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Old October 1, 2012, 11:25 PM   #1
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38 S&W ctg revolver

Can you fire soft point practice ammo 38 specials though a Smith &Wesson 38 S&W revolver if it chambers the rounds?
On the barrel it says
38. 767. 3.5 tons
38 S&W CTG
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Old October 2, 2012, 12:36 AM   #2
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It's not a .38 S&W CTG, that's the caliber & not the model.

Converted guns originally chambered for the .38 S&W may or may not work well with modern .38 Special ammunition. Depends on the quality of the conversion.

Dunno what you mean by "soft point" ammunition.
Jacketed soft points, soft lead bullets, what?
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Old October 2, 2012, 02:00 AM   #3
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38 Specials should not chamber in your revolver unless it has been rechamered. Also, 38 Special fires a .357" bullet, 38 S&W fires a .359"-.360" bullet, so accuracy will likely be pretty mediocre. FWIW, lots of British Smith & Wesson revolvers chambered for 38 S&W were shipped to the US as surplus and rechambered for 38 Special by gunsmiths. Accuracy issues with these guns are legendary.
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Old October 2, 2012, 03:04 AM   #4
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The type of bullet is pretty much irrelevant.

The 3.5 tons is a British proof marking.

If your gun is a Smith & Wesson revolver, it's serial number most likely (but not necessarily) starts with either "V" or "SV". These were WW-II Lend-Lease guns provided to the British Army between 1941 and 1944. These guns are the S&W Military & Police revolver and also known as "Victory" models. This gun in post-war years became the .38 Special Model 10 and the .38 S&W Model 11.

S&W .38 Caliber "Victory" Model (1941-1944)

The .38 S&W Cartridge is different than the .38 Special. It's a shorter, 'fatter' cartridge holding a bullet of nominally .360" diameter. In British service the cartridge was the .38/200 round (a .38 caliber, 200 grain FMJ). Standards U.S. load is a 146 grain bullet. The difference in cartridge sizes can be seen below.

.38 S&W (L) vs. .38 Special (R)

British .38 MkII 180gr

In the post-war years, many of these guns were "repatriated" to the U.S. But since the US military retained their .38 Special revolvers there was a civilian shortage. Enterprising folks on both sides of the Atlantic purchased war surplus .38 S&W revolvers, bored out the chambers in the cylinder to accept the longer (and slightly thinner) .38 Special cartridge. These were then sold all over the place from mail-order houses to hardware stores.

The bad news is that some of these "conversions" were sloppily done. It always behooves you to have your specimen checked out by a competent gunsmith.

Since the short/fat .38 S&W's chamber is slightly larger in diameter than the .38 Special with the re-bored chambers, fired brass will show a "bulge" in the lower portion, starting about .775" from the base of the cartridge. This is not dangerous, but makes reloading the empty case more challenging and tends to shorten their reloading life. It can often lead to brass splitting upon firing which will reduce velocity.

Since these guns are about 70 years old, they don't have the modern heat treating and metallurgy we take for granted. If you use .38 Special ammunition, be sure it is Standard Velocity ammo. Never use +P ammo.

If you're reloading for the gun and using .38/.357" bullets, use a hollow-base wadcutter or RNL (if you can find any) of moderately soft lead to improve accuracy. When fired, the "skirt" of the bullet around the hollow base will flare out some and get a better grip on the rifling. Reloading the .38 S&W can be fun too as it's a mild shooter. Finding .360" bullets may be something of a challenge however.
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Last edited by BillCA; October 2, 2012 at 03:28 AM.
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Old October 2, 2012, 06:56 AM   #5
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Somewhere on your gun it might be stamped Cogswell & Harrison or Parker Hale.

These companies "converted" a lot of old British lend lease revolvers to .38 Special simply by reaming out the chambers.

As others have noted, the .38 S&W uses a shorter, fatter case with a slightly larger bullet, so results are not always optimal. You can have cases swell or even split.

Generally most people say these are OK with standard velocity, non jacketed .38 Special loads, but NO NO NO +P ammunition.

Personally, I won't even fire such a conversion.
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Old October 2, 2012, 07:10 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the info.
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Old October 2, 2012, 01:34 PM   #7
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The most advisable ammunition to be fired in such a gun would be .38 S&W ammunition as it is still available from Winchester, Remington, Magtech, Fiocchi, and Prvi Partizan. At worst, accuracy may be mediocre because of the long jump that the bullet has to make from the case to the cylinder throat due to the conversion, but at least you won't have bulged or split cases.

Also, if you're a handloader, the revolver would be more than adequate for replicating the old British .380 Revolver Mk. I loading with a 200gr bullet. The Lyman 358430 mold makes a good bullet for such use if you either cast your own or can find a caster making properly-sized bullets from this mold. If you just want some fun plinking ammo, I've heard of people having good luck with 148gr HBWC bullets seated to the same OAL as factory 146gr LRN in .38 S&W though I've not tried it myself.
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Old October 2, 2012, 10:14 PM   #8
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The 148 HBWC set to max length does work pretty well. The skirt of the bullet manages to engage enough rifling to improve the accuracy over solid base and FMJ .357" bullets.

The original British/Webley .38/200 round's velocity was 675 fps which is not terribly impressive. Managed to get about 748 fps with the HBWC, a modest charge of Bullseye or Unique and a light crimp using .38 S&W brass.
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