Previous Post
Next Post

“Where others have failed we have succeeded,” Wilson Combat proclaims, modestly enough. “The new ($3875) Super Sentinel is the most concealable .38 Super automatic pistol on the market today.” Kinda like the world’s most expensive fire-resistant paper hat? Don’t be churlish! “Loaded with quality defensive .38 Super ammunition the Super Sentinel generates .357 magnum-level energy with every shot and exceeds the power of +P+ 9mm rounds with the famed reliability and match grade accuracy of the .38 Super cartridge.” Never heard of .38 Super for self-defense? “The Super Sentinel launches a typical defensive load like our 115 grain TAC-XP loading at approximately 1250 fps.” No word on whether Wilson will make variants in .38 Supercomp, .38 Super Lapua and/or .38 TJ (.38 Todd Jarrett). JK. I think.

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. I have never heard of .38 super being considered as a defensive cartridge, is this a new idea or did i just miss something?

    • .38 Super has been a favorite of lawmen and bad men since the days of Prohibition. It would defeat early bullet proof vests, and punched car bodies handily. And you get those extra two rounds in a magazine.

      However, I don’t much see the point when Federal 9BPLE +P+ clocks 1300 fps, also with a 115 gr. bullet. It can be hard to find, but .38 Super isn’t exactly stocked most places either. At least with a 9mm there’s plenty of backup options.

    • The 38 super was conceived a long time ago as a defensive cartridge not for gun games. At it’s conception (a decade prior to the 357 magnum) it was one of the hardest hitting handgun cartridges in the world. It gave the shooter 10 rounds of flat shooting, high penetration, 357 magnum level power. It was a favored round for criminals and law enforcement alike through the 20s and 30s.

      It really only faded from popularity in the US due to the millions of surplus 45acp 1911’s after WW2, the odd semi rimmed cartridge, and the massive popularity of the 357 magnum. It’s still an extremely popular round in Central/South America due to 45ACP being a military only round.

      I want one because then I can use the same bullets I already have for loading 38, 357, and 35 Remington.

  2. The .38 Super was very popular in older 1911’s. It’s actually An Old Thing. I can’t expect that Wilson will sell a lot of .38 Supers at $3900 a pop.

  3. Wow how quickly we forget ! The wonderful 38 Super started out life as the FBI selection for a sidearm. Defensive use? Heck it was the 1930 version of the Desert Eagle. The Super was made to defeat body armor and car doors. It is a fantastic selection for personal protection.

    The novelist and gun guy Stephen Hunter wrote an interesting article about the Super a couple of years ago for American Rifleman magazine. This is the link to it.

    • i was going to say that in his book Point Of Impact the 38 super is the round that was used by the bad guy who killed Bob Lee Swaggers father.

  4. I was under the impression that .38 Super was something of a niche caliber, kind of like 10mm. I have only heard of it mentioned maybe three times in my life and can’t recall ever seeing it on store shelves.

    • Both cartridges actually have a pretty similar history separated by 70 years.

      Not really a niche caliber in the competition world at all. It is still a handloaders cartridge and became less popular with the general shooting public after the world wars and 9mm surplus in Europe…and the advent of the Browning Hi-Power, P38, and other 9mm handguns.

      It is still quite popular, but not at all mainstream.

  5. $4000. Is it made out of platnium? Built on the ISS? Seriously, I know there is some work that goes into these things, but not $4000 worth.

  6. I had to look up “churlish” – I think it may have been directed at me.

    In any case, I don’t get it… My ignorance of different calibers is only exceeded by my ignorance of women.

    As a self-defense weapon, why would you want a gun that requires more than a little effort in finding and buying ammo (locally)? I am sure we can all show our Google skills in finding it online. But even still – with 9mm (and all the ++++++PPPPP+++++ versions), not to mention the .357 Sig, being more common – this seems like more Sentimental the Sentinel.

    I mean, how many times have read and talked about placement over size when it comes to DGU. And, I think spending $3900 for any gun is a little suspect, frankly. But its your money if you choose to do so. That’s about 6-9 (generally) high quality and reliable guns you are passing on.

  7. ARMSCOR makes 1911s with 9+1 capacity in .38 Super, which you can find for under $500. I’ve never fired one, but they’re supposed to be reliable as heck.

    IMHO, .38 Super is the all-around best balance of power, recoil and mag capacity for a self-defense weapon.

  8. Let it be pointed out that if you can afford nearly $4000 for a handgun, you can probabally afford to buy enough .38 Super that you wont have to worry about buying any off a local gunstore shelf.

  9. I think Wikipedia sums up the attractions of 38 Super well. It is attractive in Mexico and Latin America generally where .45ACP is illegal. IPSC shooters like it to game the rules, making major with a lighter bullet, and therefore less recoil, that .45ACP. I laughed at this: American police departments in the southwestern United States often consider .38 Super shell casings found at homicide scenes as a sign that the shooter was of Latin-American origin.” For CCW I can’t see an advantage over .40 or 10mm, depending on how much velocity you desire. To each his own. I’d throw in 5K more and by another Perazzi. A CCW gun has to take abuse, may end up being held by the police, and indeed may be dropped as one runs full speed when clearly outnumbered.

    • “I think Wikipedia sums up the attractions of 38 Super well. It is attractive in Mexico… where .45ACP is illegal.”

      Then Wikipedia is a joke. Mexico itself is one mass of illegality, and I’m sure the banditos running wild down there, south of the Rio Grande, are not concerned at all about the “illegality” of the 45 ACP.

  10. I’d never spend the money for a Wilson anyhow but I wish that someone would do some true innovation.

    I’d like to see something like a 1911 but with some modern design elements. Start with the series 70 but get rid of the link pin, do something more like the browning hi-power or modern auto-loader using a camblock. Also, ditch the internal extractor for an external. I think a lot of the hand fitting comes from trying to get the lower lugs to hit the frame just so and not stress the link pin. Basically go through the thing and re-design to relieve some of this hand fitting. This would require doing some actual firearms design rather than simply making to spec.

    This is just my sort of dream pistol but my greater point is that all these custom makers do is come out with subtly different products of the same exact design. I’m sure they keep busy selling these so there is not much point to innovate but still, for once I’d like to see a new custom pistol that wasn’t just in a different caliber, a different size, different material, etc.

    • Great points. I don’t know enough of all the internal workings, but I have often wondered why all we ever get is the same gun packaged with different grips, laser-etched that, removable back straps, and the like… Just feels like putting lipstick on a pig sometimes.

    • It’s been done. Springfield made linkless 1911s. Kimber tried external extractors, and failed, SIG is currently producing 1911s with external extractors.

      The thing is, there’s a ton of knowledge and investment in the original 1911 design. Manufacturers know how to make it work, customers know what to expect, third parties have a standard to follow. Can the internal extractor be picky? Sure. But you’re going to be able to find a replacement anywhere, and any decent gunsmith in the land will be able to tension it for you. The proprietary extractor on your not-quite-a-1911? Not so much.

      Once you’re stuck with proprietary parts, you might as well go all the way to a different design, one that’s been around for a while, and been debugged.

    • I believe Rock River (not Rock Island) Arms is working on a polymer framed 1911. That innovative enough for you?

  11. The .38 Super has a semi-rimless case, which doesn’t help it in the reliability or accuracy departments. It was the bee’s knees back in the 1930s, but there are better options now. It survived the last 30-40 years because it makes a ‘major’ power rating for action pistol shooting, and because it was a non-military caliber and could be owned by civilians in Mexico.

    Of the handful of .38 Supers I’ve shot, most were finicky high-maintenance race guns with no defensive utility. Reliability is the biggest hurdle, because the useless rims tend to hang up during feeding.

  12. The .38 Super is an absolutely fabulous cartridge that has somehow been eclipsed over time by cartridges that pale in comparison, like the 9mm. Hey, I think the 9×19 is a fine cartridge, but it simply can’t hold a candle to the .38 Super. Every online ammo dealer stocks .38 Supers, and prices for the imported stuff are reasonable. I’d love to own a gun chambered for this round, but 4 grrr for the Wilson? Fuggedaboutit, cause it just ain’t happening.

  13. What’s the big deal? I checked Hornady’s ballistic chart, and its 115 gr. 9mm (not even +ps) have a MV of 1150 fps. Their 357 has a mv of 1500 fps. (It doesn’t produce a 38 Super) It seems the only reason the super has survived because it can be handloaded by competitors to tweak the rules on a gun just powerful enough to qualify, not because it is any sense a superior round. And whatever its ability to pierce 1930s bullet proof vests, I doubt that it retains that capability as to today’s vest.

    Now I can understand spending 4 grand to buy a handgun. I saw an absolutely cherry cased 1851 Colt Navy (London address) with all the accoutrements with an asking price of nearly $10 K that I would die for, but anew manufacture? Count me out.

    • You’re right. The .38 Super, loaded to SAAMI pressures/velocities, is just a tad more than a 9×19 Luger +P round.

      In other words, it’s not all that “Super” today. It is eclipsed by the .357 Sig, the 9×23, .357 Mag, etc. If one loads the .38 Super to full potential, it can produce energy on par with a .357. Look at some of Cor-Bon’s loads for examples.

      That said, there’s no real reason to bother with the .38 Super unless you’re shooting IPSC, and even then, you can look at the 9×21 or 9×23 as better-feeding alternatives.

  14. I have an RIA 38 Super 1911-tha ammo is available online for reasonable prices.
    The RIA is very reliable except it’s smart to buy a good aftermarket mag like a McCormick.More accurate since they started headspacing on the mouth of the cartridge instead of the base.

  15. “…115 grain TAC-XP loading at approximately 1250 fps”

    What am I missing? Why is this better than a .357 SIG?

    • You’re not missing anything.

      You’re just not falling for the marketing hype. Shame on you. 😉

      • It is a handloaders cartridge…SAMMI actually has a designated +P and handloaders puch much harder than that.

        It is actually close to the .357sig without the reloaders headaches, but still quite a bit less than the 357 mag by 200 or so FPS

    • I believe that the profound , ( but not obvious ) , advantage of the 38 Super is that a more compact , and hence , a more concealable weapon can be designed around the 38 Super ( as compared with the .357 Sig ) — because of the smaller cartridge diameter of the Super ? — Would like to hear from a firearm platform engineer on this ?

  16. Ive owned a RIA 1911 chambered in 38 Super for three years. It has proven very accurate even with the mil. grade basic sights. I only have a few hundred rounds through it but its function has been flawless.
    I am sure the Wilson product is state of the art…but it is also about $3200 out of my price range for a 1911.

    • 115gr@1250fps would be a rather weak 38 Super load, probably closer to a 38 ACP. The low-power factory loaded cartridges normally send a 130gr bullet at that speed. I have handloads that send a 115gr JHP @1500fps out of a 4.5in barrel with a fully-supported chamber and they work well.

  17. My first 38 super was made by Kimber. Then the second one by Colt.
    I soon discovered that S&W model 60-14 in 357 would shoot and eject the 38 super.
    I found a S&W 686 357 4 inch that also fires and ejects them.
    So, now I am looking for a 3 inch 1911 in 38 super to replace my 3″ S&W 45 for a carry weapon.
    I think the 38 super + P will come very close to matching the 357, and that is enought stopping power for anyone that is on the recieving end.
    I looks now, that the Wilson Combat is going to be on my to get list. Cost is excessively high, but…To each his on!

  18. Anybody who’s actually had to shoot people knows that muzzle velocity is no indicator whatsoever of what happens when the round makes contact. High velocity 9mm will frequently perforate a suspect and pass through the body, leaving them dead but still mobile, sometimes not even realizing they have been shot.
    What matters is knock down, and ballistics is not an exact science. You can compare figures all day long on paper but until you shoot someone you just don’t know. For real world situations where you need to actually stop someone from moving any further forward, there is no match for the .45 ACP, except maybe the .357 Mag or the .38 Super. These rounds tend to stop in the body and transfer their kinetic energy. It might not be a kill, but you will stop a man in his tracks.

    • 38 Super is a handloaders cartridge. The +p designation is misleading as it was added to the 38 Super name to differentiate it from 38 ACP. There is no SAAMI +P for 38 Super. Standard 38 Super pressure is 36,500 psi same as it’s always been since 1929. Standard 9mm pressure runs 35,000 psi, 9mm +P runs 38,500, and 9mm +P+ is over 38,500, which puts it right there with the so-called excessive handloads of the IPSC shooters. Georgia Arms standard pressure 124 gr Gold Dot loads Chrono an actual 1,361 fps out of my 5″ colt. MY handloads in 38 SUperComp cases push a 158 JHP at 1260 fps, and 9×23 handloads push 147 gr XTP’s at 1315 fps. SAAMI standard pressure for 9×23 is 55,000 psi and the case was intended to be used in UNSUPPORTED barrels, Winchester factory 125 gr loads run 1450 at about 46,000. Most 38 Super barrels will chamber 9×23 without modification though a spring upgrade is probably in order. 9×23 brass is about 3x thicker in the unsupported head than standard 38 Super brass and when fired in a supported barrel is almost indestructible. You will pierce rifle primers before you hurt the brass. I shoot 38 Super, 38 SuperComp, and 9×23 interchangeably in two different guns. One has a fully supported ramped barrel, and the other is a conventional unramped 1911 barrel. A properly throated unramped 9×23 barrel offers almost the support of a ramped barrel. I handload everything I shoot so the availability of 38Super loads is a non-issue for me.

  19. A very fine weapon, no doubt. The price is quite high compared to some, but lets look at it another way: why does someone want a (pos) Infinty or Lexus when they could have two Fords or Chevy’s for the same price? They’ll both take you where you want to go with equal enthusiasm, just one will appeal to different taste. The Wilson .38 will appeal to those who appreciate fine workmanship and style (who doesn’t?) and have the means to acquire such a fine piece. The caliber is moot, as 9mm+p+, .357 SIG and others all crowd around the same power, and if a person can afford this pistol, stocking ammo won’t be a problem.
    As for me? My Colt .45ACP is just fine.

    • FYI the 38 super is the same projectile found in the 9 MM & 380.
      The 38 supers shoot just fine in my S&W 357 model 60-14 and S&W 686.
      The decision to carry a 38 super is compouned by the size of the 1911’s on the market today. Wilson Combat’s 3 inch is a fine gun and would be more popular if the price were just a tad lower. My 40 Cal Springfield EMP in 3 inch is my carry until Wilson lowers their price, as the EMP comes with three mags, a belt holster and a double mag carrier.
      OH! and about ease of finding 38 supers, I buy them for around $19 per 50.

  20. Hey guys, wise up! I have owned 38 supers for many years now.
    The ammo is very much avaliable as it is the South American maximum.
    CCI produces a very fine off the shelf 38 super.
    I even shoot it in my S&W 60-14’s and my S&W 686 without moon clips.
    I have a freind that shots them in his Marlin lever 38/357.
    In the early years of its concesption it was one of the best carteridges to be had.
    I think it is only 2000 psi under a 357 and @ $19.00 / box it is a good buy. 36,000 vs 38,000 psi.
    Have you looked around? There are no 9 MM to be had since the crunch.
    Don’t knock it until you have tried it.
    Never shot a 38 super? Well you are in for a surprise.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here