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Old May 6, 2013, 08:24 PM   #1
Super Sneaky Steve
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.38 +P+ brass

Over the weekend I sized and flared many thousands of .38 special brass on my trusty single stage press (ice pack on my shoulder as I type) and I came across one shell that was special. It is much more rubust and thicker than the rest. Even the Starline brass, which is usually the thickest, wasn't as thick as this one. I could feel it as I sized and flared the case.

I can tell it used to be nickel plated, but has long worn off.

The head stamp says WCC+P+ 78. I'm guessing it was made in 1978.

I didn't know that +P+ was different. People should take note of this before trying to make their own for whatever reason.

Trying to put my .358 cast round in there was tight. I doubt it will seat nicely. This brass may only accept .357 or smaller.

Just thought I'd share.



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Old May 7, 2013, 09:48 AM   #2
Dave T
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The various Federal agencies (Border Patrol, Customs, etc.) used to carry a +P+ 110g 38 Special round in the revolver days. This was before they all went to one kindor other of semi auto back in the 1980s. The government bought this load in quantity (sort of like the current furor over the 1.6 billion rounds for Home Land Security). That was no doubt a standard issue round from that era that got left on a public range and was picked up with all the other 38 Specials.

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PS: None of the federal officers I knew back then thought much of the cartridge. They all would have preferred something of larger caliber and/or more authority.
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Old May 7, 2013, 10:57 AM   #3
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I have some of those as well & some more +P+ from Federal, also with '79 & '80 headstamp dates. They came in a big batch of brass salvaged from a basement that was "laid up" in '87 IIRC!

Great, fresh from the great ".38 Spl Vs .38 Spl +P case debate" where I gave up on a consistant result & sorted 2 big plastic tubs into gallon ziplocs I have to go back through 4 gallons of ".38 Spl +p" & seperate out the +P+ now!

Thanks for the info though its interesting.

Out of curiosity does anyone have .38 Spl +P+ loading data? Was there ever a 125 gr +P+ load?
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Old May 7, 2013, 12:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Out of curiosity does anyone have .38 Spl +P+ loading data? Was there ever a 125 gr +P+ load?
You will never find published +P+ load data. SAMMI does not recognize the round or that loading for the 38 Special so no one is going to list loads for it. There is not even a consensus on what the pressure of "+P+" might be. Sorry!

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Old May 7, 2013, 02:14 PM   #5
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^^^ In addition to what Dave T wrote, the boxes for most +P+ loads bore disclaimers stating "This Ammunition Should Only be Fired in .357 Magnum Revolvers" or something similar. The should be your first clue as to what the pressures may have been. It also helps explain the thicker-than-normal brass.

.38Spl+P+ was marketed to LE agencies essentially as a sham to allow officers (and sometimes security guards) to carry ammo with performance comparable to .357Mag without running afoul of PR-motivated laws and policies prohibiting the use of so-called "super-lethal" Magnum ammo. AFAIK no verifiable standard for +P+ rounds ever existed; it varied by manufacturer and load.

+P+ has been largely dropped from commercial production because (a) prosecutors, city managers, etc. figured the sham out, (b) the stellar street performance of 125gr .357Mag JHP loads prompted many LE agencies to drop the pretense, and (c) most LE agencies have switched to autoloaders.
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Old May 7, 2013, 04:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Quote:
.38Spl+P+ was marketed to LE agencies essentially as a sham to allow officers (and sometimes security guards) to carry ammo with performance comparable to .357Mag
The real sham/scam was pulled off by the ammo makers who convinced everyone that +P+ was stealth .357 Magnum ammo, it was not.

I have 4 boxes of Federal 38 special 147Gr +P+ ammo, and every box is marked noting a Velocity of 950 FPS at the muzzle and an energy rating of 295 foot pounds. Which is nothing close to .357 Magnum velocity or energy. Sorry Folks.
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Old May 7, 2013, 08:00 PM   #7
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That may be true for the Federal ammo you have, but as above, .38 +P+ ammo was custom made for the department or agency that ordered it.

Since there is no SAMMI standard for it, it was custom made to whatever power level the customer wanted.
Some wanted more powerful ammo that could be used in standard .38 Special revolvers, which is what it sounds like you have, some ordered it loaded to near-Magnum levels for use only in Magnum revolvers.

The point is, you have to be careful with +P+ ammo because unless it's in a box with load details printed on it, you have no idea what you have.
You could have some ammo made to be fired in ordinary small frame .38 Special revolvers, or loaded hot for Magnum revolvers.
Make a mistake and you could blow a gun.

For what this looks like, check out the Kuhnhausen Colt Shop Manual pages 47, 48, 49, 127, and 128 for pictures of Colt "D" frame guns blown apart by +P+ ammo.
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Old May 7, 2013, 08:32 PM   #8
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I didn't read all the posts prior to this, so I apologize if it's redundant. . .

The brass you have there is a Winchester. And as you suspect, it's a 1978. I started reloading in 1984, so I have a bunch of them (most of mine read "83," but I have others, including 78's.) Obviously, it's from a +P loading. It's good brass, for the record. I keep mine segregated and I use the +p headstamped brass just for +p loads. I don't know if the brass is any tougher than others (although they do seem to put up a little more fight in the press). But I use +p brass for +p loads just so I know they're a higher pressure loading. Also because I'm OCD lol.
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Old May 7, 2013, 10:51 PM   #9
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I have loaded thousands of 38s in all kinds of various casings and I never noticed any difference between those marked +P and those not so stamped. I never miked the case walls but I suspect there is zero difference dimensionally.

Dammit. Now I have to go compare cases for capacity and thickness. I bet a nickel right now they are identical.
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Old May 7, 2013, 11:16 PM   #10
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Nick and Saxon...the original post was about "+P+" brass not "+P" brass.

I myself have never seen brass headstamped "+P+" before. You learn something new everyday.
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Old May 8, 2013, 10:01 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by old bear
The real sham/scam was pulled off by the ammo makers who convinced everyone that +P+ was stealth .357 Magnum ammo, it was not...950 FPS at the muzzle and an energy rating of 295 foot pounds... is nothing close to .357 Magnum velocity or energy. Sorry Folks.
In 20/20 hindsight, I should have wrote "approaching" rather than "comparable". How closely it approached .357Mag varied greatly. Some +P+ loads were better characterized as "warm" rather than hot.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dfariswheel
That may be true for the Federal ammo you have, but as above, .38 +P+ ammo was custom made for the department or agency that ordered it... Since there is no SAMMI standard for it, it was custom made to whatever power level the customer wanted.
Exactly. FWIW some of it was loaded for .38Spl rather than .357Mag revolvers, and these particular loads tended to be only "slightly warm". IIRC in an older thread about +P+, a poster claiming to be a former cop reported that one of his department's .38Spl range guns- a S&W M67 if I remember right- had fired 5,000+ rounds of a "warm" +P+ load without substantial damage; its lockup was reportedly getting loose, but it still functioned fine and shot accurately.

The key, however, is that +P+ loads were NOT created equal, and should NOT be fired in a .38Spl revolver unless you are certain that the specific load you are using is safe.
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Old May 8, 2013, 10:13 AM   #12
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Oops.

Well, I have some +P+ brass around here somewhere, too. Still doubt there's any difference.

I chronographed some 110 JHP +P+ and was underwhelmed by the lazy 1,100 FPS velocity.
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Old May 9, 2013, 02:35 PM   #13
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I had a long conversation with a Border Patrol Captain back in the mid-80s about the 110g 38 Special +P+ rounds they carried at the time. He was envious of me, a lowly Sheriff's Deputy, because of the Colt Government Model I was carrying. He told me of several shooting incidents involving BP using that ammo in which it did not perform as advertised (claims of the Fed Gov bureaucrats). The Captain told me he had choreographed it personally and it produced an average velocity from his 4" revolver of just over 1200 fps. To say is was a way to hide Magnum performance is a considerable mis-statement.

Dave

PS: I called Star-Line asking about +P brass and they told me it was exactly like other 38 Special brass except for the marking. I'm willing to bet the +P+ brass is the same.
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Old May 9, 2013, 04:53 PM   #14
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Speer#13 loading manual has 125 gr. .38+P loading data.
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Old May 9, 2013, 04:59 PM   #15
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Quote:
Speer#13 loading manual has 125 gr. .38+P loading data.
+P, yes. +P+, I presume no. One cannot load to a pressure standard that doesn't exist.
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Old May 9, 2013, 09:23 PM   #16
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Quote:
PS: I called Star-Line asking about +P brass and they told me it was exactly like other 38 Special brass except for the marking. I'm willing to bet the +P+ brass is the same.
Their +P brass is the same as their .38's, but their brass is thicker than most.
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Old May 9, 2013, 11:29 PM   #17
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+P+

I shot a ton of that stuff (the 110 "Treasury Load) in the front of my career, mostly through various issue K frame Smiths. I can still recall the mantra that the load was near .357 performance and we should all be confident of its ability as a stopper. I was never impressed. Its performance dispatching whitetails crippled in deer v. car MVA's, and ferals seemed to leave alot to be desired.

After some agency shootings nation wide, where the bad guys absorbed multiple rounds and continued hostilities, there was a distinct and rapid move to .357/125 ammo. The switch to autos came just a short while later. (and we all got 9mms initially with subsonic, 147 JHP, back to square one)
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Old May 10, 2013, 11:01 AM   #18
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I still have a few boxes of WW and Fed treasury loads from days gone by. I think it was more psychological than anything to use the +P+ in the gun. As far as load data, some of the old Elmer Keith writings from the first half of the last century cites some spicey maximum loads compared to the data currently available.
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Old May 10, 2013, 12:25 PM   #19
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May I suggest weighing the +p+ cases and then weighing a non +p case made by the same manufacture and see if it is heavier? If it is then it's extra strong, if not, it was merely to mark the higher pressure of the load in the case.

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Old May 10, 2013, 03:46 PM   #20
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I did just that & commented on it in the other .38/.38+p/.38+P+ thread. It was a little heavier when weighed for the average of 4 cases & powder capacity was slightly lower, compared to "reguler .38" from the same maker. Probably because they had to keep the external dimensions so the thicker walls reduced internal capacity. A bit like the *groan* .308Win/&.62mm thing.
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Old May 10, 2013, 08:41 PM   #21
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May I suggest weighing the +p+ cases and then weighing a non +p case made by the same manufacture and see if it is heavier? If it is then it's extra strong, if not, it was merely to mark the higher pressure of the load in the case.
My +P+ case was 73 grains.

A few random ones were as follows:
64.1
65.5
63.7
65.6
65.6

So yes, it does weigh quite a bit more!
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