CBC 38 s&w "c"

Here are two CBC 38 S&W’s.

This may be a dumb question but what does the “C” in the 38 SWC stand for?

This second one is headstamped 38 SPL C. It’s obviously not a 38 Special (Case length 0.767") but rather a 38 S&W. Why the SPL headstamp and why the “C”?
CBC 38 SW spl C



The “C” stand fort “Curto” (Short). This is Brazilian variant of the .38 S&W that is based on the .38 S&W Special case. Still made as the “.38 CBC Spl Short”.



Thanks Fede. I figured it was probably a simple answer. So it’s just a variation of a 38 S&W and not a distinct case type.

Thanks again


Rimfire - I suspect that the .38 S&S Spl Curto IS a distinct case type. The .38 S&W and the .38 S&W Special are two different cartridges with different dimensions, including bullet diameter. A .38 S&W cartridge will not fit the chambers of a properly chambered .38 Special Revolver. I say “properly chambered” because I handled a Smith and Wesson Chief’s special once, from the Bangor Punta days, that had three of five chambers that would fit .38 S&W rounds. That gun was returned to S&W for a new cylinder.

I am assuming, since they have made both the .38 S&W c and the .38 S&W Special c, that the two CBC loads are of different dimensions. Hence, the .38 Special Curto would have the slightly smaller diameter case base and bullet making it a different cartridge-case type.

If I am wrong, I trust my friend Fede will correct me.

John Moss

P.S. I don’t know of any other maker that manufactures the .38 S&W Special Short cartridge, although it would be fun to compare the .38 Short Colt (Long Case version) to the Brazilian cartridge.

Not everybody agree on how it should be classified: .38 S&W variant or a unique case type? One one hand, the .38 S&W has different case dimensions and is not just a shortened .38 S&W Special, and on the other hand, CBC and other companies have manufactured cartridges having dimensions that do not always agree with CIP or SAAMI standards (for example, CBC also manufactured a .38 Short Colt based on a shortened .38 S&W Special case).

However, since CBC have manufactured both the .38 S&W and the .38 S&W Special Short at the same time, there is no doubt that it was intentionally made as a .38 caliber cartridge with improved ballistics that is able to be safely used in a variety of guns chambered for short .38 caliber case types. So in my opinion I agree with John, it should be considered a distinct case type, but not forgetting that there are no firearms specifically chambered for it.

As a side note, some confusion can be caused by early CBC catalogs, because the .38 S&W is listed as the “.38 S&W Curto”, although they are referring to the regular .38 S&W case type. Its description says that it was intended for guns chambered for the .38 S&W, .38 Colt Police Positive/New Police and also No. Mk. I revolvers.



Fede - speaking as a “behind the gun counter” guy for 36 years, I can tell you that in the USA, people not “in” to ammunition often refer to the .38 Smith and Wesson Cartridge as the “.38 Short” which can mislead sales guys into giving them a box of .38 Short Colt. I agree with you totally about the confusion caused in such cases, as with the CBC Catalog that adds the “short” appellation to the the .38 S&W correct designation.

Salud, amigo.



I guess I should have measured the cartridges first.

	38 S&WC

Rim 0.432
Head 0.377
Neck 0.375
Blt 0.357
C Lgt 0.782
Total Lgt 1.198

38 SPL C

Rim 0.430
Head 0.376
Neck 0.374
Blt 0.357
C Lgt 0.767
Total Lgt 1.138

Case diameter smaller than typically seen in 38 S&W’s


An empty box by Industria Argentina


In both cases, that of the .38 S&W and the .38 S&W C, and that of the .38 Spl and the .38 Spl C, the measurements you got off of the two respective basic cases fit right into the dimensional spread given by White and Munhall’s “Cenerfire American and British Pistol and Revolver Cartridges,” October 1950, pages 57-58 for the .38 S&W and page 60 for the .38 Special. Of course, they have none for the “Curto” versions by CBC, as they likely did not exist when H.P. White Lab compiled the measurements for the cartridges in their book.

Neither of the two sets of dimensions you give are smaller or larger than their respective parent cases.

I did not include total cartridge length, as that is a product of the bullet, and not critical in revolver cartridges as it can be in auto pistol rounds, nor the case length of the two CBC short versions as again, they are not in the book. Diameters fit well into the dimensions published, however.

John Moss

Greetings John,

I agree the case dimension fall with in the W&M dimension as well as those listed in Erlmeier and Brandt for 38 S&W. However after measuring a number of 38 S&W sample all modern samples I checked had base dimensions of 0.381 to 0.386. The only ones in the 0.37 range were several old German manufactured sample and an old unheadstamped case. The 0.37 cases will chamber in a 38 Special the 0.38 diameter ones will not.

It would appear CBC was producing these to function in either 38 Special or 38 Smith and Wesson revolvers

Hi rimfire - that is interesting. The only thing that leaves me in doubt is that if they meant for the .38 S& WC cartridge to work in both .38 S& W and .38 S&W Special caliber revolvers, why would they also have made the .38 S&W Special C?

I guess it is questions like these that come up - perfectly reasonable and interesting questions - that I never collected Revolver cartridges; only those for self-loading pistols, where the specifications spreads demand a little more precision. Even there, sometimes you find specifications overlaps that are puzzling. When I wrote my little treatise on 9 x 23 mm cartridges, trying to sort them out by case measurement was quite an experience. Cartridges that I thought for years were one case type turned out to be another. In some instances, cartridges that should not have interchanged with another, in this case primarily talking about 9 mm Steyr and 9 mm Bergmann Bayard, were interchangeable due to the true case specifications of the individual specimens.

Guess this is what I keeps us thinking.

Thanks for posting this thread. I, for one, didn’t even realize that CBC was producing these “curto” (hard for me to type that - I am used to the Spanish/Italian word for short, “corto”) types.

John Moss

The .38 S&W, introduced about 1877, (with a nominal bullet diameter of .361"}, is an older cartrifdge than the .38 S&W Special cartridge, introduced about 1898, (with a nominal bullet diameter of .357").

One was not strictly developed from the other, as the .38 S&W had a larger diameter bullet which, (to the best of my knowledge), was likely a leftover from making cartridge comversions from cap and ball revolvers which had a larger bore diameter.

The .38 S&W Special [case length 1.155", OAL 1.55"] was adapted from the .38 Long Colt [introduced 1875, case length 1.031",.OAL 1.357").

There’s something I was reading about Venezuelan pistol ammo that said that the “.38 Corto” [9x20mm] round was invented for civilian target shooters. It’s because .38 Special / .357 Magnum were police-issue and the government restricts and controls government issue ammo. The .38 Corto revolvers have shorter cylinders to keep them from using .38 Police Special ammo.

Likely true.
Many countries limit civilian ownership to not only non-military cartridges, but to obsolete cartridges that were once miltary, and, to make matters worse, some places limit firearm ownership to only smooth bore firearms.