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.38 Special vs 9mm Luger

38 special vs 9mm luger feature

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Hey all, we here at True Shot Academy are going to go over the .38 Special and 9mm Luger cartridges today. These two cartridges are popular among shooters of all types in this day and age and are employed in a variety of firearms. Our goal with this blog post is to compare and contrast various traits and features of the cartridges while delving into things such as availability of firearms and ammunition. Without further ado, let’s talk about .38 Special and 9mm Luger.

Magtech .38 Special
Magtech .38 Special

What is .38 Special?

The .38 Special cartridge was introduced by Smith & Wesson in 1898. The cartridge notably features a straight-walled case with a pronounced rim which makes it optimal for use in revolvers. Rims were often present on casings as they allowed cartridges to stay in place in cylinders and allow for proper headspacing. The most common designation for the cartridge is .38 Special, with other common denotations being .38 S&W Special, .38 Spl, and .38 Spc.

The cartridge was designed to replace the .38 Long Colt in military use due to its inadequacies during the Philippine-American War. Initial loadings featured black powder but ultimately saw support with smokeless powder loadings by 1899. The .38 Special cartridge served as an effective replacement for the .38 Long Colt as it featured a greater powder charge and higher muzzle velocities. After its initial use in the Philippine-American War, the cartridge saw use in military and law enforcement capacities. The .38 Special was used for everything from air crew revolvers to service revolvers for police use. Eventually, the cartridge was supplanted in common use by autoloading firearms in calibers such as 9mm Luger and .45 ACP as technology progressed.

While replacement did occur, the caliber was ultimately not completely phased out and still sees use by variety of use cases. The .38 Spl still sees use in the world of concealed carry, typically in the form of snub-nosed revolvers. Additionally, the caliber is often employed in competitive shooting settings, whether in the form of revolvers or rifles. Due to the naturally subsonic nature of most standard .38 Spl loadings, the cartridge pairs great with suppressors. When paired with a suppressor and appropriate .38 Special ammo, a lever action rifle becomes one of the quietest centerfire rifles you can shoot. The cartridge has also been employed effective for dispatching small game. Of course, when hunting one should ensure that they use a loading and hunting practices appropriate for an ethical hunt. Simply put, over a century later, the .38 Special still sees use with a variety of shooters, and for good reason.


What is 9mm Luger?

The 9mm Luger cartridge was developed in 1901 by Georg Luger. Unlike the .38 Special, the 9mm Luger lacks a pronounced rim and is noticeably shorter. The shorter length of the cartridge makes the cartridge well-suited for use with autoloading firearms like semi-automatic handguns, PCCs, and subguns. The cartridge is known by many names, such as 9mm NATO, 9×19 Parabellum, and simply 9mm.

The creator of the cartridge also went on to design the P-08 Luger pistol, an iconic and effective semi-automatic handgun. The cartridge was adopted by the Imperial German Navy in 1904 and the German Army in 1908, marking the start of the 9mm Luger’s long service life. After the introduction of the cartridge, it became a common chambering for autoloading handguns, specifically those of the service handgun variety. Initially, the cartridge was not as popular as the .45 ACP in the United States during the 20th century. This would change during the 1970s and 1980s when “wonder nines” such as the Beretta Model 92 and Sig Sauer P226 were developed and began to prove themselves. Eventually, the 9mm would become one of the most common handgun cartridges in the United States, and the world as a whole. A survey conducted in 2007 claims that about 60% of handguns used by police are chambered in 9mm, a testament to their popularity among law enforcement personnel. Additionally, many militaries and governmental agencies across the globe employ the 9mm cartridge in handguns and subguns for duty use.

Today, the 9mm Luger sees use by a wide range of end users. These end users include armed professionals as mentioned above and a wide range of civilian shooters. Use cases such as concealed carry, duty use, home defense, competition, and general recreation and plinking are among the most common. In subsonic form, the 9mm is also a great choice for use with suppressors in handguns, PCCs, and subguns. The light recoil of the 9mm Luger also makes it a great choice for shooters of various skill levels. Experienced shooters can easily control the impulse of the round and employ it effectively while newer shooters will not be overwhelmed by excessive recoil. Simply put, the cartridge is one of the most popular, accessible, and effective handgun rounds on the market.


How Available is .38 Special Ammo?

At this point in time, .38 Special ammunition is quite plentiful and common. One will be able to find .38 Spl ammo from a variety of companies which hail from a variety of countries across the globe. Companies such as Sellier & Bellot, PMC, Federal, Winchester, and even Wolf produce .38 Special ammunition. Specialty loadings for use cases such as self-defense, hunting, and competition are also available from a variety of manufacturers. While .38 Special ammo is easily available, one will find that it is not as common as 9mm ammunition. That being said, it is still readily available and many options are afforded to customers.


How Available is 9mm Luger Ammo?

Currently, 9mm Luger is one of the most common types of handgun ammunition one will find on the market. Like the .38 Special, 9mm ammo is produced by a number of companies across the globe for both commercial and service use. Ammunition manufacturers such as Hornady, PMC, Fiocchi, Norma, and Remington are among the producers of 9mm ammo. 9mm loadings optimized for self-defense, competition, and suppressed use are also common. Simply put, one will be able to find a wide variety of 9mm Luger ammo on the market and have many options to choose from.

9mm Luger Ammo
9mm Luger Ammo

What is the Availability of Firearms Chambered in .38 Special?

At this point in time, there are a wide range of firearms available which will accommodate .38 Spl ammunition. This range of firearms includes both firearms chambered in .357 Magnum and those designed to accommodate .38 Spl specifically. Companies such as Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Colt, Henry Repeating Arms, and Marlin are among the producers of firearms which will accommodate .38 Special ammunition. Firearms chambered in .357 Magnum are rated for both .357 Magnum ammo and .38 Special ammunition. These types of firearms will most commonly be found in the form of revolvers and lever action rifles. As far as .38 Special-only firearms, these types of firearms will most commonly be found in the form of revolvers. Simply put, one will have zero issue finding firearms that accommodate .38 Special ammo.


What is the Availability of Firearms Chambered in 9mm Luger?

Currently, one will find that there is a wide range of firearms available in 9mm Luger. Semi-automatic handguns tend to be the most common examples of firearms in the caliber followed by PCCs. Additionally, one can even find revolvers in 9mm and exotic firearms such as the POF Tombstone lever action rifle in the caliber. Companies such as Glock, Beretta, H&K, B&T, and CZ are among the producers of 9mm Luger firearms. Handguns and PCCs can be found in a variety of shapes, sizes, and forms which are well-suited to a variety of tasks and users. For example, compact handguns in 9mm are well-suited for concealed carry while larger models are well-suited for competition or duty use. Furthermore, many models come ready to accommodate accessories such as suppressors and optics. If you prefer to build your own firearm, there are many Glock-style handgun components and AR-9 parts which can be utilized. Essentially, one will be able to easily build or buy a firearm chambered in 9mm if they want to.



All in all, both the .38 Special and 9mm Luger are popular cartridges which have persisted for well over a century. Shooters today employ .38 Spl and 9mm for a variety of uses ranging from self-defense, competition, recreation, suppressed shooting, and more. Both rounds are also unique and are supported by a variety of unique loadings and compatible firearms. Whether you are looking to buy .38 Spl ammo or purchase 9mm ammunition, we here at True Shot Ammo have got you covered. We have a wide range of ammo for sale which covers both calibers and many other types of ammo. As always, happy shooting.


Need bulk ammo? At True Shot Ammo, we have a wide variety of handgun ammo and rifle ammo available to purchase. Please visit our website, call us at (888) 736-6587, or you can email us at [email protected] for more ammo options.


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