Encouraging manufacture of .38 S&W defense ammo

Encouraging manufacture of .38 S&W defense ammo

This is a discussion on Encouraging manufacture of .38 S&W defense ammo within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Hello all and Happy New Year! Below is a note I just sent to Underwood about modern defense ammo recommendations for the .38 S&W/.38 Colt ...

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  1. #1
    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    Encouraging manufacture of .38 S&W defense ammo

    Hello all and Happy New Year!

    Below is a note I just sent to Underwood about modern defense ammo recommendations for the .38 S&W/.38 Colt New Police cartridge. If you have similar opinions, I hope you'll contact Underwood and encourage them to manufacture something we can use!

    I realize this is a long shot, but there are thousands of these guns out there that need only suitable ammo to get back into service. Buffalo Bore makes a 125g LSWC @ 1000, and Matt's also loads a ".38 Super Police" clone 200g @ 625. This latter load also duplicates British Mk 1/1Z .380 Rim service ammo for Enfields, Webleys, and Victory models. Old Western Scrounger makes a similar load.

    More options would be nice!

    LAMan

    "Hello and Happy New Year!

    Do you have any plans to provide a defense load (or loads) in caliber .38 S&W? If not, I hope you'll consider adding one or more to your line.

    Currently, only Buffalo Bore offers such a cartridge, in 125g LSWC with large meplat, and appropriately warns consumers NOT to use this ammunition in old top-break guns. Other manufacturers load 145-46g LRN at about 685 fps, typically even slower, to accommodate the old top-breaks (lowest common denominator).

    Published manuals such as Speer 13, Lee 2nd, and Lyman 48th each list high performance loads in .38 S&W, attainable with canister powders. I personally have vintage Winchester ammunition that loaded a 150g LFP at a chronographed 770 fps from my 4" S&W Mod. 33-1. It was termed ".38 Colt New Police," but as you doubtless know, that designation was simply Colt's method of avoiding the use of ".38 S&W" rollmarks on their revolvers! The cartridges were identical.

    Using the above-listed manuals and Ken Waters's famous "Pet Loads" as a guideline, I have gotten fine results from the following handloads, just to give you a glimpse of some possibilities. (Unfortunately, I have no ability to conduct pressure testing. All vels are 4" barrel. Snub 2" guns typically lose 60-90 fps.)
    110g JHP @ 1000+
    125g LRNFP @ 900-1000
    130g LHP @ 900
    ***135g Speer GDHP @ 860-900
    140g LSWC @ 800+
    145g LSWCHP and LHP @ 850
    148g LWC @ 900 (loaded "long")
    150g LSWC @ 800
    158g LSWC @ 750
    200g LRN and LSWC @ 600-700, duplicating the old ".38 Super Police" load and its twin, the British service Mk1/1Z blunt nose, soft lead bullet, intended to destabilize and tumble soon after penetrating a soft target, plus deform easily to crush bone. (And they do!) The harder cast LSWC loaded between 650-700 gives massive penetration and crush cavity.

    Other loads I have yet to test, but that comprise options worthy of your consideration:
    --dual projectile 75g LWC @ 750
    --110g LWC @ 1000+
    --115g LPHP @ 1000+
    --125g LWC @ 1000
    --140g LWC @ 900+
    --150g LSWC @ 800+
    --158g LSWC @ 800
    --173g LSWC @ 750

    At the risk of giving you more information that you already know, the guns suitable for use with these loads are no longer manufactured, but exist by the tens or hundreds of thousands in great condition. These include the S&W Regulation Police/33-1, Terrier/32-1, Colt Banker's Special, Colt Police Positive. The 173g-200g loads @ 600-650 would also shoot to the sights of military surplus British Enfield and Webley revolvers, plus the widely available S&W Victory models. None of these guns were target guns, and they all predated the era of extraordinary round counts; they typically sat in nightstands and dresser drawers, and are mechanically in excellent consition,

    The SAAMI pressure for .38 S&W is 13,000, just like the .44 S&W Special. You and Buffalo Bore both provide effective loads suitable for the Charter Bulldog, and much hotter .44 loads for sturdier guns. The .38 S&W is analogous, and it is only necessary to warn users of top-break pocket pistols to stick to standard 146g/685 fps ammo. The J frame S&W and D frame Colt models were commonly chambered for .38 Special; although I don't know that the .38 S&W guns were proof-tested to the same level, it is almost certain that they were, and are, easily capable of handling 17,000 like the standard velocity .38 Special.

    Admittedly, no manufacturer currently chambers a handgun in .38 S&W, although an I frame Smith loaded with ammo as listed above would be a crackerjack concealed-carry gun! Great fit for small hands, markedly less bulky and weighty than a J frame, and could handle an effective cartridge with less recoil and blast than the current Airweight Smiths.

    I realize that your ultimate consideration is marketability, and hopefully you'll find some options that will allow people to utilize their elderly, but totally sound guns. Ed McGivern carried a 4" Regulation Police and a 2" S&W top-break, and considered them handy, concealable, and hard-hitting. Hatcher also had kind words for the LFP Colt New Police ammo, and Ken Waters was impressed by the versatility of the cartridge.

    Thanks for your time and consideration."

  2. #2
    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    Yeh LM!

    Glad to see you post. Im always interested with your work, especially the heavy 38 data.
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    Ex Member Array rammerjammer's Avatar
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    That's an old cartridge probably relegated to the realm of reloaders only. But its worth a try.
    LouisianaMan likes this.

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    VIP Member Array Fizban's Avatar
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    I would sure like to see a 200gr JHP +p..
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    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    I would love to see a snub smaller than the current crop of .38/.357s. Like the return of the Bankers Special. Some pants pockets are just not deep enough to conceal a modern snub, without the grip peeking out, if you need to tuck your shirt. These smaller snubs could give the micro .380s a run for their money.

    Bravo!
    The number of people killed because they didn't have "enough gun" is dwarfed by those who had none at all.

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    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    I see a lot of Terriers at gun shows in pristine condition.
    They deserve a new life.
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  8. #7
    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rammerjammer View Post
    That's an old cartridge probably relegated to the realm of reloaders only. But its worth a try.
    Rammer,
    You're almost certainly right, but maybe Underwood will take up the BB gauntlet and provide something for us out here in the realm :-) They aim at a niche market anyway, so maybe they'll consider this one if we give them some motivation!

    A good while back I corresponded with Tim Sundles at BB about his plan to bring out a full charge wadcutter in .38 S&W, to complement his 125g LFP. (The box for the latter actually has the data for the non-existent 148g load on the box. Maybe that's changed by now.) He said he couldn't get the performance he was looking for, but maybe we can pester him, too :-) I realize manufacturers have a wide variety of factors to consider, at least one of which is probably a desire to avoid loading "long" to lower LWC pressure, but which typically exposes lube grooves. (I tumble lube.) A Speer 13 handloader's recipe calls for that long COL approach, for instance.

    I have loaded LWC "short" and gotten fine results, but perhaps my pressure curve was a bit, errr, ambitious? Maybe, maybe not, but of course a manufacturer can and must test for that. It could still easily achieve 750-800, I'm sure, allowing perhaps for .38 SPL pressures, even using canister powder. Perhaps some modern non-canister propellants would give some options. I gave a friend some .38 SPL factory wadcutters, loaded far lighter than mine, and it turned his wife's .38 snubbie from something she hated to something she actually enjoyed shooting. A full-charge .38 S&W LWC should penetrate 5-6 jugs of water from a snub.

    The .38 Special 110g JHP loads are also popular lower-recoil options in Smith's Airweight snubbies amd the Ruger LCR, and Speer 13 gives a recipe in .38 S&W that gets you over 1000 fps handily (mine is 900+ from a snub, but as GMan implies, my personal snubs tend to carry 200g bullets :-) One of those 200's is a LSWC at about 700 fps from 4" gun, about 630-ish from a snub, but even the snubbie 200's will smash through 5-6 jugs of water all day long.

    One I'm still looking forward to testing is Matt's 140g LWC. At perhaps 800-900, it should be a dandy.

    Oh well, we can always dream! The BB 125g LSWC clocks at about 995 (4") and 875 (2") from my guns--going from memory there, but it's very close--which isn't shabby at all. Speer 13 has a 125g JHP option that is about 895, which is about 50 fps below .38 SPL +P loads; with the right jacketed or lead HP bullet, it should be quite handy, too.
    bmcgilvray likes this.

  9. #8
    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    I would sure like to see a 200gr JHP +p..
    I'm no engineer, but think putting a jacket on it would be a deal breaker, pressure-wise. I've shot moderately hard-cast lead bullets at 675 (4") through 6 jugs of water using canister powders, and Ed Harris views 700 as a practical J frame max. Ken Waters actually shot a 200g at 884 fps from a 4" Ruger Indian contract Service-Six in .38 S&W (technically .380 Rim in Brit military parlance); one could probably approach that in a Victory model, but not a J frame.

    Non-canister powders are beyond my ken altogether, so I don't know what they could possibly do.
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  10. #9
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    I like the idea, I have a few vintage revolvers chambered for 38 S&W and it would be nice to have a more modern loading for them.
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    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10thmtn View Post
    I would love to see a snub smaller than the current crop of .38/.357s. Like the return of the Bankers Special. Some pants pockets are just not deep enough to conceal a modern snub, without the grip peeking out, if you need to tuck your shirt. These smaller snubs could give the micro .380s a run for their money.

    Bravo!
    Hi 10thMtn,
    I agree absolutely. My I frame and Improved I frame Terriers, i.e. pre-Mod. 32-1, are easily swallowed up by regular jeans pockets and a nylon pocket holster. The relatively newer, stronger, heavier 32-1's are also bigger, and are more of a challenge.

    I often carry both the I and Improved I Terriers quite easily in pockets or on the belt. I usually load the little I with its tiny plastic 1930-40 grips with a 200g LRN, and the slightly beefier Improved I with 200g LSWC. The former are loaded to the old Super Police/Brit Army spec of 600-630 (4"), which is slowed to about 560 fps from a snub. They start tumbling violently in the first or second water jug, and rip through about five jugs--often entering a neighboring column of jugs at about #4 or #5, because it may blow out the side or bottom of #3 or #4. The 200g SWC loaded at that vel penetrate straight as an arrow through 5 jugs and stick between #5 and #6; loaded at 700 (4") would make it about 720 from a snub, and will drill through 6 jugs.

    Not shabby for a true pocket pistol! I figure snub use in CC is likely to be at bad-breath range, so high trajectory isn't a worry. At 7 yards, a center-mass hold gives me a solid high center-mass hit. With the 4" guns, which are also handy to carry, I often load a 148 WC or a "smushed" 150 or 158g SWC. I use a blind die on my reloading turret to run the bullet up against amd flatten its nose to a sharp-edged .30" meplat. At about 750, that's an easy 6 jugs, straight line, slightly above POA. Or, I carry a 148g LWC at a true 901 fps, which has a deep bass tone and low SD that indicate I'm giving it about all the pressure it wants! A snub launches that load at slightly over 800 fps!

    These WC and SWC loads typically smash jug #1, shake up 2 and 3, and then drill caliber-sized holes the rest of the way to a stop board behind #5 or even 6.

    FWIW, the Beartooth "permanent wound calculator" rates a .36" meplat at 900 fps as causing a .81" permanent crush cavity. 800 fps gives .72". Of course that narrows as the bullet slows, but it's also essentially "guaranteed," as no bullet expansion occurs and none is required. And the sharper the edge, the more drastic the cutting action.

    We need to hear from our .38 S&W correspondent in central Texas, Bmcgilvray, to inform us of the Colt Banker's Special, as he has a beauty!

    I think Banker's Special and I frame Smith & Wesson Terriers, especially if made from modern alloys, could disappear in your pocket and still pack a heckuva punch when needed. Loaded with something like BB's 125g LSWC, its recoil would also be relatively mild.

  12. #11
    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glockman10mm View Post
    I see a lot of Terriers at gun shows in pristine condition.
    They deserve a new life.
    GMan,
    You know you really should treat yourself to one...ESPECIALLY if it's an I frame. Christmas isn't very long past!
    glockman10mm and bmcgilvray like this.

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    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msgt/ret View Post
    I like the idea, I have a few vintage revolvers chambered for 38 S&W and it would be nice to have a more modern loading for them.
    Msgt,
    What have you got in .38 S&W? Wood & steel porn is encouraged on this thread, you know!

  14. #13
    Member Array LouisianaMan's Avatar
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    BTW, anybody who wants to help me pester Underwood, they're at https://www.underwoodammo.com.

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    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LouisianaMan View Post
    BTW, anybody who wants to help me pester Underwood, they're at https://www.underwoodammo.com.
    If Underwood doesn't maybe Mike McNett at Double Tap might.
    After all, he kept producing real 10mm ammo when everyone else gave up on it.

    Might be worth a shot.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LouisianaMan View Post
    Msgt,
    What have you got in .38 S&W? Wood & steel porn is encouraged on this thread, you know!
    Just a few, I do have a fondness for the classics.

    Encouraging manufacture of .38 S&W defense ammo-s-w_r.jpg Encouraging manufacture of .38 S&W defense ammo-colt_pp_38s-w_r.jpg Encouraging manufacture of .38 S&W defense ammo-colt_as_r.jpg Encouraging manufacture of .38 S&W defense ammo-colt_pp_38_r.jpg Encouraging manufacture of .38 S&W defense ammo-colt_pp_r.jpg
    When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
    "Don't forget, incoming fire has the right of way."
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