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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there all,

I know that it is not often recommended, but would it be safe to use +P ammo in my older M-38 with alloy frame and pinned barrel?

Chris
 

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Chris,
I don't believe it would be unsafe (as in potentially injurious to you) to fire +p in your mod. 38 but would guess that it would significantly increase wear and the chance of possible parts breakage. I had a model 042 that was not +p rated which I recently gave to my fiancee. I bought a bunch of Cor-Bon dpx ammo for it as it seems to be an effective load without being +p. In my opinion it is probably wise to follow the recommendations of the factory regarding +p ammo.

KCII
 
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My Model 38 has a lot more movement in the cylinder than my 042, the reason is a moderate but steady diet of 158gr +P ammo.
If you are not going to torture test it you should do fine with moderate amounts of +P in the gun. Carry a lot shoot a little guns usually last a long time.
If I could get some standard velocity hollow points I would probably use them, South African PMP 125gr are HOT, like 950fps out of a snubbie.
So American +P is loading down!
 

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Chris,

Lots of people do use +P in older airweights. I do not.

I might fudge a few rounds with the Model 60 or a late M&P, but not an Airweight that isn't rated +P and so marked.

Don't you also have a recent 642? They are rated for it.


Regards,

Pat
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi there folks,

Thank you for the replies. I guess this remains somewhat of a enigma for me as a lot of the answer probably factors on the subject of "how many +P loads do you plan to shoot?"

The short answer is probably that I don't intend to shoot a lot of them through the the M-38. I am not really worried too much about cylinder end shake and have had that problem corrected in the larger 686 S&W via stretching the cylinder yoke.

pff, yes indeed I did just recently purchase the S&W 642 when I realized that it was +P rated and now plan to send the bodyguard to Accurate Plating and Weaponry, Inc to get nickled. I do enjoy the action on the older firearm though as it feels lighter and smoother.

Chris
 

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I wouldn't worry about a few +P rounds through the older gun, but like they say, S&W has marked your new 642 as being compatible with the hotter ammo.

But firing five or ten rounds to familiarize yourself with the recoil, blast, and POI shouldn't hurt anything.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hi there all,

I went shooting today with the new S&W 642 and left the M-38 at home.

I shot everything I could lay my hands on including PMC, Federal 158 grain +P and ect. What a joy to shoot! I feel very confident about the +P's in the J-frame and not undergunned one bit.

In spite of my earlier concern, the S&W will probably handle everything I can feed it except +P+, and if it can't, I trust S&W will do the right thing as far as future repairs.

The M-38 is off to Florida tomorrow for a new look.

Chris
 
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I recently bought an 80's stainless model 60 which has been modified by Magnaport with special grips, bobbed hammer, polishing of the rear of the cylinder, and a reworked trigger. I shot a hundred rounds or so through it the other day, and am coming to like it quite a lot.

I'm sure it's just me, but I felt I was more accurate with Hornady 110 gr hollow points than the Federal Hydrobursts. I'm still learning with this gun, but I see why snubbies have their fans.

Could someone talk a little more about +Ps in this particular gun? A local gunsmith said it was ok for them, and I'd like to practice a bit with them before carrying...10 rounds seems a little skimpy for me to get the feel of this loading, and this pistol certainly isn't an airweight.
 
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Well, it looks as if I'll have to take it easy on the +P's...I guess I'm guilty of fishing for the advice I wanted rather than what I needed. :-[ :)

I do really like this old model 60, just as soon not stress it more than I should, so thanks.
 

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Sunray, I have a Model 60 from the same general timeframe as yours, and I have no qualms about shooting it with +P ammo. It's a steel frame gun, not aluminum, and the metallurgy is probably identical to current production weapons.

My current production 638 is rated for +P; it's my belief that S&W began "rating" their J frames due to marketing concerns as much as anything else. The markings began about the same time the states began to ease up on CCW licensing, and S&W saw the potential of this market.

I did find a notice in an S&W box saying that +P ammo wasn't safe in K frame revolvers manufactured before 1957, by the way.
 
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Thanks. I'll give it a shot
and see how those +P's feel. This gun has a hard plastic contoured grip with grooves for all 3 fingers, neat looking but you've got to have a good grip to minimize felt recoil. I thought about putting more modern rubber grips on, but I don't think I will; I'd rather leave the mod intact, leave her what she is.

I do have a digital camera, maybe I'll post a picture, though this mod may be old news to the older hands here.
 
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I assume my Mdl 49 is not +P rated, but I carry +P's in it, and practice with standard rounds. I also periodically shoot off the "old" carry ammo. My thinking is that 10-20 +P rounds per year is harmless, but if my life's on the line, the longevity of the gun is secondary.

That said, I try to practice with the snub a lot, so that may wear the gun out first. When I start handloading, I'll probably load practice rounds somewhat lighter than standard, to baby the gun.
 

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Shep, your system is probably about as good as it gets, and it's not going to wear out your gun any time soon.

A friend asked me why I always carried +P in whatever gun I had for self defense, even though the gun might not be "rated" for it. My reply to him was that +P wouldn't break it within five or six rounds, and that the purpose of the gun was to fire those five or six rounds. In other words, my DNA is worth considerably more than the replacement cost of a gun.

As for the "rating," I'll state here again my firm belief that S&W started stamping the ratings on their guns as much for marketing reasons as anything else. A Model 38 built in 1989 isn't going to be appreciably "weaker" than a Model 638 built in 2001. The difference is that you can't really ask a definitive "authority" about the former gun, whereas all you have to do with the latter is look at the side of the barrel.

That being said, the reason I bought MY 638 was that I'd handled and fired a friend's 1960s vintage 38, and I wanted one like it. He's carried his for years loaded with +P and practiced with standard pressure loads, along with a few +P rounds. (That particular gun was also the primary fight stopper during a drug bust in the early 1970s; loaded with "home brew" inverted hollow base wadcutters, the officer carrying it fired one shot at a dealer who'd just pulled a .22 pistol out of his jacket. The cop is drawing his pension, though the dealer hasn't been with us for many years.)
 

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I'm with the general consensus here: even in an aluminum-frame, non- +P -rated snubby, occasionally running some +Ps is not going to blow it up, and carrying them for defense, well, why not?

The other side is that the ammo makers are aware of this. They know that a lot of people will not put +P in an unrated revolver, even if it is just a marketing thing. They have their own marketing to do, so they develop standard pressure rounds designed specifically for snub-nose .38s which will expand reliably and go the job. Speer has put one out in Gold Dot configuration, for instance.

Given the inherent limits of the snubby .38, either the +P or one of these dedicated rounds seems like a good choice. If you have ammo you trust, then the rest is up to you. "The rest" being most of it anyway.
 

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The new Speer Gold Dot "designed for snubbies" 135-grain is loaded to +P pressures and is marked as such. Blast and recoil are similar to a 158 LSWCHP +P.

PS: Chris, if at all possible would you post pictures of your M38 after it gets its new finish? My 638 is beginning to show a bit of pocket wear, and I'm considering getting it Black T'd.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Hi there Leland,

My plans changed slightly with the purchase of the 642-2.

I will be waiting a bit before I send the M-38 to Accurate Plating and Weaponry as their quote for refinishing the M-38 is up to about $190.00 for glass bead blast and Hard Chroming the finish (not including shipping).

I need to put that project on the back burner for about a month. My fun money is spent for the time being. However, when I do decide to send it and get it back (three week shop time right now), I will be delighted to post a picture or two.

Chris

PS. Accurate Plating and Weaponry has a very good reputation. http://www.apwcogan.com/Refinishing.htm
 

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The new Speer Gold Dot "designed for snubbies" 135-grain is loaded to +P pressures and is marked as such.
LelandRay, I'll be doggoned if you are not right. Now I know I was reading something within the last week or two about a new round that was meant for .38 snubbies and was not +P -- somehow my memory-sieve plugged "Gold Dot" into that data -- I wonder who it was? Guess I will have to dig around a little to find where I saw that.
 
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The newer plusP rated Airweight aluminum alloy j-frames are not the same as the old ones. All j-frames now made are longer and beefier than they used to be to accomodate the .357 in the stainless and scandium versions (IIRC, the new j-frame is called the "j-magnum frame" by Smith). A major improvement on the j-magnum frame was the relocation of the firing pin from the hammer to the frame, eliminating one of the few weak points on the old version.

The current aluminum alloy Airweights now use that exact same size frame and longer cylinder, even though they are chambered for and limited to the .38 Special plusP.

The ONLY old version j-frame certified by the factory for plusP was the 3" Mod 60 with a full underlug barrel (and adjustable sights). I used to own one but upgraded to the .357 version of that same gun when it became available. The .357 version 3" Mod 60 makes a lot more sense, but I did think the old .38 Special version with its shorter and less beefy frame was an elegant looking little revolver.

I own a blued Airweight Model 38 Bodyguard, one of the last of the old j-frames Smith made (along with the "hammerless" 442), I thought about upgrading to the plusP version, but the old blued Bodyguard is an American classic. I know it doesn't actually go back that far but to me it recalls the classic old revolvers of the '30's and 40's, like something Dick Tracy might have carried. Nickel plate a Mod 38?? Brrrrrr! Heresy!


I seem to recall a "Hanguns" magazine article of maybe five or ten years ago in which they fed 10,000 plusP rounds through a non-plusP rated Mod 38 with no unusual wear, not that anyone would recommend that.

The 158 grain LSWCHP .38 plusP is my own preferred defense load in my Mod 60 and the Bodyguard (not that I've ever needed it, or hope to), but I practice with cheap .38 158 grain SWC regular-pressure reloads. They're cheap and I ain't seen enough of a difference in the point of impact between the two loads to at realistic defensive ranges to matter, especially in point and shoot panic drills.

Birdwatcher
 

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I measured cylinder length on three J frames and found that my current production M638's cylinder is only 3/32" longer than a Model 60 and a Model 49, both produced in the 80s. Cylinder length on those is 1.5 inches, as is the cylinder on an early 60s M38 Airweight. I'll measure a .357 J frame next week if I go to town. I'm willing to bet there are significant dimensional differences between the .38 and .357 guns.

The frame mounted firing pin was incorporated into all S&W revolvers for mostly economic reasons, not technical.
 
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