History of the .38 Super Auto

.38 Super's legendary climb

In 1929, law enforcement faced a dilemma. Their ammunition was no longer effective against the gangsters and bootleggers. The gangsters had taken to wearing ballistics vests and often shot from inside autos, both of which were impenetrable by an average ammunition round. As a result, Colt developed the .38 Super Auto. The round was supposedly based on the .38 Automatic Colt Pistol, but designed to be used in a 1911 style semi-automatic, magazine-fed pistol. The .38 Super uses a .356-inch 130 grain lead projectile, housed in a semi-rimmed, straight-walled case measuring .900 inch. The total length of the cartridge 1.280 inches.

The Super Auto cartridge carries more powder than the .38 Auto, which makes it a more powerful round. The .38 Auto’s 130 grain cartridge had a muzzle velocity of 1,050 feet per second (fps). Since the .38 Super used more powder and higher pressure, its velocity is 1,280 fps. Sadly, law enforcement stopped using the Super Auto when, in 1934, the .357 Magnum entered the market.

Development of the .38 Super Auto

Experts say that there are discrepancies in the origin of the .38 Super. It is commonly believed that the round was based on the .38 ACP. Law enforcement did require a stronger round than the .38 and 9mm, but could deliver a better performance than the powerhouse .45 ACP. Colt offered a solution in the .38 Auto. Secondly, some claim that the development of the .38 Super was an afterthought. The 1911-style pistol had been introduced, designed to fire .38 ACP. Shortly after it was introduced, wildcatters began to handload their own version of the round, increasing the powder load. Colt heard about the change and began to produce a similar version which they named the .38 Super Auto. The name .38 “Super” was simply a way to distinguish it from the traditional .38 Auto.

Law Enforcement

The FBI adopted the .38 Super partly because of its carry capacity. It could hold 9 to 11 cartridges in a single stack, which was much larger than what was offered by the .38 Special. The .38 Super could also penetrate body armor. This was a benefit with the rise of American gangsters who openly fought police, and often used their cars as shields against return fire.

However, police weren’t the only ones who adopted the .38 Super. John Dillinger, infamous bank robber and all-around bad guy, carried a .38 Super when he was apprehended by police.

He also owned a custom-built, fully automatic Colt M1911A1. Dillinger had the gun modified to include a Cutts compensator and a magazine with extra capacity.

In 1941, Colt shifted its focus from law enforcement to the military due to WWII. The war changed the face of munitions, and the .38 Super all but disappeared for nearly 40 years.

Popularity Worldwide

The .38 Super never lived up to its potential in the U.S. However, the round has been widely used in other countries such as Australia, Mexico, Canada, and South America, where civilians are banned from using guns chambered in military cartridges, such as the .45 ACP or 9mm.

Fiocchi: Born at the Right Time

 

Fiocchi Ammunition

Fate has a way of stepping in at the right moment. Giulio Fiocchi discovered fate when he went to collect on an overdue loan made by his bank in 1876.

A bank in Milan, Italy employed Fiocchi as an accountant and he was sent to Lecco to visit the deliquent manufacturer of muskets and black powder. Fiocchi researched the company’s ability to pay the loan and found it was not possible. The accountant returned to Milan thinking about the opportunity to buy the bankrupt company. Giulio spoke with his brother Giacomo and, together, the men decided to go into the ammunition business. Fiocchi’s bank lent money to the brothers to begin their business, Giulio Fiocchi Enterprises.

Never Say Die

The Fiocchi brothers founded Fiocchi Ammunition (Fiocchi Munizioni in Italian) at the right time in history. The breech-loader had replaced the muzzle-loader, so Fiocchi began to make reloadable primer cases. Black powder went the way of the dinosaur, and Fiocchi adapted once again.

Pre-war, Fiocchi was dedicated to making ammunition for sport shooting and hunting. During World War I they had the opportunity to produce ammo for the Italian army. The Fiocchi factory was seized by Germans in World War II, but the employees were able to hold them off on the ground. However, the employees failed to keep Allied planes from destroying the factory.

The Fiocchi family rebuilt a new factory in 1946. This enabled Fiocchi to make more advanced ammunition, encouraging expansion and new partnerships through the 1950s and 1960s.

Innovators

Initially they were throwing away its scrap metal. The company found a way of recouping the money spent on the metal. In addition to manufacturing ammo, the company began to make metal snaps. The garment industry bought the snaps which became a staple in fashion. One of the largest clothing manufacturers in the world bought the snap manufacturing business in the 1980s.

Fiocchi gave to the community that supported his manufacturing operations. In 1904, the company built houses for its workers to ensure that they had nice places to live. They also provided childcare and medical care to their employees and still do to this day.

Fiocchi of America, Inc.

Fiocchi came to the U.S. in a roundabout way. In the 1950s, the company shared a factory with Smith & Wesson in Illinois. The companies had disagreements and Fiocchi sold its shares, halting their presence in the Americas. Then in 1980, Carlo Fiocchi, the great-grandson of Giulio Fiocchi, came to the United States on his honeymoon. Carlo researched the possibility of the company’s return to the U.S. and, in 1983, Fiocchi of America began to import products.

Consumers bought ammunition faster than it could be imported from Italy. Carlo met with Paolo Fiocchi, the company president, to discuss building a manufacturing plant stateside. History repeated itself when Fiocchi purchased land from a farmer that had been unable to pay his mortgage. The locals embraced Fiocchi as they provided good jobs for the region. Today, the company sells over 75 percent of the company’s U.S. sales at that plant. Fiocchi is proud of its slogan, “Italian by birth, American by choice.”

 

 

Who Uses a .357 SIG?

.357 Sig ammo

In the mid-1990s, Swiss-German arms manufacturer SIG Sauer teamed up with Federal Cartridge (now Federal Premium Ammunitions) to develop a new cartridge to rival the .357 Magnum. The team designed the .357 SIG after the .357 Mag to duplicate the performance of the .357 Mag while offering shooters a higher cartridge capacity to be used in semi-automatic pistols. The target audience was law enforcement, which never fully embraced the new round.

Development of the .357 SIG

The .357 SIG ammo was introduced in 1994, only four years after the S&W released their .40 cal. The .40 S&W had been commissioned by the FBI after the 1986 Miami shootout in which two agents were killed and five were wounded. The FBI had requested a new load that would have the power of a .45 with lower recoil and faster reloading time. Although the .40 S&W wasn’t a perfect replacement, it was readily adopted by law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S.

At that time, neither law enforcement agencies nor the public was ready to embrace another round for a semi-automatic weapon. Therefore, the .357 SIG never caught on despite its superior performance record.

Ballistics

SIG designed the original of .357 SIG ammo was .357”, but then reduced the overall size to .355”, making it easier to reload. SIG created the first bottleneck commercial handgun cartridge manufactured since the early 1960s. Like the .357 Mag, it uses a bullet with 125 grains. It boasts an average velocity of 1,450 FPS and muzzle energy that exceeds 500 ft. lbs. The shoulder is alpha/2=18 degrees. The common rifling twist rate is 406 mm (1 in 16 in), 6 grooves, Ø lands=8.71 mm, Ø grooves=9.02 mm, land width=2.69 mm. The primer type is small pistol.

Who Uses a .357 SIG?

The performance and smaller dimensions of the .357 SIG should make it a more popular cartridge among law enforcement, but it has never caught on. Many officers have chosen to adapt to a 9 mm Parabellum for their standard sidearm. It is a preferred round for many target shooters and those interested in home defense and self-defense. Unlike some smaller rounds, the .357 SIG is capable of causing hydrostatic shock, disabling, or even fatally wounding its targets upon impact.

Many large law enforcement agencies supply their officers with .357 SIG ammunition. Officers use the ammo in SIG Sauer models and Glock pistols. The Texas Highway Patrol adopted the round in 1995. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) followed suit. They had previously given their troopers a choice between the SIG Sauer P220 in .45 ACP or the SIG Sauer P226 in 9mm. From 1998-2013, The DPS issued the SIG Sauer P226 chambered in .357 SIG as a standard sidearm for its commissioned officers.