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Old 05-17-2013, 10:00 AM
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Default .357 magnum VS .38 spl question

I recently purchased a S&W686+ 4" stainless and love my new revolver. The first day I tried it I used some .38 special and said to myself wow this thing feels like shooting a .22 - almost no recoil just a slight push. The next time out I tried some .357 magnum and wow, the thing kicked and I really felt it in my hand. So, my question is how can there be so much difference in these two rounds that are the same diameter and only differ in length by roughly 1/10th of an inch. Both sets of rounds were from the same manufacture and were both 158 grains - so how do they stuff so much more power into that 1/10th of an inch? I looked up the energy difference and the .38spl is rated at 285 while the .357 mag is shown as close to double that at 548.
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Old 05-17-2013, 10:12 AM
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I believe the 38 special was originally designed as a black powder round, so it took much more powder (Thus the large case) to propel it. When the switch was made to smokeless gunpowder that we use in modern designs the amount of powder needed to propel at the same/speed velocity was much less. So if you'd open up a 357 and a 38 special and compare the loads, you would find significantly less powder in a 38 special.
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Old 05-17-2013, 10:15 AM
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POWDERS !!

If the same weight bullets, its got to be the type of powder and the amount in the case that does its "Magic".

We have come a long way since the 18-21 grs of Black Powder used in the old days!!

Enjoy the noise and recoil, it's a "Blast" !!
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Old 05-17-2013, 11:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nevada Ed View Post
POWDERS !!
Not to mention that the SAAMI maximum pressure for the .357 Magnum is 35,000 PSI versus 17,000 PSI for the .38 Special.
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Old 05-17-2013, 12:25 PM
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Same answers as on the 1911 forum!

Sent from my DROIDX using Tapatalk 2
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Old 05-17-2013, 12:47 PM
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Default When smokeless powder

When smokeless powder came into widespread use, the cartridge and the strength of the .38 guns were already well established. Some people recognized that the .38 had much more potential and developed higher pressures for the .38. What they ended up with was the .357 magnum, which couldn't safely be used in old .38 pistols. They added just a bit to the length of the cartridge to keep the .357 magnum from being loaded into the existing .38s. But a .38 can chamber in a .357 gun because except for that little added length, the cartridges/bullets are exactly the same.
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Old 05-17-2013, 02:07 PM
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If you reloaded you would see and be amazed at how little powder is in a 38. It is not like they are filling all of the way to the bullet and the 357 has only 1/10" more powder. You would be surprised at 38 special amounts of only 3 or 4 grains of powder. That is not very much.
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Old 05-17-2013, 02:31 PM
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When loading rifle ammo there is always the warning of minimum powder charges and high pressures and what really surprises me is...................................

How just 2grs of Bullseye in that Great Big case is still a.......
SAFE load !! (with some bullets)

the 38 special........... quite the invention.
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Old 05-17-2013, 02:39 PM
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The tenth of an inch is not there to add case capacity, it's there to keep higher pressure .357 ammo from being loaded in .38 Special guns designed in the black powder days.
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Old 05-17-2013, 03:04 PM
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Hate to bring this up, but I can find no record of the 38 special ever being designed for black powder... it was a smokeless paowder cartridge from the day it was invented in 1902 (primarily for the military). The 38 Winchester center fire and the 38 long Colt were the black powder cartridges that preceded the 38 special.

By way of historical note, the 38 special is actually a 36 caliber bullet. In the muzzle loading days, the 36 caliber was a VERY popular round ball size for both pistols (Colt 1851, etc.) and small game rifles (eg. Pennsylvania half stocks, etc.) In order to promote cartridge guns (breech loading) and avoid confusion the manufacturers uped the bullet size (in name only) to 38 caliber while maintaining the 355-357 sized lead ball. Interesting the 38 WCF or 38-40 is actully 40 caliber. And the 36 caliber size was the result of a certain number of round balls (I can't remember the number) that could be made out of a pound of lead. (eg. If you divinde a pould of lead into a 40 (?) round balls, they will be .357" in diameter.

My recounting of history may not per perfect, but the general idea is there.
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Old 05-17-2013, 04:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quinn View Post
Hate to bring this up, but I can find no record of the 38 special every being designed for black powder... it was a smokeless paowder cartridge from the day it was invented in 1902 (primarily for the military). The 38 Winchester center fire and the 38 long Colt were the black powder cartridges that preceded the 38 special.

By way of historical note, the 38 special is actually a 36 caliber bullet. In the muzzle loading days, the 36 caliber was a VERY popular round ball size for both pistols (Colt 1851, etc.) and small game rifles (eg. Pennsylvania half stocks, etc.) In order to promote cartridge guns (breech loading) and avoid confusion the manufacturers uped the bullet size (in name only) to 38 caliber while maintaining the 355-357 sized lead ball. Interesting the 38 WCF or 38-40 is actully 40 caliber. And the 36 caliber size was the result of a certain number of round balls (I can't remember the number) that could be made out of a pound of lead. (eg. If you divinde a pould of lead into a 40 (?) round balls, they will be .357" in diameter.

My recounting of history may not per perfect, but the general idea is there.
Randy,

I just looked it up in Barnes' Cartridges of the World. The .38 special was introduced in 1902 and not a black powder cartridge. The pressure factors are the reason for the additional case length none the leass.
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Old 05-17-2013, 04:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kirbinster View Post
So, my question is how can there be so much difference in these two rounds that are the same diameter and only differ in length by roughly 1/10th of an inch. Both sets of rounds were from the same manufacture and were both 158 grains - so how do they stuff so much more power into that 1/10th of an inch?
lets look a two automobiles ....both manufactured by general motors......

the 1953 Chevrolet bel air featured a six-cylinder, 235.5-cubic inch engine

In 1984 the Buick Grand National had a six cylinder, 231 cubic inch engine.

the refinement and horsepower of the two cars were vastly different with the same size engine...

the Buick boasted 200 hp ; the Chevy developed 115 hp
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Old 05-17-2013, 04:21 PM
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I understood that just like the .357 case was lengthened so the higher power loads wouldn't fit into .38 special hanguns, the .38 special case was lengthened so it wouldn't fit into .38S&W guns.

I also read somewhere that it is called .38, as that is the case diameter, not the bullet diameter, which we all know is .357. Maybe to differentiate it from the old .36 colt.

Last edited by JPriest; 05-17-2013 at 04:27 PM. Reason: New info
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Old 05-17-2013, 04:42 PM
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quinn, you've got caliber mixed up with gauge. Caliber is based on an inch, divided into 10ths to 1000ths. .50 caliber= 1/2 inch. Gauge is the number of balls to equal a pound. 12 round lead balls the diameter of a 12 gauge bore would weigh a pound. I think.
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Old 05-17-2013, 06:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wbraswell View Post
quinn, you've got caliber mixed up with gauge. Caliber is based on an inch, divided into 10ths to 1000ths. .50 caliber= 1/2 inch. Gauge is the number of balls to equal a pound. 12 round lead balls the diameter of a 12 gauge bore would weigh a pound. I think.
I believe that is correct and that the original rifled barrel ball size came from the same concept. I understood that the 31, 36, 44,58 and 72 calibers all derived from the old guage measure. Correct me if I'm wrong. Isn't 36 caliber something like 32 guage?

BTW, Isn't "Cartridges of the World" a great resource? Who knew that Colt reinvented the 38 special in 1909?
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Old 05-17-2013, 06:38 PM
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You have just learned through first hand experience that there is no free lunch.
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Old 05-17-2013, 06:57 PM
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Default There were earlier iterations

The .38 Short Colt, .38 Long Colt and the .38 S&W were predecessors of the Special. It was actually developed in 1898 and loaded with black powder then,within a short time, a year or so, loaded with smokeless. It was adopted in 1902 because the .38 Long Colt proved inadequate in the Philippine Insurrection (1899 to 1902)
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Old 05-17-2013, 07:15 PM
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Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nevada Ed View Post
When loading rifle ammo there is always the warning of minimum powder charges and high pressures and what really surprises me is...................................

How just 2grs of Bullseye in that Great Big case is still a.......
SAFE load !! (with some bullets)

the 38 special........... quite the invention.
What loads are those? Lowest I've ever seen in published data is 2.6 gr.
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Old 05-17-2013, 07:43 PM
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What brand of round were you using?
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Old 05-18-2013, 08:42 AM
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The .38 Smith & Wesson Special was born in 1898 and was an attempt to improve upon the .38 Colt which was the US service cartridge at that time and had proven itself ineffective in the Philippines. The first .38 Specials were loaded with black powder. In 1899, Smith chambered their new Military & Police revolver, later to evolve into the famous model 10, for the 38 Special. Sometime after WW1, when it became obvious that the military was going in a different direction with the 45ACP, Smith marketed the 38 Special as a police round and it began to gain favor with LE. The round of choice for police at this time was the 200 grain round nose at about 700 to 800fps. In a straight up gun fight, the round proved to be effective but didn't penetrate well against the primitive body armor of the day or when autos where involved. Late 20's, early 30's, they (Elmer Keith, Et. Al) began to experiment with high velocity rounds with lighter bullets in the 38. This led to the development of the N frame 38/44 around 1930 to stand up to the increased pressure of these early "+p" rounds. At this point, they had about maxed out the 38 without endangering people who were using the round in the M&P. In 1934, Elmer Keith, Phil Sharpe and Col. D. B. Wesson lengthened the .38 Special cases by 1/10th of an inch, used a 158 grain SWC bullet designed by Keith and Sharpe and drove it as fast as they could get it to go. This became the 357 Magnum and the premiere police round. It was the first cartridge to use "Magnum" in it's name. The N frame chambered for 357 would later become the Model 27. The 357 is still the round that all others are compared to when talking about stopping power in police rounds. I've spent a little bit of time on the street and police ranges and I think that the best police handgun ever is the model 66 loaded with 125 grain JHP's.
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Old 05-18-2013, 10:36 AM
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Shoot an Elmer Keith 38 special load and you won't see near as much difference!!
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Old 05-18-2013, 07:19 PM
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Moxie;
I have old Lyman data with cast bullets from 75gr #358101 to
195gr # 358430 . Some start out at 519fps to 560fps...........
This data is so old..................
It uses the Speer 146gr and 160gr Half-Jacket for the data.

and yes the 38 special started in 1898 as a black powder load
with 18grs and increased to 21grs to improve velocity and energy.
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Old 05-18-2013, 07:38 PM
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Do you suppose that once the .38 Special had gone mainstream anyone started calling the .38S&W the .38 short and weak?
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Old 05-23-2013, 06:53 PM
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They weren't as smart as we are now!
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Old 05-23-2013, 08:54 PM
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The 32 and 38 S&W were great loads back in their days and can still take small game and do a good job on paper and fun times just plinking.

I have two break opens that have past their prime and are just conversation pieces now but they were king in their day.

Just a little hard to find ammo and some times the price tag makes you cringe.
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