.38 special vs. 9 mm.

.38 special vs. 9 mm.

This is a discussion on .38 special vs. 9 mm. within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I was comparing a 9 mm. cartridge to a .38 special. The .38 is much longer, yet about the same diameter. I never think of ...

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Thread: .38 special vs. 9 mm.

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array Guns and more's Avatar
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    .38 special vs. 9 mm.

    I was comparing a 9 mm. cartridge to a .38 special. The .38 is much longer, yet about the same diameter. I never think of the .38 as being more powerful. It seems like there is a lot more room for powder in the .38. What's up?


  2. #2
    JD
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    There is more room for powder, hence the .38+P, but that room is largely unused as that would make the .38 too "stout."


    IIRC you could load a .38Spcl case to close to or near .357Magnum specs IE there is enough room in the case for the powder, but in most instances that would be too much bang for the gun and most likely crack a frame.

    The reason that the .357 Mag cartridge is longer is not due to there being more powder, but to ensure that it is not loaded in a .38spcl gun.

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    Member Array zackattack78's Avatar
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    IIRC, the .38 was developed as a black powder cartridge and the 9mm as a smokeless one. Smokeless is a lot more potent than black powder, hence the reason 9mm is a more powerful round despite having a smaller case.

    All .38 cartridges are loaded with smokeless powder now but they only partially fill the case to help maintain the ballistics the round was initially designed for. Otherwise, as JD mentioned, you might have a big boom.
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    VIP Member Array cvhoss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zackattack78 View Post
    IIRC, the .38 was developed as a black powder cartridge and the 9mm as a smokeless one. Smokeless is a lot more potent than black powder, hence the reason 9mm is a more powerful round despite having a smaller case.

    All .38 cartridges are loaded with smokeless powder now but they only partially fill the case to help maintain the ballistics the round was initially designed for. Otherwise, as JD mentioned, you might have a big boom.
    Bingo. And since it was an improvement over the 38 Long Colt, it's case was made longer to prevent the loading of 38 Special ammo into a gun chambered for 38 Long Colt, much like 357 magnum is longer to prevent loading in a 38 Special gun.

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    Here I go, learning something new again! I'm a big .38 fan, but I never knew about the .38 Long Colt, or if I did I had forgot it! Thanks guys! Keep on teaching this old dog!
    Y'all be safe now, ya hear!

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    You guys are the best!

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    Member Array HK USP 45's Avatar
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    You can load a .38spcl into a gun chambered for the .357 though right?

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    JD
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    Quote Originally Posted by HK USP 45 View Post
    You can load a .38spcl into a gun chambered for the .357 though right?
    Yes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HK USP 45 View Post
    You can load a .38spcl into a gun chambered for the .357 though right?
    When I started we practiced with 38's and carried .357's.

    Now we practice with what we carry. Yes, you can shoot a boatload of 38's in your Magnum, just as you can shoot .44 Special in a .44 Magnum. Make sure you get the "ridges" out by rigorous cleaning of the cylinders though. Too many 38's and you won't be able to chamber the Magnums.

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  10. #10
    Senior Member Array usmc3169's Avatar
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    you can also fire .38 super from a .357 chambered gun. THAT is a pretty hot round!
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    Quote Originally Posted by carver View Post
    Here I go, learning something new again! I'm a big .38 fan, but I never knew about the .38 Long Colt, or if I did I had forgot it! Thanks guys! Keep on teaching this old dog!
    In the "for what it's worth department," here's a .38 Long Colt cartridge and revolver for Mr. Carver.


    A military issue Colt Model 1901. The round was military standard for about 20 years.


    An old factory .38 Long Colt round and a Winchester +P 158 grain SWC-HP .38 Special round.

    I like fooling around with the oldies. The .38 Long Colt is a pretty weanie round. Performs about like the .38 S&W cartridge. Both may be hand loaded to achieve near standard velocity 158 grain .38 Special performance at best. Factory loads are real plodders.

    I have .38 Specials and 9mms and feel 9mm is overrated. The .38 Special has been watered down in recent years in my opinion. I'm a big .38 Special fan and feel the 9mm is a decent auto pistol round because it performs similarly to top .38 Special defense loads. It isn't some sort of wonder cartridge that far exceeds .38 Special performance but you can load a bunch of 'em in some hi-cap pistol designs.

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    Member Array batpot's Avatar
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    first 2 guys nailed it...

    one thing to add: a 357magnum load consists of ~twice as much powder as a 38 special.

    also, can't get 38 special in semi-auto, because it's only operating at ~17k psi vs ~35k PSI for a 9mm

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    Quote Originally Posted by batpot View Post
    first 2 guys nailed it...

    one thing to add: a 357magnum load consists of ~twice as much powder as a 38 special.

    also, can't get 38 special in semi-auto, because it's only operating at ~17k psi vs ~35k PSI for a 9mm
    The rimmed case doesn't help either
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    Both Good rounds!

    I like to carry my small air wieght with 158+p swchp.But I also like the high round capacity of the 9mm.5-6 rounds of 38spc. or 15+rounds of 9mm is hard to beat,in this test of fire power?

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    Quote Originally Posted by usmc3169 View Post
    you can also fire .38 super from a .357 chambered gun. THAT is a pretty hot round!
    Wasn't aware of this didn't know they had moon clips for .38 super.

    I don't understand why youl want to shoot .38 super of a revolver.
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