Unusual 38 Special

What is this? The headstamp is “Western 38 special”, it is side-by-side with “W-W 38 Special” in the 2nd photo.

The cast bullet makes me think it is not factory. Is it a one-piece case? The edges of the mid-case crimp are not even, as I would think they perhaps ought to be? Another question why is this crimp so severe, if it’s just a typical bullet seat?

I bet it was done with a device similar to a tubing cutter. I would not want to fire it in my gun. That case has a real good chance of separating and jamming the forward portion of the brass, along with the bullet, in the barrel. The bullet might continue forward once the brass hangs up in the rifling, though. Hmmmm…

I had another thought…could the deep groove have been caused by crushing/case collapse during seating and crimping?

That would be my guess. That the case collapsed at the lower cannelure.
Note that in the picture of it and another .38 Special round, the case in question appears to be shorter than the normal cartridge, even beyond the amount such a heavy roll crimp would shorten its OAL. Hard to tell from a picture, but I think Roundsworth is on the right track.

I was holding out hope for a secret-agent sort of silenced captive-piston type of internal device, but another explanation such as a collapsed crimp is more probable. It does look strangely perfect to be caused by a collapse though, with the seam looking almost machine-made that way. Is the seam perfectly uniform all the way around, and how does the whole cartridge weigh out on a digital scale as compared to similar wadcutters?

The case, if collapsing, would probably do so along a weak point in the case, and most of these .38 Special cases have more than one case cannelure. I suspect that the deep cannelure was always a cannelure, but simply that the case collapse along its circumference making it much more pronounced. That would account for what regularity is there.

I weighed this “unusual” round, it weighs 13.99 gm. By the way, it has been fired. It came in a box of about a dozen rounds I bought to shoot in my snub-nose revolver, just for practice. I found another identical case and headstamp in the box, it is also a reload, it weighs 13.72 gm. It is significantly longer than the “unusual” one, but, amazingly, the 2 original cannelures are equidistant from each other in both cases. I expected the “unusual” groove to consume some metal and bring them closer together. I’ll post photos later.

would another possible answer is that the deep cannular be placed on the cartridge to prevent a lower than acceptable seat on the bullet which would cause a compression load with the gallery type bullet?

Here are additional photos with a “normal” looking reload (13.72gm) vs the weird fired one (13.99gm) on the left.



Here is my .01 worth…The ‘ring’ below the knurled cannelure is a stretch ring, a sign of an impending case separation. the case wall has thinned at that point because probably too heavy a crimp was placed on previous reloads resulting in the case starting to separate at the weakest point on firing. With the bullet pulled and a small sharp ‘feeler’ wire dragged along the inside wall will probably reveal a depression or thinning of the case wall at the point of the visible external ring. The heavy crimp would certainly collapse the case at the stretch ring.
IMO, for what it’s worth…

The primer has already been hit so I can’t fire it. I’ll try inertia pull.

I would cut it carefully in half, so you can see what happened with the case wall