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Old October 25, 2011, 02:07 PM   #1
wvcollector
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.38 lc ammo

hello everyone, I have 2 revolvers that I have never shot, a new army colt model of 1901 that shoots .38 lc and a s&w victory revolver that shoots .38 s&w. My question is can I shoot .38lc in the victory revolver? or 38 s&w in the colt? I was just wondering if they were interchangeable. I have 2 boxes of the .38 s&w and have to order the 38lc . I am very confused about all the diff. types of 38 ammo out there . thank you
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Old October 25, 2011, 02:32 PM   #2
Jim Watson
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They are not interchangeable.
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Old October 25, 2011, 05:03 PM   #3
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There is some tolerance overlap, but generally .38 S&W won't fit in a revolver chambered for .38 Long or Short Colt. The reverse, a .38 Long or Short Colt in a .38 S&W chamber is too small; the case will bulge and may be difficult to extract. Best to use only the cartridge for which the gun was made.

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Old October 25, 2011, 09:48 PM   #4
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thanks guys, I appreciate the help, gonna buy the right stuff
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Old October 26, 2011, 08:06 AM   #5
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Oddly enough, I have a very old box of .38 S&W that also contained one round of .38 long Colt. At the moment I don't remember the headstamping on the Colt cartridge but I'm not so sure it said "long." At any rate, it is much longer than the .38 S&W, which I believe Colt called the .38 New Police.

It seems like people were getting confused a hundred years ago over the same thing.
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Old October 26, 2011, 10:54 AM   #6
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Quote:
I am very confused about all the diff. types of 38 ammo out there.
I'll try and do a quick rundown.

.38 Long Colt uses a 1.03"-long case and an inside-lubricated .357"-caliber bullet. The most common loading is a 140gr lead round-nose bullet. Most older Colt revolvers simply marked ".38" are chambered for this cartridge.

.38 S&W Special, usually known simply as .38 Special, is a higher-powered derivative of .38LC with a lengthened 1.16" case. .38LC handloads can be made from trimmed .38Spl cases, and .38Spl revolvers can safely fire .38LC, but .38Spl ammo should not be fired in a .38LC revolver due to its higher operating pressure.

.38S&W, .38 Colt New Police, .38 Police, .38NP, and .38/200 are all the same thing, depending on the cartridge maker, gunmaker, and military user. This cartridge was widely used in top-break revolvers from a bewildering variety of gunmakers, along with twist-open Merwin Hulberts* and small-frame swing-out cylinder revolvers from Colt and S&W. It has a 0.78"-long case and a 0.361"-caliber bullet. The case also has a slight taper, unlike .38LC and .38Spl.

This cartridge will fit in some .38LC and .38Spl revolvers with unusually sloppy chamber dimensions, but this practice generally isn't recommended. FWIW most commercial loadings use soft lead bullets that can safely be fired through 0.357"-caliber barrels- in fact, S&W reportedly used such barrels on some postwar .38S&W revolvers to simplify parts inventories- but firing military FMJ .38S&W or .38/200 ammo through a 0.357"-caliber barrel should not be attempted. FMJ bullets will not "snug down" into the sub-caliber barrel as readily as lead bullets and an over-pressure condition (and catastrophic kB!) may result.

.38 Short Colt is similar to .38LC but uses a true .38"-caliber outside-lubricated heeled bullet, i.e. the outside of the bullet is the same diameter as the case, like .22LR. Since the bullet is so much larger than a .38LC or .38S&W barrel, the above warning about overpressure applies; firing this cartridge through any other .38-caliber revolver should not be attempted. However, .38SC is pretty much an obsolete historical footnote today.

.38 ACP (aka .38 Auto) and .38 Super (aka Super .38 or .38 Super Auto) are Browning-designed automatic pistol cartridges that are totally incompatible with all of the above.

OK, so maybe that wasn't so quick.

*Footnote: A small quantity of .38S&W ammo was produced in the late 19th century branded as ".38 Merwin Hulbert". Although this ammo can be safely fired in any .38S&W firearm, this practice isn't wise because MH-branded cartridges have become somewhat of a Holy Grail to vintage cartridge collectors. Single cartridges have been sold for over $50 and an entire box will fund the purchase of a nice new gun or a Mediterranean cruise.
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Old October 26, 2011, 11:15 AM   #7
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38 ACP (aka .38 Auto) and .38 Super (aka Super .38 or .38 Super Auto) are Browning-designed automatic pistol cartridges that are totally incompatible with all of the above.
And there are compatibility issues themselves. a .38 Super Auto round should not be fired in an older .38 ACP pistol due to the increased pressures.

Did I turn this into TMI?
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Old October 27, 2011, 12:38 AM   #8
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Excellent data carguychris! Only thing I would add about the .38 Long-Colt, to avoid confusion...the bullet is .357 dia. BUT..the bore is nominal .360" groove dia. This was the reason the bullets were hollow-based..to obturate up into rifling grooves. (originally the Long-Colt was "heel-based" & outside lubed, like the Short Colt).
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Old October 27, 2011, 11:35 AM   #9
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If I'm not mistaken (I often am), the Colt army revolvers in .38 long Colt were bored straight through and will take just about any cartridge. There is no length limitation, which means a .357 magnum will fit. That's a bad idea.

A .38/200 is the .38 S&W loaded with a 200-grain bullet, although the British stopped using a bullet that heavy, I think, and switched to a full metal jacket (full patch, as they used to say). However, the .38 special was also available with a 200-grain lead bullet, supposedly, but I suspect they were not common.

Thirty-two caliber revolvers also came in this wide variety of variations, too. In fact, I think one catalog listing for H&R revolvers (or another similiar brand) listed something called a .32 Special, although I don't have it in front of me to cross check.
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Old October 27, 2011, 01:49 PM   #10
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Very good info, I just heard VTI is making a 38 LC conversion kit for 1858 .36 cal cap & ball revolvers. Think I'm going to try this.
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Old October 27, 2011, 01:51 PM   #11
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Earliest iterations of the Long Colt were apparently also loaded with heel based bullets.

Original loading was 18 grain of black powder behind a 150-gr. bullet.
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Old October 27, 2011, 06:30 PM   #12
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In the Model 1903 and later guns, the chambers were bored straight through so they would accept .38 Special. Of course, at the time, no one had ever heard of .38 Special +P+ or .357 Magnum, so there was no real problem. Since the new cartridge was called the .38 S&W Special, Colt didn't change their barrel markings.

As for the ".38/200", the British originally tested the cartridge with an American 200 grain soft-lead bullet called the "Manstopper" load. That was the round they claimed was equal to the .455 in stopping power. But then someone apparently mentioned the nasty old Hague Convention, so they had to go to a jacketed bullet and the Mk 2 ammo they used in WWII had a 178 grain jacketed bullet.

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Old October 27, 2011, 09:42 PM   #13
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"But then someone apparently mentioned the nasty old Hague Convention, so they had to go to a jacketed bullet and the Mk 2 ammo they used in WWII had a 178 grain jacketed bullet."

Sort of.

The .380 Mk I was adopted around 1924-1926 and remained the standard service load at least in to the middle to late 1930s.

It wasn't until it became pretty clear that there was going to be another European war, and Britain was going to be in it, that concerns over the Hague Accords (Geneva Convention, Hague Accords) were raised.

That's when the .380 Mk II was adopted, which had a jacketed bullet of approximate 180 grains.

Even so, when war came, there wasn't enough of the Mk II ammo to go around, so British troops were dispatched to France with both Mk I and Mk II ammunition, and both were used in combat.

But, when war came there wasn't a lot of either kind of ammo, so at the same time the British were also buying .380 ammunition on the foreign market, primarily from the Americans, and apparently much of it was Remington with the 200 gr. lead bullet.
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Old October 28, 2011, 10:31 PM   #14
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One interesting point about the Hague Convention (and the Geneva Convention as well) is that they apply only when the signatory nations are fighting each other, not within those nations or in their colonies. So the British didn't need to worry about jacketed bullets until the war with Germany, another "civilized" nation. Up to then it was a matter of "police action" within their "own" territory (India, etc.).

IIRC, the U.S. never signed either convention, but has agreed to abide by them. But it is a fine legal point whether either the Hague or Geneva conventions apply to fighting an organization like Al Qaeda, which is not a nation or a political entity and not a signatory.

It is interesting that British troops were issued lead bullets in WWII, though; technically, the Germans could have shot those soldiers if they were captured. Not that the British did a lot of shooting with their .380 and .455revolvers. The normal issue was 12 rounds (one box) of ammo, and there was one more box in unit supply if needed. So it was, "Here are your twelve rounds of ammo, Leftenant Smedley, now carry on with the war." No wonder they resorted to things like crimping the rims of 9mm and using them in their revolvers.

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Old October 29, 2011, 06:01 AM   #15
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So the British didn't need to worry about jacketed bullets until the war with Germany, another "civilized" nation. Up to then it was a matter of "police action" within their "own" territory (India, etc.).
I recall an old article on how the British took that position at the Hague Conferences; they said they could keep separate inventories of hardball and expanding bullets for "civilized conflict" and defense against savage tribesmen (Afghans and Dervishes, etc.), respectively. Their position failed and all agreed not to use expansive bullets. Then came the Mk VII...
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Old October 29, 2011, 07:43 AM   #16
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I finally got around to looking at this old cartridge I mentioned and the headstamp says only ".38 LONG." Not Long Colt. The maker was W.R.A.CO.

In referring to Barne's book on cartridges, he makes reference to a ".32-44" cartridge, apparently the same as .32 S&W Long and .32 Colt New Police. I'd never noticed that before but makes no comment on that variation of the name.

I also made mention earlier in this thread to a .32 special. That was a list caliber for the line of Iver Johnson safety hammerless revolvers, all of which were breaktops. I can find no other reference to such a cartridge, so it must be a .32 S&W long, since they do also list the .32 S&W as well as the .38 S&W. Both Colt and S&W offered revolvers in those calibers, too, as well as .22 rimfire. Apparently at the time, the .32 and .38 S&W cartridges were considered adequate for police work and the .22 rimfire suitable for home defense.
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Old October 29, 2011, 06:51 PM   #17
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The .32-44 (S&W Target) is NOT the same as .32 S&W Long.
It is an entirely different cartridge made for the No 3 New Model Target.
A long long case with bullet seated below the mouth. It is not cylinder length like the .38-44 Target but is longer than .32 S&W Long. It is also larger, a true .32 with .321" bullet.

I have read of the .32 Special and it is not the same as .32 S&W Long. It predates the 1896 .32 S&W Long and was loaded for IJ topbreaks with cylinders longer than the .32 S&W.

The various .32s (and a lot of other rounds low in power by 21st century standards) were considered adequate for self defense in the pre-antibiotic era when any penetrating torso hit could be lethal... eventually.
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Old October 30, 2011, 08:21 AM   #18
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Thanks for the information. I learn something new all the time, although I don't usually make the effort.

The .32 special I mentioned was in fact only listed for Iver Johnson revolvers in the reproduction 1940 Shooter's Bible, which is a very interesting reference. A word of caution, however, first mentioned by Skeeter Skelton, is that just because something was listed in a catalog, it didn't mean you could actually find it in a store. But were we to be transported to those golden days of yesteryear, there could still be a few surprises.

We generally form a lot of images based on movies and television. Mostly we have the idea that all cowboys carried Colt Single Action revolvers. And everyone else had either an S&W M&P or a Colt OP or Police Positive. The bad guys, of course, used Lugers. Sometimes you can see surprising things, however, in an old movie, although it shouldn't detract from the fact that it's still only a movie.

I have an obscure movie made in 1947 that was set twenty years earlier. To impress his girlfriend, a "meek" lingerie salesman decides to act like a tough gangster. He soon finds himself in front of a real gangster, who has his own way of impressing people. He pulls out (barrel first!) a large frame break-top S&W revolver. I was impressed!
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Old October 30, 2011, 11:33 AM   #19
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we have the idea that all cowboys carried Colt Single Action revolvers
An old article in the Sacramento Bee about the gold rush town of Bodie, Cal. said you seldom see an Army or Navy revolver in a belt scabbard. The usual weapon is a Bulldog revolver in a canvas or leather lined coat pocket.

The article also called Bodie "Bad Shot Gulch" for the high number of shootings and the low number of casualties. Another shattered image, few frontiersmen were fine shots. Not all like my SASS Wire sig line "That ol' Jim Bridger; you can't say he don't never miss, but he don't miss MUCH, and he don't miss BY much.
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Old October 30, 2011, 04:01 PM   #20
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Well, there were cowboys in Californey and they were a breed apart from those in the plains states, though I rather doubt their shooting skills were much different. We have cattle in the East, too, but back here it's just called "working cattle." To say you were a cowboy or wrangler would be putting on airs. Most of the people around here who take care of horses are probably from Argentina anyway.

As you know, many of the early cowboy movie stars had really been cowboys, although some of their early, pre-motion picture adventures just may have been embellished. Others got their start by working as wranglers for the studios when a lot more horses were used in movies. In any case, some of the gear that was used in the early movies was a lot more authentic than that used later, especially all of the fast draw holsters seen on television in the late 1950s. But I always get a kick out of seeing something unusual gun-wise in an old move--or even a new one.
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