View Full Version : .38+P and older guns

February 3, 2005, 06:13 PM
I'm looking for a second opinion....and even a third or fourth. I'm told that the Colt Official Police is able to handle .38+P. Is that accurate to say? Are those guns durable enough to handle it?


February 3, 2005, 07:16 PM
Depends on the age of the Colt.
The pre-WWII Colt revolvers were made from softer steels and while probably OK for use with +P, why cause extra wear on an old revolver?

If it's a post-1950 gun, it's good for +P.

February 3, 2005, 07:29 PM
I've been told in another Thread room something very similar to that. That guns made after 1940 (specifically Colts) were deemed strong enough to handle a load called .38-44 (not familiar with that personally) which was stronger than any +P load today. Basically told that it would be fine for any gun made after 1940.

If you recall, I have two OPs. One made in 1944 (which I did send off to Pittsburg Handguns :) yesterday) the other made in 1961.

I will also say that the 1961 OP has a fractured recoil plate. (It's going to Pittsburg after I get the other one back) I figured this must have been done due to .38+P. Do you agree?

Also, the other side of the argument against +P says this Granted this is not an OP but it is a Colt revolver made from the 40s into the 80s:


Q: Is it safe to use +P ammunition in my classic Detective Special?

A: The revolver was never rated for this higher power ammunition by Colt, not even the late production models. Anecdotal information suggests that current gunsmiths will say, "Sure, go ahead. No problem." This, of course, is an easily denied statement since there is nothing in Colt's literature to confirm or deny this position.

AHEM! While it may be that using +P is not likely to cause a kaBOOM! event, there are other types of damage which may occur. And this type of failure could be caused by a combination of other problems such as cartridge case failure or a bullet lodged in the barrel occuring at the same time high power ammo is used.

Q: Wait, wait, wait. A kaBOOM! event?
A: A kaBOOM! (kB!) event is a catastrophic failure of a firearm when it is fired, an explosion sending damage and debris flying in all directions. There are no statistics available on such problems with any but Glock pistols and that is somewhat of an apples/oranges situation.

Here are the important issues:

There is always a possibility a firearm suffers from unrecognized damage by the current or previous owner which may have occurred from the use of high power, hot, handloads or use of ammunition loads for which it is not rated. Cracks and metal fatigue can be cumulative and be unrecognizable by the naked eye. Such conditions amount to an accident waiting to happen.
The blast of +P ammo is noticably greater than that of .38 Special loads. This means if it is fired indoors in a self-defense situation two problems will probably occur. The volume of the blast will temporarily (perhaps permanently) damage your hearing. If fired in a darkened room, the blast will temporarily impair your night adjusted vision.
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT: The use of ammo for which this model firearm (or any firearm) has not been rated is not recommended. It amounts to abuse of the gun and will cancel or exempt any potential liability which its manufacturer might otherwise have had. This is true of factory or hand loads.
So here are your safe options regarding using +P ammo in a revolver with a 2" barrel: (1) Get a current production S&W LadySmith, (2) Get another late production model Colt or S&W or use one rated for .357 Magnum, (3) Obtain another inexpensive 2" barrel revolver such as the Taurus Model 85 or a Rossi with a 2" barrel.

Sir William
February 3, 2005, 09:29 PM
I replied in the Revolvers forum.

February 4, 2005, 12:47 AM
I would NOT recommend shooting +P ammo in any of the small Colt's made before 1950.

After 1950, I personally think the steel Detective Special would be fine with the "shoot standard .38's for practice, load +P's for business".

With the 1950 to the 1972 models this is a matter of personal preference, but most of the people who did this figured any accelerated wear on the gun would be the LAST thing they would need to worry about if they had to shoot the gun with +Ps'.

After the 1972 heavy, shrouded barrel Colt's were introduced, they were factory rated for limited amounts of +P ammo.
Here's a link to a late issue owner's manual with Colt's recommended +P ammo specs:

The pre-war Colt revolvers were noted for being a little "soft", and it was quite easy to spring the soft cylinder crane.
Due to this, I certainly would NOT fire ANY +P ammo in a pre-war Detective Special.

May 5, 2005, 06:07 PM
Would you say that Corbon .38+P ammo is safe to shoot in my two OPs? (1961 and 1944) I've shot winchester +P ammo in them just fine, but Corbon ammo seems to have more energy and velocity than other +P brands.