Originally Posted by redscho
The 38 Special was introduced in 1898 as a black powder cartridge. The black powder load required a case size of 1.155 in. The 9 mm Luger came along in 1902 as a smokeless powder cartridge with a case size 0.754 in. Since both fire relatively the same size bullet, one has to wonder why the 38 Special has not been shortened for the smokeless powders of today. It has been over 100 years now, seems like someone would have done it.
Short answer: If you shortened it, it would no longer be a .38 special.
You could of course shoot .38 Long & Short Colt, though with their bunny fart pressure ratings (7500 & 12,000 respectively,) there really isn't much point. I'm sure finding brass could be a challenge too. .38 S&W is a hot rod (14,500) compared to the Colts, but it uses a .359 to.361 bullet, which renders it non-applicable here.
One has to wonder what problem would be solved by shortening the.38 special's case. It would raise pressures a fair bit and kill one of the nicer things about it. The fact is, the .38 special is a pretty good performer considering it's operating pressure. It's also proven exceptionally versatile over the decades. It's an extremely accurate target cartridge when loaded appropriately and it's a valid SD round when dialed up to full strength. All the while, not being fussy or temperamental. It's ridiculously easy to reload, and with the low operating pressures, the brass will last a long time.
The 9mm Luger only performs as well as it does because it runs at pressures equal to or higher (depending whose standards you're using) than the .357 magnum.
Modern powders have no problem working just fine with all that extra space. I have used small charges of Bullseye with no downside, as have many others over the last century I'm sure. If one is truly concerned about filling that massive cavern that is the .38 special case
, then Unique or Trail Boss should do the trick.
The real fun starts when you add a bit more than 1/10th of an inch to the .38 special case and dial up the pressures to 35K.