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Discussion Starter #1
Looking on getting a Police Positive or Det Special revolver, but I'd like to shoot .38 +P loads.

When did Colt starting making their revolvers safe for that?

Joe
 

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That depends on what you mean "safe".

Colt only began rating the small frame revolvers for +P ammo with the introduction of the shrouded heavy barrel Colt models in 1973.
The steel framed guns were rated for "up too" 3,000 rounds before the gun needed to be returned to Colt for inspection and possible frame replacement.
The aluminum models were first rated for up too 1,500 rounds of +P, later down rated to 1,000 rounds.

However, back in the 1930's Colt stated that the small frame revolvers could shoot the HOT .38-44 cartridge.
I've always suspected that Colt figured that they could just afford to replace a small frame revolver that was worn out from shooting the hotter ammo, if any customer could stand to shoot much of the .38-44.

Most of today's +P .38 Special ammo is not loaded as hot as it was in the 1960's,probably in response to people shooting it in small frame revolvers that were not made for the higher pressures.
While you can shoot the +P in any +P factory rated Colt small frame made after 1973, even then it will suffer increased wear and no replacement frames are available.
Most any Colt small frame since the late 1920's is not likely to blow up in your hand if fired with +P ammo, but it will be worn.

For that reason it's recommended that you shoot mostly standard .38 Special ammo, and only load up with +P for actual carry.
 

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My general rule is the bigger and heavier the gun, the thicker the cylinder walls and frame top strap, the more likely it is to absorb some +P without drama. The proof loads fired at the factory, substantially exceed +P, being more like +P+ if memory serves. However, their design parameters are inclusive only of standard pressure loads.

Today, there are any number of new serrated, fluted, channeled (whatever) bullets that seem to work well at standard pressures. I would carry them ("Ruger" ARX) with confidence.
 
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Discussion Starter #4
I'm surprised Colt approved 38-44 loads for D frames, some of those loads were really hot.

As you suggested, my plan is to practice mainly w wadcutters, and limited +P.

So...anything after 1930's won't immediately self-destruct, but factory appproval didn't happen until the 1970's, is that about right?
 

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I'm surprised Colt approved 38-44 loads for D frames, some of those loads were really hot.

As you suggested, my plan is to practice mainly w wadcutters, and limited +P.

So...anything after 1930's won't immediately self-destruct, but factory appproval didn't happen until the 1970's, is that about right?
Correct. Ideally I wouldn't shoot +P on anything before 1973 because they weren't designed for that. The shrouded barrel revolvers from after 1973 weren't necessarily intended to use +P either, but Colt had it in mind when they made them, and they should handle fine on a limited diet of +P.

For the most part, standard pressure 158 grain .38 Special ammo would serve perfectly fine as self defense ammo if that's your goal. I know buffalo bore makes quality self defense ammo that's safe in older detectives/police positives and still performs well when compared to +P.
 

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Good info here.............I just acquired a Model match 38 special. It is a fine shooter and I feel the 38 regular rounds are sufficient for my use. Not sure why I would want anything heavier?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm surprised D frame Colts aren't good for regular +P use. I know some agencies in the past that used S&W 5 shots w +P and even +P+ Treasury loads. The Treasury loads were excessive, but no one said anything about the S&Ws failing.
 

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Standard velocity and wadcutters are just fine in a 2" - you 'can' carry the stouter load, of course, but shooting it regularly isn't the best idea you're going to have - not when Colt won't work on them any longer.

Guys will practice with both variants - and will believe that they need to get used to the greater noise and recoil - but if the time comes that the piece is put into action for real - recoil and noise don't enter into anything, because the adrenalin dump kinda cancels that peripheral stuff out.

Your best bet is to pick a good bullet that will expand, and there are a number in standard velocity available today.
 

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Standard velocity and wadcutters are just fine in a 2" - you 'can' carry the stouter load, of course, but shooting it regularly isn't the best idea you're going to have - not when Colt won't work on them any longer.

Guys will practice with both variants - and will believe that they need to get used to the greater noise and recoil - but if the time comes that the piece is put into action for real - recoil and noise don't enter into anything, because the adrenalin dump kinda cancels that peripheral stuff out.

Your best bet is to pick a good bullet that will expand, and there are a number in standard velocity available today.
Great advice. For home defense; keep in mind ”low flash” rounds and bullet designs that minimize “through the wall“ events...
 

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I'm surprised D frame Colts aren't good for regular +P use. I know some agencies in the past that used S&W 5 shots w +P and even +P+ Treasury loads. The Treasury loads were excessive, but no one said anything about the S&Ws failing.
Honestly, it is a little surprising, but more than likely D-Frames are perfectly fine for +P. If you read the wikipedia page, it states:

"In their more recent owners manuals, Colt authorized limited use of +P ammunition in steel-framed revolvers (including earlier versions), citing 2000 to 3000 rounds before recommending the gun be returned to the factory for inspection.[9] Many believe that this was due to potential liability rather than engineering requirements, as the standard pressure ammunition of yesteryear was about the same pressure as modern +P ammunition.[citation needed] SAAMI lowered the pressures in 1972"

I'm not really knowledgeable enough to cite ammunition pressures of 'yesteryear' in comparison to modern +P, but if standard pressure ammo from the old days is similar to the pressure of modern +P ammo, then you're not really going to hurt your Detective/PPS by using it. As suggested, it really may have been to limit liability rather than limitations of their engineering. If you follow the advice suggested in this forum, I think you'll be perfectly fine and should not experience any real problems with +P usage.

Colt advised limited use of +P, but I've never before heard of a Colt failing due to it. Naturally, it just speeds up wear, which is true for whatever gun you use +P in.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Keith,
That sounds good. I can't believe a Colt D frame is weaker than a S&W 5 shot, of the same era. Must be liability concerns.
 

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High powered loads are way overrated.
If you want more power, go with something intended for such use.
There are better options.
 

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My load of choice for my 1992 era Dick Special is the old discontinued Nyclad 158 gr, SWCHP +P "FBI" load. It shoots them to point of aim and in nice tight groups. But I don't shoot it often as I have other .38's for target or plinking use so I am not worried about frame stretch. I have probably only fired 250-300 rounds of +P since I bought the gun new and it is still as tight as a drum.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Walter, I remember that load. It was popular, I wonder why they discontinued it.

Remember the old, old super police load, with a huge 200 gr LRN bullet. Loaded at standard velocity, 700 or 800 fps I thin,.

Joe


 

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I avoid +P loads in small frame revolvers due to accelerated wear. Even in medium frame revolvers I ration this hotter ammo and shoot mostly standard loads. +P is excellent in any .357 revolver, however.
 

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The major ammunition makers now make a number of very good defense loads for standard pressure .38 Special revolvers...optimized for short barrels and will have some flash suppressant added. Bullet technology has come a long way to allow this. The ammunition is more expensive than standard blasting ammo but for its intended use is quite good.
 

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This has also been an excellent strategy. My Diamondback & S&W M60 are loaded with standard pressure 158 grain lead HPs if serious use lies ahead.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Perhaps I should outline my parameters; for 2" guns I'm standard velocity all the way. But I'm looking for a 3" barrel D frame. The slightly longer barrel should sufficiently take advantage of +P ammo.

Sound good?
 

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It may help but may also have more bark than bite. Usually it takes at least a 4" barrel to begin getting the benefit from a +P round. A lot of potential energy can be going out the barrel as unburned propellant. Every gun is different. The only way to tell with it is to test it with a chronograph and see what velocity gains you're getting vs. controllability. Test it against a standard pressure round and compare.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Snidely,
4" is the standard barrel for revolvers for ballistic purposes, so ammo makers should be building for that. 3" is just a little short of that mark, and I hope to get the best of both worlds; +P performance, and still carry-able.

Of course I may end up with a gun that does nothing well (hey, that's what they say about me at work).

Joe
 
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