Shooting Impressions: Colt .38 Super 1911

Hickok45 here. Did you guys ever shoot a .38 Super? Oh, looks like a Colt .45. No, it says .38 Super on it, so it must be that. Yes, .38 Super in a Colt government model. Pretty cool huh? Appreciate sending those to us. Check the link. You’ll see more about them and eGunner.

This came from Bud’s. It’s a new Colt 1911, if you didn’t notice, but it is chambered in a slightly different round than many of you are probably familiar with. Now, a lot of you are, but I think probably many of you are not. Take a look at it.

This is Federal’s – American Eagle in .38 Super. I should have brought out a nine millimeter round. You know what? That can actually be arranged. What was I thinking? Just happens to be a nine millimeter round in my pocket. You see, it’s a little longer, the case. That’s not the only difference, but it is longer, and oh, get it up there.

Nine millimeter case is a thick old tough case around the head. It really is. If you’ve ever hand loaded them, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a tapered case. These old .38 Super cases, they’re kind of like, I don’t know, a scaled down .45, or a .38 special or something. Don’t have quite that much rim, but they’re straight wall, pretty much. They’ve got a little bit of a rim, semi-rimmed, and they’re really easy to hand load.

I loaded thousands of them back in the late ‘80s, ’90s, and shot many, many, many tens of thousands, probably, of them, in competition and just practice and plinking and everything. It’s a little longer than a nine millimeter. Basically the same bullet though. Different weight, but it’s a 356, whatever, same size bullet essentially. A .38, .357, .38 special, hope you caught that video recently, nine millimeter, even .380 is close to the same, and .38 Super.

Lot of bullets, the actual bullet part, in this size, that we shoot, in different cartridges, right? Boy, we need to do something on that too, because I get a lot of people asking about, will a .45 Colt shoot in a .45-70, that sort of thing. It’s the cartridge that’s important, as much as the bullet. OK, so .38 Super, boy, this is known, maybe, in most circles, as a competition cartridge. Not exclusively though. It makes a nice shooter in a 1911.

If you’ve ever shot a nine millimeter in a 1911, really sweet. This is the same way, even though you’ve got a little more velocity, it’s hotter. Generally in a .38 Super, the bullet is going to be on the lighter end, about 115, 120 grains, and it’s going to be trucking out there at maybe 1200, 1300 feet per second, OK?

It depends, there are people loading even lighter bullets, I think, and cranking them up even hotter, but that’s kind of what it is. It’s a hot, think of it maybe, as a hotter nine millimeter, all right? I don’t know how it would compare exactly to a .357 SIG. Similar I would think, I’m not sure. I’m not as knowledgeable about the .357 SIG.

I happen to also have…I’m going to shoot them now while I’m thinking about it, because I’ll forget. These are some old silver tips. Winchester silver tips I had from back in…I probably bought them in about 1989, something like that. I had a government model .38 Super that was not really a competition gun and I actually carried it some.

I don’t know if these will still work. They’ve been, you know, not in an air conditioning or controlled environment, so let’s try them. These are Winchester silver tip hollow points. I’ve been anxious to see if they’ll fire now that I have a .38 Super back at the compound, because I’ve not had one for decades. Well, we’ve got a hollow point, why don’t we just shoot something that will blow up a little bit maybe?

That worked, that worked, seems to work. Wonder if one will get to the gong, after just sitting around for 25 years, resting? Mr. Cowboy. That’s good to know, that they still work, and also, that this feeds hollow points. That’s one of the reasons I was doing that. The only .38 Super I have in the house, although, I think somewhere I have some hand loads left over from the old days. Yeah, I used to shoot one of these things. In fact, I put on my old Ernie Hill rig. Look at the, whatever, the crud.

This thing has been just hanging in the barn all these years. Actually I could use that with any 1911. I don’t know why I’ve left it out there. This was part of the rig I bought back in about ‘89 or ’90, and these are some magazines I used back then, and believe it or not, they still work.

They were really cruddy. I took them apart and cleaned them. There was some rust on them and everything else. I didn’t think I’d ever have another .38 Super, and I found these things. I always thought these brass buttplates were cool. They’re not extenders or anything. I mean, they don’t add to the capacity of the magazine. What is it, C.P. Bullets wasn’t it? I forgot that company. They’re probably not even around anymore.

I don’t know, C.P. Bullets, I don’t know. It was a company back in the day. They’re probably still around. Here I am making light of them, or fun of them. Yeah, these were….38 Super, back in the early IPSC days, USPSA days, became very popular.

In fact it was Rob Leatham I think, and Brian Enos, who really experimented with it and discovered that it was pretty effective, because you could get…Now these are nine round mags, and even with nine round mags, that was better than a .45. That’s what everybody was using at that time, a .45, and you had seven or eight rounds in your magazine. .38 Super gave you nine or ten in the magazine.

Most of the mags, even back then, were 10 rounds. These are 10 round magazines. They hold 10, these hold 9. You quickly got 10 plus 1, and for competition, if you’re going through a course of fire, more ammo. They were doing the compensator thing, you know, hanging on the front of the gun to reduce recoil, or muzzle flip, and all that.

Those actually worked better with light, fast bullets, so that was very effective. They worked with the .45, but not as well. Those guys really set the trend. .38 Super, I mean, in open class. That means anything goes class, to an extent, .38 Super reigned, it ruled the day.

Anybody that was any good, just about, I mean there was exceptions, but just about everybody was shooting .38 Super, and most of them, light bullets, very fast, very fast. I fell victim to that too, for about a year, year and a half, I had to have one. I ran across one that was already made, in a shop, someone had to bail out on it or something.

I bought a .38 Super, had a compensator on it, it was a custom gun, and the magazines. I played that game for about a year and a half. I still shot limited, and revolver, you know, stock guns, at those same matches. I’d shoot three different classes, but I did play with that. It was fun because you really can control that thing. Very effective round. Let me shoot a couple more here.

Now if these magazines don’t work, I was hesitant to even use them, but I’ve been shooting this gun for two or three days with them, and I’ve not had any trouble yet, but my guess is these springs, because they were used a great deal back when I was shooting them, so I don’t know. With a little use they might start to weaken. Let’s shoot some of these 12 ounce bottles.

Oh, there’s a jug down there that had not been hit and a couple of two liters. I’ll go across the hill. Let’s see if we can hit that red plate. Three in a row. Let’s shoot until we miss, how’s that? Don’t worry, you’re not going to miss dinner. I knew I was low. I knew I was low when I pulled the trigger. See? See?

I tell you what, that thing’s a nail driver. Let’s go for the gong, wake him up too. Boom, boom, boom, that thing is a shooter, and it’s fun. Ah boy, takes me back. You know something I discovered over this week, shooting this thing, it’s got a nice trigger.

This is right out of the box, and it has a heck of a trigger for a stock Colt, series 80, 1911. Very, very nice trigger. Boy, almost hate to send that sucker back, but it’s pretty cool. Now, what else was I going to lie to you about? .38 Super, I know just enough to be dangerous, so you might have to correct me on this, because I’m not that familiar with the early .38 ACP.

I’ve never had a firearm…The Colt 1900, 1902, some of those models, there are four or five different models that actually fired, chambered, the .38 ACP, automatic Colt pistol round. Which was basically this round with a little bit less punch. I think it cranked at around 1100 feet per second, 1150, maybe 1200. It was just called The Automatic Colt Pistol, the .38 ACP.

I didn’t really know that until I started researching, because I was just vague about that area. Oh man, gun writers will set you straight in a heartbeat. .38 Super did not come about in 1928 or 1929. All they did was build a gun called the Super, the .38 Super. The cartridge has been here a long time.

Then in the later ‘30s, as I understand, ’40s, they began to crank it up a little bit, especially when this gun came along of course. Well, you know, in ‘29, whenever. It would handle a little more pressure, so they cranked it up to around 1300 feet per second, and they designated it as a Super later on.

Then, when was it? I think it was in the ‘50s maybe, they actually designated it as the .38 Super plus P. Gave the cartridge a different designation or started loading cartridges that were called .38 Super plus P. This brass says .38 Super plus P on the head stamp. Mainly because this is pretty hot stuff. You know, you get 1300 feet per second. I don’t know what the velocity on these are. These are just range ammo, but you wouldn’t want to put it in those older guns.

You run into that situation with .44 mag, .44 special, all that sort of thing, .38s, .45-70. You can crank up .45-70 in a Marlin or a Sharps, a lot of the guns I have. You can make a .458 Win mag out of them almost. You can put a lot of round, a lot of power, get a lot of mileage, a lot of velocity out of it is what I’m trying to say, but you wouldn’t want one of those rounds to end up in an old Springfield trap door made in 1873 or 1880. That’s the issue you run into there.

But, the cartridge has been around forever, exact same dimensions, and it’s a neat cartridge. The early models now, had a reputation for not being all that accurate, because they head spaced on the rim. The rim is what held them in place on those early Colt pistols and everything. There was apparently a little bit of a movement, or a wobble, or something, I’m not sure. Some of you gunsmiths might explain it better.

Then later on when they started making barrels, it would head space on the case mouth. Then that solved that problem and I know that was the kind of barrel I had, and I think most people the last 30, 40 years, they have a barrel that is chambered and ramped and everything properly so that the .38 Super head space is right on the front of the chamber. It doesn’t rely on the rim.

This is a little different. If you notice that, it’s got a little bit of a rim. You saw it compared with a nine millimeter. It actually has a little bit of a rim to it. That’s a little bit of a challenge with an automatic cartridge. OK, so anyway, like I say, this cartridge, got very popular…It had kind of a rebirth when Leatham started using it. I don’t know why, the guy can’t shoot. Well, at least he used to not be able to.

I gave him a couple of lessons and then he just went crazy. He got to where he would win every match. It’s pretty amazing. Did you believe that? Yeah, right. I got a bridge I’ll sell you in Brooklyn too. Yeah, this is well known for that. Now it’s also got some history, just as a 1911. I don’t know if you knew it, but a lot of the Latin countries, it’s very popular down there, and it was through the ‘20s, ’30s, ‘40s, ’50s, and still, I guess.

Because in a lot of countries down there, you’re not allowed to have, as a civilian…Well, some of them you can’t even have a gun, but you cannot…It’s a definite no-no to have a firearm chambered in any of the military cartridges, like a NATO round, or a .45, or 9 millimeter. It’s weird, there’s quite a few countries around the world like that, but .38 Super is fine.

This is a very popular configuration right here, a 1911, and has been for a lot of decades south of the border, the .38 Super. You’ll see some really old ones that have obviously been down there. Some of them were made and remade, and the names on them you wouldn’t be able to read unless you can read Spanish or something, but they are .38 Super. Popular round, if you knew that.

I actually knew that, but not because I was down there and shot one. Let me load a mag while I’m talking a little bit here. I’ve enjoyed shooting the thing. It’s an easy cartridge to load, and it’s pleasant to shoot. Now some of the guys that compete…Ah man, I used to hate to be on a squad with certain individuals. They would have .38 Super rounds, I don’t know what weight their bullets were, light as they could get them, and as fast as they could get them, and boy did they scream.

You better have your…It was like somebody shooting an AR-15 right by you. I was a range officer so I was running around behind them too with a timer and everything, when it was my turn to do that. Boy, you had to get your ear muffs on so tight. That’s where it had a lot of its history in USPSA and the gun game. It’s still popular I think, in that game.

I talk about all that in the past, because I just don’t do it anymore. It’s not that I got too old to do it, I just kind of lost interest in it. I spent a lot of weekends at those matches, and it was fun, but I just like to shoot too many different kinds of firearms. I grew weary of trying to shave off a 10th of a second on my draw and that kind of stuff. Who cares? I didn’t, but it is fun. I would highly recommend you do something like that if you think you would enjoy it at all.

That was pretty neat. .38 Super, what else about the cartridge do I know? It’s available and there’s a lot of guns. There’s a lot of different 1911s chambered for it in fact, so if you thought you ever wanted to try it. Now the ammo is not cheap. Just depends, I have seen some kind of off brand boxes of it that were not too bad, but, by and large, it’s going to be more expensive than nine millimeter, maybe even .45. I don’t know, just depends, what kind you find, and where it is.

I would recommend you hand load if you’re going to shoot a lot of it. It is easy to hand load. Very comfortable to hand load. The cases resize very simply and all that kind of thing. All right, let’s shoot a couple more here. OK, interesting cartridge, .38 Super. May be one that you haven’t fired before. You might not have even seen that cartridge, I don’t know. What have you been doing with your life? Oh, we’ve got a target. I’ll take a shot at that, in case we post that. See if I can miss that one.

This is a very sweet shooter. You’ve got the heavy 1911 and the cartridge is not that powerful, I guess. Oh, there I go neglecting that cowboy on the left again. I wonder if it would knock a ram over. Probably not. Maybe if I pop him in the head. I don’t even know if I was hitting him. Let’s try a pig. Ah, just slinging bullets, I tell you. I’m going to try that turkey on top up there. Flop, there he went.

Empty. I have one more magazine. Why don’t we see how fast I can get rid of them? I just hate to have ammo in my firearm, so let’s just blast them out of there. Oh, that was fun. That is a very comfortable cartridge to shoot, it just really is. .38 Super. That’s neat. Like I said, I had one with a compensator on the end, and it was kind of a weird firearm. Difficult to break down. 1911, of course. Also had one just like this. It was a Springfield that I won in some match somewhere shooting a .38 Super.

I decided, I got all these .45s, I’ll just get a stock gun in .38 Super. I don’t know what I did with it. Traded it or something to somebody who wanted it more than I did, but pretty cool, and there’s a real place for it actually, because I don’t know what all the wide range of hollow points are out there today. Of course you wouldn’t need very many of them, if you found a good box of hollow points.

In terms of practice and just shooting, it’s a very comfortable firearm to shoot. It reminds me again of the nine millimeter in one of these. Just very pleasant. If you don’t like a lot of recoil, and the .45, maybe it slaps you around a little too much, this one really doesn’t. It feels good. This specific gun has got an incredible trigger I’ll have to say. I wish every stock 1911, even a Colt, came with a trigger that good. That’s pretty nice.

The .38 Super, like I said, goes back, actually back to the turn of the century, like 1900. Called the .38 ACP apparently, but it just wasn’t called the Super at that time. It wasn’t quite as hot, and then Colt came out with the .38 Super 1911 in around ‘28, ’29. Then it just gradually, they increased the power factor of the round, as we moved through, and it became a little more Super, but it wasn’t really called the Super.

Again, one thing I didn’t mention, I reminded myself when I said power factor, that was one of the reasons for it, and still is I guess, in competition, because you have to achieve a certain power factor. It’s a formula, but you got to have a certain level of muzzle energy. The weight of the bullet, times the velocity, and all that kind of thing.

It’s easy to get with a .45, and a .40, but with a nine millimeter, you just about can’t do it. Although they have lowered that power factor, so I’m not 100 percent sure now. I think it’s still hard to reach it with a nine, but anyway, back in the day, and still, if you crank one of these up, even a light bullet, to a high enough velocity, you know, a safe velocity, you reach major power factor instead of minor.

For those who haven’t done that before, when you get A hits on a target they all count the same, but when you get marginal hits like B, C, D hits on your paper target, if you’re shooting a minor caliber, it gives you fewer points, but if you’re shooting a major caliber, you get more points, like .45.

This was just like shooting, and it is, a .45 ACP in competition. You’re getting the maximum number of points on the target. Even marginal hits, because of the velocity and the power factor. That’s what made that very, very desirable, and actually easier to shoot well than a .45, because, like I said, with that compensator on the gun, and shooting a light, fast bullet, just like an AR, you didn’t get as much muzzle rise. You could get follow-up shots quicker. That’s why it’s so popular.

A little history there on the .38 Super. I’ve had a lot of experience with it, but not in recent decades, but a nice little cartridge. Kind of interesting. I thought maybe…and I’ve had a lot of requests to get a .38 Super, and so I did. I requested one, and there it is. So a little bit of information about it that maybe you didn’t know. Even though it’s an unusual cartridge. You might go to your local gun shop and ask for a box of it, and they just look at you like, what?

Person might not even be familiar with it, I don’t know, or he might have 10 boxes there. It’s a very nice cartridge, whether everybody has heard of it or not, believe me, and it’s quite popular in a lot of circles. So, .38 Super and about anything in a 1911 format is going to be a pleasure to shoot right? Life is good.

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