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Old 06-14-2017, 06:38 PM
Ox916 Ox916 is offline
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Default M&P 38 Special (1957) Ammunition Question

I have read previous posts that say to only use standard loads in a 38 special as old as mine. I also know that 158 grain is what the gun is sighted for. Does anyone know what the ballistics ratings are/should be for this gun? Depending on the brand, some standard loads have a higher muzzle energy than a +P load from a different manufacturer. It's an old gun in excellent condition and I don't want anything to happen to it. Also, any opinions on LRN vs FMJ?
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Old 06-14-2017, 06:56 PM
Muley Gil Muley Gil is offline
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Welcome to the Forum.

I prefer 158 grain lead semi-wadcutters. Occasional +P loads won't hurt it.
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Old 06-14-2017, 08:53 PM
deyomatic deyomatic is offline
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I always wondered the same thing...take a HOT 38 special that is not rated as plus p, but greater velocity and muzzle energy than a comparable plus P. Is it safe to shoot that hotter "standard pressure" cartridge in the older M&P?
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Old 06-14-2017, 09:03 PM
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What he said. . .lead semi wad cutters readily available in the Remington load. There's simply no reason to mess with the LRN and FMJ stuff.
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Old 06-14-2017, 09:05 PM
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My guess is the "standard pressure" .38 Special advertised at higher velocity and muzzle energy is loaded to the upper end of SAAMI spec, and most major factory loads advertised as such are well below. Both 'should' be safe in mechanically sound guns.

For the OP, other factors being equal lead bullets put less wear on the barrel. If your intent is to shoot your M & P a lot, as Muley Gil suggests plain old 158 gr .38 Special works fine and will likely print close to the sights. A few + P for verifying function and zero just so you know how it works and you should be good to go.
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Old 06-14-2017, 09:10 PM
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I would not be the least bit concerned about the sometime use of +P ammo in any postwar M+P in good condition. They are tough, businesslike revolvers, and today's +P ammo is not appreciably hotter than the service-level ammo of the 1950s.

JMHO
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Old 06-15-2017, 11:17 AM
Dave T Dave T is offline
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Larry is correct. Back when I got into this gun stuff (early 1970s) the standard velocity 158g RNL load was rated at 870 fps from a 6" barrel and about 850 fps from a 4" barrel. That's +P performance to most people today.

As long as the OP sticks to lead alloy bullets that aren't someone's version of the old 38/44 he should be fine and do no harm to his M&P.

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Old 06-15-2017, 04:11 PM
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Regarding MV from a revolver, that depends upon the specific revolver. It is well documented that two different revolvers having the same barrel length can produce significantly different MVs with the same ammunition. This is probably the result of slight dimensional differences, especially in the width of the barrel-cylinder gap. Don't trust the MVs provided in ammunition manufacturers' literature or MVs found in reloading manuals.
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Old 06-15-2017, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deyomatic View Post
...... Is it safe to shoot that hotter "standard pressure" cartridge in the older M&P?
I think in many discussions the terminology used confuses the issue. "Is it safe?" implies, at least to the less experienced, a fiery explosion and flying chunks of metal if things go sideways.

That's really not what it is about. The issue as it applies to most guns is whether the metal and design can handle the pressure of whatever constitutes a "hot load" for that caliber on a regular basis without unacceptably speeding up wear on and loosening of the gun's components.

Metal fatigue is a simply fact of physics. Unless you have a like-new gun, or it's been in your family, you have no idea what's been put through it. In 1957 when that M&P was new, it could handle any .38 Special load. Sixty years later? Who knows? I only shoot mild target loads out of any of the .38 Special revolvers in my collection, no matter the age.
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Old 06-15-2017, 04:50 PM
Jim NNN Jim NNN is offline
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Welcome to the forum.

I've inadvertently put +P rounds in some guns not designed for it, and not done harm to them. I guess it's kind of like lead exposure to humans - it's the long term exposure that constitutes the real risk, not short term. I don't shoot +P in any of my non-+P .38 revolvers intentionally, but if that was the only ammo I had and the only gun I had in a situation where I needed a gun, I'd do it without too much concern or worry. Keep in mind, I'm talking about revolvers of at least adequate quality and in basically solid condition. Don't know if I'd do it in a beat up RG that sold for 75 bucks new. Your gun is far better than that.

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Old 06-15-2017, 06:53 PM
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Most guns, even 60 year old ones, usually haven't been shot all that much. If they have been, it usually shows. I have a couple of K-Frame .38 Specials that I bought used, so I could not swear to any exact round count for either of them. But from checking them over, cleaning them, and shooting them, I sure don't think they were shot much.

The M10-7 saw service with a Police Department in Australia and then was re-imported back to the US. I suspect it was carried a lot and shot very little, as is the case with most police turn-ins from US PDs. The M10-6 looked like new once I cleaned away the lead accumulation on the front of the cylinder. I do not hesitate to shoot +P through either one, but shoot target or standard loads (148 - 158 grain bullets) as a general rule. Even if I shot +P exclusively, I doubt I would wear either one out.
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Old 06-15-2017, 08:49 PM
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I'm not sure the exact line of what is safe to fire and what is not - but I will tell you that whatever was fired out of this one...



Source: Worst Revolver Kaboom Ever? S&W 500 4"


...WAS NOT SAFE!!!
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Old 06-15-2017, 11:01 PM
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Maybe that guy filled a .500 S&W case with Bullseye and seated the bullet by compressing the powder. THAT WOULD DO IT!
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Old 06-15-2017, 11:18 PM
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Quote:
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Maybe that guy filled a .500 S&W case with Bullseye and seated the bullet by compressing the powder. THAT WOULD DO IT!
Something like that, I'm sure.

Guns blow up for one of two reasons: an obstructed barrel or hand loads.

I have yet to see a documented (the emphasis being on documented) case of a modern (20th century or younger) handgun getting destroyed by a factory load in the correct caliber, no matter how hot.

If anybody has evidence, I'll be happy to be educated .
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Old 06-16-2017, 08:55 AM
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Unless the factory used the incorrect propellant (very improbable), someone like Winchester, Remington, Federal, etc. just cannot have overloads. They have some fairly sophisticated powder level detection devices incorporated into their loading machines which will instantly detect overloads and underloads and stop the machine. Even if one of them did somehow use the wrong powder during loading, it would be quickly detected during lot testing and not shipped.
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Old 06-16-2017, 03:10 PM
Muley Gil Muley Gil is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Absalom View Post
Something like that, I'm sure.

Guns blow up for one of two reasons: an obstructed barrel or hand loads.

I have yet to see a documented (the emphasis being on documented) case of a modern (20th century or younger) handgun getting destroyed by a factory load in the correct caliber, no matter how hot.

If anybody has evidence, I'll be happy to be educated .
Well, it wasn't destroyed, but I was there when the forcing cone split on a 1952 .38 special M&P. 13 rounds of SuperVel ammo were fired through it & it split on the last shot.
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Old 06-17-2017, 12:06 PM
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We conducted severe testing of the M&P revolvers from the early 1950's until the mid 1980's.
Never ever had any problems with any MAJOR factory loaded ammo.
Only problems ever encountered was with reloads and a few imports.
Even tested a lot of the ammo sold with the trademark of an American name but made overseas. ( It was officially rejected for use by the NYCPD).( We only used it for function testing, and would NOT sell it for any use whatsoever.Yes, made in Italy).
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Old 06-17-2017, 01:51 PM
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You can probably safely shoot factory +P ammo through that revolver; IIRC the factory has said anything after numbers came along is good to go with +P. As I recall, the ads for old school .38-44 loads, much hotter than +P stuff, said it could be fired safely in a lot of guns including the K frames. For ME, the following apply:

1) I have a bunch of lead WC target loads, shot mostly out of my K38 (a 14-3, IIRC). That is the revolver I shoot when I just want to feel good about my shooting.

2) I also have a bunch of lead SWC at standard velocity, and shoot them from the above revolver and my M66; just used those at my LEOSA qual. I can shoot hotter stuff through the 66, but feel no need for it. A +P version of this load is the only +P load I would really bother having, and I don't care enough. This bullet shape will do what one needs in self-defense, penetrating adequately to and through the vitals if placed in the right location (which is the most important variable).

Those two loads will do virtually anything I can foresee needing to do with those revolvers. I have used the WC in a J frame .38, too; it's recommended by a lot of folks. I would carry the SWC for reloading ease.

3) One can plink fine with the round nose stuff, either all lead or FMJ, but I prefer to not even have any just to prevent the possibility having it in any firearm needed for serious purposes. It's not suitable for any use other than plinking, or shooting it up to make empties for reloading.
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Old 06-17-2017, 08:46 PM
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Quote:
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3) One can plink fine with the round nose stuff, either all lead or FMJ, but I prefer to not even have any just to prevent the possibility having it in any firearm needed for serious purposes. It's not suitable for any use other than plinking, or shooting it up to make empties for reloading.
Legions of dead men going back many decades might dispute that statement.
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Old 06-18-2017, 08:20 AM
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I wouldn't worry about P+. There is no real reason to even think about it much unless you're going to use it for self defense. All it does is make a louder bang, have a little more flash and recoil. It makes the same size hole in the paper. Oh, and it costs more. Just stick with pretty much any standard factory ammo for punching holes in paper.

Since you say it's in excellent condition, and you don't want anything to happen to it, don't use it for self defense. Get a Glock or some other modern plastic fantastic for that.
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Old 06-18-2017, 01:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DWalt View Post
Legions of dead men going back many decades might dispute that statement.
*
Whether or not the person dies is not relevant or particularly important. It is how quickly they stop the actions that justify shooting them that matters, and handguns are poor enough performers in that critical aspect that using ammo that handicaps the defender is not prudent. Just because I don't want to get shot with it (or anything else) does not mean it is prudent to rely upon it for serious use.
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Old 06-18-2017, 05:24 PM
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Doug M., well said. Everything including the 22 CB Cap is lethal but in many cases that lethality comes hours or even days later. Likewise, most every handgun cartridge has "stopped" an assailant at one time or another.

As folks who are interested in successfully defending ourselves and our loved ones, the probability of stopping an assailant should be of primary interest. RNL bullets at standard 38 Spl velocities don't have a high probability of stopping. Yes they do occasionally stop, but likewise they occasionally fail miserably.

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Old 06-18-2017, 07:28 PM
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According to the Winchester-Western Centerfire Handguns Ballistics Chart from that time period the standard load was a 158 grain lead roundnose bullet at 900 fps from a 6 inch barrel.
Remington had it listed at 855 fps .
These were the standard loadings. There are others listed , such as Hi-Speed a 158 grain lead (no bullet shape is listed) at 1090 fps ! I'm not sure if these loads were intended for K frames , possibly just N framed guns .
For the older M&P's I would stick with factory ammo or reloads in the 850 to 900 fps range with lead bullets either round nose or semi-wadcutter.
I have a fixed sighted model 64 1970 vintage and the sights are regulated for 158 gr. lead bullets(RN or SWC)loaded to between 850 - 900 fps.
As for bullets I favor SWC, but I was a reader of Elmer Keith and he wrote they was the best....I do a lot of target shooting and cast and load a lot of wadcutters.
Gary

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