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Old November 11, 2019, 11:50 AM   #1
PolarFBear
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.38 SUPER, where did it go?

What happened to the .38 Super? Wasn't it considered to be the acp version of the .357? All these new calibers that have come up in the past 30 years, 10mm, 41 magnum, .50 AE, .460 Ruger, etc. I do a fair amount of reloading and don't see much "buzz" on those forums about the .38 Super either. Seems like we "invent" new stuff to replace "old" stuff that is just as good. Never see much in the magazines, gun shows or dealers. Where did it go. Likewise the 44-40. That round is intriging. With modern "smokeless" powder be a pretty good barrel filler.
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Old November 11, 2019, 12:13 PM   #2
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It's around and living. It's gone up and down in popularity over the years but is still here. A very good round.

Use the search function here and you can see past discussions of it.

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Old November 11, 2019, 12:18 PM   #3
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My first 1911 was a 38 Super.I like the cartridge,and I have makings for a double stack 1911.
IMO,its a good cartridge,BUT….

The original semi-rimmed cartridge headspaced rather poorly on the 1911 barrel hood.That semi rim is not perfect especially in a hi-cap double stack world.

OK.We have the 38 Super Comp rimless.Best to tune a new extractor .

Now,how often do you find 38Super ammo on the shelf?OK. You find some! Is it hardball?
See,there aren't very many options in SD type loads.True,there are some.
We don't "need" too many.

Now,the 9mm +P ammo narrows the performance advantage pretty seriously.

Yes,you can buy Corbon or Buffalo Bore. Its not cheap or easy to find.

Because 9mm is going to be a very large part of the market,there just is no a lot of profit incentive for the 38 Super.

so,OK,we can buy Starline 38 Super brass by the 1000 and load our own bullets and prformamce level.

Yes.

No need to rehash the debate oer whether it is wise to carry handloads in a SD pistol.

A retty good case can be made against it.

If we just like the 38 Super,we CAN feed it,but you have to want to.

9mm is just easier.

Its kind of like if you are into hot rodding a 1970's cr....you CAN build a nice 340 Mopar.But its a lot cheaper and easier to build a small block Chevy.

One more important thing I left out. Shooting game rules. The old "major power" thing. They changed the rules so ts feasible to shoot "Major Power" with the 9mm.

Last edited by HiBC; November 11, 2019 at 12:41 PM.
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Old November 11, 2019, 02:27 PM   #4
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The Super is still alive and well, but cannot compete in sheer volume of guns, models, accessories, factory ammo price,options, etc. available, for the most popular centerfire pistol cartridge on the planet. I've owned a succession of 38 Super pistols since the early '70s. I still shoot and reload for a couple Supers. But if forced to choose between the Super and 9X19MM, I'd have to go with the overwhelming majority of shooters who choose the 9...ymmv

BTW, I agree with HiBC. I've chronographed a fair amount of 9MM and 38 Super ammo over a good many years. While the Super, with it's greater case capacity, always has the potential to generate ballistics superior to 9MM, the Super, especially with major manufacturer factory ammo, doesn't always actually display superior ballistics. In fact, with some of the more energetic 9MM ammo, the 9MM comes out ahead in velocity and energy...
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Old November 11, 2019, 03:21 PM   #5
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Folks that like the 38 Super don't shoot it because it's better or worse than other cartridges. We shoot it because we like how it does what it does.

Fellas can come up with a number of practical reasons to shoot other rounds than the Super. Mostly they are reasons that make sense. If you don't want to shoot something there are plenty of reasons to convince yourself not to.

38 Super is a niche cartridge. One of the more popular ones but still a niche round. There are a good many of those around. The 41 magnum and 44 Spl. in revolvers to mention 2 for wheelguns. The 10mm has been slowly emerging from niche status but will likely return to it in a few years. The 357 Sig is a niche round as is the 9x23 Winchester. The 400 Cor-Bon and the 45 Super are niche rounds. There are more.

Once you know it's a niche cartridge there is no excuse for being surprised that commercial ammo is more expensive. Also you need to be aware that the next time you're in a shootout with a rogue ISIS motorcycle gang and your gun runs dry you can't just dash into the Wal-mart and get a box or two of ammo off the shelf and get back in the fight. You'll have to go back home where your stash of 38 Super ammo is.

38 Super ammo is not hard to get. You can get it on-line, at gun shows or ask you local gunatorium to get you some. You can also reload.

Here are some examples and there are more...

https://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ammu...mmo/.38-super/

https://www.midwayusa.com/38-super/b...ctedSort=False

A good deal of the commercial ammo is loaded to 9mm velocities. Which isn't bad and as effective as the same in 9mm. Just below what the Super can do. Some do get close to what it can do.

If a person is new to guns starting with a niche caliber like the Super is not the way to go. Start with a common caliber like the 9mm. Once you are proficient with that and bored and want to try new guns and rounds then the Super is an excellent choice.

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Last edited by tipoc; November 11, 2019 at 03:27 PM.
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Old November 11, 2019, 04:34 PM   #6
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It was hindered by the same issues which have hindered other "Super/Magnum" cartridges which share the exact same dimensions as their lower-pressure counterparts.

Ammo manufactures were scared to load it to its full potential out of fear that Bubba would try to shoot it out of an old .38 ACP pistol, so most manufacturers load it no hotter than Standard Pressure 9mm Luger, (which is still hotter than .38 ACP, but not nearly as hot as .38 Super can be, which is getting into .357 Magnum territory) which is obviously pointless.
NOTE: .38 ACP is not the same as .380 ACP, it's an older cartridge which was essentially replaced by .380 ACP down the line. Basically, think of it as an automatic pistol counterpart to .38 Special which was replaced two fold by the shorter .380 ACP cartridge then upgraded with hotter loads then renamed .38 Super.

Ironically, .38 ACP was really only in production for a few years in the early 1900s until it was replaced in 1908 by .380 ACP, and there were only like 3 firearms ever chambered in .38 ACP, so the odds of somebody actually owning a firearm chambered in .38 ACP and being stupid enough to fire .38 Super cartridges in it are astronomical, yet still the average ammo manufacture still downloads it into oblivion out of concern for such an event taking place.

At least in other such cases like .45 Long Colt there are actually a tremendous amount of old wrought iron-framed Single Action Army Revolvers out there which would almost certainly be damaged in short order if someone fired a full SAAMI Spec Smokeless Powder load through it, outright obliterated if someone loaded up a Ruger Only load.
And when it comes to .45 Super there is no shortage of .45 ACP pistols which would get battered to pieces if used to fire .45 Super without any modifications, especially when it comes to certain older polymer framed pistols which aren't even capable of being modified to withstand a steady diet of .45 Super due to the lack of steel reinforcements or chassis within the frame.
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Old November 11, 2019, 05:07 PM   #7
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I hope no one got the idea I was running the Super down. I really like the cartridge.

I have a project that is "aging" a bit on the back burner. Its an unfinished first gen Caspian double stack frame. I have the double wide small parts.I also have an STI Truebore barrel with an integral comp,.ts a Commander length bbl.

I'm going to lose the two ports nearest the muzzle and end up with a comped Super just barely over Gov't length.

With a comp,and a carefully fittd lockup the Super can easily get 1450 fps with a 124 gr bullet. The comp is critical.

I passed a similar one made by Guncraft on to my younger brother. It was a serious competition gun built in the 70's that is like new.

He used high speed vdeo to tune it to run flat . Seems like t has a 10 or 12 lb ecoil spring. It won't run with a heavier spring.

IMO,if you load hot enough to need a heavy recoil spring (I've seen 24 lbs recommended for 460 Roland) Its the spring slamming the slide shut that beats the gun.

Without a comp,for myself,I want the slide stop to be intermittent ant holding the slide open last round on an 18 lb spring,then I'll put in a 16 lb spring.Thats my max. I think I'm running a 15 lb progressive on my 45 ACP Commander length.

Note I WILL NOT load to 1450fps without the comp.
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Old November 11, 2019, 06:07 PM   #8
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.38 Super, .44-40... they are still around. I see the ammo on the shelves at Cabelas... someone is buying it!
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Old November 11, 2019, 06:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
What happened to the .38 Super?
Funny you should ask today of all days:

I went to the range this morning and there was a guy there shooting a 1911 platform, chambered for 38 Super.

I thought "You don't see those much these days."

What was really odd is that he left his brass behind (for clarity, he policed it and tossed it in the brass bucket). I've been a sport pistol shooter for over three decades. And in that time, I have crossed paths with quite a few 38 Super shooters. But all of them - all of them - loaded their own. That was a first.
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Old November 11, 2019, 06:50 PM   #10
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The super has found itself in a niche that is completely unnecessary for the current generation of shooters, meaning, anyone under sixty or so. there are three fine rounds that own most of the market share, I believe, the 9, the .40, and the .45. Nobody, absolutely nobody, will set aside the convenience and economy of these first two, and a .45 shooter won't give up the power he gets.


People didn't go out and spend an entire day flinging lead downrange. I rarely saw anyone carrying more than a few boxes of anything. Since we can now find steel cased ammo that comes free with a box of cereal, people will go and wham away with hundreds of rounds in a matter of minutes.

This type of shooter is not going to own a super. There are a lot of other shooters who will pass it by for other reasons, but I think that despite all of the people who have seen one on the shelf at the local, or found ammo at some place, availability on it is terrible.
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Old November 11, 2019, 07:08 PM   #11
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People are going to argue about everything. Fact is, that there will be a 200 fps or so advantage to the super over the nine, but there are still dozens of reasons that people will give for ignoring the super, even criticizing it as being 'useless'.
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Old November 11, 2019, 07:48 PM   #12
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I like the cartridge...have had one or another around for the past 35 years or so...but it's truly a hand loader's proposition if you want to get to it's potential. Hand loaders with 5" 1911 bbl's. find it's no trick to see 1400 fps wink out on the chrono with 115 gr bullets and over 1350 fps with 125-130 grainers. And those speeds are way beyond what I've achieved with 9mm Luger rounds.

Accuracy in my current gun, a Colt Combat Commander with 4.25" bbl. has been outstanding...less than 2.5" at 25 yds even at muzzle velocities of 1300 fps and above. At those speeds, brass is flipped well out in the grass on my home range and for that reason, I've always tried to buy nickle plated ones 'cause they're easier to find. My bbl's. have been stock from Colt and to be honest, I can't tell you if they headspace on the cartridge case mouth or the semi-rim. The former much to be desired as they're easier to get truly good accuracy.

I especially like the .38 Super for cast bullet use, the 124 gr LSWC's from Missouri Bullet Co. being especially accurate.

So it's a seldom seen round on the public ranges now, what with the cheap 9mm ammo that's readily available for large volume use...but the Super has its uses too, and few are going to find fault with a 124 gr JHP bullet that's cooking along at 1350 fps!

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Old November 11, 2019, 07:49 PM   #13
74A95
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiBC View Post

Note I WILL NOT load to 1450fps without the comp.
FYI, a 38 Super 124 grain bullet at 1450 fps with 10.4 grains of powder (N105) has no more recoil than a 45 with a 230 grain bullet at 850 fps with 6.0 grains of powder.

38 Super: 5.20 ft lbs of recoil, 11.57 fps recoil velocity

45 Auto: 5.24 ft lbs recoil, 11.61 fps recoil velocity

Calculations for a 2.5 lb gun.
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Old November 11, 2019, 08:51 PM   #14
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Fact is that there are a number of commercial 9mm loads that match what the Super can do. Here's an example:

Buffalo Bore has a 9mm +p+ with a 147 gr. bullet that does 1175 fps.

https://www.midwayusa.com/product/1001516548?pid=177391

Same company claims 1150 fps for the 38 Super with a 147 gr. bullet.

https://www.midwayusa.com/product/1001518248?pid=442587

There are others as well if you poke around.

(Personally I've used a 148 gr. LSWC bullet at 1200 fps from a 5" barrel for self defense as well as for small game.)

The difference is that the 9mm is being stressed to it's limits while the 38 Super is working at it's standard pressure.

Unlike the pop of the 9mm the Super has more of a boom and a more rolling recoil.

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Old November 11, 2019, 09:06 PM   #15
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I picked up a RIA 38 Super a few weeks ago. Always wanted one since I first heard about the round. Fleetfarm here stocks ammo, even had some in HP.
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Old November 11, 2019, 09:44 PM   #16
HiBC
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Quote:
FYI, a 38 Super 124 grain bullet at 1450 fps with 10.4 grains of powder (N105) has no more recoil than a 45 with a 230 grain bullet at 850 fps with 6.0 grains of powder.
I'm not quite sure I understand where you are coming from.
Felt recoil is not the point.I enjoy can plinking with full power 44 Magnum loads.

Is t the comp? It is true the comp makes the gun more controllable. That's a good thing.But IMO,the main benefit is softening the recoil on the gun.

Slide velocity is reduced. The loads we use run about 40,000 psi. We have a very high round count gun that has been shooting that ammo for near 45 years. Its still in fine shape.

My point was I don't shoot 40,000 psi ammo in a 1911 with no comp and I did not want to lead anyone to do so.

I might add these are NOT the sort of e-bay comps that replace the barrel bushing
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Old November 11, 2019, 10:07 PM   #17
74A95
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiBC View Post
I'm not quite sure I understand where you are coming from.
Felt recoil is not the point.I enjoy can plinking with full power 44 Magnum loads.

Is t the comp? It is true the comp makes the gun more controllable. That's a good thing.But IMO,the main benefit is softening the recoil on the gun.

Slide velocity is reduced. The loads we use run about 40,000 psi. We have a very high round count gun that has been shooting that ammo for near 45 years. Its still in fine shape.

My point was I don't shoot 40,000 psi ammo in a 1911 with no comp and I did not want to lead anyone to do so.

I might add these are NOT the sort of e-bay comps that replace the barrel bushing
I didn't know where you were coming from either.

Also FYI, the 9X23 Winchester has a pressure limit up to 55,000 psi, and I don't think Colt put compensators on their 9X23 production guns when they were selling them.

You can put a compensator on your gun if you like, but they are not necessary with these rounds. It's just a matter of preference.

Oh, and the 1450 fps can be accomplished within 38 Super's normal operating pressure with the right powder - for readers who might find it of interest. https://www.shootingtimes.com/editor...38-super/99160
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Old November 11, 2019, 10:23 PM   #18
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Super got a new lease on life when it began dominating practical pistol competition, and now that it has been largely supplanted by 9mm there, it's popularity is dwindling.
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Old November 11, 2019, 10:34 PM   #19
tipoc
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Some on heavy loads and the 38 Super. Well worth look at:

https://web.archive.org/web/20170713...ges/Major.html
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Old November 14, 2019, 07:44 AM   #20
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A friend found a Tanfoglio CZ clone in 38 Super and I was tempted to run over to the LGS it was at, but I did what I do best, procrastinate, and it was gone the next morning. Went for $400 in the box, with 3 mags in excellent shape. Oh well, I'm sticking to 22lr, 9mm and 45 at this point.
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Old November 14, 2019, 02:44 PM   #21
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Very interesting and enjoyable discussion. I prefer the integrally ramped barrels for the Super, but haven't used a comp. Using ramped barrels, 124/125 grain bullets at 1450 FPS or so, and 147 at 1250 FPS or so were easily achieved. Nothing to indicate any issues using AA-9 and AA-7 powders, and mostly new Starline Super Comp, along with some 38 TJ cases.

Years ago, I did some experimenting with Col. Cooper's Super 9/"Super Cooper" cartridge, .223 cases trimmed to .900". I'm not sure I was aware of of integrally ramped barrels for 1911s, or if they were even available back then. Using a 5" unramped barrel, no comp, I got to 115 grains at 1625 FPS. No blown primers, caseheads, etc., but I decided that was as far as I cared to go
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Old November 15, 2019, 12:47 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PolarFBear View Post
What happened to the .38 Super? Wasn't it considered to be the acp version of the .357? All these new calibers that have come up in the past 30 years, 10mm, 41 magnum, .50 AE, .460 Ruger, etc. I do a fair amount of reloading and don't see much "buzz" on those forums about the .38 Super either. Seems like we "invent" new stuff to replace "old" stuff that is just as good. Never see much in the magazines, gun shows or dealers. Where did it go. Likewise the 44-40. That round is intriging. With modern "smokeless" powder be a pretty good barrel filler.
^I never heard of the 460 Ruger, maybe you're refering to the .480 Ruger there PolarFBear, and all of the other cals. you listed are 30+ years old, 10mm has been around since 1983, 41 mag has been around since the early/mid 1960's, the 50 AE has been around since 1988, and the 38 Super is almost a 100(90 years, the 38 Super was introduced in 1929) years old.
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