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Accessorizing your .38 Special


dustin
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dustin

A little collage of accessories for the WWII .38 Special Smith & Wesson, a.k.a. Victory Model. Representation of eventual integration such as the shoulder holster, tracer and waterproof pistol cover. The M-1917 lanyard was a common accoutrement utilized with the .38. 

 

731231968_(2).JPG.6a15353b3d1e0bdad5c7d03517efc949.JPG

815655638_(3).JPG.a7ef6905427bd5bc73cc012c723c281d.JPG

 

VF-14, USS Wasp, August 1944.

805967146_.38lanyard.jpg.0f18fb5d7980b506a435a2ea026959d8.jpg

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Fantastic display!  However, I think your tracers may be post WWII.  The box should be like this:spacer.png

My apologies if I'm wrong.  Still love the display.

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dustin

Perhaps, but I think there is some dispute. From some circles the speculation of the post war type is the example you posted. There is a consensus that both are of wartime manufacture.

 

Note the very close similarities of your box to post war .38 Special ball. 

 

1368678382_.38box2.jpg.4726e80d2a8618ead53867e215499d53.jpg

1136053067_.38box.jpg.8f4d32745b213bb1d97f6973c2fbe564.jpg

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That last picture is all post war stuff.  The M41 loading was developed in the 1960s.  I'm going by the canonical three volume set History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition by Hackley, Woodin and Scranton.  Here are a couple of pages that are relevant.

spacer.png

spacer.png

 

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dustin

I am familiar with that publication but still does not explain this box below. The information and physical features of the rounds are not in dispute. It has been recognized for some time that this box is of WWII as well. Again, the box from the publication more resembles the format of post war cartons. The carton in question has little similarities to a post war packing. It could be possible we have early and late WWII packing methods. I know the Lot Number really means bump kiss in dating precisely, but lets do a study.

The box pattern in question from the original post, I have found Lot Numbers; 5006, 5008, 5011, 5013, 5015 and 5019.

The box pattern from the publication and your post, Lot Numbers observed: 5022, 5023, 5024, 5027 and 5028.

 

Right out of the gate we see a pattern, and according to those Lot Numbers somewhere around 5020 the box type changed. One question, are there duplicate Lot Numbers on both types of boxes? If not, what we have here are variations in cartons used in WWII production. Also it makes sense that the second carton posted is the later produced type and is a closer relative to those from the post era. 

 

2105986203_tracerbox.jpg.2c9ab689abcd05dda75422bae3db58ba.jpg

 

 

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dustin

I would also like to enter these exhibits of Remington ammunition boxes for the M1 Carbine and .45 Auto. Note both boxes have "Disposal Of Emptied Cartridge Cases Must Be Made As Prescribed By A.R.", Like the box in original post. Also note manufacturer marking "Remington Arms Company, Inc." The second Tracer box from the publication is "Remington Arms Co., Inc." Also note the striking similarities between the 50 round box of .45 ball to that of the .38 tracer above as there is a double lined boxed frame and over overall identical layout.

 

718896713_tracerbox2.jpg.8e8c6bf3ea646188603169445a39d309.jpg

777506522_tracerbox3.jpg.8babcf6c54c215b3804cbff712b09a69.jpg 348563750_tracerboxc.jpg.bfd0949d5f4d0d9eff07217b9863aa7a.jpg

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digi-shots

Great looking display... thanks for posting!
 

As far as boxes...  I did read in Pate’s book on US Handguns of WWII that the 158 grain tracer round was approved for production  and used by US Navy, although the 120 grain was also used. The box shown in his book is the white tracer box showing 120 grain- lot 5023.   Kevin, your info also mentions that in 1948 the grain was reduced to 130g (Makes me think anything marked 130 would be post war?)

 

The tracer round box I have is off-white/light tan, RA lot 5006 - with no notation of grain.

 

 

 

6D40BB63-C394-4C7F-AB9F-E5406B52ED1E.jpeg

6035CABA-EBEB-47FC-90DD-D35F8761A744.jpeg

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dustin

So this whole thing got me plinking around and investigating Remington's markings. On the pre and inter war 20 round boxes we see Remington Arms Company, Inc.

 

1758022822_tracer4.jpg.f9845394a3c1f450d72a9339aa0891d2.jpg

 

Then we start seeing a transition with higher Lot Numbers with a revised mfg. marking Remington Arms Co., Inc., like this box here. We can illustrate that the the full spelling of "Company" is an early feature. With this .45 ball box, can we date this specific example? that would go a long ways to being relevant to the second tracer box presented here.

 

1735997214_tracer5.jpg.ec1342164ab14350c487e219a7057c4d.jpg

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digi-shots

Here’s another box to compare...  headstamp is REM-UMC 38 ACP

6094459B-3DC5-46AD-8229-60F68BB9C6F0.jpeg

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dustin
8 minutes ago, digi-shots said:

Here’s another box to compare...  headstamp is REM-UMC 38 ACP

6094459B-3DC5-46AD-8229-60F68BB9C6F0.jpeg

 

What's the Colt, Super all about? Rather background to that specific box?

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According to Jim Frigiola's excellent article, "The 38 Special in U.S. Service," this box was the only tracer load used during WWII.  I hope our moderator, Prof. Flick, weighs in as he knows a lot more about this stuff than I do.

 

38 Tracer WWII.JPG

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dustin
31 minutes ago, kwill said:

According to Jim Frigiola's excellent article, "The 38 Special in U.S. Service," this box was the only tracer load used during WWII.  I hope our moderator, Prof. Flick, weighs in as he knows a lot more about this stuff than I do.

 

38 Tracer WWII.JPG

 

I'm sure Charlie will chime in eventually, but I do believe I have provided significant evidence to the contrary, posts #6 and #7. Carefully read and review the images there in, I laid down a very strong case. Not every single variation is always illustrated in reference books. The way I see it at this moment is that I've provided information to prove they are WWII, there is zero counter information to state they are not. Clearly the munitions publication and Frigiola's article illustrates that style of box but it does not prove the other pattern carton was not WWII. If catch my drift here, and I'm asking to keep an open mind.

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silverplate

The oft quoted "HOMUSMSAA" Has a section in Vol. 2, pg. 6, on the .38 Special Tracer Cartridges. It states that in 1943 Remington received a contract to develop a 120gr tracer bullet. For some reason, they also developed a 158gr bullet as well, and subsequent tests at Aberdeen caused the 158gr tracer bullet to be accepted for future production. The white, 2-piece tracer box is that 158gr cartridge. Production continued until mid-summer 1945, so both of the tracer boxes shown in the original display photo are correct for WWII. Tracer production ended in 1945, and resumed in the 1960's but were signal cartridges with multiple colors.

 

Is the holster on top of the crate a "Craighead" model? Here's a photo of my early war .38 special crate, and both WWII tracer boxes.

 

.38 SPL Crate 1.jpg

.38 SPL TR (4).jpg

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dustin

 Thanks for the input silverplate, very helpful.

I wonder if your box was of the jacketed type? The Army and the Navy were using lead ball up to the summer of 1943 with the introduction of the jacketed type. I do know the Navy did not receive jacketed ammo until September 1943.

I still say the box with Lot# 5006 is of the early or first production pattern, I don't think lot numbers work backwards? Is everyone seeing the lot number scenario here?

Those cartons marked 120 Grain are lot numbers 5020 and higher, the box with more detail (without grain) are 5000-5019, give or take a sequence. In reading the literature from post #5, at the end they state that all rounds tested or examined from lots 5009-5024 were 120 Grain. I guess without actually testing many more lots we don't know for sure if these more detailed boxes or those void of grain nomenclature are truly 158 Grain. It is also interesting that that literature mentions a lot as low as 5009. But we have yet to see a 120 Grain marked! box with a lot number lower that 5020 and actually lower than 5022 to be specific, we have however seen the box in question with lot numbers that low. According to the authors records or observations there are boxes in that low range and are only seen on the boxes in my argument. 

Craighead didn't make the hip type holsters for the .38 Special, rather the sterile type as seen in post #1.  They were manufactured by Brauer Bros., the one in the group is of a Brauer Bros. contract with the BuOrd.

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Charlie Flick

Gentlemen:

 

I love these kind of discussions.  Thanks for the compliment but I am afraid I will have to disappoint you.  I don't know to a certainty which box was first.  I have a (revised) best guess opinion which I will state below, but I don't really know.  Indeed, I don't know of anyone else who knows to a certainty and has supporting evidence.  

 

I should also disclose that I have been on record as stating my opinion that the ammo box with the "black outline" on the label, as shown in Dustin's first post above, is the later box.  I am going to recede from that opinion.  See the 2019 discussion on this same subject that came up on the CMP Forum.    https://forums.thecmp.org/showthread.php?t=256904  The question there was posed by GAP (a member here) and was commented upon by me and by Silverplate (another valued member here whose opinions I respect.) 

 

My opinion now is that the "black outline" box was the first .38 Special Tracer box used in WW2.   However, I believe that the other box shown by Kevin was also used in WW2 and replaced the first box.  My reasons for so stating follow in no particular order.  I freely acknowledge that I have no contemporary documentation to support or contradict this opinion.  It is purely circumstantial evidence and what I think are reasonable deductions therefrom.

 

Remington was assigned to use Lot numbers for small arms ammunition in WW2 beginning at 5000.  The assigned numbers ran up to 5999 and that practice continued post-war.  As Dustin points out the "black outline" boxes that have been observed all have Lot numbers between 5000 and 5019.   All Lot numbers observed for the second box (I'll call it Kevin's box just for clarity's sake here) are above 5020.  I have checked the multiple boxes of both types in my collection and they are consistent with that observation.  I have run an online search and found that the boxes observed are consistent with this pattern.  I have searched the Journals of the International Ammunition Association back to the 1970s but have seen nothing that contradicts that pattern.  I now conclude that for whatever reason the black outline box was discontinued and was superseded by Kevin's box, probably in 1945.

 

The black outline box contains the legend "Disposal of Emptied Cartridge Cases Must Be Made As Prescribed by A.R." [Army Regulations.]  Kevin's box dispenses with that legend.  That reference to Army Regulations is a relic of the pre-war practice of collecting spent cartridge cases, cleaning them with a soda compound and recycling them for reloading purposes.  That label reference was found on .45 ACP M1911 ammo boxes as well as other calibers.  The practice of expended case recycling for reloading was dispensed with by the start of the War but the printed legend lived on, although its use declined during the War.  However, I have seen .30 caliber ammo boxes with similar legends printed on them with ammo that was produced as late as 1953.

 

I place great weight on the 3-volume set of History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition by Hackley, Woodin and Scranton.  (Cited here as HWS.)  I refer to my set frequently as there is no better source on the subject of USGI ammunition.  (The late Mr. Hackley was at one time the commander of the Frankford Arsenal, so he knew a thing or two about ammo.)   Even so, HWS makes no mention at all of the black outline box but does have an illustration of Kevin's box.  While HWS spends some time discussing the bullet weights tested in the development of the Tracer ammo, it notes that only 120 grain Tracers have been observed as tested by weighing them.  I find that significant.  If that is truly the case, then the distinctions between the 2 box styles cannot be explained by differences in the bullet weights.  Of course, the black outline box provides no information on the bullet weight.  I suspect that all of the Remington .38 Special Tracer ammo, other than test quantities, was 120 grain.

 

Some readers of this may be wondering why no one has resorted to simply looking at the cartridge case head stamps for dates that might illuminate this issue.  A good question but unhelpful here since the head stamps on the ammo from both styles of boxes are identical and provide no date.  The head stamp is REM UMC .38 SPL on all Remington .38 Special Tracer ammo.  So that is a dead end.

 

Digi-Shots (Linda) posted an image of the .38 Super box produced by Remington in WW2.  That ammo were made for use in the 400 or so Colt M1911A1-style pistols that were procured for the OSS.  A mistake in the order led to a huge quantity of that ammo being produced, far in excess of the amount needed to the tiny quantity of pistols procured.  That ammunition is undated as well, but HWS reports that it was produced in 1945 at or about the same time pistols were procured.  That is significant only in the sense that the nearly identical style of box was used for both the .38 Super and the .38 Special Tracer as illustrated by Kevin's box. I see that as some evidence that those two boxes were in use by Remington at the same time, ie, 1945.

 

Sorry for this longwinded exposition but I thought it best to explain my revised reasoning.  I now conclude that both styles of box were WW2 production with the "black outline" box being first and superseded by Kevin's box.  Frankly, the evidence either way is tissue thin.  Nonetheless, I now see the greater weight of the evidence as supporting my conclusion.    I would welcome input from other members, especially if any other evidence not cited here can be produced.  I find this to be a fascinating topic and thank Dustin for initiating this discussion and Kevin for his valuable insights.

 

One last thought.  Kevin's style of box is now being reproduced and sold on Ebay.  While I suppose reenactors are pleased, as a cartridge collector I find that to be disturbing news.  I mention it here only as a warning to those who are offered boxes of this style in the future.  Do your homework.

 

Regards,

Charlie

 

 

 

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dustin

Thanks for weighing in Charlie, I too like these types of discussions. Super fun to pound out new details and extend our knowledge. I assure you, your response was not disappointing for the fact I learned a few new things. Also, that was one heck of a best guess rebuttal. I liked reading about the background to "Disposal of Emptied Cartridge Cases Must Be Made As Prescribed by A.R." as it was weighing on my mind what exactly that meant, now I know. 

Thanks for your valuable insight! 

 

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Well, this is fun, but also frustrating.  Charlie, thanks for jumping in.  You, too, Silverplate.  Here's another thread on the IAA forum that's relevant, but not dispositive either:  https://forum.cartridgecollectors.org/t/38-special-tracer-ammunition/24681/27

 

I have a couple of boxes of both types and the lot numbers follow the pattern observed, i.e. the boxes with the black border have lower lot numbers.  I've spent a couple of hours going through all my military handgun and ammunition manuals and they aren't much help.  They never show boxes.  The 1942 edition of TM 9-1990 (Small-Arms Ammunition) doesn't even mention .38 Special ammo.  The 1961 edition (now numbered TM 9-1305-200) shows only the 158-grain version.  However, the 1971 edition of FM 23-35 (Pistols and Revolvers) both the 120-grain and 158-grain loadings.  TM 9-1305-200 also mentions the cannelure which lies below the neck of the case so that might be a clue.

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pararaftanr2

The sequential lot number theory makes perfect sense to me. Here is my "5010" lot numbered box.

Another question that arises is regarding the head stamp. "REM UMC .38 SPL" which is marked on these shells. I've read somewhere that rounds marked with an added hyphen, "REM-UMC .38 SPL", are not from a military contract, but are a civilian contract. Is there any validity to that theory, or is it just a collector myth?

 

IMG_0367a.JPG

IMG_0366a.JPG

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silverplate

Charlie, those replica 120 grain tracer boxes on eBay are mine. I have kept them faithful to the originals, but they are marked with my business name and date in a discrete location so that they cannot be passed off as originals. All my replicas are so marked. My goal is to provide cost-effective replicas when originals can't be located.

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"As a general rule rounds without the dash between the REM and the UMC were a product of a military contract."  Pete deCoux, from the thread I posted.

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Charlie Flick
2 hours ago, silverplate said:

Charlie, those replica 120 grain tracer boxes on eBay are mine. I have kept them faithful to the originals, but they are marked with my business name and date in a discrete location so that they cannot be passed off as originals. All my replicas are so marked. My goal is to provide cost-effective replicas when originals can't be located.

S:

 

Thanks for letting me know.  I applaud your conscientious effort to protect collectors from being swindled by those far less scrupulous than you.  That is the right way to do things.  Bravo!

 

Charlie

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jerry_k
23 hours ago, dustin said:

 

The box pattern in question from the original post, I have found Lot Numbers; 5006, 5008, 5011, 5013, 5015 and 5019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great discussion guys. Here is another one box from Lot Number 5010.

image.png.4cb5b3aba4445e2282cabf250e2edc1b.png

Looks like there is no need to blindly believe the all publications and always make his own analysis... 

 

Cheers,

Jerry

 

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