A Special That Mike “Duke” Venturino Photos: Yvonne Venturino These are Duke’s current .38 Special revolvers, out of the dozens he’s owned in the past 40 years. Left to right: S&W Model 442, S&W Military & Police (aka Model 10), and S&W Outdoorsman (aka Model 23). A 58 few issues back I wrote a piece in these pages titled “The .44 Special Ain’t So Special” (July/Aug 2009). Some might be surprised I received as many “atta-boys” for that piece as I did death threats! Now I want to tell you I think the .38 Special is indeed special. It does exhibit the inherent accuracy often mistakenly attributed to the .44 Special. It can be loaded hot in suitable handguns, and it can be loaded very light for paper target shooting. It’s equally adaptable to tiny snub nosed 5-shooters or large frame 6-shooters. It’s even been chambered in at least one auto pistol, the S&W Model 52. Factory ammo comes in so many styles, types and weights it’s impossible to keep track of them all. It’s also a handloader’s delight: easy to load and with a vast amount of suitable components available. First off, let’s look at some dimensions. Of course, most of you know the The Redoubtable .38 S&W Special .38 Special isn’t a .38 caliber. It’s actually a .35 caliber, with the bullet diameter being .357". It was preceded by the .38 Long Colt which had a case length of 1.03". Then the .38 Special came out with a 1.16" case. It was succeeded by the .357 Magnum with a 1.29" case. All .38 Special revolvers can safely fire .38 Long Colt cartridges. All .357 Magnum revolvers can safely fire both .38 Long Colt and .38 Special cartridges. Just so you know. Just about anybody can be taught to shoot a .38 Special with enough proficiency to defend themselves. In fact when someone asks me what would be a good home defense handgun, yet they don’t show signs of becoming avid shooters, I tell them to get a mid-size frame, 4"-barreled, .38 Special revolver. There are plenty of them still being made today, and there have been millions made in the 110 years of .38 Special history. Does that 110 surprise you? The following information comes from U.S. Cartridges And Their Handguns 17951975 by Charles R. Suydam. The Union Metallic Cartridge Company made the first .38 Specials early in 1899 to go with S&W’s brand new First Model Hand Ejector revolver. Original loads held 18 grs. of black powder with 158 gr. roundnose bullets. In June of 1899 the powder charge was increased to 21.5 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MAY/JUNE2010 110 Years?