The .38 Super

By Chuck Hawks

The .38 Super was introduced in 1929 in the famous Colt Government Model 1911 auto pistol. The Government Model was much stronger than the earlier Colt .38 Auto pistol, and could handle more pressure. So the .38 Auto case was loaded to higher pressure (33,000 cup) to boost performance. The result was the .38 Super Auto, at the time of its introduction the most powerful auto pistol cartridge in the world.

Winchester factory loads for the .38 Super include a Super-X load and a less expensive USA brand load. The Super-X offering advertises a 125 grain Silvertip bullet at a MV of 1240 fps with 427 ft. lbs. of ME. This is the factory load to use for personal defense or in the field. The economical USA brand ammunition is great for practice and is loaded with a 130 grain FMJ bullet at a MV of 1215 fps and a ME of 426 ft. lbs.

The .38 Auto and .38 Super both use standard .355" (9mm) diameter bullets, so there are plenty of choices available to the reloader. Pistols chambered for the old .38 Auto should probably be retired, but any reloader with a .38 Super pistol can turn out very effective loads using modern JHP bullets.

The Speer Reloading Manual Number 13 shows that 7.5 grains of HS6 powder can drive their 124 grain Gold Dot bullet to a MV of 1134 fps, and 8.3 grains of HS6 can drive the same bullet to a MV of 1245 fps. These loads used Winchester cases and CCI 500 primers, and were tested in the 5" barrel of a Colt pistol.

Note: A complete article about the .38 Super Auto can be found on the Handgun Cartridge Page.

Back to the Reloading Page

Copyright 2004, 2013 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.