Odd 38s

From the depths of my last cigar box came these 2 odd balls.

The cases are thin brass with a copper primer. The headstamp is simply 38S&W. The charge is black powder, topped with some odd fiberous material wrapped in scotch tape!

Based on what I have learned around here, I’d say these are homemade prop loads or the like.

Comments welcome, to confirm or deny.


I’d guess they are home-made blanks or, more likely, for shooting rats in the basement. The rodent kind, that is.

Those don’t look like 38 S&W cases.


Indeed Ray, they don’t look like 38 S&W cases but that is what the head is marked with. In fact they are identical to a 38 Spl case. I have a REM-UMC round that has .38S&WSPL on its head so I assumed that early on, they were marked differently than today.

In the 1st picture it looks like 2 different cartridges but they are identical.

I don’t think the use of just “38S&W” on these non-maker-marked cases of .38 Special length is particularly unusual, is it? I have had many of them go through my hands over the years.

Correct me if I’m wrong because I don’t have any references to hand but wasn’t S&W a headstamp in its own right?

I’m sure we were getting S&W ammunition over here around the 1980s

Saying that, I dont think that is the reason here. I would like to see a picture of the headstamp if you can put one up.

There was also a long version of the 38 S&W . Fiocchi,for example,listed 2 version of it,one loaded with a lead bullet and the other one with a FMJ bullet.Since the first one has an outside lub bullet,the case is a little shorter.The other one has a case almost identical to the 38 Special one.
Anyway , I have never heard of an american-made 38 S&W long cartridge

This is my sample , listed in the municion.org database


I admit that I’ve never seen a long 38 S&W but I’ve never really looked for one either.

Question. What revolver would these long cartridges have been used in? They would be too long to chamber in a standard 38 S&W cylinder and possibly too big in diameter to chamber in a 38 Special cylinder.

Are they strictly a non-American cartridge?? And why would they use “S&W” in the name?


Just a guess, but what about a 38S&W SHOT load? While my sample has a wood capsule to house the shot, did they ever make a “long case” and use a over shotwad/roll crimp version?

simply I dont know.Even Brandt’s hasn’t got very much info about this round.
I only know Italian ( Fiocchi), German and Spanish made cartridges , possibly with differences about case lenghts and diam. ( Brandt lists two case lenghts: 28,20 and 28,30 mm) and two hds : S&W 38 LONG and M.W.S. + + 38 S&W

I have a German-made box of these with the generic ‘.38 S&W’ headstamps. I’m not at the house now, so can’t say if the maker’s name is on the box. The box is labeled 38 S&W with a small ‘Lang’ overlabel, as I recall. Also, as I recall, the dimensions of mine are closer to a .38 Long Colt than anything else; I believe they were a tad shorter than a 38 Special. They are loaded with lead bullets; Shotmeister’s two appear to be home loads, as Ray pointed out.

A scan of the heads for Vince.

I wonder if these rounds had the original bullets pulled, black powder added and the plugs put in. Perhaps these are old enough to have originally been black powder loads.

Guy, these may indeed be common to you because you have been at this a long time and go to a lot of specific shows and such, I would guess. But to me, very new and inexperienced, I have not seen many of these particular ones. While I have no illusion that these will pay for my trip to SLICS next year, the cases themselves are most interesting to me. I want to add them to my collection for now but I want to know all I can about them. No place better than here to do that, with all the knowledge people like you and others have.

If they really are 38 S&W long they surely aren’t common items.

Even in Italy almost nobody has ever heard of this particular cartridge
Here and there ( like Guy’s box) can be found some samples , but I think they are often sold as 38 Special rounds ( that’s the way I obtained my sample)

Something to keep in mind in trying to date revolver cartridges is that black powder loadings were available far later than one might offhand imagine; like into the twenties or even thirties in some cases. Can’t cite specific examples of this practice. JG

The 38 S&W long was listed in the 1926 Fiocchi catalog,you can download it here

armietiro.it/edisport/armi/N … enDocument

( be patient there are heavy files so it will take some time)

Here’s a picture of my box of .38 S&W Long:

The area of the label with the makers name was originally covered with a small overlabel that said ‘MADE IN GERMANY’. The label copies the format of the early UMC and USC Co labels. The revolver on the label appears to be a S&W Model 1 1/2 Single Action based on its birdshead grip, which happened to be a .32 caliber rather than .38.

The cartridge dimensions are:
bullet - .357"
neck - .381"
base - .382"
rim - .440"
case length 1.039"
loa - 1.372"

I didn’t say these were common. I have only seen two of the boxes, and recall finding only one of the loose cartridges.

My cartridge case is noticeably shorter than the one Brandt used to illustrate the .38 S&W Long in his book.

Otto Witt’s book on 38 Special headstamps illustrates quite a number of headstamps “38 S&W” and the associated cartridges. Some headstamps are split top and bottom and some on the bottom. Most are 38 Special length, but one seems to be an intermediate case between a 38 Long Colt and 38 Special. There is also one that has 38 S&W across the top of the headstamp and LONG across the bottom. This one has a U on the primer which probably stands for Utendoerffer. All, or most of these were likely German made in the 1920s and early 1930s. During that time frame the German factories were trying to make hard currency by exporting to the US and had a whole range of Dealers/Distributors in the the US. They exported a lot of 38s, both long and short case. A number of these are illustrated in my article the Eagle Cartridge Co in IAA Journal #446. Most of these rounds were loaded with lead bullets. I have no idea of the powder, but it is not unreasonable that black powder was used.

My bet is that both of your cases were made in Germany in the 1920s or early 1930s, and that the lead bullets were replaced with homemade paper and tape bullets.

Although Otto’s book is organized by headstamp, it has color photos of most of these early cartridges and a lot of the exotic 38 Specials and 357 Mags.

Many apologies Guy! I had John’s comments on my brain and your name came thru my fingers! Everybody is probably confussed now.

Question still remains; What are these cases? The case length measures out to 1.17, case diameter .37, rim thickness is .06 and its width .47. Are they .38 Specials or a Smith&Wesson creation, different from the .38 Special?

Shotmeister - my comments only related to the headstamp, and had nothing at all to do with cartridge length, other than incidentally. I just wanted to point out that there are at least two or three variations of .38s with longer cases in these rounds with a caliber marking only, that are marked as .38 S&W in one pattern or another, rather than .38 Special or any other longer .38 caliber designation, such as .38 Long Colt, etc.

Lew is right about Otto Witt’s book showing some of these. Very good work. Wish there was one like it on .45 Auto, and .40, and no Lew, I am not going to write either. We could use someone to write one on the .25, .32 and .380 auto cartridges as well.

Yours are .38 Special cases; they fall well within the range of acceptable case lengths for that cartridge (1.110 - 1.160). The rims are a bit large, but should function in most .38 Special revolvers.