Although it’s fallen out of the mainstream, .38 Super is a formidable choice for a critical-use handgun, and it’s one any serious operator should consider. READ WHY
The .38 Super was introduced in the 1911 handgun in 1929 to arm peace officers with a hard-hitting round that offered good penetration against the new breed of mechanized thug. The .38 Super saw extensive use in the hands of the FBI and figured into the demise of dangerous fugitives such as Baby Face Nelson.
The .38 Super is dimensionally identical to the .38 ACP of 1900, and Colt’s offered this in the 1903 model pistol. The .38 ACP fired a 130-grain bullet at 1,100 fps. Colt’s upped the power of the cartridge but used the same length cartridge case and chambered the 1911 in .38 Super when it dropped production of the .38 ACP pistols. The .38 Super was a sensation, noted for its high velocity of 1300 fps and 9 fast shots. At the time, you had to know not to fire a .38 Super in the older Colt’s 1903 pistols.
The effectiveness of .38 Super cannot be argued. The penetration of the cartridge and reliability of the 1911 gave law officers an advantage. However, the .38 Super suffered in popularity after the introduction of the .357 Magnum. In those days, lawmen were revolver men. The question is this: Is the .38 Super a viable personal defense and tactical combination today?
The answer would be yes! Ammunition development continues. Federal Cartridge recently introduced a 115-grain JHP load in its American Eagle Line, and Double Tap ammunition offers excellent tactical-grade loads. SIG Sauer also recently introduced a new .38 Super load.
Rock Island GI Series
The 1911 is a good home for the .38 Super. The 1911 features straight-to-the-rear trigger compression, a low bore axis, a grip that fits most hands well, and excellent speed into action. Its lower recoil makes the .38 Super an an easier cartridge to master than the .45 ACP, and the .38 Super gives two additional rounds of magazine capacity.
Rock Island Armory offers a GI-type 1911 chambered in .38 Super. The pistol is well finished, offers a smooth trigger compression at 5.5 pounds, and, overall, the parts on my test gun were well fitted.
Federal offers a 115-grain JHP in the American Eagle line that breaks almost 1200 fps. This is a good practice load and is just a bit hotter than most 9mm loads. The SIG Sauer Elite 125-grain V Crown JHP breaks just over 1200 fps. Either is a good defense load for most situations.
For loads mimicking the .357 Magnum, consider this: The .38 Super uses relatively fast-burning powder that produces less recoil energy than the slow-burning powder used in the .357 Magnum. The recoil spring captures much of the recoil energy as well.
There are loads available that maximize the caliber. If you wish a rapidly expanding load for use in an urban situation the Double Tap 115-grain Controlled Expansion JHP offers that option. For those preferring an all-copper bullet, the Barnes TAC XP load is an option with greater penetration.
At over 1400 fps, the 125-grain JHP Double Tap would be an excellent all around service load. I normally load my .38 Super with the 115-grain load for home defense. If using the pistol for tactical use, I would deploy the 125-grain bonded core loading. The following table outlines the load’s performance. The Rock Island Armory 1911 .38 Super produced good accuracy with each loading.
The .38 Super fits my needs well. Modern loads put the .38 Super just where it needs to be — a high-velocity loading with good performance, excellent penetration and governable recoil.
Here’s a close look at FN’s entrant in the Army’s XM17 trials. It turns out there weren’t really any losers, and the big winner was the American pistol shooter. Read all about it…
SOURCE: NRA Staff, by Tamara Keel
The Army’s XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) competition ended up delivering an embarrassment of riches to the American pistol shooter. The Sig Sauer P320 MHS won, but several of the runners-up have found their way to gun dealers’ shelves in the months since the competition ended. This is the offering from Fabrique Nationale, which has trickled to the commercial market as the FN 509.
While not the exact gun used in the trials, it is, I want to say, “close enough for government work,” but that would be a lame joke. It would be somewhat true, though, since between the MHS contest and the release of the 509 to the market, FN met with representatives from law enforcement agencies to solicit input on various changes that would make its XM17 entrant more marketable to the domestic-law-enforcement market.
Basically, the FN 509 is an improved version of its existing striker-fired, polymer duty gun, the FNS, which has seen some success in both law enforcement and in the action-pistol world. The new version features a plethora of modifications from the familiar FNS, some to fit specific requirements of the MHS contract and others to make it an even more attractive choice as a fighting pistol than its predecessor.
Gone is the slight beavertail on the back of the full-size FNS frame; the FN 509 has the more rounded contour of the FNS Compact. I’m assuming this has something to do with the maximum overall length specified by the MHS program. The gun measures overall at just under 7.5 inches.
The slide on the FN 509 is similar to that of its progenitor, but the grasping grooves fore and aft are more aggressive, and worked well even with hands that were slippery with sweat and sunscreen. The slide boasts a satin-textured, rust-resistant finish.
The sight dovetails are dimensionally identical to those of Springfield Armory XD and Sig Sauer. This means there are a variety of aftermarket sighing options. Unlike the factory sights on the FNS, the 509’s rear-sight body features a bluff front rather than a Novak-style slope, the better to perform one-handed malfunction clearances by running the slide off a boot heel, belt, or holster mouth.
The grip on the FN 509 is full-size, as it must be to accommodate the 17-round magazines specified by the program. The gripping surface textures are a quilt-like combination pattern of pyramid-shaped raised points of varying sizes as well as “skateboard tape” style accents. It looks odd, but it works fine. One of my last days with the gun was spent at a very hot and humid indoor range. Even dripping with sweat, the FN 509 had enough texture in the right places to allow me to shoot 4- and 5-round strings rapid fire without feeling like I was trying to hold onto a bar of soap.
The bottom of the grip on the FN 509 is heavily scalloped on the sides to permit a good grip if one needs to rip a magazine out to clear a malfunction. When I unpacked the gun, I field-stripped it and lubricated it with a few drops of Lucas Extreme Duty Gun Oil in the usual places, and then commenced to shooting. Over the course of the next 784 rounds without any further lubrication or cleaning, the gun suffered one user-induced failure-to-feed, on the last magazine, trying to provoke a “limp-wrist” malfunction with some Speer 147-grain TMJ Lawman ammo.
One of the stated goals of the MHS program was to get a gun that was as adaptable to the gamut of end users as possible, regardless of hand size or hand preference. Implementation of this ranged from the completely swappable frame shells of the SIG Sauer P320, to the wraparound backstraps of the Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0, to the Glock entry’s add-on backstraps carried over from the company’s Gen4 offering. The FN 509, by way of contrast, ships with two interchangeable inserts that take up the lower three quarters of the backstrap. There is a choice between either arched or flat, and neither really alters the reach to the trigger. No worries about it being too large for any end user, though, since the circumference around the trigger is, at just less than 7 inches, less than an eighth of an inch more than an M&P with the small backstrap and barely a quarter-inch greater than even a diminutive single-stack 9 mm like the Walther CCP.
Trigger pull weighed in at a consistent 6 pounds on my scale, with a light takeup that met an abrupt wall, and then broke cleanly. Before I actually put it on the scale, I would have bet money that the trigger broke at 5 pounds — it feels lighter than it is.
Trigger reset was distinct and short. It was easy to shoot this gun well. My very first day at the range, I pulled it out of its box, lubed it to spec, and used the first 50 rounds from the gun to shoot a clean Dot Torture drill, cold. This impressed me even more, since the last three days had seen me consistently dropping a shot for a 49/50 with my Glock G19 carry gun.
The barrel of the FN 509 features a thicker bearing area around the muzzle, with a smaller contour along the remaining barrel length, which shaves ounces compared to a full-thickness barrel for the entire length. This likely contributes to my postal-scale measured empty weight of 26.5 ounces. Even with 17+1 rounds of 124-grain Federal Premium HST in the gun, it still weighed only 34.3 ounces, which is well less than an empty M1911 Government model.
The muzzle’s crown is countersunk to enhance accuracy and protect it from damage. Grabbing three different factory loads at random from my ammo stash, accuracy testing was performed at 15 yards shooting off sandbags. Two of the loads, Winchester NATO 124-grain FMJ and Federal 147-grain +P HST Tactical, turned in best five-shot groups smaller than 2 inches. Even steel-cased Russian TulAmmo 115-grain FMJ turned in a couple groups right about 2 inches. (The TulAmmo, or at least this lot, was also amazingly consistent, velocity-wise, from the FN 509, with a standard deviation for the 10-round string of only 10.77 fps.)
The FN 509’s Spartan origins are reflected in its packaging, at least with the test gun. It arrived in a brown cardboard box with a hinged lid, and inside the box was a zippered black nylon pouch with a tastefully embroidered FN logo in gray thread on the outside. The inside is lined with fuzzy soft cloth and has a pocket to hold the spare mag and whichever of the two backstraps isn’t in the gun.
There is the mandatory cable lock and an instruction manual in the box as well. There is no pin or punch provided to drive the roll pin out that secures the backstrap in place. The first time this is done will probably require a bench block and maybe a second set of hands. I’m not saying it’s depot-level maintenance, but nobody’s going to be doing it at the range.
One other praiseworthy change from the FNS is that the controls are better “fenced off” with raised areas around them. It’s a lot harder to inadvertently eject a magazine or ride the slide stop and prevent the slide from locking back (or to accidentally bump it up and lock the slide back on a full magazine) on the FN 509 than it was with the FNS.
The magazine release is noteworthy, in that it’s not just reversible, but actually ambidextrous. There’s no need to pull the button out and flip it around, and that’s what caused problems for large-handed shooters in the FNS — the flesh at the base of the shooter’s trigger finger could activate the right-side button. Not so with the new FN 509, or at least not that I could make happen.
The only real issue I found with the test sample was that the rear sight was just enough off-center to the right that it was throwing groups off slightly in that direction. A bit of attention with a sight pusher or a whack with a dowel would fix that in short order, but I just held an inch or so of Kentucky windage at 10 yards and everything was cool.
All in all, this is a mature pistol from FN. The time the company took to solicit opinions from potential end users shows in the finished product. It runs reliably, shoots accurately, and has a very usable trigger right out of the box. If these are things that are important to you, the FN 509 is definitely still in the running for Your Handgun System competition.
The HAP (Hornady Action Pistol) bullet is the renowned XTP jacketed hollow point without the grooves cut into the jacket, simplifying the manufacturing process. What you end up with is an accurate, consistent, and economically priced jacketed bullet. Reloading data is available for this bullet from multiple manufacturers, there’s no coating to shave off or exposed lead to worry about, and it doesn’t break the bank when you want to buy in bulk. In the video below I put the HAP 9mm bullets up against a few steel targets, and give you some more info. The sound on the video is a little muffled, due to a windy day at the range.
I load and shoot over 20,000 rounds of ammunition a year, so when I’m shopping for loading components, the main things I look for are economy, ease of use, and consistency. The Hornady 115 grain HAP bullet meets all of those requirements and more for competition and target shooting. 115 grain bullets are an industry standard for 9mm and most guns should be able to run them right out of the box, so using it as a go to bullet weight makes a lot of sense.
Midsouth now exclusively has the Hornady 9mm HAP bullets at plated bullet prices. Click Here to head over, load your own, and put them to the test!
Looking for a suppressor-ready high-quality handgun? Here it is! Read full review…
by Major Pandemic
Recently I reviewed the H&K VP9 and frankly am in love with that pistol — the quality and the features are all top-of-the-line. As a defensive pistol it has a level of refinement that is competitively only seen on Sig Sauers and the high-tier Walthers, but with features unique to H&K. The P30 line has been one of H&K’s most popular pistol lines and is the reference benchmark for quality in a defensive polymer handgun. That said, H&K fans have been demanding a modern production H&K striker-fired option built on the popular P30 ergonomics and magazine. H&K delivered the hugely popular VP9 and now is extending the line with this VP9 Tactical model featuring a threaded barrel. What really sets the VP9 apart from other Heckler & Koch pistols is the more affordable price tag and is the company’s first sub-$700-priced gun in recent history.
Now with the popularity of suppressors on the rise, civilians are asking for suppressor ready firearms. The Tactical model is about $200 more than the initial VP9 model.
Essentially, the H&K VP9 Tactical is identical to the original VP9 model with the same supremely awesome trigger break and very fast short trigger reset. The VP9 continues to offer swappable rear backstrap and side grips to customize the handle and the substantial charging notches to help with high-speed weapon manipulation. The completely ambidextrous design via ambi-slide and paddle mag release is carried over on the VP90 Tactical Model, as are the luminous sights.
There are only two differences between the VP9 and VP9 Tactical. The H&K VP9 Tactical features a threaded barrel and according to H&K’s site the tactical models do not use an O-ring-assisted lockup like other H&K models. Allegedly the O-ring caused problems when a suppressor is attached and only marginally decreases the precision of the barrel-slide lockup. The barrel threading is the infuriating but well thought out 13.5×1 LH thread. The intent behind the left-hand threads was to not allow the suppressor or other muzzle accessory to loosen while shooting due to a right hand barrel twist. It works but irritates me that I need to buy and swap back and forth between the standard European 13.5×1 LH and U.S. 1/2-28 thread adapters for my Liberty Mystic X suppressor instead of being able to do straight swap like I can between my other other 9mms.
There was some early rumbling that the VP9 had an operating spring that was too weak. I was informed at this year’s SHOT show that all models now feature the same stouter spring I noticed on this VP9 Tactical.
Though H&K is usually a little behind the curve in keeping up with the U.S. market, they may now actually be a bit ahead of the curve with the pending Hearing Protection Act having a good chance of becoming law. This is a durable and well-tested host.
I have found the VP9 line of pistols to be extremely accurate with 124gr ammo. At a recent tactical training we had a drill where we had to run from barricade to barricade and pop out and deliver two shots on a steel torso placed at 15 yards. After the first run and with my confidence instilled in the VP9 Tactical, I ran the course two more times and was delivering quick double tap head shots. The VP9s are very accurate and with the right ammo notably more accurate than my stock Glocks.
The VP9 pistol represents everything we have asked for and whined about on our Glocks with a level of striker fired pistol refinement which that has only previously been represented in the Walther PPQ. The VP9 Tactical, though, is not a Walther or a Glock or a Sig Sauer: it is a Heckler & Koch which has its own legacy of extremely high quality, infallible durability and reliability, with leading-edge innovations. H&K did not only hit a homerun with this pistol, because with the extension of this model to potentially capture a new suppressor market with the Hearing Protection Act pending is a very smart move for H&K.
Major Pandemic is an editor-at-large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival-related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly. www.MajorPandemic.com
Why not? One of the most disrespected of all handgun cartridges, Dr. Fadala says there’s plenty of good reason the 9mm Parabellum is the most popular centerfire handgun cartridge in the world. Keep reading…
by Sam Fadala
Many cartridges from long ago rage on. My Professional Hunter (PH) rifle in Africa for eight seasons running was .45-70 Government (1865, standardized 1873) handloaded with a 500-grain bullet to 1,800 feet per second. It was replaced two years ago with a .416 Remington Magnum for longer-range shooting, not because of 45-70 inferiority. The 1902 9mm Parabellum (para-bellum, “for-war”), thrives in the 21st century for hardcore reasons: for military, police, self-defense, it is powerful yet manageable even in lightweight handguns, plus pure shooting enjoyment, which alone is a “good enough” reason to own a nine.
After consulting with my handgun instructor, a retired SWAT commander, I latched onto a pair of Springfield Armory Range Officer (RO) pistols, 41 ounces of reliable accuracy. My usual practice session burns five magazines, five rounds short of a 50-pack. And though I handload for many cartridges, the nine is not one. Considering today’s cost of fuel, grub, house, car, mandatory insurances, and just plain living, a box of factory 9mm is a “bargain.”
Factories worldwide produce a dizzying array of loads in two major bullet types, FMJ (full metal jacket) and “upset,” most often hollow-point. Bullet weights as this is penned, and as far as I know, run as light as 50-grains (that is not a typo) to 147gr. Most of my shooting is with 115gr FMJs, such as Russian Tul-Ammo with non-reloadable brass, okay by me since, as said, I don’t reload the nine.
The Russians say trust, but verify. I trusted information on 9mm performance, but also ran my own demonstrations in “Sam’s Bullet Box.” This device is as scientific as tossing monkey bones to tell your future, yet it works “tolerably well,” and the box is far cheaper than ballistic gelatin. While gelatin is the standard, I have proved to others as well as myself that the box reveals vital information. Projectiles that penetrate deeply in the box do likewise in other mediums. Those that blow “big holes” in the clay behave the same in “the real world.”
The wooden box is simply long and narrow with open top and closed ends. It’s the “stuffing” that counts. For my 9mm demo, constants were two: water balloon and clay block, neither representing tissue of any kind. Water tortures bullets. Shoot into a swimming pool, even with high-power rifle, and watch bullets die quickly. Clay provides the performance channel, also known as “wound channel.” Test mediums were arranged in this order: entry into end of box (0ne inch thick), water balloon, quarter-inch plywood separating balloon from 50 pounds of damp modeling clay. Beyond the clay: compacted wrapping paper one foot thick, and finally the inch-thick box end. Backup was our winter woodpile.
When oak, juniper, and aspen were removed for the wood-burning stove, several 9mm bullets were collected. Some of these were FMJs (expected). But many were also self-defense-type with open-cavity noses. That’s a lot of penetration! Massive cavities in the 50-pound block of modeling clay displayed extreme disruption with self-defense ammo. Surprise: FMJs also did terrific “injury” to the clay.
After the bullet box, all test loads were directed into gallon-size water-filled milk containers. Devastation is the word. The little 50-grain copper monolithic, starting at around twice the speed of sound, blew the bottles into pieces of ragged plastic. The FMJs also splattered the water bottles. Any thoughts of lacking energy flew away as I picked up the debris. My wife, who is the woodworker of the family, had leftover plywood panels that I stacked close, again for demonstration only. The half-inch plywood boards verified the effective penetration of the 9mm round.
The “little nine” did “big work” with little more offense than shooting a .22 pistol. In a lighter handgun, this statement might not bear up; but my “full-size” 1911 ROs were easy-on-the hand. I carry a nine daily in open carry. Scouting and exploring hikes, an RO rides on my hip in a Triple K Number 440 Lightning Strong Side/Crossdraw holster. Concealed carry, you bet. Not a compact, but my ROs fits neatly into a U.S. Army Tank shoulder holster under a coat. Home protection, obvious. Self-preservation of life and limb, as well as coming to the aid of an accosted innocent, no concerns. My big fist fit into the channels in the clay.
When I went for handgun antelope not long ago, I packed my S&W Scandium .44 Magnum, same I carry along for hikes to fishing lakes in grizzly country, and twenty-two pistols remain my choice for small game and mountain birds. But it’s easy to see why the 9mm Luger is the most popular pistol cartridge in the world.
Dr. Sam Fadala has been a full-time author for 30 years and authored 30 books. Sam is a lifelong big game hunter, using bows and long guns, and is Professional-Hunter-licensed in Africa.