiarization. As per your Cousin again.

Taurus publically "rates" their steel and aluminum/titanium revolvers for +P, although not the magnesium framed model. Magnesium? Wow.

Rossi "rates" their small Chief's Special knockoff for +P.

All Ruger .38 Revolvers are cataloged as +P capable.

Charter Arms Undercover is cataloged for +P.

So there we are, company specifications from six different manufacturers. Nobody seems worried about +P ammunition which is, after all, only 10% higher pressure than the present very conservative standard.

The guns may not be MARKED +P but nearly all recent production revolvers are "rated" +P by their makers.

Of course if you have an old, off brand, decrepit, or altered revolver, best stick to the plain vanilla ammo.

Bill DeShivs
June 15, 2011, 04:42 PM
Here is the real can of worms-
Why does everyone think +P ammunition is so absolutely necssary in their .38 Specials?

Skans
June 15, 2011, 04:48 PM
It really depends on the gun. I'm sure some of the older S&W .38's can handle +P just fine. But, when you get into newer super-light weight 38's, if they are not designed for +P, I'd stay away.

Onward Allusion
June 15, 2011, 04:51 PM
Bill DeShivs
Here is the real can of worms-
Why does everyone think +P ammunition is so absolutely necssary in their .38 Specials?

Because a regular pressure 38 Special cartridge will bounce off the BG. Heck, I believe one of the big-name-sages (name unmentioned for obvious reasons) in self-defense...etc...stated that the 38 Special is only good for target shooting these days. ;)

AZ Hawk
June 15, 2011, 05:03 PM
Bad idea...

old bear
June 15, 2011, 05:17 PM
Standards for 38 special max pressures are 21,000 P.S.I. Currently 38 Special + P ammo is rated at 18,000 P.S.I.

If you don’t feel comfortable shooting + P ammo full time don’t. Do not hesitate to load + P ammo for self-defense. If you have to use a firearm for real, damaging your weapon with over pressure ammo should and will be the least of your worries.

I shoot standard pressure ammo in my 38 special Model 60, yet when I carry it it's loaded with 147Gr +P+ ammo.

overkill0084
June 15, 2011, 05:21 PM
I'm voting with the cousin, with a caveat:
What kind/brand of guns are we discussing? Assuming they are in serviceable condition and of modern manufacture you should be fine. Great grand dad's 1912 Colt probably wouldn't care for that sort of thing.

Kreyzhorse
June 15, 2011, 07:02 PM
Any modern gun could likely take a few rounds of +P even if it wasn't rated for it. With that said, I would not recommend it.

8shot357
June 15, 2011, 07:26 PM
Standards for 38 special max pressures are 21,000 P.S.I. Currently 38 Special + P ammo is rated at 18,000 P.S.I.

Really, why is that?

ZeSpectre
June 15, 2011, 07:29 PM
The line between a fine firearm and a hand grenade is fairly narrow.

If the gun is not listed as rated for +P ammo then you may be fine...right up until you aren't and something blows and you may not (probably won't) get any warning before failure either.

In short. I wouldn't do it.

DG45
June 17, 2011, 01:43 PM
Is it a secret what make and model guns you're talking about? Pictures would be helpful. Maybe somebody could really help you if they knew what you were talking about.

I'm suspicious that your "38's", as you say your guns are stamped, are 38 S&W's or some other type of "38". All of my 38 Specials are marked "38 SPL" or "38 Special". There is a big difference between a "38" and a "38 Special" even before you start talking about the difference between standard velocity ammo and +P ammo.

James K
June 17, 2011, 01:51 PM
I know one thing. I loaded and fired .38 Specials that were a LOT hotter than any +P ever made through K frames and N-frame .38-44 revolvers and didn't blow anything up. The advice from the gun makers sounds good, but my loads went through guns made a long time before S&W used model numbers.

But if you encounter any LE +P+ loads in .38 Special, I recommend not firing them in any .38 revolver, only in guns made for .357 Magnum.

Jim

Biff Tannen
June 17, 2011, 07:00 PM
DG45 said: Is it a secret what make and model guns you're talking about?... I'm suspicious that your "38's", as you say your guns are stamped, are 38 S&W's or some other type of "38". All of my 38 Specials are marked "38 SPL" or "38 Special".
Haha good point! They are stamped with several other things, as all handguns are... Among them is "Special", as in ".38 Special"! Sorry for the confusion, and I have ammended the original question to say this.
Yes, the handguns are stamped with ".38 special" (a Ruger Police Service Six and a Cobra Derringer to be exact). They are NOT stamped +P, however.
Thanks for pointing this out, I did neglect to be specific!

publius
June 17, 2011, 07:13 PM
The Ruger, sure. The cobra, no waynowaynoway!

44 AMP
June 17, 2011, 07:31 PM
Lots of times, car/gun comparisons don't really match up well, but in this case, I think it might.

Is is ok to redline your engine? Is it ok to dump the clutch? Is it ok to run your engine (rated for regular) on high octane aircraft or dragster fuel?

All these things stress the mechanism, more than what it was intended for. Can you do it? Sure. For a while. Will problems show up? Sure, if you do it enough. How much is enough? Nobody knows for certain, with specific individual cars or guns.

Every gun design will have a "safety margin" of pressure it will take over and above standard ammo pressure, without failing. Modern guns have a pretty good track record, and it seems foolish to me to constantly run somewhere in that unspecified safety zone.

Your gun may take +p, but if it isn marked +p, and something does fail (big or small) I wouldn't expect the maker to stand behind it.

mavracer
June 17, 2011, 08:03 PM
+p loads are well below proof loadings. So they're not likely to blow up any modern 38. They may cause premature wear. Some guns are going to be more affected by the extra pressure and recoil. Your cobra falls in this catagory the soft materiaal and less than robust design will shoot loose in short time. The Ruger is at the other end of the spectrum it is basicly a short chambered 357 cylinder and frame size and metalurgy are the same for all Ruger Six series guns. It'll last forever and a day shooting the heaviest nastiest 38s you can find. Matter of fact iirc Rugers Six manuel says +p+ is ok

Webleymkv
June 17, 2011, 10:22 PM
+P ammo is definitely a no-go in the Cobra Derringer as it says so right in the manual

http://www.cobrapistols.net/pdfs/Products/Cobra-BigBoreDerringer-Manual.pdf

(+P) “Plus-P” ammunition generates pressures in excess of standard ammunition. These pressures can
exceed the margin of safety built into your Derringer and could therefore be dangerous, DO NOT use
(+P) loads in any Cobra Enterprises manufactured Derringer.

Ruger on the other hand doesn't really give specifics about what type of ammo they recommend in a Security Six beyond that "loaded to U.S. factory standards". That being said, most Security Sixes were chambered for .357 Magnum which operates at much higher pressures than .38 Special or .38 Special +P. The only reason that the Security Six was really offered in .38 Special only is because many police departments would not authorize the use of .357 Magnum revolvers by their officers. I would not have a second's hesitation about firing .38 +P ammunition in a Security Six.

Why does everyone think +P ammunition is so absolutely necssary in their .38 Specials?

Because there are very few good standard pressure defensive .38 Special loadings out there. Most either use too light or too easily expanding a bullet that penetrates shallowly or a heavier bullet that can't be driven fast enough to reliably expand. The only standard pressure .38 Special defense loadings I would personally trust are Hornady's 110grn Critical Defense or the 158grn LSWCHP and 125grn JHP loadings from Buffalo Bore. If I couldn't get one of those and couldn't use +P, I'd resort to 148grn HBWC.

JohnKSa
June 17, 2011, 10:29 PM
Two part answer.

1. Contact the manufacturer of the firearm if in doubt about using +P. Why take the chance?

2. It is highly unlikely that a gun will actually blow up from firing +P ammunition of the proper caliber even if it's not rated for +P ammunition. On the other hand, it's fairly likely that it will be damaged or experience accelerated wear if a significant amount of +P ammunition is shot in a gun when the manufacturer recommends against it.

9mm
June 17, 2011, 11:20 PM
I say, if my life depended on it, why go looking for trouble with a gun blowing up in your face. Buy another gun RATED FOR +P. Nuff said.

SwampYankee
June 18, 2011, 12:16 AM
A Ruger Security/Speed/Service Six in .38 Special will take .357 Magnum pressures without a problem. Ruger heat treated everything for .357 Magnum and just slapped in .38 Special cylinders when necessary for PD purposes. It was easier this way, especially since only a small portion of the guns were ever chambered for .38 special. I have used hundreds of .38 Special handloads that are the equivalent of .357 Mag pressures (5.5 grains of Unique behind a 158 grain LSWC bullet) in Sixes labelled for .38 Special and never had any issues.

The Ruger is not a problem. It does sound like a bad idea in the Cobra.

DG45
June 18, 2011, 12:52 AM
I agree that the Ruger should handle +P with no problem.

If were you, I wouldn't shoot +P ammo in that derringer even if it was rated for it. It looks like that hammer spur could tear a big chunk of meat out of the web of your hand between the thumb and forefinger. I used to have a Charter Arms revolver that did that. Purple hearts were given for lesser wounds. (John Kerry's anyway.)

If it were my gun, I'd load the derringer with 158 grain LSWC's. At the point blank range thats all that guns like that are good for you shouldn't have any trouble hitting center of mass and I seriously doubt that anybody is going to shrug off a liver/kidney/ heart/head shot from a 38 Special 158 Grain LSWC. Winchester and Remington both sell em. Pricy. Over $30 for box of 50 at Midway. There's another brand called Ultramax that sells something called a "remanufactured" 158 Grain LSWC for about $15 a box. I'm not sure what that is and in it may be fine, I don't know, but if I'm going to stake my life on a rcartridge, it'll be the Winchester Super X or Remington Express version, and I'm happy to pay their price.

bumnote
June 24, 2011, 01:59 AM
Unless I had to right then and there to defend myself sure no problem...as many rounds as it took.
Otherwise, really what's the point?
If you're at the range, it's only got to penetrate paper. So why potentially wear out the revolver out faster, or damage it, or in those rare instances injure myself?
I'm guilty of doing it myself once or twice when I was younger, I'm fine the gun's fine. Just pushing the revolver to the limit like that for nothing more thn simple plinking was pretty stupid of me.
Glad I'm older now and never do anything foolish anymore...:rolleyes:

CK I
July 2, 2011, 02:06 AM
Now would +P+ rounds do damage in a +P rated firearm? I am very interested in buying 127gr +P+ T-Series Winchester 9mm rounds for my Kahr CW9. I only plan on firing about 50 rounds to ensure reliability and to get used to the higher recoil rounds (however I didn't notice any difference between +P and standard rounds).

JohnKSa
July 2, 2011, 04:50 AM
Now would +P+ rounds do damage in a +P rated firearm? I am very interested in buying 127gr +P+ T-Series Winchester 9mm rounds for my Kahr CW9. Call Kahr and see what they say.

plouffedaddy
July 2, 2011, 12:17 PM
I would just call Ruger and see what they say...

Eagleks
July 3, 2011, 03:01 AM
Call the Manufacturer and ask them, they made the gun... they should know.
Why "guess", call them and find out.

CajunBass
July 3, 2011, 03:58 AM
I would no more worry about shooting P+ ammo in any 38 that didn't look like a piece of junk in the first place, than I would about being hit by a flying saucer going to my car this morning.

BUT!

Call the Manufacturer and ask them, they made the gun... they should know.
Why "guess", call them and find out.

This is the right answer. Who are you going to trust? The people who designed it, built it, and literally wrote the book on it, or "some guy on the computer" like me?

youngunz4life
July 3, 2011, 04:34 AM
test out some ammo of the best +P's you can find and/or prefer. Do not shoot this ammo all the time but test it out and shoot it multiple times. At this point, leave it loaded w/the goods for "the instance we all hope never occurs but are ready for". When shooting for fun after all of the above just shoot regular rounds. This is what I did for my 38 situation & was told was ok by the retired cop who sold me the piece.

all the best

aarondhgraham
July 3, 2011, 11:29 AM
Should be an indication that no one really knows for certain,,,
Which individual handguns can handle +P loadings.

Even if you contact the manufacturer,,,
You will get a lawyer response.

My take is to use the ammo the gun was designed for and nothing else.

My model numbered S&W pistols would probably handle +P just fine,,,
But I see no reason to push whatever envelope a gun has,,,
If I want magnum performance from a handgun,,,
I'll buy a magnum handgun.

JMHO

Aarond

seeker_two
July 4, 2011, 10:03 AM
The Ruger: absolutely OK with .38Spl+P...those are actually .357Mag guns with .38Spl cylinders...you could probably have the chamber holes reamed out for .357Mag and have no worries...except losing the collectors value (DA-Sixes in .38Spl are getting rarer by the day)...

The Cobra: absolutely NOT OK....not just from the construction aspect...but those derringers have a "healthy" amount of recoil in non-+P .38Spl....your hand would appreciate you not shooing +P ammo in it....

youngunz4life
July 5, 2011, 08:57 AM
The Cobra: absolutely NOT OK....not just from the construction aspect...but those derringers have a "healthy" amount of recoil in non-+P .38Spl....your hand would appreciate you not shooing +P ammo in it....

seeker, I have zero issue w/the recoil. You have me hands down on the construction bit w/the cobra. The biggest issue is just making sure I use hearing protection. I shot about 15 of my choice +P hollowpoints thru it, and that's the way I carry my derringer in case of an emergency. I agree just shooting it all the time with the wrong rounds is a bad idea. However, on other weapons it might be fine and the manual just sides with caution.

madmag
July 7, 2011, 09:49 AM
Many years ago Bill Ruger himself addressed this issue about the Security Six series. His direct answer was that you could shoot +P in un-limited amounts in the .38spl. Security Six model.

Added: BTW, modern day off the shelf .38spl. SAMMI +P ammo is not really that big a deal for pressure increase. Now in the old days there was some really hot +P ammo around. Some even hotter than todays +P+.

bighead46
July 7, 2011, 02:21 PM
Well Biff, lots of opinions. If you go to a used gun store and look at some of the antique 38 Special revolvers, some of them are pretty small and flimsy, and yet they are supposed to handle a 38 Spl. The Ruger you mentioned, I would think that ought to be okay if the only time you shoot the p+ is self defense. A lead bullet will generally allow you to drive it at higher velocity with less pressure so if you reload consider that.
I had a BIG talk with a couple of firearm mfgrs several years ago on all this. The 38 spl frames look like, mike out, etc just like the light 357 magnum frames. "Are they the same frame?" I would ask. I can't believe a mfgr would set up tooling for different frames. If they are the same frame then the only difference is one had a barrel put in stamped 38 Spl while another had a barrel stamped 357 Magnum.
I never got an answer, just a lot of nervous yammering from the various customer service departments.
Am I nuts????? I hope not- how do you know if you are crazy if you are really crazy??:D I wanted to talk to some guy out in production that would give me a straight answer like, "Sorry pal, we use different metals and heat treatment on the frames, there IS a different." Then I'd know. But as I said I never got an answer so I'm forced to err on the side of caution.
That said, I was told that all proof rounds that all 38 Spl guns get before leaving the factory exceed to P+ ammo. So if all you want is to carry it for self defense, a situation that may never even occur, I'd say you ought to be okay with at least the Ruger.

warrior poet
July 7, 2011, 02:41 PM
I seem to recall being taught that +P rounds are 1% to 10% over standard pressure and +P+ is ANYTHING above that... all the way up to proof pressure! Your gun, your hand... but I wouldn't risk mine. :eek:

FYI: I use +P in my 9mm for home defense (the firearm is designed for +P), and regular pressure for target practice. No sense in the extra wear and tear (and cost) even when designed for it. Yes, every once in a while I practice with +P, more for familiarity than accuracy.

madmag
July 7, 2011, 04:02 PM
Just one more time.

Any Ruger Security Six .38spl. series will handle +P ammo for your lifetime and your kids life time.....well that's conservative but you get the idea.:cool:

BTW, I wonder how many commenting about +P ammo have really shot a Ruger Six series using normal stuff followed by +P ammo? Well I can tell you that you can barely tell the difference. I even shoot Remington Express 158g SWLHP +P from my 70's vintage Smith 36 with no issue.

For any reasonably built modern steel .38spl revolver, shooting +P ammo is much ado about nothing.

madmag
July 7, 2011, 08:01 PM
The Ruger: absolutely OK with .38Spl+P...those are actually .357Mag guns with .38Spl cylinders...you could probably have the chamber holes reamed out for .357Mag and have no worries...except losing the collectors value (DA-Sixes in .38Spl are getting rarer by the day)...

My focus is the Ruger Six series, and that's the best answer to put things in their correct perspective. The question should really be, can a Ruger Six .38spl handle +P ammo @ 18000 psi when it actually has the same strength as the magnum model except for long cylinder. The .357 mag round is around the 35000 psi area. So the answer seems a moot point to me.:)