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what is the difference between 38 long colt & 38 S&W spcle ---


watab kid

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i have both , and i actually have some 38 short colt as well , all chamber in my revolvers and id like to know the historic difference as well as why ......im not illiterate here i can do searches but i want to know what you all think on this , 

 

i do know the difference between the 38 S&W Spcl and 38 S&W -i a;lso have both of those , that disti=nction is clear , 

 

FWIW - im a webley collector , as well as a SASS shooter , i might ask of the 45.455 distinctions but ill stay with the 38s for now -

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In simplest terms, .38 Short Colt made a little longer is .38 Long Colt.  .38 Long Colt made a little longer is .38 Special.  .38 Special made a little longer is .357 Magnum.

In more detailed terms, .38 Short Colt started out as the cartridge used in centerfire conversions of old .36 caliber cap and ball revolvers.

Both the Short and Long Colt used a heeled bullet where the bullet's caliber was identical to the outside diameter of the casing.  The bore size for these guns was .375".   At one point in the late 1890's, the bore diameter was reduced to .357" when the LC cartridge switched to an inside the case bullet.  Modern Short and Long ammo is loaded with the inside the case bullet, although as far as I know, no guns were ever made specifically in Short Colt with the smaller bore.  This was "overcome" by loading the cartridges with a hollow base bullet so they would engage the rifling in older, larger bore guns.  I have vintage firearms of the same make and model in .38 Long Colt with both the large and small bore.

At one point, the Army decided to ditch the .45 Colt and adopted the .38 Long Colt as it's new caliber for side arms.  All was well until the Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurrection happened.  First, the .38 Long Colt was found lacking in stopping power.  Second, Colt couldn't churn out .38 DA revolvers fast enough to meet the need, so S&W was asked if they could supply the Army with a revolver to supplement the Colt.  Thus was born the S&W Model 1899.  (Known today as the Model 10)  It was chambered for the .38 Long Colt, or .38 MIL CTG as it was stamped on the revolvers.  (I know, I have one.)  Anyway. soon after delivering these pistols, knowing of the LC's lack of performance, S&W developed the .38 Special round by making the Long Colt a little longer.  It was more powerful, and the extra length was to prevent people from chambering it in older LC revolvers that could not handle the pressure.  The Army eventually bought some 99's in the caliber, and off and on over the years, especially during WWI and WWII, they bought a bunch of M&Ps, VictorY models and Model 10's in .38 Special that were finally withdrawn from service in 1986, making the revolver America's longest serving sidearm, even if it was a supplemental one.

Anyway, sometime in the late 50's/early 60's (I don't know exactly when) it was decided that the .38 Special wasn't powerful enough.  The first solution to this was something called the .38-44, essentially a hot loaded .38 Special.   But eventually they instead lengthened the case again to create the .357 Magnum.   All of this adds up to why the guns chambered in these calibers are "backwards compatible" with the earlier ones.

 

.38 S&W is a completely different animal, not a part of this Short Colt to Magnum family, and not interchangeable in any way.   Among other things, it uses a .360" bullet.

But the .38 S&W has it's own peculiar history and derivatives.

The first was the .38-44 cartridge, which is NOT the same cartridge as the .38-44 that led to the .357 Magnum.   This much earlier .38-44 was a .38 S&W case made to be the same length as the cylinder of the S&W New Model 3.  The bullet would sit entirely in the cartridge case.   Designed for target use, it was a VERY accurate round.   You can safely chamber .38 S&W in anything chambered for the old .38-44.  I do it all the time.  (Black powder only) 

 

Oh yeah, there is also .38 New Colt Police.  This IS .38 S&W, that's just what Colt called it in their guns chambered for it


The other .38 S&W derivative is the .38-200 round that the Brits made their standard sidearm caliber just before WWII.  It uses the same case as the .38 S&W, but is loaded to much higher pressures.   While it can be safely chambered in the Mark IV Webley and Enfield revolvers it was designed for, as well as Lend Lease Victory Model S&W's, loading .38-200 in an older .38 S&W revolver will blow it up.   But, you can of course load the older weaker round in the modern revolvers if you wish to do so.  I have never been able to find an ammo with the ,38-200 headstamp, but it is possible to use regular brass and load to those levels if you so desire.

And I think, that sums it all up in a nice general way. 

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The 38/44 was created in 1930 in response to law enforcement requests for a cartridge that would penetrate cars.  Apparently the .38 Special was sufficient for crooks on foot or horseback, but wouldn't go through car doors or other car parts reliably.  So S&W souped up the .38 Special with more modern powders and made a heavier N Frame revolver to handle it.  Unfortunately, some folks tried to use the souped up cartridges in their smaller regular .38 Special guns, resulting in dangerous spontaneous disassembly.  So in 1935 S&W lengthened the .38 Special case by 1/10" to prevent chambering in .38 Special guns, and called it the .357 Magnum.  The early .357 Magnum revolvers were the "Registered Magnum", quite expensive.  The 38/44 revolvers remained popular with police departments because they were just as powerful and lots cheaper.  38/44 revolvers were manufactured from 1930 to 1966 (except for the war years 1941-1946), when less expensive .357 Magnum revolvers became available.

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2 hours ago, J-BAR #18287 said:

The 38/44 was created in 1930 in response to law enforcement requests for a cartridge that would penetrate cars.  Apparently the .38 Special was sufficient for crooks on foot or horseback, but wouldn't go through car doors or other car parts reliably.  So S&W souped up the .38 Special with more modern powders and made a heavier N Frame revolver to handle it.  Unfortunately, some folks tried to use the souped up cartridges in their smaller regular .38 Special guns, resulting in dangerous spontaneous disassembly.  So in 1935 S&W lengthened the .38 Special case by 1/10" to prevent chambering in .38 Special guns, and called it the .357 Magnum.  The early .357 Magnum revolvers were the "Registered Magnum", quite expensive.  The 38/44 revolvers remained popular with police departments because they were just as powerful and lots cheaper.  38/44 revolvers were manufactured from 1930 to 1966 (except for the war years 1941-1946), when less expensive .357 Magnum revolvers became available.

 

Ah.   It seems my memory of the dates of the origin of the .357 Magnum was off by about 20 years.   Thanks for clarifying that point.

I wonder if it's fair to say that the .38/44 that led to the .357 Magnum was essentially .38 Special +P?

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1 hour ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

 

I wonder if it's fair to say that the .38/44 that led to the .357 Magnum was essentially .38 Special +P?


My current loading manuals don't list the .38 High Power (.38/44) so the internet was searched.  That old souped up .38/44 pushed a 158 grain bullet to 1150 fps or so, depending on which article you read.

 

By comparison, the 2nd edition of the Lee Modern Reloading Manual lists recipes for a 158 grain .38+P giving velocities from the low 700s to the high 900s; only two loads out of 23 crack the 1000 fps mark.

 

Almost all of the recipes for the .357 Magnum and 158 grain bullets of various types produce velocities over 1100 fps.

 

It appears to me that the old .38/44 ammo was more potent than the .38+P, and produced velocities and energies comparable to some .357 Magnum loads.  I would shoot .38+P in my K Frame Model 15 without worry, but I would not shoot any .38/44 loads in it.

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