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The Overlooked .38 S&W


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I really like the .38 S&W caliber.  It's got a lot going for it.   It's a fairly low power cartridge, can handle smokeless or black powder depending on the gun you have, and there are even "modern" guns for it that can safely be loaded to higher end performance, such as the Webley Mark IV, S&W Victory Model, and similar pistols by Colt and others.

But for me, the main "interest" in the caliber is how it can relate to our game.   You can get it chambered in derringers, (which seem to be hard to find, even though they are documented to exist) a plethora of pocket pistols, and even main match revolvers.   There are no rifles for it that I know of, but on the handfun front, it's got the bases well cover. 
 

Oops...  That should have been handgun front, but as soon as I made the typo, I had to add that that the guns chambered in this caliber are a LOT of fun to shoot.  First of all, with careful reloading, you can pretty much come up with loads that have almost no recoil, especially in the larger guns.   And in the case of main match revolvers, you are much more likely to wind up with some rather esoteric guns, rather than a "generic" SAA.   I have read that Colt did chamber the SAA for the caliber, but I've never been able to find one.    But I will soon be in possession of Bisley model in the caliber, so that's a good thing.  S&W did chamber the New Model 3 for it, as well as their many pocket pistols and other stuff.    I know Merwin and Hulbert did what we'd today call pocket pistols in the caliber, but I don't know if they did anything full size.  I don't know if anybody's making anything new in the caliber or not.

 

One of the most interesting things I've come across, but do not own, is a pistol that looks like a scaled down New Model 3.  It's bigger than a pocket pistol, is a single action, but only has a 5 shot cylinder.  I find this to be an intriguing gun that I may someday decide to acquire an example of.

 

Anyway, I just think it's a cool cartridge with a lot of potential.    Anyone care to agree?

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51 minutes ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

 

Why?   We talk about guns here all the time.   Including calibers.

He just meant it belongs on a different part of this website. You posted it in the classifieds. It has been moved since. 

 

I assume the reason you don't see it much is because it uses a slightly larger diameter bullet than 38 Spl which makes it not interchangeable with it. Add in the popularity of 38 Spl/357 Mag and it has fallen out of favor so finding factory ammo, dies and bullets is going to be harder and more expensive. 

 

Factory 38 Spl is already a pretty light load and it can be reloaded even lighter yet, so for most there isn't any/much of an incentive to look at it. 

54 minutes ago, Michigan Slim said:

I see it in pocket pistols a lot. Cute little thing. 

It looks like it's almost a rimmed 9x19. 

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20 minutes ago, Crooked River Pete, SASS 43485 said:

I wish correct sized bullets were easier to find.

 

When I first started reloading the caliber, that was a difficulty.   But although I have not bought any for a while since I have a good supply on hand, a Google search found me 3 places that had 'em in stock.

 

 

1 minute ago, BradyT88 said:

He just meant it belongs on a different part of this website. You posted it in the classifieds. It has been moved since. 

 

D'oh!   I didn't realize I'd put it there.   My bad!  

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2 minutes ago, BradyT88 said:

It looks like it's almost a rimmed 9x19. 

 

I remember more than a few years ago, someone, I think it was Federal, came out with a rimmed version of 9mm.  Someone pointed out that the dimensions were almost identical to the .38 S&W and voiced concern.   The response was along the lines of putting the Federal round in an old .38 S&W was probably not a problem due to the .355" bullet going down the .360" bores would cause an immediate and huge pressure drop.

But I did think it was odd.

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14 minutes ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

 

I remember more than a few years ago, someone, I think it was Federal, came out with a rimmed version of 9mm.  Someone pointed out that the dimensions were almost identical to the .38 S&W and voiced concern.   The response was along the lines of putting the Federal round in an old .38 S&W was probably not a problem due to the .355" bullet going down the .360" bores would cause an immediate and huge pressure drop.

But I did think it was odd.

 The 9x19 is actually a tapered case and not a straight wall so it likely wouldn't fit into the cylinder of a 38 S&W, just like a 9x19 won't fit into the cylinder of a 357 mag unless you ream it out a little more (but that can cause the 357 mag cases to blow out near the base with hot loads).

 

I'm not sure what would stop you from putting the 38 S&W into a 9mm revolver, but hopefully there is a seat in the cylinder to stop the slightly longer 38 S&W case from seating into the cylinder all the way. 

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13 minutes ago, Tennessee williams said:

Just picked one up not too long ago. I don't know yet whether it's slated for the safe or the road. We'll see.

20220321_192649.thumb.jpg.17f06bbb174cb9515e2bd803c3266fb1.jpg


Yeah, that's the one.   I wonder if it's main match legal?   It's only a five shot.

According to the Shooters Handbook...

"Five-shot revolvers may load five rounds, but the hammer must rest on a dummy chamber or safety slot/pin in the cylinder to avoid the hammer resting on a live round/cap."

I don't believe these pistols have such a safety pin, and I don't think just resting the firing pin between the rims of two rounds is allowed.   Would loading them with 4, and then reloading as needed be  okay?   Hopefully Palewolf will clarify.  :)

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Just now, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:


Yeah, that's the one.   I wonder if it's main match legal?   It's only a five shot.

According to the Shooters Handbook...

"Five-shot revolvers may load five rounds, but the hammer must rest on a dummy chamber or safety slot/pin in the cylinder to avoid the hammer resting on a live round/cap."

I don't believe these pistols have such a safety pin, and I don't think just resting the firing pin between the rims of two rounds is allowed.   Would loading them with 4, and then reloading as needed be  okay?   Hopefully Palewolf will clarify.  :)

No, this is the model 3. 6 shot.

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3 minutes ago, Tennessee williams said:

No, this is the model 3. 6 shot.

 

Oops, my bad!  Don't know why I thought it was the scaled down version.  :)

I already have one of those.  Think it's a great gun.  Accurate as all get out, even with the large "jump" from the cylinder to the barrel.

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3 minutes ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

 

Oops, my bad!  Don't know why I thought it was the scaled down version.  :)

I already have one of those.  Think it's a great gun.  Accurate as all get out, even with the large "jump" from the cylinder to the barrel.

I'll get around to shootin it some time or other.

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Just bought this yesterday from my friend Cpl. Henry B. Tolate.

Converted by J.E. Gren of Spokane WA to 38 S&W
Should be a lot of fun to shoot!

--Dawg

 

IMG_14321.thumb.jpg.872c1bc4f46bd92441da4b98970a355e.jpg

Edited by Prairie Dawg, SASS #50329
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31 minutes ago, Prairie Dawg, SASS #50329 said:

Just bought this yesterday from my friend Cpl. Henry B. Tolate.

Converted by J.E. Gren of Spokane WA to 38 S&W
Should be a lot of fun to shoot!

--Dawg

 

IMG_14321.thumb.jpg.872c1bc4f46bd92441da4b98970a355e.jpg

 

That's a cool looking pistol.   Is it black powder only, or can it handle smokeless?

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Call me crazy...or any other noun you like...but when folks post pictures of guns and they are basically your standard type model...what's so cool about it?

 

Ya seen one, ya seen 'em all.

 

Just my thoughts...and today...I feel like my thoughts need to be expressed.

 

Have a joyous day!

 

Phantom

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2 hours ago, Phantom, SASS #54973 said:

Call me crazy...or any other noun you like...but when folks post pictures of guns and they are basically your standard type model...what's so cool about it?

 

Ya seen one, ya seen 'em all.

 

Just my thoughts...and today...I feel like my thoughts need to be expressed.

 

Have a joyous day!

 

Phantom

 

 

1899611667_images(9).jpeg.624d1efbd2ed82776e24e296f38fb3c4.jpeg

 

Now thats funny, I don't care who you are!

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4 hours ago, Tennessee williams said:

Just picked one up not too long ago. I don't know yet whether it's slated for the safe or the road. We'll see.

20220321_192649.thumb.jpg.17f06bbb174cb9515e2bd803c3266fb1.jpg

 

3 hours ago, Prairie Dawg, SASS #50329 said:

Just bought this yesterday from my friend Cpl. Henry B. Tolate.

Converted by J.E. Gren of Spokane WA to 38 S&W
Should be a lot of fun to shoot!

--Dawg

 

IMG_14321.thumb.jpg.872c1bc4f46bd92441da4b98970a355e.jpg

A pair of fine revolvers!

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2 minutes ago, Phantom, SASS #54973 said:

I just think some things on Social Media are funny... Yet others don't.

 

Ain't 'Merica awesome!!

 

PS: Where do you shoot. I travel a lot... Maybe we'll meet up at a match someday.

 

Phantom

You ought to come shoot the Ca state match at Cajon. 

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3 minutes ago, Smokestack SASS#87384 said:

You ought to come shoot the Ca state match at Cajon. 

God I'd love to!!! That's where I took my New Shooter Class with Luke Warmwater. Bojack was my HERO!!!!!! JJ and Candy...best people ever and boy do I miss them.

 

But...unfortunately I am tasked with staying home and being a Troll on the Wire :rolleyes:

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Just now, Phantom, SASS #54973 said:

God I'd love to!!! That's where I took my New Shooter Class with Luke Warmwater. Bojack was my HERO!!!!!! JJ and Candy...best people ever and boy do I miss them.

 

But...unfortunately I am tasked with staying home and being a Troll on the Wire :rolleyes:

Damn. Well, whenever you do come out this way, you can posse with me anytime. 

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I have an Enfield No. 2 revolver in 38 S&W, 6 shots. It’s definitely one of the most anemic rounds I’ve ever shot, but if you’re one for low recoil and aren’t worried about knocking down targets or otherwise it’d probably check those boxes off reliably. While you won’t find ammo on many shelves, I do occasionally see it in smaller shops for sale. 

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25 minutes ago, Wallaby Damned said:

I have an Enfield No. 2 revolver in 38 S&W, 6 shots. It’s definitely one of the most anemic rounds I’ve ever shot, but if you’re one for low recoil and aren’t worried about knocking down targets or otherwise it’d probably check those boxes off reliably. While you won’t find ammo on many shelves, I do occasionally see it in smaller shops for sale. 

 

The Enfield is one of those guns that can be "uploaded."   .38-200 was the name that the Brits gave to a cartridge that uses the same case as the .38 S&W, but fired a 200 grain bullet at much higher velocity than the original load.  After much searching, I have been unable to find data to replicate the load, but I have occasionally seen it for sale at places like Old West Scrounger and Buffalo Arms, loaded with S&W marked brass.   At the very least, with the Enfield you know you can safely load up "Max Loads" for the cartridge if you are inclined to do so.

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Of the Webleys and Enfields I’ve owned, I’ve only ever reloaded the 45’s. After running a box or two of the 38’s, I hung it up on the wall and just appreciated it for what it was. 

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Howdy HK.

 

If you have found a Bisley chambered for 38S&W, you have found something rare. According to Kuhnhausen, there were 9 standard SAAs chambered for 38S&W, 39 Target Model SAAs, 10 Bisleys, and 5 Bisley Targets. Do you think the Bisley you are looking at was originally chambered for 38S&W and not rechambered? There were lots of Bisleys chambered for 32-20.

 

The 38 cartridge that Merwin Hulbert was chambereing their pocket pistols for was called the 38 Merwin,Hulbert. 145 grain bullet and 14 grains of Black Powder. According to a reprint in Art Phelps' seminal book about Merwin Hulbert, these revolvers could also fire the 38 S&W cartridge. There are a bunch of dimensions in the Phelps book for the 38 Merwin,Hulbert cartridge, but I am not going to repeat them here.

 

This double action MH 38 Pocket Piston is marked 38 Cal. It does chamber 38 S&W cartridges.

 

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As far as I can tell from Phelps' book, the large Merwin Hulbert revolvers were only chambered for 44 caliber cartridges; 44 Merwin Hulbert, which appeared to be a slightly undersized 44 Colt, 44 Russian, and 44-40. There seems to be evidence of a few chambered for 44 S&W (the cartridge with the heeled bullet). These were sometimes called 44 Merwin Hulbert Short.

 

Probably hard to read, but this heavily reworked Merwin Hulbert  3rd Model Frontier is chambered for 44 Russian.

 

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This 44-40 2nd Model Pocket Army is marked CALIBRE WINCHESTER 1873 as all the 44-40 MH revolvers were marked. Do not be fooled by the term Pocket Army, these were big revolvers. Pictured with the 38 double action pocket model for a size comparison.

 

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I suspect the S&W Top Break you are talking about is the 38 Single Action, 3rd Model, also known as the Model of 1891. This was the only 38 Single Action Top Break S&W made with a trigger guard, unlike the earlier 38 Single Action 1st Model (Baby Russian) and 38 Single Action 2nd Model, both of which had spur triggers. Yes, it looked exactly like a scaled down New Model Number Three, except it was a five shooter, chambered for 38 S&W.

 

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I don't reload the 38S&W much., but a number of years ago I loaded some up with these .359 diameter bullets and APP instead of real Black Powder. The reason was I did not want to mess around pan lubing for real Black Powder, these bullets worked fine with APP, which does not need a BP compatible bullet lube.

 

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I remember the excitement I felt when I bought my Uberti SAA clones. They were stock (still are, except for the springs), and to borrow a phrase, there were many like them, but they were mine. I am happy when any fellow shooter gets a new gun, no matter how common or unique, because I assume they get that same feeling I did (and which I still get when I get a new gun). 

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13 minutes ago, Driftwood Johnson, SASS #38283 said:

If you have found a Bisley chambered for 38S&W, you have found something rare. According to Kuhnhausen, there were 9 standard SAAs chambered for 38S&W, 39 Target Model SAAs, 10 Bisleys, and 5 Bisley Targets. Do you think the Bisley you are looking at was originally chambered for 38S&W and not rechambered? There were lots of Bisleys chambered for 32-20.

 

I knew they were rare, but I didn't know they were that rare.  The barrel is clearly marked .38 SW, and I called the seller and had a long talk with him.   He assured me that it is indeed a .38 S&W.   He's got a 3 day no questions return if it turns out to be something else, but I don't think it is.  

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