View Full Version : 1911 38 Special

November 24, 2010, 04:32 PM
Hi, just wondering if anybody had some information on the 38 Special 1911. can a standard 40 of 45 be converted? Not sure the the breach of the 38 Special is. Are the locking lugs still used, they the same? The Special is my favorite caliber handgun to shoot. I love my 686 to death. Thought it would be cool to have it in a 1911.


November 24, 2010, 04:41 PM
I do not know of a 1911 in 38 special (a rimmed revolver cartridge).
There are many 1911s in 38 super automatic (a rimless cartridge).
Coonan made a 1911 in 357 magnum.

November 24, 2010, 05:05 PM
IIRC Colt did make a National Match pistol in 38spl, but it was a blowback - I'm not sure how they achieved that.

This question came up on Target Talk a while ago. Here's a thread that discusses some of the options - http://www.targettalk.org/viewtopic.php?t=18641

An alternative would be a S&W Model 52. These are match pistols that shoot 38spl wadcutters.

November 24, 2010, 06:04 PM

Colt made a Gold Cup in .38SPCL - back when bullseye shooting was popular. It shot wadcutters only. I've got one in the safe. Shall I break it out and take pictures? It needs some excersise...


November 24, 2010, 06:11 PM
Never seen a 1911 in 38 Special, but S&W made a semiauto 38 Special wadcutter pistol. Model 57?? Can't remember. I'm sure it's been done, I've seen a lot of things I never imagined would be made.

November 24, 2010, 06:15 PM
I'm reasonably sure the OP is mistaking the .38 Super for .38 Special.

To further muddy the waters, the .38 Super cartridge is externally identical to the .38 ACP, but is a MUCH higher pressure load. All factory .38 Supers are considered +P rounds.

I doubt you'd be able to get any 1911 to feed & fire .38 Specials. Not without a well equiped machine shop, anyway.

You'd probably have an easier time converting a 9mm 1911 to .38 Super. I think all you'd need to do is replace the ejector, tune the extractor, and swap out the barrel & magazines.

That said, replacing & restaking an ejector on a 1911 isn't a small task. The ejector is one of the small parts of a 1911 that typically doesn't get removed from the frame during a detail strip & clean.

November 24, 2010, 06:15 PM
Shall I break it out and take pictures? It needs some excersise.You bet!
And here's a pic of the S&W version. (model 52, .38 special mid range wadcutter)


November 24, 2010, 06:23 PM
Colt made some 1911s in 38 Special. As did a lot of custom shops. They were WC only used in Bullseye Shooting.

I don't think you can convert a 45 unless you replace the slide. I had a 38 Super that was converted until I picked up a Smith 52. I sold the Colt to a friend of mine and his son still shoots it.

My converted 38 super didnt shoot for me like the Smith 52 does, but most others I've seen were quite accurate.

November 24, 2010, 06:31 PM
Here it is..

Here's one of Clark's..
* forgive the rail

November 24, 2010, 06:44 PM
IIRC the .38-45-a 45 ACP case necked down to fire 38 WC bullets-enjoyed some favor for a while.

November 24, 2010, 07:15 PM
phydaux: Hi, just wondering if anybody had some information on the 38 Special 1911

Aslo, with the right tools, I find that an ejector is easily replaced.

laytonj1: How is the trigger on that? Comparable to a Nicely tuned 1911? Is your a factory setup or have you had any work done on it? what kind of groups can you get with it?

Im getting rid of my Sig 9mm that shoots VARY well. i had it rebuild by Gray guns inc. and they did a fantastic job. I had to send it back once for something that was my fault (ignorance) and they paid for shipping and the parts. Awesome people. Thinking of trading it for a 1911 38 Special. Then i can load just 38 and not both.

But then again Ive got 8,300 rds of Winchester white box 9mm. My oh my, what shall I do... heavens to Betsy


November 24, 2010, 09:00 PM
Again, note that these are strictly for full wadcutters and not for standard .38 Special ammunition. The full wadcutter is seated flush with the case mouth, so the maximum length, even with a small rounded tip sticking out is under 1.15" long. That is within the 1.275" maximum of .45 ACP hardball, so it can fit in a magazine that fits in the magazine well of a 1911 frame. A round nose .38 Special at 1.55" would not.

The old Colt National Match pistols preceded the series 70 and had more hand work in them. Many are well fit guns.

November 24, 2010, 09:10 PM
I just found a complete Colt 38 special slide assembly. Is there anything special about the frame for one o these? slide stop pin hole in a different spot? Could i buy a standard frame and use it?


Jim Watson
November 24, 2010, 09:10 PM
Awright, lookit.
In the golden age of target shooting, a serious shooter shot at bullseyes with one hand and three or even four guns; smallbore (.22), centerfire, bigbore (.45) and service pistol (.45.)

The centerfire was usually a .38 Special revolver. There was some use of .32 S&W Long but not very much, the K32 is a scarce collector's item, and the Officer's Model Target .32 is rare. Charles Askins' little experiment with the .22 centerfire got the minimum caliber set at .32.

But the .38 revolver had a very different manual of arms than the Woodsman .22 and the 1911 .45 and people wanted to shoot three automatics for consistency and to save having to cock the revolver. (If you run-n-gunners think five shots in ten seconds is not really "rapid fire", try it at 25 yards one handed on a target with a ten ring smaller than the B zone.)
So gunsmiths like Jim Clark set about building them .38 Special autos.
Take a .38 Super, replace the barrel or at least bush and rechamber for .38 Special, accurize the gun throughout, and build a magazine that would handle five mid range wadcutters. Fine precision gunsmithing.

So the factories got in on the act. S&W adapted the action of the Model 39 to .38 Special, tightened everything up and produced the Model 52. They are finely accurate (with a great trigger, Wood.)
Colt eventually countered with the Gold Cup .38. It looks like the .45 but is mechanically different. It runs in blowback with a slight delay from a floating barrel and a grooved chamber. I don't know why they went off on that tangent, maybe they could not duplicate the Clark and similar or equal the Model 52 and keep the .38 at the same price as the .45. They never sold as well as the Model 52 and Clark kept doing conversions. Colt even provided him with parts kits for the job.

But times change, nowadays, most bullseye shooters just fire their .45 wad(cutter) guns twice. And a lot have accurized Berettas for service pistols.


I don't know what it would take to put a .38 Special Upper on a new frame. I saw a guy chop up one of the GC .38s to make a .45 out of it and it involved some modifications. I'd want my gunsmith's opinion before I paid for the slide. Note that it will handle .38 wadcutters ONLY and only five of those. Magazines are scarce and expensive, too.

November 24, 2010, 11:30 PM
Thanks for all the help guys. My local Shop has a 52 in. going to go test test it out. Thanks again.


November 25, 2010, 07:47 AM

I hope the Model 52 turns out to be a good deal and you get it.

Meanwhile, as promised, here are pictures of the Colt 1911 Gold Cup in .38 Special. I paid $400 for the gun many years ago. $400 was a screaming deal then, and I presume the firearm has appreciated. One thing I noticed when I cycled this critter was that the slide to frame fit is the finest I have ever felt. Like glass.







Gotta love the three digit serial number. And notice the -MR suffix.

When you get that S&W Model 52, post back with a range report.

Best regards,


November 25, 2010, 08:22 AM
And let's not forget the Colt 1911 .38 AMU made for the U.S. Army, although that fired a special "semi-rimmed" version of the .38 Special.

November 25, 2010, 07:06 PM
laytonj1: How is the trigger on that? Comparable to a Nicely tuned 1911? Is your a factory setup or have you had any work done on it? what kind of groups can you get with it?
The one I pictured is a first year production (1961) Safe Queen. (my only unfired gun)
My 1992 vintage 52-2 has the lightest, most crisp trigger of any gun I've owned. Shoots 1 to 1.5" 25 yard groups consistantly with 148gr. hollow base wadcutters.
The 52 (1961 to 1963) was a double action with a lock out screw making it single action only. The 52-1 (1963 to 1970) was designed as a true single action only. The 52-2 (1970 to 1993) had the improved extractor.
And let's not forget the Colt 1911 .38 AMU made for the U.S. Army, although that fired a special "semi-rimmed" version of the .38 Special.
There was the S&W model 52-A in .38 AMU also.
The cartridge was designed by the Army Marksmanship Training Unit in Fort Benning Ga. in 1958 to cure the feeding problems with the Colt 1911 in 38 Special.


November 26, 2010, 07:27 PM
i seen a Colt mid-range sell at rockislandauction.com for $1750.00 in last month auction......i bid on it and lost:mad:

btw d4xycrq thats a beauty!!!!