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38 S&W Ammunition

Gold Canyon Kid #43974

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Was playing golf today and a friend pulled a box of ammo from his golf bag. It was Peters 38 S&W with Kleanbore non corrosive priming. 146 grain lead bullets. Box of 50 marked $5.09. He said he knew I was interested in old guns. So what guns can it be used in? What would this very old box of ammo be worth?

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Collector value will depend upon condition and age of the box. Good chance the collector value of something from the 1960s in a almost new box will be much higher than "shootable ammo" value, which might be about $20 right now.


It's not rare. But probably worth more to a collector than a shooter.


Good luck, GJ

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The 38 S&W cartridge was developed by Smith and Wesson in 1877. It is dimensionally quite different from the 38 Special, developed by Smith and Wesson in 1899. The two cartridges are not interchangeable, 38 S&W use a bullet that is nominally .360 in diameter while 38 Special uses a bullet that is nominally .357 in diameter. The case of the 38 S&W is much shorter, .775 long, vs 1.155 long for 38 Special. 38 S&W cases are several thousandths larger in diameter than 38 Special cases, so nominally at least they will not chamber in a 38 Special revolver, although they may chamber in a revolver with oversized chambers. Colt produced an identical cartridge under the name 38 Colt New Police.


The cartridge on the left in this photo is a 38 S&W, the cartridge on the right is a 38 Special.






Because the round was so short, it was ideal for pocket pistols. 38 S&W was typically chambered in the Top Break pocket pistols that Smith was making at the time, such as this 38 Single Action, 2nd Model.






Or this 38 Safety Hammerless, 3rd Model.






Many other manufacturers also chambered pocket pistols for the 38 S&W round, here is an Iver Johnson hammerless pocket pistol chambered for 38 S&W.







During World War II a great many S&W Victory Model revolvers, normally chambered for 38 Special, were chambered for a version of the 38 S&W cartridge with a 200 grain bullet and sent under the Lend Lease act to Britain. This Victory Model is chambered for 38 Special, but the 38 S&W versions looked identical. After the war many of these were imported back into the US and the chambers lengthened for 38 Special. Not a good idea since the 38 S&W portion of the chamber was oversized for 38 Special cartridges.





38 S&W ammunition is still manufactured today by various makers, I have some made by Winchester and Ten-X. Other manufacturers still produce it too.


The Peters Cartridge Company was founded in 1916 in King's Mills Ohio. In 1934 Remington bought the Peters Cartridge Company. I can remember ammunition that had the Remington-Peters name on it.


The Remington Kleanbore trademark has been around since at least 1929. It has gone through many variations over the years. This style of box was being manufactured between 1946 and 1960. Boxes from other eras are different in appearance.





Remington still uses he Kleanbore trademark on some of their primers today.


Old boxes of ammo like this can go for any price. You might find some hidden in the back shelves of a small gunshop for not much more than what is marked on your friend's box, you may find some for more. Check the gun auction boards, some guys are asking $30 or more for a box of similar ammo.

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My understanding is that .38 S&W ammo is still manufactured, although obviously not a popular caliber. I tend to be question that contention. One popular revolver originally chambered in that round is the Colt Police Positive. I guess that while you don't see it around, it is not what I'd call "rare".


Coincidentally, I just saw one of those old Colt Police Positive .38 S&W revolvers at a local shop yesterday. Early 1920's manufacture is my opinion. Exterior is subjectively about 70%, bore bright and shiny, and seems to have seen very, very little actual use, since the action is solid and tight. No modifications. Marked with an old express company stamp on the backstrap. Price: $199.00.

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.38 S&W is one of my favorite calibers, partly because so many interesting guns have been chambered for it over the years, partly because it is very easy to reload with either smokeless of black powder, partly because it's a very mild round, and partly because it is super accurate.


I was gonna post these pics in another thread, (See http://sassnet.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=229811 for details on a specific gun in this caliber and a plethora of information about black vs smokeless and so forth) but I'll put them here because well, I just will.


I first became interested in this caliber when I obtained this pistol that was found in someone's home that they didn't want anymore so they "threw it away" by giving it to my father...




This is a Merwin and Hulbert spur trigger model. It is a very sweet shooter, and a facinating design. I have used it as a pocket pistol in side matches. Yes, I have fired modern smokless ammo in this gun. I was young and uninformed once, and after much arguing with myself, I have come to understand that this was a very unwise thing to do. This gun only gets black now. Among other things, please take note of how thin the cylinder walls are on this gun.




The next gun I got was this Iver Johnson 5 shot target pistol.




I don't shoot this gun much, as it is not as accurate as I would like. The front sight is bent a little, and I have not had it fixed. But it is a nice something to have.


The next gun I got in this caliber was a Webley Mark IV .38




During the WW2 era, the British decided that a .38 would be just as good as their .455 Webley round. So, they adopted what is called the ".38-200" cartridge, which is basically a hot rodded .38 S&W, and chambered it for, among other things, this Webley reolver. Case dimensions for the .38-200 and the .38 S&W are identical. But, firing a 200 grain bullet at a much higher velocity than the .38 S&W's 146 grainer makes it a very different cartidge. I have never found any .38-200 ammo. Old West scounger does custom load the round, using .38 S&W brass. Shooting this much more powerful loading in any gun originally made for the older round would likely have catastrophic results, so if you ever find any of the ammo, please PM me and I'll take it off your hands for safety sake.


Not pictured is an American Bulldog that someone gave my father to get rid of it. It is currently in pieces awaiting reconstruction.


Also not pictured are a pair of Uberti '58 Remingtons with Krist Konverters.


The next gun I obtained in this calilber is this nice little number by Colt.




This is not a Detecive Special. According to Colt themselves, based upon the serial number and caliber, it is a Police Special. I got this gun for use in Zoot Shooting, for use as the "Snubbie" that the local area club includes in their matches. At one such match, I had to take a single long range shot with this gun. (About the normal distance that rifle targets are seen at a typical monthly SASS match.) I hit my target. :)


Next obtainment was this number.




Also a Colt, this one called a "Police Positive" on the barrel. It's basically the same thing as my snubbie, but with a longer barrel. Another fun gun to shoot.


Remember how I mentioned that the Brits had the .38-200 cartridge? Well, so did a lot of the Commonwealth nations. Last summer, a friend from Canada visited me, and well, I just had to have something Canadaian Surplus in my collection to show him. (Any excuse to buy a gun...) I was very happy to aquire this Smith and Wesson that is stamped .38-200 on the barrel.




My friend was very pleased to see this gun, as he had never before handled a pistol that had once been carried by a Candian Soldier. As Driftwood pointed out, these S&Ws were the same frames that their .38 Specials were made from. Thus, the much longer cylinder. Now, this gun is clearly stamed "38-200" so I'd not hestitate to run that ammo in this gun, if I could find any. But many of the Lend Least pistols are labeled ".38 S&W." Since they were for the Brits and related people, I am gonna assume they are okay for the hotter round. Especially since they are the same guns that are normaly chambered for the Special. But, perhaps more research in that area is warrented.


Finally, there is my pride and joy...




This is my S&W New Model 3, chambered for the orginal .38-44 round, which should NOT be confused with the .38-44 that was the forerunner of the .357 Magnum. This original .38-44 is a .38 S&W, made longer. It is perfectly safe, according to Smigh and Wesson, to chamber and shoot .38 S&W ammo in this gun.


Note the really thick clyinder walls...




While I have done it, again young an uninformed, this gun will never again be fired with smokeless powder.


On a final note, if you ever get any ammo head stamped, .38 Colt NP, this IS .38 S&W ammo. This is what Colt called the cartridge. Also, if you DO find any ammo with this headstamp, odds are that, even if it was loaded with smokeless, (I am speaking from experience) that it will have balloon head cases. These are a great find, and are a wonderful boon to loading the cartridge with black powder. Again, if you have any and don't want them, please let me know...


One day, I looked at my collection, and I realized that, with 2 exceptions, all the guns I had in this old caliber are not vintage arms that require mild loads. This has led me to being more assertive with the round. Granted, it will always be a fairly low power cartridge, but it does not have to be a mouse gun. And it is surprisingly accurate. Well worth having some fun with, and usually guns chambered for it are still pretty inexpensive. I whole heartedly recommend it.


Now if I could just find one of those really rare SAA's that was chambered for the round...

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The two Colt Police Positive examples (snub nose and 4"?) were manufactured (as I think you realize) prior to 1924.

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