Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Carl

    I don’t know about this… seems like training would be a lot more expensive than with a more mainstream caliber. If you have lots of time to spend on handloading or heaps of money to burn I guess it could work though…

    But with handloading for self-defense there might be reliability- and/or possibly legal risks.

  • Matt Groom

    Modern .38 Supers which are truly rimless, like the .38 Super Comp or the .38 TJ are excellent for SD. The actual .38 Super, which is based on the .38 ACP and designed to headspace off of the rim is both inaccurate and prone to rimlock and/or Jamming.

  • Just buy a 9mm.

  • Dave

    Heck, yeah!
    One of the biggest reasons to use a .38 Super is because it comes wrapped in a Colt 1911 package… as opposed to “just buying a 9mm”. However, it would be better to compare a Super with the .357 Sig.

  • El Duderino

    Matt Groom, the .38 Super isn’t accurate? It’s one of the most common IPSC and USPSA competition calibers. The main reason those other .38s exist is due to a change (increase) in the energy requirements by IPSC for Major competition that was later changed back. Yes they are more reliable without the semi-rim, and the .38 Super stinks in staggered or double-column mags, but a lot of professional shooters still use .38 Super raceguns.

  • Matt Groom

    El Duderino,

    It’s accurate now, thanks to innovators like Jim Clark. It now headspaces off of the case mouth on most guns as of the 1990’s, but for most of it’s life, the .38 Super was about as accurate as CNN. If you find a good deal on a used .38 Super, it’s highly probable that it’s not some built up race gun that someone used in IPSC or USPSA that has been stripped for use as a carry gun. It’s far more likely that it’s an old Colt that might headspace on the rim, I.E. one that shoots like a smooth bore. Generally, guns that need custom work are not good choices for concealed carry, and as far a buying a new gun is concerned, there are cheaper and more commonly available calibers out there.

    • Matt, that is very interesting. I did not realize they changed how they headspaced the cartridge. Makes sense.

  • El Duderino

    Matt Groom, it’s true the headspace issue ended in the late 1980s when Colt (and others I’m sure) followed the lead of custom gunsmiths and started headspacing off the case mouth like any proper centerfire pistol. So yeah, that 1930s-vintage 1911 in .38 Super in your gun safe that was supposedly carried by Eliot Ness’s driver is probably a poor choice for a tack-driving carry or competition gun.

    I did a lot of looking into a 1911 in .38 Super for my wife. I decided against it as 1) .38 Super is not popular and therefore hard to find in my part of the country (Pacific NW), 2) mags and everything else are much less common, and 3) she really didn’t mind .45 ACP recoil that much. A 9mm +P is so ballistically close to a .38 Super as to make the purchasing decision much, much easier — and you can still get a .357 SIG if you want to exceed its realistic limits. If you’re into cool, rare caliber guns firing ammo designed to punch through the steel doors of a 1931 Cadillac 355-A, go for it.

  • Back in 2000, I built a single-stack .38 Super for IDPA Enhanced Service Pistol. It was a fun pistol, and was really mild even with the Georgia Arms 147gr JHP load. The latter claimed velocities of 1,200fps.

  • Matt: I believe that gunsmith Richard Shockey was one of the first to hit upon headspacing the .38 Super off of the case mouth. He went as far as reaming out the existing chamber in order to sleeve it and then recut the chamber. Irv Stone was one of the first to offer .38 Super match barrels with headspacing off of the case mouth.

    Prior to the 1980s, Clark was better known for taking .38 Super pistols and converting them for .38 Special wadcutter loads. I can’t imagine that he offered .38 Super match barrels before it became the hot number in IPSC.

  • Matt Groom

    Thank you, Mr. Watters.

    I actually looked that up, because I couldn’t remember clearly who in fact made that discovery, nor which magazine I read it in several years ago. Couldn’t find it on the internet, and my friend Stuart didn’t know.

    I’ve always had a great affinity for .38 ACP/.38 Super/.38 TJ, I just don’t own one!

  • Mark Vreeland

    The new Taurus 9mm 709 slim is the way to go for personal carry. Ammo is cheap and practical to shoot on range and conceal on person. Stainless $380….or $350 blue..It’s awesome, slim, 19oz and comes with two mags…lifetime warranty