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Thread: 38 Special-+P

  1. #1
    Boolit Mold
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    38 Special-+P

    I've loaded many 38 Special in my time and never a 38-+P. I only have 38 Special Brass. Is there any reason I can't load 38-+P in that Brass?

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    Lou,

    From the point of the brass alone, no problem.

    Don
    NRA Certified Metallic Cartridge Reloading Instructor

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    The only real difference between 38 special and 38 special +P brass is the headstamp. Go ahead and load them and don't worry.

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Ditto

    And by the way, the difference between standard pressure and +P isn't that great; 17K psi verses 20K psi.

  5. #5
    Boolit Mold
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    USSR, Tazman, Petrol and Powder,
    Thank you for your come back.
    I could not find any answers to this in all the Loading Manuals I have.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    you may want to mark them somehow so that if somebody else grabs them they will know not to use them in a regular 38.
    if you are ever being chased by a taxidermist, don't play dead

  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rancher1913 View Post
    you may want to mark them somehow so that if somebody else grabs them they will know not to use them in a regular 38.
    I try to segregate +P headstamp brass for that purpose, but otherwise that is what reload data labels are for. If I load +P loads in standard brass I also mark the case heads with a red felt tip marker as a reminder, because I have several Airweight S&W Model 12 revolvers which I don't want to abuse with ammo, which I assemble to use in the N-frame .38-44 Heavy Duty or my Ruger Six Series guns which are hell for strong.
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  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Most of my +P 38 Special casings happen to be nickel plated so I use those nickel plated cases for +P loads. The regular brass casings, which I have far more of, are used for standard loads. This makes ID easy.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    In 1935 S&W developed the 357 magnum.
    People are not without a more powerful alternative option to the 38 special.
    Keep the 38 special, special.
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    only to God and my own conscience.

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hickory View Post
    In 1935 S&W developed the 357 magnum.
    People are not without a more powerful alternative option to the 38 special.
    Keep the 38 special, special.
    The 38 special is a unique piece of history that shouldn't be polluted with the +P loading. Want extra oomph then go buy a 357.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master

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    Yes, the 38 special will not only poke holes in paper but, can and will stop bad actors as well!
    My little S&W model 60-15 in 357 is a handy thing to have around, anytime you need it.
    My model 14-2 shoots light loads with paper-punching ease. A 357 is for heavy work!
    Political correctness is a national suicide pact.

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  12. #12
    Boolit Master FergusonTO35's Avatar
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    If you are willing to do some experimentation you will find there is alot of overlap between standard pressure and +P in this cartridge. It is entirely possible to get higher than +P velocity with a standard pressure load using published data. Case in point: 5.8 grains of Accurate no. 5 under any 150-158 grain SWC gets better than 900 fps out of my S&W 10-5 with 4" barrel. According to Accurate, this is a standard pressure load of 16,100 psi.
    Currently casting and loading: .32 Auto, .380 Auto, .38 Special, 9X19, .357 Magnum, .257 Roberts, .30 WCF, .45-70 Gov't.

  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master
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    There just isn't that big of a spread between 38 Special (17,000 psi max) and 38 Special +P (20,000 psi max).
    Now, when we add 357 Magnum (35,000 psi), the differences are huge.
    While I want to keep +P cartridges out of guns that are not suited for +P, I don't lose a lot of sleep over the issue.

    Like Outpost75, I have some S&W model 12 revolvers (aluminum alloy frame) and I don't want to beat those guns up. I keep +P cartridges away from those guns. I also keep +P rounds away from my K-38.
    The vast majority of my 38 Special shooting is with standard pressure loads and with guns that are more than strong enough to handle +P loads.
    I try to avoid beating up good guns but if the occasional +P cartridge lands in one of my model 10's, it's not going to be dangerous.

    People act like the difference between standard pressure 38 Special and +P is like the difference between a 2 lb carpenter's hammer and a 10 pound sledge hammer. It's more like the difference between a 2 pound hammer and a 3 pound hammer.

    357 magnum cartridges are a totally different ballgame.
    Last edited by Petrol & Powder; 01-10-2020 at 03:26 PM.

  14. #14
    Boolit Mold
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    I thank you all for the information that you have given me.
    I have a Ruger GP 100 357 Magnum. I was just loading some 38 Special to use in it, and wondered about 38 Special+P.
    Again thank you all.

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master



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    Quote Originally Posted by 6bg6ga View Post
    The 38 special is a unique piece of history that shouldn't be polluted with the +P loading. Want extra oomph then go buy a 357.
    The .38/44 Heavy Duty and the adjustable sighted version, the .38/44 Outdoorsman are also part of the 38 special history. If higher pressure 38 Special loads are pollution than blame S&W starting in 1926 for the .38 Special High Velocity than later the 38/44.

    https://americanhandgunner.com/gear/38-special/
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  16. #16
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by M-Tecs View Post
    The .38/44 Heavy Duty and the adjustable sighted version, the .38/44 Outdoorsman are also part of the 38 special history. If higher pressure 38 Special loads are pollution than blame S&W starting in 1926 for the .38 Special High Velocity than later the 38/44.

    https://americanhandgunner.com/gear/38-special/
    By the late 1920s, US law enforcement wanted revolver ammunition producing better “stopping power” which could also defeat metal automobile bodies. The Super-X and Remington High Velocity 158-grain LRN loads introduced in 1930 gave 1125 fps from a 6-inch solid industrial test barrel. S&W introduced the .38/44 Heavy Duty, built on the heat-treated .44 Hand Ejector frame in 1930, with 5-inch barrel and fixed sights. A 4-inch version followed in 1935.

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    The .38-44 High Velocity loads were intended only for the Colt New Service, Official Police and S&W Heavy Duty (N-frame) revolvers. Both lead round-nose and “metal capped” versions were offered. Advertising of the gangster era indicated that the .38-44 Super-X cartridge could penetrate eleven 7/8inch thick pine boards or just as easily perforate a metal auto trunk lid, seats, dashboard and firewall clear into the engine compartment.

    S&W Heavy-Duty production totaled 11,111 before being halted for WWII. After WWII, S&W began shipping .38/44 Heavy Duty revolvers again in the summer of 1946. Postwar S&W serial numbers are prefixed by the letter S. There were over 8,700 transition models manufactured between 1946-1950. The 38/44 Heavy Duty Model of 1950 was also in great demand during the Korean conflict, because the Super-X and Remington Highway Master Metal Penetrating ammunitions were said to defeat Chinese body armor, which stopped .45 ACP hardball.

    In 1957, the "Heavy Duty" fixed sight .38 Special was designated the S&W Model 20, while the adjustable-sighted .38 Special "Outdoorsman" became the Model 23. Production of the S&W .38-44 Heavy Duty Model 20 continued into the early 1960s. The last known Model 20s (no dash) were shipped in 1963. The last known Model 20-marked guns, were Model 20-2s shipped in late 1964 to the Austin, TX Police Department. In 1966, the Model 20 was finally dropped from the S&W catalog.

    From 1946-1966, a total of 20,604 S&W Heavy Duty revolvers were manufactured. Compared to other S&W models the .38-44 Heavy Duty is scarce and is eagerly sought out by both collectors and serious shooters.
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  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master
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    The origins of the 38 Special +P SAAMI rating is well known. The 38/44 history is part of that history and I commend Outpost75 for his excellent summary regarding N-frame 38 Special revolvers and the loads suitable for those guns.

    I believe the +P rating is still largely misunderstood. While its origins are fairly well known, its parameters seem to remain shrouded in mystery. Standard pressure 38 Special maxes out at 17,000 psi. Those loads encompass a large portion of 38 Special ammunition.
    38 Special +P maxes out at 20,000 psi, which is greater than standard pressure loads..... but not grossly greater. For some reason (possibly historical), many people seem to equate +P 38 Special to nearly 357 magnum pressures, despite the fact that 38 +P is rated at 15,000 lower psi than 357 magnum. I'm not sure why people have such an exaggerated view of the 38 Special +P.

  18. #18
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    The high velocity .38 Special loads produced by Remington, Winchester and Federal, prior to adoption of the +P headstamp in 1974, may have slightly exceeded modern +P pressure limits, as recent velocity testing of the vintage 158-grain lead loads shows slightly higher velocities than modern lead +P:

    .38 Special +P vs. Vintage .38 Special (.38-44) Factory loads and modern handloads

    Ammunition____________________________S&W .38-44 HD 4”

    1954 Super-X 158-grain Lubaloy RN .38-44____994 fps, 23 Sd

    1988 Winch. X38SPD 158-gr. LHP+P "FBI Load_909 fps, 16 Sd

    “.38-44” Handloads in .38 Special brass, W-W cases, WSP primer:

    Accurate 36-175H 4.0 grains Bullseye +P_____871 fps, 5 Sd
    Accurate 36-175H 5.5 grains AutoComp +P___902 fps, 14 Sd
    Accurate 36-175H 11.5 grains IMR4227+P___914 fps, 22 Sd

    In the 1970s the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences as well as the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice evaluated the effectiveness of incapacitation achieved by firing common .38 Special police duty ammunition. This was accomplished by comparing “energy deposit” data from test firings in ballistic gelatin tissue simulant. Both studies agreed that .38 Special revolvers firing 158 grain lead round nose at any velocity were inferior in "stopping power" to other calibers and bullet designs. As street criticism of the .38 Special cartridge increased in intensity, the majority of police departments wanted more effective .38 Special ammunition, which could be used safely in their existing revolvers.

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    From 1963-74 Lee Jurras of Super Vel developed light-weight, jacketed hollow-point .38 Special loads capable of producing reliable expansion from standard revolvers. While Super Vel proved the basic concept, the company was bought out by its competitors in 1974. By the early 1970s Winchester-Western clearly dominated the .38 Special law enforcement ammunition market and improved the original Super Vel concepts by perfecting the modern skived jacket first used in its 110-grain jacketed HP Q4070 Treasury load. Concurrently experimental 158-grain all-lead hollow-point loads were being developed which were evaluated on the steet by St. Louis, MO, Chicago, IL and Michigan State Police. Based upon favorable reports from FBI Field Offices in those localities samples were sent to the FBI Firearms Testing Unit at Quantico, VA in 1972. The X38SPD cartridge eventually became widely known as the “FBI Load. Both of these experimental specialty ammunitions were packaged initially in plain white contract cartons, at the time not being commercially available, and were designated on their packaging “For Law Enforcement Use Only."

    The great advantage of standard-weight, soft-lead, high velocity semi-wadcutters was that they would shoot to the fixed sights of most existing police revolvers, and so did not require re-zeroing. Hollow points of soft alloy, having correct cavity geometry would expand even when fired from 2-inch barrels, when loaded to the higher velocities and pressure of what later became known in 1974 as +P loads. Barrel leading and cylinder binding were recognized early-on as problems in revolvers not having a cylinder gas ring to reduce lead deposits getting into the crane arbor. S&W therefore changed the location of the gas ring from the yoke to the cylinder itself.

    While improved .38 Special high-velocity loadings assembled with all-lead or serrated-jacket hollow point bullets improved street performance, it soon became apparent that .38 Special cartridges generating pressures substantially exceeding about 17,000 cup could not be fired continuously in small steel frame revolvers, such as the Colt Police Positive, S&W J-frame or any light-alloy frame revolvers, such as the S&W Airweights or the Colt Cobra or Agent, without severely curtailing the service life of the guns. This was because these lighter revolvers were never designed to withstand high-volume fire of the more powerful ammunition.

    To mitigate against inadvertent use of high velocity ammunition in older service weapons which were not specifically designed for it, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute (SAAMI) adopted, in 1974, the practice of identifying higher pressure ammunition exceeding 17,000 c.u.p. with a +P head-stamp.

    .38 Special: 17,000 psi (std.); 20,000 psi (+P) = 17% increase in pressure
    Last edited by Outpost75; 01-10-2020 at 09:17 PM.
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  19. #19
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Thank You Outpost75.

    And thank you for doing the math there at the end. That 3000 psi difference is only a 17% increase. As I stated earlier, +P is clearly a higher rating but it is not grossly higher.

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy
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    Most interesting.
    Thank you Outpost 75, for sharing with us.

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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