The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > Hogan's Alley > Handguns: The Revolver Forum

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old October 31, 2006, 09:28 PM   #1
gwsaunders
Junior Member
 
Join Date: October 31, 2006
Posts: 2
What's the difference-.38 vs .38 special?

Hello all,

I'm new to handguns and need some help.

I recently purchased a Smith & Wesson .38 S&W SPL. + P.

I went to but some ammo so I can learn how to shoot and the guy told me if I had a .38 , that I couldn't use .38 special ammo. He said the case is longer in the special and I could injure myself by using the wrong ammo. Is this correct? I didn't really find any ammo that just said .38, it was all .38 special.

I'm guessing my gun is indeed .38 Special ( since it has the SPL) but I just want to make sure before I go to the range so I don't lose a few fingers by using the wrong ammo.

Thanks,

Greg
gwsaunders is offline  
Old October 31, 2006, 09:46 PM   #2
skeeter1
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 11, 2006
Location: Northeast Ohio
Posts: 3,403
Greg--

No need to worry. If it's a Smith marked .38Spl, it'll handle +Ps just fine. I'd suggest starting with 148gr. semi-wadcutters for target practice. Then get yourself a box of 125gr +Ps and have some real fun!
skeeter1 is offline  
Old October 31, 2006, 09:52 PM   #3
Rimrod
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 19, 2005
Location: Behind enemy lines
Posts: 1,309
Hi Greg and welcome to TFL.

You are right that the SPL on the side of your barrel is for 'special'. You will never see a box that just says ".38" because there are several different types of ammunition in that caliber. (ie, .38 short colt, .38 long colt, .38 S&W, .38 WCF and etc.)

Also if your gun is marked with the +P on the barrel it will fire .38 spl +P ammo as well, which is loaded a little more powerful than the standard .38 spl. Many guns that aren't marked +P will fire them also, although some shouldn't be used with them. Just in case that question ever comes up.
Rod
Rimrod is offline  
Old October 31, 2006, 09:56 PM   #4
FRANK1669
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 4, 2006
Posts: 124
the 38 Smith and wesson is a very old cartridge that was originaly desined for black powder the rim thickness is a little less than the 38 special and the case overall length is much less. The 38 special I believe was next step in this cartridge, then they bumbed it up again to the 357 mag. If your barrel is marked 38 spl just stick with that. Better yet Does thre range you shot at sell ammo if so take it with you and get the ammo there the first time. Or if possible take it to the shop were you plan to get the ammo. One Last thought if you are new to shooting Welome to a great Hobby. It is fun but can be dangerous so look into some training before going off on your own. Good luck and enjoy
__________________
It is better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6
FRANK1669 is offline  
Old October 31, 2006, 10:49 PM   #5
ISP2605
Junior member
 
Join Date: November 25, 2002
Posts: 954
The rd on the left is a .38 S&W SPL +P.
The rd on the right is a .38 S&W.
Yours is the one left. Some .38 SPL guns will chamber a .38 S&W rd but the rds are different and have different dimensions. Don't interchange them.
You do not have to shoot +P rds in it but you need to get ammo that is labled either .38 S&W SPL or .38 SPL. Same rd, just labeled differently, depends who makes it. +P rd will be a hotter loaded rd. As long as you are just shooting at paper and unless you are loading for defense then there's no need to spend the extra money for +P and beat your gun with the hotter rd.
I can't think of any company who is making .38 S&W guns right now. Lots of older guns chambered for that rd. Hasn't been much modern development of that rd and the companies that load that rd tend to keep them pretty mild due to all the old, and often cheap, guns chambered for it.

ISP2605 is offline  
Old October 31, 2006, 10:58 PM   #6
joab
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 17, 2002
Location: Orl Fla
Posts: 3,254
Just about any round that could be referred to as .38 is obsolete except the .38 special.

Your dealer should have been able to ascertain what round you needed by simply asking you what gun you were buying for
__________________
Joab the Bugman
Founding member- Lords of Pomposity
It's a Yankee Doodle thing
joab is offline  
Old October 31, 2006, 11:27 PM   #7
matthew temkin
Junior member
 
Join Date: June 7, 2002
Location: NYC
Posts: 369
The .38 S&W was a popular cartridge early in the 20th century and was chambered in some very compact revolvers.
The .38 special came out in 1902 to give a boost to the .38 Long Colt, which proved to be a dismal stopper during the Phillipine war waged at the turn of the century.
When S&W chamberd the .38 SPL in J frame revolvers (1950) it spelled the demise of other, less potent .38 & .32 compact revolvers.
Your revolver is indeed a .38 Spl, and can handle any type of .38 loading.
matthew temkin is offline  
Old November 1, 2006, 01:30 AM   #8
The Real Wyatt
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 10, 2006
Location: South Central KY
Posts: 339
Just go to Walmart and ask for some 38's. Whatever they give you will be fine to shoot in your pistol. There ain't that much variation in the .38 cartridge today. Quit worrying about it.
The Real Wyatt is offline  
Old November 1, 2006, 03:36 PM   #9
gwsaunders
Junior Member
 
Join Date: October 31, 2006
Posts: 2
Awesome info!

Thanks everyone.

The fella at Bass Pro made it sound like I was going to blow my hand off if I shot ammo with the longer casing.

Greg
gwsaunders is offline  
Old November 1, 2006, 04:03 PM   #10
Gonzo_308
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 31, 2000
Location: Sunbury, Ohio
Posts: 1,368
Did he tell you about the time he destroyed an Iraqi tank with his Desert Eagle Sidearm?
__________________
Loaded like a freight train, flyin' like an aeroplane!
Gonzo_308 is offline  
Old November 3, 2006, 04:56 PM   #11
clayshooter2u
Junior Member
 
Join Date: September 16, 2006
Posts: 12
I am shooting with a friend this weekend, and it took him forever to save the money to but this gun. He said it is a 38, I asked does it say 38 SPL on the side " NO " was the answer.I want to surprise him with some extra rounds while at the range. Are 38 Special 's OK ? As you can see by my user-name I'm NOT a pistol shooter.
clayshooter2u is offline  
Old November 3, 2006, 06:06 PM   #12
Gonzo_308
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 31, 2000
Location: Sunbury, Ohio
Posts: 1,368
Clay, we need to know what make/model gun it is.

THere's a great liklihood he's fine and it's a 38 Spl but we can't say for certain without more info.
__________________
Loaded like a freight train, flyin' like an aeroplane!
Gonzo_308 is offline  
Old November 3, 2006, 07:44 PM   #13
clayshooter2u
Junior Member
 
Join Date: September 16, 2006
Posts: 12
Gonz,
Thanks for not beating me up on this, I will call and find out , thank you for your understanding. If you ever have a Sporting Clay or Shotgun O/U Question feel free to ask. Again Thanks
clayshooter2u is offline  
Old November 4, 2006, 11:23 AM   #14
walter in florida
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 3, 2005
Location: Seminole County, Florida
Posts: 240
38 or 38?

I bought a S&W model 33-1 for 70 dollars and the pawn shop at that time thought he was pulling one over on me. He only put 38 revolver on the back gound check He did not tell me it was a 38S&W and I did not ask. I supect this happens a lot.
walter in florida is offline  
Old November 4, 2006, 12:20 PM   #15
Mike Irwin
Staff
 
Join Date: April 13, 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 36,242
"The 38 special I believe was next step in this cartridge (.38 S&W)..."

Nope, it wasn't.

The .38 S&W was an evolutionary dead end.

When the US Military began having problems with the .38 Long Colt revolvers it was using the Philippines, Smith & Wesson started designing a more powerful cartridge that they hoped they could sell to the military.

They took the .38 Long Colt, lengthened the case so that it would hold 21.5 grains of black powder, and increased the lead round nose bullet weight to 158-grains. Velocity was around 800 fps.

That load became THE .38 Spl. load, and for years was the standard police load in this country. It's still loaded today.
__________________
"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 5, 2011, 02:07 AM   #16
skiwesser
Junior Member
 
Join Date: October 5, 2011
Posts: 4
Which bullets can I use?

Hi guys,
I'm new to shooting so I'll probably have a ton a stupid questions!

first what all cartridges can I use in my S&W airweight 38 SPL. CTG. ?

You guys said SPL is special right, that's what I figured, what does the CTG> mean?

Also what do you guys think of this particular handgun?

I like it, it's light. trigger doesn't require much pull, scared me first time. hair trigger

I guess.

Thanks in advance
Wes
skiwesser is offline  
Old October 5, 2011, 02:54 AM   #17
natman
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 24, 2008
Posts: 1,474
Quote:
You guys said SPL is special right, that's what I figured, what does the CTG> mean?
Cartridge.
natman is offline  
Old October 5, 2011, 02:58 AM   #18
Crazy88Fingers
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 20, 2010
Location: Florida
Posts: 939
Quote:
The fella at Bass Pro. . .
That might be your problem right there. Some of the guys at Bass Pro actually know what they're talking about. But a lot of them are just working a part-time minimum wage job, and they got stuck in the ammo aisle. Find a good local gun shop, and give them your money.

Any .38 revolver made in the last 100 years is most likely a .38 Special. You'd have to go a bit out of your way to find one that isn't.
__________________
"And I'm tellin' you son, well it ain't no fun, staring straight down a .44"
-Lynyrd Skynyrd
Crazy88Fingers is offline  
Old October 5, 2011, 05:09 AM   #19
GM2
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 31, 2011
Location: Southeast, USA
Posts: 350
Quote:
That might be your problem right there. Some of the guys at Bass Pro actually know what they're talking about. But a lot of them are just working a part-time minimum wage job, and they got stuck in the ammo aisle. Find a good local gun shop, and give them your money.

Any .38 revolver made in the last 100 years is most likely a .38 Special. You'd have to go a bit out of your way to find one that isn't.
Exactly. good advise
__________________
Good character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking.
GM2 is offline  
Old October 5, 2011, 07:52 AM   #20
ScotchMan
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 3, 2011
Posts: 1,359
I have seen .38 Super ammo locally; that is the only thing you could confuse with .38 spl that is available where I am. But it wouldn't load in a revolver (I think) because it doesn't have a rim.
__________________
Everyday Loadout

NRA Instructor
NRA Member
ScotchMan is offline  
Old October 5, 2011, 07:55 AM   #21
Mike Irwin
Staff
 
Join Date: April 13, 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 36,242
.38 Super has a very tiny rim.

In fact, it's possible to fire the .38 Super in a .357 Mag. revolver. There's just enough rim.
__________________
"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 5, 2011, 08:35 AM   #22
Daryl
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 11, 2008
Posts: 2,350
".38" is a caliber.

".38 special" is a cartridge.

That's the difference.

Daryl
Daryl is offline  
Old October 5, 2011, 08:48 AM   #23
Jim Watson
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 25, 2001
Location: Alabama
Posts: 11,289
I was going to say something about reading the instructions but then I went to the S&W site and looked at the Owner's Manual. It is generic for all models and calibers of recent production revolvers and the material in it about standard and +P ammunition is confusing to ME and I have been doing this stuff for 50+ years.

At one time you would have gotten a leaflet that listed suitable ammunition for that model. It would have said something like ".38 S&W Special also accepting .38 Short Colt, .38 Long Colt, .38 Special Midrange, .38 Special, and .38-44 High Velocity*"

*.38-44 High Velocity was the equivalent of +P+ and would have been recommended only for the big N frame .38s and .357 Magnums.


SPL is the abbreviation for Special. CTG is the abbreviation for Cartridge.
The all caps marking seems to confuse the novice gunowner, but that is all it is, no secret code; although I have been tempted to make something up.
(If you see an older gun marked, say, .32 S&W CTGE, it is not a Smith and Wesson, it is a minor make like Harrington and Richardson or Iver Johnson in the .32 S&W CALIBER. Smith and Wesson do not, did not use CTGE as an abbreviation for Cartridge.)
Jim Watson is online now  
Old October 5, 2011, 08:49 AM   #24
carguychris
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 20, 2007
Location: Richardson, TX
Posts: 5,585
Quote:
first what all cartridges can I use in my S&W airweight 38 SPL. CTG. ?
If it is not marked "+P" on the barrel, you should use ammo marked "+P" very sparingly, or avoid it altogether. The aluminum alloy frames on pre-1996 Airweights aren't very strong and are known to stretch or crack with frequent use of +P. The K frame (full-size 6-shot) Airweight models are stronger than the J frame (compact 5-shot) models and are better suited to occasional +P use.

Some very early Airweights were made with non-magnetic alloy cylinders. These guns are quite rare and it's very unlikely that you have one, but if you do, DO NOT FIRE IT. The alloy cylinder is too weak to withstand anything but light target loads, which is why S&W stopped using them after only a couple of years. FWIW these guns are valuable collector's items. If you somehow stumbled across one, you should be able to sell it and buy several other guns, or maybe a gun and a nice vacation.
Quote:
Also what do you guys think of this particular handgun?
S&W has made a variety of Airweight models. The easiest way to identify a recent one is to look inside the yoke cut for an "M" with a number after it- e.g. "M37-1", which would be a Model 37, engineering revision (dash) 1.
__________________
"Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules... MARK IT ZERO!!" - Walter Sobchak
carguychris is offline  
Old October 7, 2011, 01:15 PM   #25
Webleymkv
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 20, 2005
Location: Indiana
Posts: 9,934
Quote:
Some very early Airweights were made with non-magnetic alloy cylinders. These guns are quite rare and it's very unlikely that you have one, but if you do, DO NOT FIRE IT. The alloy cylinder is too weak to withstand anything but light target loads, which is why S&W stopped using them after only a couple of years. FWIW these guns are valuable collector's items. If you somehow stumbled across one, you should be able to sell it and buy several other guns, or maybe a gun and a nice vacation.
Also, do not send such a gun back to S&W for repair, refinishing, or anything else. From what I've heard, a alloy-cylinder gun will return from S&W with a steel cylinder thus ruining the collector value.
__________________
Smith, and Wesson, and Me. -H. Callahan
Well waddaya know, one buwwet weft! -E. Fudd
All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures. -J. Caesar
Webleymkv 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 07:24 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 0.12730 seconds with 10 queries