Sometimes a Super is good to have. I am talking
about the .38 Super, every 1911 manís second favorite caliber.
The .38 Super is definitely a formidable cartridge with many
good features. Among the best features of the .38 Super is the
fact that it is easy to shoot well. Recoil is light, although
muzzle report can be quite loud. But then we are pushing a 115
grain bullet to 1500 fps in some loadings. The Super has
excellent penetration and the pistol holds ten rounds with Metalform
magazines. Overall, the .38 Super and the 1911 platform has much
I donít like to second guess big budge
agencies on some things, but a few years ago there was a
terrible tragedy called the Miami Massacre. There was no
shortage of determination among our FBI agents but unfortunately
they faced extraordinary criminals. (I wont mention the names of
the criminals because in the ancient tradition it is best their
names pass away.) The
criminals by all accounts had good military records and had made
a good living in civilian life. They were not alcoholics nor
were they addicted to drugs but they turned to violent crime and
murder. They managed to murder two FBI agents. While the felons
were killed, this was a high price to pay.
The FBI eventually concluded that the main reason for the
failure to stop the felons, each of whom received about a dozen
wounds, was the small bore pistols in use. The .38 and 9mm
simply did not do the business. A lack of penetration was noted.
I could not help but think that the fast handling .38 Super once
used by the FBI that figured into so many shoot outs in the
1930s would have done the business. The FBI went to the 10mm, an
even stronger cartridge than the Super. But the Super is still
While Colt, Springfield, and Kimber
produce good 1911s in .38 Super the pistols are sometimes
difficult to obtain and pricey as well. The Rock Island
Armory .38 Super is a solid GI type pistol. The RIA .38
Super is well made of good material and recent production is
equipped with a ramped barrel. Overall, the RIA .38 Super is a
good all around 1911. A problem is the GI sights. They are
precise when carefully lined up but too small for rapid
acquisition. If I do not have my shooting glasses on they are
practically impossible for the author to pick up quickly. The
pistol proved good enough for a new set of sights so I went to
the max on this one. I shipped the pistol to Wilson Combat for
a set of night sights. The results speak for themselves. Here is
a set of sights that offer a wonderful daylight sight picture, a
non snag surface, and excellent accuracy potential. The tritium
inserts add a twenty four hour utility to the pistol that begs
These are first class sights.
Some may ask: why the .38 Super? It is simple.
If the high speed jacketed bullet of the Super meets light cover
or sheet metal it cuts through like nobodyís business.
Penetration is greater than the .45 ACP or the 9mm. While
special loads in either caliber may change the picture, at the
top end the .38 Super meets or exceeds any performance the other
popular calibers demonstrate. Think of the Super as a .357 SIG
ballistically, but with a little more punch and available in the
1911 platform. Penetration is good but what about bullet
expansion? The Cor Bon 100 grain
PowRBall exits my five inch RIA pistolís barrel at
just over 1500 fps. If it meets flesh and blood the bullet
expands critically. The Cor Bon 115 grain JHP breaks 1450 fps
and offers excellent expansion and good penetration. The 125
grain DPX is breaking about 1350 fps and features a balance of
expansion and penetration that favors penetration. They are all
excellent loads. The PowRBall is my favorite. I like big bullets
but if I go small bore I want speed. The .38 Super loads from
Cor Bon are faster than most anyoneís .357 Magnum loads.
As for accuracy, the RIA pistol is not a match
grade pistol but certainly accurate enough for personal defense.
The Cor Bon defense loads will break three to three and one half
inches for a five shot group at twenty five yards. The Cor Bon
147 grain Match load is a new offering and to my knowledge the
first Match grade Super loading ever produced by the factory.
This load has exhibited groups of two and one half inches on
occasion from the RIA, but most are a little larger. With a
better trigger and a little tighter fit of the frame and slide
wonders could be done with this load. But the RIA/Wilson Combat
.38 Super pictured is a defense pistol.
I added a set of Wilson Combat Slim Line grips.
These grips are snag free and really add to the looks and
utility of the pistol. They are thinner than stock 1911 grips
but just as strong. The longitudinal grooves give the shooter excellent purchase
When carrying the pistol under lighter covering
garments I have adopted a simple belt slide from www.JBPholsters.com.
This belt slide may be mounted on the belt or used as an inside
the waistband holster. This holster is a good range holster and
serves to store the pistol. I have used it with a variety of
firearms. This is a versatile little belt slide that will adapt
to a number of pistols. One or more are recommended to be on
hand. It is a must have for handgunners.
For concealed carry the Milt Sparks
Summer Special has been adopted. I am certain this holster needs
little introduction it is the standard by which all others are
judged. This holster features a reinforced holstering welt,
double belt loops and
a sewn in sight track. It doesnít get any better than this.
I often deploy a .45 automatic, the .38 Super has definite
applications in personal defense. When ease of control and a
desire to limit penetration in soft targets are considerations,
the .38 Super is a good choice.
Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or
disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.