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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
And a snub nose J frame or D frame mean't a snub nose?

Most young people like me hear the term ".38 Special" today and they think of a small compact pistol that carries 5 shots in the cylinder (maybe 6 if they happen to know what a Detective Special is) and is used by non-gun people who just want "something" to have in the drawer or a cop or civilian might have as a "backup" gun. The round itself that the gun shoots is deemed "just a .38 special"

But in my dad's generation. (wartime babies and Baby Boomer gen) a .38 Special wasn't "just" anything and it was considered a front line service gun that the average policeman and civilian alike depended on for an all around fundamental defense weapon that had either a 4, 5 or 6 inch barrel.

Before I even bought my first gun my dad had been saying for years that he always wanted "a .38 Special. The old policeman's revolver." Didn't even say a brand name. Plain Jain gun. No bells and whistles. No overbearing grips.

One day, about 9 years ago, I went out bought my first handgun. I had always thought I would get a 1911 .45. Looked cool. But there was something about that plain jane ".38 Special" that dad always talked about that just jumped out in my mind. Used S&W M-10s were here and there under the gun counter at the local gun store. Looked like what I thought of as "A .38 Special." but then I saw a single gun next to them that looked the same only a little better somehow. Maybe it was the straight barrel rather than the tapered pencil barrel. Maybe it was the slightly larger cylinder. It was a Colt Official Police 4 inch that I was told was made in 1944.

I bought it for about $275. Wasn't sure what condition it was. Except the bore looked good. I wasn't very knowledgeable about guns at the time. Didn't know how to check for timing and such. My first gun. And I was excited.

Took it home. Dad was out somewhere. I put it on the stool of his chair in the den for him to see when he walked in.
I heard him come back about 20 minutes later. Walked into the room to see him starring down at it. "That's a .38 Special" he said. :cool:

As much as dad admired my first piece, he said he identified more with the S&W version as that's what he remembers the police in Jackson, MS carrying as a boy. About a month later I went back down to that same gunstore, as it was his birthday, and bought a S&W M-10 4 inch pencil barrel like new with the original box from 1971. Wrapped it, put a bow on it. And on his birthday, he was proud to get that. And to this day, everytime I say "your Model-10" he looks at me funny and has to think about it, "Oh my .38 Special?"

(as a side note, I later got him a Post 1972 Colt Agent, yet to this day he still calls it his "snub nose Detective Special") :cool:

I later got another Colt Official Police postwar from 1961, had it refurbished and is in better condition. I've gone through a lot of other guns. But it always comes back to that Colt Official Police, that .38 Special that always winds up in my holster, suitcase or on the firing line with me. Much as I love that 1961 gun, I still wish I could restore that 1944 version to prime condition even though it's still a good shooter (it's one flaw is that the bolt can go back up the ramp on one of the notches because the notches are so worn). The .38 Special is not too heavy, not too bulky, no adjustable sights to get knocked out of alignment, no rubber grips to bulge, nor is it too small or too weak and has a sturdy enough frame to handle more than adequate loads. Simple fundamental weapon that becomes a part of my hand.
 

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i have a ?? my dad got a colt snub nose from my grandpa when he passed but i cant seem to find anything at all online about it the barrel is marked secret agent (i think it might say special agent i haven't seen it in years) but all the agents i've seen pictures of online just say agent on the barrel anyone have any thoughts on this??
 

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Good read Doug! I'm one of those baby boomers. At 66 I vividly recall growing up watching movies where the .38 special was, well, special. The tough private detectives all had them, some in snubbie form.

Now it seems the world wants magnums, bigger calibers and gobs of stopping power; and there's nothing wrong with that at all. But the 38 special is nothing to sneeze at. It's accurate in the right guns with the right loads and in the hands of a capable shooter.

You might say that back in the day the bad guys weren't routinely 300 pounds and hopped up on the drugs that exist today and there might be some truth to that. And the 357 magnum has existed since 1935, though not in as widespread use as it is now. But the 38 paid its dues and deserves a nice round of respect.

Thanks for the good story!
 

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Yeah, I remember when a .38 Special was something! And somebody always mentioned having a family member who had "one of those .38 Police Specials.

And I remebmer being at the hardware one morning when an elderly black man came in and asked for "some of those .38 Police Specials for his Smith and Weston." And his comment that it "shot ha'ad."

Anybody who had a powerful revovler had a gun that "shot ha'ad (hard)."

Bob Wright
 

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When I was maybe 8 years old I can remember my Uncle Guy showing me his .38 special. No clue what make or model. Main thing he wanted me to understand at that time was you kept the hammer down on an empty chamber, so it only had 5 in the cylinder. And I perfectly understood what he was explaining to me.
Later showed me his P-38. Later gave me my first gun.
 

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Good written story by a fine man! Young man "not" blinded by all the polymer propaganda out there and has a keen eye for quality double-action six-guns! Also astute enough to know "what" two-well-placed-.38 rounds can do to keep a bridge-troll at arms length! Thanks Doug for the well written story!
David
 

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I have a choice of a lot of rounds, but know what I carry when riding my mules in the desert, sometimes within a couple miles of the southern border? An Army Special in .38 Special. I also keep it loaded on hand as a bedroom gun. It's accurate, a decent stopper, and won't go through 5 walls of my house and 1 of the neighbors! I think the .38 Special is the premier medium power round.
 

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azshot--

I don't reside anywhere close to the US southern border but have seen many TV news stories about druig smugglers & a rancher being killed. Those drug smugglers are murderous thugs who may well be armed with full-auto rifles & perhaps wearing body armor. If you think you might encounter such people, wouldn't you want to have a hi-power rifle--and maybe a handgun with more oomph than a .38?

No criticism here of you (or anyone else) choosing a .38 Special for home defense. I do that myself & think you stated the reasons for that choice very well.

Stay safe out in the desert!
 

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I am and always will be a revolver guy.I only got into semi autos after I became a instructor.99% of the time it is a
wheelgun on my hip.More than a few people would have a laugh or have a smart response @ the range,that is until they see me shoot.When the Q vanishes in 5 or six rounds with the target @ 30 to 40 feet and I am using a DETECTIVE SPECIAL.One of my favorite sayings when I teach is " If you can't end a defensive situation with 5 or 6 rounds and one tactical reload you don't need a semi auto You need a SWAT TEAM. If you see a LEO or a Civilian with a wheel gun you know they know how to use it and they will hit thier target.:cool:
 

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I love the .38 Special Cartridge. Even though I only have one revolver that is .38 Special, I love it as well. My very first handgun, a S&W M&P Model 10-5 with 4" standard barrel from 1966/1967 ish, lives in my sock drawer and gives me peace of mind. God-willing I hope to have a few more revolvers in .38 Special in the future, be them .38 S&W Special and/or .38 Colt Special LOL. Hope to have Official Police, Police Positive Special, S&W "Victory Model", S&W .38/44 Heavy Duty, etc LOL!
Mark
 

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I too love the 38 Special...So much so that I have a S&W 10 & 37, Colt PPS, Colt OP and Colt Agent. I do have two 357's, a Dan Wesson and a Colt clone SAA. I love shooting all frame sizes in the sweet 38, as it can be whatever you want it to be, hot or not!

Jim.
 

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I've owned and carried most of the major brands, models, and calibers. Was big into 1911's for a long time, then did plastic with Glocks - which I hated - back to 1911's, back to plastic with the SA XD's (great guns) and then finally to Sig's and Kahr's. In between all those I would also grab a .38 snubby - Charter Arms, S&W, Ruger (that one was actually a .357), Taurus. I always end up selling them off and then regretting it. Recently the little local gun store had a 1965 NIB Colt Cobra in it's original box. Never fired, no turn line, nylon zip tie keeping the hammer from pulling back. Always wanted a Colt and fell in love with this little piece of history. Colt made this gun when I was four years old and it then sat for 48 years just waiting (apparently) for me to come along and show it some love. I bought it. I cut off the zip tie. I shot it. Very accurate. I found a nice like-new vintage leather holster for it and now I carry it ALL THE TIME. My semi-autos are getting jealous. If I lived somewhere where there was a lot of crime I might carry the P226 (Sig) or T9 (Kahr), but I live in New Hampshire.

Good for you, young man, on recognizing the wonder of this type of gun in this caliber. People who make fun of my little gun and it's caliber I make the offer to let me shoot them six times with my non-plus P Hornady Critical Defense ammo and then they can tell me again what a pathetic little gun it is. Funny thing, they always pass... Hmm...
 

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No apologies here, either. Wifey and I both carry .38 Special wheelguns concealed. She has a S&W Lady Smith and I carry a chopped-down PPS more often than my Colt .45 Officers LW ACP, mainly due to less bulk under summer type clothing. Hers is always in her purse everywhere she goes. I pocket mine when I go out and keep it bedside at night. We take the .38 Spec seriously as a defensive round. The bad guys probably should, too.
 
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
azshot--

I don't reside anywhere close to the US southern border but have seen many TV news stories about druig smugglers & a rancher being killed. Those drug smugglers are murderous thugs who may well be armed with full-auto rifles & perhaps wearing body armor. If you think you might encounter such people, wouldn't you want to have a hi-power rifle--and maybe a handgun with more oomph than a .38?

No criticism here of you (or anyone else) choosing a .38 Special for home defense. I do that myself & think you stated the reasons for that choice very well.

Stay safe out in the desert!
In all honesty, I would not feel undergunned with my Colt Official Police on my hip on the border. You can jack a .38 Special service revolver up quite a bit to near or low level .357 Magnum loads. (or just get Buffalo Bore +P at 1175 ft per second). But Remington 158 gr LHP+P rounds would do. Of course I would want a long gun of some kind. Whenever I work down in The Valley in South Texas, I always carry my Colt Official Police and at least a Remington 870 Police magnum loaded with 12 gauge 00 Magnum buckshot if not an AR-15 or M-1 carbine as well in my vehicle with me.
 

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The .38 Special has always been an adequate performer in capable hands. I have always thought though that the demise of the .38 Special as a service weapon was more related to marketing than any inherent fault of either the cartridge or the revolvers that chambered it. True, the old round nosed lead bullet had its problems but these could have been fixed had the ammunition manufacturers loaded it with a more efficient bullet earlier in its service history. The lead hollow point semi wadcutter bullet fixed those problems.

I think the problem with the .38 Special was one of image. Even when the .38 Special performed well such as in the 1950 Blair House gunfight, the “experts” criticized it. In the aftermath of the 1986 Miami FBI shoot out, the “experts” overlooked the fact that after the failures of the high capacity 9mm semi auto pistols and the 12 gauge shotgun, it was the lowly .38 Special that saved the day (albeit having been fired in 357 Magnum revolvers, SSA McNeill’s M-19 Smith and SA Mireles’ M-686 Smith).

If you don’t think image is important in firearms selection, consider what Jeff Cooper was able to do in the 1970s with the obsolescent M1911 automatic and its inefficient ball cartridge. In one decade he was able to persuade much of the shooting public that the Army’s heavy old relic of the horse cavalry era was “the greatest gun fighting implement ever devised” to quote gun guru Massad Ayoob.

Coincident with the demise of the .38 Special as a service gun was the beginning of the funding of local law enforcement by the Federal government in the form of organizations such as the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. This funding spurred the growth of the police training and consulting industry that had an interest in changing the training and equipment of local lawmen. By the 1970s the .38 Special was “old school” and I doubt there was any future for consultants to tell the Chief that “the .38 is doing just fine sir!”

One of the advantages of the polymer autoloader revolution in handguns is the widespread availability of superior revolvers chambered for the venerable .38 and ammunition which is as good as anything available is only as far away as your reloading bench.
 
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azshot--

I don't reside anywhere close to the US southern border but have seen many TV news stories about druig smugglers & a rancher being killed. Those drug smugglers are murderous thugs who may well be armed with full-auto rifles & perhaps wearing body armor. If you think you might encounter such people, wouldn't you want to have a hi-power rifle--and maybe a handgun with more oomph than a .38?

No criticism here of you (or anyone else) choosing a .38 Special for home defense. I do that myself & think you stated the reasons for that choice very well.

Stay safe out in the desert!
Thanks for the support. Yeah, but the rancher killing as well as the border patrol agent were killed in shootouts that probably involved ambush and surprise. I could carry a 44 Mag and it wouldn't help me if I was sniped from a hillside bush 200 yards away. The best defense is awareness, many a time I've encountered illegals, and I see them before they see me, and the first thing they see is I'm aware, and have a pistol. They smile and wave and move on. Remember MANY people here believe in helping them, giving them water, rides, and warning them of Border Patrol. It's sick and sad, but most in AZ feel "open borders" is the answer. So it wouldn't help the crossers if they shot every anglo they saw, many are friends or not threats, but if they started doing that, we WOULD crack down on the border.

The second best defense is being able to hit what you have to shoot. I've got enough combat action shooting experience where if I'm keeping an eye on them, I'm not too worried unless they have a rifle. If I see someone with a rifle, I rein up, turn my mule around, and ride the other way.
 
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