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Old December 30, 2013, 09:45 AM   #1
KMAX
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Tell me about 38 Super

This looks sort of interesting. At first glance it looked like a hopped up 9mm, magnum, or something. The cartridge dimensions are somewhat similar. I have seen very few guns chambered for this round and they were all 1911s. Are /were any other guns chambered for 38 Super? I read that 38 Super is used in competitions mostly, or at least a great deal. Does anyone carry one? Enlighten me on 38 Super. Thanks.
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Old December 30, 2013, 09:54 AM   #2
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It is a good high pressure round but very hard to find and expensive. You pretty much have to reload. It has a little less recoil than a 45 ACP and it's an interesting conversation piece but not different enough from 9mm +P to be worth sorting thru the brass at the range to find.

The EAA Witness is also available in 38 super.
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Old December 30, 2013, 11:26 AM   #3
ClydeFrog
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Go ask Nash Bridges....

Nash Bridges, the SFPD captain on the hit cop show; Nash Bridges used a SAO Colt 1911a1 .38Super pistol in a Galco Miami Classic for the entire run of the TV series.
When asked by a security officer what he used, Bridges(Don Johnson) stated; ".38 Colt".

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Old December 30, 2013, 11:54 AM   #4
KMAX
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At least he didn't say "A gun."
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Old December 30, 2013, 12:02 PM   #5
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Started as the 38 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol). In 1929 in response to police calls for handguns that could punch through car bodies (this was the era of the "Motor Bandits" like Bonnie and Clyde) Colt took the 38 ACP and er, suped it up and called it the 38 Super. Dimensionally there is no difference, just the chamber pressure meaning right away there was a problem with guys loading their old 38 ACPs with Super ammo and scattering their guns.

To help avoid this, Super ammo was loaded in nickel cases to keep them separate from the weaker 38 ACP. When the notion of +P marketing was developed the boxes were labeled +P.

The original Super load was a 130 grain pointed FMJ bullet making 1,270 FPS at the muzzle. More than 200 FPS faster than the 38 ACP at 1050 FPS.

BTW- The Super is bored .356 compared to the .355 for the 9mm Parabellum but I load 9MM bullets and they work OK.

The Super was popular in the Southwestern states and very big with civilians in Mexico where military calibers were illegal to own so the 45 ACP was prohibited.

A few years ago I noticed Super ammo coming in brass cases. I clocked some and sure enough it was going 1,070, barely over the old 38 ACP. I believe the major ammo makers watered down the Super to avoid lawsuits in case someone blows up his old 1905 Colt in 38 ACP. The Super is one that requires loading your own for economy and top performance. Of course that means you must be willing to carry reloads if you choose to carry a Super. I will but many shy away from doing so.

Using 115 grain JHPs made for the 9mm I have pushed the Super to 1,525 FPS. This was too much of a good thing and I backed off to about 1,425 FPS and these seem to work fine in my guns. This load puts the Super in the lower end of 357 Magnum performance.

There have been issues over the years regarding the accuracy of the Super Colts. A semi-rimmed case it didn't do well when they tried to head-space on the rim. When they head-spaced on the mouth like the 45 ACP the guns shot much better.

I like the Super a lot. I have had several and currently own two of them.

My Series '70 Super...




My RIA Super... (You can tell I have a fondness for ivory)




Accuracy does not appear to be a problem with my Super Colt. Also, the sight regulation seems to be pretty much spot on. That's 5 rounds at 15 yards. Just missed getting all 5 in one hole.




PS: S&W's response to the request from cops for a more powerful handgun was the 38/44 Heavy Duty that they introduced a few months after Colt brought out the Super. On paper the 38/44 load slightly edges the Super in power, but due to its bullet design the Super will penetrate better. In fact, it's a loosely guarded secret that the 130 FMJ Super at full velocity will defeat most vests worn by police.
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Old December 30, 2013, 12:24 PM   #6
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Back when I was traveling and shooting competition I had a gun made for 38Super. I'd tried several other calibers such as the 356TSW, 9x21, 9x23, and even a custom made Coonan 357mag. The Les Behr 38Super beat them all. It would shoot under an inch at 35yds (my requirement for the custom gunmaker) and had a trigger of a very crisp 1.75lbs. It would shoot 9mm bullets and 38/357 bullets about equally well depending on the bullet and the load. Always wanted to shoot a deer with it but got rid of it when I quit competition and never got the chance. I liked it better than any other custom gun, revolver or automatic, that I ever had.
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Old December 30, 2013, 12:30 PM   #7
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ALL HAIL the 9MM +P, +P+, +p++++++.....?

Quote:
it's an interesting conversation piece but not different enough from 9mm +P to be worth sorting thru the brass at the range to find.
TODAY, that's true, for many people. But it wasn't always so.....
1900: Colt introduces the .38ACP. This round was designed by JM Browning. MV was listed as 1040fps with a 130 gr bullet. Like other rounds Browning designed in that era, the case was semi-rimmed.

1902: 9mm Luger hits the market. MV 1050fps with a 124gr bullet.
1908: 9mm Luger adopted by German army. Standard 9mm load changed to a 115gr bullet @ 1150fps around this time.

1929: Colt introduces the .38 Super. 130gr bullet, MV 1275fps. Colt took the .38ACP case, and changed nothing, except the pressure and the name. .38 Super rounds are unsafe to fire in .38acp guns. The reverse, is safe.

Note that the .38 Super was introduced half a dozen years before the .357 Magnum. It was intended to give police a better gun for use against the "auto bandits", being both more penetrating (FMJ + hi velocity) and having more capacity than the .38 SPL or the .45ACP.

This was the situation from the 1930s through the 1970s. .38 Super was always superior to the 9mm Luger, in terms of bullet weight and speed.

.38 Supers were always made in Colt Govt Model (1911A1) pattern guns. Colt, in the US, and a few of the foreign makers (primarily Spanish) in 1911 class guns. While never extremely popular in the US, the .38 Super became very popular in Mexico and South American countries, due to their laws prohibiting "military calibers" for private citizens.

In the late 1970s, things began to change. In the 80s the change went from a trickle to a flood. Modern JHP bullets in 9mm (bullets that expanded reliably), and the flood of "wondernines", plus the US military adopting the 9mm meant the .38 Super was never going to be more than mildly popular.

The .38 Super did enjoy a brief surge of popularity, among the game players. Some savy folks figured out that, using heavy (150/158gr) bullets & hot loads the .38 Super could make "major" on the power scale, plus provide extra capacity and reduced recoil (from ported guns) over the .45, a useful benefit for winning the game.

Also, at this time, it was discovered that the usual mediocre accuracy of .38 Supers could be improved. From the beginning, the .38 Super was made to headspace on the rim, like the other Browning designed semi-rimmed rounds (.32ACP, etc). Bar-Sto made barrels (and others quickly followed) that headspaced the .38 Super on the case mouth (like the 9mm and .45acp) which led to better accuracy, over all.

Loading the .38 Super heavy to make major had its drawbacks. Cases would let go (where they were unsupported) often enough that the term "Superface" entered the gamesman's vocabularly. This also led to changes in the way barrels were made.

Our commitment to the 9mm Luger was firm, but it was not as good a performer as we wanted. This led to the 9mm+p and later the +P+ 9mm ammo, which, essentially matches the .38 Super speeds with lighter bullets.

other developments in both cartridges and guns since have left the .38 Super firmly in its niche. It is still a very popular caliber, south of the US border.

Today, because of high pressure 9mm loadings AND a wide variety of modern guns, the .38 Super is low on the list of good choices for a duty handgun. For a personal defense handgun, it is a good as it always was, and with JHPs, even better.

For a brief time, back in the day, you could get a Tommygun in .38 Super. That would be fun!
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Old December 30, 2013, 03:14 PM   #8
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I had toyed with the idea of getting a 1911 in .38 Super. My excuse was that it would make for a fine defensive round but I came to the conclusion you could get similar performance out of 9mm +P+ (and some 9mm +P loads are close) but with more choices. So, instead, I decided I needed a 10mm just in case a black bear ever wandered by and started to eat me. Anything to justify a new gun, right?
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Old December 30, 2013, 04:46 PM   #9
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It's been around since 1929. You should google it, as there is WAY more information out there than we could cram into a thread here.
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Old December 30, 2013, 05:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
It's been around since 1929. You should Google it, as there is WAY more information out there than we could cram into a thread here.
Maybe, but I want opinions and personal experiences with it too.
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Old December 30, 2013, 05:16 PM   #11
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I'm not a huge Para Ornance fan but they made an 18+1 38 super for a while i believe. I've never actually seen one even on paper, but I see the mags for sale for them all over the place.
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Old December 30, 2013, 11:32 PM   #12
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.38 super Vs .357 sig

How does the .38 super compare to the .357 sig not just ballistically but in terms of accuracy, recoil, muzzle flash, etc. Nostalgia aside, it would seem .38 super has had its day.

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Old December 30, 2013, 11:39 PM   #13
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If you want a 1911 that isn't 45 ACP, I'd consider a 38 Super or a 9x23 Winchester over a 9mm. 38 Super generates 30k CUP, max, 9x23 up to 40k because of the super thick brass--you don't even need a ramped barrel to shoot it, just ream a 38 Super or a 9mm barrel.

I prefer 9x23, but it's really hard to find--so I shoot 38 Super.
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Old December 31, 2013, 12:04 AM   #14
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I have a Colt '91A1 in Super. It's used solely for IDPA competition, downloaded to meet competition requirements.
Cartridges of ~1.25" OAL work better than shorter cartridges in the 1911, so a Super should be more reliable than a 9mm (true in my experience).
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Old December 31, 2013, 05:55 AM   #15
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Corbon makes DPX for .38 Super which I expect would be darn similar to the .357 Sig DPX which is to say great.

I saw an ad for a Wilson Super Sentinel that made me drool, though it's not for the faint of wallet.



http://wilsoncombat.com/new/handgun-...p#.UsKh4vRDvA0
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Old December 31, 2013, 09:09 AM   #16
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SaxonPig, that 70 series 38 super Colt is sweet.

Best Regards
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Old December 31, 2013, 11:22 AM   #17
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Back in the late 60s my father got two Government Models, one stock .38 Super, and a bit later the other a .45acp, which had been fitted with target sights, and a really sweet trigger.

In the early 70s, I got to play with the .38 Super, Dad kept the .45 for his own use, most of the time.

The ONLY ammo available for the .38 Super was the factory 130gr FMJ, and we didn't have much of that. But I did save the brass. And learning to handload, and having this brass...well.....

What I didn't have was .38Super dies. had a shellholder, and some 9mm 115grJHP bullets (Hornady, I think...) and these .357 dies, so...I wonder....

Ok, it worked. left a really sharp looking edge in the .38 Super brass right at the solid head, and probably didn't do case life any good, but it did work, FED and FIRED fine. And was as accurate as the gun with factory stuff, which was the best I could manage in those days anyway.

I never once thought about putting .38 Super in Dad's model 28 (which, had it chambered, would have worked, I found out later), but since I was loading and shooting .357 & .38 SPL, using .38 Super in the revolver just never occurred to me.

I suppose its a "emergency use only" advantage of the Super over the 9mm Luger, if you have a .357 revolver. Personally I'd be more than a bit leery of shooting in a .38 revolver, but the only reason to do so is (see above) emergency use only, and in that case, as long as it fires and can be expected to hit the target, nothing else matters as much.

Seeing someone do it on a range, for mere practice? Foolish is the kindest term for them I would use....
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Old December 31, 2013, 02:34 PM   #18
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The 357 Sig goes about 150 FPS faster than the Super.
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Old December 31, 2013, 05:47 PM   #19
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Not recommended!!

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Old December 31, 2013, 07:09 PM   #20
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Looked at a RIA 1911 in 38Super today for $499. Thought about it but instead bought a FNS-40 for $480 new. Been wanting to give 40cal another chance for awhile now.
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Old December 31, 2013, 07:21 PM   #21
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Handloader magazine, December 2013, page 30 has an article about the Les Baer Custom .38 Super Commanche as well as writing about .38 Super load data for it.
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Old January 2, 2014, 12:43 PM   #22
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The Super is a fun accurate round that you can reload to low end 357 magnum velocities. It is closer to the 38/44 in terms of power but beyond a 38 Special. I load mine to 130@1300 routinely. It is more normal plinking load that I can get tehre with no real pressure issues or problems.

I tend to worry about 9mm+P+ rounds and you are pushing up in the edge where you have less room fro slop. With the 38 Super you have more case volume for powder so you don't have to beat on the round like the 9mm+P+ to get the same velocities.

As a reloader bullets and powders are plentiful but my personal favorite is 4756 for good loads. Accurate, reliable and just fun to shoot.



This is the round 250 to 300 out of my 38 Super 1.5" Les Baer at 15 yrds offhand. For a new gun, and obviously new to me, I am pretty pleased with how it did.
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Old January 2, 2014, 05:47 PM   #23
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Current issue of SWAT has an article about the round.
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Old January 2, 2014, 10:26 PM   #24
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I love the cartridge. I have had 2 Eaa witness in 38 super and both were very accurate and high capacity. In my experience, they had quite a bit of muzzle flash (in the evening compared with other auto pistols) but weren't nearly as loud as a .357. I now have a kimber commander 4.25" no barrel bushing/fully supported feed ramp and my 125 gr reloads shoot 1330-50 fps with 7.5 gr power pistol, no flattened primers or case bulging. It is my carry gun, though not with reloads. 124 grain XTPs from underwood ammo clocked in at 1320-1330 fps. I have killed some hogs up close and a coyote with the cartridge. I had one of the witnesses rebarreled/fitted to 9mm and though the 38 super had more muzzle flip, it was not the slightest bit jarring or uncomfortable, and the noise on the steel targets is much louder than with 9mm 115gr ball ammo.
357 is my favorite cartridge but due to decibels, I carry a 38 super when hunting in south Texas and as my ccw and trust it with my life. As far as ammo goes, ad in my experience, there aren't many choices but in power from lowest to highest it has been pmc/Fiocchi/magtech/aguila/underwood ammo. Sorry for the essay, it started out as 2 sentences....
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Old January 3, 2014, 09:34 AM   #25
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I built a client a custom commander in 38 super comp.
I enjoyed shooting that gun so much during test firing I hated to call the gentleman to tell him his gun was ready to be picked up.

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