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+P .38 Specials in a Detective Special

5582 Views 29 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  Boge
Question here, may sound stupid but, here goes. Would you recommended +P .38 Special loads
in a 1978 Colt Detective Special ? Not meaning I want to shoot them every day at the range, just keep the gun loaded with them for CCW? Maybe shoot a box or two of 25 a few times to get the feel? Would it damage the gun or is it okay??
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Seems like Colt used to recommend having their pistols inspected after two thousand rounds of +P ammo, so that would lead me to believe that two or three boxes a year wouldn't adversely effect your DS. Of course it would depend on the condition of the weapon. I keep my '54 Trooper loaded with +P for defense, but I don't feed it a regular diet of them at the range. Be safe!
There are good non +p loads out there. There are no more D frame Colts being made. Why push it?
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Practice with standard velocity rounds and relegate the +P's for carry. One cylinder full a year won't hurt anything and will keep you familiar with them.
Every single +P round you fire will cause more wear to your DS than a standard pressure load. Of course every round you fire, even standard pressure causes some wear. If you are intent on preserving the DS for the longest possible lifespan, or if you are satisfied with the performance properties of a standard pressure load, it would make sense to limit use to standard pressure only.

If however you use the DS for personal defense and believe that for this purpose +P is required, you will fall into the practice with standard, +P for serious business only category with very few +Ps shot for familiarization only. If you are willing to send the DS back to Colt every 3,000 rounds for "tuning, check out", have at them.

I personally am a standard for practice +P for serious business kind of DS owner.
I have the non shrouded ejector rod Detective Specials.I was told that these models weren't tested for +P use and it is not advised.If carrying for Personal Protection it is OK to shoot a cylinder of +P's at the range to get used to them and practice with standard 38 special rounds as per the rep @ Colt.I carry Nyclad hollow point std 38 rounds for carry.If they were good enough for NYPD they are good enough for me.
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I've made limited use of +P 158 grain lead SWC ammunition in my 1966 vintage Detective Special. I don't enjoy shooting the stuff in volume and don't want to purchase it in quantity. Less that a box total has been fired through the revolver for sight verification and to gain an understanding of recoil characteristics. The Detective Special seemed none the worse for wear from it.
I got a couple boxes of these to try in my DS on the next rage trip.

Supposed to be both effective and easier on the revolver...

Unless something changes my mind, I'll probably go with these for
the immediate future until something better comes along
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I would never recommend a rage trip. You should always keep your cool with a firearm in your hand!
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Yours is probably the newer shrouded model. As you describe, and Cruiser alluded to, you should be fine to use a cylinder full for practice and to see where the rounds will impact the target. That will, no doubt, lend a carry-confidence. :cool:
My steel D frames get shot every now and then with Plus P reloads. Maybe 50 - 100 rounds of plus P a year. No ill effects other than sharper recoil. They were all used guns so who knows what was fired in them before, again they are all still tight as when I bought them. If I carried a steel D frame it would be with plus P but I carry an alloy D frame agent with plus P.
The plus pressure loads are OK if you feel the need for a bit extra in defense. I personally do not care for the extra recoil, noise and ability to recover the hold after a shot from a small revolver. The revolver can handle a small amount of +P, the question is can you. The muzzle flash in a darkened room can leave you blinded for a bit - not good. My opinion is to opt for a round that can be controlled since I'm a firm believer that repeated shot placement is more important than power. That's my take on it.
I Like the idea of using those Buffalo Bore Standard Pressure Short Barrel Low Flash Heavy .38 Special Pistol and Handgun Ammo that claudel suggested. And I do agree about what Trap4570 says regarding that muzzle flash in a darkened room... I know all about that flash out of a revolver, I did once shoot it at night up north in the woods for the heck of it, saw white balls in front of my eyes afterwards for quite a while.. Ha ha and yes, I agree 100% that steady 2nd - 3rd shots count more.
We rehash this topic frequently so here's a thread to read:

That said they don't make these Colts anymore. Parts are becoming more difficult to find if something breaks and harder yet is finding qualified COLT savvy gunsmiths to do the work. I think there are plenty of .38 SPCL defensive loads being marketed that will fill the niche without having to resort to a +P round. If I carry a DS then I might run a cylinder of +P through on occasion to keep myself "tuned" on what happens with a little hotter load in a short barrel, but that's about the extent of it.
I would not carry the Nyclads . They are light weight , slow and do not expand. For alloy , or older steel frame guns, the best load is the standard pressure buffalo bore 158 lhp. It throws that lhp at 825-850 out of a 2 inch colt. that is faster than most any other brand's plus p. Even ,so it may be a little hotter than most standard pressure rounds. I doubt a few cylinders a yr will beat up your gun. What I do is carry them for 6 months -yr ,fire my carry loads ,and then replace them with new . I practice with standard pressure reloads that are pretty good duplicates of 158 standard police loads. Just as an aside , S&W used to proof test their Chief Specials in the 50s with a cylinder of 38-44 rounds ,and never blew one up. These little J and D frame guns may not look tough , but they are. In the end you have to decide what is worth more, your Colt or your life.
Also, I have a 2.5" Lawman that doesn't seem to mind the hot stuff so I can take it easy on the DS without missing much.
Just as an afterthought - The old .38 S&W cartridge of approx. 140 grain bullet loaded with black powder is in itself a man stopper. I just don't see the need for speed considering the close proximity one is most likely to encounter with a bad guy. I think a person can drive themselves into a frenzy going over unlimited scenario's of what to have and do. Having any firearm one feels comfortable with evens up the odds somewhat. I just feel that plus P in a small light revolver is like driving a full blown dragster to work. I hope no one has to encounter that type of situation.
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the idea of higher velocity is a carry over from the days when thick jackets ,designed for high velocity magnum handguns were used for 38s .Now there are mission specific bullets that expand and penetrate well at lower velocity. Back in the day Hydroshock had a low velocity inverted hollow base 38 wadcutter , with a central lead post to avoid tumbling. At around 650 fps it hit like a brick and expanded like an umbrella. I still have a box of the heads to reload. This makes for an extremely effective close range defensive round, probably ideal for apartments ,and yup airplanes.
The .38 S&W is not now and never has been a decent man stopper, including the new rounds put out by Buffalo Bore, they are just making the best of a bad situation. Of course a .38 S&W is better than nothing. As far as +P goes, the +P of today is a shadow of its former self, usually giving no more than extra 50 FPS with the same weight bullet(read lawyer influence here). Buffalo Bore makes some good ammo and I have used it both handgun and rifle, and the short barrel loads are good, as are the Critical Defense by Hornady though I prefer the Critical Duty by Hornady.
BTW: In a Trooper or other .41 frame Colt you can shoot +P till the cows come home and it will not hurt the gun, after all they used essentially the same frame for the .357, the only change being a floating firing pin.
One of the worst .38 S&W loads ever built were the 200 gr RN slugs for the British Military, it moved out at a rather slow 600 FPS, slower if you used less than 5" barrel. Used in a 2" barrel you can literally see the round loping down range if you stand in the right position.
I have experimented with the Buffalo Bore .38 S&W, but was more impressed with their iteration of the .32 S&W, SWC and flat point WC.
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You realize of course that the original discussion thus far has been about .38 Special and NOT about .38 S&W? I see the post that took us off target but not the logic behind doing so. There is a big difference. I am aware that even about .38 Special the feeling of ballistic inadequacy lingers in certain quarters, mostly about antiquated LRN loads. If anyone believes that modern .38 spl loads are not good "manstoppers" I won't argue with you but bringing up .38 S&W is confusing your apples and oranges. Modern .38 Special isn't exactly a moose round but I posit for a man who can put them on target and matches modern loads with weapon and application plenty good medicine for two legged predators and where a pre-heat treating black powder load fits here is a mystery to me. Should we also discuss the .36 Navy, percussion caps and round balls?
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