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.38 Special +p ammo in older steel S&W J-frame revolvers -- advice from old LEOs?

Discussion in 'Handgun Discussion' started by fireninja13, May 1, 2013.

  1. fireninja13

    fireninja13 Newberg / Portland Metro Active Member

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    So, after some looking I finally found a pre-lock shrouded-hammer S&W J-frame -- a model 49-1. I have always wanted one of these ugly snub-nosed hunch-backed little things. And after shooting a buddies modern hammerless airweight, I decided I wanted the old Smith action, the option of SA shooting, and no lock, TYVM. :cool:

    I'm loving the little hunchback , but I'm wondering if I can safely run .38 Special +p through it. . . I have found conflicting info on the various forums elsewhere. Some say that the older steel J-frames are stronger than the alloy successors and can safely shoot +p, despite not being rated for it (due to the fact that it wasn't even standardized then). Additionally the model 49-1 was apparently modified from the model 49 by having an additional pin to help with the higher-pressure .38 Spec loads that law enforcement officers were running through their J-frames in the mid-late 80s. but, despite the mod the barrel is stamped .38 Special -- it was not approved for +p ammo.

    So, I'm wondering if anyone hereabouts has any experience running +p loads through the older steel J-Frames. I'm especially interested the experiences of older-generation law enforcement types who used +p or other hot loads in their steel J-frames.

    Thanks!
     
  2. fireninja13

    fireninja13 Newberg / Portland Metro Active Member

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    Thanks totsonritz -- I'm thinking seriously of using +p Federal Hydra-Shok as my carry load, and practicing exclusively with standard pressure .38 special. But, I'll have to try the 158 grain ammo -- what brand do you recommend? Is it a SWC, JHP or one of the bonded jacket rounds?

    Figure that if it comes to that 1 in 10,000 chance of actually using the old bodyguard for SD I wont worry about wear and tear :)

    Still would love to hear from folks who did this back in the proverbial day though

    BTW, I found the 49-1 in pristine condition with 99% perfect bluing and original grips at a pawnshop in Tigard in a case surrounded by modern plastic semi-autos and cheap no-name guns. If I told you how much I paid for it you'd be even more jealous ;)
     
  3. MountainBear

    MountainBear Sweet Home, OR Well-Known Member

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    I like the 158 grain SJHP Remington ammo. On occasion, I carry +P in my guns, but not generally. I've ran it through all manner of old Smiths, including a no-dash Model 36...
     
  4. teflon97239

    teflon97239 Portland, OR Well-Known Member

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    Do I get today's prize for digging up the longest inactive thread?

    If you decide not to train religiously by running several boxes of +P loads through your EDC pistol, for whatever reason, I would still recommend practicing with a few now and then if that's going to be your carry round.

    The difference in feel (and grouping) can be significant when you compare larger pistols with full-size grips to the tiny, lightweight J-frame. Also when you compare the recoil and between-shot recovery times of normal pressure .38 and +P rounds. Maybe a purpose-made .38 hollow point with excellent expansion specs will suffice?

    Whatever is in the cylinder, I want to totally expect what a pipsqueak (easily-concealed) pistol is going to do when I pull the trigger 1-5 times. Both hands, single strong, and single weak. For that reason, it's the last weapon I switch to at the end of an hour on the range. Because (heaven forbid) it could just be the next thing I shoot.
     
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  5. Medic!

    Medic! What just happened? Has eagle eyes. But cant remember what he saw. Bronze Supporter

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    Speak and it shall be done! :s0143:




    Here you go! :D
    But your the last one I'm giving it to.


    :D oldestthread0hx.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2016
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  6. teflon97239

    teflon97239 Portland, OR Well-Known Member

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    In a case like this, must I wait a couple years to come back and thank you?

    It's an honor.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016
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  7. WAYNO

    WAYNO Oregon City Gold Supporter Gold Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    There was a time that most American made .38 Special revolvers expressly warned against the use of +P loading. But, back in those days, a +P load was in a spectrum nearing the .38-44, which was kind've an early .357. Todays +P loads do not get any near those velocities or pressures.

    But now, many of the revolvers of today that are the closest to the same revolvers of yesteryear, now magically are rated for +P. I do not know what manufacturing changes now allow virtually the same guns that used to not be rated for +P, now be okay with +P.

    When I was in the Army in the early seventies, I owned Taurus' copy of the S&W Model 10. The Taurus forbade the use of +P ammo, and I respected that. Although the gun really was a piece of junk in comparison to the Model 10, it shot fairly well for a gun that sold for $66 at K-Mart. Then one day, I figured I'd try some +P's in this revolver. Just a few rounds, and it actually twisted the barrel in the frame. So the front sight, which was designed to be at roughly 12-o'clock, was now at roughly 12:20.

    My story does eventually get to a point. The old Model 36's, Model 10's, 640's, 642's, and more, were not rated for +P's. The same guns, today, are. It's a modern selling feature that folks would insist on before purchasing such a gun.

    WAYNO.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2016
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  8. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    I bought a brand new S&W M13 .357 magnum years ago with a loose barrel.. I could unscrew it with my hand even before firing the first round.
     
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  9. ma96782

    ma96782 Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn't worry about +P .38 Special ammo used in my M60. *IIRC....S&W once said, it was OK. As long as the model number was stamped on the frame (see it when you opened the cylinder) and if it wasn't a steady diet of it.

    *Not speaking about the S&W Airweight or alloy framed revolvers of that time period.

    That being said....my off duty M60 (since the late 70's) has been treated that way. Practice rounds were .38 special RNL reloads. But for the serious work, it was a SJHP 125 gr. .38 Special +P. As I remember, it was Remingtons for the first few years. I retired it a few years after we switched to 9mm for duty work. A S&W 3913 took it's place as my off duty firearm.

    Here is a story from the S&W Forum pages (posted by:AKAOV1MAN) ......

    Anyway, this might also help you to decide....

    http://shootingwithhobie.blogspot.com/2009/01/p-phenomenon-by-saxonpig.html

    Aloha, Mark
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016
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  10. Sgt Nambu

    Sgt Nambu Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I wouldn't be afraid to use +P in a J frame ...........in 2013!

    After so many years I'm older and so much more timid about too much pressure!
     
  11. Mark W.

    Mark W. Silverton, OR Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    It has been my experience as a handloader and owner of a couple of 2" barrel pistols. Hot loads are a waste of time unless you just want to make a huge ball of fire and blind yourself when you pull the trigger. Remember gun powder burns it does not explode. Accuracy goes to crap with all the powder burning after the slug leaves the barrel. And a 2" barrel is just to short to develop and realize extra velocity with a hotter load.

    YMMV
     
  12. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    This is why you need a 2" .357 magnum because somehow it magically generates 2-4x the power of a 2" .38.
     
  13. ma96782

    ma96782 Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    Old school S&W M60 (no dash number). Note: Filed down frt sight and pinned barrel.

    006.jpg

    Aloha, Mark
     
  14. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I've seen an older Mod 60 (not sure what dash#, but this was 25 years ago and the gun wasn't new then) that changed dramatically after one box of Winchester +p and I owned a prelock 649 that I shot a lot of very healthy 357s through and it was fine. ???
    I always wondered if S&W changed the steel they made the guns out of. That could explain the difference between "no +p rating" and 357 Magnum.