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Old 05-23-2009, 04:38 PM
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I'm making up a Memorial Day exhibit of World War II small arms and realize that I'm vague on the type of ammunition the military procured for the .38 Special as would be used in the Colt Commando and Smith & Wesson Victory Model. Was it the same as the later 130 grain FMJ round nose? What sort of ballistics could be expected from World War II military issue .38 Special ammunition?

The exhibit isn't until Monday but I have to finish my information this evening because I'll be away all day tomorrow.
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Old 05-23-2009, 05:45 PM
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The Winchester white box 130 gr FMJ is virtually identical, and it has a military style head stamp too, just won't have the right date!
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Old 05-23-2009, 06:16 PM
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I agree with Alk8944 from what I've read in the past, but the Win. load now has a flat point. The Federal AE 130gr. FMJ would look more "correct" as it is still rounded.
I actually have some mil-surp Winchester 130gr. FMJ from the Desert Storm era.
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Old 05-23-2009, 06:18 PM
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So it is correct to assume that the 130 grain FMJ round nose load goes back to 1941-1945?
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Old 05-23-2009, 06:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by bmcgilvray:
So it is correct to assume that the 130 grain FMJ round nose load goes back to 1941-1945?
I remember reading it on here awhile back. It had to be jacketed because of military use. To me honest I can't remember about the gr. weight 100%, it might have been 158gr. If it was I couldn't tell you when the 130gr. came along.
I'll do some searching around.
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Old 05-24-2009, 12:12 AM
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WW2 38 special ammo was 158 grain jacketed ball and there was red tipped tracer ammo issued to Navy pilots. To the best of my knowledge the 130 grain ball stuff that is readily available today is a 1960s design.
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Old 05-24-2009, 02:50 PM
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I think the driving force for the transitioin to 130 grain FMJ in 38 special was the Air Force after Korea when LeMay switched us from 1911s to the S&W M-15s and the first aluminum framed J and K frame Airweight revolvers were produced for aircrew carry.

There have been other threads on types of 38 special issued to Air Force personnel. I observed two types: M1941 Ball which looked like a normal cartridge and was pretty weak, and PGU-12 which had the projectile seated deeper than normal and came out in the mid to late 1970s.

We might be able to tie in the date of arrival for the lighter 130 grain loading with the issue of the aluminum cylinder and framed aircrew airweight revolvers, and that may well have been during WW2.
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Old 05-25-2009, 05:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Pedersoli:
I think the driving force for the transitioin to 130 grain FMJ in 38 special was the Air Force after Korea when LeMay switched us from 1911s to the S&W M-15s and the first aluminum framed J and K frame Airweight revolvers were produced for aircrew carry.

There have been other threads on types of 38 special issued to Air Force personnel. I observed two types: M1941 Ball which looked like a normal cartridge and was pretty weak, and PGU-12 which had the projectile seated deeper than normal and came out in the mid to late 1970s.

We might be able to tie in the date of arrival for the lighter 130 grain loading with the issue of the aluminum cylinder and framed aircrew airweight revolvers, and that may well have been during WW2.

Can't have been during WWII. Aluminum frames date from the 1950's.

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Old 05-25-2009, 07:52 PM
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From the April 1946 edition of the American Rifleman, page 18 comes the following information. The author is Edwards Brown Jr.

Cartridge Caliber .38 Special
"This ammunition is loaded with a 158 gr. bullet having a steel bullet jacket. This jacket has a .0008-inch copper plating on the outside. The cartridge case is the standard caliber .38 S&W Special product.
"... it was necessary to produce jacketed caliber .38 ammunition when reports revealed that enemy officers in the field were ruling that lead bullets were contrary to international law. This placed men so armed in danger of being shot if captured.
"I was present at Springfield Army in May of 1943 when one of the first production lots of steel-jacketed caliber .38 Special ammunition was tested.
"3,650 rounds were fired through each of two revolvers -- an S&W Victory Model and a Colt Commando. Approximately half were fired double-action ...
"Both revolvers withstood the endurance test without a malfunction. The thumbpiece screw was tightened on the S&W at 354 rounds and the side plate screw of the Colt was tightened as 912 rounds.
"These were the only adjustments necessary and a careful examination of both revolvers at the end of the test showed nothing but normal wear.
"Tests were also conducted to determine the effects that jacketed ammunition would have on misaligned cylinders and barrels.
"... 500 rounds were fired in each revolver from the cylinder that was .030 inch out of alignment, with no damage to either revolver.
"I don't think you have much to worry about in this jacketed ammunition."

The author of the above did not give powder type, charges or velocity of the above load.

I believe the 130 gr. full metal jacket load dates to the 1950s. I carried it as a U.S. Air Force Security Policeman (1974 to 1979). It was all we knew.

The March 1982 American Rifleman, page 68, notes:

The M41 130 gr. full metal jacket load is loaded to standard velocity and pressure (16,000 psi maximum and about 750 fps from a 4" barrel).
This velocity is about the minimum which will expel a bullet from a revolver bore. It is not advised to use this ammunition in pistols with barrels longer than 4", the American Rifleman notes.

The Air Force developed and issued the PGU-12/B load, which is the same 130 gr. full metal jacket bullet loaded deeply into the case.
This is a +P load and should not be used in revolvers not rated for +P.
This load delivers about 950 to 980 fps from a 4" barrel.
The Air Force was the only service to adopt and issue this PGU-12/B ammunition. The Army tested it but declined to use it because it shortened the service life of its revolvers.

Okay ... okay ... more than you wanted to know but since I found the information so easily I thought I'd pass it along.

To answer your original question, the 130 gr. full metal jacket load would be an anachronism in a World War II display.
However, finding WWII .38 Special ammo may be difficult. I have one sample in my collection, a tracer round.
Yes, tracer rounds were issued to flight crews who carried .38 Special revolvers, chiefly Navy personnel but some Army Air Corps carried them as well when 1911s were scarce early in the war.
The tracer rounds were intended chiefly for signalling, rather like a distress flare.

The .38 Special revolver is rarely used in military service today. Pity. The Smith & Wesson Combat Masterpiece Model 15 I carried was a magnificent belt gun: light, accurate, easily maintained and utterly reliable.
It was, alas, hampered by the weak loads issued to us.
If we had been allowed to carry a 150 gr. jacketed semi wadcutter at 900 to 950 fps, it would have been a much better sidearm.

There must be warehouses full of Model 15s somewhere. I hope they haven't been destroyed. They would still make an excellent weapon for government security guards, investigators and aircrews in non-combat areas.
The S&W M-15 revolver with a decently powerful load, and a handful of shotshells and tracers, would be a good survival gun -- better than the 9mm or .45 in my estimation.
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Old 05-29-2009, 08:42 AM
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I recently acquired a full box of .38 Special ammo. The top of the box is marked:

50 CARTRIDGES
CALIBER .38 SPECIAL
130 GRAIN BALL
LOT RA 5219
REMINGTON ARMS COMPANY, INCORPORATED

The side of the box says:

THESE CARTRIDGES ARE ESPECIALLY DESIGNED AND MANUFACTURED EXCLUSIVELY FOR MILITARY USE. THEY ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR CIVILIAN, LAW ENFORCEMENT OR OTHER NON-MILITARY PURPOSE.

The inside flap is marked F22P 156.

The bullets are copper jacketed round nose(no steel underneath) and the primers are sealed with a purple sealant. Does anybody know how old this stuff is or when it was produced?

Dave Sinko
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Old 05-29-2009, 01:56 PM
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Quote:
THESE CARTRIDGES ARE ESPECIALLY DESIGNED AND MANUFACTURED EXCLUSIVELY FOR MILITARY USE. THEY ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR CIVILIAN, LAW ENFORCEMENT OR OTHER NON-MILITARY PURPOSE.
That's for certain, they suck. Of course, they're not really suited for military use either. I can think of few loads in that caliber, if any, that I would rather not want to defend my life with.
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Old 05-29-2009, 07:22 PM
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Thanks for replying to this thread.

Gatofeo; the additional information is greatly appreciated.
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Old 05-30-2009, 10:18 AM
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The 130gr. full metal jacket loads for the .38 Special were first introduced in the late 1950s or early 1960s, near as I can tell.

I carried the 130 gr. FMJ ammo when I was in the Air Force. I served with a number of sergeants who had carried it in Vietnam, the Philippines, Korea and other hot spots where its use was probable.
They all agreed that it was a woefully weak load. Most agreed that the 148 gr. wadcutter we qualified with was more powerful than the 130 gr. duty load.

There was a story, probably apocryphal, making the rounds about why the Air Force insisted on issuing such a weak load.
In the movie, "Goldfinger," James Bond is captive aboard a jet aircraft at high altitude. A bad guy threatens to shoot him and Bond points out that if he misses, or the bullet passes through him and then the skin of the aircraft, the resultant decompression will kill everyone on board.
The bad guy relents.
Yet, this myth continues today.
I knew a Sky Marshall in the 1970s who laughed about this myth. He pointed out that a bullet hole in the fuselage would allow very little air to escape, and certainly wouldn't, "suck everyone through that little hole" as I have heard others describe it.
Even the breaking of a window, while disconcerting, wouldn't suck everyone out the window.

Anyway, the story goes, someone in the Air Force believed the James Bond bluff and developed and demanded a load that would not penetrate the skin of aircraft.
Sounds rather farfetched to me, but stranger things have happened.
Remember your Byron: "'Tis strange but true, for truth is often stranger than fiction."

We know for a fact that when the Air Force began issuing a very light, .38 Special snubnose with aluminum frame and cylinder to pilots in the 1950s, the standard 158 gr. jacketed load was straining the gun.
Cylinders and barrels became cracked.
At that point, the weak 130 gr. load was developed and issued for the .38 snubnoses. Not much later, the whole lot of aluminum revolvers was recalled.
I suspect that the Air Force had a bunch of 130 gr. ammo on hand, newly manufactured, and wanted to use it up.
At the time, according to one of my sergeants, the Air Force Air Police carried the 1911 .45.
The Air Force was dissatisfied with the .45 and adopted the Smith & Wesson Model 15 Combat Masterpiece.
This would have been the late 1950s or early 1960s. The sergeant showed me a photo of him as an Air Policeman in 1962 and he clearly was carrying a 1911 .45.
When a new weapon or ammo is adopted, it takes a while to get it issued to everyone. So, 1962 might have been the last year, or near it, for Air Police to carry the 1911 .45.

Anyway, by the time I went through the Security Police academy in 1975, the Air Force's primary sidearm was the .38 Special, in both 2 and 4-inch barrel lengths.

Security Police carried the 130 gr. full metal jacket load.
Office of Special Invesigations (OSI) sometimes carried the lead 158 gr. roundnose bullet ammo if they worked with police departments offpost.
I know, because I worked in the armory at Lowry Air Force Base, in Denver, and we had a few cases of Remington 158 gr. lead roundnosed ammo on hand.
It caught my eye. When I inquired about its use I was told it for OSI, but we were barred from carrying it because of the Hague Convention (which mandates ammo with no lead exposed).

A sergeant once told me of his personal experience with 130 gr. full metal jacket ammo.
He shot at a fleeing car in the Philippines with the stuff, from his 4" barreled Model 15.
Two bullets bounced off the trunk, failing to enter. A third bullet failed to break through the rear window.
He was, understandably, quite disgusted with the load but, like the rest of us, forced to carry it.
He warned us rookies repeatedly that if we had time, grab the shotgun we carried in the front seat. It was loaded with 2-3/4 00 buck loads.

I was a Law Enforcement Specialist in Security Police, so I rode patrol and stood gates. Security Specialists walked around aircraft and buildings, or checked IDs behind a desk. Theirs was a dull job; mine was a little more interesting.
But because my patrols often took us into the housing areas, we were not allowed to carry the M16 rifle.
The fear of an M16 bullet penetrating the wall of a housing unit and killing an innocent inside motivated that prohibition. The shotgun pellets had a little less penetration.

Well, I've prattled on long enough, reminiscing. Hope this enlightens some of you.

The 130 gr. FMJ ammo for the .38 Special is weak, but it's okay for plinking or introducing a new shooter to the .38 Special with a load that has little recoil or blast.
These loads are also good for small eatin' game at close range. The jacketed bullet won't damage a lot of meat, leaving plenty for the pot.
It would be good for rabbits, grouse and perhaps even a turkey (where it's legal) at close range.
But beware! That 130gr FMJ bullet is prone to ricochet. Don't shoot it where rocks are the backstop, or at hard surfaces.

Here endeth the lesson.
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Old 07-10-2012, 03:28 PM
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Sorry I'm late getting in on this, but....

I have (2) boxes of WWII-issued .38 Special Tracer Ammunition from the estate of a WWII US Navy pilot. The ammunition is bright and shiney. The boxes read:

50 CARTRIDGES
TRACER
CALIBER .38 S&W SPECIAL
AMMUNITION LOT R.A. 5002
Remington Arms Company, Inc.
DISPOSAL OF EMPTIED CARTRIDGE CASES MUST BE MADE AS PRESCRIBED BY A.R.


Hmmmm.... This guy wants $350 for a full box!
http://www.collectorfirearms.org/web...scriptions.htm

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Old 07-10-2012, 04:29 PM
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Gatofeo,

I'm pretty sure that the 130 gr bullets came before the James Bond BS, although both were from the 60's, as I recall.

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Old 07-10-2012, 06:01 PM
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Gatofeo-


I was an Air Policeman from 1963-1967. I worked both LE and Security posts, depending on the day's assignments. We didn't separate into divisions until Security Police replaced the AP term/.

At Lowry AFB, we had some .45 autos and I often chose one. The weak 130 grain .38 load was a big reason why. We later got some 150 or 158 grain Hi-Velocity ammo, bought off base, with unit funds. Senior NCO's and our few officers got Combat Masterpieces, although one carried his own M-14 and another chose a snub Colt 38 meant for Investigations personnel. It had a shrouded hammer, I think. Don't know if it was a Det. Spcl. or a Cobra. I detested this officer, whom I later met outside of the service. I declined to take a job where he was the supervisor. For this reason, I never asked if the gun had an alloy frame. He probably didn't know, anyway.

Lower ranking personnel got Victory Models and a few Colt Commando and Official Police commercial guns, supposedly scounged from the Navy. Not enough Combat Masterpieces were available, most going then to SAC and to combat forces in Vietnam.

Later, in Newfoundalnd, all we had was 1911A-1's. The story was, we had to leave all the small arms and other equipment in Canada if the base ever closed, so it was low priority to get new weapons. The augmentees and we had .30 carbines for repelling Spetznatz invaders or riots. Most personnel had not been trained on those carbines and had fired the M-16 briefly in Basic. They also did not know the .45 auto!

I knew the carbine from Basic and from high school ROTC and because I had a friend in high school who owned one. I was already a fan of Jeff Cooper's writing and did know the .45. I bought one from the BX, a Colt Gold Cup model. I often carried this .45 on duty until a grumpy new commander realized that and forbade it. I then field-stripped a couple of the issue .45's, assembling one with all Colt parts and a wide-spur hammer. I then chose that "frankengun" until I went home for discharge.

BTW, while rotating to McGuire AFB, NJ for release from active duty, I visited Goose Bay AFB in Labrador. We had half of the base, mainly for an F-106 wing tasked with intercepting Soviet aircraft that violated Canadian airspace. The RAF (not RCAF) had the rest of the base, operating a wing of Vulcan strategic bombers, their equivalent to our B-52's. It was amazing to see those Vulcans take off. They didn't struggle aloft and gradually climb, as I've seen B-52;'s do. Once the landing gear was up, they climbed fast!

You can see a Vulcan bomber in the James Bond film, "Thunderball", although I think the movie may have called it sometjhing else.


"Goldfinger" came out in 1964, I think, and the weak M-41 ball ammo was already being used. I think it was adopted for the light alloy guns that were later destroyed. (Aircrewman .38's.)

However, RAF aircrew and various security agencies in the UK were issued Walther PPK's in lieu of Browning 9mm's, and the 007 influence may have caused some of that. I talked with an RAF fighter pilot in the 1990's and he wanted his Browning back Didn't think the PPK was either reliable or powerful. If the Bond influence didn't cause the Walthers to be adopted, NATO standadization may have. German pilots carried the PPK. Don't know about Dutch, Norwegian, Belgian, etc.

One reason for the smaller gun was to let serving officers and security personnel be covertly armed in Northern Ireland, during their "troubles." I believe that British general officers often carried PP .32's then. SAS began using P-226 and P-228 9mm's to supplement or replace their Brownings. But this has veered off the subject of USAF .38's, so I'll close.

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Old 07-10-2012, 06:55 PM
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I'm fairly sure Remington still sells a 158gr FMJ .357" bullet you can load for your replica ammo and you can use Winchester brass. In a pinch I highly doubt anyone would notice if you use the Winchester 130gr FMJ factory ammo either.
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Old 07-11-2012, 09:55 AM
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It's posts like these that make me want to hug the Internet. A lot of good info here. Thanks for sharing (and your service).
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Old 07-11-2012, 11:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Sinko View Post
I recently acquired a full box of .38 Special ammo. The top of the box is marked:

50 CARTRIDGES
CALIBER .38 SPECIAL
130 GRAIN BALL
LOT RA 5219
REMINGTON ARMS COMPANY, INCORPORATED

The side of the box says:

THESE CARTRIDGES ARE ESPECIALLY DESIGNED AND MANUFACTURED EXCLUSIVELY FOR MILITARY USE. THEY ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR CIVILIAN, LAW ENFORCEMENT OR OTHER NON-MILITARY PURPOSE.

The inside flap is marked F22P 156.

The bullets are copper jacketed round nose(no steel underneath) and the primers are sealed with a purple sealant. Does anybody know how old this stuff is or when it was produced?

Dave Sinko
Dave,
The two digits in the headstamp are the year of manufacture.
Should say RA XX.

Good shooting.
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Old 07-11-2012, 09:40 PM
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According to Pate's U.S. Handguns of World War II:The Secondary Pistols and Revolvers, the correct era ammo was the Remington 158 gr, lead core, copper plated steel jacketed ammo. Head stamps were REM UMC .38 SPL. Several large contracts were issued to Remington during the war. The packaging was the commercial green box Kleanbore label. Pate shows some on page 311. I bought some at a local show a couple of years ago. The box is a bit tattered but this is the stuff.
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Old 07-26-2012, 03:10 PM
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I sold the (2) boxes of .38 Special tracers from WWII that I had for $100/box (2) weeks ago at the B'ham gun show.
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Old 07-26-2012, 06:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatofeo View Post
From the April 1946 edition of the American Rifleman, page 18 comes the following information. The author is Edwards Brown Jr.

Cartridge Caliber .38 Special
"This ammunition is loaded with a 158 gr. bullet having a steel bullet jacket. This jacket has a .0008-inch copper plating on the outside. The cartridge case is the standard caliber .38 S&W Special product.
"... it was necessary to produce jacketed caliber .38 ammunition when reports revealed that enemy officers in the field were ruling that lead bullets were contrary to international law. This placed men so armed in danger of being shot if captured.
"I was present at Springfield Army in May of 1943 when one of the first production lots of steel-jacketed caliber .38 Special ammunition was tested.
"3,650 rounds were fired through each of two revolvers -- an S&W Victory Model and a Colt Commando. Approximately half were fired double-action ...
"Both revolvers withstood the endurance test without a malfunction. The thumbpiece screw was tightened on the S&W at 354 rounds and the side plate screw of the Colt was tightened as 912 rounds.
"These were the only adjustments necessary and a careful examination of both revolvers at the end of the test showed nothing but normal wear.
"Tests were also conducted to determine the effects that jacketed ammunition would have on misaligned cylinders and barrels.
"... 500 rounds were fired in each revolver from the cylinder that was .030 inch out of alignment, with no damage to either revolver.
"I don't think you have much to worry about in this jacketed ammunition."

The author of the above did not give powder type, charges or velocity of the above load.

I believe the 130 gr. full metal jacket load dates to the 1950s. I carried it as a U.S. Air Force Security Policeman (1974 to 1979). It was all we knew.

The March 1982 American Rifleman, page 68, notes:

The M41 130 gr. full metal jacket load is loaded to standard velocity and pressure (16,000 psi maximum and about 750 fps from a 4" barrel).
This velocity is about the minimum which will expel a bullet from a revolver bore. It is not advised to use this ammunition in pistols with barrels longer than 4", the American Rifleman notes.

The Air Force developed and issued the PGU-12/B load, which is the same 130 gr. full metal jacket bullet loaded deeply into the case.
This is a +P load and should not be used in revolvers not rated for +P.
This load delivers about 950 to 980 fps from a 4" barrel.
The Air Force was the only service to adopt and issue this PGU-12/B ammunition. The Army tested it but declined to use it because it shortened the service life of its revolvers.

Okay ... okay ... more than you wanted to know but since I found the information so easily I thought I'd pass it along.

To answer your original question, the 130 gr. full metal jacket load would be an anachronism in a World War II display.
However, finding WWII .38 Special ammo may be difficult. I have one sample in my collection, a tracer round.
Yes, tracer rounds were issued to flight crews who carried .38 Special revolvers, chiefly Navy personnel but some Army Air Corps carried them as well when 1911s were scarce early in the war.
The tracer rounds were intended chiefly for signalling, rather like a distress flare.

The .38 Special revolver is rarely used in military service today. Pity. The Smith & Wesson Combat Masterpiece Model 15 I carried was a magnificent belt gun: light, accurate, easily maintained and utterly reliable.
It was, alas, hampered by the weak loads issued to us.
If we had been allowed to carry a 150 gr. jacketed semi wadcutter at 900 to 950 fps, it would have been a much better sidearm.

There must be warehouses full of Model 15s somewhere. I hope they haven't been destroyed. They would still make an excellent weapon for government security guards, investigators and aircrews in non-combat areas.
The S&W M-15 revolver with a decently powerful load, and a handful of shotshells and tracers, would be a good survival gun -- better than the 9mm or .45 in my estimation.

Gatofeo-

I just want to note that the Edwards Brown, Jr. you quoted is the "Pete" Brown who was for years the gun editor at, "Sports Afield." I think his info was quite valid. Until I read your post, I didn't know that WW II jackets were steel under the plating.

Of course, the Germans objected prior to WW II about the British using lead bullets in their .38-200 guns, resulting in them having to load 178 grain jacketed ammo that was underpowered. I honestly wonder if they remembered to increase the powder charge to overcome the added drag in the bore of the jacketed bullets. Or, maybe some lots were just underloaded. Loading the lighter bullet wasn't enough to keep velocity much beyond that requred to get the bullet out the barrel! No wonder that Churchill insisted on .45 autos for his newly formed Commando units, or that paratroops and Commandos often had .45's or 9mm Brownings late in the war.
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Old 10-28-2012, 12:45 AM
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Danggggg ... love to get the whole lot of you together around a table, with a big pot of chili and plenty of Stella Artois beer. We couldn't do any shooting, of course, but imagine the fine conversation!
A very interesting thread. I'm glad I took the time to dig into my old American Rifleman magazines, because it prompted so many memories from the rest of you.
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Old 10-28-2012, 09:26 AM
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Cases are headstamped WCC 60.







From Wiki.

During World War II, some U.S. aircrew (primarily Navy and Marine Corps) were issued .38 Special S&W Victory revolvers as sidearms in the event of a forced landing. In May 1943, a new .38 Special cartridge with a 158-grain, full steel jacketed, copper flash-coated bullet meeting the requirements of the rules of land warfare was developed at Springfield Armory and adopted for the Smith & Wesson revolvers.[18] The new military .38 Special loading propelled its 158-grain bullet at a standard 850 ft/s (260 m/s) from a 4-inch (100 mm) revolver barrel.[18] During the war, many U.S. naval and marine aircrew were also issued red-tipped .38 Special tracer rounds using either a 120-grain or 158-grain bullet for emergency signaling purposes.[18]

In 1956, the U.S. Air Force adopted the Cartridge, Caliber .38, Ball M41, a military variant of the .38 Special cartridge designed to conform to the rules of land warfare. The original .38 M41 ball cartridge used a 130-grain full metal jacketed bullet, and was loaded to an average pressure of only 13,000 psi, giving a muzzle velocity of approximately 725 ft/s (221 m/s) from a 4-inch (100 mm) barrel.[19][20] This ammunition was intended to prolong the life of S&W M12 and Colt Aircrewman revolvers equipped with aluminum cylinders and frames, which were prone to stress fractures when fired with standard .38 ammunition. By 1961, a slightly revised M41 .38 cartridge specification known as the Cartridge, Caliber .38 Ball, Special, M41 had been adopted for U.S. armed forces using .38 Special caliber handguns.[20] The new M41 Special cartridge used a 130-grain FMJ bullet loaded to a maximum allowable pressure of 16,000 psi for a velocity of approximately 950 ft/s (290 m/s) in a solid 6-inch (150 mm) test barrel, and about 750 ft/s (230 m/s) from a 4-inch (100 mm) revolver barrel.[21][22] The M41 ball cartridge was first used in .38 revolvers carried by USAF aircrew and Strategic Air Command security police, and by 1961 was in use by the U.S. Army for security police, dog handlers, and other personnel equipped with .38 Special caliber revolvers.[22] A variant of the standard M41 cartridge with a semi-pointed, unjacketed lead bullet was later adopted for CONUS (Continental United States) police and security personnel.[20]

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Old 10-29-2012, 06:59 PM
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I think you should now know about everything needed. Basically, if you can find any .38 Special cartridge having a jacketed RN bullet, not one in a million (or more) viewers would know if it was used during WWII or not. Flyers had tracer ammo, mainly for signalling purposes in case their planes were shot down. There are some interesting stories about the M41 round. Originally, it was fairly easy for USAF security cops to pull the bullets, and dump some extra powder into a case and replace the bullet in order to get a "Hotter" load. Sometimes much too hot, damaging or destroying the revolver when fired. The later (and more powerful) USAF PGU-12/B load specified a much higher bullet pull value in order to stop that practice. I think as someone else mentioned, during WWII, .38 Special ammunition was typically issued in commercial boxes and using commercial headstamps for military use.

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Old 10-30-2012, 06:09 PM
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For what it's worth, had I been assigned to Vietnam, I'd have tried to take commercial jacketed 150 grain .38 ammo. It'd meet Hague Accords standards and be quite a bit hotter than the M-41 round.

I never fired any of that bought off-base in Denver, although we carried it. I think the boxes were marked as High Velocity, and it may well have been the .38-44 load.

Cases were nickled, a boon in tropical climates.

I asked S&W about firing .38-44 ammo in K-Frames and was told that it was safe, but would produce added wear and recoil. They strongly suggested that I buy a .38-44 or .357 if I planned to fire that ammo much. Of course, I was planning to fire a box or three, so I wasn't too concerned.

I never saw anyone in the USAF pull bullets and add powder to M-41 ammo. I think I was the only one in my units who knew or cared much about ammunition. Very few men were gun enthusists, other than some hunters, and they were more concerned with rifles and shotguns for game. The marksmanship training people did know more about guns.

When I qualified with the .45 auto, most of my companions were astounded that the gun would shoot that well. Most were pretty recoil sensitive. I also owned a personal former Lend-Lease M-1911A-1, but couldn't wear it on duty. I posted above about my later Gold Cup.

I'm quite sure that there were many other "gun people" in the USAF then. I just didn't meet many. Visiting Navy aircrew still carried the Victory Model. Don't know what ammo they had.

Many of our pilots going to SE Asia provided their own sidearms. Commissioned officers could then still do that. I saw letters from some in the gun titles. Most seemed to favor the .45 auto or the S&W M-19. Stephen Coonts, the thriller writer, had his hero carry a M-19 in Vietnam days, sometimes later. (Admiral Jake Grafton.) I strongly suspect that Coonts also wore the S&W M-19 when he was a A-6 pilot in Vietnam. That's where he got the background data for his books, like, "Flight of the Intruder."

It is interesting to speculate about what ammo these pilots had for their own guns. Woudn't be surprised if many carried commercial .357 Magnum loads.

Oh: I saw .22 Hornet ammo for use in the M-4 and M-6 survival arms carried in some parachute seat packs. That ammo was softpoint and clearly labled as being solely for survival use, and not to be used against enemy personnel.

I wouldn't voluntarily shoot even a rabbit with the weak M-41 Ball .38 ammo. Elmer Keith and many others have commented on how much more effective flatpoint bullets are on game.

Last edited by Texas Star; 10-30-2012 at 06:23 PM.
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Old 10-31-2012, 08:15 PM
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This is a direct quote excerpted from the Lake City AAP Product Manual concerning the USAF PGU-12/B cartridge.

"...The PGU-12/B cartridge was designed to have a very high bullet pull value (note: The bullet was very tightly crimped using a case cannelure). This was done to prevent tampering with the cartridge after several incidents with M41 cartridges involving removal of bullets, doubling of powder charges, and replacement of bullets. When fired in a standard (M15) revolver, the tampered cartridges would sometimes cause damage to the revolver and injury to the person firing it."

This was the only time Lake City AAP ever manufactured a .38 Special cartridge, or indeed any pistol cartridge, producing about 72 million of them in 1979-80 (although at least one lot was known to have been produced in late 1978). Velocity specification was 1100 to 1175 ft/sec, with peak chamber pressure of 20,000 psi. The nominal FMJ bullet weight was 130 grains, the same as the M41.

Yes indeed, powder doubling of the M41 powder charge did occur in the USAF. I have personally known several former USAF cops and CATM personnel who were present when such incidents happened. It may have occurred in other services also, I just don't know about any.

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Old 03-13-2022, 04:50 PM
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Necro Post ! But this thread is a top result in searches about WWII .38 Special , so I'll add some additional .

My late FIL was USMC MP during WWII ( state side ) . They were issued .38 Special . He carried S&W Victory . Don't know if only S&W were used , or if he manuevered to always use one because he preferred them ( he was knowledgeable shooter and hunter before his service ) .

He used them in several Duty shootings, generally with favorable , or at least expected results , with one exception .

He had occasion to shoot at a car moving away from him . He was aimed at the back of driver's head . The bullet penetrated the rear window , but had been deflected enough that it instead pass just outside the driver's ear .

It's my understanding that state side Mil LE and defense plant gaurds used 158 RNL , but I didn't think to directly ask him , and he passed 1993 @ 76yo .
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Old 03-13-2022, 06:34 PM
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Here’s info for small arms ammo, 1945. No 38 Spl is mentioned or shown. Last is from “Cartridges of the World”, 3 rd edition.6F0D052A-89CF-4FE0-80D3-58DF71A8B42A.jpg

254FA91C-0D98-4FF4-AEF8-E4BDC0A429B1.jpg

29774EC4-4F56-4280-A242-E16E5C1736F0.jpg
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Old 03-13-2022, 09:25 PM
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Good information, I have a partial box box of us 38 tracer ammo.
I didn’t realize how rare it is. I’ll post a picture of the box later.
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Old 03-14-2022, 12:19 AM
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Gatofeo,
I was in the 3415th from Jan 1973-October 1976. I would have drawn my weapons from you in 76.
I was envious of you guys with all those weapons in that little room.
It is good to know some of us from those days are still out here kicking around.
Stay safe!
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Old 03-14-2022, 12:54 PM
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I was in the Army from 1969 to 1972 as a Small Arms Repairman 45B20. The various military organizations were using the 38 Special S&W and Colt revolvers. The ammo was the above 158 gr FMJ loaded to 850 fps as indicated on the box.

Later, 1979 to 1982 I was in the I.L.A.N.G. as Security Police on the SAC base at O'Hare. We used the M15 with the 130 gr load. It was very mild and rumor had it that a bullet would stick in the barrel sometimes. I never saw that. Then we got new ammo with the pushed in bullet and star crimp. I would guess it ran at least 1000 fps and I was at least a bit more confident of it. The bullet was down almost to the tip in the case. The original load was supposed to be 3.5 grs Bullseye with what I think was the .356 38 Super 130 gr RN bullet. With the bullet down that far they may have kept the same powder charge but may have had to reduce it.
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Old 03-14-2022, 04:41 PM
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Here’s a well known Gyrene in Korea.
Most likely carrying the same type Revolver and ammo he carried in WWII.
He is visiting the AF after surviving a Fire Ball Crash Landing.
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Old 03-14-2022, 07:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walter Rego View Post
According to Pate's U.S. Handguns of World War II:The Secondary Pistols and Revolvers, the correct era ammo was the Remington 158 gr, lead core, copper plated steel jacketed ammo. Head stamps were REM UMC .38 SPL. Several large contracts were issued to Remington during the war. The packaging was the commercial green box Kleanbore label. Pate shows some on page 311. I bought some at a local show a couple of years ago. The box is a bit tattered but this is the stuff.
That is exactly the military ball round used during WWII. I have two boxes that are in slightly better condition in my collection, but still ratty. It was packed in a commercial-style box, but labeled as having a steel jacket. NOTE - there was no index number printed in the lower right-hand corner of the commercial box as was typical of Remington's contemporary commercial ammunition of other types. There was no specific military nomenclature adopted for that round such as Mxx. The only other .38 Special military issue round used during WWII was a red tracer which had a red-tipped bullet. Examples of the tracer round are somewhat difficult to find, but they came packed in a white box. The idea was that they could convert the revolver into an emergency signaling device for use by downed Naval aircraft flight crews, not for shooting at the enemy. There was some postwar experimentation into developing trace colors other than red, but I do not believe that any of them ever went into military service.

Back around 8-10 years ago, there was an extensive article about the .38 Special military rounds used during WWII published in the Journal of the International Ammunition Association (IAA), but the IAA circulates journals only to its paid members. I abstracted and posted relevant parts of that article on this forum but got dinged for it as being an improper use of copyrighted material, so it was taken down.

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