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  #1  
Old 09-16-2010, 02:04 PM
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Default Difference: 38 Super v. 38 Special?

I'm new to gun ownership. I currently have a S&W 686-6+ .357 and will take possession of a Model 60 .357 soon. I get a kick out of purchasing ammunition on line. I recently purchased a case of 38 Super thinking it would work in the 686. When the 38 Super ammo arrived, I noticed it was shorter than the typical 38 Special round. The 38 Super will fit into the cylinder of the 686 (I tried), but I haven't fired the 38 Super from the 686. These are my questions:

1. Is it safe to shoot a 38 Super round from my S&W 686-6+ .357?

2. What are the differences between a 38 Super and 38 Special round?
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Old 09-16-2010, 02:13 PM
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I have fired .38 Super in a .357 Mag. The semi rim of the auto cartridge will headspace the cartdidge in the chamber. If it will chamber, it will fire.
The .38 Super is a semiautomatic pistol cartridge, the .38 Spl is a revolver cartridge. The Super is a little hotter than the Spl, in fact a little hotter than the 9mm.
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Old 09-16-2010, 02:39 PM
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It might chamber, and it might fire, but I would not recommend it. Your handguns were not designed to fire that cartridge.

Couple of good articles below will tell you more about the cartridge.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.38_Special
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.38_Super

Also suggest you read the owners manual. It's here under "Revolvers - Modern Style"
http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/w...4_757812_image

Last edited by APS; 09-16-2010 at 02:46 PM.
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Old 09-16-2010, 02:52 PM
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"If it will chamber, it will fire."

That's flawed advise. Surely you can think of a number of cartridges that would be a really bad mix though they will chamber in another arm not meant for them.

Don't do this at home kiddies.

Last edited by bmcgilvray; 09-16-2010 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 09-16-2010, 03:10 PM
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The 357 Mag is a thinner walled case than the 38 super. The magnum has an average OD of .379" and an ID of .358". The rim is .060" thick and .440" wide.

The Super is also a straight walled case with an OD of .384" and an ID of .384". The semi rim is .050" thick and just .406" in diameter.

The bullet is .003" smaller in OD in the Super than it is in the Magnum.
The Super is also much shorter.

So - this all tells me that with a larger OD of .005" some .357 Mags might not even chamber the slightly larger Super.

If you do chamber it, the rim thickness will allow the primer to be .010" farther away from the firing pin. The rim is also .034" smaller in diameter (.017" on each side of center)

So those are the differences in dimentions ... the .357 Magnum has a maximum chamber pressure of 44,000 psi .vs only 36,500 psi for the 38 Super. So - a firearm designed for the magnum, should easily handle the lighter 38 Super.

There - now that is all out of the way .... Conventional wisdom says that you should only ever shoot ammunition that is specifically designed for that firearm. There are some exceptions; shooting 38 Special from a .357 Magnum is fine, as is 44 Special from a 44 Magnum, and there may be others. But it is pretty common in the firearms world to accept that shooting ammo other than that is designed for the firearm can lead to unexpected consequences.

Were it me, I think that I would just go out and buy a 38 Super (now that I have all the ammo) ......... Barring that, I would just sell the 38 super ammo and buy some .38 Special, or some .357 Magnum ammo.
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Old 09-17-2010, 12:23 AM
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Typically when this question comes up on this or other forums someone will post that it will not work because the .38 Super is a tapered case (wrong) or because it has no rim (wrong).

Two brands of modern factory .38 Super ammo will chamber in most modern (1985 forward) S&W .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolvers: Winchester and Magtech. Within Winchester, both the 125 grain Silvertip and the 130 grain FMJ will chamber. The same is true of some Colt's, like the Python. Other ammo brands I have tried, such as Remington, UMC, Federal, Armscor, Corbon, Fiocchi, PMC, and Aguila will usually not chamber.

I have fired .38 Super out of .357 Magnum revolvers, and it works fine, accuracy is not degraded, extraction is no problem. I'm not recommending it for everybody else, but it as stated above it has worked fine for me. Note the headstamps pictured below...


Last edited by stiab; 09-17-2010 at 12:26 AM. Reason: spellling
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Old 09-17-2010, 01:37 AM
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Default Thank you

Thanks for all of your input.

I'm not going to jeopardize my well being for a couple of bucks.

If ammo were in short supply and I were being overrun by zombies, I wouldn't hesitate using 38 super in my 686.

However, since there isn't a zombie in site, and I have several cases of 38 special and 357 at my disposal, the 38 super will be sold.

Now, to figure out how to post pictures...

Again, thank you all for sharing your knowledge and experience.
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Old 11-24-2012, 11:19 AM
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Thanks for this thread. I bought 38 super too. I had a python in 1973 which I fired 38's through but was stolen. I bought the SW 327 8 shot and bought a case of pmc 38 super+ which is tight. Oh well, ill sell the 38 super+ i guess. thanks again.
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Old 11-24-2012, 12:17 PM
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You could just make it all an excuse to go out and buy a cool lookin' old world Colt Government model chambered for it and pretend you're a G-man from the 20s knockin' down gangsters instead of all that zombie nonsense. Just a thought.
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Old 11-24-2012, 12:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M2MikeGolf View Post
You could just make it all an excuse to go out and buy a cool lookin' old world Colt Government model chambered for it and pretend you're a G-man from the 20s knockin' down gangsters instead of all that zombie nonsense. Just a thought.
That's what I would do!
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Old 11-24-2012, 12:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blindpig View Post
I'm new to gun ownership. I currently have a S&W 686-6+ .357 and will take possession of a Model 60 .357 soon. I get a kick out of purchasing ammunition on line. I recently purchased a case of 38 Super thinking it would work in the 686. When the 38 Super ammo arrived, I noticed it was shorter than the typical 38 Special round. The 38 Super will fit into the cylinder of the 686 (I tried), but I haven't fired the 38 Super from the 686. These are my questions:

1. Is it safe to shoot a 38 Super round from my S&W 686-6+ .357?

2. What are the differences between a 38 Super and 38 Special round?
38 Super is a relatively high pressure auto cartridge, while 38 Special is a black powder era lower pressure revolver cartridge.

38 Super, on the one hand and .357 Magnum/38 Special, on the other hand, are not interchangeable. Period.

Some will say they have fired 38 Super in their .357 Magnums. Just because you CAN do a thing does not mean you SHOULD do a thing.

The only ammunition you should fire in your revolver is what is recommended in the OWNER'S MANUAL. Thus, you can fire .357 Magnum and all varieties of 38 Special, including +Ps.

What to do with your 38 Super ammo? Buy a Colt 38 Super auto pistol and have fun.
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Old 11-24-2012, 12:54 PM
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DON'T DO IT! Return the ammo if they'll do it. If not, swap a buddy for the correct ammo. You made the wisest possible choice choosing the 357mag. You can fire ALL 38spl and 357mag loads. You don't need to try firing the 38 super in your guns.
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Old 11-25-2012, 10:21 PM
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There is significant pressure differences between the .38 super auto now usually called the .38 super auto +P to distinguish ist from the older .38 auto which was the same cartridge dimensions but for earlier guns chambered for the lower pressure cartridge.

SAAMI maximum pressures for the cartridges in PSI are as follows:
38 Auto 26,500
38 Special 17,000
38 Special +P 18,500
38 Super Auto +P 36,500
357 Mag 35,000

As can be seen the maximum pressure of the .38 auto is a full 7,500 psi higher than the .38 spl +P. The .38 Super Auto +P is 1,500 psi greater than the .357 mag.

While the .38 Super Auto +P will fire from your .357 mag revolver it is a higher pressure round though not likely to cause a catastrophic failure in a magnum hangun.

None of the .38 "auto" cartridges should be shot out of a .38 special standard or +P as the pressure difference is too much for assured safety.
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Old 11-25-2012, 11:36 PM
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I'm in the go out and get yourself a 38 Super camp. Its like a legitimate excuse for buying a new gun.
I'm a huge fan of the Super myself. If you decide to sell, send me a PM. Depending on what you have, price and shipping, we might do business.
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Old 11-26-2012, 12:39 AM
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I have fired considerable quantities of .38 Super ammunition in a .357 with no problem. And it seems somewhat milder than firing .357 ammunition. However, some brands of .38 Super ammunition will chamber OK, others will not fit. I seem to remember PMC and Winchester would fit, but Remington would not. I wouldn't use it in a .38 Special revolver, but there should be no problem (aside from the slightly smaller .38 bullet diameter) in shooting .38 Super ammunition that fits in a .357 revolver. Seems I remember someone selling a revolver at one time that was advertised as being capable of shooting anything between .380 ACP and .357 Magnum, including .38 Super.
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Old 11-26-2012, 05:31 AM
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Let me point out something that others have mentioned. Firing cartridges in chambers not designed for them can result in catastrophic failure and injury. SAAMI pressures are based on firing a cartridge in the chamber designed for it, so that's not a good basis if you are talking about firing the cartridge in a different chamber than what it's tested in. I am not familiar with the chamber dimensions of the .38 super vs. .38 spl/.357 Magnum, and it is possible that it is close enough to .38 Spl/.357, however, unless I had an expert on both to tell me that they are close enough to be interchangeble, I simply wouldn't do it.

We Americans have a tendancy to get cartridge confused with caliber. .357 Magnum is a cartridge, .357 is a caliber. It appears that the .38 Super (sometimes referred to as the .38 Super Automatic) is much like the 9x19 with caliber of .356. But bullet size isn't going to make it safe for a chamber, if you have excess space in a chamber, a weaker cartridge can develop enough pressure to blow up a stronger cartridge's chamber. And here's another problem, it may work okay a few times, but one day, the metal will give. An good example is the M-1 Garand. Firing slow burning powder cartridges through it will eventually bend the operating rod and possibly allow the bolt to impact against the rear of the frame causing eventual catastrophy. The M-1 chamber itself is robust, but the gas system is not and was designed for certain loads to be fired through it. Same for a revolver or any weapon, just because it doesn't explode the first time, doesn't mean it won't eventually. The .38 Super was not based off the .38 Spl case like the .357 Magnum so that's a different design; it was designed based on the .38 ACP, a completely different cartridge, and it was certainly never designed to be fired in a revolver (chamber).

Not adhering to cartridge designs can have pretty severe results. I think most will agree that you should only fire ammuntion through firearms designed to fire it.

If it were me, an old Colt chambered in .38 super would be the answer; just having the ammunition would make me want one.
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Old 11-26-2012, 04:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M2MikeGolf View Post
You could just make it all an excuse to go out and buy a cool lookin' old world Colt Government model chambered for it and pretend you're a G-man from the 20s knockin' down gangsters instead of all that zombie nonsense. Just a thought.
There you go. Outstanding advice.
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Old 11-26-2012, 05:19 PM
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I had a 4" 686 rechambered to .38 Super and also had the cylinder milled to accept moonclips. Works great. Someone has already pointed out the .38 Super has a larger OD than .357 cases, but the bullet specs are the opposite. The .38 Super takes .356" bullets vs. .357 for .38/.357 cartridges. These differences are immaterial if you shoot jacketed bullets. Lead bullets would require trial and error testing.

It is silly to fret about the minor difference in pressure for .38 Super vs. .357 Magnum. That's the kind of comment you get from 'armchair' shooters.
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Old 11-26-2012, 06:17 PM
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It is nice that some here were able to shoot .38 Super in a .357 cylinder with normal operation. But it doesn't always work that way. When I tried it, I got very hard extraction. So I quit.
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Old 11-26-2012, 07:30 PM
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Seems like the perfect excuse to pick up a 1911 chambered in 38super. There is no such thing as to many 1911's either.
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Old 11-26-2012, 07:58 PM
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The pressure is a non-issue in our modern 27/327/627 revolvers.

My 627 Pinto has had a second factory cylinder re-chambered to 9x23 Winchester.
The second cylinder has also been machined for moon clips. This setup allows
9x23, 38 Super, 38ACP, 9MM and 380ACP all to be safely chambered, fired and
extracted from the modified second cylinder.






The original unfluted cylinder can be swapped in for 38 Special or 357 Magnum.

I have also opened up the cylinder on several S&W 940s to accept 38Super.
However this one is pictured with 9MM ammunition in the moon clips

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Old 11-26-2012, 11:00 PM
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9mm case length .754" ...........124gr at 1150 to 1200 fps
38 Super case length .865 " ..... 124gr at 1280 to 1385 fps but Buffalo has the 124gr at 1450 fps c/o a 5" barrel if you need to try them............

However these bullets are .355 diamiter and the .38 JHP is usually .357 diamiter so you might get gas blow by and accuracy might not be that good.

I tried 38 cases with the 9mm bullets and after testing five test loads, I kept them for the 9mm due to poor accuracy at 25 yards, and I just don't think a .355 factory load in a .357 gun is the right thing to do.

Last edited by Nevada Ed; 11-26-2012 at 11:04 PM.
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Old 11-27-2012, 12:00 AM
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In keeping with the "if it fits, shoot it" crowd; when I was a kid we used to shoot 12 Ga out of what must have been 3/4" iron pipe. No problem, still have all fingers and both eyes. We used BB guns to strike the primer and it was easy to keep score. Chamber pressures were automatically normalized by the ejection of the spent hulls and it was a good educational experience in understanding Newtons third law of motion. We were also smart enough (barely) to not stand directly behind the barrel.

Several (many) decades later we know it was not as smart as it was fun.

On the serious side, why not stick to established cartridge interchangeability standards (i.e. 38 spcl in .357 etc) and not push the envelope unless you are schooled in balistics, gunsmithing and medicine.
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Old 11-27-2012, 01:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M2MikeGolf View Post
You could just make it all an excuse to go out and buy a cool lookin' old world Colt Government model chambered for it and pretend you're a G-man from the 20s knockin' down gangsters instead of all that zombie nonsense. Just a thought.
Or pretend to be a Mexican Federale, after you get some pearl and gold inlayed virgin of guadalupe grips, and a guyabera shirt!
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Old 11-27-2012, 06:23 AM
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The only drama I can think of (If the rounds will chamber easily) aside from possible misfires is if you have some old .38 Auto rounds. Some have 0.360-0.361" diameter bullets for the early Colts. It seems Winchester was about the last manufacturer to use the larger Dia. bullets. (I still have a very few for the various old Colt autos as accuracy is rather better than with the non-corrosive primed Remington and UMC brand vintage .38 Auto rounds.)
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Old 11-27-2012, 07:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S&WIowegan View Post
I had a 4" 686 rechambered to .38 Super and also had the cylinder milled to accept moonclips. Works great. Someone has already pointed out the .38 Super has a larger OD than .357 cases, but the bullet specs are the opposite. The .38 Super takes .356" bullets vs. .357 for .38/.357 cartridges. These differences are immaterial if you shoot jacketed bullets. Lead bullets would require trial and error testing.

It is silly to fret about the minor difference in pressure for .38 Super vs. .357 Magnum. That's the kind of comment you get from 'armchair' shooters.
I hope that you are not insinuating that I am an armchair shooter. Minor differences in pressure can result in serious consequences. I've learned that through decades of work as an Infantry Master gunner, in the classroom, on the ranges and in combat zones. I've qualified, fired, worked on or owned a variety of weapons both as a civilian and as a soldier and was highly proficient in military grade weapons to include the 7.62mm machine gun and 25mm cannon. I also worked for two years in a reputable dealership that imported high end hunting rifles and reloaded ammuntion for house designed large caliber belted magnums under the close supervision of a gunsmith that now has his own reputable business. One of the things I learned from him is how important cutting chambers are, and what a slight difference in dimension can make. My job at that factory was test firing (for accuracy) high power rifles, of calibers from .22 LR to .460 Weatherby. I know what I'm talking about, and did not learn it from watching TV or reading magazines. I've seen chambers explode, stocks crack and bolts shatter due to a variety of issues, and was usually invloved in helping determine what caused such issues. Almost all were pressure related in some way shape or form. The M2 .50 is famous for such issues as the headspace must be set by the firer, and is often set incorrectly. It is a similar issue to using ammuntion which does not fit a chamber correctly and can result in serious injury to the firer; the M2 has caused at least one fatality that I know of personally due to incorrect headspace.

Go ahead and chamber ammunition in a chamber not designed for it if you wish, it really doesn't matter to me. Unless you are weapons designer and master gunsmith and work these kinds of dimensions and pressure tests for a living, one should never advise others to undertake a dangerous practice, and firing ammunition in a chamber not designed for it is one of the tops. If silly equals safe, then I've had about thirty years of experience in silliness and no injuries.

In the end, I think having a box of .38 super would either be a good excuse to help out someone who owns one, or finding an old G-man gun for the collection.
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:34 PM
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"The only drama I can think of (If the rounds will chamber easily) aside from possible misfires is if you have some old .38 Auto rounds. Some have 0.360-0.361" diameter bullets for the early Colts. It seems Winchester was about the last manufacturer to use the larger Dia. bullets."

I'd like to know where that information came from. Right from the very beginning of the .38 ACP, the bullet diameter has ALWAYS been .354-.356, never .360 or more. You must be referring to the .38 S&W vs. the .38 Special.
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:56 PM
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Quote:
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However, since there isn't a zombie in site, and I have several cases of 38 special and 357 at my disposal, the 38 super will be sold.
Or, as someone else suggested, just buy a gun in .38 Super. .38 Super was Colt's "other" factory chambering for the 1911. Several manufacturers still make guns for it. In particular, Rock Island Arsenal makes a 1911 in that chambering that's relatively inexpensive and has a decent reputation for dependability.
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Old 11-28-2012, 09:18 AM
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RULE OF HOLES
The Number 1 and only rule of holes is: "When you're in one, stop digging." You bought the wrong ammo for a new gun. Sell it and move on. In the future, until you know a bit more about shooting, buy from your local gun store and soak up the free advice that comes with every purchase.
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Old 11-28-2012, 01:17 PM
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If it fits in your .357 chambers it will work in your .357. It won't blow up or damage your revolver. Proper ammunition will probably perform better. That's the whole story of .38 Super in a .357. There is nothing more that needs to be said.
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Old 12-04-2012, 08:50 AM
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For what it's worth, I asked S&W for their view on the matter and their (email) answer is as follows:

Quote:
You cannot shoot .38 Super from a .357 magnum. This is an automatic round the diameter and length are both significantly different enough (being much closer to a 9mm) that the cylinder would have to be re-chambered to properly shoot these bullets.
From a liability standpoint, it might be important for some to know S&W's viewpoint.
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Old 12-05-2012, 11:11 AM
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Most of us here never had any doubt what Smith & Wesson would say about using ammo in a gun not designed for it.

Good thing Elmer Keith and other great gun/load tinkerers didn't let such emails stop them!
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Old 12-05-2012, 12:04 PM
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My $.02 is even though the .38 Super will fit in a .357 Magnum/.38Special chamber, it's best not to fire it unless it's the only option you have or you have had the cylinder modified (like colt saa) to accept the cartridge. I had a 642 cylinder modified for 9mm moonclips and it shot 9mm +P (a higher pressure round) just fine, even though the barrel was marked .38 Special +P.
Also, the semi-rim on the .38 Super is so small, I could see the extractor star not having enough grip surface to reliably extract the cases.
Factory .38 Super ammo is loaded to pretty conservative pressures, especially ammo in the 1150-1250 fps range. Custom loaders, such as Georgia Arms or Buffalo Arms have much higher pressure rounds that should ONLY be used in guns chambered specifcally for .38 Super.
If you still have the case of ammo, PM me with the details and maybe we can make a deal.
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Old 03-28-2014, 05:11 PM
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Default similar situation

I was new to firearms as of about 3 years ago and did a similar mistake. trying to purchase some 5.56 ammo for my AR, I was bidding and did not realize that I purchase 5.7 ammo. so I did the next best thing.....I went out and bought a Five-Seven.
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357 magnum, 44 magnum, 686, cartridge, chamber pressure, colt, fiocchi, model 60, primer, remington, umc, winchester

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Ammo Thread, Difference: 38 Super v. 38 Special? in Ammunition-Gunsmithing; I'm new to gun ownership. I currently have a S&W 686-6+ .357 and will take possession of a Model 60 ...
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