.38 Special +P Experimentation

So I’ve had this draw case for some time now and was wondering if we had any resident experts on experimentation with +P .38 Special loadings. What companies/people/manufacturer were involved, early examples of headstamps, etc? I have tried looking into +P .38 special, but haven’t dug up anything that can’t be found readily on Google.

This case appears to be a few millimeters longer than a standard .38 Special case, but has signs it may have caused a stoppage when being trimmed. Primer pocket also has not been punched through and the rim is very rectangular when viewed from the edge (doesn’t have the typical bevel of a finished rim).

Any insight or experience is appreciated!

In the mid-eighties, I carried the Smith & Wesson model 64 in 38 Special as my regular service-gun with Federal ammunition. The one below. Maybe the 38 specialists know more about the +P story. All I can say is that I experienced still a tremendous difference between +P and 357 as I shot with my own 357 on the range.


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Otto Witt’s book on the 38 Special notes these are only known as unfinished cases
and they were reportedly an attempt by S&W to manufacture their own cases. Also that they were produced just prior to the decision by S&W to go out of business.

Was this around 1972-1980 or earlier with Bangor Punta? I must have had it wrong about the +P experimentation.

After digging around, I found a very informative thread on the forum:


I’m assuming this was later production after Fiocchi’s exit. Does Otto’s book say whether S&W fully produced +P under their ammo banner? I don’t remember seeing any, but I’ll keep searching.

Strelok - Smith and Wesson, as far as I can tell from their price lists of ammo, began manufacturing +P ammunition in 1975 (Price list 02-1475-11) in seven different loadings, which remained consistent pretty much until their end of ammunition production.

The +P loadings were:

110 Grain JHP
125 Grain JHP
158 Grain JHP
125 Grain JSP
158 Grain JSP
158 Grain Semi-Wadcutter, HP - Lead
158 Grain Semi-Wadcutter - Lead

None of these loadings are listed on the 1974 price sheet I have.

Well that clears that up. I guess it’s nothing too special then, probably just got stuck in the machinery and kept.

Well it is an attempt to manufacture their own cases & all known are unfinished draws. Plus it was the last attempt and has a unique headstamp. It is listed last in his book.

I believe Lew Curtis might still have copies to sell. Go to his site which is listed in the links to other sites portion of the forum. Very good book.

SO… to me it would be a very good “keeper”

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I saw Lew’s listing on his site, I think I’ll see what I can offload in the next few weeks and get a copy of the .PDF at the very least. I don’t need another rabbit hole of collecting just yet, but reference material is always helpful.

I would keep it too, as Pete suggests, as the headstamp font, to me anyway, as someone who does not collect .38 Special, looks quite different than most S&W headstamps I have seen. The form of the ampersand is especially unusual to my eye.

I did not mean to intimate that this case was not unusual; simply clarify that Smith and Wesson had marketed .38 Special +P ammunition in some quantity and over a large period of time, as this did not seem to me to be evident from the thread’s content.

Pete’s advice of both keeping the round and getting Otto Witts works on this caliber, are both very good.

John M.

I’m definitely keeping it! I never really paid attention to the ampersand until you mentioned that it looks very different. I tried googling around for Fiocchi ampersands because of the similarity of the font from this case and some Fiocchi 9x21 posted on the forum.


Otto’s two volume set on 38 Special and 357 headstamps and box labels is part of a group of documents that have previously been sold in hard copy by GIG Concepts Inc. Much of this material is listed on gigconceptsinc.com, either under items for sale or the free downloads. it also includes other information that was never offered. This entire group of research material has been provided to the IAA to be included for free access by IAA members.



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I’ll have to sell off a few items and I’ll probably download the .pdf!