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Discussion Starter #1
Okay, so I'm not knew to reloading but am entirely new to this cartridge. Please help clear up a few questions I have, as I desperately want to buy a 38 super but, frankly, find the caliber a little esoteric.

1. What the heck is the real bullet diameter for the .38 Super? I see all kinds of load data for .355 9mm bullets, but then I some bulletmakers offering .356 plated bullets - what gives?

If the barrel is actually .356, how in the world do you get any accuracy out off .355 bullets? I'll admit right now that these are the only HP's I'll be able to come by locally, so their accuracy is very important.

Also, some posters have mentioned using .357 bullets - but how do you get these revolver bullets to feed, since most have lotsa lead exposed?

2. How hot can I load it? The pistol in question is a BEAUTIFUL new Govt. Bright Stainless .38 Super Colt auto (which I don't own yet). Does this gun have a "fully supported chamber" as the really hot loads require? If not, how hot can I go in +P cases?

3. How accurate is this cartridge in such a vehicle? I want to use the gun for hunting and self-defense, and frankly I was hoping for just-under-.357 Mag. ballistics out of it for those purposes (Man, I'm really trying hard to justify this purchase!). Is this quest a bad idea? I can't really afford a custom 9x23 set-up, and .357 Sig looks like too much of a pain to reload, so I'm stuck with the stock .38 Super or nothing.

Sorry for the long post. I've searched various places for these answers, but been unsuccessful.

Thanks in advance!
 

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I will give you a general response. Because I do not consider myself an "expert" I will avoid answering the more technical aspects of your post.
I have a 38 Super made by Briley. I truly enjoy this caliber. It gives you a little more power than the standard 9mm for about the same cost of reloading. I use the 9mm bullets for both my 9x19 and my 38 Super. I also use the same powder, Power Pistol. This gives me two different calibers but still using the same bullet, same powder and same primer. In my 650 the setup is the same. Simply switch tool heads and keep loading.
You will get replies telling you how superior the 9x23 is and how much more you can get out of the 9x23 ect. They will all be correct. However the 38 Super fits what I am after - more power than 9mm, low cost reloading, available components, capable of stopping most two or four legged animals.
 

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1. Barrels can vary a bit. Take a .357 soft lead bullet, brass rod and drive bullet through barrel then mike the bullet.
2. Never go above loading manual max loads for .38 Super. In my Colt Commander .38 Super the bbl is not "fully supported". I listened to a "friend" once and loaded some .38 Colt cases to .38 Super (midrange) loads and blew out a case. Lucky, no damage to gun or hand, only destroyed a magazine. Ex-friend told me they were actually .38 Super cases mismarked to .38 Colt. Wrong!!!
3. Questions regarding accuracy of .38 Super came from when they were first developed. The developers tried to headspace cases on rim. Accuracy was lousy at best. They solved the problem by headspacing on case mouth like they should have. Accuracy will depend on a lot of factors in a 1911.
 

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The bullet diameter you would want to use would be either a .355" jacketed, or a .356" plated bullet. forget .357's they won't do anything for you that the .355's and .356's will.

You can load it hot, but you should pay close attention to the loading manual you're using (you do have one, right?) and what the brass is telling you. When your primer pockets get loose after a few loadings, you are too hot, depsite what the book might tell you.

If you desire the top-end loads, do not use range brass, random stuff you've collected through the years, or your buddies cast-offs. Buy new .38 Super+P brass and only load in your brass. When you find other stuff at the range, save it and sell it your buddies, and buy more new 38S+P.

It does not have a supported chamber, unless Colt snuck some integral-ramped guns out on us. (Highly unlikely)

It will be as accurate as Colt made it. It might be good, it might be bad. If it is bad, a new match barrel will correct that problem.
 

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The .38 Super barrel should be .355, but you need to mike it to be certain. Jacketed bullets usually work best at bore diameter. Lead bullets usually are more accurate at about .001 over bore diameter. Presumably, plated bullets would behave like lead, but I have no experience with them.

I have used Hornady .357 125 grain XTP's in the super with good results and better than .357 Magnum velocity, but that was with a fully supported barrel in a Clark custom pistol. You may not be able to do that safely with a standard barrel.

The Super is a great cartridge, and should suit your needs. Just make certain that the bullets cannot be set deeper in the case during feeding.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks guys, that helps a lot!

I will be very careful in loading the standard Colt barrel, may even try CorBon hot loads instead of loading my own near max. loads.
 

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My Ed Brown match barrels are .356 so that's what I use in them. Cast bullets can be .357 or .358 for best performance, as .356 cast bullets stink.

I like this caliber because I can load anything from 88 grains up to at least 160 grains. The 88 grain bullets running at 1750 FPS or so really get people's attention, as 3 feet of flame out of the barrel is very noticeable.

These days I just use 150 grain cast bullets at around 950 FPS.
 

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It seem that everybody wants to load this caliber to max and beyond..People either forget or don't know that the 38super light loaded,like a 38spec., is a pleasant shooting
acurate pistol..
 

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Hummmmm, sounds like you've just described MY 38 Super!!!! (Does it have wrap around grips???)

Any ways, as all have said, Colt 38 Supers are unsupported barrels, use 9mm (.355") bullets. The OLDER 38 Supers used the semi rim to head space the round in the chamber, so accuracy is so so. Also, some older guns were .356" in the barrel. I've been told that they new guns are headspaced on the case mouth, like the 9mm Luger and 45 ACP.

Remember when you load hot stuff, start low and work up. Look for the signs of pressure, (ie flattened primers, buldging cases, seperating cases heads to name a few). Your reloading books will have pics and descriptions. What is max load for one gun MAY not work in another exact model, funny but true.
 
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