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Acquired an old 38-200 British Service revolver that S&W says was made in 1942, Although the finish is pretty bad, the gun is solid and the cylinders and barrel are clean and free of rust, corrosion and pitting. Along with the gun came an unopened box of Remington 38 special ammo. I understand that the 38-200 was meant to fire a 38 cal, 200 gr bullet, and from what I can tell, it looks like the cylinder is original to the gun. Assuming that is correct, is it safe to fire the .38 special ammo? I want to re-finish the gun, and I understand that doing so will diminish any antique value, but since I never intend to sell it, and will probably give it to my grandson, the first order of business is verifying the ammunition. Any help will be appreciated.
 

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Greetings. Others will be along that know better than I but here’s my understanding. First, do not fire 38 Special in that revolver. There is a cartridge called a 38 S&W that is a different animal altogether. I believe the 38/200 is a 38 S&W case loaded with a 200 grain .361” bullet.
 

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The British 38/200 is the same cartridge as our 38 Smith & Wesson. It is about three eighths of an inch shorter than a 38 special. You cannot get a 38 Special cartridge to load into a 38 Smith & Wesson chamber. It will not fit.

After the war there were many surplus revolvers in England, chambered for 38/200. In an effort to make them salable here in the states, they ran a 38 special chambering reamer in all six of the chambers, and now the gun would shoot 38 Special.

If I was you I would first attempt to put a 38 special cartridge into the cylinder. If it will not go all the way in, the gun is still in the original 38/200 chambering, and you will need to buy some 38 Smith & Wesson cartridges if you wish to shoot it. But if the gun has been converted, the 38 Special cartridge will drop right in. In that case, it will be perfectly safe to shoot.

The one picture shows a 38 special sitting in a 38 Smith & Wesson chamber. As you can see, it will not go in. The second picture shows a 38 special next to a 38 Smith & Wesson. Shows you the length difference.
 

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Thanks for that Alpo. I knew there was something to what Firpo was saying but it is a lost file in my head. I absolutely could not remember what that relationship was.
 

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Thanks for that Alpo. I knew there was something to what Firpo was saying but it is a lost file in my head. I absolutely could not remember what that relationship was.
Very interesting indeed! Thank you all! I apparently have the reamed out cylinder, as the .38 Special cartridges go in just fine. Gonna take this baby out to the range, block my already useless ears, and have a go at it before I start the refinishing. Thanks again for your help.
 

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I may get corrected but I give a word of warning. There are some 38 Special cartridges that are +P rated which is a hotter round. I would avoid those all together and stick with standard velocity 38 Special ammunition. Guess I learned something......again. Didn’t know it was safe to alter these revolvers to shoot the 38 special cartridge. Now a thought just crossed my mind and I believe I eluded to it earlier. Your barrel is designed to shoot a .361 diameter bullet and a 38 Special shoots a .357 diameter bullet. I would suspect accuracy would be impacted by a .004 undersized bullet. $0.02
 

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And, your cases will swell. While .38 S&W is shorter than .38 Special, it's also fatter.
Shoot only mild loads in that gun.
This is approximately what your 38 special cases will look like upon firing. The first two thirds of the chamber are oversized because it's the original 38 Smith & Wesson chambering. So the bottom two-thirds of the fired case will be swollen.

On the plus side, you will be able to shoot both 38 Smith and Wesson and 38 Special in this gun. :)
 

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There should be a stamp on the barrel indicating the caliber for the round to be fired thru it.As Firpo stated - IF it was a 'Lend-Lease' revolver made for the British and chambered for the .38-200 (and not originally .38 Special) - you barrel's interior will be a little larger than what is appropriate for the .38 Special. That means accuracy will suffer.

Most factory .38 "+P" ammunition is head stamped to identify it as being higher pressure than standard .38 Special ammo. Even if it is chambered in .38 Special, +P ammunition was produced well after the time your revolver was made. I concur with "do not fire +P ammunition in this firearm".

Firpo - as far as "being safe to alter these" - don't forget that there were millions of surplus firearms left over from WW2 and somebody had to figure out how to make them desirable to the U.S. civilian market. Some of the alterations were made without regard to safety or function - or originality for future collectors.
 

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There should be a stamp on the barrel indicating the caliber for the round to be fired thru it.As Firpo stated - IF it was a 'Lend-Lease' revolver made for the British and chambered for the .38-200 (and not originally .38 Special) - you barrel's interior will be a little larger than what is appropriate for the .38 Special. That means accuracy will suffer.

Most factory .38 "+P" ammunition is head stamped to identify it as being higher pressure than standard .38 Special ammo. Even if it is chambered in .38 Special, +P ammunition was produced well after the time your revolver was made. I concur with "do not fire +P ammunition in this firearm".

Firpo - as far as "being safe to alter these" - don't forget that there were millions of surplus firearms left over from WW2 and somebody had to figure out how to make them desirable to the U.S. civilian market. Some of the alterations were made without regard to safety or function - or originality for future collectors.
Once again...really appreciate the input. Although I consider myself an experienced (some things learned the hard way) shooter, you guys appear to be a level or two beyond me, so I will be careful. Will be especially mindful of the high pressure ammo too!
 

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There should be proof marks on the gun. Saying something like "3.5 tonne".
 
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