.38special is more powerful than 9MM right?

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by CAMCHAMPION1988, Oct 9, 2011.


    CAMCHAMPION1988 New Member

    I was reading a thread a while back how someone said a 9MM is more powerful than a .38special round is that true? The case length on a .38sp is 29.3mm which means more powder in the shell than the 9MM shell Case Length which is 19.15mm. The .38special shell holds more powder whether they are both FMJ or HP rounds and the weight/gr of the two i you got to factor those in.

    I usually shoot .38sp out of my S&W .357magnum and 9MM out of my Glock 17 or other 9MM'S I feel a difference between the two.

    I thought the .38sp was a more powerful round than the 9MM???
    I always factor in who has more Powder backing them the diameter is almost the same.

  2. Scratchammo

    Scratchammo New Member

    A 9mm fires at 35,000 psi while a .38 only fires at 20,000 psi.

  3. BillM

    BillM Well-Known Member Supporter

    In terms of stopping power, 9mm wins:

    Handgun Cartridge Power Chart - Condensed Version

    I shoot USPSA, and we use "Power factor" to determine relative
    power. Not totally scientific, but it's a way to somewhat compare.

    FPSx bullet weight in grains, divided by 1000. So a 125 gr bullet at
    1000fps= 125 PF.

    Again, the 9mm--in factory loads---wins.
  4. Lindenwood

    Lindenwood New Member

    Yeah, 9mm in factory loads definitely wins. Though, some crazy guy named Keith kept filling the .38sp with more and more powder and eventually called it the .357 Magnum :p . But yeah, for it to still be anything close to .38sp standard specs it won't outdo a 9mm loaded similarly.

    Hell, Buffalo Bore puts out a 147gr 9mm load that does 1150+fps, and actually makes Major class, heh.
  5. armsmaster270

    armsmaster270 New Member

    Case size has nothing to do with it a target load of bullseye powder is not deep when it covers the bottom of the shellcase. Due to modern powders some of them don't fill the case like the older powders Hence the .45 GAP which glock came out with to replace the .45ACP. How is that working for you Gaston Glock.
  6. Soliferrum

    Soliferrum New Member

    yea im not following this, please go into further depth. to me, and its not opinion its just something by my reasoning, the .38 special would hurt more. but i guess that varies between raw power, and stopping power. because penetration does not equal stopping power.

    oh and whats wrong with the GAP? seriously, the more im here the more i find people with inside knowledge im trying to compile a book of.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2011
  7. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

    The .38 Special was originally a black powder cartridge. It is fired from a revolver, and you lose some energy from the cylinder gap. There is a smidgen difference in bullet diameter between 9mm Parabellum and .38 Special (.356 and .357) but the 9 has more velocity.

    .45 GAP? Nothing wrong with it- it is just an answer in search of a question. BTW, in the 1930s, Remington loaded a special 45 ACP round for the Thompson. Same cartridge case, longer bullet to keep it out of pistols. Rated at 1050 ft lbs, penetration 5 inches of white pine at 500 yards.

    It ain't the vloume of the cartridge case, it is what you put in it, and what you put it in.
  8. g17frantz

    g17frantz New Member

    That's my carry round in my g17. Its a wicked round for sure. 1175 fps and muzzle energy of 451 ft. Lbs. Shot a honeydew with one....devastating. The nose of the bullet is sick looking.
  9. EagleSix

    EagleSix New Member

    In case you missed the point c3 was making, let me follow-up on this. Fast burning black powder takes up more volume than a comparison of fast burning modern smokeless powder such as BullsEye. 38 Special, being originally designed for black powder needed the entire case for the powder charge intended to achieve a certain bullet velocity and that black powder charge created a certain amount of chamber pressure. When black powder was replaced with smokeless powders, the charge volume was greatly reduced to keep the chamber pressure safe for all those 38 Special guns designed for the relatively low chamber pressures of the 38 Special. That is in part why there is lots of room (volume) left over in the 38 Special case when you use a modern fast burning smokeless pistol powder. Load some up with black powder and you will need all the case space you can get! I don't know if you needed all this, but hopefully it helps....

    Some folks think the 38 Special in some loads (velocity and bullet weight and design), make for better defense than some 9mm's, that they may be correct. I would think there are some better bullet weight, design, velocity combination available in 9mm that will out perform almost all the 38 Special loads available, but more than the loadings is the type gun each caliber is usually fired from which may be more desirable for a defense/offense handgun......the ole argument.....Pistol -vs- Revolver!!!

  10. orangello

    orangello New Member

    Shake a .38 special cartridge lengthwise.
  11. Lindenwood

    Lindenwood New Member

    Not sure what any of this means...

    But, 9mm has more energy than .38sp. That is, it has a greater capacity to do work which, in this case, is done damaging tissue. Essentially, the 9mm is capable of creating greater total wound volumes than the .38sp.

    And pain has little to do with it :p .
  12. noylj

    noylj Member

    Wouldn't one or two minutes with a reloading manual answer the question?
    115gn: 1200-1250fps (PF~141)
    124gn: 1100-1150fps (PF~140)
    147gn: 950-1000fps (PF~142)

    .38 Special:
    110gn: 1050-1100fps (PF~118)
    125gn: 1000-1050fps (PF~128)
    140gn: 900-950fps (PF~129)
    158gn: 800-850fps (PF~129)
  13. BlueTurf

    BlueTurf New Member

    There was some good information presented in this thread. When making comparisons like this there are variables and their effect to consider. Personally I think that the 9mm is a more versatile cartridge than the .38 Special.
  14. canebrake

    canebrake New Member

    Not if you want to shoot an autoloader.

    Tough to compare apples and oranges;
    • .38 S & W Special = Rimmed
    • 9×19mm Parabellum = Rimless
  15. BlueTurf

    BlueTurf New Member

    I guess I should clarify what I said earlier. I believe that there is a wider variety of factory ammo being produced for the 9mm as opposed to the .38 Special, which gives the shooter more choices. I think both are fine cartridges. And, as pointed out already, with these two cartridges you are pretty much talking autoloader versus revolver.

    I have found this thread quite interesting because just about every time I go look at guns at Cabela's or Sportsman's Warehouse I see women there checking out handguns, and it is usually small 9mm and .380 autoloaders or .38 Special revolvers. Maybe this is what the sales people are recommending to them but almost invariably this is what they are looking at.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2011
  16. ninjatoth

    ninjatoth New Member

    I "think"alot of people will carry standard pressure 9mm as where people will generally carry +P in .38spl,in that aspect the two are pretty darn equally matched,but your .38 hold 5 rounds and a carry 9mm will hold-what,8-10 rounds?More capacity is better,but the .38's overal gun reliability is better.I say the two are a wash.
  17. ninjatoth

    ninjatoth New Member

    BTW,I kind of sidetracked there for a minute,but back to your original statements-you say you feel a difference between the two,the reason you think you feel more power in that .38 is because all the recoil is going into your hand,as where the more powerful 9mm's recoil is being absorbed into the pistol's recoil spring and slide.
  18. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

    Also, the barrel sits lower in the hand than a revolver and is more "in-line" with the arm. This allows more impact to be absorbed by the arm. With the higher sitting revolver, the hand absorbs the impact.

    I think physics has something to do with it.
  19. spittinfire

    spittinfire Active Member Supporter

    I think you're splitting hairs.
  20. BlueTurf

    BlueTurf New Member

    I have always been a 1911 guy but wanted to get a smaller handgun for personal carry under certain circumstances. I looked at the 9mms, .380s and .38 Special revolvers. I ended up with a Beretta 92L Compact that suits me very well. It holds 13 rounds, and I have lots of different ammo to choose from.

    In the end I think we all can agree on one thing. The most important consideration is being familiar with whatever weapon a person chooses. Being able to safely and effectively use a handgun is he most important factor in providing protection. The biggest question I would have is, "Can I hit the intended target with whatever weapon I have at the time?" As someone in this forum points out, a hit with a 9mm will do more than a miss with a .44 mag. Handguns can also provide some great recreation with target practice. Shooting a handgun, becoming familiar with it and getting better and better with it is fun.