Ammunition

Throwback Thursday: Does Anyone Still Use the .38 Super?

Shooting .38 Super

A question that comes up around gun shops is, “Who still uses the .38 Super, if anyone?” I am one of the users of this fine cartridge, and while I appreciate the grand old .38 Super, or Super .38 as it is variously called, it is probably not a caliber I recommend for most shooters.

There is nothing wrong with the .38 ACP Super, to use its proper name. It is just that ammunition and handguns in this caliber are sometimes difficult to come by. The 9mm and .45 probably offer advantages over the .38 Super in many categories, but the old Super is a cartridge with plenty of panache, style, flash, and performance.

History of the .38 Super

.38 Super 1911
The Springfield .38 Super is a rare find and an effective handgun.

The .38 Super was introduced in the 1911 handgun in 1929 to arm peace officers with a hard-hitting handgun that offered good penetration against the new breed of mechanized thug. The caliber saw extensive use in the hands of the FBI and figured into the demise of dangerous fugitives such as Baby Face Nelson. While this is often the stated purpose of the .38 Super, there were two other roles that were more important on a commercial basis.

Some nations, notably Mexico, prohibit military calibers such as the 9mm and .45, but not the .38 Super. Colt was discontinuing the long-serving .38 ACP automatic and wished to introduce a mid bore to replace it. It only made sense to chamber the 1911 Government Model in a .38 caliber cartridge. They took the opportunity to upgrade the performance of the .38 ACP.

The .38 Super is dimensionally identical to the .38 ACP of 1900. The .38 ACP fired a 130-grain bullet at 1,100 fps. The .38 ACP Super was a sensation noted for its high velocity of 1,300 fps and nine fast shots. Colt upped the power of the cartridge but used the same length cartridge case and chambered the .38 Super in the 1911 when it dropped production of the .38 ACP pistols. At the time, you had to know not to fire a .38 Super in older Colt 1903 pistols. The effectiveness of the caliber cannot be argued. The penetration of the cartridge and reliability of the 1911 gave law officers a great advantage.

However, the .38 Super suffered in popularity after the introduction of the .357 Magnum. In those days, the lawmen were revolver men. The question is this. Is the .38 ACP Super a viable personal defense and tactical combination today? The answer would be yes. By any standard, the caliber and the 1911 handgun are excellent defensive or tactical choices. The .38 Super is more powerful than the 9mm Luger and only a little, if any, more difficult to handle. How about compared to the .45 ACP? Read on.

Avoiding Confusion

For most of my life, old-timers and shooters have called the cartridge “the .38 Super” and the handgun “the Super .38.” The proper name is the .38 ACP Super. Modern ammunition is often marked .38 ACP +P. This is simply because the original — before the +P designation — was a development of the .38 ACP. So if the ammunition is marked .38 Super +P, it is still a .38 Super.

.38 Super Ammunition
Buffalo Bore offers a bone-crunching 147-grain loading.

The 1911 is a good home for the .38 Super. It features straight-to-the-rear trigger compression, a low bore axis, a grip that fits most hands well, and excellent speed into action. There is no pistol faster to an accurate first shot than a 1911 handgun properly carried cocked and locked. This is an easier cartridge to master than the .45 and has two more rounds of magazine capacity. The platform allows good control for those who practice. Long-range practical shooting is possible with the 1911/.38 Super format.

An advantage of this caliber is penetration. The smaller-diameter .38 Super in its hottest loads offer greater penetration against light cover than the .45 ACP or 9mm cartridges. Additionally, it’s a remarkably easy cartridge to handload with good results.

Choices in .38 Super

At present, my favorite .38 Super is a Para Ordnance 1911. Para is out of business, some miss them, while some do not. Para’s quality sometimes left much to be desired, but the best Paras are excellent handguns. The Para-Ordnance is an eye-catching pistol that has proven completely reliable, reasonably accurate, and a great deal of fun.

.38 Super 1911
Para offers quite a bit of bling with its version of the 1911.

As for the loads, the .38 ACP Super is a bit hotter than the 9mm at the top end. It is possible to handload a 115-grain bullet to over 1,400 fps and a 124-grain JHP to a solid 1,350 fps. For general use, I most often practice with a FMJ loading. Winchester offers FMJ loadings at 1,100 fps, Sig Sauer offers a FMJ loading as well.

The Winchester Silvertip breaks about 1,200 fps with a 125-grain bullet. SIG Sauer offers the V-Crown hollow point at about 1,210 fps. These loads offer excellent feed reliability. For the max in performance, Buffalo Bore offers high-velocity loads, including a 1,400 fps 115-grain JHP.

I usually carry the handgun with Wilson Combat magazines. In the 1911, there is no penalty for using the .38 Super over the 9mm. The 9mm and .38 Super will be the same size frame, while the latter hits harder. The .38 Super varies in accuracy. Some are accurate, but most require a Bar-Sto barrel for best results. My Para-Ordnance is middle of the road. A 2.5 to 3-inch group for five shots at 25 yards is the standard. While I like the Para very much, if you are interested in a .38 ACP Super, the readily available Rock Island 1911 is a better choice than hunting down an out-of-production handgun. The Rock Island is a fun gun to fire and use.

Conclusion

While the .38 Super isn’t a mainstream cartridge (rather, it’s an enthusiast’s choice), it is an interesting caliber with much to recommend. Shooters arming themselves with this cartridge are certainly well prepared.

There’s no doubt that the .38 Super is still alive and kicking. What do you think of the .38 Super? Do you still use it? Share your answers in the Comment section.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January of 2020. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (82)

  1. I have always wanted a 1911 in .38 super but have never found one. I own a 1911 chambered in .38 special and it shoots just fine. Of course this is a target gun.

  2. I have a Colt 38 super in hard chrome. I purchased the gun about two years ago. Evidently, Colt
    has eliminated all the issues that I read in some of the previous comments because the firearm is a
    masterpiece. I have had NO issues with the functioning of the gun. Mine is a full size government
    model that was produced the year I bought it. After shooting the gun, I realized why they use 38 super in competition matches. I am not an authority on guns but my 38 super shoots a “FLAT’ trajectory (it seems to me) so its rather accurate. I credit MEXICO with keeping this caliber alive
    because of their law of no military caliber firearms. GunBroker must have 10 pages of 38 super guns
    for sale so the caliber is alive and well.

  3. I’ve owned a Colt MKIV Series 70 and shot it since the early 1980s, this pistol when I shot it wouldn’t group better than 16 to 18 inches at 25yds.
    I did a little reading in some technical journals and found Colt headspaced the cartridge on the semI. rim., so I ordered a new barrel and bushing from Bar-Sto along with one of their recoil buffers.
    After installation and minor fitting it was like night and day, my Colt now grouped 2.5in at the same distance offhand.
    I still shoot her but not as often as I might like!

  4. My uncle was a police officer in Matamoros Mexico. He told me all the time buy yourself a .38 super pistol. I told him all the time ” No tio that’s a .38. Why in the world would I buy that?!” STUPID RUDY!!! It is basically a .357 magnum in a 1911 form.It is one of the best guns I own.

  5. I purchased a used Colt LWT Commander in .38 Super in the 80’s and had it customized by a good gunsmith.

    It became one of my favorite carry guns. I did have to shop around a little bit to get a supply of training and carry ammo and have added to my carry ammo stash with the new SIG .38 Super offering.

    It’s not the the most popular caliber around and few guns are produced for it today, but It is a superb carry gun in the 1911 lightweight category. I easily carry it IWB and am assured of a reliable defensive setup.

  6. I have always wanted a 38 ACP Super and finally purchased an RIA 5-inch in blue. From the 1980s when I first became interested in firearms, the ballistics and recoil stats always spoke to me as the way to go. I really appreciate Campbell’s article and would enjoy more on the subject. There must be some “pet loads” to write about and some good law enforcement stories where the Super featured handsomely and saved the day. I am encouraged by the number of readers who responded positively in the Comments. Happy 4th of July, Bob Campbell and everyone.

  7. For many years lived in Texas and tried to get a 1911 in 38 Super. Never happened. Mainly they were sold before they even made it onto the dealer’s shelves. Once the head spacing was changed from spacing off the rim to the cartridge mouth, (Like the 45), the true potential of the 38 Super finally became apparent. While everyone thinks 9mm, in every category the 38 Super is superior. Imagine if there was a semi auto PCC in 38 Super. Using typical 9mm bullets, expect that several hundreds of feet per second velocity would be gained from using the 38 Super cartridge versus the 9mm. Appears that there would be about a 30% gain in energy as well. Too bad the odds of a 38 Super semi auto PCC is zero.

  8. I have had several .38 Super handguns over the years, all 1911’s, mostly Colts. I sm not one of those guys that always wants the most powerful and punishing cartridge he can get, but the .38 Super has always underwhelmed me. I had several of Colt’s bright stainless limited production pistols with the pearlite stocks, back in the early 2000’s when I was buying them new fow about $700; ended up selling them to buy a Thompson M1A1. Only have one Super now, kept it just because it is so pretty, but one of these days it will grow up and get converted to 10mm.

  9. Ah, I remember the fondly fondly loading 10’s of thounds of rounds. Competing in wild USPSA competitions. The Steel Challenge, Southwest Pistol Leage, Southwest Invitational, in beautiful Piru California, the USPSA National’s in Barry Illinois, countless matches in Kansas and Missouri, even the back yard of a top 16 competitor whose day job was a Snap On tools salesman, age is standing in the way of his name, but he was young. I worked as an RO for the Steel Challenge twice and got to stand over the sholder of the greats, timer in hand. Everyone shot 38 super then. Okay until I went to the National’s I shot a Coonan 357 Magnum.

  10. I have 2 government 1911s. One chambered in 45acp and the other 38super. Love both but the 38super is my favorite. Love the triggers on both. My shooting accuracy is better with the super. It is also the one I carry.

  11. back around 1990 I had a very nice Colt Commander in 38 Super, went to Dick Heinie and acquired a 9mm barrel, spring and some mags , gave me two calibres in one gun…..then a buddy talked me out of it the following year……oh well…..

  12. I just acquired my first 38 Super +P and I am head over heels with it like a new girlfriend!. A good friend was doing his parent’s estate sale and they found this pistol no one knew about. Frankly when I got it after purchase it looked like hell! When I got it the styrofoam box was split and and rusty looking , the gun dry as an old bone in the sun, but I bought it sight unseen because my friend offered and wanting me to take it. Wow did it clean up nicely. No apparent rust at all, the bore pristine, inside looked new. Two boxes of ammo, one FMJ and one HPs, Total of 19 rounds missing and I can assume that’s all that its seen. So, I got a great new looking Astra Mod. 80 in 38 Super for $-cheap, cheap, cheap! I’m in love again!

  13. I had a Colt Commander in .38Super in the 1980s and I still kick myself in the arse for getting rid of it. About 5 yes ago, my youngest son gave me a brand new IVER JOHNSON 1911A1 nickel finish. Although as a police officer since 1981 I carried 1911s in .45acp, Beretta 92, Glocks in 9mm 10mm .40SW .45ACP and .357SIG, but my all time favorite carry since I retired is my .38Super.

  14. I have a Rock Island Gov’t model in 38 Super. Only upgrade is a set of Trijicon tritium sights. It is fun to shoot, and very accurate at longer ranges. Regularly shoot swinging metal targets at 40 yards with a high percentage of hits. I reload my own ammo, and don’t have any trouble with it at all. Can’t remember the last time I had a misfeed or failure to eject.

  15. There are a number of valid comments herein, but they generally avoid the initial, specific purpose for which the cal. .38 Super Auto pistol and the ammunition produced for it. Early in my first post-Vietnam War, and being a competitive shooter, both individually and on our agency’s regional pistol teams, I acquired a Colt Commander in .38 Super Auto to carry while on duty, relegating my issue weapon (other than the set of three (3) Colt Python, each in a separate barrel length that was used specifically for competition matches), and what was then referred to as .38 Super Auto ammunition from SuperVel, a manufacturer of high speed, high impact, high penetration specialty

  16. The 38 super is fantastic. I purchased a Colt Goldcup National match 38 super elite used back in the late 1980’s and still have it. I liked it so much I bought the other three calibers when released. 9mm, 45 acp and 40 s&w. I enjoyed my super so much the other 3 went in the safe and stayed there till now. I am thinking of finding them a new home and can’t find much info as far as value. Can someone give me an idea of what they are selling for?

  17. Of course the .38 Super Auto is still in use. Competition shooters are .38 Super Auto fanatics. You won’t find a better pistol and caliber. Problem is, they are extremely hard to find now, especially the Colt Gold Cup Trophy.

  18. The 38 Super is a great cartridge which has been kind of left behind with the popularity of 9mm Plus-P loadings. The 38 Super will never die, though, partially because it is the most popular caliber in Mexico. Why so popular South of the border? Mexican law forbids the sale or possession of any firearm chambered in a “military” caliber. That is, you can’t have a gun which is chambered for any cartridge which has been used by any military anywhere at any time (I’m sure there’s an exception for 12 gauge shotguns and rimfires). The 38 Super fills the bill here. It has never been used by a military.

  19. Sold my Glock 17 (after 15 years of daily service as my carry gun) and bought a new Tangfoglio Combat 38 Super. No remorse, excelent gun/caliber combination. Gun is heavy but soaks recoil nicely, shoots straight. Has been in my hip for nearly 20 years loaded with 125 gr Silvertips. In hot summer days it rests, replaced by a 38 Spl snubnose.

  20. Wow! There are a lot of opinions on the .38 Super. Fact is, it’s like the .357 magnum or at least the .357 SIG in 1911s. But, ammo is not plentiful and 9mm+P is. It’s true, the cartels love it because it is a non-military caliber and subsequently not banned in Mexico. From what I have read, 1911s in .38 Super were the most popular contraband in Obama’s Fast and Furious debacle.

  21. Long ago (early 1970s) I purchased a Colt Combat Commander in Super 38 from a Pawn Shop. It is a great, slim design and functions flawlessly like most Colts. I souped it up with night sites and custom grips with finger grooves. It fits like a glove. While I have relegated most of my collection to the comfort of the safe, I loved the pistol and carried it for years. I agree that the round can stand its own with the 9 and .45. I now carry the .45 ACP. The little guy hold an honorary place in my collection and I smile when I think back to when I purchased it for $100.00. Thank you for the review.

  22. Still use it? I’ve never bothered with it and no one I know personally has either. Hard to find ammo in a platform I don’t particularly care for and no, I can’t stand Glock either. I just don’t see the appeal. I’m not exactly a 9mm or .45 fan either. Call me the oddball but I prefer the .40 S&W in an actual S&W or the .38 Spl. I know this will sound funny but about the only time I ever even think about the .38 Super is when happening to catch re-reuns of Nash Bridges. Haha But if it’s your bag and you can hit what you’re aiming for with it, then go for it.

  23. I have two .38 Supers and both are Great shooters. One is a Taurus and the other is a Colt. Both bought new.

  24. In my youth I looked for a .38 Super, but in South Texas every time I got a lead on one, it was already sold. In the 80’s people began to realize that head spacing off the Rim (like revolver cartridges) was why so many .38 Supers were not accurate, and started spacing off the case mouth, like the .45 ACP. That small change means that modern .38 Supers are as accurate as 9mm or .45 ACP pistols. IF modern pistols were again chambered in .38 Super and available, think that the comparison to the ,357 magnum/.357 SIG level performance would surprise many folks. Maybe then change the name from .38 Super to 9mm Super and let’s see how much folks jump on the bandwagon for this new??? cartridge.

  25. “remarkably easy to handload”. Ha. I too loved my 38 super but it was notoriously HARD to get right handloading. I have 40 years of experience handloading, so it’s not because I’m a noob. Trimming, taper crimping, careful selection of bullets, everything still resulted in many rejects that didn’t chamber properly. I have a rule for my autos: after it fits in the cartridge gauge, I still load them into a clip and prove they can chamber. Finally, after the last batch of rounds, which I paid extra attention to the details, still had an alarmingly high rejection rate, I finally said I had enough and sold it for a 10mm. [which also headspaces on the case mouth like the 38 soup, and probably will have the same issues for me, but I long for a new reloading challenge].

  26. As an Old School (Since early ’90’s) competitive shooter / reloader, and ER/ICU MD, I’ve been a fan of ‘ol .38 Super. Couple tips / strong suggestions:
    *For safety’s sake, use Ramped / FULLY supported bbls, (My 1.911’s been cut for Para/Clark/Briley style ramps),like Bar.Sto, (My Bar.Sto’s being fire.lapped / crowned @ 11° degree muzzle, as well as most others, for best accuracy), Wilson.Nowlin, Para.Ord, Springfield, RIA, (EAA/ Tanfoglio, very strong, but different platform, also ramped bbls).
    *As a reloader for 30 yrs, I’ve also used .357″ (copper plated) boolits. (‘Normal’ boolits are .355″ – .356″. No FTF, as long as no lead exposed @ tip.
    Cheaper Than Dirt has a plethora of excellent .38 Super ammo in stock, as well as a TON of reloading stuff. The VERY best / strongest, brass is ‘Starline’ ‘rimless COMP’.
    *Last, but not the least: CDNN Sports (TX), used to sell genuine, ramped / supported SIG .38 Super bbls for 1.911. I actually have & use three of those,(I had to modify its lower lug from ‘Wilson/ Nowlin’ to Para.Clark with TIG weld), custom fitted w/ Evolution Gun Works (EGW) bushings + Wilson.Combat #4 links, with awsome results. Not far from my Bar.Sto, Clark, Briley bbls. With right loads, all of the above, print 1.25″ – 2″ @ 25 yds, (Ransom rest).Just my two cents.

  27. If you are a 1911 fan, after you fire the Super 38, you will not go back to .45 ACP. Energy equals the current watered-down .357 Magnum. 2 extra rounds in the magazine. Modern guns that headspace on the case mouth are very accurate.

  28. I accidentally bought 38 super rounds through the mail and realized my mistake. I bought a gun to fit my mistake,and don’t regret it ,shoots dead accurate and hardly any recoil. I love Super 38!

  29. Hi Ben,

    Do you still have the ammo? If so, I’ll take it off your hands. Where in AZ do you live? I’m in Chandler.

  30. Picked up 150 Rounds of 38 Super by mistake. I don’t need it for a semi-auto, I need it for a revolver.. Cabela’s sales are final, so what do I do now? They cost me $35.00 a box, so $105.00 is nothing to sneeze at. Ben in Arizona

    1. I have been shooting 38 super for over 15 years. Have shot it in bullseye competition and USPSA.
      Love the gun and caliber.

  31. Regarding Bob’s message from about an hour and a half ago, I don’t think you should even bother with shopping around, especially for a caliber you won’t find everywhere, like you would a 9mm or .45 ACP. You can’t beat going online to find a gun that you’re looking for, and I can just about guarantee that you’d find 38 Supers on GunBroker, to name just one place. Advantage is you only have to find an FFL in your area to handle the transfer (also easy to do with Google), and once everything is said and done, you’ve escaped all the sales tax (unless you get it from someone in your state) and the higher price that a retailer is likely going to charge from the get-go, so you end up saving some money and can shop around without leaving your keyboard!

  32. To Chris.
    Tanfoglio makes a “modern double-action” handgun chambered in .38 Super. It is imported to the USA bu European American Arms (EAA) and is called the “EAA Witness” by the importer. It can be carried SA/DA (as you seem to prefer) OR cocked-and-locked (as I prefer). Not many local gun stores stock them, so you may have to shop around.
    Enjoy your new .38 Super!

  33. After shooting M9s in the military I was a decent shot. Got out and bought a new Glock as they were the new kids on the block. Well, my grouping sucked. Guy I worked for said to try this, a Colt Combat Commander in .38 Super. Got my grouping back, sold the glock. 26 years and still my favorite pistol. Had some handloads that shot 5 out of nine kill shots on a siloute at 100 yards, back when I could see that far.

  34. I certainly do! I hunted for years to find a 1911 in .38 Super I could afford. After I retired from a near 30 year career in emergency services (firefighter/paramedic) I got a job in a gun store. There in the case was a Kimber Pro Carry II in stainless, she was a beauty to say the least. After months of pondering if I should, I finally gave in and bought the Kimber. Great decision on my part for sure! I have several 1911s and handguns whose calibers run the gamut from .22 through .45 ACP But my .38 Super is by far my smoothest, easiest and most comfortable handgun I own, hands down. Had some minor feed issues with HP ammo but one of our range guys is a gunsmith. He tuned and polished up the feed ramp and removed some burrs, no issues now. I encourage anyone who has not shot a .38 Super to do so if given the chance, you will love the round afterwards. For nay sayers, look at the ballistics compared to a 9mm or .38 Special and you will understand.

  35. I had Republic Forge build me a 1911 in 9mm and also included the 38 super barrel and spring. Shot the 9mm and after cleaning put in the 38 super and haven’t changed it back. I am a reloader and shoot it all the time. No9t sure why it didn’t catch on here like the 9mm. Not much more if any discernable recoil and I have had several shoulder surgeries and doesn’t bother me. Love the gun and love the round

  36. I bought a RIA 1911 in .38 super because everybody has a 1911 in .45. It was customized with Wilso Combat grip safety, skelontized trigger and green fiber optic front sight. Also W.C. combat hammer. A gentleman in Texas made the gun up for me and I am very happy with it.

  37. My latest purchase was a Nighthawk Custom that I ordered, and they made me, in 38 Super. It is my “go to” cartridge and has been for years.
    When we lived in Oklahoma City, the guys I shot with were always giving me a hard time about my Colt in 38 Super. We clamped 3 Oklahoma City phone books together and took them down to the end of the range. The 9 mm didn’t make it through the first book. The 38 special penetrated around 1/4 inch into the second book. My 45 ACP (handload and hot) was stuck between the second and third books. The 38 super left a pretty gaping hole in the back of the third book. The cop in the bunch and 2 of 4 others all had 38 super weapons within a month.
    I carry either an XDS in 45 auto or my Nighthawk in 38 super nearly every day.

  38. I had an EAA Witness in 38 super ,that’s right a HI CAP! Shot well and handled very similar to a baby eagle. Was an excellent firearm but I let it wiggle its way out of my collection and into one of my buddy’s who had become obsessed about acquiring it till he offered a deal that I couldn’t pass up. The article covers the bases pretty well the 38 super is to a 9mm what the 357 is to the 38 spl…in short more bang. The unfortunate rarity of any sort of “bulk” ammunition and the corresponding magazines makes it more of a niche type of weapon but they are worth the extra effort.

  39. Love my Colt 1911 in .38 super. Advice: Buy ammo when ever you find a good price ( I need to start reloading again)

  40. Back in ’71, my Dad had a Colt super .38 he called Max. It was always in his pocket. He had a bar in West Covina Cali. at the time. Needless to say, a less than nice neighborhood. He had to pull it on several occasions, but only used it 3 or 4 times. After that the reputation of the weapon (and my dad) seemed to quiet things down nicely. I always loved that pistol. Had a guy once tell me there was no such thing, he is now a believer. Scared him 1/2 to death at a Denny’s one day. Ahhhh, the good old days.

    As always
    Carry on
    Forever 18 Bravo

  41. The only thing that bugs me about .38 Super and 7.62 Tokarev…is nobody chambers a modern weapon in them! I have a personal love for both rounds, and if you were to give me a modern double action handgun chambered in either one, I’d probably buy one in a heartbeat.

  42. Have a EAA Witness Compact converted to 38 Super and it is a tack driver. My next project is an AMT Back Up in 40 S&W that I recently converted to 357 Sig and would like also make into 38 Super if I could find a barrel. In the future might try to acquire a Sig in 38 Super. Got the 38 Super bug a little late to convert one of my Glocks since the source for the barrels dried up.

  43. I have that love very much I shoot it in bulleye comp at 50 feet it is great but I need brass for my gun if any body has some get me I will pay for it thank you all

  44. In my opinion, the 9mm has been outdated since 1911. A Colt .38 Super was carried by Texas Ranger Jack Hammer, and others, because it was the only caliber of it’s time that could penetrate the body armor that the then current crop of criminals in the US were wearing. At distances of 50′ or less, the Super has virtually the same muzzle velocity of the .357 Magnum.
    It’s low muzzle blast, light recoil and accuracy are hard to duplicate.
    It made an excellent weapon for aircrew members, combat medics , radiomen and machine gunners. Ted Kennedy be damned.
    I would recommend it for any novice shooter or women; especially the unfortunately short-lived downsized frame which made it an excellent choice for concealed carry or purses.
    Cheaper Than Dirt and Academy Sports both offer good supplies, and the Internet lists a number of suppliers, both foreign and domestic.
    I rank the .38 Super along with the .45 ACP and the .44 Special as the 3 best calibers in America.

  45. I have not personally owned a 38 Super as they were not a popular round during my real active shooting days and the ammo had gotten hard to find. However my Dad shot on the 4th Army pistol team in the 50’s and they shot 22, 38 Super, and 45 auto’s all in the 45 frame. He had great regards for the 38 but seemed to like the 45’s more. I think the fact that during the 60’s 38 Super kinda faded and like I said the ammo wasn’t really easy to get. I shoot 45’s more than anything else but sometimes wish I had purchased a “SUPER back in the day.

  46. I have three .38 Supers, a Star, Colt 1911 Gov’t and Kimber Gold Match SE II from their custom shop. Got my Star in 1970 and the Colt in the early 1980’s. I have been reloading .38 Super since 1982 and find it to be a great round, very accurate and hits harder than 9mm. Kimber Custom Shop made only 260 Stainless Gold Match SE II in .38 Super in 2001. Talk about a tack driver, fun to shoot gun. I am just an old-timer that really likes my .38 Super, but shoots and reloads 10mm also. Glad both calibers are being produced again in greater numbers.

  47. I own 2 Colt 1911 ( gov model and custom shop) and they are amazing! Always carried 1911 in .45 cal but when I tried the .38 super it was an instant change of heart! Great caliber!

  48. I happen to have a Colt 1911 National Match in the .38 Super Full Wad Cutter.
    It was my Grandfather’s gun and one of my favorite in the gun safe. It’s very accurate too, I was easily hitting a bowling pin at 50 yards repeatedly.
    I’ve shot it a few times but have semi-retired the gun because of age and value but it’s still a good shooter.
    An old timer gave me several boxes of ammo and I reload as well but it can be hard to find.
    I agree the .38 Super is a fine round in the FWC but I would definitely like to try the standard rounds as well. Thanks for your article, it helped shed some light on the history, i might try to pick up another 1911 in that caliber.

  49. My first gun was a colt .38 super from 1958 which i inherited from my uncle who was a big gun enthusiast. At the time i knew nothing about guns At all. I took it to a local range to shoot it and instantly fell in love. The ammo is not as hard to find as stated in the article. It is not carried everywhere but it is easier to get than some calibers like the .50 ae. I loved my .38 super so much i bought a colt competition series a few years ago. This is easily my favorite caliber to shoot and i have guns in .357 magnum, 9mm 45acp 50ae 44 magnum 10mm 380acp 38special. Everyone i have let shoot my competition series 38 super have loved it, and likes how accurate it is.

  50. Tangfolio Match Elite chambered in 9mm. I mailed 9mm barrel to Gun Smith who for $44.50 he then reamed the barrel to 9×23. Winchester makes a 124gr nickel coated brass case jacketed soft point ammo. 1557 fps & 553ft lbs. in 9×23. Same ballistics as .357 mag.

  51. My first handgun was a Colt Government Model in .38 Super (built in 1947) which I’ve had since the mid-70s. As long as I do my bit, it’s a straight shooter. I never got around to installing a Bar-Sto barrel, so my hand loading bullet choices were limited. I found that using 9mm bullets expanded the available range of bullets without affecting accuracy. I could push a 100 grain Speer JHP downrange near 1500 fps using Blue Dot though I can’t recall the powder charge.

    We used to do some long-range shooting with handguns when I was in college. I’ve made hits with the Colt at 300 yards using Remington factory 130 grain FMJ.

  52. I purchased a Colt Commander .38 Super in 1959 from Abercrombie & Fitch in San Francisco for $45.00. I selected it as it appeared to be the most powerful automatic pistol cartridge at the time. After shooting it, I wanted a smaller grouping and purchased a Bar-Sto barrel and bushing, when they were still located in Southern California. I still shoot it and it is my preferred 1911.

  53. It’s worth considering that Dan Wesson makes several 1911s in .38 Super including the Guardian, a lightweight Commander type. Very accurate and reasonable in handling recoil. Also Colt makes a nicely accurate full size Competition Model.
    Good choices!

  54. Saw first 38 super at USPSA match. Shot it and fell in love with it. Started reloading rounds as store bought ones were not to my liking. Own a Taurus 1911, and have used it in matches. I presently shot mostly bullseye. Bring out the 38 super for fun matches. Accuracy is pretty good. Have mounted a red dot as my eyes are weaker. Still. The most fun to shoot pistol i own.

  55. I have a Colt 1911 in 38 special.. (not a super) that was made for the U.S. ARMY NATIONAL MATCH TEAM in the 1960s. Does anyone know how I can obtain ammunition ?

  56. My harem of 1911s that I shoot regularly include 45s, three 9mm and two 38 Supers. While I enjoy the wonderful 45 cartridge I much prefer the higher capacity and easier control of follow up shots with the 9mm and 38 Super. When looking for additional magazines specific for my Rock Island combo 9mm/22TCM I was told “they were just 38 Super mags; 38 Super mags could be used in 9mm 1911s but not vice versa”. Since then I now buy nothing but 38 super mags for both the 9mm/38 Supers, and have never had any feeding issues in the 9mm with either 115 or 124 gr. Likewise when ordering 124gr 9mm bullets to reload for target shooting I noticed the 9mm labeling also said they were not the typical .355  but .356 that I had previously been buying seperately for the 38 super, now I just buy the one size 356 124gr for both.

    With the similarity in parts and components for 1911 manufacturers and ammo makers I’m surprised with as much ongoing controversy over the years between effectiveness of 9mm compared to 45 that there hasn’t been a resurgance of 38 super that closes that gap, and in some minds exceeds with power, performance and capacity. My 38 Super commander is my EDC.

  57. A few ago I traded for a RIA 22TCM/9mm combo. I fitted a .38 Super barrel and stronger spring. I now have a 18 shot, 3 caliber 1911. One of my favorites!

  58. Can a 9mm barrel be used in a Metro Arms 1911 38 super?
    If so Where to get 9mm barrel and what else might be needed for this conversion?

  59. I recently fitted a 38 Super barrel to my Rock Island 1911 in 9mm. I’ve always wanted to experience the Super and am glad I did it. I reload for mine so ammunition is not a problem, All loads are made up in rimless Starline match brass and with a load the pistol likes I can get 2″ groups at 25 yards. My gun likes the heavier bullet weights and I’ve been experimenting with the 158 grain JHP and JSPs in .357″ diameter with goods accuracy and velocity.

  60. I bought a RIA 1911 in 38 Super a couple of years ago, always been fascinated by the round that gives you 357 Magnum ballistics in a 1911 platform. It’s a little bulky for concealed carry, but it’s under the seat of whatever vehicle I happen to be driving. Along with extra magazines.

  61. There were several reasons why the .38 Super didn’t take off as Colt hoped it would. Originally (and this was a biggie), it headspaced on the case’s semi rim, which affected its accuracy compared to the 9mm and the 45ACP. It took a few years to solve that problem, but by then the .357 Magnum becames the Cat’s Meow, especially among Law Enforcement (Colt’s original target market). The cost of the 1911 chambered for it was a deterrant too. By the time Bar-Sto got around to changing it to headspace on the case mouth, the market was nearly gone.
    It is a popular caliber in countries that ban civilian ownership of military caliber weapons. It has its niche of followers among competition shooters. Ballistically though, 9mm+P comes real close to catching up with the Super in performance, and so it will most likely remain a niche gun and caliber. It’s too bad, that it didn’t take off the way Colt intended, because it is a good round that most likely would have had a stellar LEO career. Sometimes, Timing is everything.

  62. I shoot 38 super in a RIA 1911 that my gunsmith set up
    with an extra barrel in 9mm. Both use the same Wilson
    Combat mags. Love the gun and the round and have no
    trouble getting ammo from LAX Ammo for target and
    defense as they sell hollow points as well. Clean burning
    and quality ammo. Shoot 38 Super most of the time rather
    than 9 out of that platform @ 1200 FPS.

  63. I shoot the .38 Super from a couple of Tanfoglios. I usually load to USPSA Major PF using .38 Super Comp brass. My carry ammo is loaded considerably hotter (think 9×23 Winchester level). It is a great calibre that is moribund because too many shooters jump on the bandwagon of whatever is popular at the time. My carry ammo has .357 Magnum power and 17 rounds in the magazine — what is not to like?

  64. got one from RIA, chromed and all controls gold plated love it . first time i fired it i couldn’t believe how flat shooting it is. used to rainbow trajectories with 45

  65. I used Glocks exclusively for carry – went through models and calibers, ending up with the G30 and 45ACP. Then acquired a Colt Defender and that, I thought, settled it. But read the ballistics on the 38 Super and the info on Genitron: 1350fps with 500ftlbs in a 124 grain, half the recoil in a 1911 govt. over the 45ACP, and got one. I pretty much fell in love with the Colt 1911 38 Super I have. And now looking at either carrying the govt or maybe a commander. I shoot 100 rds a week so ammo is not a problem: plenty of choices at moderate prices.

  66. Both of my Open STI Race Guns are .38 Super made for Major Power Factors of the 1990’s.
    And one has a fitted Minor slide for a Minor Power Factor. All fitted with the best barrels money can buy… manufacture by Fred Kart. Red Dot sights and comps to handle the extra gases created when we load. Most competitive race guns at that time were using nothing but .38 Super. My Dillon 1050 is set up to load almost 1000 rounds per hour of .38 Super with VV N350, 3N37, or 3N38 & WW Auto Comp.
    Power factors have dropped and the original power factors surely stretched a gun after a very active season. So, other calibers become cost competitive, and although I shoot a lot of 9mm for practice, .38 Super will always be my first choice.

  67. I built a 1911 Gov’t in 9mm and I just love it but wanted a little more power. I fit a Super 38 barrel to it and a 1lb. heavier recoil spring. Great shooter with all loads but it really shines with the 124 gr. bullets topping 1400 fps.
    Looking for even more I bought some 9×23 Winchester brass and long story short from the 5” Super 38 barrel using VV 105 powder and 124 gr. jacketed bullets I’m sending them across my Chrony at 1550 fps. Only change was an 18 lb. recoil spring and a shock-buff.
    The Super 38 and 9×23 are almost the same and reloaded with Super dies are. What you end up with is a 10 shot stiff 9mm or a 10 shot 357 Magnum+P and after dropping 2 deer with the 9×23 I can attest to it’s effectiveness.
    Great 3 cartridge pistol for defense or hunting.

  68. I have three .38 Supers and enjoy them very much. One is the Colt Competition 1911, one is the Taurus PT and the third one is an EAA Witness, which holds 17 + 1 rounds.

    I first discovered the .38 Super when I read one of Stephen Hunter’s Bob Lee Swagger books. And an interesting thing that I hope is pure BS was that my FFL dealer told me when I got the .38 Super that buying it was going to cause the ATFE to keep a close eye on me because it’s such a popular gun south of the border, used by the drug cartels, and since I live in Arizona, the ATFE folks would be watching me, as though I was gun dealer or drug runner, I guess!

  69. I more than once said that ” If my son was to need to carry a gun for his work I would want him to carry a 38 Super”. My son went from a intelegence analyst to a diplomatic security agent and was only allowed a issued 9mm for his side arm.

    The 9mm is not my choice short of shooting at paper. I have heard all the bull about the 9mm. But when you are not much from arms length of a life and death situation I suggest a 45acp in 180 xtp hollow point. But the ideal is not to get yourself so close that no one can miss hitting you with whatever they have to threaten your life, hence the 38 super at 1400 fps you can make shots well past 50 yards and plenty of power to stop just about anything.

    Note that I give the same respect to the 357sig as the 38 super, both available in concealed carry frame size.

    Your gun and it’s caliber are a tool to be used for sport shooting, hunting, and self-defense. Choose the best gun for you needs with respect of your physical and shooting abilities and select the caliber best suited for the most likely application you could find yourself in.

    That’s my take, now take your best shot to change my mind….. If you can.

  70. Okay, here are the generals I think people will say about the Super: it’s an accurate, well developed round with an extensive commercial and handload database. It’s used most commonly in competition teamed with a compensated 1911 (opinion). In my shooting experience, people have either never heard of the round, remember it being mentioned in passing, or go through a few hundred rounds of it a week for USPSA or something similar. I find very few people casually shoot the Super. Ironically, I do.

    What drew me to the round was the cool history and the “cool factor” (and yeah, it’s cool, lol). It can be loaded just like a 9mm with the same bullets and powder. You can also crank it up quite hot. Regardless, once you get the brass, a Super can be just as economical to shoot as a 9mm. Just pick up your brass. 🙂

    My platform I shoot the Super in is from Tanfoglio. I figured that if you go “oddball” with the Super, why go “very normal” with a 1911? The gun shoots better than I can shoot it. I couldn’t ask for more. And It’s got plenty of rounds.

    Is it good for self-defense? Historically, that’s why it was created. Look at some old gangster photos for 1911’s with curiously small holes in the barrel. Those aren’t 45’s. Those are Supers, and they were the better choice for a while. Ironically, they may be a “better choice” again given the advancements in bullet design.

    Long story short, it’s a cool OLD round that’s still relevant among competition shooters. I sometimes wonder if it will gain some steam among conventional shooters like the 10mm has. To me, affinity for those two rounds would go hand in hand. I know lots of times my Super rides to the range right beside my G20. 🙂

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