Use of +P Ammo in Colt Detective Special - Pistolsmith

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Old 10-22-2003, 08:37 PM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 6
Use of +P Ammo in Colt Detective Special

I have recently acquired a second generation (exposed cylinder rod) Colt Detective Special. I bought it with the intention of using it for concealed carry, loaded with Federal’s standard pressure Nyclad 125gr LSWCHP load. However, Federal has discontinued this load.

So, I have two questions:

1. Can anyone recommend a commercial standard pressure .38 Special load suitable for use in short-barreled revolvers, and

2. This is particularly directed to gunsmiths who work on the Detective Special, can I use a +P load, e.g., one of the 125gr JHP +P loads, if I limit my shooting to establishing point of aim and a small number of practice rounds? How much can I expect to shorten the life of the gun?

Thank you in advance,

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Old 10-23-2003, 03:57 AM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 870
Dick Special

Howdy Stealth,

Colt says no in the paperwork that comes with their little beauty,
but the Detective Special is a pretty robust little gun...larger than
the J-frame Smith. I'd put it about on par with a K-frame. Not
quite that strong, but very close.

I've owned three, and fired some +p and even some of the old
110-grain +p+ Treasury ammo with no ill effects. Not a LOT of it,
but enough to see where the thing hit with that ammo.

As with ANY gun, the hotter the ammo, the higher the stress and
the faster the wear and timing issues. Colt's timing is a bit more
delicate than the Smith, and will go haywire earlier with any given
ammo. That isn't related to the strength of the gun, though. It's
the lockwork.

Since the Colt isn't rated for +p, it would be a good idea to limit
the amount fired to testing and occasional acclimation, and do the
bulk of your practice with standard stuff.

Federal's Nyclad "Chief's Special" ammo is very good. It's
a 125-grain Nylon-ish jacketed bullet loaded to get maximum
performance out of a 2-inch barrel. It's good ammo. Once upon
a time, Nyclad was a Smith & Wesson trademark when Smith
had its own ammo line.

Nice little revolvers. I like'em!

Take care,
Old 10-23-2003, 05:15 PM   #3
Senior Member
Join Date: Jun 2001
Posts: 1,800
As above, the older (exposed rod) Colt "D" frames revolvers are NOT rated for +P ammo.

The newer, (shrouded barrel) STEEL "D"s were factory rated for up to 3000 rounds of +P, then the gun needed to be sent in for possible frame replacement.

You should be Ok with shooting a very limited amount of +P ammo, but I'd stick to standard ammo for any significant shooting, and save the hot stuff for "business".
Old 10-23-2003, 05:41 PM   #4
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 870
Shrouded Dick

I learned somethin' here. I didn't realize that the little revolvers were
rated to stand that much +p ammo. Understand that the ones I'm
referring to were built in the early 80's...not the newer reissues.
The paperwork said not to use the +p stuff except for 'business"...
and +p+ was a big NO-NO! That stuff is essentially low-end
.357 magnum, pressure-wise...and I could understand the caveat.

The old, unshrouded Colts should NOT be fired with +p ammo. A
cylinderful for carry/emergency would be possible, as they would
surely stand up to 6 rounds...but no practice with it.

Good thread. Good little revolvers. I miss'em.

Old 11-27-2003, 11:38 PM   #5
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 135
I vote....No....on +P ammo in the aforementioned Colt.
Old 11-28-2003, 09:17 AM   #6
Senior Member
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Texas!!!!
Posts: 827
Frankly, love my little DS but I think I would have to be sent in for some work before I got through 3000 rounds of +P ammo.
Old 11-29-2003, 05:38 AM   #7
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 27
Being somewhat elderly I recall some of the older ads for Colt stating that their revolvers in .38 Spec. would handle all the "High Speed" 38-44 loads out at the time. These may not have been as high pressure as some of todays +P .38's but having fired this load (38-44) it was fairly stout. As I recall along the lines of todays .38 +P SWCLHP that is a favorite. But that is with my calibrated hand. Does anybody else recall those ads.
Old 12-03-2003, 07:42 PM   #8
Join Date: Jun 2001
Posts: 283
(Gulp!) I, too, recall the old Colt ads - as well as Stoeger's catalog - claiming the Dick Special good for all the .38 S&W Spl. loads extant, including the .38/.44 Heavy Duty load.

The Cobra and Agent ads/listings, however, did not show the .38/.44 load on their menus.
Old 03-06-2004, 04:06 PM   #9
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 74
Obviously, manufacturers are more liability conscious these days. However, I think that there has been a sea change in the consumer's view of what a handgun should take.

In the old days, (before I started buying handguns, so let us say the pre-Carter years), few people seemed to consider it necessary for a handgun to fire many thousands of rounds. Thus, the S&W model 19 was born. A gun intended for practice with .38's, and to be loaded with .357 mag for carry. (.357 mag with 158 grain bullets). Then, later, the trend was to practice with something equivalent to what you carry. (A good move, IMO). Also, consider the number of handloaders who like to push the envelope, (Not that I would ever consider that!). Charter Arms .44 Bulldogs picked up an entirely, IMO, undeserved reputation for fragility. Yes, I wore one out, as did my friend. I later bought another one, treated it right, and it gave me good service. (Right means no handloads more severe than WW Silvertips. IE, 200 grains @ 700 FPS.).

So what does all this mean? I feel that the older Colt wheelguns are slightly stronger than the S&W wheelguns. Except for the N-frames. I think that my old OP Colt .38 SPL will take more abuse than K-frames from the same era. (It will go out of time sooner, however!).

Elmer Keith, in his autobiography, said that he had fired 38-44 loads in the then new S&W model 36. He seemed to feel that it could take such a diet. Well, lo & behold, about 4 decades later, S&W starts chambering J-frames for the .357 mag! Part of that is about Scandium, but part of it is about consumer acceptance & desires. What was the name of that .357 wheelgun Colt used to make? The one that was the same size as the DS?
Old 03-07-2004, 08:58 AM   #10
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 382

The Colt Magnum Carry is the DS in .357. I bought the first one I saw because I'd promised myself that I would buy the first .357 snub that Colt made. According to the dealer, it was the first sent to Tucson.

It never shot a good group. In fact, it looked like a shotgun pattern. For 5 years it was a "safe queen" and I intended to use it as trading material.
Last year, at the urging of various members of this and other forums, I wrote a letter to Colt. I explained the problem and mentioned that my Smith 649 was a much more accurate snub than the Colt.

Colt told me to send it back and they'd fix it. I did and 35 days latter it was returned. It now shoots nearly as well as the 649.

I did add a hammer shroud from an old DS that I had and it fit perfectly,


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