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Old December 3, 2021, 03:16 PM   #1
jfruser
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Better 1911 Option: 9mm to .38Super or .38Super to 9mm?

What is the better way to end up with a 1911 that shoots both 9x19mm and .38Super?
1. Start with 9mm, get .38Super bbl, mags, (& maybe extractor)
2. Start with .38Super, get 9mm bbl, mags, (& maybe extractor)
I would be OK with discrete extractors. I have already disassembled my 1911s without having to make the walk of shame with my "Bag O' Gun" to a gunsmith. Swapping out extractors is no big whoop.

Assuming the 1911 is all steel GM-sized / 5" bbl.

Why?
1. 1911. Use same leather, manual of arms, etc. as my current 1911s.
2. Ammo availability. During ammo droughts, I am mocked by .38Super on the shelves.
3. Ubiquity & cost of 9x19mm during non-ammo-drought times. For IDPA, USAPSA, etc. and general training.
4. Hot .38Super loads. I hand load for other cartridges already. A hot .38Super hand load with a truncated cone or flat point 147-ish grain pill is not .44mag, but still ought to penetrate like crazy in hostile critters. And I like Hornady XTPs run fast in other cartridges if I want a JHP.
5. Training/beginner semi-auto in 9x19mm. I already have the ideal training revolver (SW686+.38spl tgt wadcutters). I would like a super-soft-shooting semi-auto, too.

I would appreciate the experience & thoughts of those who have done the 1911 9mm/.38Super swap.
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Old December 3, 2021, 04:09 PM   #2
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Consider that if you want to run "hot" 38 Super loads (Depending on your definition of "Hot")
You will need a ramped barrel for a fully supported chamber.
This involves modifying (cutting and fitting) the frame.
Now you will need a ramped 9 mm barrel.

So,two barrels and frame mods and fitting.

It can be done,but do your homework before you start spending money.

I have not been keeping up with the ramped barrel 38 Super factory handguns.

Maybe RIA or Springfield,etc offer an affordable one.

With enough money,you can get about anything.
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Old December 3, 2021, 06:08 PM   #3
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Quote:
2. Ammo availability. During ammo droughts, I am mocked by .38Super on the shelves.
We hand loaders (and bullet casters) seem to have less of a problem during ammo droughts.

If you are a pistolaro, who does not hand load and cast, you are only half way into the game.

At one time I assembled the parts to convert my circa seventies Colt Combat Commander to 9mm (it worked fine), but after awhile I sold the parts as a conversion kit at a gun show inasmuch as there really did not seem to be any point in having a swap-out kit. When one hand loads and casts, such things as changeable cartridge gun kits seem to be ingenious solutions to non-existent problems.

Last edited by dahermit; December 3, 2021 at 06:13 PM.
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Old December 3, 2021, 06:33 PM   #4
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The fact that God was asleep at the controls and allowed the abomination that is the 9x19mm 1911 platform is just proof enough that you should do whatever it takes you to get it to the 38 Super.

IMHO it shouldn’t be anything but 45 ACP, but that is just my two cents…. Too bad it ain’t some law…. Hahahah
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Old December 3, 2021, 09:11 PM   #5
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It comes down to the breech face.
I think there are a few brands of slide just wide enough for 9mm, not the semirim of the .38. But most will swing both ways, I know Colt does, I had one.
There are even three way slides, 9, .38, and .40.
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Old December 3, 2021, 10:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiBC
Consider that if you want to run "hot" 38 Super loads (Depending on your definition of "Hot")
Upper end of SAMMI spec for .38Super (33,359 psi) is what I mean by hot. So, maybe not so hot as some, but hot for me, given 9/10 handgun cartridges I hand load are mild and only 1/10 are wild.

Would upper limit of SAMMI require such frame surgery?

According to Hodgdon & Lyman, that is in the neighborhood of 1100fps for a 147gr pill with several powders I already use: Win231/HP38, HS-6. Those loads in the 31-32Kpsi range.

(FYI, 9x19 max according to SAMMI is 35,000psi and 9x19+P is 38,500psi.)

Buff Bore produces a 147gr JHP at 1150fps and a 147gr 9x19+P at 1100fps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dahermit
We hand loaders (and bullet casters) seem to have less of a problem during ammo droughts.
I load for the following handgun cartridges:
.44mag
.357mag
.38spl
.45ACP
I have fair reserves for all of them.

I don't yet load for 9x19, though I have one 9x19 pistol. Same with .40S&W.
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Old December 3, 2021, 11:24 PM   #7
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I could blather off my unverified opinions,but thats no real help.

I do not know where the pressure "line in the sand" is requiring a ramped barrel.Some contributor will no doubt help us with that soon.

Ill venture a guess that a "Colt standard" 38 Super gun (non-ramped) will handle any SAAMI pressure 38 Super.

If you pursue the old school major caliber 40,000 psi 1400 + fps comped race gun "Hot" you better get a fully supported chamber.
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Old December 4, 2021, 12:17 AM   #8
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9mm to 38 super.

https://www.cdnnsports.com/1911-38-s...sig-sauer.html

A Sig 38 super barrel can be mated to a Kimber 9mm full size or you could get a sig 1911 and have a dual caliber set up. Don't quote me but I believe they are Nowlan/Wilson barrels vs. Para ramped barrels that have a different shape for the recess cut in the frame.
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Old December 4, 2021, 07:29 AM   #9
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And don't overlook the obvious.
If you get one in 9mm, and go to 38 Super, your going to have to get a stiffer recoil spring.
38 Super to 9mm, a lighter recoil spring.

Either way your changing recoil springs anyways.

And i'll agree with Bornfighting88.
Anything other than 45 ACP in a 1911 is an abhoration before God!
Kinda akin to breeding a cat with a dog..
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Old December 4, 2021, 11:08 AM   #10
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It might be too much to ask a .40/10 breechface to accommodate 9mm, but a buddy has such a gun, and it seems to work.
A 9mm-specific breechface would not work with Super.
I think I'd want a breechface no larger than .38 Super dimensions, for a convertible Super/9mm.
You could load .38 Super Comp brass, use a 9mm breechface, and probably not have to worry about extractor swapping.
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Old December 4, 2021, 12:34 PM   #11
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Remember the Super is semi-rimmed. That makes for a slightly larger breech face.
My first 1911 was a 38 Super. The Colt original slide will accomodate .40 S+W / 10 mm ammunition without mod, however, I have never used that slide with 10mm or 40. I just know the brass will easily fit the breech face.

I believe folks can feel however they want. If you feel "The only legit 1911 is a 45 ACP," suit yourself! Enjoy! No heartburn!!

But,"Ask the Man who owns one"

A 38 Super 1911 is a sweet shooting,lethal package. Especially with the same bullet tech improvements that have narrowed the 9mm vs 45 arguement.

That said,while the 38 Super still works fine,ammo supply chain and variety makes convenience part of the equation. I have 45 acp 1911s. I like them.
h
IMO, the opinionated 45 advocates are off topic.

IMO, beat down some feed potential feed problems by just commiting to 38 Super Comp,fit the extractor to 38 Super Comp,buy 1000 Starline Super Comp brass,develop THE load you feed your gun,and be done.

Extreme springs beat the gun to death. Stay in the realm of JMB design spring rates. Its the slam forward that beats the gun. Heavy recoil springs also screw with the time the magazine has to upfeed ammo.

I passed it to my younger brother,but I was given a beautiful Ben Jones /Guncraft 38 Super race gun ,single stack,built in the 70's.

It was a Champion competitor's gun.and its seen 40+ years off and on use.
High round count.

Its tight,slick,and runs beautifully. Its comped. The ammo steady diet,what "runs the gun" is 40,000 psi,1450 fps 124 gr loads. Zippy. (ramped,BTW)

Brother borrowed high speed industrial video. The spring that balances best for that gun/load is 12 pounds.

IMO,that is a great contributor to the life and condition of this gun.

I'm a 1911 "Nobody" hobbyist. I'm no authority. My system of finding the "Hot rod" spring rate is put in an 18 lb spring. Develop your "hot rod load" by loading one round in the mag,and stopping when the slide stop begins to work,holding the slide open.
Now,drop down to a 16 pound spring.

Of course,follow all other pressure /max load procedure. This advice is what I use to determine the max load/recoil spring relationship. There are other max load considerations.

But I build the gun/load combination to live a long life with a max of a 16 lb spring. No 24 lb springs for me. If a 16 lb spring is not enough,use less powder.

If that is 50 fps short of some fantasy velocity,I don't care.

Standard cartridges,just use the load manual.

This is about pursuing race gun old school major,or 45 Super,or 9x25 Dillon,or 460 Rowland,etc. I load to a 16 lb spring and thats enough.

I have a couple of 38 Super projects,one a double stack comped gun.

All fun and games.Hobby stuff,and fine for the nightstand or pickup.

What goes out the door with me is a box stock 9mm Shield plus with factory loads. Thats my choice for my own reasons and I feel no need to justify it to anyone.
The Rittenhouse prosecutor comments on 55 gr 5.56 ball ammo reenforce my choice.

Last edited by HiBC; December 4, 2021 at 12:40 PM.
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Old December 4, 2021, 03:42 PM   #12
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9mm/.38 Super

"Remember the Super is semi-rimmed. That makes for a slightly larger breech face"
The only difference between Colt 9mm and .38 Super slides is the roll mark.
I have several of each and the breech faces and extractors are the same.
Recoil springs do differ.
The unsupported nature of the non ramped barrels only became an issue when IPSC shooters started hot rodding the .38 Super with 158 grain bullets instead of the normal 125-130 grain to meet major power level in competition.
This is why the ramped barrels came about. A maximum loaded 125 grain bullet will not cause case failure in a non ramped barrel.
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Old December 4, 2021, 05:51 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcj54
"Remember the Super is semi-rimmed. That makes for a slightly larger breech face"
The only difference between Colt 9mm and .38 Super slides is the roll mark.
I have several of each and the breech faces and extractors are the same.
Recoil springs do differ.
The unsupported nature of the non ramped barrels only became an issue when IPSC shooters started hot rodding the .38 Super with 158 grain bullets instead of the normal 125-130 grain to meet major power level in competition.
This is why the ramped barrels came about. A maximum loaded 125 grain bullet will not cause case failure in a non ramped barrel.
Hmm, interesting. I have had my eyes on a 9mm Colt Competition for a while.

I think I mis-wrote when I wrote "hot" .38Super in my original post, given what others have written with regard to hot .38Super. I intend to stay within published SAMMI-happy load data. If that doesn't make major in whatever gun game I decide to shoot, no worries.

9x19 and .38Super will be the smallest cartridges I will have hand loaded and I like the idea of a bit more space in the .38Super for loads approaching max. From my reading of the load data, it looks like .38Super will perform a smidge better than 9x19mm+P at a lower pressure when both approach thier SAMMI max with 147gr pills.
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Old December 4, 2021, 06:18 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcj54 View Post
"Remember the Super is semi-rimmed. That makes for a slightly larger breech face"
The only difference between Colt 9mm and .38 Super slides is the roll mark.
I have several of each and the breech faces and extractors are the same.
Recoil springs do differ.
The unsupported nature of the non ramped barrels only became an issue when IPSC shooters started hot rodding the .38 Super with 158 grain bullets instead of the normal 125-130 grain to meet major power level in competition.
This is why the ramped barrels came about. A maximum loaded 125 grain bullet will not cause case failure in a non ramped barrel.
I beg to differ. I blew-out a .38 Super case with a load of 6.4 grains of W231, Rem. case, Win. primer, 120 grain RCBS RN, gas checked, oven hardened, sized to .357, O.A.L 1.324.

231 Max load for 120 grain cast lead bullet is 6.5 according to the Lyman "Pistol & Revolver Handbook, Third Edition" page 147.

The incident shook me up, and was the impetus for getting a more supported chamber/barrel.

It stung my hand but did not damage to the gun or myself.

The original barrel was a Colt (if I am remembering correctly). The picture shows that the new barrel has more support.


My newly acquired RIA .38 Super has a fully supported ramped barrel and I use Starline .38 Super Comp casings exclusively as insurance that I do experience a blow-out again.
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Old December 4, 2021, 08:06 PM   #15
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Some of the issues discussed here are answered at the link below. I suggest you read it over carefully.

https://www.shootingtimes.com/editor...38-super/99160

A ramped barrel is not required for loads within SAAMI pressure specs, but brass selection can make you safer with a unramped barrel = Starline 38 Super +P and Starline 38 Supercomp.
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Old December 5, 2021, 10:53 AM   #16
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Do not assume that an integral ramp guarantees more case support.
I made a little 9mm gauge and found that the type of ramp did not correlate well with support over several guns, 1911ish and other.

Do not assume that a protective ramp will give good feeding.
My SA Ultra Compact 9mm had great support but would not reliably feed JHPs. By the time the ramp was recontoured to convert the integral ramp into a FEED ramp, its case support was no different from anything else.

A USPSA GM here preferred the plain barrel for his overloaded .38 Supers, said he got better support and less chance of a blown case head than the commonly recommended integral ramp. But he was using the old Colt style barrel ramp, narrow and shallow for use with roundnose bullets at standard OAL. A vendor once sent him a Super barrel with the ramp wallowed out in the .45 SWC style. He was doubtful but not doubtful enough; he had it put in and sure enough got case head bulges and blowout. The vendor said they did not send it out like that, it must have been the gunsmith... but it wasn't.
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Old December 5, 2021, 11:51 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Watson View Post
Do not assume that an integral ramp guarantees more case support.
I made a little 9mm gauge and found that the type of ramp did not correlate well with support over several guns, 1911ish and other.

Do not assume that a protective ramp will give good feeding.
My SA Ultra Compact 9mm had great support but would not reliably feed JHPs. By the time the ramp was recontoured to convert the integral ramp into a FEED ramp, its case support was no different from anything else.

A USPSA GM here preferred the plain barrel for his overloaded .38 Supers, said he got better support and less chance of a blown case head than the commonly recommended integral ramp. But he was using the old Colt style barrel ramp, narrow and shallow for use with roundnose bullets at standard OAL. A vendor once sent him a Super barrel with the ramp wallowed out in the .45 SWC style. He was doubtful but not doubtful enough; he had it put in and sure enough got case head bulges and blowout. The vendor said they did not send it out like that, it must have been the gunsmith... but it wasn't.
Maybe so, but my experience with my recent purchase of an RIA M19111 A1 in .38 Super, definitely has a ramped barrel that both supports the head (better than any other .38 Super barrels I have dealt with), and feeds flawlessly.
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Old December 5, 2021, 02:39 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 74A95
Some of the issues discussed here are answered at the link below. I suggest you read it over carefully.

https://www.shootingtimes.com/editor...38-super/99160

A ramped barrel is not required for loads within SAAMI pressure specs, but brass selection can make you safer with a unramped barrel = Starline 38 Super +P and Starline 38 Supercomp.
Read that article and my first reaction is, "Holy sheep dip."

I am pretty certain that I will be happy with SAMMI-compliant book loads after reading that article. I had looked in my hardbound Lyman's 50th & Lee, the online Hodgdon's, and online Alliant loads and not seen the loads the article's author saw. Accurate #7 pops in my manuals for .38Super, 9x19, .357mag, & .44mag, so I would not be buying one powder for just one cartridge. (And that will give me an excuse for another load development for .44 & .357. Sometimes I seem to shoot so I can develop loads.)

Heck, I would be happy with the non-bulgy loads the author got with Rem & Win loads, but springing for Starline brass sounds like cheap insurance.
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Old December 5, 2021, 03:33 PM   #19
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Western Powders and Vihtavuori load manuals are available on the internet.
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Old December 5, 2021, 03:43 PM   #20
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And if you're looking for accurate handloads in the 38 Super, see this link;
https://www.shootingtimes.com/editor...r-loads/326242
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Old December 12, 2021, 01:32 PM   #21
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Quote:
Remember the Super is semi-rimmed. That makes for a slightly larger breech face.
Slightly larger...by the case spec drawings, 0.012". (twelve thousandths of an inch)
9mm Luger 0.394"
.38 Super 0.406"

keeping in mind that the case spec drawings are max dimensions, and that individual ammo tolerances often result in slightly less than min specs for ammo...
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Old December 12, 2021, 02:22 PM   #22
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And the 40 S+W drawing says 424 over the rim.

I did not choose my words very well regarding breech faces and the slide.

I did not intend to say the breech face is different 9mm vs 38 Super. I meant to point out that 38 Super rim was a little larger.

The breech face,in my experience,is quite generous in size for either 9mm or 38 Super.
I have a very nice original Colt made 38 Super slide. The breech face is unaltered.
At one time I was considering using that slide for a 10mm build.

I checked to see if that breech face would accept 10mm,using 10mm brass as a gauge.

It fit easily,with what seems enough clearance to easily feed 10mm without any change. I'm not saying thats true for all 38 Super slides.


Just the one Colt slide I have.

I decided that slide had its own value.Colt marked it "38 Super" It shall remain a 38 Super.
There is nothing wrong with a Caspian slide.
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Old December 12, 2021, 02:29 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Watson
It comes down to the breech face.
I think there are a few brands of slide just wide enough for 9mm, not the semirim of the .38. But most will swing both ways, I know Colt does, I had one.
There are even three way slides, 9, .38, and .40.
Caspian 9mm slides are all cut to accommodate both 9mm and .38 Super.

Para-Ordnance 9mm slides will accommodate .38 Super and .40 S&W.

For the rare 9mm slide that won't accept the semi-rimmed .38 Super cases, Starline offers .38 Super Comp brass, which doesn't have the extended semi-rim.
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Old December 12, 2021, 02:32 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rc
https://www.cdnnsports.com/1911-38-s...sig-sauer.html

A Sig 38 super barrel can be mated to a Kimber 9mm full size or you could get a sig 1911 and have a dual caliber set up. Don't quote me but I believe they are Nowlan/Wilson barrels vs. Para ramped barrels that have a different shape for the recess cut in the frame.
Bummer. I was ready to order one -- until I realized that its a Wilson-Nowlin ramp cut, and I would need a Clark-Para cut.
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Old February 18, 2022, 01:54 PM   #25
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There are some ebay barrels right now that might fit your needs.
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