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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As I was cleaning our carry guns a couple days ago, it struck me how much larger my wifes .38 special cartridges were than my 9mm. Puzzled, I did some checking.

It seems the .38 special came out RIGHT at the end of the BP era, and was sized for that more volumenous propellent. The 9mm came out right at the beginning of the smokeless powder era, and was sized for that. So, although both date from the turn of the 20th century, there is this large difference in size. And, also due to this, the .38 is a lower pressure round than the 9.

With comparable sized bullets, the 9mm outperforms the .38 special in both muzzle velocity and muzzle energy.

I feel better now -
 

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+1
Round Type Weight Muzzle Energy ft/lbs. Muzzle Velocity ft/sec.
9mm FMJ 124 364 1150
.38 NHP 125 191 830

9mm +p JHP 125 434 1250
.38 +p JHP 125 251 950
 

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You are correct, the .38 special runs around 17,000PSI, and the +P loads will be around 20,000PSI. The 9mm is around 35,000PSI standard, and a +P loading would be around 38,500PSI. However, lets not forget that the standard bullet weight for a .38 is 158 grains of LRN, FMJ, or JHP bullets, and will handle up to 200 grain bullets. The 9mm heavy load is 124 grains.
 

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Comparing max pressures the supposedly weak 380, SAMMI specs is more than the 38 spl
17,000 vs 21,500
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
That is a fact, Carver - heavier bullets are available for the Special -

About that .380 - we bought one several years ago for our daughter, and I 'knew' it was a rather puny round.
We set up water filled milk jugs on top of a few fence posts to try it out -

Seeing them leap up and literally explode when hit was quite a learning experience -
 

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look at the vast difference in 38 vs .357, not due to a bigger case, that difference is minimal. It's the design of the gun/round itself and the intended working pressures so even though there's only a 1/8" difference, the .357 can be safely loaded to much higher pressures due to gun design.

similar, see .45 LC vs .44 mag, or .45/70 vs .458 win mag
 

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look at the vast difference in 38 vs .357, not due to a bigger case, that difference is minimal. It's the design of the gun/round itself and the intended working pressures so even though there's only a 1/8" difference, the .357 can be safely loaded to much higher pressures due to gun design.

similar, see .45 LC vs .44 mag, or .45/70 vs .458 win mag
I have some .38 reloads, 158gr DEWC's that I won't shoot in anything but the .357!
 

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This is one of the first things I learned about handgun cartridges regarding revovlers vs semi-autos. I personally love the 9mm,.38spl/.357 mag cartridges, the 9mm being my prefered round,and enjoy explaining the differences to people. I got my mom a Taurus Tracker and it only took a few minutes for her to understand what I was talking about.( I hope)
And I'm no expert but I thaught the 115gr 9mm was the standard load...lol
 

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look at the vast difference in 38 vs .357, not due to a bigger case, that difference is minimal. It's the design of the gun/round itself and the intended working pressures so even though there's only a 1/8" difference, the .357 can be safely loaded to much higher pressures due to gun design.

similar, see .45 LC vs .44 mag, or .45/70 vs .458 win mag
The only reason they made the .357 cases longer was so you could not load them in a .38 revolver. The .357 could not have existed untill a revolver was made to handle the pressures. Same thing with the .44 spcl, and the .44 mag.
 

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I read an interesting article years ago (1980's) in the old "Gun Tests" magazine. In which they went through the various common handgun calibers from .25ACP to .44 mag and described the velocities, energies, wound characteristics and lethality. Using their own tests and quotes from various police and Govt. studies. And I'll never forget what they said in summary of the .38SPL section. Paraphrased. " Very few people who have actually been shot w/a .38SPL criticize it. Because they are DEAD".
 

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Buffalo Bore ammo: S&W Mod. 15, 4 inch barrel, 38 SPL (circa 1968), 1167 fps, 450 fpe

Buffalo Bore ammo: 9mm Luger +P+ Ammo, 4" barrel (+P+) 147 gr. Jacketed Hollow Point (1,175 fps, fpe 451
 

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Many of you members have entered great posts on the thread topic. However i see it much differently. Much of the pistol pressure comes from the speed of the burn rates of the powder charge. Almost all factory auto loader ammo have very fast burning powder coupled with a lighter projectile you can build in to the round/ caseing a much higher CUP Load (copper units of pressure ). How ever the best all around round in 35 caliber short caseing is the 140 grain JHP from speer. If you load that round to the recommended .38 + P your auto loader will most likely need a doctor but that revolver will still be there alive and kicking. The second way to hold down back pressure is the primer choice. ( ie ) standard or magnum . Most factory primers are hotter than standard but less than small magnum pistol primers. Just filling in a little info that i didn't see posted by the fellow members.

bigdad5
 

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Love this discussion. An old policeman friend sent me an article about a year ago (I can try to find it, if anyone is interested) summarizing many, many years of actual gunfight / shooting experience for all calibers ranging from 22 through 45. The results were listed in terms of "how many rounds, on average, for each type of round did it take to stop the target." Actual results ranged from 2.2 (for the 22) to 1.8 (for the 44 or 45, I think). The lesson? No matter what you carry, you are going to have to shoot 2 or even 3 rounds to be effective. Now this won't cause me to stop carrying my 9mm or 357, but it will stop me from worrying about the specific caliber.

By the way, both shot guns and rifles stopped with 1 round ... they were way more effective than any pistol.
 
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