What makes the 38 so Special?

What makes the 38 so Special?

This is a discussion on What makes the 38 so Special? within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; What makes the 38 so Special? By that I mean why does it and other cartridges have the Special part in the name? I understand ...

Results 1 to 6 of 6
Like Tree10Likes
  • 9 Post By bmcgilvray
  • 1 Post By glockman10mm

Thread: What makes the 38 so Special?

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array rammerjammer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Posts
    3,567

    Question What makes the 38 so Special?

    What makes the 38 so Special? By that I mean why does it and other cartridges have the Special part in the name?

    I understand 45 ACP, GAP 380 ACP, 9mm Luger/Parabellum etc.

    But why the term special for rounds like the 38 Special, 44 Special etc? I am in no way debating the effectiveness of the round or of others, just the root of the name.

    I gotta figure glockman10mm, Tangle, Sixto or someone on the forum will have an explanation for me.

    Thanks for the info
    "Was there no end to the conspiracy of irrational prejudice against Red Ryder and his peacemaker?"

    Revolvers, “more elegant weapons for a more civilized age.”


  2. #2
    Moderator
    Array bmcgilvray's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    10,181
    The "Special" suffix was just a marketing name much as "Magnum" or the English "Express" terms are. It implied that this .38 cartridge offered more performance than the other .38 cartridges in common use in 1899 when the .38 Special was introduced. Smith & Wesson created the name, originally called the ".38 Smith & Wesson Special," to differentiate its newly developed cartridge from other "lesser" .38 caliber cartridges.

    Considering that the other common .38 cartridges then available included .38 Short Colt, .38 Long Colt, .38 S&W, and a .38 rim fire round or two, this would have been truth in advertising at that time. These other .38 cartridges were all of lower power and performance.

    Of course bore diameters of all these cartridges are somewhat less than a true .38". The actual bore diameters could have been anywhere from less than .350" to .355" and the actual groove diameters from between .354" to .363" depending on which of the .38 cartridges listed above, to include the .38 Special itself, that one is considering. Colt and Smith & Wesson didn't always use the exact same bore and groove diameters for their revolvers chambered for any given cartridge nor did they always adhere closely to the specifications when producing their barrels. Colt seems to offer more bore variation between revolvers of the same caliber than does Smith & Wesson in my experience of playing with early cartridge revolvers from each manufacturer.

    Originally, the .38 Special was said to be a lengthened .38 Long Colt cartridge (much the same as the .357 Magnum is a lengthened .38 Special cartridge case) filled with 21 1/2 grains of black powder and using a 158 grain lead bullet to a muzzle velocity of 860 fps. Practically speaking, smokeless loads quickly superseded the original black powder loading. Early smokeless powders still available to us that were in production in those days included non-canister grades of Bulls-Eye and Unique, originally developed by Laflin & Rand just before the turn of the century. These propellants would have been used in some early smokeless factory load applications.

    The term "Special" was only applied to a few cartridges produced over about a 10 year period and included both rifle and revolver rounds, center fire and rim fire designs. These would have been the .32 Winchester Special rifle cartridge, the .38 Special and .44 Special revolver cartridges, and the .22 Remington Special rim fire rifle cartridge.

    There may be other cartridges with the "Special" suffix to their factory name that were once popular but I can't recall them just now.
    Charter Member of the DC .41 LC Society "Get heeled! No really"

    “No possible rapidity of fire can atone for habitual carelessness of aim with the first shot.”

    Theodore Roosevelt, The Wilderness Hunter, 1893

  3. #3
    VIP Member Array Brad426's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Georgia
    Posts
    4,107
    It was supposed to be an improvement over the .38 Long Colt cartridge.
    I have a very strict gun control policy: if there's a gun around, I want to be in control of it.
    Clint Eastwood

  4. #4
    VIP Member Array rammerjammer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Posts
    3,567
    Great info and thank you

    Quote Originally Posted by bmcgilvray View Post
    The "Special" suffix was just a marketing name much as "Magnum" or the English "Express" terms are. It implied that this .38 cartridge offered more performance than the other .38 cartridges in common use in 1899 when the .38 Special was introduced. Smith & Wesson created the name, originally called the ".38 Smith & Wesson Special," to differentiate its newly developed cartridge from other "lesser" .38 caliber cartridges.

    Considering that the other common .38 cartridges then available included .38 Short Colt, .38 Long Colt, .38 S&W, and a .38 rim fire round or two, this would have been truth in advertising at that time. These other .38 cartridges were all of lower power and performance.

    Of course bore diameters of all these cartridges are somewhat less than a true .38". The actual bore diameters could have been anywhere from less than .350" to .355" and the actual groove diameters from between .354" to .363" depending on which of the .38 cartridges listed above, to include the .38 Special itself, that one is considering. Colt and Smith & Wesson didn't always use the exact same bore and groove diameters for their revolvers chambered for any given cartridge nor did they always adhere closely to the specifications when producing their barrels. Colt seems to offer more bore variation between revolvers of the same caliber than does Smith & Wesson in my experience of playing with early cartridge revolvers from each manufacturer.

    Originally, the .38 Special was said to be a lengthened .38 Long Colt cartridge (much the same as the .357 Magnum is a lengthened .38 Special cartridge case) filled with 21 1/2 grains of black powder and using a 158 grain lead bullet to a muzzle velocity of 860 fps. Practically speaking, smokeless loads quickly superseded the original black powder loading. Early smokeless powders still available to us that were in production in those days included non-canister grades of Bulls-Eye and Unique, originally developed by Laflin & Rand just before the turn of the century. These propellants would have been used in some early smokeless factory load applications.

    The term "Special" was only applied to a few cartridges produced over about a 10 year period and included both rifle and revolver rounds, center fire and rim fire designs. These would have been the .32 Winchester Special rifle cartridge, the .38 Special and .44 Special revolver cartridges, and the .22 Remington Special rim fire rifle cartridge.

    There may be other cartridges with the "Special" suffix to their factory name that were once popular but I can't recall them just now.
    "Was there no end to the conspiracy of irrational prejudice against Red Ryder and his peacemaker?"

    Revolvers, “more elegant weapons for a more civilized age.”

  5. #5
    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Kentucky
    Posts
    9,147
    What bmcgilvray said. But these cartridges are also " special " because of their offspring, the 357 and 44 mag.

    But they are still "special", because in the proper guns, they can be loaded to do the same thing their magnum off spring can do, with slight limitations.
    msgt/ret likes this.
    Ignorance is a long way from stupid, but left unchecked, can get there real fast.

  6. #6
    VIP Member Array zacii's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    arizona
    Posts
    3,758
    The mighty 38 spl


    Is the .38 really that "Special?"


    All of the 38 special info you ever wanted to know



    Sent from my Galaxy S2
    Trust in God and keep your powder dry

    "A heavily armed citizenry is not about overthrowing the government; it is about preventing the government from overthrowing liberty. A people stripped of their right of self defense is defenseless against their own government." -source

Links

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

Search tags for this page

44 special vs 38 special ballistics
,

early smokeless powders

,

what makes 38

,
what makes a .38 a special
,

what makes a 38 special so special

,
what makes a 38 special speacial
,

what makes a 38 special special

,
what makes a 38 special special?
,
whats so 38splc.
Click on a term to search for related topics.