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Thomson / Gale

.38 Super

Guns Magazine,  March, 2001  by Massad Ayoob

Introduced at the end of the Roaring 20s, the .38 Super drove a pointy, hardjacketed 130 gr. bullet at 1,215 fps. It routinely pierced the auto bodies and "bulletproof vests" of the period, but shot through human bodies like an ice pick and delivered little "stopping power." Good factory hollowpoints wouldn't be available for almost 40 years.

The .38 Super was flat-shooting, but notoriously inaccurate because it headspaced on its vestigial cartridge rim. In the '70s, Irv Stone at Bar-Sto made barrels that headspaced on the case mouth, and the .38 Super's superb inherent accuracy at last came to light.

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It was never terribly popular as a defensive cartridge. By the time JHP factory loads came out, you could get +P+ 9mm ammo that equaled or exceeded Super ballistics, available in smaller or higher-capacity guns. The Super's only real defensive advantage was in the little-known Cor-Bon ammo, with a 124 gr. JHP at 1,250 fps (equivalent to a medium velocity .357 Mag. 125 gr.) and a 115 gr. JHP at 1,350 fps, hotter than the standard factory 110 gr. .357 Mag. at 1,300 fps.

It was Rob Leatham's pioneering use of the .38 Super to "make major" in IPSC that led to the renaissance of this under-appreciated cartridge.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Publishers' Development Corporation
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group