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In the market for a competitive .38 Special semi automatic

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In the market for a competitive .38 Special semi automatic Empty In the market for a .38 Special semi automatic

Post by MarkThomas Mon May 01, 2023 11:13 pm

15 years ago I was at a range with my wife and a friend shooting my friend's 9mm cannons.  My wife was shooting my Remington .22 single shot rifle.  The fellow in the next lane was shooting an automatic that was ejecting .38 revolver brass, which I found intriguing having never seen such a thing before.  I started a conversation and after chatting for a while he asked me if I wanted to shoot it.  Of course I said yes.  He had put 4 rounds in the clip when I told him to stop.  I didn't want to use up all his ammo.  He put a new paper target on the clothesline and ran it out about half way.  With my arm length the front rectangular site exactly matched the rear rectangular notch.  I lined them up on the center of the black and pulled the trigger.  The recoil was completely controllable, the sites came straight back down and lined up perfectly and I pulled the trigger again, and again, and again.  He ran the target back and there were 4 holes on the corners of a half inch square centered in the black.  lol  He said, "I thought I put 5 in there".  I wish he had.  We chatted some more and he gave me some tips if I ever wanted to shoot competitively, which I do now.

I can't remember the manufacturer of the pistol.  I seem to remember it was two words, like Charter Arms, but I always thought Charter Arms made junk (I could be very wrong about that).  It wasn't a Smith & Wesson 52, -1, -2.  And it wasn't a Colt.  Does anyone have any idea what I had in my hands?  The fellow seemed really pleased with himself when he said he paid $750 for it in the box some years before.  I would like one just like it.

Trying to find anything on the web is hopeless these days.  I went to a local gun shop, but they were too busy selling plastic pistols and assault rifles to pay me much mind.  The man I talked to behind the counter had never heard of a .38 Special semi auto.  So, I looked around for a forum that didn't seem to be too populated by idiots and here I am.  Can anyone help me?

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Post by RoyDean Mon May 01, 2023 11:25 pm

It could have been a Hammerli P240. They are special, rare, and quite expensive. Arguably the best there is.

There are several 1911's in 38 Special, none are common, and a good one is quite rare and, if in good shape and reliable, quite expensive. No doubt the guru's of such devices, JE and fc60 (and others) will now chime in.

Enjoy!

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Post by John Dervis Mon May 01, 2023 11:31 pm

I would bet you were shooting a Smith and Wesson 52. That was a very popular bullseye gun and as you observed, it was gentle to shoot.  The next most common .38 spl semi auto would have been a Colt Govt model 1911 that was converted to .38 spl.  That gun was popular as well because it was identical to the 1911 .45 acp.  I don’t think I have ever heard of any other make/model of .38spl.  
  These guns would still be competitive in bullseye competition especially if you are shooting indoors.  They are a struggle to shoot at 50 yards though.
  Just an FYI either of these guns will only shoot .38spl using full wadcutter ammo with the bullet flush to the case mouth. I believe some companies still make this but it would take a little bit of looking as most retail shops aren’t likely to carry it. 
  If you want to shoot in a match, create a post up in the general section about where you are located and looking for a match or league to shoot in.  Someone close to you can advise what is in your area.
Good luck.
John

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Post by MarkThomas Mon May 01, 2023 11:53 pm

Thanks John, I will start a post in the general section.  

The ammo he was loading into the clip was definitely not full wadcutter.  It looked just like the ammo I was buying for my 5-shot light weight S&W revolver with a longish barrel.  I bought that revolver brand new, and opposed to what most people will say about revolvers, that one jammed on me.  I had to take the trigger mechanism apart and deburr the parts inside.  It was the rough edges on a couple of them that stuck together and made the gun useless.  I have never trusted S&W since then.

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Post by RoyDean Mon May 01, 2023 11:58 pm

If the ammo was not wadcutter, then that cuts down the possibilities significantly. 

Not a 52, you stated that in your initial post. Cannot be a P240 (or any other high end Euro 38 that I know of). Probably eliminates all 1911 38SWL models.

Hmmm. A mystery gun!

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Post by MarkThomas Tue May 02, 2023 12:08 am

I don't think it was Smith & Wesson.  But like I say, my memory is not at good as it was 50 or 60 years ago.  It sure was a sweet shooter, though, and the ammo looked like revolver ammo.

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Post by swehrman Tue May 02, 2023 12:28 am

Maybe a Coonan Arms 357 shooting 38 special.

-- Scott
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Post by Dcforman Tue May 02, 2023 6:22 am

swehrman wrote:Maybe a Coonan Arms 357 shooting 38 special.

-- Scott

That's what I was going to say.

Dave

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Post by MarkThomas Tue May 02, 2023 8:16 am

when I look at Coonan Arms I see 1911.  The only .45 I have ever fired was a full auto Uzi with a wire stock and a long barrel.  40 round clip lasted 3 seconds.  It wasn't much fun.  I don't know anything about .45.   I will display my ignorance and ask does not the 1911 have a safety compressed by by the web of hand between the thumb and fore finger on the back of the grip.  What I fired did not have that 1911 feature.

Using search on the inter tubes (good data 50% of the time) indicated S&W also had a 52-2 "mid-range".  "Mid-range" appears to be the buzz word for non-full wadcutter.  The Colt National Match comes in .38 Special Mid-Range also, if I believe what Bing search serves up.

Part of the point of .38 Special is the ammo is pretty cheap, or at least used to be.  And for a 73 year old man with small hands, .38 Special makes total sense.  I can go .22 too and get serious, but I really liked that .38 Special recoil.

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Post by Rodger Barthlow Tue May 02, 2023 9:55 am

Not saying it can't be done, but you would have to have a full custom gun built just for .38spl semi wad cutter ammo like you shot in a revolver.
On the other hand a .38 Super would be the next best thing and a whole lot cheaper to build.
I have both, a custom 1911 .38spl wad gun and a custom 1911 .38 Super.
The 38 Super shoots as soft as the .38spl with the right reloads and is more forgiving at 50yds.
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Post by MarkThomas Tue May 02, 2023 10:28 am

I am a 73 old man who still rides a motorcycle, and socializes feral cats for fun.  I live in San Francisco.  I grew up in Minnesota hunting ducks and pheasants, first with a .410 single shot, graduated to a 16 gage double barrel at age 14, then a 12 gage double barrel, to finally inherit my fathers 1950 Remington Wing Master 870 12 gage pump when he upgraded to a Remington 12 gage automatic.  I still have the Wing Master, and I can't hit sht with a shotgun.

I've owned numerous hand guns, revolvers and semi automatics, and never had one that didn't jam on me during my ownership.  I think the Walther PPK I bought new jammed on the second round I put through it.  Maybe that's standard with new guns.  They have to be fired a bunch of time to wear everything in like a rebuilt racing motor.  The S&W 5 shot .38 Special lightweight revolver I bought new had trigger mechanism parts that looked like they had never been deburred when I had to disassemble it to unjam it.  I mean, get real.  You put newly machined parts like that in a tumbler before bluing.  The ragged edges jammed and the gun had to be dissembled to work again.  I deburred the parts with a stone I had in my toolbox, having been a journeyman manual mill man, amongst other things, but I always wondered about Smith and Wesson after that.

I gave the last pistol I owned to my nephew's wife when the voters of San Francisco passed a resolution to ban all handguns in the city.  I used to go dirt bike riding and shooting with them camped out in the national forests in California.  After camping out with them during hunting season one year I thought she should be carrying a handgun anyway; everyone else was.  And she really liked shooting the 1937 Mauser 7.65 .32 auto I got out of a reputable collection being sold off at an L.A gun show for the widow of the collector years ago.  It was carried by a Nazi Navy officer, and had all the symbols and numbers engraved and matching.  It even had a good barrel.  It was the real deal.  It jammed a lot, and creeped out my Jewish wife.

Some years ago at the range that was right on 101 north of SFO I met a fellow shooting a semi auto .38 Special that looked like it was using the same ammo as my .38 revolver.  He let me shoot it, and we were both impressed.  I can't remember the manufacturer's name, but I thought it was two words, like Charter Arms, but not.  I would have remembered Smith and Wesson, i'm pretty sure, having had at least one, even with my ancient memory.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't a Colt.  I am in the market for something like that.  It was a competition shooter with impressive accuracy.  Totally controllable recoil.  So sweet.

I am interested in competitive pistol bullseye shooting in the Bay Area, and would welcome any input about clubs and ranges.  If I can't find a .38 Special I like, I will go .22.  I am a small person with small hands, and there are many beautiful .22 target pistols that would work for me.  But I really like the subsonic .38 Special recoil.

However, the mystery .38 Special owned by the fellow in the next lane at the range years ago fit me perfectly, and I am looking for something like that.  It used the same ammo as my S&W revolver, not wadcutter, which is apparently expensive to find these days.  If anyone here knows what that pistol could have been I am super interested.  I am open to buying another manufacturer.  I am not in a huge hurry.

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Post by javaduke Tue May 02, 2023 12:13 pm

The only semi-auto that could shoot .38 special other than wadcutters was Coonan 357. They are not made anymore and very expensive.

For competitive bullseye shooting you would need .22 anyway, because a complete 2700 course of fire includes .22, any centerfire and .45 calibers. If you don't like .45ACP recoil, one other option may be a .32ACP or .32 S&W Long wadcutter pistol. 

As for the ranges in Bay Area - there's Coyote Point club, but as far as I remember, they only shoot .22 there, no CF is allowed.

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Post by toddcfii Tue May 02, 2023 12:17 pm

The only real mass market 38 Special Semi Auto Target Pistol that I know of was/is the S&W 52. No longer made and used ones go for about $1200-1500. The next most popular/available would be a Colt 1911 in 38 spl. Also no longer made. You said it probably wasn’t one of those so…. There were/are custom gunsmiths that will convert a 9mm or maybe 45 into a 38 spl. All of these BTW use wadcutter loads. I know of no semi auto 38 spl TARGET guns that shoot non wadcutter loads. BTW have laws changed in San Francisco?  You say you gave away your last handgun because laws changed in SF. You say you still live there. How would you own one now but could not before?  Just curious.
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Post by NukeMMC Tue May 02, 2023 1:22 pm

Rodger Barthlow wrote:Not saying it can't be done, but you would have to have a full custom gun built just for .38spl semi wad cutter ammo like you shot in a revolver.
On the other hand a .38 Super would be the next best thing and a whole lot cheaper to build.
I have both, a custom 1911 .38spl wad gun and a custom 1911 .38 Super.
The 38 Super shoots as soft as the .38spl with the right reloads and is more forgiving at 50yds.
I was going to recommend a 38super also.  I have a 9mm RO that Jon Eulette put a KKM 38super barrel in, tuned it and built it into an awesome EIC pistol.  I am currently shooting 115HAP bullets with 5.0gr of W231 and it is extremely pleasant.  It would be far from a stretch of imagination to make it into a softer shooting wad gun.  I need to size some heavy lead to see what it can really do.
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Post by toddcfii Tue May 02, 2023 1:33 pm

Mark,
Why did you post essentially the same question twice? Would make it easier for all of us if you kept the same question in one thread with more information or a second post to add information.
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Post by MarkThomas Tue May 02, 2023 2:51 pm

We voted in Proposition H in 2005, which banned San Francisco residents from possessing all handguns within San Francisco.  And drove the one gun store I knew about inside the city out of business.  According to Wikipedia, in 2006 a SF Superior Court judge struck down Proposition H, and in 2008 a California appellate court upheld that ruling.  

We have to conform to California state laws concerning handgun ownership and transfer.  Private party sales must go though a licensed dealer with the state DOJ doing background checks.  I would have to pass a written test to obtain a Handgun Safety Certificate before purchasing, and perform a Safe Handling Demonstration upon receipt of the weapon.  I have never done any of those things, but it doesn't sound all that hard.  Sales of ammo are also regulated.

As for the availability of an accurate, reliable .38 Special semi auto that shoots standard .38 revolver ammo, I only know I fired one 4 times, and it was the most accurate pistol I have ever shot.  I would like to know who manufactured it.  I looked at the name on the side of the gun, and sort of thought I had heard the manufacturer's name before, at the time, but I wasn't sure.  I'm nearly as positive as I can be knowing how my memory works that it was not a common name like Colt, S&W, Remington...  And the ammo the owner pushed down into the clip looked exactly like the .38 Special revolver ammo I was familiar with.  

As for prices, I have an upper limit of $2600 at present.  If what I am looking for is more than that I will just sell some more Tesla stock.  I don't want the stock.  I don't approve of Elon Musk nor am I impressed by Tesla cars.  I bought Maxwell Super Capacitor stock in 2014 for $9 / share because I thought BIG capacitors are a good idea.  It promptly dropped to $5 and stayed there.  A couple years ago Tesla bought Maxwell because BIG capacitors are a good idea, and I was suddenly the not so proud owner of 15 shares of Tesla.  Elon Musk played his games with the stock market and for an unknown reason to me I decided to sell 30 of the 95 shares I then owned at $1227 / share for walking around money.  I wish I had sold it all.  The 2/3 I held on to is now worth less than the 1/3 I sold at the end of 2021.

So that's my story.  .38 Special revolver ammo used to be cheap, there being so many police revolvers out there.  The automatic I fired was pure bliss after the 9mm monsters my friend brought around.  I want old school blued machined steel.  No plastic or sheet metal, except in the magazine.  I don't want stainless.  I know what I am looking for exist.  Just not so common.  There must be more than the one guy I happened to run into 15 years ago that knows what I am looking for.

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Post by javaduke Tue May 02, 2023 2:55 pm

Don't forget that even if the gun you are looking for existed, most likely it would not be on the CA roster which is still in place as far as I remember.

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Post by Jon Eulette Tue May 02, 2023 3:00 pm

CA has private party transfer and the 50 yr Curio & Relics. So any pistol before 1973 is legal to bring into the state. We had a recent ruling that might overturn the communist CA DOJ Roster. Its's been ruled unconstitutional but we have to wait on the states appeal decision.
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Post by toddcfii Tue May 02, 2023 6:08 pm

If there was a (non custom) semi auto that shot 38 special non wadcutter besides the Coonan this group would have already come up with it. Additionally, an M52 or 1911 in 38 WC would be more accurate and softer shooting than any 38 shooting round nose bullets. 38s aren’t cheap any more btw.
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Post by MarkThomas Tue May 02, 2023 6:14 pm

toddcfii wrote:Mark,
Why did you post essentially the same question twice?  Would make it easier for all of us if you kept the same question in one thread with more information or a second post to add information.
I don't know.  I'm a space cadet some days.

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Post by Wobbley Tue May 02, 2023 6:23 pm

As Jon has suggested many of the draconian CA gun laws may be going away soon…

As for the roster, the Colt Mid-Range and S&W 52 have “Olympic Exemptions” to the roster requirements.  As for individual custom built 38 Special guns I don’t think so, but some are certainly C&R eligible by now as they lost favor in the 1970s.  So I’d be on the lookout for a S&W 52-2 if I really wanted a 38 Special target pistol.  I know I like mine.  Or perhaps an older 38 special 1911 made by Clark or Giles that has a C&R eligible serial number.
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Post by USSR Tue May 02, 2023 6:26 pm

MarkThomas wrote:
toddcfii wrote:Mark,
Why did you post essentially the same question twice?  Would make it easier for all of us if you kept the same question in one thread with more information or a second post to add information.
I don't know.  I'm a space cadet some days.
Mark,

May I suggest that since you are 73 years old and a sometimes "space cadet", that what you actually fired was a S&W Model 52, and your memory of that event is failing you.   I don't mean to disparage you, as I will be 73 years old this year and so I know how age can play mind games with us.

Respectfully,

Don
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Post by Wobbley Tue May 02, 2023 6:55 pm

I have merged the two topics that were both started by Mark Thomas about needing a 38 Special Competition pistol.  Both were active at the time.  So your answers may have moved into the timeline.
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Post by WesG Tue May 02, 2023 7:28 pm

Paging Mr Bickar ...

There's a Bullseye league that runs twice a month year round at the Sunnyvale Rod and Gun Club. 280 to Foothill Blvd. Hang a right and head for the reservoir.

Wednesday nights. They shoot a '1200', 60 shots with a 22, 60 with a CF. Good bunch of guys there. Well, except for the clown that runs it ...

Last gunshop in SF. Was that the Gun Exchange on 4th Street maybe? I bought a 338 BAR there 30+ years ago.

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Post by MarkThomas Tue May 02, 2023 8:34 pm

Yeah, memory is funny stuff.  Especially on those days when I feel like I am flowing into the present from the future, instead of from the past like most of the time.

I am a physicist, or at least university trained for 12 years as one, and I'm not sure I understand why a flat nose wadcutter is more accurate than a round nose bullet.

The gun shop I was thinking of was on Mission up around 30th.  I bought .32 auto ammo there.

I'll look into the Sunnyvale club.  It's close enough.  Thanks for that.  What is a CF?  Compressed Fluid?

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