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Old April 27, 2013, 09:20 PM   #1
alfredr
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.38 special +P ?

I think I pretty much know the answer, but need to hear it from you all. Any .357 magnum gun will shoot .38 spl +P without a problem ever, right? Except maybe for a little crud building up in the chambers that might interfere with extracting .357 cases, right?

But how far back , or how old of a gun chambered in .38 special can handle the .38 +P? A Smith and Wesson pre- Model 10 would definitely be out, correct? How about a hypothetical S&W 64? It is a model 10, but in stainless steel. How much different is it from the pre- 10, or is it definitely out too?

Thanks, all. alfredr
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Old April 27, 2013, 09:37 PM   #2
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S&W "officially" allows or endorses +P ammo in any .38 Special they've made since they started giving their guns model numbers in the 1950's. And some have argued that older .38 Special factory ammo likely ran higher max pressures than current +P offerings do...and if I'm being honest -- it's hard to argue against them.
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Old April 27, 2013, 10:01 PM   #3
Dragline45
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Quote:
But how far back , or how old of a gun chambered in .38 special can handle the .38 +P?
I don't have a definitive answer for you but ill help you out as much as possible. The reason guns weren't marked +P back in the day is because the +P designation just did not exist. Many of the +P rounds today are loaded to the same pressures as some plain old .38 special from the past. This is why many think the whole +P thing is a gimmick. But since the +P designation has come out, some manufacturers have been pushing +P ammo to it's thresholds under SAAMI specs. So in a sense, there can be a pretty big leap in what one companies version of a +P load is compared to anothers. Some might just be marketing gimmicks, but others truly are loaded to their treshhold, and I tend to stay away from them.

S&W says their older Model 60 and 36 revolvers which state .38 special on the barrel, but not +P since the term just did not exist then, can handle +P loads. How hot of a +P load can they handle? It's tough to tell, and the closer you get to the rounds threshold the more chances you are taking with possibly damaging your gun or putting undue stress on it. The golden rule with running +P through older guns not rated for it, due to the rating just not being around, is to keep them loaded with +P and run a cylinder or two of +P through the gun sparingly.

I used to have an older model 640 in .38 special, I kept it loaded with +P rounds and fired a cylinder or two of +P's every now and then. It was before the +P designation really became a standard, but even through the gun was not marked +P it handled them just fine. In fact later models I believe were marked +P, and FBI models were marked +P+.

I will note, some cheaper guns of the past should stick to standard pressure ammunition. Make sure to do some research on any older gun marked .38 special before you start running +P's through them.

Last edited by Dragline45; April 27, 2013 at 10:08 PM.
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Old April 27, 2013, 11:18 PM   #4
.38Catt
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Any .357 magnum gun will shoot .38 spl +P without a problem ever, right?

As to this, Any .357 Magnum REVOLVER that I know of will shoot .38 spl +P.

There are some .357 magnum autos, and I have know idea about those. And, obviously, .357 sig would not cycle .38 spl.

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Old April 28, 2013, 06:29 AM   #5
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.357 magnum auto? Hmmm, certainly did not mean for my question to include them. I wasn't aware, wasn't thinking of them. This is the revolver forum, after all.

And from the other responses, don't do it in a pre- model 10, but a 10 or a 64 should be okay?

And .357 magnum revolvers are okay with it, be they Colt, Ruger, Smith and Wesson or whatever.

Thanks all. If .38 special +P is what I can find, I don't have to avoid it entirely.

alfredr
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Old April 28, 2013, 08:22 AM   #6
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I really doubt you are going to blow up any 38 special revolver shooting +p, but on the older stuff you will probably wear the gun out sooner.
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Old April 28, 2013, 10:49 AM   #7
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Quote:
I used to have an older model 640 in .38 special, I kept it loaded with +P rounds and fired a cylinder or two of +P's every now and then. It was before the +P designation really became a standard, but even through the gun was not marked +P it handled them just fine. In fact later models I believe were marked +P, and FBI models were marked +P+.
I have one of the 640's, a 1990 no-dash, laster-etched inside the frame, "Tested For +P+". I contacted S&W to ask about details of when and why they marked some guns that way, but they seemed not to want to talk about it--basically lawyered up and said they don't recommend using +P+, although I had stated and meant that I had no intention of doing so.

I can't imagine a steel J-frame not handling +P ammo (which is all I carry, by the way) safely. These little critters are pretty strongly built. I have no ownership experience of alloy-framed J's, but I think most people who like me have the .38 Special guns of either kind mostly practice with standard-pressure ammo and carry +P.
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Old April 28, 2013, 11:02 AM   #8
Dragline45
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Quote:
I have one of the 640's, a 1990 no-dash, laster-etched inside the frame, "Tested For +P+". I contacted S&W to ask about details of when and why they marked some guns that way, but they seemed not to want to talk about it--basically lawyered up and said they don't recommend using +P+, although I had stated and meant that I had no intention of doing so.
My 640 was also a no dash, but not the +P+ marked one you have. From what I understand they were for the FBI as backup guns or off duty guns and are somewhat rare. Hold onto that one.
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Old April 28, 2013, 12:09 PM   #9
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Actually, ANY revolver marked 38 Special is fine for +P as this ammo is NOT loaded to excessive pressure.

I have engaged in a futile effort to debunk the notion that +P 38 Special ammo is any sort of a hot load. For many years I have tried in vain to make people understand that +P is a weak target load and NOT any sort of high performance load. I don't anticipate any more success here than I have had anywhere else but here goes.

http://shootingwithhobie.blogspot.co...-saxonpig.html

BTW- Here's my well worn 1942 M&P pictured with the 500 rounds of factory +P and the 600 rounds of +P+ (125@1150) that I ran through it on a lark. Of course, as expected, there was zero effect to the gun from this exercise.

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Old April 28, 2013, 01:56 PM   #10
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I have several times backed up Saxon Pig in his efforts but I haven't had any more success than he has.

All I will add is that during a recent chronograph session a friend wanted to test some "FBI Loads", being Remington's version of the +P 158g SWC-HP. The average for 6 rounds from a 4" barreled L-frame 357 Mag was just a few FPS over 800, which used to be the normal 158g RN velocity from a 4" barrel. I had him run 6 of my +P rounds, Buffalo Bore's 158g SWC-HP GC 38 Special through the same revolver. They averaged right at 1100 fps.

I leave it to the reader to decide which is the actual +P loading.

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Old April 28, 2013, 02:14 PM   #11
Dragline45
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Quote:
Actually, ANY revolver marked 38 Special is fine for +P as this ammo is NOT loaded to excessive pressure.
Sorry but that's just not true and bad advice. There are alot of older cheap .38 special revolvers that can barely handle standard pressure .38 special and are best suited for the trash heap. I will agree that most .38+P ammo is not loaded to excessive pressures, but companies like Buffalo Bore load them pretty much to the max, I would not run them through one of those old cheap Spanish reproductions of a S&W revolver.
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Old April 28, 2013, 03:46 PM   #12
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I have read SaxonPig's shooting with hobie link. I will not worry about +P unless I pick up a very old gun of questionable quality.

Thank you.

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Old April 28, 2013, 05:21 PM   #13
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I agree with Saxon Pig also. I have a M&P pre-10 4 inch made around 1953 to 1954 that has many rounds though it with so called +P ammo. I have even run some of the hot Buffalo Bore +P rounds with not a problem. As far as the question about running +P in cheap 38 specials. My take is this, cheaper guns no matter what they are not going to last long if a person shoots a lot of rounds in the revolver. And I talking about the internal parts as well as related to the so call +P rounds. The pressure for 38+P is only about 10% higher than todays standard pressure. Back before 1972 the standard pressure 38 special was running at 800 to 850 fps. Look at most of todays +P specs. They run around the same with the exception of Buffalo Bore.
I know for myself I would never trust my life with a "cheap" revolver.
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Old April 28, 2013, 05:40 PM   #14
Super Sneaky Steve
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Saxon, you wrote:
Quote:
I believe the SAAMI pressure limit for the .38 Special is 21,500 PSI
Where did you get that number? I'm finding listings for .38 Special to be 17,000 PSI and .38 Special +P to be 18,500 to 20,000 PSI.
http://www.lasc.us/SAAMIMaxPressure.htm
http://www.handloads.com/misc/saami.htm
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Old April 28, 2013, 05:43 PM   #15
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Quote:
My 640 was also a no dash, but not the +P+ marked one you have. From what I understand they were for the FBI as backup guns or off duty guns and are somewhat rare. Hold onto that one.
It's not going anywhere. It's been my EDC for over twelve years. Really like and trust that little gun. It'll go to my son when I croak.
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Old April 28, 2013, 06:15 PM   #16
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I believe steel S&W K frame revolvers made after 1957 are safe for +P ammo. The steel K Frame models are 10, 14, 15, 64, and 67. I may have a a couple but these are the main ones I am aware of. BTW S&W started number their revolvers in 1957. I have a S&W model 10-8 and shoot +P almost exclusively in it.
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Old April 28, 2013, 06:33 PM   #17
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SaxonPig, I'm afraid that your pressure numbers are incorrect. According to SAAMI, the MAP (maximum average pressure) of standard pressure .38 Special is 17,000 psi and .38 Special +P is 20,000 psi.

http://www.saami.org/specifications_...essureData.pdf

So, this means that any .38 Special ammo generating MAP less than or equal to 17,000 psi is standard pressure while any .38 Spl ammo generating MAP of at least 17,001 but not more than 20,000 psi is .38 Special +P. Given this, your 16,500 psi figure for Winchester standard pressure ammo seems correct as that's 500 psi below maximum as does the 18,000 psi figure for +P as that's 1,000 psi above standard pressure MAP but less than the 20,000 psi +P MAP.

As to the "hotter" ammo of yesteryear, I'm a bit skeptical of old advertised velocities. The ammo manufacturers have been made more honest over the years as chronographs have become more accurate and more widely available. I suspect that many of the older advertised velocities that you cite were overly optimistic, taken from long test barrels, or both. Likewise, pressure testing equipment has improved and I suspect the pressure of many older loadings turned out not to be what the manufacturers thought they were.

You are probably partially correct in that ammo makers and loading manuals have become more conservative over the years. In our litigious society, people simply cannot be trusted to understand that "never exceed" is a rule rather than guideline or that "modern guns in good condition" excludes granddad's no-name Spanish S&W-copy.

As to the OP's original question, I can only speak to S&W and Ruger as those are the brands I'm most familiar with. Officially, S&W rates any all-steel K-Frame made after the introduction of model numbers (1957 or 1958 depending on the source of information) as OK for +P ammo and all J-Frames made after 1999 (introduction of the "magnum" J-Frame). While S&W is silent on the subject, any .38 Special N-Frame in good condition is also just fine for +P ammo (.38/44 Heavy Duty and Outdoorsman later designated Models 20 and 23). Any Ruger chambered for .38 Special is also fine for +P ammunition.

Personally, I think that S&W is somewhat conservative in these recommendations and I would classify post WWII K-Frames and pre-1999 J-Frames as OK for limited use of +P ammunition so long as they are of all-steel construction. "Airweight" models including the Models 12, 37, 38, and 42 are best fed standard pressure only.

I am not familiar with Colt's recommendations on the issue, but I personally would treat them the same as vintage S&W's: post-WWII steel-frame guns are OK with limited use of +P ammo while aluminum frame and pre-WWII specimens should be relegated to standard pressure only.
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Old April 28, 2013, 06:58 PM   #18
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I'm so tired of this question

For God's sake never shoot or even handle 38 Special +P ammo;for doing so will destroy your best heave duty revolver and could Possibly change the earths rotation
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Old April 28, 2013, 07:12 PM   #19
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The current SAAMI pressure standards for .38 Special and .38 Special +P are 17,000 CUP and 18,500 CUP respectively. Colt said that any of their steel .38 Special revolvers should have no problem with +P ammunition; S&W is more cautious, as noted above. But +P+ is another story.

The reason companies play cagy about +P+ is that it was made only on contract for the federal government for the LEAA, for law enforcement use only. It was never sold to the public or even to individual LE agencies. There is NO SAAMI standard pressure, and as far as the public is concerned, it never existed.

I have seen boxes of .38 Special +P+ marked for use only in revolvers chambered for .357 Magnum, others say modern revolvers in good condition.

The +P+ has been called a politically correct cartridge. Reports indicate that it was intended to allow police to effectively have .357 Magnum power without the public relations baggage that came with use of the .357 Magnum itself, seen in some communities as an example of runaway police power.

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Old April 28, 2013, 08:11 PM   #20
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As above, there is no standard for +P+ ammo. It was loaded to the specs of whatever agency that ordered it.
This means it could be a moderately hot load to a near Magnum level load.
You have no way of knowing what it is.

For an eye opener on the use of +P and especially +P+ ammo in the Colt "D" frame revolvers check out pages 47, 48, and especially page 49 in Jerry Kuhnhausen's Colt shop manual Volume One.
Shown are several Colt "D frame aluminum and steel revolvers seriously damaged or just blown apart by hot ammo.
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Old April 28, 2013, 08:39 PM   #21
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Quote:
The current SAAMI pressure standards for .38 Special and .38 Special +P are 17,000 CUP and 18,500 CUP respectively.
I don't believe this is accurate. The numbers are correct, but these should be PSI and not CUP, which are not the same...and for which no formula of "conversion" exists.
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Old April 28, 2013, 09:04 PM   #22
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I don't anticipate any more success here than I have had anywhere else but here goes.
I followed your link and must say that it was an interesting and enjoyable read, and fun from a historical standpoint, but I would have trouble endorsing it also, so I suppose your anticipation is...correct?!

Your article spends an awful lot of time talking about muzzle velocities and precious little time discussing maximum chamber pressure. It was a relief when I finally got to where pressure is even mentioned.

Certainly, we can't safely or logically classify the pressure of ammunition based solely on "rated" speed or even chrono tested speed? Anyone who has even dabbled with a chrono can quickly tell you the nearly endless different variables that can alter your chrono returns... everything from ambient temperature to the amount of solid roll-crimp that's been imparted on a loaded round, to say nothing of the vast differences you'll see from different firing platforms. It's never been a secret that you could pull two handguns from the same production line only moments apart and in consecutive serial numbered order and see differing chrono results from them with the "same" ammo.

You also never even lightly touch on the fact that Speer #8 has a well-earned, nearly "hall of fame" reputation in any (certainly halfway decent) handloading circles for some nearly 'what the hell were they thinking' loads published in it.

It's also not mentioned the colossal differences in the tools, equipment and intellectual advancement of pressure testing being done today from the old, retired methods used in the past.

Factory ammo these days is NOT made up from anybody's load data. Not any normal, full production ammo factory such as Federal or Winchester. They don't build their .38 Special+P rounds with "x.xx grains of xxx powder" Instead, they brew the load up according the the extremely advanced pressure testing equipment they use -- especially since the powder they are using is rarely exactly the same.

Winchester and Federal are members of SAAMI, so they build their products to meet the industry standard, the standard that was formalized by SAAMI. So when Winchester sells a product that says .38 Special+P on it... the bullet weight may be XX, constructed of XX in the shape and form of XX and it may go XX speed from any range of firearms, but you can bet that when it's in a properly spec'd chamber (built to a SAAMI specified industry standard), that loaded round will have a maximum pressure of 18,500 PSI at it's peak. No matter what you might get from it on your chrono in any firearm you launch it with.

And when they sell a box of ammo that is marked .38 Special, it will spit out results that will not exceed 17,000 PSI when it is pressure tested.

None of this really has anything to do with what Lee Jurras was doing and what the ammo companies were advertising in popular magazines 70-80 years ago and certainly nothing whatsoever with what Speer printed in some of their epic manuals that folks still reference whenever they want to make an unsuspecting newbie say "HOLY CRAP!"

The equipment, technology and capabilities to accurately and absolutely measure pressure NOW may make everything seem "weak" compared to yesterday, but it might be easier to wrap our heads around it if we simply admit that yesterday...if it "felt right" and "looked right", it got stamped "safe" and sent out the door.
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Old April 28, 2013, 09:18 PM   #23
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I was going to post about mythical claims in years past before chronos were available to the average person and about advances in measuring chamber pressure. Sevens did it first and did it better.
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Old April 28, 2013, 09:51 PM   #24
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Yes, SAAMI pressure NOW is 20,000. They lowered it for no reason other than on advice of counsel. When S&W introduced the 38 Special in the 1890s it was designed for 21,500 PSI and that was the standard until 1972 or 74 when they lowered it.

I believe I mentioned in my paper that there are specialty ammo makers who do push the envelope. I speak of mainstream (Winchester, Remington, etc.) +P ammo when I call it weak and unimpressive. C'mon, a 125 at 925 is a powerhouse? Give me a break.

I also mention in the text that the quality of the gun must be considered. Obviously if one has a cheap, broken down imported pistol it likely should not be fired at all. But such guns are never mentioned in these questions, the queries almost always center of various Colt and S&W revolvers. All of these are fine with +P in any amount.

Again the notion of the beginning of model stamping (on S&Ws) is raised as a guideline. Why? What is different about the last gun made W/O the model number and the first one made with it? Nothing.

As for the observation that things are different now with new technology and all, then why weren't guns blowing up back in the good old days if those loads were so overpressure but we didn't know it?

I am not reading any criticism here that I have not already dealt with in the paper.

Like I said, I know I am tilting at windmills. You all are free to do what you think best. If you think that 125@925 load is going to blow up or wear out your S&W then by all means avoid it.
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Old April 28, 2013, 09:56 PM   #25
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model S&W revolvers are good togo for .38+p fie away
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