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Old January 21, 2015, 05:36 AM   #1
simonrichter
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.38 special vs. 9mm in revolvers

since it is possible to make revolvers in 9mm w/o half moon clips or the like, I wonder why .38 special is still the first choice (for all who don't go as strong as .357, of course) for revolvers.

9mm ammo is more compact, slightly stronger than .38 in terms of ME, and, most important, 9mm is as readily available as .38 but much cheaper - and that will most likely remain that way in the foreseeable future.

Is it simply tradition or are there any advantages of .38 I didn't grasp?
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Old January 21, 2015, 06:51 AM   #2
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Maybe from a reloading stand point in that you can apply a roll crimp to help hold the bullet under recoil on a 38 but from a performance stand point I would say the 9mm has it hands down. Especially from a short barrel. If I were looking for a compact revolver for SD I wold strongly consider the 9, if it were for more of a recreational use, I would go with the 38.
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Old January 21, 2015, 07:57 AM   #3
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I wonder why .38 special is still the first choice (for all who don't go as strong as .357, of course) for revolvers.
Probably availability more than anything else. And I have a hunch that 9mm from a snubby isn't going to have much more oomph than a 38, anyway.
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Old January 21, 2015, 09:21 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simonrichter
since it is possible to make revolvers in 9mm w/o half moon clips or the like, I wonder why .38 special is still the first choice...
All of the mechanisms for ejecting rimless cartridges from a swing-out cylinder revolver are relatively complex, costly, and trouble-prone compared to an ejector star.

Additionally, 9mm has a problem with case setback due to the slight case taper. If a case expands more than normal on firing, it may act as a wedge, pushing itself backwards and potentially jamming itself against the recoil shield. This may cause the cylinder to drag or even lock up completely. The S&W Model 547 had a firing-pin-actuated plunger in the recoil shield to prevent this from happening; this adds yet more cost and complexity to the design.
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Old January 21, 2015, 10:58 AM   #5
carguychris
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Originally Posted by skoro
And I have a hunch that 9mm from a snubby isn't going to have much more oomph than a 38, anyway.
It has quite a bit more oomph. In terms of muzzle energy, 9mm is typically closer to .357Mag than .38Spl+P out of a snubby, but without the ridiculous muzzle blast of the typical full-house .357 load. It's reasonably comparable to some of the commercial .357 "Short Barrel" loads.

One minor drawback is that you're basically limited to 147gr max, and unless you use handloads for SD (which most authorities don't recommend), you'll also be limited to bullets with a round-nose or truncated-cone profile intended to feed through an automatic pistol. .38 or .357 snubbies can utilize LHBWC, LSWCHP, or DEWC bullets that leave sharper-edged holes than a 9mm JHP bullet that fails to expand.
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Old January 21, 2015, 11:19 AM   #6
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Maybe if the 9MM keeps gaining popularity in revolvers the gun makers, and ammo manufacturers will team up to make a 9X19 Rimmed round.
Designing a new frame size to take advantage of the 9X18's shorter length.
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Old January 21, 2015, 11:28 AM   #7
Mike Irwin
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"somebody would come out with a 9X19 rimmed cartridge."

Somebody did -- Federal and Charter Arms in the late 1980s.

The 9mm Federal cartridge was a 9mm Luger with a rim. Charter Arms spent a lot time, money, and effort on the project, designating it the Pit Bull, IIRC.

Charter Arms folded within months of introducing the revolver, and Federal stopped manufacturing the cartridge, and stopped shipping what it had. Rumor was that they have a warehouse full of it.

Supposedly Federal pulled the cartridge after Charter's demise because the round will easily chamber in breaktop revolvers chamered for .38 S&W. I can only imagine what a disaster that would be.


As for the observation that the 9mm cartridge outperforms the .38 Special in a smaller package, and that makes the 9mm the more logical choice, there's one BIG problem with that...

Gun manufacturers have never made a reduced-size frame specifically for guns chambered in 9mm to take advantage of its smaller size.

I remember a Guns & Ammo article back in the day decrying the fact that the Charter Pit Bull was nothing more than a .38 Special-sized revolver rechambered to this new cartridge.

Basic question was... Why did they only go half way?
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Old January 21, 2015, 11:33 AM   #8
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Somebody did -- Federal and Charter Arms in the late 1980s.
I wonder if it would meet with better success with the much improved ammo of 30 years later?
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Old January 21, 2015, 11:37 AM   #9
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Gun manufacturers have never made a reduced-size frame specifically for guns chambered in 9mm to take advantage of its smaller size.
Taurus did that with .380 but I can't remember if they did that with 9mm or not. OTOH, Taurus moon clips are notoriously bad and only hold some brands if ammo securely.
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Old January 21, 2015, 11:47 AM   #10
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Taurus did that with .380
That little downsized Taurus made just a bit longer to take 9x19, and a 9X19R cartridge could be quite interesting.
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Old January 21, 2015, 12:06 PM   #11
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Revolvers chambered for the 9mm are more expensive and use an awkward arrangement to hold the rounds. 38 are easier to reload. Most importantly the 38 is "special" don't you know.
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Old January 21, 2015, 12:19 PM   #12
Glenn E. Meyer
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Check out the Korth revolver thread in this subforum.
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Old January 21, 2015, 12:28 PM   #13
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a couple of reasons I can think of right away.

cost being number one. compare the cost of a S&W 642 to whatever the S&W 9mm snub nose comparable revolver is.

next, loading and unloading. the .38 spl can be loaded with speed strips, speed loaders, or one at a time, all in any gun chambered for it. not so with the 9mm as those few guns out there are limited in loading applications.

next is size. the 9mm revolver is no smaller than the .38 spl revolver even though the cartridge is considerably shorter.

lastly are recoil and availability. rounds being equal in weight and +p'ness, the 9mm will "kick" more in the same platform. you can walk in to any sporting goods store and find several 38 spl guns in stock, that's no usually the case with a 9mm revolver.
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Old January 21, 2015, 12:30 PM   #14
Don P
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Maybe from a reloading stand point in that you can apply a roll crimp to help hold the bullet under recoil on a 38
I use 160 grain lead bullets without a crimp grove using a tapper crimp and life is good and to date have not had any bullets work their way out of the case due to recoil
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Old January 21, 2015, 12:45 PM   #15
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For me, I own the 38 revolvers because all but one can also shoot 357s. Two guns in one.
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Old January 21, 2015, 01:20 PM   #16
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I handled a 9mm revolver at a gunshow recently. The ejection of rounds was not very positive. There are still kinks to work out.

The 9mm Luger was not designed with revolvers in mind.

One of the many things I have to wrap my head around a good reason.
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Old January 21, 2015, 01:25 PM   #17
Glenn E. Meyer
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Paradigm shaker for all the critiques as I said before

http://www.gunsamerica.com/blog/kort...hot-show-2015/
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Old January 21, 2015, 01:31 PM   #18
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Interesting Glenn, seems that adding tiny little parts like those extractor pins makes it extract better. Worth watching forums to see if complaints crop up about tiny little extractor pins.
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Old January 21, 2015, 01:31 PM   #19
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"...the much improved ammo of 30 years later..." More about no demand.
"...a performance stand point..." Performance is relative to purpose. Lots of .357" match bullets, but few, if any, .335".
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Old January 21, 2015, 06:07 PM   #20
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"...the much improved ammo of 30 years later..." More about no demand.
A bit of a circle that the right gun could break.

"More about no demand." due to the available ammunition in 9MM Luger at the time.
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Old January 21, 2015, 06:30 PM   #21
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The .38 special +P remains popular because the weight and size of the revolvers. These small revolvers are usually 13-15 ounces. A .38 +P revolver usually weighs 1/3 less than the equivalent 9mm model. In addition, the .38 +P already has a good deal of recoil in these small frame guns. The 9mm isn't a low recoil cartridge in a small frame revolver, in fact, it's a good deal more recoil than a standard pressure .38 or .38 +P.

Cost of construction is important, too. The .38 is a very low pressure cartridge and can be built on very light alloy framed revolvers without special consideration. To achieve the same weight as a .38 +P, a 9mm revolver would have to be built from expensive materials, like scandium aluminum alloy used by S&W. Usually, a 9mm revolver has to be all steel, which means they weigh significantly more. Typically, a manufacturer will rechamber a .357 sized frame for 9mm in a revolver, so the decision is usually between a .357 or 9mm, which are generally the same size and weight.

Cost of ammo seems to come up in a lot of threads, especially in the last few years. Casual shooters won't break the bank by buying a box or two of .38 specials a month to keep their skills up. Many of us that shoot a lot are reloaders and the .38 is cheap and easy to reload and requires only the most basic of setups.

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Old January 21, 2015, 06:58 PM   #22
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While I am inclined to think the 9mm is not a $1000 bucks worth better than. 38 Special, I confess that Korth is pretty interesting. Maybe fits a niche for someone who has not invested deeply in .38 special.
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Old January 21, 2015, 07:19 PM   #23
lee n. field
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Is it simply tradition or are there any advantages of .38 I didn't grasp?
No moon clips --> one less thing to break or loose.
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Old January 21, 2015, 09:25 PM   #24
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Taurus actually did make a 9mm revolver that was shortened to the cartridge. For some reason they discontinued it- but the now make curved guns and standard .38 frames with tiny grips and stubby barrels and clear side plates.
You don't have to use clips in the Taurus revolver, but if you don't you need a stick to poke the empties out with.
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Old January 21, 2015, 10:34 PM   #25
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New here, but I'v been reading your guys forum. Last summer I picked up a Ruger Blackhawk convertible 9mm / 357 and I have to say it's one of sweetest little shooters that I've shot. I do a lot of 9mm shooting with it and when I want something a little more I put in the 357 cylinder. It shoots great groups with either. I've been casting and loading for 357 for years and I also started casting and loading for the 9mm. I've got several rounds loaded up for it and as of right now the 9mm cost me $4.05 per 50 round box
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