Tell me about .38 Super

In God We Trust

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I was reading a Stephen Hunter book and he mentioned a gun in .38 super. I remember s couple different books I've read where they act like it's the ultimate round or something.

Is its ballistics better than the other mundane rounds on the market? Is it super expensive?

I may just be looking for an excuse to buy another gun, but I'm curious if there is any merit to the hype.
 

DrBurnsides

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It seems 357 sig like, but without the shouldered case.. I've seen 1911 in them.. Also.. I think Mr Rowland makes a version of it.. But I'm not sure how 960 rowland differs from 9x23mm.
 

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It's another carteridge that was all the rage.....then died. Some of the old dudes at my club use it for plate shoots.

It's had a recent come back for ipsc because it can be used in major class.

That's about all my knowledge.
 
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xjma99

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Well it’s ‘super’ and that’s all you need to know!!


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It's another carteridge that was all the rage.....then died. Some of the old dudes at my club use it for plate shoots.

It's [snip] very popular for USPSA/IPSC because it can be used to make major loads.

That's about all my knowledge.
Equipment determines your Division in competition, Class is determined by how well you perform within a Division.

.38 super auto is an elongated semin-rimmed cartridge developed in the late 20's because the .45 wasn't great at penetrating the thicker steel bodies of the autos of the time. You have to keep up with the bootleggers with their Thompsons, doncha know.

I have an IPSC/USPSA Open Division gun chambered in Super and it is a blast to shoot!
 
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Its basically 9mm Mag. Cool round but kind of an answer to a question that nobody asked. Its almost like .40 vs 10mm, but in that instance, .40 is the ATQNA. I know an old dude who shoots his .38 super Colt 1911 all the time. He loves the thing and has been shooting it since the 60's. He's the only person I know that actually owns a firearm chambered in that round.
 

whacko

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Its basically 9mm Mag. Cool round but kind of an answer to a question that nobody asked. Its almost like .40 vs 10mm, but in that instance, .40 is the ATQNA. I know an old dude who shoots his .38 super Colt 1911 all the time. He loves the thing and has been shooting it since the 60's. He's the only person I know that actually owns a firearm chambered in that round.
I know exactly 2 people with guns chambered in 38 super. Both are in their 60s.
 
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38 super has definitely fallen out of favor. But it really is a great round. Flat shooting. Able to be loaded really hot or soft depending on use.

Iirc the round came about as a direct result of the FBI experiences in the Bonnie and Clyde shoot out where they needed a round that would work well in a 1911 and still have the ability to penetrate a car door. Also offering more rounds in 1911 than in 45.

And like the 10mm l, a great round is a great round. despite the lack of glossy ads and flavor of the month super whiz bang or the month calibers. I believe as it is also a "non military" caliber it has popularly outside the us (Mexico and others) where civilians are. It allowed "military" guns
 

BrianWilson

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It is an anachronistic oddity that has neither the power of 357 nor the utilitarian convenience and economy of 9, yet the majority of
what are arguably the best hand built pistols in the world are chambered in it.
 

ochmude

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I believe as it is also a "non military" caliber it has popularly outside the us (Mexico and others) where civilians aren't allowed "military" guns
Yup, it's very popular in Mexico. The only time I have personally ever seen someone actually carrying .38 super was a Mexican dude escorting a dope load across the border.
 
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I know that <some> 9mm Largo (bergmann/bayard) pistols will eat 38 super all day, and vice versa. Not universally the case but I know of one 50's STAR 1911 that never touched a round of the 9x23 it was intended to shoot and ate a lot of 38 super in its lifetime. Again, two calibers that probably lives on in "no-mil-caliber" countries of which there are a few. I keep hearing about it coming back but I don't see it anywhere other than "that one guy" at the range whether he's the comp shooter looking for an edge, or the collector of oldy but goodies.
 

Zappa

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I believe as it is also a "non military" caliber it has popularly outside the us (Mexico and others) where civilians are not allowed "military" guns
This^

No civilian ownership of military calibers allowed in Mexico.

Yup, it's very popular in Mexico. The only time I have personally ever seen someone actually carrying .38 super was a Mexican dude escorting a dope load across the border.
It's also the most powerful handgun caliber legally allowed by non-military citizens in Mexico, which is limited to a .38 caliber maximum. No .40's, .44's or .45's allowed. Get caught with a single 9mm (9x19) round in Mexico and get screwed over big time.
 
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whacko

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This^

No civilian ownership of military calibers allowed in Mexico.



It's also the most powerful handgun caliber legally allowed by non-military citizens in Mexico, which is limited to a .38 caliber maximum. No .40's, .44's or .45's allowed. Get caught with a single 9mm (9x19) round in Mexico and get screwed over big time.
Interesting.........I'm pretty sure the drug cartels don't give a full©k about that law.
 
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It is an anachronistic oddity that has neither the power of 357 nor the utilitarian convenience and economy of 9, yet the majority of
what are arguably the best hand built pistols in the world are chambered in it.
It's easy to understand if you understand the game most of those pistols are built for.

As has been stated already it's a caliber that was designed for a specific purpose, so it's not a solution looking for a problem; at least it wasn't when it was designed.

I know plenty of people that shoot 38S or it's relative 38 SuperComp and almost all are under 60. The reason they choose this caliber is all about the game. In the Open division of USPSA you are allowed to use ammo that "makes major" (bullet weight*velocity)/1000 >= 165 using a 9mm projectile. You are also allowed as much ammo as you can fit in a 170mm long magazine. If you want the scoring advantage and want to have 30 rounds in the gun then you shoot 38S. As an added benefit you can use a powder that produces a lot of gas which makes the compensator work better and keeps the gun shooting flat even though you're sending a 124gr peojectile downrange at 1450fps.

People are starting to use 9mm loaded to the same velocities more these days but it's not seen as reliable and you have fewer powder choices.


So it started as a solution to a specific problem in the law enforcement world and is now the perfect caliber for USPSA/IPSC. If you like Single Stack 1911s and want more capacity it fits there as well but I don't own anything chambered in it outside of my completion guns
 
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It's easy to understand if you understand the game most of those pistols are built for.

As has been stated already it's a caliber that was designed for a specific purpose, so it's not a solution looking for a problem; at least it wasn't when it was designed.

I know plenty of people that shoot 38S or it's relative 38 SuperComp and almost all are under 60. The reason they choose this caliber is all about the game. In the Open division of USPSA you are allowed to use ammo that "makes major" (bullet weight*velocity)/1000 >= 165 using a 9mm projectile. You are also allowed as much ammo as you can fit in a 170mm long magazine. If you want the scoring advantage and want to have 30 rounds in the gun then you shoot 38S. As an added benefit you can use a powder that produces a lot of gas which makes the compensator work better and keeps the gun shooting flat even though you're sending a 124gr peojectile downrange at 1450fps.

People are starting to use 9mm loaded to the same velocities more these days but it's not seen as reliable and you have fewer powder choices.


So it started as a solution to a specific problem in the law enforcement world and is now the perfect caliber for USPSA/IPSC. If you like Single Stack 1911s and want more capacity it fits there as well but I don't own anything chambered in it outside of my completion guns
1450fps? That's hot. The 90s called and want their 175 major pf back...hahaha
 

Dennis in MA

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This^

No civilian ownership of military calibers allowed in Mexico.



It's also the most powerful handgun caliber legally allowed by non-military citizens in Mexico, which is limited to a .38 caliber maximum. No .40's, .44's or .45's allowed. Get caught with a single 9mm (9x19) round in Mexico and get screwed over big time.
Given this, my penchant for not getting into a Mexican jail AND the Chive blurb yesterday about Mexico being the second most unsafe place to be, behind Afghanistan (and ahead of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Libya), I think I'll stay home. LOL
 

additionalmc

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I had looked into the .38 super a few years ago out of curiosity. I still have no gun chambered for it though. Some things I learned, as others said it's popular in Mexico for the non-military caliber size. When it was first introduced it was known for poor accuracy because the guns (1911) it was chambered in had the headspacing on the rim, now in most modern guns it headspaces on the cartridge face like a 9mm would, resulting in better accuracy.

I had also heard some folks could easily convert a 9mm 1911 simply by swapping out the barrel and the magazine. Another interesting thing I heard was being able to fire it from a .38 or .357 revolver since it has the semi-rim to hold it in place, not sure how safe that would be.
 
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Congratulations on achieving excellence. You are a great shooter.
That is quite true of SJan. He has discovered a little known secret to success.


He practices. [wink]


Actually, I would wager that an "A" ranked USPSA shooter is more proficient with a handgun than 99.990 % of this planet's population. [thumbsup]
 

SJan

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My USPSA card has an "A" in the Open Division.
I thought this deserved a comment because I didn't see what it has to do with the subject of the thread.
Congratulations at achieving mediocrity
Now I see that my smart ass comment was out of line and also added nothing useful to the thread.

To the OP:. 38 super is a wonderful and versatile round that can be loaded mild to very hot, and is commonly fired from awesome custom or semi-custom guns. If you don't reload you will see that factory ammo can be hard to come by and rather expensive.
 
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It was once all the rage for IPSC shooters who found the .45 ACP to have too much kick and too few rounds in the magazine.
 

In God We Trust

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To the OP:. 38 super is a wonderful and versatile round that can be loaded mild to very hot, and is commonly fired from awesome custom or semi-custom guns. If you don't reload you will see that factory ammo can be hard to come by and rather expensive.
Yeah I don't reload, but I don't shoot very often either. Is the ammo stupid expensive ?
 
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It was once all the rage for IPSC shooters who found the .45 ACP to have too much kick and too few rounds in the magazine.
It is currently the most popular round among Open division competitors, according to the Nationals equipment survey.
 

Wickedcoolname

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Years ago I won the second prize in Guns & Ammo dream guns sweepstakes. You know those stupid little cards that fall out of the magazine that most of us never bother to fill out and send in? Well, I filled it out and sent it in, and about 6 months later I got a call from Peterson Publication. I almost hung up thinking it was a telemarketer.
This was around 1990, so well before cell phones. The lady on the line told me that I won a race gun. I was a Caspian Arms Wide Body made by Glades Gunworks in Florida. It was chambered in .38 Super and it had all the bells and whistles that race guns came with back in the day. Bomar barrel, Novak sights, etc.
Sweet shooting gun. I loved the gun and loved the caliber but I wasn't into competitive shooting at the time so I sold it to an IPSC shooter. I used the $3500 to add to my gun collection.
I've wanted another .38 Super ever since, but never got around to getting one yet. But this thread has me thinking about it again.
 
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Standard factory 38 Super is pretty close to +P 9mm Luger in performance. If loaded hot (38 super +P) it can approach 357 Sig performances. Really there was no need for the 357 Sig, and it's silly necked down case, since the 38 super +P was around for years (I say that sort of tongue in cheek as the 38 Super is too long to drop into frames that take 40S&W)

In any case, what makes it appealing to me is it's history. It was a magnum round before the 38/44 and 357 mag. Frank Hamer, the man who orchestrated the ambush of Bonnie and Clyde, used one.
 
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