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"Ya can't shoot .38 S&W in a .38 Special.....................

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by BobWright, Jan 13, 2020.

  1. BobWright

    BobWright Member

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    Many years ago, when I was a very young kid, I bought a .38 caliber revolver. This gun was a Belgian made revolver. It looked like a Colt Single Action, at least to a young kid, and I paid the price of $2.75 or so as I recall.

    This gun was made in the order of the Remington revolvers of the 1890s: Grip straps integral with the frame, trigger guard removable, rod ejector with bullseye ejector rod head. Barrel was 5 1/2" and the gun's frame was nickel plated, or had been. Barrel, ejector housing and trigger guard were once blued. Grips were hard rubber, and had the oval at the top, but with a buffalo instead of a Colt. The barrel was marked "Cowboy Ranger" and "For .38 Smith & Wesson, .38 Long Colt, .38 Special" the calibers were in two lines, .38 Special on the bottom. And, oh yeah, it was double action.

    I shot the gun a fair amount, using only .38 Long or Short Colt cartridges, being slightly fearful of using the .38 Specials. After awhile I gave the gun to my Dad.

    Some years later I was visiting my parents and noticed the gun on top of the bookcase, along with a box of old Winchester Western .38 S&W cartridges.

    "Dad," I cautioned him, "that gun won't take .38 S&W cartridges."

    Dad didn't say anything, except open the loading gate and rotate the cylinder to allow five .38 S&W cartridges to drop out into his hand.


    Bob Wright
     
  2. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    I have seen them drop into some .38 Spls, but they aren't supposed to. :)
     
  3. AK103K

    AK103K Member

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    How did the cases from the rounds you fired that werent 38 S&W come out after you shot them?

    From what Ive seen, the 38S&W's wont chamber in a 38 Special (at least none of my guns), but there are 38 S&W's that have been bored out and will take a 38 Special. Cases shot in them dont generally fare too well though.

    I have a couple of WWII British S&W's Victory revolvers in 38 S&W-38/200. I like them and Im always on the lookout for them. The first test when I find one is to drop a 38 Special into a chamber and hope it doesnt.
     
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  4. Ratshooter

    Ratshooter Member

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    I don't get it. In your second paragraph you state the barrel is marked 38 Smith & Wesson and then state that you said "Dad the gun won't take 38 S&W rounds"? If it says it on the barrel then it should take 38 S&W rounds. And I bet the 38 S&W SPECIAL rounds bulge the cases when fired in that gun.

    The gun that Lee Oswald shot officer JD Tippet with was a former 38 S&W gun that had been bored deeper to take 38 special rounds. They couldn't positively tie that gun to the shooting because of the oversized (361) bore and the smaller (357) bullets from the 38 special rounds. That gun would still work with 38 S&W rounds if you wanted to use them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
  5. BobWright

    BobWright Member

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    Remember I was just a young kid when i bought the gun. I was told by someone at the time that I should shoot ".38 Colt cartridges" in the revolver. So I always just assumed that is what should be used in that gun. I later learned that there was a difference in the two cartridges. At that time I was not even into junior high school.

    Bob Wright
     
  6. Ratshooter

    Ratshooter Member

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    OK that makes it more clear. I remember when I found out that there was more than one 22 cartridge. It was confusing because there were so many 22 rounds. When I saw all the 22s lined up the light went on. I would love to have a smokeless 38 S&W top break or even an old Smith and Wesson double action.
     
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  7. Michael Tinker Pearce

    Michael Tinker Pearce Member

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    I had a Victory in .38 S&W years back and discovered something interesting- the Remington ammo I bought would chamber in a .38 Special. Worked pretty well too... until I fired them out of the Victory and they keyholed. I measured the bullets- .356. Measured the cases- .38 Special diameter. Called Remington on it- they basically said (not in so many words, mind you) it was a low-demand round, and they did this for economy... and not enough people complained to make them stop. I don't know if they still do this or not, but I don't as a rule buy their ammo anymore.
     
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  8. AK103K

    AK103K Member

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    They don't seem to mind over charging you for it either. When I picked up my Enfield a couple of years ago, I had no 38 S&W or brass to load it, so I tried to find some. Three stops later, I found "a" box at a shop, and it was a box of Remington 146 grain "target". It was $35 or $40 for a box of 50!

    Like any of the 38 S&W loads, out of my Victorys or the Enfield, it shot low too.

    I did try loading 158 grain .357 LSWC's in the 38 S&W cases, as I had read others saying that's what they used. Accuracy wasn't terrible, but wasn't great either. They shot closer to POA, but still were low, and I got a lot of lead in the barrel.

    Matts bullets has a couple of 200 grain bullets that duplicate the original British bullets, and they work well and shot POA out of both the Victory and Enfield.
     
  9. RON in PA

    RON in PA Member

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    I've found that one can load .38 S&W cartridges with swaged 148 grain hollow base wadcutter bullets meant for the .38 special even though they are a few thousands under size as the base expands to prop bore size when fired.
     
  10. jar

    jar Member

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    The difference between the Colt 38 and the 38 S&W was the shape of the bullet and the fact that Colt was not about to stamp S&W on one of their guns.
     
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  11. jar

    jar Member

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    I really like 38 S&W as a cartridge, easy control, accurate and fast followup so I have almost as many 38S&W wheelies as 38 Special.

    Colt Police Positive:
    standard.jpg

    S&W DA model 4:
    standard.jpg

    a pre-WWII H&R that was later called the Defender and aimed at the British market and US homeland security:
    standard.jpg

    There's also a Singapore Police Webley IV and some others.
     
  12. Michael Tinker Pearce

    Michael Tinker Pearce Member

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    This was my go-to bullet for the first thousand rounds through my top-break S&W. Worked a treat, and had surprising penetration. Then I found a large stock of 150gr. .361 bullets locally and snapped it up. After that I made a set-up to swage .351 bullets from .357 bullets. Recently I tried a 125gr. Truncated-Cone Lead 'cowboy' bullet from Aardvark. These are a .357 bullet, but they bump up to .361, and are nice and accurate.
     
  13. Ratshooter

    Ratshooter Member

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