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A (.38) Super Idea

by J. Scott Rupp   |  February 7th, 2012 10

I was preparing Stan Trzoniec’s review of the STI Eagle prior to posting it on the website when I realized what was missing in my life. It’s not riches or fame; I’m in the wrong line of work for that. No, what I’m really missing is a .38 Super.

Taurus 1911 in .38 Super

When I was a kid my dad turned me on to Mickey Spillane’s tough guy hero, Mike Hammer, and by extension the Model 1911 pistol. While I was many years away from being old enough to buy a 1911, that didn’t stop me from poring over the Shooter’s Bible that lived on the nightstand next to my bed. The choices for manufacturer back then were pretty much Colt, Colt and Colt, and I agonized over whether I should get a basic Government model, a Commander or maybe a Gold Cup Match.

Mike Hammer, of course, shot a .45 ACP, but in my feverish study of ballistics of cartridges available for the 1911 I took one look at the .38 Super and thought, “This is it! Why wouldn’t everyone shoot this?” It was fast and offered lots of energy, relatively speaking (Winchester’s 125-grain Silvertip load spits out of the barrel at 1,240 fps for 427 ft.-lbs. of energy). Also attractive to a kid: It has the word “Super” in it. A no-brainer.

Nowadays I know maybe a little bit more about guns than I did then and understand all the reasons why the .45 and 9mm are popular in the 1911 and other autos while the .38 Super is not.

But guess who loves the .38 Super? Speed/action shooting enthusiasts. They love it because the bullet gets out of the barrel and to the target quicker and because the low recoil lets them transition to the next target faster.

I’ve had only one opportunity to shoot a Super over the years, a Para 1911 with a shiny chrome finish and faux ivory grips (a style said to be popular with shooters south of the border, in countries where owning guns chambered to military cartridges such as the .45 and 9mm isn’t permitted). I tested it and loved shooting it but wasn’t taken with the look, so I sent it back when I was finished.

Do I need a .38 Super? No. Do I still want one? Oh, yes. Will I be able to justify the purchase to my wife? Dicey. But the choice fits with my predilection for “oddball” calibers, and it will be fun shopping for one. My choices here in California boil down to Smith, Para, Taurus, Springfield, Kimber and Armscor.


  • Juan

    This is my first article I've read on here and I had to comment on it for the simple fact that I bought my first handgun a couple weeks ago at a gun show and it was a .38 Super 1911. Bought a Taurus PT 1911 AR with a chrome finish and some gold plating. The grips are brown which I'm not to fond of but those will be changed soon. Let me tell u I absolutely love the gun. My dad was thrilled that I got a Taurus being he Colt .45 but after he saw it and shot it he was more than ok with it as well. Hope ur able to get one…

  • tl5005

    Funny this article has popped up. I've jumped head first into 1911 bliss. My first was a Dan Wesson Heritage 2011 model (LOVE THIS PISTOL!!!) I've been researching 1911's and found some manufacturers make a .38 Super a few months back. Of course there's not many models in this caliber. I found the Citadel CIT38SFSPBN which is brushed nickel. Does anyone have anything good or bad to say about this pistol? I don't really know why I want a 1911 in .38 Super. Maybe I just want a 1911 in every caliber I can find. I've got .45 and .22…I just need 10mm, .40, 9mm and .38 Super to finish out my collection. I hope there's no more choices…my bank account will be empty!

  • noylj

    I still am not sure why the .38 Super isn't more popular, based on ballistics and the fact that it seems, from my shooting of .38Ss and 9x19s, to be more reliable in a 1911.
    Of course, the semi-rim and the early inaccuracy due to headspace issues didn't help.
    Now, 9×19 brass is so cheap that action shooters consider it a disposable, just like the bullet, and load it up to .38 Super velocity to make major.
    The other really GREAT 1911 round is the 10mm Auto.

  • Morcillo Ramirez

    Non comprendo il vantaggio della .38 super auto, quando esiste già una cartuccia di tutto rispetto e "bilanciatissima": la 9×19 parabellum. Forse per gli USA è un po' troppo "europea"……

  • George Marrero

    I have always liked the .38 Super since I started reading about it way back when. I currently have a Springfield 1911 in .45 and a Dan Wesson 1911 in 10mm. While both are excellent, my favorite is the 10mm. Soon I will be getting the Taurus 1911 in .38 Super. Talk about sibling rivalry!

  • pete

    If it was good enough for Sgt. Earl Swagger…….

  • jerry k

    ierry k. I don't see how a 9/19 would work in the 38 super as it head spaces on the case? any help on this ?

    • jerry k

      Disregard my last post I misunderstood Noylj's post on 9mm and 38 super.

  • John

    Well the article does say it has the benefit of low recoil for quicker follow up shots. Also, I don’t think the fact of the 9mm come from Europe has any think to do with it.

  • Jim Sun City AZ

    I have a stainless Taurus P1911 in 38 Super. The case is not fully supported . Many articles overlook whether a particular pistol fully supports the case. I have not started yet to reload but will probably use use .356 sized bullets which is the right size for 38 Super not .355 common to 9mm although some bullets are advertised as .356 but mike out to .355. Most factory loaded ammo is 130 grain hardball. Hopefully HP will be available other than Winchester Silver tip which is terribly expensive. How good is the accuracy from 9mm hollow points in the 38 Super and does anyone have a favorite load using 115 0r 124 HP bullets?

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