Specification on the 38 S&W Long/Special cartridge

I just had a question on the S&W 38 revolver cartridge which is way outside anything I know. Specifically the question was:

[quote]I have a problem with (what is) exactly (the) specification of 38 S&W long cartridge. I have two samples, one with “38 S&W” headstamp at 6 hour with 29,3mm case and the second with S&W at 12 hour + 38 at 6 hour with 26,5mm case. Are they both 38 S&W long, or what?
Can you help me with specification of them please?

I told him that the headstamps sound like the rounds were likely made in Austria or Germany after WWI (1920s and early 1930s) when the factories were selling cheap ammo to the US. Both headstamps are listed as Unknown in Otto Witt’s book.

Any help would be appreciated. I will send him the URL for this thread. Maybe he will become a Forum member.


see my lot 602 in sale 14 for what the 26mm short case is.

The 29 mm case is .38 Special length & the 26 mm case is .38 Colt
length. The .38 S&W is much shorter ,approx. the same length as the 9mmP (19 mm).

The .38 S&W case is only one length ,the .38 Colt has the short & long cases.


The two .38 Colts listed in Brandt: are 18 to 19mm CL for the long #362, , and 16 to 17mm for the short #363. the case in question has a 26.5mm case length.

What are you looking at, or what am I missing?

The dimensions relayed by Lew are definitely not .38 S&W. That was one point I was trying to make. Plus as far as I know there was no .38 S&W short or long, just one stubby little case whose OA case length is 19.69-.051mm

Since one of the cases OA length is given as 29mm and believed to be a .38 caliber is looks like a .38 S&W Special. Any combination of S&W plus 38 makes sense on that cartridge’s headstamp.

The second cartridge with a 26 mm case is within SAAMI spec (26.29-.051 mm) for a .38 Long Colt inside lubricated . There is no mention of inside or outside as Lew relayed it.
Outside lubricated Colt cartridges are another animal entirely, cases tend to be much shorter.

The bigger question is why a .38 Colt is head stamped S&W???

Scott, the .38 S&W Long discussed here is a unique European cartridge that exist in several variations with measurements that may be unique or very similar to .38 Colt Army or .38 S&W Special cartridges. The most interesting and rare variation was made by Lignose and headstamped . L . 38. S.u.W. LG. (Smith und Wesson Lang). We discussed these here: iaaforum.org/forum3/viewtopi … =8&t=11060




I stand corrected, I think…

The cartridges described where at first ID’d by Lew as possibly Austrian or German 1920-1930.

The cartridges you point to are Italian ?

The box photo in the post says " Smith and Wesson" 38 Long. The h/s photos in that post have an “L” or “long” in them. The headstamps described by Lew do not. One of the cartridges is h/s .380 , not unlike the English version of the .38 S&W.

If the cartridges Lew described are the cartridges you and Pete are discussing, I did not get that impression.

Had the person who querried Lew gave him dimensions…then there would be little to discuss. A bullet for a .38 S&W measures about .362" versus a .38 Colt (inside lube) that averages .357" .

I trust you see my confusion ?

One of the cartridges referred to in the old thread is - .38 Smith & Wesson lang (9 x 26 R), lead bullet, made by Braun & Bloem;

The .380 is added confusion however there several .380’s an extra short, a short, an intermediate case and a long. They all are known with a .380 designation. The intermediate is known in in two British variations one by Joyce (F.J. 380) and one with a raised ELEY BROS headstamp (the raised headstamp is also known in the Short variation). This cartridge is not listed / noted in Brandt. The European version, Pivi shows in that post, and it was also made in Germany with just a .380 headstamp at 0600h.

The case here is headstamped 38 S&W, in the .38 S&W cartridge/case type headstamp, headstamp variations are known, at the bottom, or top & bottom or bottom & top and all just say 38 S&W. And to further confuse things the same headstamp was used on the .38 S&W Special. That is the problem. It’s not a Spl or an typical 38 S&W or a Colt

If you look at my catalog you can see the measurements in it which are: This case measures 1.036” / 26.32mm long, and the OAL is 35.19mm. Other measurements in mm, are: 11.16 rim, 9.65 head, 9.64 mouth, {just before the taper crimp}, and 8.99 bullet. (354")

The book: Brandt, Jakob, H, Manual of Pistol and Revolver Cartridges. Journal-Verlag Schwend GmbH, 1998. I referred to lists this cartridge but with a wrong photograph, and measurements. It is worth obtaining as it covers both metric and inch case types. Like everything is has a few mistakes, but still is an excellent book.

Hope this clears the mud.


I understand now that you are discussing cartridges that are known to be marked S&W .38, but are not true .38 Smith & Wesson cartridges. By that meaning they are not 19mm cased,with .360" bullets. The cartridge designed by Smith and Wesson for use in their top break revolvers.

So did the manfucturers simply apply the Smith & Wesson name to these cartridges for marketing ?

What pistol(s) are these .38 Longs for ?

There were no standards, there was no universal agreement on dimensions. This stuff was regarded as hardware not something that “mattered” in the sense that we think it matters today.

Scott, I prepared this table for better understanding of some of these odd .38 S&W Long cartridges. As you can see, they are all different, some are unique, some could be considered a .38 Colt Army and others a .38 S&W Special. To avoid more confusion, I haven’t included measurements of the .360 No. 5 and .380 Long, which also fall between this range. Also, some manufacturers like CBC used the “.38 SWL” designation to denote standard .38 S&W Special cartridges.

Yes Scott, marked just for marketing & not for the weapon as such. Now the .38 S&W Spl was for a .38 S&W Spl. chambered gun as were the 32 S&W, or in the correct length variations for a .38 S&W chamber.

I seriously doubt they applied to S&W for name use. These were likely from the 1900’s ? to the late 1930’s, as a guess.

Some of these (in the common 38 S&W or 32 S&W case types) were imported into the US under various name like perhaps Keystone, or perhaps Warner Arms or perhaps Universal don’t know for sure which exact name was used, just giving various import names for cheap fodder. Fede likely has a better handle on that.

As to the firearm ? What ever they would fit into would be my best guess, I don’t know for sure any specific gun(s) but very likely European or South American as that was the market…

As you can see their were a couple of makers who did manufacture the long (26mm) variation, but thay are not at all common, Must have been a small market & short lived round.

Vince brings up a point about if it fits it works, & some of that was likely true. But it still is a distinct round.

I see Fede has an answer which will be of help.

Edited once to correct spelling

Pete - when you say they these cartridges would be used in anything in which they would fit, I agree, and it brought to mind that I have a copy of a Smith & Wesson Military & Police model .38 revolver made in Spain, on the barrel of which it says to the effect "Use those cartridges which fit best this revolver."
That is the caliber marking for this gun!

Since especially in revolvers with unthroated chambers in the cylinder (bored straight through), only rim diameter, so they don’t overlap in a cylinder, and rim thickness, so they headspace properly, are important. As long as the bullets don’t stick out the front of the cylinder, the case length and cartridge overall length are not too important. I know you know this - it is for those who haven’t thought of that.

John that has got to be the best lawyer proof line ever printed on a gun. & very funny!

I think this stuff was mostly made after WWI when the ammo companies had very little local market and were trying to stay in business I have boxes marked 38 S&W with the following labels:

RWS The Rhen.Westph. Explosives Co — 20mm case-blt dia at casemouth 9.37mm

The Eagle Metallic Cartridge Co Germany J.H. Lau & Co Agents, New York—19.5mm case-blt dia at casemouth 8,77mm
The Eagle Metallic Cartridge Co Germany for The Austin Cartridge Co, St Louis Mo—blank

The Eagle Metallic Cartridge Co Germany J.L. Galef, New York----29.25mm case—this box is marked S&W Special blt dia at casemouth 9.15mm

All these boxes have red labels and the same crinkle brown box color.

There are also other boxes, both Eagle and International Cartridge Company in 38 Special and other box styles for these and other distributers.

This appears to be cheap ammo and no real standards except that it would all shoot through 38 pistols.

I don’t think there are any standard measurements for most of this stuff.