.38 Special VS .38 S&W: An In-Depth Discussion

Today we will be exploring the differences between the .38 Special and the .38 S&W cartridges. These two cartridges have a lot of similarities which can make them difficult to distinguish. But each one has its own unique attributes that set them apart. I’ll go over all of the details so you can determine the best cartridge for your needs. So, let’s get started and take an in-depth look at the .38 Special and .38 S&W cartridges.

 

.38 S&W Overview

The Smith & Wesson .38 S&W is a revolver cartridge developed by Smith & Wesson in 1877 for use in their top-break revolvers. It is similar in size to the .38 Special but has a slightly shorter case and a slightly larger bullet diameter.

  • The .38 S&W was the standard British service cartridge from 1887 until replaced by the .38/200 in 1938.
  • The .38 S&W is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge designed for use in revolvers.
  • It uses a .361-inch diameter bullet and has a case length of 1.14 inches.
  • The cartridge has a muzzle velocity of around 700 feet per second and an effective range of about 50 yards.
  • The .38 S&W is still popular today for target shooting and self-defense.

It is available in a variety of bullet weights and styles, including hollow point, wadcutter, and full metal jacket. It is also available in both lead and jacketed bullets.

Guns That Fire The .38 S&W

The .38 S&W is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge developed by Smith & Wesson in 1877. It is most commonly used in revolvers but has also been used in some semi-automatic pistols.

Revolvers: Smith & Wesson

  • Model 10 (Military & Police)
  • Model 12 (Airweight)
  • Model 13 (Combat Masterpiece)
  • Model 14 (K-38 Target Masterpiece)
  • Model 15 (Combat Magnum)
  • Model 16 (K-32 Target Masterpiece)
  • Model 17 (K-22 Masterpiece)
  • Model 18 (K-22 Combat Masterpiece)
  • Model 19 (Combat Magnum)
  • Model 20 (Centennial Airweight)
  • Model 21 (K-22 Target Masterpiece)
  • Model 22 (K-38 Combat Masterpiece)
  • Model 23 (K-38 Target Masterpiece)
  • Model 24 (K-32 Combat Masterpiece)
  • Model 25 (K-32 Target Masterpiece)
  • Model 27 (N Frame Magnum)
  • Model 28 (Highway Patrolman)
  • Model 29 (N Frame Magnum)
  • Model 30 (.32 Hand Ejector)

 

.38 Special Overview

The .38 Special is most commonly used in revolvers, although some semi-automatic pistols and carbines also use it. The .38 Special is a popular self-defense and target-shooting cartridge due to its accuracy, low cost, and relatively low recoil.

  • The .38 Special is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge with a bullet diameter of .357 inches (9.07 mm).
  • It has a case length of 1.155 inches (29.3 mm) and an overall length of 1.55 inches (39.4 mm).
  • The cartridge has a maximum pressure of 17,000 psi (117 MPa) and a muzzle velocity of up to 1,200 feet per second (366 m/s).
  • The .38 Special is available in a variety of bullet weights and styles, including a full metal jacket, hollow point, wadcutter, and semi-wadcutter.
  • It is also available in a variety of powder charges, including standard velocity, high velocity, and +P (overpressure) loads.

Guns That Fire the .38 Special

The .38 Special is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge that is most commonly used in revolvers. The following is a list of some of the more popular firearms that fire the .38 Special.

  • Smith & Wesson Model 10: This is a classic revolver that has been in production since 1899. It is chambered in .38 Special and is available in both 4-inch and 6-inch barrel lengths.
  • Ruger GP 100: This is a double-action revolver that is chambered in a .38 Special. It is available in both 4-inch and 6-inch barrel lengths.
  • Taurus Model 85: This is a small-frame revolver that is chambered in a .38 Special. It is available in both 2-inch and 3-inch barrel lengths.
  • Charter Arms Bulldog: This is a small-frame revolver that is chambered in a .38 Special. It is available in both 2-inch and 3-inch barrel lengths.
  • Colt Detective Special: This is a classic double-action revolver that has been in production since 1927. It is chambered in .38 Special and is available in both 2-inch and 3-inch barrel lengths.

 

.38 S&W VS .38 Special: The Differences

The .38 S&W and the .38 Special are two different cartridges.

  • The .38 S&W is an older cartridge, developed in 1877 by Smith & Wesson. It is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge that is shorter and slightly less powerful than the .38 Special.
  • The .38 Special was developed in 1898 by Smith & Wesson as an improvement on the .38 S&W. It is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge that is longer and more powerful than the .38 S&W.

The main difference between the two cartridges is their size and power.

  • The .38 S&W is shorter and has a smaller case diameter than the .38 Special. This means that it can hold less powder, resulting in lower muzzle velocities and less energy.
  • The .38 Special, on the other hand, has a larger case diameter and can hold more powder, resulting in higher muzzle velocities and more energy.

Another difference between the two cartridges is their bullet diameter.

  • The .38 S&W uses a 0.360-inch bullet, while the .38 Special uses a 0.357-inch bullet. This means that the .38 Special can use bullets with a wider range of weights and designs than the .38 S&W.

The two cartridges are not interchangeable.

The .38 S&W cannot be fired in a gun chambered for the .38 Special and vice versa. This is because the two cartridges have different case dimensions and pressures, which could cause damage to the gun if used incorrectly.

 

.38 S&W VS .38 Special:  Basic Comparison Chart

Factors .38 S&W  .38 Special
Bullet Diameter .361 inches .347 inches
Base Diameter .3865 inches .379 inches
Rim Thickness .055 inches .058 inches
Neck Diameter .3855 inches .379 inches
Rim Diameter .440 inches .44 inches
Overall Length 1.240 inches 1.550 inches
Case Length          .775 inches 1.155 inches
Muzzle Energy (125 gr) 200 ft-lbs 250 ft-lbs
Max Pressure 14,500 psi 17,500 psi
Muzzle Velocity (125 gr) 650 fps 850 fps
Velocity       620-767 fps 710-1,175 fps

 

.38 S&W VS .38 Special: Are they Interchangeable?

The .38 S&W and the .38 Special are two different cartridges and are not interchangeable.

The .38 S&W is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge that was developed in 1877 for use in the British Webley revolver.

  • It is shorter and slightly wider than the .38 Special and is typically loaded with a heavier bullet.

In contrast, the .38 Special is a rimless, centerfire cartridge that was developed in 1898 for use in the Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver.

  • It is longer and slightly narrower than the .38 S&W and is typically loaded with a lighter bullet.

The two cartridges are not interchangeable because they have different dimensions and require different firearms to fire them.

  • Attempting to fire a .38 S&W cartridge in a firearm chambered for a .38 Special could result in excessive pressure, leading to possible injury or death.
  • Likewise, attempting to fire a .38 Special cartridge in a firearm chambered for .38 S&W could result in an incomplete chambering, leading to possible injury or death.

Well, What’s Stronger: 45 or 38?

It depends on what type of gun is being discussed. 45 typically refers to the caliber of a handgun, while 38 is typically the caliber of a revolver. Generally, a 45 caliber handgun has more stopping power than a 38 caliber revolver and would be considered stronger.

Can You Shoot A .38 S&W In A .357 Magnum?

No, you cannot shoot .38 S&W in a .357 Magnum. The .38 S&W is a rimmed cartridge and the .357 Magnum is a rimless cartridge. So they are not compatible.

 

Is The .38 S&W The Same As The .38 Special?

No, the .38 S&W and the .38 Special are not the same.

The .38 S&W is an older cartridge that was developed in 1877 by Smith & Wesson. It is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge that is shorter and slightly less powerful than the .38 Special.

On the other hand, the .38 Special was developed in 1898 by Smith & Wesson and is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge that is longer and more powerful than the .38 S&W. The .38 Special is also more commonly used in modern firearms.

 

Difference Between 38 Special And 38 Super

The 38 Special and 38 Super are two different handgun cartridges.

  • The 38 Special is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge designed by Smith & Wesson in 1898 and has been popular in revolvers ever since.
  • The 38 Super is a newer design, developed in 1929 by Colt. It is a rimless, semi-rimmed, or rebated rim cartridge. It means it has a slightly larger base than its rim diameter.

The 38 Special is a low-pressure round, designed for use in revolvers. It produces a muzzle velocity of about 800 feet per second and is used for target shooting, self-defense, and other small-game hunting.

The 38 Super, on the other hand, is a high-pressure round, designed for use in semi-automatic pistols. It produces a muzzle velocity of about 1,200 feet per second and is used for target shooting, self-defense, and more powerful game hunting.

  • The most important difference between the two cartridges is that the 38 Super is a higher-pressure round. It is not safe to use in revolvers chambered for the 38 Special. Attempting to fire a 38 Super in a 38 Special revolver may cause serious injury or even death.
  • Additionally, the 38 Super is not as widely available as the 38 Special and is more expensive.

Is .38 Special Good For Self-Defense?

Yes, the .38 Special is a popular caliber used for self-defense. It has been used by law enforcement and military personnel since the early 20th century and is still widely used today.

  • The .38 Special cartridge offers good stopping power and is relatively easy to control.
  • It is also relatively inexpensive, making it a popular choice for self-defense.

Which 38 Caliber Is Best?

The best 38 caliber depends on what you are looking for and what you plan to use it for.

Scene-01: If you are looking for a revolver, the Smith & Wesson 686 Plus is an excellent choice.

  • It is a 6-shot double-action revolver with a 4-inch barrel and adjustable sights.
  • This revolver is reliable and powerful, making it suitable for hunting, target shooting, and personal defense.

Scene-02: If you are looking for an autoloader, the Glock 43 is an excellent choice.

  • It is a sleek, lightweight, compact pistol with a 6+1 capacity.
  • It is accurate and reliable. Thus it is a good choice for concealed carry and home defense.

Scene-o3: Finally, if you are looking for a lever action rifle, the Marlin 1894 is a great choice.

  • It is a reliable and accurate lever action rifle with an 8-shot capacity.
  • It is great for hunting, target shooting, and personal defense.

 

Final Word

The .38 Special and the .38 S&W are both excellent calibers for self-defense and other uses, depending on personal preference. With their unique characteristics and impressive stopping power, both rounds will be suitable choices for those looking to protect themselves or their property. Ultimately, the choice between the two will come down to a shooter’s specific needs and preferences, as both rounds offer exceptional performance.