38 Special for Sale - Buy 38 Special Online

Find loads of .38 Special ammo and firearms at GunBroker.com. The .38 Special's accuracy and manageable recoil makes it the most popular revolvers cartridge today, more than a century after its introduction into the world of firearms. Find new auctions for .38 Special ammunition, revolvers, pistols and carbines every day at GunBroker.com, the world's largest gun auction site.

.38 Special General Characteristics

The .38 Special actually has a caliber of .357-.358 inches and the ".38" refers to the approximate diameter of the loaded brass case. It's 1.55 inches long, with a bullet diameter of .357 inches. Except for the case length, the .38 special is identical to the .38 Short Colt, .38 Long Colt, and the .357 Magnum – allowing the .38 Special to be fired in revolvers chambered for them all.

History of the .38 Special

Introduced by Smith and Wesson in 1898 as an improvement on the .38 Long Colt, the .38 Special was a black powder, rimmed, centerfire cartridge for use in the Philippine-American War. Within a year of its introduction, the .38 Special was offered with smokeless powder loadings, and soon development began on a 200-grain version that fired at a lower velocity and was adopted by Britain as its standard military handgun cartridge.

By 1930 the .38 Special had built up some momentum with shooters of all kinds and new revolvers, like the Smith & Wesson .38/44 Heavy Duty with a 5-inch barrel and fixed sights, were winning over police departments across the U.S. Smith & Wesson also began developing a high speed version of the Heavy Duty in response to requests from police departments looking for an auto body and body armor penetrating round. As the .38 Special evolved, firearm manufacturers began creating weapons like the Colt Official Police and Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum to handle the new type of cartridge.

During World War II, some U.S. armed forces were issued a .38 Special S&W Victory revolver as a sidearm. In 1943, a new .38 Special was developed by Springfield Armory and adapted for Smith & Wesson revolvers with a copper flash-coated bullet and full steel jacket. At this time, many U.S. Naval and Marine aircrew were issued .38 Special tracer rounds for emergency signaling situations. In 1956, the U.S. Air Force adopted a military variant of the .38 Special and by 1961; a slightly revised M41 .38 cartridges had been adopted for U.S. armed forces using .38 caliber revolvers. The tracer rounds became standard in aircrew survival vests.

Requests for more powerful ammunition in the 1970s eventually lead to the creation of the .38 Special +P, designed for both .38 Special and .357 revolvers. There was also a "For Law Enforcement Only," variance called the .38 Special +P+ that was only meant for use in .38 revolvers and would destroy revolvers rated for the lesser pressure cartridges. With reduced recoil, less noise and lower cost, the .38 Special is popular choice among .357 Magnum shooters.

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