Differences Between .38 Special and 9mm Bullets


Handguns are one form of weapon that is carried concealed by military personnel, government agents, undercover police officers and other specialty tactical forces. The gun type called a Luger fires nine-millimeter bullets. The .38 Special is a type of handgun that requires specially made ammunition; police issued Glock handguns also use 38mm cartridges.


  • The 9mm has been one of the most widely used pistol and sub-machine gun cartridges in history. Developed in the early 20th Century for the German army's Luger, it was approved for use by the US military in 1985. The .38 was developed by Smith & Wesson and was used in .38 Special handguns, replacing the Colt revolver as a higher-powered handgun. The .38 Special was issued to American police officers throughout the 20th Century.


  • The speed of standard bullets ranges between 600 and 5000 feet per second. The calculations may seem low for both the 9mm and the .38, but they are not high-powered rifles, but small handguns. The 9mm round comes from a higher-pressure round than the .38, so its velocity is considerably higher than the .38's, ranging up to a level of 1500 feet/second, while the fastest of the .38 models, the Super, can only be measured at up to 1215 feet/second.


  • The diameter of the .38 bullet is usually between .356 to 0.358 inches. The 9mm bullet can be a bit larger in diameter at .3555 to .3565 inches. At 9/19mm, the 9mm is considerably shorter than the bullet for the .38, by about 2/3 of the length. However, the 9mm is a heavier bullet. Measured by units of mass, the 9mm weighs between 88 and 147 grains, depending upon whether it has a jacketed hollow point or a silver-tip hollow point. The .38 Special Jacketed Hollow Point can weigh as little as 110 grains, while the Lead Semi Wad Cutter can range as high as 158 grains.


  • Full Metal Jacket 9mm rounds of 115 grains, as of 2011, can be bought for about $15 for 50 rounds. At similar cost is the .38 Special 130 grain. Full Metal Jacket cost per 50 rounds can range between $16 and $20.

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