Gun Digest

Know Your Cartridge: The Dependable .38 Special

At GunDigest, we independently review products. However, we may earn a commission when you purchase through links on our site. Learn More

At more than a century old, the .38 Special is still one of the most ubiquitous and well-rounded handgun cartridges available.

Also known as the .38 Colt Special and, more generally, as simply the .38 Special, this cartridge was developed by S&W and introduced with its Military & Police Model revolver, in 1902. This was originally a military cartridge meant to replace the unsatisfactory .38 Long Colt then in use by the Army. Colt brought out its version in 1909, which differs from the original only in bullet shape, the Colt being a flat-point style. Colt, Smith & Wesson, and others make revolvers specifically for this cartridge.

More .38 Special Information:

The .38 Special is considered one of the best-balanced, all-round handgun cartridges ever designed. It is also one of the most accurate and is very widely used for match shooting. Any .357 Magnum revolver will also shoot the .38 Special. It was once the standard police cartridge here and largely in Mexico and Canada. The .38 Special is also a popular sporting cartridge for small to medium game and varmints. With modern hunting bullets, it is effective for this purpose. Because of its moderate recoil, the average person can learn to shoot well with it in a short time, something not true of the .357 or .44 Magnums. The .38 Special is loaded by all major commercial ammunition manufacturers. Bullet weights from 95 to 200 grains have been available.

Editor's Note: This brief is an excerpt from Cartridges of the World 14th Edition.

Next Step: Get your FREE Printable Target Pack

Enhance your shooting precision with our 62 MOA Targets, perfect for rifles and handguns. Crafted in collaboration with Storm Tactical for accuracy and versatility.

Subscribe to the Gun Digest email newsletter and get your downloadable target pack sent straight to your inbox. Stay updated with the latest firearms info in the industry.

Get Free Targets

Exit mobile version