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Tonester2

Shooting +P ammo our of non +P rated revolver

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I have a Ruger SP101 .38 Special revolver that I got back in 1992. Back then I don't know if they had +P rounds but there's no markings on the gun anywhere that says +P. It only says .38 Special. Recently I came across some .38 Special +P rounds and I'm wondering if it'll be safe to shoot them out of my Ruger. I contacted Ruger about this and all I got was a canned legal sounding response saying it was designed for its intended purpose. So I'm asking if you have this pistol would you shoot +P rounds out of it? Thanks.

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Personally, given the choice of using +P .38spl in a modern .38spl revolver like your medium frame SP101 or using a sharp stick, I'd use the +P's.

You shouldn't make a regular habit out of it, but you're better off than using the same ammo in a 1930's S&W Model 10.

YMMV and I'm not a lawyer, but I did sleep with one at a Holiday Inn Express once. :good:

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21 minutes ago, njJoniGuy said:

Personally, given the choice of using +P .38spl in a modern .38spl revolver like your medium frame SP101 or using a sharp stick, I'd use the +P's.

You shouldn't make a regular habit out of it, but you're better off than using the same ammo in a 1930's S&W Model 10.

YMMV and I'm not a lawyer, but I did sleep with one at a Holiday Inn Express once. :good:

Yeah, the +P rounds I got are defensive rounds so I'll only use them for home defense, not for range shooting.

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Considering the fact that this is a SP101, I would not hesitate using +p in it for defensive purposes. The SP101 are very strong. That said, I would not feed it a steady diet of +P.

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2 hours ago, JC_68Westy said:

Considering the fact that this is a SP101, I would not hesitate using +p in it for defensive purposes. The SP101 are very strong. That said, I would not feed it a steady diet of +P.

Agree with @JC_68Westy.  I will add another perspective.

+P ammunition has been made by the major manufacturers since the 1970s.  Super Vel was making +P back in the 60s.  Using +P will accelerate wear on a gun even if its +P rated.  On the other hand I know people who have shot 1000s of rounds of +P through guns not rated for it and have had no problem.

+P will give you more muzzle blast, recoil, and therefore reduced controllability in a small frame gun.  Along with accelerated wear.  For that you get MAYBE 50-100 fps more.

For a long time I've used a target velocity148 gr hollowbase wadcutter as a defensive load in small frame 38s. It has several advantages:

1.  The bullet is already in an efficient shape.  A hollowpoint has to expand a bit until it gets in the shape the wadcutter starts out as.

2.  Adequate penetration.  The hollow base design goes a long way toward keeping the bullet from tumbling in the target.  That's how it gets good penetration even though it's starting out at only 700-725 fps from the muzzle with a 2" barrel. Gets about 14" of penetration in ballistic gel which is adequate.

3.  It is easy on you and your gun.  Low recoil and muzzle blast help controllability you need for subsequent shots.

FWIW Jim Cirillo who had been in more gunfights than most people was always on a quest for a better bullet.  Most of his designs looked like...a wadcutter.

I use +P in k frame or larger 38s and +P+ in 357 magnums.  If I want more power I'll go to a bigger gun.  I see no sense in +P in semiautomatic calibers.  Semiautomatics are designed to operate in a certain pressure range.  I've seen tests, conducted by the manufacturers, which show their +P version of the same bullet going 50-100 fps more gave little more penetration or expansion, if any, than their standard pressure ammo.

Food for thought.

 

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As previously stated, the SP101 is a very stout revolver that's also made in .357 magnum and I'm pretty sure there's no difference between the SP101 .38 special and .357 magnum models (other than cylinders) so you should be fine shooting .38 +P ammo out of it.

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1 hour ago, ajr576 said:

As previously stated, the SP101 is a very stout revolver that's also made in .357 magnum and I'm pretty sure there's no difference between the SP101 .38 special and .357 magnum models (other than cylinders) so you should be fine shooting .38 +P ammo out of it.

I hope you realize that it is the cylinder that is the critical part that contains the pressure of the ignited round until the bullet leaves. How do you know that they are made of the same material or manufactured to withstand the same pressures?

I see on the current Ruger web site there are .357mag and .38spl +P models listed. The .38spl +P models do not say +P on the barrel. Whether there were any manufacturing changes between your model and the current version? Who knows?

To the OP,

If the official word from Ruger is to do what the manual says, I would do what the manual says.

If you want to shoot +P get a gun that is rated to shoot them.

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Thank everyone for your inputs and thoughts but I guess I was looking for people who have shot +P rounds out of older pistols that are not +P rated (doesn't mean it can't) without damage. I don't know when +P ammo came about but I think when I got my SP101 back in '92 they didn't have +P rounds yet so Ruger wouldn't have printed that on the gun. The response I got from them feels like a canned response just to cover their butts but the pistol is very stout so if I know people who have the same, or similar, pistols and have shot +P ammo without damage then I would feel more confident using them. BTW, I don't plan to shoot +P ammo at the range. I'll still continue to use regular 38 special rounds. My intent is to use the +P rounds for home defense only.

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1 hour ago, Mr.Stu said:

I hope you realize that it is the cylinder that is the critical part that contains the pressure of the ignited round until the bullet leaves. How do you know that they are made of the same material or manufactured to withstand the same pressures?

I see on the current Ruger web site there are .357mag and .38spl +P models listed. The .38spl +P models do not say +P on the barrel. Whether there were any manufacturing changes between your model and the current version? Who knows?

To the OP,

If the official word from Ruger is to do what the manual says, I would do what the manual says.

If you want to shoot +P get a gun that is rated to shoot them.

Stu, I do realize that but thanks for checking. 

You seem to suggest that Ruger is purchasing/using a lower grade stainless steel and performing a separate manufacturing process for the .38 SP101s vs. simply reaming the .357 cylinders a bit longer?

From logistical and economic perspectives, that seems illogical but (***disclaimer***) since I'm not a Ruger engineer, I guess anything is possible. 

Since I'm curious, I went to Ruger's website and looked at pictures of current .38 SP101s, which also don't appear to be stamped for "+p" use.

I also downloaded a copy of the SP101 user manual and read the following on page 11 under "Ammunition"...

"Notes on Caliber 38 Special: 38 Special caliber revolvers are designed specifically
for modern higher-powered factory loaded cartridges, including 38 Special and
38 Special +P ammunition."

There's no mention of exceptions to this (i.e. specific manufacturer dates, etc.)...but (again) I'm not a Ruger engineer so I can't say with certainty. 

Tonester2, based on my experiences with most gun manufacturer CSRs, most are (typically/unfortunately) fairly inexperienced and simply providing the most appropriate canned response.

If you're looking for a definitive answer, I wouldn't settle for what others might be doing with their firearms...instead, your best path forward is to call and speak with a Ruger service/tech manager. 

And please report back with what you learn. 

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Some background about me, as a relatively new engineer and was still in the "apprentice" stage of my career of the line of work I'm in I, along with a bunch of new engineers, was sent to Ruger's manufacturing facility in New Hampshire (Lebanon I think) and see their investment casting process of their pistols. This was back in the early '90s so my memory is about 30 years old but if I recall the process was the same for all caliber. So it is very possible that the difference between the .38 Special and the .357 Magnum could be just the difference in the cylinders. Part of the course was to learn to take apart and put back together the SP101 and a 9mm semi-auto pistol so I'm very familiar with the SP101 which is why I decided to get one because I was impressed with it. I have a feeling that if it was off the record their engineer would say it is safe to shoot +P ammo out of my SP101 for defensive uses only but the lawyers won't allow them to say it officially.

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