Gun Digest

Ammo Brief: .38 Automatic


John Browning’s .38 Automatic is a gone but not forgotten cartridge and the parent to .38 Super.

This is an excerpt from Cartridge's Of The World, 16th Edition, available now at

This is another cartridge designed by John Browning and introduced by Colt in 1900 for its .38 Automatic. In its original form, this pistol was designed as a military gun. From this evolved the seven-shot sporting and eight-shot military models of 1902.

This cartridge was stepped up in power in 1929, and the improved round called the .38 Super Auto. In the United States, only Colt chambered it. In England, Webley & Scott chambered it in one version of its military automatic. In Spain, a number of automatics have been made for the .38 ACP.

Photo: Wikipedia.

General Comments

Although developed for military and self-defense uses, the .38 Colt Auto achieved a degree of popularity for sporting use through its relatively high velocity. The military turned it down because of previous poor results with the .38 Long Colt. No guns designed for this cartridge have been made since 1928, but plenty of the older model Colt pistols are still used.

In power, it’s about the same as the 9mm Luger, but it has a longer semi-rimmed case. This cartridge is now obsolete and is no longer loaded by any major ammunition maker.

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt of Cartridge's Of The World, 16th Edition.

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