The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Skunkworks > The Harley Nolden Memorial Institute for Firearms Research

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old October 1, 2002, 04:21 PM   #1
Hard Ball
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 28, 1999
Location: California
Posts: 3,925
How Old is the .38 Special Cartridge?

When was the .38 Special Smith&Wesson cartridge introduced?
The first revolver that could have been chambered for it was the .38 Hand Ejector introduced in 1899 and produced from 1899 to 1902. Some books imply that the .38 Special cartridge was offered in 1899. Others say it was introduced sometime after 1899 but before 1902. Still others say it was not intoduced until sometime after 1902.
Also, since it was a blackpowder cartridge, does any one know the weight of the powder charge in the original .38 Special cartridges?
__________________
"I swear to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemeis domestic or foreign WHOMSOEVER."
Hard Ball is offline  
Old October 1, 2002, 06:33 PM   #2
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 19,127
From U.S. Cartridges and Their Handguns, by Charles Suydam (one of the real cartridge experts).

Quote

First chambered in the First Model Hand Ejector of 1899, the .38 Smith & Wesson Special cartridge was first made by UMC early in 1899; cartridges were sent to Smith & Wesson for trial in May of that year. Original loads were of 18 grains of black powder, with an overall cartridge length of 1.570". In June, 1899, the powder charge was changed to 21.5 grains; bullet weight was presumably the 158 grain still used. The first smokeless powder loadings were made in September, 1899, probably 3.6 grains of Bullseye. In 1908 the overall length wa reduced to 1.560"; when the present nominal length of 1.550" was adopted is not known.

Unquote.

The revolvers made for the military were marked "S&W .38 MIL.". Civilian guns were marked .38 S&W SPECIAL &/U.S. SERVICE CTG'S". The U.S. service cartridge was, of course, the cartridge we know as the .38 Long Colt.

The same cartridge was loaded as the .38 Colt Special starting in 1906; the only difference was that the "Colt" round had a flat point bullet which some considered as greatly increasing the "stopping power".

HTH

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Old October 1, 2002, 11:37 PM   #3
C.R.Sam
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 29, 1999
Location: Dewey, AZ
Posts: 12,859
Quote:
The revolvers made for the military were marked "S&W .38 MIL.". Civilian guns were marked .38 S&W SPECIAL &/U.S. SERVICE CTG'S". The U.S. service cartridge was, of course, the cartridge we know as the .38 Long Colt.
Clarification...guns chambered for the .38 Special may also use the .38 Long Colt BUT NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

The .38 Special case is approx 0.13" longer than the .38 Long Colt.

Sam
C.R.Sam is offline  
Old October 2, 2002, 10:11 AM   #4
Waitone
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 19, 2000
Posts: 2,904
Edited to remove really stupid question.
__________________
"Given a choice between good intentions and human nature, I'll go with human nature every time."--Me, 2002.
Waitone is offline  
Old October 2, 2002, 11:16 PM   #5
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 19,127
Hi, Sam,

IIRC, the military guns were marked that way because the ammunition the military had was the old .38, but the gun chambers were actually the same as for the civilian model and would accept the .38 Special as well.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Old October 3, 2002, 08:12 AM   #6
BigG
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 19, 1999
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 4,302
Jim Keenan

Quote:
...U.S. Cartridges and Their Handguns, by Charles Suydam (one of the real cartridge experts).
So, Jim, I take it "Cartridges of the World" (Barnes) is not the definitive source?

Is the book you cite still available or only on used book market?

I'd like to get a copy.
__________________
o "The Earth is degenerating today. Bribery and corruption abound. Children no longer obey their parents, every man wants to write a book, and it is evident that the end of the world is fast approaching." Assyrian tablet, c. 2800 BC

o "In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man brave, hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds, however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." Mark Twain

o "They have gun control in Cuba. They have universal health care in Cuba. So why do they want to come here?" Paul Harvey

o TODAY WE CARVE OUT OUR OWN OMENS! Leonidas, Thermopylae, 480 BC
BigG is offline  
Old October 3, 2002, 10:49 AM   #7
Mike Irwin
Staff
 
Join Date: April 13, 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 35,696
Barnes is a good general source of information, but by no means is he definitive.

People like Suydam, Fred Datig, Dave Andrews, Jean Huon, etc., have all written exceptional books on cartridge history and development.

Unfortunatly, there's one great truism about books on cartridges. They tend to be expensive. VERY expensive.

10 years ago I made a short list of about a dozen books that I wanted for my cartridge library. Factoring in shipping, I was close to $700.
__________________
"The gift which I am sending you is called a dog, and is in fact the most precious and valuable possession of mankind" -Theodorus Gaza

Baby Jesus cries when the fat redneck doesn't have military-grade firepower.
Mike Irwin is offline  
Old October 3, 2002, 11:52 AM   #8
Chuck Dye
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 28, 2002
Location: Oregon-The wet side.
Posts: 825
BigG,

Go to http://www.addall.com, a great book metasearcher, and run the used book search (no hits in new books.) You will find copies for from $35 to $75. Run the search on the author's name and you will also find his book on rimfire cartridges.
__________________
Gee, I'd love to see your data!
Chuck Dye is offline  
Old October 4, 2002, 01:31 PM   #9
Hard Ball
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 28, 1999
Location: California
Posts: 3,925
I have one of the S&W 1899 Model government contract revolvers. Its cylinder will accept .38 Special caertridges.
__________________
"I swear to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemeis domestic or foreign WHOMSOEVER."
Hard Ball is offline  
Old October 4, 2002, 02:54 PM   #10
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 19,127
Hi, BigG,

Since you addressed me directly, I will have to say I agree with Mike. COTW is pretty good, but has some errors. It is a good general source, but Datig's books and some others are much better. The best on U.S. military is the two volume set "History of United States Military Small Arms Ammunition (1880-1939 and 1940-1945)" by Hackley, Woodin, and Scranton. The basic sources were Frankford Arsenal records, covering the ammuntion FA itself made. But FA was also the contracting office for all the government ammunition contracts for the period, so those records were available also.

A neat figure to impress your buddies: From late 1941 to late 1945, Frankford turned out 1.8 million rounds of .30 caliber ammunition. Per day.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Old October 5, 2002, 12:18 AM   #11
Mike Irwin
Staff
 
Join Date: April 13, 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 35,696
Ah Geez.

How could I forget Bill Woodin?

Nice guy. I've spoken with him a number of times.
__________________
"The gift which I am sending you is called a dog, and is in fact the most precious and valuable possession of mankind" -Theodorus Gaza

Baby Jesus cries when the fat redneck doesn't have military-grade firepower.
Mike Irwin is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:55 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2014 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.08622 seconds with 9 queries