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Thread: S&W K38 strength

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

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    S&W K38 strength

    I have an older K38, pre-model numbers, in excellent condition. I mostly shoot light target load but would like to shoot some +P loads. Will the K38 hold up to a steady diet of the heavier loads. I don't want to do anything that will damage the gun.

    Thanks
    Carl

  2. #2
    Boolit Master TenTea's Avatar
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    Pre 14 & 15 Masterpieces were not designed for +P.

    Will the gun be damaged by a *steady diet* of hot loads?
    Probably not, but maybe...why abuse that sweet old steel?
    Find a revolver rated for +P.

    *the above is my opinion, fwiw
    A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

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    While it probably would be just fine, there isn't much difference in standard .38 spcl and .38 spcl +P. I'd just stick with a higher end standard level load if it were mine.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
    TCFAN's Avatar
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    If that was my revolver I would stay with target wadcutters and enjoy that old classic S&W.If you want to shoot hotter loads then look at a 686 or a GP100. Just my opinion for what it is worth..........

  5. #5
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    While limited use of +P is not dangerous, it WILL loosen the gun more quickly. Pre-1957 K-frames have soft frames which are only about 90 Rockwell B scale. Firing +P will stretch the frame, increase cylinder gap and end play. The end shake can be corrected by stretching the crane, but cylinder gap will then be increased by the amount of end-shake eliminated. This can usually be done twice before barrel-cylinder gap increases above the S&W Customer Service maximum of pass 0.008" / hold 0.009".

    If cylinder gap is already close to the maximum, correction will require setting the barrel back a thread and refitting the cylinder and yoke and recutting the forcing cone, about a $200 repair in most shops.

    My advise is to limit any firing of your K38 to STANDARD pressure loads and that any use of +P should be limited to one box spread over the life of the gun, for emergency use only.

    Otherwise you are turning a nice $600-700 gun into a $300 gun requiring $200 of gunsmithing work to bring it up to a $500 used gun.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    "Don't do it. You'll regret it afterwards. Is it really worth it?" These words apply both to walking into a bar at 1 a.m. and shooting +P in a classic K38.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master tazman's Avatar
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    I own a pre 14 Target masterpiece and it performs well with target wadcutters and standard 38 special loads. For +P I use either a 357 mag or my late model 15.
    I want my Target masterpiece to last forever.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    Thanks for all of the advice. it is one of the bests shooters I have. Guess I will just keep it that way, besides if I need more power get a bigger gun

    Thanks all. I'm glad I ask

    Carl
    Last edited by chboats; 04-21-2017 at 10:08 AM.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    Do you carry the K38? If not I see no reason to use +P. Even modern guns wear out, with standard ammo, it takes a massive amount of shooting to do it. Every gun has a working life, that life is shortened faster with hotter ammo, add in weaker steel, and it is shortened even more. In the 1930's Colt 38 revolvers were approved for 38/44 today equal to +P+, including the small police positive, BUT limited use only.

    I was friends with a detective that still had boxes of factory 38/44, and he carried them in his model 36, but except for one shooting he only used them for carry. The use of hot ammo for practice is way overblown, IMO. In the 70's, and 80's we had much better accuracy compared to current LEO's(Sorry LEO's). Our training schedule was monthly 18 rounds carry ammo, 50 to 100 rounds qualification, plus rotating the ammo in the shotgun.

    The detective that carried 38/44 in his J frame trained with wadcutters like the rest of us. He had no problem hitting the perp holding a knife to a nurse's neck with the two inch revolver. Remember your first shot is the most important, and all those recoil factors do not start until after the first shot.

    My advice would be find a +P revolver with modern steel to train with hot ammo. A used Taurus is around $200 more or less. If you wear it out, so what? Sorry Taurus owners, no offense intended.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

    Wayne Smith's Avatar
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    Thanks for your decision. I have a Colt Agent - it only sees wadcutter ammo, but even for carry that will do the job if necessary - if I need more than that I have no business being there.
    Wayne the Shrink

    There is no 'right' that requires me to work for you or you to work for me!

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    chboats - you've received good advice.
    I have a K-38 and even though mine is a Model 14 (newer model than yours) I see no reason to abuse that fine gun.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Standard velocity handloads get quite adequate velocity. There is no real need for Plus p. For example, 4.7 grains Unique gets about 900 or a bit over with a 158 SWC in my 4 inch M and P, and 5.4 Power Pistol goes faster yet, both standard loads.

    These will do any 38 task worth doing.

  13. #13
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    http://shootingwithhobie.blogspot.co...-saxonpig.html

    Another mans opinion. I believe 38 special was loaded as hot or hotter in the 70's than the current +p loads. I am of the opnion that rapid da shooting is much harder on the gun than slow fire of + p rounds.
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

  14. #14
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    When LAPD was buying Model 14s for street use with +P ammo in the 1970s frames and cylinders for contract orders specified heat treatment for frames and cylinders the same as for .357 Model 19s, Rc20 Min., with Rc22-24 desired.
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  15. #15
    Boolit Master


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    Indeed, modern +P 38 Special is barely above the pressure of standard 38 Specials, while old 38/44 is most of a 357Mag.

    -HF

  16. #16
    Boolit Master

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    The only thing the gun is use for is killing paper targets and ringing the occasional steel plate. I have no need to shoot the hotter load in the K38. I do have a couple of 357s. Just wanted to know. It is easier to win the game if you know ALL the rules.

    Thanks
    Carl

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    The 38 Special +P is an attempt to get a jacketed HP bullet expand in revolvers of various barrel lengths. If you are not trying to expand a JHP bullet, there no sense in running those pressures.

    I favor the full charge wadcutter for social use against unfriendly human beings. A charge of 3.5 grains of Bullseye over a solid base wadcutter will prove very effective. I prefer the H&G 244 which has a dead flat nose. I like flat and really flat just must be the best. because of the deep bullet seating, the pressures will run higher thought not in the +P range.

    For small game and range use I drop the charge to 3.0 grains of Bullseye.

    Here is a pick of my Chief Special with such loads. I use these same loads in small and medium frame 38 by Smith and Wesson and Colt in various barrel lengths. Works well in all.

    Addendum: This same bullet in 357 Mag cases over either 10/2400 or 7.5/AA5 gives about 1,100 fps and is a cracker jack load for the 357 revolver, giving great accuracy along the way.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Char-Gar; 04-21-2017 at 01:41 PM.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    I carry wadcutters for primary, SWC in the speed loaders. Mine are on the hot side though, 900 fps 138 grain 5.5 grain longshot in a 2 inch revolver. In the GP100 4" with 6.0 grains longshot they are cooking at 1200 fps. They are Bayou Bullets coated wadcutters to avoid leading. These are carry only, of course I had to shoot them for development.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    I've been playing with the 38 Special for a loooooong time. This forum has expanded my knowledge about the cartridge but most of what I've learned has simply added to the foundation of knowledge I already had. It has been positive but not earthshattering.

    The SAAMI limits for 38 Special are 17K psi for standard 38 Special and 20K for +P. To put that in perspective, the limit for .357 mag is 45K. Source : http://www.saami.org/specifications_...20_CFPandR.pdf

    Char-gar's H&G 244 is basically a H&G 50 with a totally flat nose. I'm not sure if there's a huge difference between the #50 and the #244 at short range but I'm convinced that a solid WC is a VERY useful bullet in a 38 Special when driven between 800-900 fps. A soft lead, full wadcutter weighing 150ish? grains, driven at 800-900 fps; is an incredibly useful load. The SWC and flat point round nose bullets have an advantage at longer ranges due to their better aerodynamics but seriously folks, outside of a shooting match; is that critical? The SWC and roundnose bullets are a bit more speedloader friendly but that's not a deal breaker.
    People have been trying to hotrod the 38 Special for decades and for the life of me, I cannot understand the pursuit. It works amazingly well as is.

    The 38 Special does a lot of things really well. There are cartridges that exceed portions of its capability but none that exceed it overall.

    I have an old hammer that my father received from the disbursement of an estate. There's nothing spectacular about it. It's just an old, non descript, unknown make hammer. It's my favorite hammer because it's balanced perfectly, weighs what it should and fits my hand. It's the 38 Special of hammers.
    When you find what works - STOP LOOKING !

    The K-38 is an amazing revolver. You don't need to hotrod it. It works just fine with some 148-158 grain, lead projectile driven at standard 38 Special pressures.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master Drm50's Avatar
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    I have a couple pre 14 k38s and several newer ones 14 no dashes, got 2 m15s. I only shoot target loads in 14s and standard 38sp in 15s, all cast hand loads. That's what they were built for.
    I have never ruined a S&W, but when I was young and dumb I shot a brand new Diamondback
    loose in one summer. I got a deal on a case of +P, I had been shooting standard lead 158 factories. I really liked that gun, I don't like 4" barrels but it fit me perfect and I could shoot it
    as well as my m14. The +P shot well, but before I got through the case the gun was loose. Took
    it to smith who told me I should have better sense that beat up a light 38 with hot ammo. He
    fixed the slop in cylinder with end bushings and even had to put some accraglass on back of grips. Even the m19 and Python will not hold up to firing hundreds of full power mags. These
    revolvers are precision built, they will last a long time if you don't abuse them. If you need the
    extra power buy a Ruger or a N frame S&W in 357mg.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check