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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a question about the .38 Super. Don't have one myself, but the only ammo I've seen for it( Winchester and Federal) is marked as ".38 Super +P". Does anyone know why this is? Are there any makers of standard velocity .38 Super? Was the original loading too weak to cycle the slide on newer guns? If you know the answer, I would love to hear from you.


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3,910 Posts
Hello. I think that it is marked that way, not because it is a hot load in .38 Super, but to keep folks from inadvertently/negligently putting the Super 38 ammo into an old gun chambered for the older 38 ACP round.

I do not believe it is loaded to +P levels as I chronographed the following average velocities (10-shot averages fired 10' from chronograph screens):

PMC 130-gr. FMJ +P: 1091 ft/sec
Remington UMC 130-gr. FMJ +P: 1231 ft/sec
Winchester 125-gr. STHP +P: 1248 ft/sec

A possible exception might be Corbon's 38 Super ammunition:

100-gr. PowR'Ball +P: 1529 ft/sec
115-gr. +P: 1467 ft/sec
125-gr. +P: 1372 ft/sec

The above information was from ammunition fired from an STI Trojan w/5" bbl.


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1,642 Posts
I agree with Mr Camp: I think the "+P" marking is just one more warning to 38ACP owners.

That "+P" might be the only thing that catches one's attention. And if a round gets seperated from the box, it may be all that gets seen.

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363 Posts
I have on my shelves a box of old Winchester-Western (yellow box) of .38 ACP (not Super) 130 grain FMJ. On the back of the box at the bottom is printed the velocity figure. It is 1050 fps. No barrel length given, but my best guess is that figure is taken from a six inch "pressure" barrel in a Universal Receiver.

I have chronographed a magazine of these rounds in my Colt Mark IV '70 Series Gov't Model fitted with a five inch Barsto barrel. The average velocity for ten rounds was 949.5 fps which works out to 260 fpe. I think it is safe to say the Winchester kept the pressure down on this load so that it wouldn't damage an old M1900 or M1902 pistol.

I have chronographed a number of .38 Super factory loads in the Barsto/Colt and here are the numbers.

1. Win 130 gr FMJ - 1187 fps/407 fpe
2. Fed 130 gr FMJ - 1220 fps/430 fpe
3. Fed 147 gr FMJ - 1077 fps/379 fpe
4. Rem 115 gr JHP - 1241 fps/393 fpe
5. Win 125 gr STHP - 1192 fps/394 fpe
6. Corbon 115 gr JHP - 1465 fps/548 fpe
7. Corbon 124 gr JHP - 1391 fps/533 fpe

As you can see, the loads from the "Big Three" are in the 9x19 +P category. The Corbon loads bring out the full potential of the .38 Super. These loads give about the same level of performance as the .357 Sig in an identical length barrel.

The original load developed back in 1929 by Colt was a 130 gr FMJ at 1275 fps/475 fpe. Until the introduction of the .357 S&W Magnum in 1935, this was the most powerful handgun round loaded in the USA. Both sportsmen and some LEO's bought the .38 Super Colt because of its ability to penetrate heavy hide and muscle of a large animal such as a bear. LEO's liked it because it could penetrate auto bodies and the early so called "bullet proof" vests of the era.

My first .38 Super was purchased new by a San Francisco FBI agent in 1931. He sold it after he retired from the Bureau to the training officer at the US Penitentiary, Alcatraz Island. He in turn sold it to me when he retired from the Bureau of Prisons. It had a low four digit serial number and had seen its share of use by both owners. But I had some pressing medical bills to pay and let it go. My bad, that gun had history and I still regret selling it.


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Funny I never thought I would see 38 Super +P. I knew there was a difference with 38 ACP and 38 Super but it seem redundant to lable 38 Super +P. Sort of like 357 Magnum +P. The 38 ACP was made for a double linked version of the 1911. I am uncertain as to any other 38 ACPs.
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