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Forgive me for my lack of proper terminology. My go to guy is no longer with us to ask such questions.

Is it possible to shoot a shorter same caliber shell out of an .38 special?

I was looking at a .38 the other day that when I opened the wheel to inspect the bore. Contrary to what I was told the gun had been shot. The remaining powder rings werent where I would have suspected them. Instead of being close to the barrel end of the wheel, they were almost halfway. Is this a common occurence, or normal. Kinda struck me as odd.

If it were possible, could using a different shell cause a timing problem?
 

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If they are TRULY THE SAME CASE DIAMETER AND BORE DIMENSIONS then yes. In .357's .38 Specials are shot. I have heard it said in some gun games using S&W 627's and moon clips that .38 Colt Shorts are used to speed the reload as it is stubby much like a .45 ACP and drops in easier. There are calibers such as .38 S&W that may say .38 but should NOT be used.
 

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I'd think twice about this one.

A 38 Special will work in a 357 Magnum.
A 357 magnum will work in a 360 Dan Wesson
A 360 Dan Wesson will work in a 357 Maximum
A 357 maximum will work in a 357 SuperMag

All of the diameters are the same on all of these cartridges. Shorter cartridge works in a longer chamber.

Problem is, there is no popular cartridge with the same diameters that is shorter than the 38 Special. Those that do have the same diameter are obsolete and not often encountered. So it's possible a shorter cartridge was fired, but it is also possible that you have found a revolver originally chambered for the 38 S&W that has been bored out to accept 38 Specials. This is a common conversion, but not a good one because the 38 S&W case is larger in diameter. This results in a stepped chamber, the rear part of which does not give proper support to the 38 Special case.
 
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