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Discussion Starter #1
As promised I was out testing rifle loads and took the .38 ACP along. I shot these first in a Super .38 to verify velocity and then fired them in my PH. I also fired some factory WW Super .38 for comparison (in the Super of course).

Here are the results. My chronograph is an Oehler 35P. Velocity 15' from muzzle.

.38 acp chronograph 001.jpg
 

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Pretty pathetic velocities for a 38 super isn't it. Yours is actually faster than mine. I was getting in the 1050 to 180 range over my 35p.

I now just reload my 38 super with 130's to 1300 with suitable powder. Works great and very accurate.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yes it is. Especially for a cartridge rated +P.. I load my own as well. I just wanted to compare brother and sister for fun.
 

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Interesting!


Whyever would Factory .38 Super be underloaded?


I can see that present day Factory .38 ACP might be a little downloaded, since by now all Pistols made for it are pretty old or even older, Lol.


If memory serve, the original .38 ACP Cartridge was intended to be 1250 FPS with the 130 Grain Copper Patch Bullet, and it was very soon downloaded to be 1050 with the 130 Grain Hardball/Copper Patch Bullet ( but this rating I am sure was for the longer Barrel m1900/Sporting or '02 Military Models, rather than the shorter Barrel Pocket Model ).
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Your memory is correct. The only conclusion I can come up with is the fact that for years velocities were overstated, and they were measured by some very crude instruments. Not like the chronographs we have today. Things like moving a pendulum, or wired screens that were shot through. If I can find some really old stuff I will try again, but I'll bet the velocities get nowhere near the advertised velocities.

But you are right these could have been measured in a 1900 or 1902 model. I guess that solves it. I will have to purchase a sample of each to prove your theory..
 

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But of course, no .38 Super in any of the erstwhile .38 ACP Pistols.


I have some loose ( box was deteriorated and is long gone now ) '00s or 'teens .38 ACP Factory Cartridges in Storage, the old 'rounded' Primer era with the Mfg's initial in the Primer...semi-jacketed Soft Nose...and, I think, also, some odd earl;y rounds of RNL ( they used to offer a variety of Bullet types but at some point all it was, was the Hard Ball ).

Next time I head over to Storage I will grab a few rounds and dig out my Sporting Model and see what they Clock at...I have some 1970s Remington .38 ACP too and will grab some of that to clock.




Far as .38 Super though, all the Barrel lengths would of course have been that of the Government Model, until the advent of the Commander in the late 1940s.

I would guess though that advertised or stated Velocities were probably pretty much right on for the Cartridges being tested back when.


Granted, in 1899 or 1910 or 1920, FPS was more difficult to arrive at, but, every instance I know of where the same exact Cartridge of the day is run through a Chronograph now, they seem to do what they were said to do 'then'.


The original .38 Special was stated as being 158 Grain RNL over 21.5 Grains of 3 F Black Powder, to give 950 FPS ( I assume, out of a 6 or 6.5 Inch Barrel S&W Military Model Revolver ) and, I would love to test that sometime!

But to do so I need to find some Folded Head or Baloon Head .38 Special Cartridge Cases, and load them accordingly, or, find some live rounds of that era...and I have not been able to find any yet.

My bet?

Over 21.5 Grains of present day 'Swiss' Powder, a 158 Grain RNL or pure Lead, out of a 6 or 6.5 Inch Barrel, WILL Clock at 950 FPS, just like the original 1898 figure said it did.


Ideally, if you could find some old opened partial Boxes of .38 Super from the late '20s or early '30s, you would have some good ones to Chronograph and see.


Probably we should both join some Cartridge Collector's forum and see if we can find a few spare rounds of earliest Cartridges for each of these, to test with a Chronograph, and, I can maybe finally get some spent Folded Head or Baloon Head Cases for the early .38 Special to Load accordingly, and, test also.
 

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The last time I set up my Chrony I had to clock some 9mm Largo I made up because of the lack of availability of commercial ammo. I Chrony-ed some other stuff but no factory Supers. This isn't a good time of year to set up a chronograph here in Florida but maybe I should.

The yellow box of Super X 38 Super Automatics I have, have a listed velocity of 1280 FPS and is certainly close enough to the so-called 1300 FPS. I might Chrony some of these. Current Winchester is: 1240 for the 125 STHP; and 1215 for the 130 MC (IIRRC). My results from some of these rounds was an AVG of just under 1200 FPS for each.

Considering that some of the older load data available from Lyman was a good 20-25% more than current data leads me to believe that the evil factor here is pressure not velocity. And of course in the ballistics lab everything is done in a controlled enviroment, usually with a pressure gun.

There are so many variables when chronograph ing ammunition. Take a look in the Speer Reloading Manual and they have a chart showing .357 velocities using different revolver some of which were the same Model and barrel length. The result show a considerable variation using the same ammo.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Our big show is coming up in August. I will look for some there as there always seems to be someone selling old cartridges. Old Western Scrounger has a complete box for $80. I take it your quest a couple years ago for some balloon head cases over at the high road didn't pan out. I found that link to your thread while searching myself.
 

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My thought is just the general downward trend in pressures and velocities over time by the major factories. Think about it. If you were running Winchester ammo, and you decided to save some money, just a bit less velocity on ammo adds up to less powder and you save some money. So instead of 1300 with a 130 you go 1280. Not much but it adds up. Well, a bit is good and your lawyer says "good show! you made the company a bit safer". This goes on for a few years, a decade or two and now we have 1050 with a 130 instead of 1300. But in the mean time cheap chrono's show up and now everyone can see you are selling 1050 instead of 1300 so you go to the SAAMI and get them to "de-rate" the 38 super "for safety" and now +P is 1050.

The same can be said about the 38 special, 357 magnum etc.

If you look at the 357 magnum, it did 1515 with a 158 out of a 8 3/4" Registered magnum in 1935. Take some of the load data from say Sharpe 1937 and make up some rounds. Fire them out of an 8 3/8" pre-27 and guess what, they will clock right in at the 1550 fps range which is right in the ballpark for what Sharpe quotes. So how did we go from 1515 down to the mid 12's in 70 years? SAAMI and downrating the ammo.

Look at the 38 special. It used to be 1000 fps with a 158, now we are at 750 to 800.

In my mind, all of the 358 caliber rounds took one step down over the last 40 years. Thus today the 357 magnum is equal to the old 38/44. The 38 special is equal to the old 38S&W. The 38 Super is equal to the old 38 Auto.

If you think I am full of it, do what I did. Buy some vintage ammo, spend the bucks to get a chrono and chrono it. Get enough of the "old stuff" and you will see it is much hotter than modern ammo. Just be aware that some of the older ammo was poorly stored and is very off speed and can even stick in the barrel.
 

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I have some 158 grain Federal .357 Magnum SJSP that I bought in the 70's that's rated at 1500 fps. I recently ran it over a chrono out of a S&W M27-2 with an 8⅜" barrel. It averaged a smidgen over 1500 fps.

Buck
 

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In some previous chronographing of .38 ACP (old stuff), I generally averaged MVs around 1050 FPS. .38 Super MVs measured typically averaged around 1200 fps, all in the 5" barrel of the M1911. The "Hot" cousin of the .38 Super is the 9X23, and Winchester's loads (124 grain bullets) were more like 1425 fps average.

Factory muzzle velocity specs are nothing nearly as tight as most people think, typically being acceptable within a +/- 40 to 50 fps. range. For example the official US military (Milspec) average velocity range tolerance for lot acceptance of the military M882 9mm ball round is +/- 49 fps.

The older factory velocity measurement methods (before electronic high frequency crystal-controlled counter chronographs) were very good, even though much slower and more complicated. I think there was an article in either the American Rifleman or Gun Digest some years back about this, the conclusion being some of the "old" velocity measurement methods were actually just as accurate and somewhat more consistent. If anyone has a copy of Frost's book "Making Ammunition," reading its treatment of how velocities were measured back in the 1930's will be a real eye-opener. Just because something is old doesn't mean it's not good.

One real difference in modern ammunition is the advent of piezoelectric measurement of peak chamber pressures. Back in the pre-1970's, chamber pressures were "measured" by the copper crusher method. Actually, the copper crusher method was a very crude and inaccurate analog method of estimating chamber pressure. It was incapable of measuring actual instantaneous peak pressure, as the piezo gauge can. When it became possible for the factories to make actual instantaneous piezo peak chamber pressure measurements, a lot of loading practices changed in terms of selection of propellants and propellant charges capable of providing maximum velocities while limiting peak chamber pressures.
 
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