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Old September 24, 2008, 10:07 PM   #1
561packrat
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38 Super VS. 9mm

Does a .38 Super cartridge offer anything that a 9mm doesn't provide? Other than being a non-military round in places that have restrictions on ownership. I had a colt 70 gov model in .38 super. It would punch holes in things you pointed it at but the cartridge had a reputation as being inherently inaccurate, something about the rim being supported on 23 degree segment of rim instead of headspacing on case mouth. I bought it because of a soft spot for oddballs and under dogs. But given equally strong, modern actions could a super be loaded to give more perfomance than a hot 9mm?
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Old September 24, 2008, 10:14 PM   #2
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In general, 38 Super packs a LOT more punch than 9mm. It has a LOT more case capacity.
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Old September 25, 2008, 01:48 AM   #3
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And it costs a LOT more $$ for ammo
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Old September 25, 2008, 01:55 AM   #4
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That's why people that shoot the 38 Super generally reload for it.
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Old September 25, 2008, 09:51 AM   #5
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<> differences

There is enough difference in case capacity between the two to matter, but not that much.....

IMactualE, not enough to matter for 'street guns'.
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Old September 25, 2008, 10:05 AM   #6
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At the high end of factory loadings (Corbon) a .38 Super will get you 75 fps more than 9mm +P with the same bullet weight, and that in the 5" barrel of a Colt versus 4" common in 9mm P.

The Super will likely have more advantage with heavy bullets and is a nice smooth feeder in the Colt.
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Old September 25, 2008, 10:10 AM   #7
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I seem to recall reading years ago that the additional velocity of the .38 Super did not translate into significantly increased stopping power, but that was when all you could get was FMJ ammo. Probably a different story now.

One other thing--thee was something about the way the semi-rimmed case fit the chamber that reportedly affected accuracy adversely. I understand that can be remedied by doing something to the barrel. May require a new one.

Can anyone help ere?
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Old September 25, 2008, 10:24 AM   #8
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How heavy LOL

There is no statistical velocity advantage between the two when using common 'factory ammo'.
At some point lighter bullet weights can be over-driven (from either).

To improve accuracy contact Bar-Sto Precison and send them your gun for a hard-fit Bar-Sto barrel.

Similar results may be found from EGW, or others.
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Old September 25, 2008, 12:43 PM   #9
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A little reading...

http://www.38super.net/

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/38SuperTo9mm.htm

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/C...mo%20Tests.htm

In general the 38 Super can do a bit more than the 9mm can. When the 9mm tops out at it's peak +P+ pressures the Super has not reached it's yet and can usually do 100 or so fps more. It can also do more with heaviers bullets.

More commercial ammo is available than at any time in the last 70 years. Low cost ammo like Aguila and Armscorp is available for plinking and drills. The better stuff is usually more expensive than it's counterparts in 9mm.

It shines in handloading.

Not as powerful a round as the 9x23 but there is a lot more commercial ammo available.

The Winchester stuff is quite good and moderate in price. Cor-Bon is better and also more expensive.

These days barrels from Colt, Kimber, STI , Springfield, Sig (when you can find a Sig in .38 Super) and other manufacturers who make guns in .38 Super are generally quite good.

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Old September 25, 2008, 01:54 PM   #10
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The story on .38 Super accuracy is fairly simple. When Colt first began production they headspaced off the vestigial semi-rim, and as you can imagine that didn't work to well. The aftermarket, noting the foolishness of this, began to make barrels designed to headspace off the mouth and as a result had much improved accuracy. Later (in the 80s IIR) Colt started to do the same on production guns. My new Colt has fine accuracy and will hang with any other pistol with no problem. I have also never had or heard of 1911 pattern pistols having an issue with rim lock like you here .32 ACPs having from time to time.

I've chrono'ed several loads of Super .38 through my Lightweight Commander. I posted a review of it with some chrono data in my post here. Comparing it to actual speeds that I've observed, on the range, from other person's pistols the super runs about 100 FPS faster THEN THE 9mm Para. Now this is no scientific; just my humble observations. The .38 Super does this at lower pressure than the 9mm +P No matter how you cut it the .38 Super bests the 9mm; one can argue degree, but the super has superior ballistics.

I think a better comparison would be to the .357 Sig. The Sig is a very good cartridge with excellent consistency and reliability, but again operating at a much higher pressure. A really good comparison would be between .357 Sig and 9x23 Win.

If you consider the 9 and the 38 equals then it becomes a matter of platform preference. If you prefer the 1911 then the .38Super/9x23 is the best choice for every reason except (possibly) the availability and price. If you prefer 9mm sized guns then stay with 9mm or upgrade to the .357sig.

All that being said - I do like my Super .38


Last edited by mnw42; September 25, 2008 at 02:42 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old September 25, 2008, 02:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
The story on .38 Super accuracy is fairly simple. When Colt first began production they headspaced off the vestigial semi-rim, and as you can imagine that didn't work to well. The aftermarked noting the foolishness of this began to make barrels designed to headspace off the mouth and as a result had much improved accuracy. Later (in the 80s IIR) Colt started to do the same on production guns.
Thank you for refreshing my memory.

Shows how long ago it has been!
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Old September 25, 2008, 06:00 PM   #12
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I'm not involved in competitive shooting but I seem to recall the .38 Super got a boost because it could be loaded hot enough to make "major" in competitive shooting.
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Old September 26, 2008, 12:32 PM   #13
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I've done quite a bit of shooting and reloading of both 9mm and .38 Super over the past 40 years. The Super can be reloaded to give higher velocities than the 9mm for any given weight bullet. But, in my experience, modern .38 Super FACTORY ammo gives little, if any, advantage over the factory 9mm, especially if the best 9mm +P and +P+ loads are considered. I did some chronographing of .38 Super and 9mm factory ammo in similar 1911 type Colt and Kimber pistols with 5" barrels.


.38 SUPER: Remington 130 grain ball 1210fps in Colt, Federal 130 Ball 1247fps in Colt, Win. 125 grain Silver Tip: 1160fps in Kimber/ 1164fps in Colt.

9MM: Win 115 grain WWB Ball 1140fps, Win 124 grain NATO ball 1214fps, Federal 115 grain 9BPLE +P+ 1330fps, Speer 124 Gold Dot +P 1301 fps, Win 115 LEO +P+ 1392fps.

CorBon ammo has always displayed ballistics toward the upper end in any caliber I've tested. I decided to chronograph the 125 grain CorBon in both my 9mm and .38 Super 5" Kimber Target II pistols, Identical except for caliber. .38 Super = 1314fps, 9mm = 1339fps.

Anyway, fun discussion and ymmv.
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Old September 26, 2008, 10:26 PM   #14
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Super 38 is potentially hotter...

But only if one reloads the round. Factory rounds are seriously underloaded currently.

The 38 Automatic (38 ACP) was introduced in 1900 and was the equal of the 9mm Luger. The Super was introduced in 1927 and was a significant improvement. However, between lawyers and lawsuits, most ammo has been downloaded ever since.

So, current Super 38 loads are very similar to 9x19. The Super has more chamber space and therefore can burn more powder and drive bullets faster at the same pressure levels. But only if one reloads.

Accuracy? Most all modern Colt barrels headspace on the casemouth, and all the aftermarkets (notably Kart and BarSto) headspace on the casemouth. Accuracy is as good as any other equally prepared 1911 or other pistol.

Just for the record, I've been a Super 38 fan long before IPSC discovered it. I've been back in the Super business for several months now (divorce and such, don't ask) and I'm rather pleased.
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Old September 27, 2008, 03:02 AM   #15
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I am a fan of the Super .38 cartridge myself but I agree to get it's full potential you need to reload for it.
Since headspacing off the case mouth the accuracy really improved.
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Old September 27, 2008, 09:34 AM   #16
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I'm not involved in competitive shooting but I seem to recall the .38 Super got a boost because it could be loaded hot enough to make "major" in competitive shooting.
Well, it was not considered safe to run 9x19 at major pressures. However, USPSA now allows open guns to run major 9. So it is now an especially bad idea to pick up 9mm ammo at the range because it may be someone's reloaded 9x19 loaded to push a 125gr bullet at 1350 fps....or more.

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Old September 27, 2008, 02:37 PM   #17
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Well, it was not considered safe to run 9x19 at major pressures.
Correct. It was a rules issue, not a matter of capability. By the way, I'm not necessarily arguing that it's safe to make major with 9mm, only that it can be done.
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