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Old vs New Colt 38 Super

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Old vs New Colt 38 Super Empty Old vs New Colt 38 Super

Post by inthebeech on 7/29/2020, 11:01 am

Given how old this cartridge is, did the current, ramped barrel/supported chamber and its mating receiver with the necessary, additional milling, always exist as far back as the introduction of the cartridge and through its popular years?  Or was there an early version with the partially unsupported chamber in the barrel and no ramp except in the frame, as with the 45 acp?  I am also not sure today if everyone builds the Super with a ramped barrel.  I only know that Les Baer does since that's all I have ever seen.
Thanks.
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Post by james r chapman on 7/29/2020, 11:16 am

I believe, with possible exceptions, all manufactures use a fully supported barrel. Either the Clark/Para or Wilson/Nowlin style
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Post by Kp321 on 7/29/2020, 11:39 am

The Super has gone through several improvements in its long history. The ramped barrel and better supported chamber are fairly recent improvements. Of course for most of the cartridge’s history, shooters were not trying to hot rod it for maximum performance. The biggest improvement before the ramped barrel was the switch from head spacing on the rim to case mouth headpacing. As well as I remember, Nowlin was the man behind this improvement which improved accuracy. Probably in the 1970’s?

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Post by james r chapman on 7/29/2020, 12:44 pm

Useful info
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Post by Wobbley on 7/29/2020, 4:22 pm

The ramped barrel and more support in the chamber were as a result of the IPSC crowd taking the 38 Super to ”Major Power Factor” in the 1980s.  A Major load in a Super is about the same pressure as a sub-gun loading in 9mm.  Only a few powders would reach the velocities needed at even that pressure.
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Post by mpolans on 7/29/2020, 6:04 pm

Originally, .38 super barrels were unramped.  Aftermarket ramped/fully supported barrels were introduced in the 1980s when IPSC/USPSA shooters started hot-rodding .38 super (and later, 9x19) to .357mag pressure levels to make Major Power Factor (bullet weight x velocity/1,000 = 175 or greater, back then) to make compensators work more efficiently and for greater mag capacity over .45acp.  At those pressures, in the days of less refined and experimental loading, case heads sometimes tend to bulge, and occasionally, blow out.  This resulted in fun things like "super face," where shrapnel from the brass would blow back through the slide's ejector slot and pepper the shooter's face (good reason not to skimp on eye protection!).  Sometimes, magazines would be blown out the of the frame...Pachmyar rubber grips with the steel inserts were popular.  The ramped/fully supported chambers helped reduce this drama a bit, along with availability of better powders that were better suited for such high pressure loadings, as well as lowering Major Power Factor to 165 (IPSC lowered it to 160). 
 Now, .38 super has decreased in popularity for IPSC/USPSA Open Division, in favor of 9x19 because the brass is cheaper and easier to find.

I would definitely not fire .38 super (much less 9x19 major) through any guns without a fully supported barrel, and I wouldn't fire anyone else's loads unless I was willing to trust my limbs to their reloading ability.

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Post by REConley on 7/29/2020, 6:43 pm

Being there when the first 38 supers arrived in USPSA, the barrels were commonly swapped out for Barsto Match. I believe that in 1983 those were not even offered as ramped. Heavy bullets were the norm, I shot 160 RN. The strongest cases were R-P nickel. The powder I used was Hercules Blue Dot.  The extra bullet was a nice advantage at times. The big thing was of course the 30K CUP pressure running through the compensator. You could buy walnut grips, fully checked that were thinned and had a 1/16th inch steel plate beneath. Those I used as much for the added weight and balance. The only blood my Super ever drew was from a friend that wanted to shoot it and when he performed a reload he released the slide from the top and then brought his left hand over the top of the comp and in front of the muzzle. He fired two shots and had a hole through the end of the index and bird fingers of the left hand.
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