5″ 1911’s in .38 Super are some of the nicest shooting pistols ever made. I’ve assembled the parts to put together a .38 Super 1911, but I’m going to try to get the parts for a Commander-sized 1911 in 9×23 Winchester. It would give me nearly .357 ballistics in a semi-auto.
Ooh! Go 9×25 Dillon!
The .38 Super is one of those cartridges like the 10mm–It only appealed to a limited part of the market that saw the benefit of what they provided, and the unfortunate fact is that the “installed base” just never allowed either cartridge to do as well as they theoretically should have, based on their characteristics.
The other thing is that the same thing that happened to the 10mm happened to the .38 Super decades earlier–The original loads were extremely powerful, but the market demanded they be downloaded, which is why the original Norma 10mm loads are so different from most of what is sold today in the mass market. I had an acquaintance who was a .38 Super enthusiast, and he worked up some loads that duplicated what they originally did with the cartridge, and it was extremely impressive. Supposedly, the old story was the .38 Super was supposed to be this anti-gangster wondergun that could penetrate a V-8 engine block lengthwise, and hit the driver/passenger after having done so. I dunno about that, but I’ll tell you this: Those original loads he worked up were impressive. He got banned from firing at the steel targets on the range we used because he wasn’t just ringing the damn things, he was putting holes in them that looked about like he was shooting AP rounds at them. Even with standard factory projectiles from the usual suspects, those loads were doing some damage downrange.
I’ve always wondered why the hell Glock didn’t turn out a version of their pistol in .38 Super, or one of the other 9mm magnums like the 9X23 that are popular in Europe. Seems like it would be a no-brainer, given the way people love those cartridges in the shooting sports, especially Europe.
the 38 super has been very successful for matches and the 10MM is now more popular than ever. with even S&W making a 10mm wheel gun and Hipoint making a hipoint carbine. I think its past time to retire the old chestnut about the 10mm being a near dead round and the 38 super not being a hit.
He got banned from firing at the steel targets on the range we used because he wasn’t just ringing the damn things, he was putting holes in them that looked about like he was shooting AP rounds at them. Even with standard factory projectiles from the usual suspects, those loads were doing some damage downrange.
That was the whole point of the .38 Super. It was designed to punch through car doors of the 1930’s autos. And it did – like it whistled on its way through car doors, hoods, etc. .45 ACP with lead bullets often dented, but didn’t penetrate, car sheet metal of the 30’s.
What you saw from your acquaintance is what IPSC ranges in the late 80’s/early 90’s saw with guys who loaded up .38 Supers to hell-for-hot loads before ranges started using hardened steel for poppers and swingers and such. The .38 Supers started leaving craters in the steel, and ranges/match directors were getting a little incensed at this.
The reason for the resurgence of the .38 Super in IPSC was that it was a round where you could make major even if you were flinging only a 125 grain bullet downrange. Then guys found that you could get a two/three port compensator to really keep the gun down flat with .38 Supers, and the golden age of unlimited race guns started. Then there was the magazine capacity issue. I have a Euro-weenie race gun in 9×21 – the magazines hold 21 rounds. Loaded to major power factors, it is almost as hot as a hot .38 Super, and it leaves dents/scars in lots of steel targets just from using heavy copper jackets.
The only downside of the .38 Super was that it had this odd semi-rim on the case. In the original 1911’s, they tried to headspace off that semi-rim, and it wasn’t all that reliable in headspacing. 9×19’s, .45 ACP’s, 10mm’s, etc headspace off the case mouth, and that is much more reliable. Now, most all .38 Super chambering jobs headspace off the case mouth as well. As a result of this early headspacing issue, some .38 Super owners complained about the lack of accuracy, and the early guns got a bad rep for being inaccurate.
Headspace them on the case mouth, and they’re perfectly fine. If you’re going to load them hot, get Starline or other quality brass. I’ve seen guys load them very, very hot – like 35+K PSI kind of hot.
A lot of the guys at my range shoot 1911s in .38 Super. It’s very popular here in Australia.
Sadly, the range is closed at the moment due to the damn chinese plague.
IIRC, 36,500 is the max pressure.
I have a XSE Commanser that I have carried since about 06 or so. It us a fantastic handgun. I run an 18# spring in it and has been extremely reliable.
It loves the Wilson Combat 124 XTP load. 1360fps will certainly get it done
that XSE line was one of the best series they ever made, I wish they continued them
The only minuses was the stupid duckbill grip safety and the very sharp bottom edge of the slide.
I agree. They were some of the best featured guns they ever made and at a decent price point.
Later production XSEs used a proper grip safety not the duck bill
And they hit the bottom of the slide to knock down the sharp edges.
I missed out on a 45 to finish the pair.
The bluing on those old Colt 1911s is gorgeous.
It is, and most of that beauty in the old Colt blueing jobs is due to the polishing job.
Colt’s gunsmiths were the masters of polishing firearms. And Colt had some unique ways of doing it. One of their techniques that was related to me by an old gunsmith (now passed on) who had worked at Colt in the late 70’s (and left after they went out on strike) was that Colt’s polishers used leather-wrapped wooden wheels on their polishing machines.
The idea was that you could make a shape on the outside edge of the wooden wheel, then either glue or shrink leather onto that circumference of the wheel. Then they’d impregnate the leather with polishing compound, and get to work.
The idea of the different shapes/sizes of wheels was that it gave them ways to polish different facets of a gun without rounding off corners. eg, when you want to polish the fluting on a revolver cylinder, how are you going to do that without rounding off the edges of the flute? You come up with a thin wooden wheel that has a rounded edge, and you wrap the leather around that, then shrink it down, trim it, and load it up with polishing compound. Now you can get down into the flutes without hitting the edge of the flute and rounding it.
Turnbull says they can replicate colt’s polishing and the same bluing process, and as good as they look they still don’t measure up to the level of colt’s pre war polish and blue
I think Turnbull has replicated the actual oxidation process (that’s what blueing is – oxidation of the steel). The polishing – well, that’s what made Colt a cut above all other gunmakers in the market.
When one polishes a gun to a very high finish, it can take longer to blue than a rougher finish. As you get a smoother and smoother finish, the oxidation doesn’t have surfaces to ‘attack’ and turn the steel blue as easily.
This is one of the reasons why military parkerizing finishes explicitly don’t want to be highly polished before they start the steel in the parkerizing solution: the park solution needs a rougher surface to give it purchase to make the reaction happen.
Colt really had the most amazing polish and blue job before WWII.
Look at the stuff before WWI.
That was really next level
There used to be a guy on Culver’s named John Holbrook who posted up pics of his 1911’s and he possessed both a magnet for finding really nice guns as well as the mad photography skills to produce mouth-watering pics of them.
Holbrook’s father had been Sheriff of San Patricio County in Texas in the 40’s and Holbrook got to meet lots of other sheriff’s and Rangers and such from that era and Super 38’s were popular with that crowd. He said if you found a Super 38 of that era, it would be well worth the efforting to do some research on previous owners and to get a historical letter for it because there was a good chance of it coming back to a famous lawman.
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.