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38 Super VS 9mm — A Comparison of Two Popular Cartridges

A light bullet with high velocity and accuracy is difficult to come by. With the high number of ammo in the market, searching for a reliable and powerful bullet becomes more difficult.

This brings us to 38 Super vs. 9mm rounds. Our team of experts have personally tested the two to provide information you can rely on when choosing the right round.

38 Super or 9mm?

Best for Higher Bullet Velocity
38 Super
Best for Recoil
9mm
38 Super
9mm
Moving at a velocity of 1,240 fps not only makes it powerful but fast in range. This makes it one of the most powerful cartridges in the market.
You don’t have to worry about the recoil in this round – it gives shooters great control. Since it doesn’t have a significant capacity to hold more powder, it’s easier to handle the bullet.
Best for Higher Bullet Velocity
38 Super
38 Super
Moving at a velocity of 1,240 fps not only makes it powerful but fast in range. This makes it one of the most powerful cartridges in the market.
Best for Recoil
9mm
9mm
You don’t have to worry about the recoil in this round – it gives shooters great control. Since it doesn’t have a significant capacity to hold more powder, it’s easier to handle the bullet.

Features of 38 Super and 9mm

Origins of 9mm and 38 Super

While many shooters often think the 9mm to be modern, it is not. The rimless pistol ammo was designed in 1902 from a 30 Luger.

Meanwhile, the Super 38 is a semi-rimmed or semi-rimless bullet introduced in 1929 by Colt’s manufacturing company. It was designed from the older ACP pistols, though it retained the case dimensions as the lower pressure 38 ACP.

However, manufacturers noticed consumers attempted to fire the semi-rimless out of guns made for 38 ACP. This became the reason why they began to mark the former as Super P.

Recoil

The rimless round has moderate recoil, but is significantly more manageable than the semi-rimless bullet. It contains more powder than the rimless round, which makes it kick a bit harder.

Winner: 9mm

Ballistics

In terms of ballistics, the 38 Super P has the edge over the rimless ammo. The semi-rimless standard loading is a 130-grain bullet, which clocks at a velocity of 1,240 fps. On the other hand, the rimless ammo standard 124-grain bullet has a velocity of 1,165 fps.

Winner: 38 Super

9mm vs. 38 Super In Terms of Power

The rimless bullet operates at a maximum pressure of 35,000 PSI. The semi-rimless ammo operates at a maximum pressure of 36,500 PSI, thanks to its more significant case mouth.

Double stack pistols chambered in semi-rimless bullets will hit targets harder than its counterpart.

Winner: 38 Super

Prices

The rimless Luger is an affordable cartridge in the market due to the high demand. This one gives you tremendous value at a low price.

On the other hand, the semi-rimless bullet is the more expensive cartridge due to the limited use of its rounds.

Winner: 9mm

Reliability

Both rounds both have minor issues when it comes to reliability. The semi-rimless bullet might cause some problems in certain magazines due to its semi-rimmed case. However, the rimless Luger will cause even less due to its tampered case, meaning that it would fit seamlessly in all magazines.

Winner: 9mm

Reliability

Initially, the semi-rimless ammo was allegedly created to curb the ever-increasing crime rate during the Great Depression era [1]. At the time, law enforcement relied on the 38 special cartridge and 45 ACP pistols, which could not penetrate armor and automobiles.

It wasn’t surprising that the semi-rimless bullet was created to solve a marksmanship problem. That was why it became popular among police and law enforcement.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the military adopted the use of 9mm. It was more accurate, especially at short distances.

macro shot of 9mm ammo

The creation of NATO also helped the rimless bullet gain popularity. The US allies adopted the rimless ammo as a standard handgun cartridge. 

This somewhat relegated the semi-rimless bullet to civilian use as countries prohibited people from owning a military caliber like the rimless Luger.

Which is Great for Competition, 38 Super or 9mm?

Our team of experts ran some shooting tests on both ammo. The semi-rimless ammo has an enormous capacity for rapid loading similar to that of 357 Sig. This gave shooters an advantage over follow-up shooting.

The rimless round has a relatively slower loading, which couldn’t achieve a major power factor, like the 45 ACP.

Winner: 38 Super

FAQ

Can I Shoot 9mm In My 38 Super?

Yes, you can shoot 9mm ammo in your 38 Super barrel because they share nearly the same size of case mouth. However, it would be best if you didn’t do it often so as not to shorten the extractor.

Is 38 Super Better Than 9mm?

The 38 Super is better than the 9mm bullet based on ballistics and power. It has a more significant impact on targets than the rimless Luger.

Overall Winner: 38 Super

38 Super

Our experts have agreed that the semi-rimless bullet is better. The semi-rimless ammo is one tremendous bullet that has a higher velocity and significant pressure. Its high-quality cartridge, excellent ballistics, and stopping power will allow you to get better shots.

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