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Old 03-20-2011, 10:32 PM   #1
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Some questions regarding my P38 before I take it shooting.

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Good evening my friends. Now, as you might imagine I'm itching to take my newly acquired P38 out shooting like I've been rolling around in fiberglass insulation. I think it's the most beautiful pistol I've ever seen and can't wait to fire it! But before I do so, I want to be well educated into the proper way to care for it i.e. what the best ammo for it is.

I've read a lot of posts here regarding the piece and know that many post-war modells could suffer from frame breakage and other horrors if fired a lot or if +P ammo was used in them. I've also read about improvements that were made in the guise of a "hex pin"... something I don't fully understand. I've been searching around and have found some pictures of the frames of some of these pistols and there seems to be a hexagonal-shaped pin run laterally through the frame of the handgun just above the trigger. My P38 has no such feature, and the frame is constructed of aluminum alloy.

I picked up two boxes of 115 grain parabellum (box marked 9mm Luger) cartridges to test fire the piece. It is my belief that the 9mm parabellum is the same thing as 9mm Luger, but I want a double assurance that this is so. Can you help?

Now, these bullets are lighter in mass than some that were on the shelves, which equates into a much higher velocity as the round is fired - nearly 1200 feet per second. This will not harm my 60 year old barrel now, will it? I sure don't want to ruin my riflings! I don't think it will, but please excuse and understand my paranoia.

What is the heaviest load I can safely fire through it? I really don't see myself needing anything more than 115 grain rounds for range shooting but I also might find this P38 in the drawer next to my bed one day should the dreaded time come around when I hear footsteps downstairs at three in the morning...

This P38 is definitely NOT going to be a "safe queen" and I intent to fire it until the barrel is hotter than the hinges of hell. I guess my question in a nutshell is this: what's the best ammunition to use in my beloved P38 that will get me a nice long life out of it?

-Pilotsteve
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Old 03-20-2011, 11:11 PM   #2
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Steve: You should be able to safely shoot your P.38 for many years without fear of breakage, so long as you don't run hot ammo through it. The 115-grain stuff that Winchester puts out in its White Box series works perfectly well in the P38, the P1, the P4, the P5, etc. It's a bit dirty for some, though I haven't found that to be the case, and I use the stuff all the time. I would avoid hot loads, the +P and +P+ stuff. Beyond that, have some fun.
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Old 03-21-2011, 04:57 AM   #3
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Cheap WWB runs fine, and yes, "Luger", "Parabellum", 9x19mm, are all the same thing. For that matter, if it says "9mm" and is 115 grain, here in the US it will almost always be 9x19, a quick glance will confirm that it isn't 9x18 or 9x17 which have a different bullet profile.

One of the nice things about the P.1 / p.38 design is that it doesn't need special ammo, it runs just fine on cheap plinking stuff, mine has run well on WWB, Wolf, Tula, and Brown Bear ... I avoid reloads and anything rated +P. I remember that it did not eat Remington well, but I can't remember what was going wrong. Mine doesn't mind 115 grain Gold Dots, most other HP designs were too expensive to stock just for one gun or didn't run, I remember that Federal hydrashock-type didn't run (feed) and I think I tried out some mag-tech gold and that it just would not feed either. My testing in the P.1 was before I kept ammo records, so this is all from memory.

Keep the moving parts clean and don't worry about the rifling, you're not going to damage the bore with basic commercial ammo. Unless you run a seriously high volume through I wouldn't even worry about the occasional hot round, the P.38 was designed to run mil-spec ammo, after all.

(Does anyone know? ... Is Germany on the 124grain "almost +P" ammo standard like the rest of NATO?)
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Old 03-21-2011, 11:38 PM   #4
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Thanks for the great information, gentlemen. You've done well to put my mind at ease. This is the ammunition I purchased at the gun store last Friday:



It was to be had for a very decent price, and it's the proper ammunition the P38 should ingest. When I get the chance to finally fire my wonderful "new" pistol, this will be the first cartridge I shall try.

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Old 03-22-2011, 12:05 AM   #5
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I've run some boxes of .380 Magtech through my PPK/S without incident or problems. Can't imagine that you'd have any trouble in 9mm. Keep us posted.
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Old 03-22-2011, 09:13 AM   #6
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I've found Magtech's ball ammo offerings to be unremarkable in all ways, they should run fine.
For long-term stocking, I'd look for the 100-round bulk boxes of Winchester ball, commonly referred to as "WWB" (winchester white box). Those are even less remarkable than the magtech, and might be loaded a touch lighter, which is good for antique guns and/or casual plinking. Prices near you may not be equal to prices near me, but around here I can find WWB 9x19 115g for about $23/100 rounds, the only thing cheaper is steel-case.
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Old 04-08-2011, 11:19 AM   #7
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Winchester white box 115gr works great. I have also used Sellier & Bellot and it worked flawlessly.
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