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Old 01-11-2010, 08:03 AM
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Default British 380 Mk II (38/200) vs US 38 Special ball ammo

Reloading some 38 S&W this weekend I got to thinking about these two WW2 revolver ctgs. The Brits usually get criticized for adopting the lowly 38 S&W Super Police as a military ctg. But I wonder if the 38 Special military ball ammo was really much better as a self defense ctg? The early US issue stuff was a 158gn steel cased round nose, latter replaced by the 130gn metal cased round nose. As much criticism as the 158gn LRN gets could a steel cased RN bullet be that effective?
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Old 01-11-2010, 09:29 AM
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Hi:
The British used a 200gr bullet in their .38 round (.38/200) which is the 38 S&W/38colt case. The U.S. .38spl case used a 158gr /130gr bullet. All the rounds were FMJ. Both rounds were similar in power. Given a choice I would have chosen the .38/200 round.
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Old 01-11-2010, 09:34 AM
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All FMJ round nose, and lead RN have sorry records for stopping power.

They tend to make small puncture wounds, with little surrounding tissue damage (despite the wave of experts telling us that .45 FMJ will stop anything).

Energy TRANSFER, in the target, is what destroys tissue, not the energy wasted through over penetration.
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Old 01-12-2010, 03:50 AM
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The Brit load was VERY slow, which I see as an issue since troops wear stuff, like canteens, ammo pouches, etc. that your bullet has to get through to be able to wound the bad guy.

IIRC the military 130gr .38 stuff that I fired way back when was over 800FPS, the Brit .38 200gr load was around 600FPS.
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Old 01-12-2010, 05:17 AM
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The initial British load was indeed a lead 200 grain bullet, but it was very soon replaced with a jacketed 174 grain bullet to comply with the Hague convention. This latter loading had a bad reputation during WW2.
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Old 01-12-2010, 06:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnK View Post
All FMJ round nose, and lead RN have sorry records for stopping power.

They tend to make small puncture wounds, with little surrounding tissue damage (despite the wave of experts telling us that .45 FMJ will stop anything).

Energy TRANSFER, in the target, is what destroys tissue, not the energy wasted through over penetration.
9mm FMJ is still in use and, while perhaps not ideal, still kills people. So does .45 ACP FMJ.

Energy transfer can be achieved with a medicine ball or a pair of boxing gloves, but usually neither is lethal. At present, the FBI standards call for a certain amount of penetration under various conditions. I believe that this is a good thing.

A small puncture wound in the heart, head or spine can be very helpful at times. Elsewhere, things get kind of iffy, although I believe that a good expanding bullet is a big advantage.

With the cartridges under discussion, expansion rarely occurs. The problem with the .38-200 was that it didn't even penetrate. The 158gr .38 Special did and does. Very different cartridges, one clearly inadequate, the other not so bad.
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Old 01-12-2010, 07:25 AM
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Has anyone chrono'd British WWII (or post war) .380MKIIz? The FN .380 MKIIz (174gr FMJ) I measured (1970's production IIRC) was very slow, with the highest average MV of 589fps out of a 4" Colt, and even slower velocities out of Smith's and Webley's.

As already stated in the above posts the .38 S&W/.380 MKII seems woefully under powered for a service cartridge, what amazes me is that it was so popular, or at least well used, for so long. The government of India, as late as the 1980's, was purchasing Ruger Service Six revovlers chambered for this round. Some measured velocities for the .38S&W/.380 Revolver from an earlier post:

.38 S&W measured velocities, vintage and current
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Old 08-15-2011, 03:34 AM
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I know it's not a S&W, but I have an Enfield N02 MKI* that I have just handloaded some 38/200 for. I used RP cases, WSP primers, & a 200 gr. LRNPB .360" bullet (not "boolit" which is a "word" I DESPISE because it reeks of ignorance) from Western Bullet Company. I had some trouble finding data for this old warhorse load though. I referenced Hornaday, Speer, Sierra, & Lyman manuals and could find nothing for a 200 gr. pill. The load data that came with my Lee dies had some data for a 195 lead bullet but not for any powder that I use. I ended up researching the net to see what loads of Unique others had been using. I basically found every load between 2.4 gr through 3.3 gr. Oddly enbough all of these folks quoted similar velocities from these loads which makes me skeptical. I finally decided on a middle of the road load of 2.7 gr of Unique. I have not tested them yet but when I do I'll post results. One thing that strikes me as odd is how some folks will praise the 38 SPL or at least say that it's adequate but will talk about the 38/200 like its a BB gun. I have to think (& will check) that the 38/200 has to be at least as effective as a 38 SPL with lighter bullets. And while I read posts about it's bad reputation in WWII, the only reference I can find to this reputation is Americans who were not in the Brit Amry or even in WWII for that matter! I also read alot (on forums) about how the idea was for the bullet to tumble. I could be wrong but I don't buy into this because the acceptance tests mostly involved penetration. I would think (but need to verify) a 200 gr. LRN (or 178 gr. rn fmj) traveling slow enough to not deform much would compare well to what a 38 SPL would do. And let's not forget that it DID compare well when compared to the 455 with its 265 gr. LRN. In any event I am rooting for the under dog but will let the facts bourne out by my (& others' verified) tests, and not just old hear say from folks who wern't there or havn't even fired a 38/200 before. If I am wrong I will admit it ASAP, we'll just have to see. As an aside, if someone asked me to wear a catcher's mit & go out in the street and let them lob a few 38/200's (or even standard 38 S&W) at me, I would decline. My intent for this little revolver is to use it as a camping companion. I think it would be adequate protection from any 2 or 4 legged varmint in the Colorado Rockies that I am likely to encounter. I suppose if it's an ornery bear or moose I'd be out of luck. I would also use it on small game and such.

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Old 08-15-2011, 02:38 PM
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I have a small supply of WWII (11-19-43) production headstamped DC 43 but haven't gotten around to clocking any. Cute little 12 round boxes.

I like the .38S&W as a pleasant little gun to ramble the woods with. Perfectly adequate if one is attacked by soda bottles or pine cones. Larger predators might not be as impressed but the round will make a hole and penetrate decently with hardcast bullets.

Doesn't buck or roar like more potent loads, even from a 2" barrel. Also a great starter gun for new users.


Regards,

Pat
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Old 08-15-2011, 02:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmyj View Post
Hi:
The British used a 200gr bullet in their .38 round (.38/200) which is the 38 S&W/38colt case. The U.S. .38spl case used a 158gr /130gr bullet. All the rounds were FMJ. Both rounds were similar in power. Given a choice I would have chosen the .38/200 round.
Jimmy
Jimmy, I think the 38 Colt is just a short 38 special, and the 38 S&W is a larger non interchangeable case, I may be wrong but this is what I have always seen?
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Old 08-15-2011, 02:52 PM
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This thread reminds me of the several months I spent in post Gulf War 1 in Kuwait.

I was assigned to a Kuwait army base as technical representative, and out of sheer boredom, I browsed and dug around in the pistol range backstop. Recovered several hundred .38-200 FMJ bullets fired years ago by Kuwait army personnel. What was remarkable was that almost every single slug was in perfect condition and undeformed. Except for the rifling marks, they could have been reloaded and used again!

I take that as a testament to the low velocity and energy of the .38-200 pistol cartridge.

If you have to have a comparison, it is comparable to the .38 Special WC at target velocities. Would YOU want to stake your life on that performance?
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Old 08-16-2011, 03:13 AM
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"If you have to have a comparison, it is comparable to the .38 Special WC at target velocities. Would YOU want to stake your life on that performance?"

Not trying to stir the pot or anything...but this sounds like more of the same old comparing of apples to oranges and repeating hear say. I have dug 44 mag slugs out of dirt and found them to be almost perfect. So what?

I would bet more than a dollar that the 38/200 in either guise will out penetrate a 38 spl with wadcutters. The velocity may be the same or close but the bullet weight & shape (BC & SD) are totally different. Different enough to give my claim of comparing apples to oranges some weight. I would also bet more than a dollar that if someone asked you to go outside & catch a few with a catcher's mit, you'd refuse (I would).

Like I said before, unless there's some sort of verified comparison test done...we'd all be better off to stay silent & await the results instead of continuing the same old same old. I am going to try my handloads out on Wed. or Thurs. I am rooting for the 38/200 but if it doesn't stack up, I'll admit it honestly.

As an aside my handloads will chamber easily in my Taurus m85 snubbie. I may even try them in it just for kicks.
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Old 08-16-2011, 06:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbnatt View Post
Jimmy, I think the 38 Colt is just a short 38 special, and the 38 S&W is a larger non interchangeable case, I may be wrong but this is what I have always seen?
Correct. The .38 Long Colt was the Army's service cartridge c. 1898-1905, and was the basis for developing the .38 Special cartridge (same rim diameter, body diameter, etc, simply lengthened to contain a larger powder charge and morphing into the .38 Special), reportedly due to reports of poor terminal performance of the .38 Long Colt in combat against Moro tribesmen in the Phillipine Insurrection.

The .38 S&W case has a larger rim diameter and larger body diameter, and many (most?) revolvers chambered for this round required a larger diameter bullet as well. A revolver chambered for the .38 S&W cartridge may, or may not, accept and fire .38 Long Colt or .38 Short Colt cartridges, but the reverse is much more doubtful.

Back in the latter 19th Century the major American firearms manufacturers made weapons for proprietary cartridges of their own design and development, frequently also running ammunition manufacturing plants to produce their own products.

The .38 Special cartridge appeared in the 1905 S&W Military & Police revolver, presented for military trials c. 1905. The Army Ordnance Board decided to pursue a .45 caliber pistol instead, resulting in the Colt Model 1905 which was rejected for lack of positive safety devices, and performance of the 200-grain ammunition developed for it. Colt responded with the Model of 1911 US Army pistol with grip safety, thumb safety, disconnector safety, and half-cock "safety", along with a redesigned cartridge with 230-grain bullet, and the rest is history.

The Model 1905 S&W M&P revolver went on to wide acceptance and use by law enforcement and military units around the world, and was further developed into dozens of variations with many still in regular production and use.

The .38 S&W Special cartridge became one of the most popular handgun chamberings in history, with many millions produced by dozens of makers around the world. Smith & Wesson apparently never troubled themselves needlessly about the fact that this development was originally based on a Colt proprietary cartridge dating back to about 1870, when Colt was busy converting thousands of percussion 1851 Navy revolvers to cartridge guns.
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Old 08-16-2011, 06:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john traveler View Post
I was assigned to a Kuwait army base as technical representative, and out of sheer boredom, I browsed and dug around in the pistol range backstop. Recovered several hundred .38-200 FMJ bullets fired years ago by Kuwait army personnel. What was remarkable was that almost every single slug was in perfect condition and undeformed. Except for the rifling marks, they could have been reloaded and used again!
I've had the same experience digging 45 ACP and 9mm ball projectiles out of backstops which means they are pretty much performing as designed. I doubt if military 38 Special ball ammo would performed any different. I occasionally carry a 38 S&W as a CCW firearm. While I hate to admit it I think the British were almost right about the 38/200 round in that I think it is probably as effective as 380 ball ammo.
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Old 08-16-2011, 07:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbnatt View Post
Jimmy, I think the 38 Colt is just a short 38 special, and the 38 S&W is a larger non interchangeable case, I may be wrong but this is what I have always seen?
One modification to Lobo's excellent post, the .38 Special was first chambered in the .38 Military & Police in 1899, the model without the forward locking point for the extractor rod. The US military had about 3000 .38 1899s and 1902s (with the forward lock) in service.
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Old 08-16-2011, 11:13 AM
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Both rounds were appropriate for what they were intended to do. They were supposed to "hurt" the guy who was shot without doing major damage like a HP bullet would. The idea was the foot solider wasn't supposed to suffer because it wasn't their fault they were there. A RN bullet would pass through making a clean wound. It took him out of the battle but didn't kill him unless you hit something important. (like your heart or lungs)

That said, I would have rather carried the 158gr .38 Special.
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Old 08-16-2011, 09:21 PM
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Love to see discussion of the .38 S&W "Super Police," aka .38-200, .380 Rimmed, and a few other names besides. My bottom line up front: I think it's underrated, often grossly so, although I'm not saying it's a howitzer. I often carry one concealed: an S&W 32-1 snubby. Am I crazy? Maybe, but not on this account :-)

Some background reading with lots more detail, from me & many others:
38 S&W load devopment Pt. 1
200 gr "Super Police"
.38 Failure pre WWI and bad rep of it and 9mm. Why?
New Page 4

Some thoughts:
I've recovered undeformed hardcast 250g .45 LC slugs fired into an old wood stump at 900-ish FPS. The fact that .380 Rimmed Mk. 2 FMJ 178g bullets didn't deform in a dirt backstop doesn't worry me.

When I shoot a .38/200 at 600-650 fps in flatnose or SWC profile, it drills straight through 6 gallon jugs of water. When I use a blunt round-nose bullet, similar to the British Mk. I .380 Rimmed, it starts veering and tumbling as it passes through jugs, and generally it makes it through 5 jugs of water and comes out at such an angle that it misses the 6th jug; when I place jugs in multiple rows to catch such shots, the bullet busts into another, 6th, jug. Same kinds of results from vintage .38 S&W 200g "Specially adapted for police service" Winchester ammo. This bullet is essentially identical to Brit Mk. I ammo, except for lube grooves, to include its chrono'ed velocity of low 600's. See original Brit tech drawing at http://members.memlane.com/gromboug/webstry3.jpg

When I shoot my 200g lead bullet @ 640fps at live pine trees at about 58 yds. range, it drills a couple of inches into the tree. Don't recall if I tried it with the softer bullet in Winchester vintage ammo.

When I used some CIS (Singapore?) Mk 2 ball ammo, which is 178g FMJ, I've shot it through an overcoat, a gallon jug, out the back of the overcoat, and drilled it into a pine tree--sideways, about an inch deep IIRC. Couldn't dig it out with a pocket knife, FWIW. Shooting jugs, it's tumbling so violently after one that it tends to burst jugs 2 and 3, then penetrate a few more to boot.

Moral: don't believe the old tale that "it won't even penetrate a German overcoat!!"

Another moral: soft lead bullets have often been found to have salutary effects when they strike bone (see 1904 Handgun Ammunition Trials and Thompson-LaGarde, among others); flat noses penetrate both deep and straight; and the 178g FMJ has a violent tumbling action that--I believe--generates terminal effects out of proportion to its paper ballistics and unimpressive velocity. I've read several sources that indicate this tumbling characteristic is typical of the .38-200, as the bullet is long & heavy for caliber, and is stabilized only marginally. As it penetrates a soft target, it starts to tumble. Ditto for some brands of .38 Special Super Police--I think it was the blunt-nosed Winchester load, not the pointier Remington version. Could be wrong. An interesting reference here indicates that this was notable back in the 1960s, but unfortunately the author considered it too well known to specify for us! (http://www.shootingtimes.com/ammunit...ngtest_200808/) Ugh. Anyway, this ballistics man for the Dallas PD noted how much more energy was transferred by the tumbling version than the one that didn't tumble.

The original .38-200 clearly penetrated deeply, and may have tumbled. At its weight and SD, it was a bone-smasher in soft lead form. The 178g FMJ version was, IMO, the victim of either poor manufacture or poor storage in wartime conditions, because the stories of bullets barely exiting the barrel and falling to the ground cannot pertain to serviceable ammunition, period.

Some note that British soldiers gladly dispensed with their .38-200 Webleys, Enfields, and S&W Victory models, swapping any or all of them for a 1911A1 or Browning High Power. I could be wrong, but they would have done this if for no other reasons than firepower & reloading speed. Not to mention 9mm HP ammo would work in their Sten SMG, use captured German ammo, etc.

At snubbie vels, many have noted that .38 SPLs often don't expand despite their design. A 200g lead bullet isn't dependent on expansion, but if it tumbles, you get both penetration and an enhanced wound channel. My only concern with packing my 32-1 is: am I better served with a soft LSWC that drills deep and straight, or a soft blunt LRN that may tumble?

If I were a LEO worried about shooting through car doors and windshields, I wouldn't want this round. For concealed carry and close combat, it'll do for me.

COL Charles Askins shot a German thru-and-thru at 20-25 yards with a "creakingly slow" 200g bullet from a .38 SPL. Knocked him "heels over jockstrap," in Askins' words. Now, I have chrono'ed Winchester .38 SPL Super Police in the high 500's from a 4" barrel, and my Winchester .38 S&W 200g ammo clocked at about 610 from a 5" gun. Don't know how the .38 SPL Super Police at 730fps performed--better due to velocity? More stable, thus less tumbling? Don't know.
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Old 08-17-2011, 07:41 AM
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I may not get to do my test today but I will sometime this week!

And for the record, I am not saying that the 38/200 is better than the 38 SPL I am just saying that I THINK it would be equal in effectiveness to a 38 SPL using lighter bullets. We'll see

My first load to test will be 2.7 gr of Unique. I am hoping to get somewhere near 600fps with it. ANyone have any ideas on how fast 2.7 gr of Unique will push a 200gr slug from a 5" barrel?
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Old 08-17-2011, 08:20 AM
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The tumbling bullet effect idea is also what prompted the trend in the late 1800ís toward long for bore rifle projectiles. Think of all the 6.5mm rounds adopted by various countries and even original military loading of 7x57. This idea was not abandoned because of the effects of those bullets against soft targets but because of their performance against vehicles.
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Old 08-17-2011, 08:55 PM
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Walnutred: interesting historical parallel, indicating an important part of the equation the Brits may have taken into account when assessing the .38-200 in the 1920s.

Coloradosherpa: I agree, FWIW. If a heavyweight 200g bullet is as effective as a lightweight expanding bullet--a point I agree with, but not everyone does--it's clear that .38 S&W heavyweights were roughly equal to some .38 SPL versions.

Although I don't think any .38 S&W 200g load reached the 730 fps claimed for the .38 Special Highway Patrol (?) 200g load, Ed Harris states that modern era solid-frame revolvers in caliber .38 S&W can be loaded with 200g bullets that deliver 700 fps, without loosening the gun unduly. Also, Ken Waters' .38 S&W "Pet Loads" shows some recipes that garnered far more than 700 fps.

My conclusions: (1) some .38 S&W 200g loads are ballistic twins to some commonly used .38 SPL 200g commercial loads; (2) some .38 S&W handloads exceed some--or even all--commercial .38 SPL 200g cartridges of yesteryear. So, if .38 SPL 200g loads were/are generally as effective as lighter JHPs, then it's clear that .38 S&W could achieve te same result.

That's why I feel comfortable carrying a 2" 32-1 or 4" 33-1 loaded with 200g LSWC at 600-ish. In essence, the same load was what Askins used to knock that German soldier "heels over jockstrap." Doesn't sound like a pathetic cartridge that is now unable to stop anyone. . . .
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Old 08-17-2011, 09:36 PM
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Forgive me for posting this photo of a WWII Australian issue Colt Official Police chambered in .38-200 but I don't have a photo of my Australian marked Victory Model in .38 S&W available. The ammo pictured is the FN manufactured 178 gr. FMJ. I have not fired this specimen yet, but the same ammo shoots very accurately out of the S&W. I think I would have looked for a Browning P35 or Inglis equivalent had I been issued this revolver. It does seem underpowered for the size & weight of the arm.
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Old 08-18-2011, 02:17 AM
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I wouldn't want you shooting it at me
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Old 08-19-2011, 09:44 PM
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Walter,
Beautiful pistol & beautiful piece of history!

I had a 6" O.P. in .38 Special and was also impressed that it was dramatically overbuilt for the cartridge it used. I think S&W's Victory Models were far better balanced, easier to carry, used less raw materials, and were generally more suitable as a military arm than the O.P. must have been. No offense to Colt, which made great revolvers.

On the plus side, I've noticed that my .38 S&W Victory spits out 200g bullets with so little bang, boom, and muzzle flash that my follow-up shots are unbelievably fast, comfortable, and accurate. I presume your O.P. would be practically recoilless in this caliber :-)
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Old 08-22-2011, 08:08 PM
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Re: posts by mbnatt & LoboGunLeather:
Lobo's post, while accurate & informative, didn't exactly address mbnatt's question regarding .38 Colt and .38 S&W. It is correct that the .38 Long Colt was our U.S. Service cartridge for several years, and that the .38 Smith & Wesson Special was based on it, but with a longer case. The .38 Colt New Police, however, IS identical to the .38 S&W, including the larger diameter case and same bullet weight, albeit with a flat point. Both the Short Colt and Long Colt can be fired without difficulty in any revolver chambered to .38 Special, but both the .38 S&W and Colt NP are parallels of the .380 MkII (and Mk I as well, I surmise), and will seldom chamber in a .38 Spl.
Hope this helps.

Larry

Last edited by lebomm; 08-22-2011 at 08:10 PM.
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Old 08-27-2011, 02:04 PM
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Here is some Canadian, made in Sept 1943, MKIIz ammo. This is the only box I have, so I haven't shot any of it.







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Old 08-29-2011, 07:27 PM
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I have an 1939 Enfield No. 1 Mk. II* DAO in excellent arsenal refinished condition with a 5" barrel. Recent (90's-00's) production Fiocchi .380 MkII with the 178 gr FMJ bullet averaged 642 fps velocity for 163 ft-lbs energy. For what its worth, it easily penetrated four gallon water jugs, plus a significant distance into a rag-filled cardboard collection box. The bullet could be loaded and fired again without issue. I occasionally carry my Enfield for defensive use, and don't feel poorly armed...
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Ammo Thread, British 380 Mk II (38/200) vs US 38 Special ball ammo in Ammunition-Gunsmithing; Reloading some 38 S&W this weekend I got to thinking about these two WW2 revolver ctgs. The Brits usually get ...
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.45 ball ammo deputydog WANTED to Buy 1 04-12-2009 05:29 PM

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