What Ever Happened to the Hot-Rod 38 Super Cartridge?
Dr. John Woods 12.16.20
The what? For many shooters, even otherwise knowledgeable pistoleers, the 38 Super is not a well-known pistol cartridge. It was at one time the hottest thing going especially in organized practical pistol matches all over the country. Why it has died a slow death is still somewhat of a mystery to shooters that love the 1911 pistol platform. Maybe it can still be resurrected.
I first was exposed to the 38 Super in Columbia, Missouri while attending college at Missouri University. I was invited by a good friend to attend a shooting match that was gaining popularity among handgun enthusiasts at the time. The match was to be held at the then fast growing Chapman Academy range owned and operated by Ray Chapman. Some lights may be going on among old time pistol match shooters. There the 38 Super was king.
Ray Chapman was perhaps the originator of the shooting style and matches that became known as the IPSC or the International Practical Shooting Confederation in 1976. Jeff Cooper was the first president of the organization which has now grown into the largest such shooting confederation in the world. It was designed to exhibit real practical shooting skills with original non-modified handguns chambered in cartridges like the 9mm, .45 ACP, and the 38 Super.
The 38 Super was created by Colt in 1929 to extend the power of the older 38 Auto/38 ACP. 38 Super was for many years the most powerful round to be used in an automatic pistol such as the 1911 platform. It can not only be used for shooting sport games, but is well suited for hunting small to medium sized game as well. It is touted for longer range reach, but an honest appraisal of that is difficult to determine. I would consider it a 50-yard game getter with proper bullets.
Speaking of bullets the most popular factory and handloaded ammunition for the 38 Super uses bullet weights of 115, 125, and 130 grains. Full metal jacket and hollow point bullets have been the most popular and most likely to be found on the dealers’ shelves. An interesting fact during this current ammo shortage, shelves were virtually empty at a local Bass Pro Shops store, but this past weekend, I found six boxes of 38 Super ammo. Perhaps that says something about its current popularity.
You may not find a pistol chambered for the 38 Super at local dealers, but it is still available from several pistol makers if you search hard enough. Kimber is one such 1911 pistol maker that lists the 38 Super as available. If you’re looking for something different in a 1911 pistol, make a search for the 38 Super.