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The First MAGNUM

Jan 2, 2001 (Updated Jan 4, 2001)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Beautiful workmanship, power, awesome fireball

Cons:Not better known

To kick off the new millenium I thought I would write about one of my favorite "fun guns" – the Colt Government Model Super 38 Automatic Pistol. First, a little background might be in order...

While not technically a "magnum", the Colt Super 38 was the first large caliber automatic pistol cartridge that gave velocity in what was to become the magnum arena, boasting a 130 grain bullet at 1,300 feet per second.

The Super 38 was first chambered in the Colt Government Model pistol in 1929. It was produced as a regular product from 1929 to 1971, and intermittently after 1971 to date. The Super 38 cartridge is simply the older 38 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge of 1900 loaded to higher velocity, due to the additional strength available in the Colt Government Model pistol over the earlier Colt 38 Automatics.

The 38 ACP was developed in 1897 by John Moses Browning, a prolific inventor of automatic firearms. It was chambered in the first Colt automatic pistol, the 1900 model, built under license from Browning. The Colt 38 auto was the first to use the dropping barrel locking system designed by Browning, however it was based on two parallel links that dropped the barrel at both ends equally. By the early years of the 20th century Browning had refined his system to a single link at the chamber end of the barrel, combined with a bushing at the muzzle end to drop the barrel at an angle.

This, with other evolutionary changes resulted in a stronger action and paved the way for the US Army’s adoption of the 45 caliber version, first produced in 1905 and refined several times, as the Model of 1911 US Army. The 1911 pistol served with minor changes from 1911 to 1988 as the government’s pistol. Many soldiers can testify to the effectiveness of Old Slabsides, as it was affectionately called, whose eclipse was much mourned. At the same time, Colt has continuously produced the Government Model for civilian purchasers since 1911.

The Super 38 cartridge boasted the appellation "most powerful automatic pistol cartridge" for years, until the advent of the 10mm Automatic cartridge in the 1980s. The Super 38 in factory loads from Remington and Winchester boasted 475 foot pounds of muzzle energy, compared to the 45 ACP’s 369 FP (the next strongest cartridge).

The Colt Super 38 (also called 38 Super) is an impressive pistol, as are most Colt Government Models. Mine is blue, but they have been produced in Nickel and Stainless Steel also. The magazine capacity is nine rounds, which is two more than the .45’s seven round capacity. Hence, in an era before the double-digit capacity "wonder nines", the Super 38 was considered high capacity.

Firing the Super is a revelation to those used to the crack and buck of the Colt 45 Automatic. The first thing you notice is markedly reduced recoil, coupled with a louder, higher pitched crack, and an impressive fireball, visible in full daylight. Accuracy is phenomenal, as it shoots as well as the shooter can hold. But this is true of any Colt Government Model in good condition.

The Super 38 cartridge has enjoyed a surge of renewed interest since the founding of the competitive shooting sports of IPSC and IDPA. These focus on fast, accurate shooting of pistols of adequate power. The 38 Super is one of the only factory pistols that can make "major power factor." That, with its 9 round capacity allows more shooting with less time spent reloading. And speed, accuracy, and power is the name of the game!

The Colt Super 38, in the hands of an experienced hunter and loaded with modern expanding bullets can be used for game up to whitetail deer size. It is in the same ballistic category is the world renowned S&W 357 Magnum.

If you are looking for a gun that will provide a lot of fun and adaptability, you might want to consider the Colt Super 38!

Recommend this product? Yes

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