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Discussion Starter #1
I recently acquired what appears to be an unfired 1972 detective special. I'll be firing it soon and I'm wondering if it'll handle +p factory ammunition. I reload all my centerfire ammunition but I might want a bit more power in a self defense load in 38 special.

 

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If you do some digging (Google-fu), you can come up with a manual for that revolver; and the manual addresses the issue. Safe to shoot, will greatly accelerate wear. Colt's manual says it should tolerate 2,500 rounds of +P, my observation (I used to be a Colt factory armorer) is that 2,500 is VERY optimistic. There is NO reason a small frame revolver should ever have to see even 1/5 that number of +P provided the shooter has any brains at all. These old revolvers should be shot with standard pressure, and carried with +P. You can verify your ammunition works, and hits to point of aim pretty easy; less than a cylinder or two. Treat it right, and it will treat you right.
 

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If you do some digging (Google-fu), you can come up with a manual for that revolver; and the manual addresses the issue. Safe to shoot, will greatly accelerate wear. Colt's manual says it should tolerate 2,500 rounds of +P, my observation (I used to be a Colt factory armorer) is that 2,500 is VERY optimistic. There is NO reason a small frame revolver should ever have to see even 1/5 that number of +P provided the shooter has any brains at all. These old revolvers should be shot with standard pressure, and carried with +P. You can verify your ammunition works, and hits to point of aim pretty easy; less than a cylinder or two. Treat it right, and it will treat you right.

In other words , yes it will handle it , but shooting lots of +P in small revolvers is not pleasant.
 

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I think using +P in a revolver with a 2" barrel is a waste as the velocity loss and attendant extra flash and recoil negate any ballistic advantage it might have from a longer barrel. The added accelerated wear on the revolver is a negative as well. There are very good rounds from several manufacturers in standard pressure made specifically for short barreled revolvers. I would use those.
 

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In my opinion, you can’t get a better stock then that wraparound provided in the 72 and later detective special. It absorbs the recoil so well and fits everyone’s hand so well. I practice with about 90% standard pressure handload wadcutters mainly because they make such nice sharp holes in the paper B27 target that I don’t need the expensive shoot-n-see targets. I try to once a year fire the plusP that I was carrying in the gun. They so far have always gone bang. At one time, I made sure it was factory ammo, now I carry with my plusP reloads, simply because it’s fresh. The absolutely last thing I am going to worry about after a gunfight is the slight increase in wear from firing plus P. Much of the data both hand loaded and factory shows approximately 100 FPS velocity increase with plus P so IMHO that is well worth it.
 

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I think a constant diet of +P ammo will be hard on the gun and on the shooter. Honestly I'm not sure there is a tangible advantage to using +P in a 2" gun.
If you want to carry it loaded with +P ammo, shoot maybe a cylinder per year and reload with fresh ammo...and practice (a lot) with standard ammo.
 

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I think using +P in a revolver with a 2" barrel is a waste as the velocity loss and attendant extra flash and recoil negate any ballistic advantage it might have from a longer barrel. The added accelerated wear on the revolver is a negative as well. There are very good rounds from several manufacturers in standard pressure made specifically for short barreled revolvers. I would use those.

...in a weapon used for self defense; the shot placement is more important than the pizzas from the flame coming out of the barrel. Your choice. I have two of these guns they shoot very well with standard 38 special...just a thought.


Al Marin

Colt Detective Spl 3.jpg
 

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First... that is a nice detective special!

Second... can someone tell me what the alleged benefits of +P ammunition is? (more accurate, longer distance, etc.) Seems to me that a Detective Special wasn't made for great distances at all, so accuracy really isn't an issue, either. Doesn't seem like it's worth the risk of damaging the gun or perhaps causing injury to yourself.

I'm guessing that all anyone gets out of +P ammunition - with any gun - is bragging rights that will impress people who don't know any better.
 

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+P is essentially a .38 Special loaded to higher than standard pressures. The higher pressures should give higher velocities and better bullet expansion but those advantages are more evident in barrels longer than 2". With today's technology and bullet designs the added velocities and pressures aren't as necessary to get good terminal performance. Every bullet and barrel combination can give different results.

It's been said that today's +P .38 Special is no more than the standard .38 Specials of years ago but manufacturers began downloading them for a variety of reasons. The +P is allegedly bringing the load up to what it used to be. True or not I can't say.
 
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I have one of the 1992 manufactured Dick Specials. I added a set of the 1972 era walnut wrap around stocks to it. I don't take it to the range or use it as a plinker, so about all I have ever shot though it have been +P's. That was mainly to see which ones were the most accurate and/or controllable. I think it has less than about 500 rounds through it so I am not worried about the wear and tear that I may have inflicted on it. So far, the loads it likes best are the old Federal Nyclad FBI loads. I think I have 12 left from the original box and wish I could find more.
I tried the highly rated Speer 135 grain Gold Dots that are supposedly formulated for snubbies in both my Dick Special and S&W Model 640. They were less accurate than the old Nyclads in both. I have some of the Buffalo Bore standard pressure 158 gr. LSWCHP's that are also supposed to be very effective while keeping to standard pressures but have not yet tried them. Hopefully they will be accurate and if they do they will be my carry load of choice. One consideration is that the lighter weight bullets like the Speer Gold Dot's do not shoot to the sights. The 158 grain loads do in both the Colt and S&W so that is what I will stick to.
 

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Just because +P is out there doesn't mean that you need to use it when there are better options available.

You can 'carry' it - that's different - but shooting with Standard-pressure or wadcutter will ensure a couple of things - your accuracy will improve because you'll practice more and your confidence in the piece and your ability to shoot it well will increase - besides, should you 'have' to pull, you'll never notice the recoil...

A 2" is more difficult to master without plenty of range time, so be a bit gentler with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanx for the replies.
My self defense rounds are 158 grain Hornady XTP's loaded halfway between minimum and maximum power for a 4 inch barreled 38 special according to their newest handbook.
This should be OK for a 2 inch barreled detective special.
Maybe I'll chronograph them and see how fast they come out of the barrel.
 

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I have probably posted something like this before, but I figured it out a long time ago: Full power factory .357 magnum loads are a lot of commotion in anything less than a 6".

And: I have a 2.25" S&W 66 that is a real PIA with .357s, but it is manageable, docile, predictable and accurate with .38 specials.
My best shooting .38 special is a 4".
It is good enough to use the same hole some days.

Lastly:
I gave up on the whole concept of powerful large bore revolvers. I much prefer the 'less punishment=more satisfaction' theme for genuine shooting pleasure. Big, noisey, heavy recoil is good for a laugh, but it ain't my idea of the way things ought to be.
If I ever do any large revolvers again, I will quite likely stick to .45 colt or .44 special.

addendum: I suspect all guys, especially when they are young, like to see what it is all about, and do the hot-load experience at some point. I ain't no different. This is how we learn. This is how we advance the shooting culture. I don't do it anymore. There are, in fact better ways.

Kung Fu Master: "Before you can be old and wise, grasshopper, first you must be young and stupid."
 

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I don't know how I remembered, or if I remembered that in the 80s many said use SWC 158 Lead bullets in snub nosed. But about 15 years ago when I started carrying .38 Special pretty regularly, that's what I started reloading. That's what I carry now in my Det Special.

I like this guy, Paul, and his tests. He's very thorough, gets to the point quickly, and is pretty scientific. See his test on the 158. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ru1SldF5BM
 

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Charles Petty in I believe an article in the American Rifleman during the early 80’s ran extensive testing of standard, Plus P and plus P plus ammo. Factory and reloaded. That article ( I can’t find it right now) and the known performance of the 158 SWC is where I base my decision. If I do my job of bullet placement, I want the bullet to do it’s job.
 
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