Why Did the .38 Super Remain a Niche Round? - 1911Forum
1911Forum
Advertise Here
Forum   Reviews   Rules   Legal   Site Supporters & Donations   Advertise


Go Back   1911Forum > >

Notices


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 06-02-2019, 04:16 PM
Oldguy9 Oldguy9 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: PA-one of the free states
Posts: 291
Why Did the .38 Super Remain a Niche Round?

I understand the fact that the .357 Magnum came along and supplanted it int he 1930's.

But two more recent events could have brought the super to the fore:
1. The Great Miami Shootout. So the Winchester 9mm stopped shortvof the bad guy's heart.Did the FBI consider the super as a replacement? If they did, why did they pass in favor of a downloaded 10mm? Was it simply a case of "Newer must be better?"

2. The 1994 Assault Weapons bill and the 10 round mag limit. I remember reading articles then and I can only recall authors saying "might as well have a .45acp." Well yeh except a 10 round .45 mag is hardly concealable. Yet I do not recall any resurgence in the super at all.

People who shoot it seem to love it.

Any thoughts on what happened?

Anyone here who was in LE in 1986-89 who is informed on the FBI's caliber search?
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 06-02-2019, 04:35 PM
Striker2237 Striker2237 is online now
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Location: Central Ohio
Posts: 7,046
NATO happened. 9mm was good enough
__________________
Carry gun:Wilson Carry Comp Custom .45S Pocket carry:on loan Other 1911s:WC Supergrade Accucomp .38, WC BW Opticomp, WC CQB Compact, WC CQB Professional, WC Super Sentinel, WC CQB Elite 9mm, WC EDC X9, WC X9S, Ed Brown SR, NHC Predator II Opticomp, NHC T3 Hardchrome, Kimber Ultra, ATI Tactical, RIA Tactical 10mm, Kimber Ultra Diamond 9mm, Detonics Combat Master MKVI, Colt Centennial .460 Roland
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 06-02-2019, 05:24 PM
epj's Avatar
epj epj is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Birmingham, Al
Posts: 2,413
The .38 Super had a long held bad reputation for poor accuracy. This was largely “cured” when Super barrels began being chambered to headspace on the case mouth Vs the small semi-rim. Seems like this occurred around 1980, but I could be off a few years. The competition folks who tried it liked it. However, it took a while for the bad reputation to fade away.
__________________
Ed Jennings
JMT Sight Pushers
www.sightpushertool.com
Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
  #4  
Old 06-02-2019, 05:28 PM
Gary1911A1 Gary1911A1 is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Ohio for now.
Age: 67
Posts: 4,992
The Super came out in 1929 and the .357Mag in 1935. Most LE wanted revolvers at that time for various reasons. That's what I think anyway.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 06-02-2019, 09:38 PM
DWARREN123 DWARREN123 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2019
Location: Clarksville TN
Posts: 259
Wasn't picked up by the military. Military cartridges seem to be the pick for most folks.
__________________
Shut up and Reload
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 06-02-2019, 09:53 PM
bmcgilvray bmcgilvray is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2019
Posts: 390
I like the notion of the .38 Super and intend to add one to the 1911 menagerie. The .38 Super looks to be everything the 9mm is cracked up to be, yet isn't.

I'd enjoy reloading for .38 Super. I'd tote a side arm in .38 Super.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 06-02-2019, 11:18 PM
RickB's Avatar
RickB RickB is online now
1911 Aficionado
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Not Seattle, WA, USA
Posts: 21,787
For fifty years, was there anything available but the 130gr hardball round?
Kind of a one-trick pony, developed with penetration as the primary consideration.
__________________
If you're not shooting you should be moving. If you're not moving you should be reloading. If you're not shooting, moving, or reloading, you should be taping or picking brass. - Z.C.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 06-03-2019, 01:38 AM
Flight Medic's Avatar
Flight Medic Flight Medic is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Dallas
Posts: 1,578
Because they didn't add a hyphenated "duper" to the name. If it had been called "38 Super-duper", EVERYONE would have adopted it...DUH.

Don't ask questions with such obvious answers. .
__________________
KAG - VOTE TRUMP 2020
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 06-03-2019, 02:23 AM
Icepick15 Icepick15 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 309
Oldguy9---

Yes, I was in LE during the time period you stated. I was on the job for 40 years, and was a firearms instructor for 37 of those years.

In my opinion (you know what they say about opinions) the Super 38 is a better defensive round now than it was when it was introduced. This is due to modern bullet construction. Of course, the same can be said for just about any self defense caliber. Thank the FBI for establishing bullet performance criteria for that.

Up until the FBI established the performance criteria after the Miami Shootout, handgun bullets were being built with the same technology as rifle bullets. That's why the old axiom was that handgun bullet expansion required a threshold 1000 FPS velocity. Even then, it was still iffy. The FBI said we want a bullet to do this, this, this, this, and this, etc. The ammo manufacturers stepped up to the plate, and now we have what we have.

I have read the entire report about the Miami Shootout. Yes, I know about the FBI Firearms Unit caliber selection process. I read that report, too. I am too lazy to type as much as it would take to tell you the details. Search online. I think you should be able to find out whatever you want to know about the caliber search.

As an aside...I have been there and seen the elephant.
__________________
Retired LEO (40 years on the job) - NRA LE Firearms Instructor - Department Armorer
NRA Benefactor Life Member
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 06-03-2019, 06:23 AM
Rwehavinfunyet Rwehavinfunyet is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Florida
Posts: 7,834
The .38 super round

The .38 super is a reloaders round. Sure, you can purchase expensive self defense rounds in .38 super, but it is not necessary if you reload. I have used the .38 super in my USPSA Open gun for over 30+ years, and have shot out two barrels and comps..... however, I recently installed a new slide and an STI Tru-bor barrel, and I set it up for 9mm rounds. The barrel shoots good and I am pleased with the accuracy.

I carry a gun I built, an STI 2011 Commander in .38 super as my primary concealed carry gun. The gun uses a polymer grip, and empty weighs about 38 ounces without a magwell. I load up 16+1 rounds of hot loaded .38 super ammo with Speer Gold Dot or Hornady XTP JHP bullets. I also carry one spare 17 round mag on my opposite hip. The muzzle velocity is similar to a low end .357magnun round, with plenty of penetration. I don't believe there is a powder for a 9mm that will duplicate my load, since the .38 super has more case volume than a 9mm. I also built a .38 super with a 3.5" barrel and a full size 1911 frame. This gun shoots very good, is very accurate even with the short sight radius, and holds 10 +1 rounds. Because of the shorter barrel, my same self defense loads chrono at roughly 1,250 fps. I think it will make a very fast out of the holster carry gun, with perhaps a bit more velocity than most 9mm self defense rounds using 125 gr. bullets.
A picture of the two .38 super guns I use for concealed carry is attached.....
Attached Thumbnails
STI 2011 Commander .38 super and compact single stack 1911 .38 super guns.jpg  

Last edited by Rwehavinfunyet; 06-03-2019 at 07:24 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 06-03-2019, 06:37 AM
Nitro.45 Nitro.45 is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 6,417
I certainly understand defending the round. It is impressive.
Asking why it wasn’t adopted though is an exercise in futility.
You may end up with the argument that it is “unwieldy” for those “lighter in stature” folks. That one kills me. Poor 10mm got mangled because “Nancy” couldn’t handle it. Just give them a 9 if they can’t manage.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 06-03-2019, 09:51 AM
magazineman magazineman is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 12,076
.38 Super was hugely popular in Mexico where there was a law against civilian ownership of "military caliber" guns.

So a lot of .38 Super Colt 1911's were sold there. I bet there's still plenty in sock drawers around the country.

But up here folks had the option of .38 Super or .45ACP. Most chose the bigger round.

That's not surprising to me.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 06-03-2019, 10:52 AM
borderboss1 borderboss1 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2016
Location: Chicagoland
Posts: 536
I don't think it ever had a chance of commercial success when it was first introduced. A .355 hardball round whizzing through the body even faster than the 9mm did wasn't going to really differentiate itself.

With today's bullet construction, the .38 Super is really a superior round to the 9mm, especially in the 1911 platform. I've never liked the 9mm in a 1911 because the round is just too short for reliability given the spacers required in the magazines. I know I'll get blasted on the reliability comment, but I've seen enough magazine-related 9mm 1911 failures to be comfortable in my opinion. I've never seen it with a .38 Super.
__________________
A gun in the hand is better than a cop on the phone.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 06-03-2019, 12:14 PM
RickB's Avatar
RickB RickB is online now
1911 Aficionado
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Not Seattle, WA, USA
Posts: 21,787
Your reliability comment is spot-on.
__________________
If you're not shooting you should be moving. If you're not moving you should be reloading. If you're not shooting, moving, or reloading, you should be taping or picking brass. - Z.C.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 06-03-2019, 12:23 PM
magazineman magazineman is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 12,076
I'd like to have an early 1911 in .38 Super. Seems like a cool package.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 06-03-2019, 12:23 PM
dakota1911 dakota1911 is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: The Great American Desert
Posts: 23,015
Another reason could be a 9mm or 40S&W are shorter and you can make a pistol with a smaller grip for smaller hands. Below a 9mm (9x19) on the left, then a 38 Super (9x23SR). Next a good ol 45ACP. On the right a 10mm (10x25).

__________________
NRA Life Member
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 06-03-2019, 01:09 PM
USMM guy USMM guy is online now
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Rural VA
Posts: 21,960
You and everyone else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by magazineman View Post
I'd like to have an early 1911 in .38 Super. Seems like a cool package.
The best I could do was pick up this Les Baer custom combat in .38 Super last month. Likely going into carry rotation very soon.
Attached Thumbnails
DSC02488.JPG  
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 06-03-2019, 01:17 PM
brickeyee brickeyee is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 5,171
The initial headspacing on the barrel hood and semi-rim gave very poor accuracy in many guns.

Once Nonte figured out the problem and altered the gun to headspace on the case mouth (early 1970s IIRC) things greatly improved.

My .38 super reamer is labelled "38 SUPER NONTE" on the shank.

It cuts the hood to clear the semi-rim.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 06-03-2019, 09:07 PM
Tenagain Tenagain is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Location: Free state of Missouri
Age: 63
Posts: 62
+p+ 9x19 does pretty much anything the super can do. The round I wish had found it's way into the mainstream is the 9x23 Winchester! Now that's a high capacity auto loader magnum round. I swear I'm gonna do a conversion some day.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 06-03-2019, 09:27 PM
chrysanthemum chrysanthemum is online now
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: North Texas
Posts: 11,570
Quote:
Originally Posted by borderboss1 View Post
i don't think it ever had a chance of commercial success when it was first introduced. A .355 hardball round whizzing through the body even faster than the 9mm did wasn't going to really differentiate itself.

With today's bullet construction, the .38 super is really a superior round to the 9mm, especially in the 1911 platform. I've never liked the 9mm in a 1911 because the round is just too short for reliability given the spacers required in the magazines. I know i'll get blasted on the reliability comment, but i've seen enough magazine-related 9mm 1911 failures to be comfortable in my opinion. I've never seen it with a .38 super.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dwarren123 View Post
wasn't picked up by the military. Military cartridges seem to be the pick for most folks.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Striker2237 View Post
NATO happened. 9mm was good enough
+1911, +1911 and +1911.

Other good posts as well. The fact that the chambering is measured in inches rather than metric millimeters combined with lack of adaption by US. military is another tough obstacle to overcome. Not an impossible obstacle, but probably an obstacle nonetheless.
__________________
NRA Benefactor Life Member

"Freedom is only a temporary thing unless it is backed by the blunt capability and willingness to fight back against evil with sufficient arms." -- Myself

Last edited by chrysanthemum; 06-03-2019 at 09:39 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 06-03-2019, 11:48 PM
94045 94045 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2019
Posts: 93
.38 ACP and it's +P variant (.38 Super) have been on life support since the Military decided they wanted a .45. it saw a surge in popularity from the +P variant (.38 Super) during it's early days when there was a perceived need for more penetration. The .38-44 variant of .38 Special and the .357 Magnum (to stop people from damaging .38 Frames by firing .38-44) soon took over that niche. Then it was popular in Mexico for a time due to Military caliber restrictions. Then it became a game caliber (Make Major with minimum recoil) and now it's the nostalgia caliber.

Really it's done well to survive since 1902 in any variant. I'm not even sure you can still get standard pressure rounds.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 06-03-2019, 11:52 PM
USMM guy USMM guy is online now
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Rural VA
Posts: 21,960
You can still get standard pressure rounds.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 94045 View Post
.38 ACP and it's +P variant (.38 Super) have been on life support since the Military decided they wanted a .45. it saw a surge in popularity from the +P variant (.38 Super) during it's early days when there was a perceived need for more penetration. The .38-44 variant of .38 Special and the .357 Magnum (to stop people from damaging .38 Frames by firing .38-44) soon took over that niche. Then it was popular in Mexico for a time due to Military caliber restrictions. Then it became a game caliber (Make Major with minimum recoil) and now it's the nostalgia caliber.

Really it's done well to survive since 1902 in any variant. I'm not even sure you can still get standard pressure rounds.
They are available.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 06-04-2019, 12:13 AM
jfrey jfrey is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 1,140
From what I have read, when the 38 Super came out around 1929 it was only chambered in the Colt 1911. This was a time when law enforcement folks hung on to their revolvers and an anemic 38 Special round. The Super had more velocity and penetration against the current body armor of the day but many things change slowly. Then in 1935 or so, the .357 Magnum came out and bettered the Super round. The Super languished in the background until the 80's when the "gamers" got ahold of it and found out they could load it really hot and make "major power factor". Can't do that with the standard 9mm. I've never heard of a person who has and shoots the 38 Super who doesn't like it. My LB PII in 38 Super has become my favorite pistol and I found out that is the caliber of choice for Les, himself and several other notable shooters. My only complaint is the current price of the ammo. You can find it, but the ammo is expensive unless you reload.
__________________
I may pass away tomorrow, but I have my 1911s today.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 06-04-2019, 12:17 AM
94045 94045 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2019
Posts: 93
Quote:
Originally Posted by jfrey View Post
From what I have read, when the 38 Super came out around 1929 it was only chambered in the Colt 1911. This was a time when law enforcement folks hung on to their revolvers and an anemic 38 Special round. The Super had more velocity and penetration against the current body armor of the day but many things change slowly. Then in 1935 or so, the .357 Magnum came out and bettered the Super round. The Super languished in the background until the 80's when the "gamers" got ahold of it and found out they could load it really hot and make "major power factor". Can't do that with the standard 9mm. I've never heard of a person who has and shoots the 38 Super who doesn't like it. My LB PII in 38 Super has become my favorite pistol and I found out that is the caliber of choice for Les, himself and several other notable shooters. My only complaint is the current price of the ammo. You can find it, but the ammo is expensive unless you reload.
If you really want to see where the real market is these days.... .45 GAP Practice Ammo is way cheaper than .38 Super. Considering Glock (As far as I know) is the only company that ever chambered .45 GAP that says something.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 06-04-2019, 01:06 AM
Robin Hood Robin Hood is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 384
I’m hooked on the .38S. After my water heater went out I took it out to the local range in my backyard. 9mm and .45 both were stopped by the first wall, but the .38S went through and through and still splattered on the metal backstop behind the water heater. It was a wood/fiberglass water heater and makes for a nice target.

In the 1911 5” platform it feels like I’m shooting a .22. Quite nice. Very hard to build for a novice as there are many more variables that cannot be overlooked for reliability. It seems like it might for a descent hunting round with the correct loads.

It’s hard to make a reliable .38S in my opinion that can support ++p and I would guess that is why they aren’t mainstream and never will be, but it’s ok to leave a diamond in the rough.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:12 PM.


NOTICE TO USERS OF THIS SITE: By continuing to use this site, you certify that you have read and agree to abide by the Legal Terms of Use. All information, data, text or other materials ("Content") posted to this site by any users are the sole responsibility of those users. 1911Forum does not guarantee the accuracy, integrity, or quality of such Content.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Search Engine Optimisation provided by DragonByte SEO (Lite) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2020 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2020 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
Copyright 2015 1911Forum.com, LLC. All Rights Reserved