Sunday, January 26, 2020

Another Article On The .38 Super Automatic Cartridge and the .38 Super Automatic Colt Pistol

Have I mentioned my fondness for the venerable .38 Super Automatic cartridge, and of course, the weapon designed to fire it, the Model 1911 chambered in .38 Super?  Let me mention it again.  I like the flat firing, and fast 9 mm bullet in a heavy chunk of steel that tames the recoil of the weapon.  Apparently, Bob Campbell likes the .38 Super as well, judging from an article he wrote over at the Shooter's Log entitled Does Anyone Still Use the .38 Super?

The answer is, of course, people do.  Many who engage in shooting sports use "race guns" chambered in .38 Super  because of the ballistic advantages over .45 Automatic.  The smaller bullet means they can achieve major power factors while getting faster follow up shots on target.

The .38 Super Auto also occupies a special place in Mexico.  It seems that Mexicans can have guns, as long as they are chambered in a non-military or police cartridge:
Some nations, notably Mexico, prohibit military calibers such as the 9mm and .45, but not the .38 Super. Colt was discontinuing the long-serving .38 ACP automatic and wished to introduce a mid bore to replace it.
On the other hand, finding ammunition can be catch as catch can.  Local ranges are often out of .38 Super ammunition.  That makes reloading an important skill for the .38 Super shooter.  Campbell notes the advantages of the .38 Super for defensive purposes as follows:
The 1911 is a good home for the .38 Super. It features straight-to-the-rear trigger compression, a low bore axis, a grip that fits most hands well and excellent speed into action.
There is no pistol faster to an accurate first shot than a 1911 handgun properly carried cocked and locked. This is an easier cartridge to master than the .45 and has two more rounds of magazine capacity.
The platform allows good control for those who practice. Long-range practical shooting is possible with the 1911/.38 Super format. An advantage of this caliber is penetration.
The smaller-diameter .38 Super in its hottest loads offer greater penetration against light cover than the .45 ACP or 9mm cartridges. Additionally, it’s a remarkably easy cartridge to handload with good results.
So, given all these advantages, it would seem to be a good defensive round, no? For carry purposes, I like using Winchester Silvertip cartridges, when I can find them. But I also find American Eagle 115 grain cartridges fire reliably.

For reloading, the range of bullets is interesting as well.  The original .38 Automatic (from which the Super is derived) fires a .356 inch diameter bullet weighing 130 grains.  The Super version was the same size and weight but contained a larger charge of powder, propelling the bullet at around 1300 feet per second.  Berry's makes a copper plated bullet that is 124 grains in weight, and 0.356 inch diameter. This combination allows a wide range of powders to be used.  Note that the 9mm Luger uses a .355 in diameter bullet, while the .38 Special uses a .357 inch diameter bullet.  You do not want to confuse these bullets.  While the smaller diameter bullet may not be as accurate, the larger diameter may go over pressure risking a kaboom.

So, to answer Campbell's original question, yes, there are a few of us still using a .38 Super for defensive carry.  While the "plastic fantastic" pistols have taken over the market, and the striker fired pistols have many advantages, some of us old timers still like "Old Slab Sides" but we find the .45 Auto to be a bit too much.  .38 Super fills a need like nothing else will do.

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