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The Specials

This is a discussion on The Specials within the Ammo Dump forums, part of the Firearm Forum category; NO, ....not the meatloaf special . Not "Attention K-Mart Shoppers the Blue Light Special is in aisle 4..." and not the Special Snowflakes that need ...


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Old December 9th, 2016, 04:40 PM   #1
 
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The Specials

NO, ....not the meatloaf special.

Not "Attention K-Mart Shoppers the Blue Light Special is in aisle 4..."

and not the Special Snowflakes that need therapy after the presidential election

I'm referring to the 38 Special and the 44 Special.

I want to open up a discussion about these two great cartridges that are often viewed skeptically in today's world.

The 38 Special and the 44 Special were once the "New & Improved" cartridges of their day. They were both derived from earlier cartridges [ the 38 Long Colt and the 44 Russian] and both are outstanding iconic cartridges.

However, both arguably have suffered somewhat in the court of public opinion after the introduction of the magnum versions of the 38 Special and 44 Special (the .357 mag and the 44 mag).

It's unfortunate how the old faithful dog gets pushed aside when the new puppy arrives.

The degree to which these fine cartridges are denigrated and disparaged is astounding and disturbing.

The 38 Special was introduced in 1898 and is an outstanding cartridge. After the introduction of the .357 magnum people began to view the 38 Special as substandard. I've heard people speak of the 38 Special as if it was barely adequate for self-defense. Some comparisons with the .357 magnum make the 38 Special sound as if it cannot penetrate tissue paper at 10 yards !!!!!

The 44 Special, introduced in 1908, faired even worse. After the introduction of the 44 Magnum, the 44 Special was practically put out to pasture. Now the current SAAMI spec 44 Special does suffer from somewhat anemic factory loadings but it's still an excellent cartridge. With the right load the 44 Special can really shine.


I own magnums and I can shoot them just fine. However, I prefer the Specials.
I shoot far more Special loads than magnum loads and I think the Specials have a LOT more to offer than common opinion seems to support.


What say you?




Last edited by Petrol and Powder; December 9th, 2016 at 04:44 PM.
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Old December 9th, 2016, 04:59 PM   #2
 
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I love 'em both.

Especially the 38 SPL because of how easy it is to reload and the brass practically lasts forever.
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Old December 9th, 2016, 05:31 PM   #3
 
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I like the 44 special and have had several guns in it. I had a charter arms 4 inch bulldog at the" son of sam" time in the late 70s.For those too young google it.
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Old December 9th, 2016, 05:44 PM   #4
 
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Neither is ignored here. The .38 (Special) rides with me daily except in the woods and that's when the .44 (Special) takes over.
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Old December 9th, 2016, 05:51 PM   #5
 
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I carry a 357 magnum snubbie (loaded with 38 special +p hollow point) as my every day concealed carry. I fire it at the range twice a week (sometimes with 357 magnum rounds). Although I have other firearms, I love this one the most, and it is always on my hip.

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Old December 9th, 2016, 06:07 PM   #6
 
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I've been reloading for decades and started casting bullets several years ago. The 38 Special and the 44 Special are fantastic platforms for cast bullets. I've always had a strong affinity for the 38 Special and it has only grown stronger with time.

I load and shoot .357 magnums but the numbers are not even close to the numbers of 38 Specials I load and shoot. Most of my revolvers are chambered in 38 Special and I see no need to seek out more magnum revolvers.

One of my bigger mistakes was to let go of some large bore revolvers years ago. I drifted away from big bore revolvers and sold mine off. When I returned to the big bore revolver scene, the 44 Special had taken on cult status (and comparable cult like prices !).

The Specials really are workhorses and capable of far more than many people realize or are willing to admit.
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Old December 9th, 2016, 07:37 PM   #7
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Petrol and Powder, For a cartridge to survive for more than 100 years, it truly does have to be "Special". The 38 Special was developed for black powder but was soon upgraded with smokeless powder. The 44 Special started out as a smokeless powder cartridge, however it uses a high capacity, low pressure case, which was the trend back in the day.

The 44 Special is a low pressure cartridge and it was made for fairly weak revolvers and still is. The Charter Arms Bull Dog is a classic example. What I find interesting about a 44 Special is its rated momentum. The experts say a momentum between 20 and 30 is ideal for self defense. If you look at a Momentum Chart, you will see a 44 Special is centered between 20 and 30, making it an excellent self defense cartridge. Here's a link: Ammo Momentum and Energy Chart 38 Specials just barely squeak into the minimum momentum for self defense but don't let those ballistics guys fool you ... a 38 Special will still get the job done.

Both "Special" cartridges were intended for lead bullets and to this day, they are both available in factory loads with lead bullets. As most people that get serious with lead bullets know .... when loaded properly, they can be a lot more accurate than jacketed bullets at a fraction the cost. These two cartridges seem to keep boolit casters busy.

Back when I was in my prime, 38 Specials were very popular. You could buy a host of different loads from wadcutters to modern hollow point jacketed bullets. Try finding 148gr HBWC ammo now .... it's about mission impossible. Also back in my day, most police officers carried a S&W K-Frame 38 Special revolver. When NRA Bullseye matches were popular, it seems everyone had a 38 Special revolver .... like a Mod 14 with a 6" barrel. When loaded with 3gr of Bullseye powder under a 148gr LHBWC, you had about the most accurate load in the whole world.

I blame gun magazines for the drop in popularity of the "Specials". Seems the gun rags always push semi-autos or magnum revolvers. After many years of "bigger is better" most of the shooters in the US have become brain washed. I refuse to succumb .... I still have my S&W Mod 10 by my bedside loaded with 148gr wad cutters.

I'm hoping Ruger's resurrection of the 44 Special in a Blackhawk will help keep it alive. Right now, ammo prices and availability have almost forced 44 Special owners to reload. Ruger has also introduced new revolvers chambered for 38 Special so I don't see it dying anytime soon.
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Old December 9th, 2016, 08:24 PM   #8
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The only "special" I'm familiar with, was the 32 Winchester special.

And truth be told, Ive no idea WHY they called it a special. But it was a helluva deer rifle back in the day. Thats what we cut our teeth on, and everybody wanted one back then.

In the backwoods & farmland of PA, it was well into the 1970's before they started to fade out. We still have two of them.
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Old December 10th, 2016, 04:37 AM   #9
 
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Also, back in the day, I used to shoot Camp Perry matches with a 6 inch Python and loaded 148 gr wadcutters with 3.0 grans of Bullseye. Extremely accurate!!!!!. The o'l Python was a heavy bugger to shoot one handed, but I was much younger then, and much more steady. Come to think of it, do they even shot Camp Perry anymore? Or is everything now "fast and furious"?
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Old December 10th, 2016, 05:33 AM   #10
 
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Iowegan, Thanks for the comments. It does seem that newer shooters or younger shooters often view the 38 Special as a cartridge that, "you can also shoot in your .357 magnum revolver".
While there's no doubt the .357 magnum can exceed the performance of the 38 Special, the 38 Special remains an effective cartridge.

I don't know how many times I've heard newer shooters say something to the effect of, "Well it's just a 38 Special...". Or when examining a revolver chambered in 38 Special they will say, "why would you want that? You can't shoot magnums in it?", inferring that the inability to chamber a magnum cartridge somehow renders the gun practically useless ??????

I don't know if that mindset is from brain washing or marketing; or if marketing is brainwashing

The 38 Special is capable of outstanding accuracy but it can also get the job done as a self-defense cartridge. The round nose lead bullet was not the best performer but when the 38 Special was loaded with an appropriate bullet it proved to be very effective.

Back in the revolver days of American law enforcement many agencies prohibited the use of the .357 magnum. One can question the flawed logic of those policies that were based in appearances, political correctness and just plain stupidity but those were the parameters the officers were forced to work within. When the 38 Special was the only option available to those officers, those officers used good tactics, good training and the 38 Special to survive. It worked and it still works.

The 44 Special is in a little bit different arena and I think it suffered even more than the 38 Special when its magnum version was introduced. The 44 Special is a low pressure cartridge and has been almost universally ignored by firearms manufacturers after the introduction of the 44 Magnum.
There are very few DA revolvers chambered in 44 Special. The Charter Arms 44 is a notable exception. The S&W models 21, 24 and 624 are N-framed revolvers and were basically 44 magnum size revolvers (at least externally) that were chambered in 44 Special. S&W doesn't seem to be very interested in producing 44 Special DA revolvers.
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Old December 10th, 2016, 06:25 AM   #11
 
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I have a 3" Taurus Model 431 in .44 Special as a nightstand gun, loaded with Silvertips.

Also have a 3" S&W Model 36 in .38 Special, just because.

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Old December 10th, 2016, 06:54 AM   #12
 
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Here you can read quite a bit about the .44 Special:

.44 Special Articles

First, I normally use the cartridge that the gun was designed for. So in my .357s I shoot .357s... BUT not at .357 power levels. As a reloader, I load down to around 1000fps for a bit higher than .38 Special velocities, but less than .357 full house velocities. Win Win. Same with the .44 Magnums, etc. Only exception is my .327 Single Seven which I only should .32 H&R mag. Don't have an .38 revolvers, so don't load that cartridge.

That said, I really like the .44 Special. It is right up there with the beloved .45 Colt. Some days it is hard to pick between the two as both shoot really well out of my SA revolvers for trail/range. The .44 Special Bulldog is my goto for CC. There is plenty of power here for 99.9% of what I need a revolver for, so I am content with the .44 Special. The downside (if you can call it that) is really the .44 Special is a reloader cartridge. Finding a box of ammo, the cost of the ammo can be a deterrent to some. I like the Skeeter load for my revolvers (Bulldog excluded). Feel is the perfect power level for the cartridge. While one can shoot the Kieth load in the Rugers, I would rather move to the .44Mag for that purpose (which is very rare occurrence here). Anyway, as Taffin stated in one of his articles "I hold nearly as dear as Mom, Apple Pie, and the Flag, namely the .44 Special. " ... Thank's be to Ruger for making the medium frame flattops and New Vaqueros in .44 Special to allow us to really experience/enjoy the grand o' cartridge!!!!

Last edited by rclark; December 10th, 2016 at 06:57 AM.
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Old December 10th, 2016, 08:08 AM   #13
 
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I own several .357Mags as well as several .44Mags, in addition to those I own a Colt Detective Special, as well as a S&W Model 10, the only .44 Special I own however, is the Charter Arms Bulldog with a 3" barrel. Both the Charter Arms and the Colt Detective Special have seen quite a bit of CCW carry as an off duty police officer. The Model 10 was simply an occasional range gun, that I definitely enjoyed shooting, in fact to this day.
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Old December 10th, 2016, 09:04 AM   #14
 
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I'm currently loading 38 Special in WCC71 cases and Lyman 358429 cast soft for 175 grains over fast burning powder to the lower pressure +p levels for use in S&W Model 10, 2" and Taurus Model 85, 2" and Colt Detective Special 2". Great manageable hard hitting and cheap to shoot. 38 Special is a 1st line favorite for me, sees much more use than any of the magnums.
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Old December 10th, 2016, 09:44 AM   #15
 
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rclark - I also download 44 mag casings to "Skeeter" 44 Special levels. 44 mag brass is easier to come by and it simplifies my logistics. The only downside is that it takes just a little more powder in that larger magnum case to match the "Skeeter" load but that's a price I'm willing to pay.
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