question about 38 shorts

Discussion in 'The Ammo & Reloading Forum' started by rocklinskier, Nov 9, 2009.

  1. rocklinskier

    rocklinskier New Member

    Aug 16, 2009
    Just cleaned out an old ammo box belonged to the wifes grandfather. He had an OLD H&A 38 police (see what it's worth thread). He had in there two boxes of 38 shorts. One Win Super X nickel case, and one rem brass. 50 each.

    I don't dare shoot them through the old pistol, but can I shoot them through a modern 38 special, or for that matter, thru my 357 Old Blackhawk?

    I realize the needed cylinder clean out afterwards for lead fouling from short cartridge, but the primary concern is functionallity, safety, compatability.

    Don't have any thing else they would fit through, and don't see any reason to store them for the next 30 yrs.

    May keep a few of them just because they go with the old pistol, but other than that...

    Any advise??
  2. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

    Dec 30, 2003
    houston, tx
    the 38 S&W (know as 38 short) is not interchanglable with any modern 38 special. you will find the case is larger in diameter than the 38 special.


  3. Claude Clay

    Claude Clay New Member

    May 26, 2009
    Central CT
    i remember in the 70's getting by accident a box of 38's that were shorter than a 38 special and chambered fine in a 38 special.
    they were a 38 spl that was short.
    38S&W is about the same length but the bullet is .360 and 158 or 160 grains.
    the case is enough wider that it can not be chambered in a spl or mag cylinder.

    rock, i dont know which you have:
    is the box marked 38 S&W or
    38 Short?
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2009
  4. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

    Feb 3, 2007
    NW Florida
    Colt made a cartridge called, not surprisingly, 38 Colt. Later they lengthened it, to hold more powder, and called it 38 Long Colt. Because there was a "long colt", folks started calling 38 Colt "38 Short Colt". Later, Smith and Wesson lengthened the Long Colt - for the same reason, so they could put in more powder- and called it 38 Smith and Wesson Special. So, if your "38 Shorts" are 38 Short Colt (or 38 Long Colt, for that matter), they will fit and work just fine in your 357 Blackhawk. It would be just like shooting 38 Special in your 357, or 22 Short in a 22 Long Rifle.

    Smith and Wesson also made a short 38 cartridge, called, again not surprisingly, 38 Smith and Wesson. It was never, officially, called "short", because there is no "38 S&W Long". It is the correct cartridge for your H&A. People being people, however, it's still possible you have "short Colts". 38 Short Colt will fit, and fire, in a 38 S&W gun. The cartridge is undersized, so the brass will swell greatly, and may split. The bullet will kinda bounce down the barrel. But, if the gun's owner didn't know any better, and just asked for "38 Short" ammo, he could well have been given Short Colt. And even if he did know better, if 38 S&W wasn't available, and 38 Colt was, it would work. At least you could shoot a bad guy with them, even if you couldn't do precise target work.

    So, what it comes down to is, how are the ammo boxes marked? 38 S&W? 38 Colt? 38 Colt NP (that's what Colt called 38 S&W - 38 Colt New Police)?
  5. rocklinskier

    rocklinskier New Member

    Aug 16, 2009
    You guys are great. So much to learn about this stuff.

    What I found: One of each!!

    Interesting...didn't realize the difference. Your replies got thinking, so I grabbed a Mic this morning and checked them.

    38 Short same dia. as 38 spcl - .375 x 1.1 length
    38 S&W slightly larger - .380 x 1.17 length

    The S&W wont fit in the 357 cylinder, but the shorts will.

    So the S&W's are the 'proper' fit for the ancient revolver (although I seem to remember seeing somewhere that that particular gun is really not designed for smokeless powder), but the shorts will fire though somewhat inaccurately.

    So besides the H&A pistol, what other guns will this ammo fit? Is this the same as a 380 Auto?? or only revolvers deemed as 38 Smith & Wesson?

    Interesting stuff...

    Attached Files:

  6. Terry_P

    Terry_P New Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    This looks like a decent article on the 38 Short Colt.

    "The .38 short colt was originally a heeled bullet cartridge intended for cartridge conversions of the .36 cal cap & ball revolvers from the American Civil War-era.

    Later, this cartridge was fitted with an inside-lubricated bullet in the 125–135 grains range. Remington is one of the few producers of this cartridge today with a 125grs LRN bullet. Magtech also produces this grain weight and Ten-x manufactures a 95gr load, as well as, blanks.

    Visually, it looks like a .38 S&W but dimensions are different. The .38 SC (short colt) case is the parent to .38 Long Colt and .38 Special.

    There is no problem firing this cartridge in .357 revolvers, but the long bullet jump makes accuracy difficult.

    For reloaders, this is a useful cartridge to make squib loads and train novice shooters. It can be loaded down to 400–500 ft/s range, giving it the noise and recoil of a .22."
  7. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

    Feb 3, 2007
    NW Florida
    Colt, obviously, made guns chambered in 38 Colt. Going back to the model 1877 Lightning

    to the 1896 Army, in 38 Long Colt

    to various models of Police Positive, Bankers Special,

    Smith and Wesson made both single and double actions in 38 S&W.

    Colt also chambered their Police Positive in 38 S&W, but did not want to stamp S&W on Colt guns, so they called it 38 Colt New Police.:p

    Your H&A, obviously, along with Iver Johnson and H&R, and many many many cheap Belgian and Spanish copies of S&W and Colts were also chambered in 38 S&W. Colt, pretty much, was the only one that made 38 Colt guns, which is why the cartridge is obsolete.

    You cannot shoot them in automatics.
  8. rocklinskier

    rocklinskier New Member

    Aug 16, 2009
    Ah ha,, so there are several models that accomadate the 38 S&W then, although it sounds as if most of them are a dying breed. Since I don't have any of them, I think I will probably just keep the box of ammo along with the pistol as part of the 'collection'.

    As I think about it, I think a friend of mine recently was handed down a "New Police" pistol. I will have to give him a call tonight.

    the 38 shorts will be dispatched through my Blackhawk
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