Hipster Caliber Double Feature
I was working on a couple caliber posts, but since those both turned out to be relatively short I decided to combine them into one post.
357 Sig: There Is A Point (LuckyGunner Rebuttal)
Originally meant to expound upon why the only 2 calibers I carry on duty are .45 ACP and .357 Sig, I decided the best way to do this as well as perhaps dissuade people from carrying this caliber would be as a rebuttal to a post LuckyGunner made: “.357 Sig: What’s The Point?”
Wait, hold on… Dissuade people from carrying this caliber?
Yep, dissuade. See, unlike many other duty calibers, .357 Sig is NOT meant for conceal carry. This is a duty caliber only. LuckyGunner provides some excellent information for CCWs. Probably the best they’ll get without access to the stuff someone in the line of duty like myself has (with a handful of exceptions, but everyone’s got something good to teach and something crap to teach). However, they are non sworn so I understand why the purpose of a cartridge designed from the ground up for law enforcement would elude them.
Similarly, I must touch upon Dr. Gary Roberts who shares many of the viewpoints held by LuckyGunner as well as myself. The IWBA article Dr. Roberts wrote on .357 Sig is also the main information cited, so this is a rebuttal to him as much as it is a rebuttal to Chris Baker.
And this is not meant to insult Dr. Roberts or Chris Baker, either. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts: Dr. Roberts is a highly accomplished combat medic turned trauma surgeon, he is largely responsible for our current understanding of ballistics, and he is largely the reason why ballistics is now a universally respected science by everyone who isn’t a boomer fudd. Yet as I’ve also mentioned in previous articles, sometimes Dr. Roberts misses certain contexts in which tactics or gear would be applied. Both Dr. Roberts and Chris Baker’s ultimate takeaway was that .357 Sig is “a 9mm with additional cost and some side benefits” which is a popular opinion I’ve also seen people hold.
Which is the deeper issue that I plan to address in this article: I feel like the .357 Sig caliber is often misunderstood or unfairly maligned. Even the legendary Massad Ayoob hated the .357 Sig at first.
In order to discuss the applications of this caliber, first we must look at the recent history of it. This cartridge hit the shelves just a few years after the .40 S&W was adopted. .357 Sig was designed alongside the 9×23 Winchester from the ground up as a joint effort between Sig and Federal, as well as Winchester (obviously), to deliver the performance of the .357 Magnum in an autoloader pistol. The Sig being designed for law enforcement while the Winchester being designed for hunters. They ain’t the first to do this, either.
The .38 Super +P caliber was really the first successful caliber to do this, in the role that it served, and it actually predated the .357 Magnum by a couple years. The inherent idea of a high velocity handgun round is nothing new. The .357 Magnum caught on because it could be run with similar bullets to what was already available, as well as push heavier bullets. With this versatility offered by the .357 Magnum, as well as many lawmen already being used to .38 Special, it took off. Now, years later when the age of wheelguns has passed and autoloaders are the norm, people are trying to do again what the .38 Super +P accomplished.
With velocity usually being achieved at the expense of recoil, Federal wanted to tackle this problem while simultaneously delivering the high velocity hollow points that law enforcement has loved. Both the 357 Sig and the 9×23 Winchester are loaded up to very high PSIs that push the limit of SAAMI specs. However, you’ve probably heard of 357 Sig but probably not heard of 9×23 Winchester. Sig and Federal actually took notes from the .357 Magnum’s success- A big reason was compatibility with a lot of .38 Special stuff, so the 357 Sig was purposefully designed to be compatible with a lot of .40 S&W stuff. (However, in order to deal with the increased pressure, the 357 Sig actually uses 10mm brass that’s been necked down instead. If 10mm didn’t exist, neither would the 357 Sig.) The 9×23 Winchester, on the other hand, was loaded from the ground up to be its own thing. It’s got a much thicker case than nearly any other similar caliber. It is pretty much only designed to run in a 1911 type handgun as well, and marketed expressly towards a fairly niche group of hunters. These calibers are both fantastic for their intended purposes, and when worked within their paces, serve tangible roles.
As you can see, 9mm/.38 caliber is nothing new and will continue to be around in various forms until mankind discovers phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range.
Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, some of the points that Chris Baker touches on:
Accuracy and Barrier Penetration
As mentioned in the LuckyGunner article, the 357 Sig is a very accurate cartridge. (Though LuckyGunner did overestimate the distance slightly, which they’ve even noted in a later video of them tagging ballistics gel out at 100 yards. Heavy for caliber bullets do better than light zippy ones in that area.) That being said, this caliber can still definitely reach out 30 yards. While it’s not common for CCWs to have to neutralize a man sized threat at that range, I can show you multiple badge cam footage of law enforcement needing to do this.
It was speculated that the 357 Sig does a better job going through barriers, but as it was reported by the FBI this has been accomplished by modern 9mm ammo. The current FBI load is the 124gr +P Critical Duty in 9mm, which utilizes a rugged design and unique ballistic tip, rather than sheer velocity, to achieve its performance through barriers. Before that, the FBI load was the 147gr Speer Gold Dot in 9mm which has a rugged design and heavy weight/sectional density. And while, from a numbers standpoint, there is little difference, there is however a difference in the way the bullet’s trajectory is altered when passing through barriers. Now, there isn’t an exact science as to what happens to a bullet when it makes contact with an object. But in my own subjective observation, as well as the testimonies of law enforcement and high speed gunslingers I’ve spoken to, the 357 Sig flies a lot straighter when passing through most kinds of concealment or glass. Again, it is rare for a CCW to have to neutralize a threat through concealment or glass, but for law enforcement, the Secret Service, and particularly Highway Patrols (who have adopted the caliber nearly universally across the country and been very pleased with it) this is much more common of a scenario.
This brings us to another major advantage of 357 Sig that is unique to law enforcement… penetration! This caliber seems to penetrate everything except for the human body. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, “overpenetration” is mostly a myth. (If you truly are worried that you’ll accidentally shoot someone, you have bigger issues to worry about than what kind of ammo you carry in your gun.) However, the 2 scenarios where overpenetration is a viable concern are home defense and law enforcement. As you’ll see below, the 357 Sig falls within almost ideal FBI specs.
I originally thought the 357 Sig Gold Dots were just the 357 Magnum bullet loaded into the 357 Sig case. While some ammo manufacturers do load .357 Magnum or 9mm bullets into the cases, Speer designed a Gold Dot from the ground up for this caliber. (There have been a few others who design ammo from the ground up for 357 Sig as well.) Compare these 125gr Gold Dots out of a 4″ Glock barrel to the 125gr .357 Magnum Gold Dots out of a 4″ revolver barrel:
As you can see, the bullet design and consequently the expansion is slightly different. While the .357 Magnum exceeded the FBI maximum (most .357 Magnum loads do) the 357 Sig stayed well within the acceptable standards. The FBI states that 14-16″ of penetration in ballistics gel is ideal. Which reputable, quality hollow point names in the 357 Sig can absolutely accomplish. The 357 Sig is also significantly easier to shoot than a stout .357 Magnum load, which Chris Baker did testify to as well.
I will concede that there are some popular myths about the reliability and recoil of this caliber. While I personally have significantly less round count in 357 Sig than I do 9mm or .45 ACP, I can say that in the several thousand 357 Sig that I have shot that I’ve had only one malfunction that was ammo related. While in 9mm or .45 ACP, sometimes bullet geometry creates a FTF or the round fails to eject properly for whatever reason, I’ve never had this issue with 357 Sig. The increased pressure, coupled with most of the handguns having wide ejection ports since they’re meant to kick out the fatter .40 S&W brass, means I’ve never had a single FTE. Even when I’ve run bad mags, I haven’t had a FTE (feeding is a different story). But not counting bad mags, I have had exactly one FTF in this caliber which if I recall correctly was a hard cast flat nose bullet. I don’t know whether that was the geometry of the bullet itself or if that was a user induced malfunction from me racking the slide improperly. Still, one FTF out of several thousand rounds is impressive (if anecdotal). A lot of people cite the necked down bullet case for reliable feeding, but in what I’ve seen this is only the case when the guns are kicking out the brass. I have noticed VERY consistent ejection patterns as well.
Also, in my subjective observation, the recoil of 357 Sig is not bad at all. It’s significantly better than the recoil of .40 S&W, .357 Magnum, or .45 ACP. The muzzle flash is the true beast, which surprises a lot of people who aren’t used to it. Indeed, it does take some getting used to. Chris Baker does state that this may contribute to an increased rate of psychological stops, which I’m definitely not going to argue there. The muzzle flash surprising people who aren’t used to it can go both ways. However, “intimidation factor” is such a wildly context specific thing with no way to truly, tangibly measure it. Can it have an effect on criminal psyche? Yes. No. Maybe. It depends. There’s nothing wrong with a psychological stop, but it’s not something I ever bank on or plan around. You don’t control the brain waves of whomever is attacking you, and the idea that you can incorporate psychological stops into your training is laughable. What I will say, however, is that the muzzle flash can be a double edged sword if you aren’t used to shooting this caliber in low light.
Taken off of a youtube video demonstrating the muzzle flash of a bone stock M&P 357
Chris Baker does mention that the increased velocity has no tangible gain when it comes to pistol wounds, and he is right. Pistol wounds are pistol wounds. However, this increased velocity manifests as a different benefit. Hollow points are velocity based projectiles, as you increase velocity you increase performance (up to a point). You can see in a lot of 10mm and .357 Magnum ballistics tests when run through a carbine length barrel, that extra velocity helps even so-so loads perform well. 357 Sig, however, due to its necked design kicks out high enough velocity to make even so-so bullets perform well out of a handgun.
As you’ll see below, the Sig V-Crown ammo, which has been wholly unimpressive and mediocre, performs well in this caliber. You also see really crappy no name brand Remington hollow points perform well. (Remington ammo has been notorious for crappy bullets, poorly seated bullets, low grade powder, and bad primers). As noted above, some rounds are simply the 9mm or .357 Magnum bullet loaded into the 357 Sig case. This is true of the XTP and the Critical Duty. While the 135gr Critical Duty bullet hasn’t exactly been the best 9mm design (though still pretty good), it’s rugged and heavy enough to perform well when loaded into .357 Magnum or 357 Sig. Hornady slightly tweaked their 9mm to the 124gr +P Critical Duty, and that is what the FBI has adopted since 2018. Nearly every hollow point I’ve run or seen tested in this caliber has delivered adequate, if not exceptional performance. The 357 Sig caliber cannot, however, make the R.I.P. Ammo performs well. Even this caliber has its limitations.
While one could argue that with quality ammo, you’ll never have to worry about performance… This is true of CCWs who have so many levels of freedom to choose from. When you’re in the line of duty, however, you don’t always get to choose your ammo. Sometimes you have to stick with crappy ammo or caliber restrictions. Ex: the NYPD were still running FMJs up until like the 2000s, when they finally adopted the Speer Gold Dot. I’ve worked for a variety of different security agencies and I’m in the process of going into the police force. I’ve never seen anyone turn down 357 Sig for a duty caliber, just as I’ve never seen anyone turn down 9mm or .40 S&W (I have seen people turn down .45 ACP). I’ve worked at a couple agencies where “you must use 9mm or .40 S&W” was written but they let 357 Sig slide. So if you’re stuck running a less than stellar type of ammo on duty, knowing the 357 Sig can probably juice it up enough to deliver adequate performance is no small comfort.
Chris Baker and Dr. Roberts both cite increased wear and tear on 357 Sig guns.
Allow me to address this, as well as another point (conversion kits) in this:
Most of the guns I’ve seen and shot that do have increased wear and tear is because they were never designed for this caliber. They were janky barrel swap conversions over from .40 S&W, which presents its own problems. While it recoils less than .40 S&W, the 357 Sig is loaded at much higher pressures. I’ve seen shifts in POA/POI for various reasons in conversion kits such as the sights being adjusted for stout 180gr .40 S&W police loads rather than the zippy 125gr 357 Sig loads. Another reason for inaccuracy that I’ve seen is wearing down the parts more quickly, so the barrel doesn’t lock up as reliably. Again, .40 S&W isn’t ever meant to handle the pressures that 357 Sig is loaded to. (Can also see the reverse with .40 S&W guns being converted down to 9mm and lasting a lot longer. Hell, when the VP9 first came out the springs were weak so people used VP40 springs in their 9mm guns.) The only time I’ve not seen a conversion have any own problems is for Glock. If you do decide to convert a .40 S&W gun over to 357 Sig, stick with proprietary stock Glock components. Though I would rather you swap complete uppers on the gun instead.
This also is why law enforcement can have an easier time- every single armorer has Glock components and knows how to work on a Glock, so if something should happen the fix is a lot simpler. There are also complete uppers readily available should a catastrophic failure occur.
Chris Baker states the price of the caliber as a shortcoming.
Again, this is a problem specific to CCWs. For those of us in the line of duty, getting ammo in this caliber is cheaper and easier. Using my police discount, I have been able to procure 50 round bricks of Speer Gold Dots for $20-24. I’ve also been able to procure 50 round bricks of Winchester Ranger-Ts for $24-27. (And I’ll tell you what, I’ll take the 125gr 357 Sig Ranger-T over that snowflake 127gr +P+ 9mm Ranger-T any day of the week.) Ranger-T and Gold Dot is primarily what agencies around me are running, though large ones have gone back to the Critical Duty.
For someone who has additional resources available to them, such as law enforcement, most of the shortcomings of the caliber are negated. I’ve even seen police trade-in 357 Sig Glocks for sale in the $300 range.
So what is the point of 357 Sig?
The short answer: If you are in the line of duty and you are a serious shooter, this will be the greatest performing handgun caliber you can find and reasonably sustain. And if you somehow don’t own this caliber, you should rectify that ASAP. But if you don’t check both of those boxes, don’t bother carrying it. And that is why the 357 Sig hasn’t exploded in popularity.
Indeed, every single serious shooter who’s also worked in police or security, myself included, has ran the following configuration for at least one of our guns: Glock 31 loaded with 125gr Speer Gold Dots carried in a Safariland ALS holster. I would similarly have no qualms running Winchester Ranger-T or Corbon DPX in this caliber, either. As for outside the realm of duty/defense oriented shooting: the 147gr XTP loaded into this caliber delivers some wicked performance as a trail defense load. I do also want to test the Xtreme Penetrators in 357 Sig as trail defense loads, which I will edit in at a later time. (As I have made mention in previous articles: I think the Xtreme Penetrators are sub-optimal self defense ammunition but they might just be the single greatest trail defense/hunting load out there.)
You absolutely can make a case for running 9mm instead of 357 Sig. Just as you can make a case for running .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and .357 Magnum. There is not such thing as one caliber being objectively better than the other. Each one fills a specific role, and for the 357 Sig that particular role is for law enforcement only.
Tom McHale has talked about popular myths attributed to 357 in this article here. You can also find another officer who ran 357 Sig in the line of duty talking about its strengths and weaknesses here.
.38 Super: Don’t Call It A Comeback, It’s Been Here For Years
A veritable powerhouse of the competition world, this cartridge originally got its start as one of the .38 calibers designed for law enforcement. It goes by many names- the .38 Super, the .38 SA, the .38 Super Colt Automatic, the .38 Super +P, the .38 Super Automatic… And while the classification of it has changed over its century of use, it fills an interesting niche that’s never really died. As I’ve taken up competition shooting this year and come into owning my own .38 Super pistol, I’ve come to appreciate this caliber more and for reasons that weren’t immediately clear to me.
OG Law Enforcement Caliber, With Civilian Application
As mentioned in my 357 Sig article, the .38 Super has been the first viable high velocity .38 caliber designed for law enforcement. This was a hot caliber for the time period, with the .38 ACP being much more popular. It was by accident that the 1911 was discovered to run this caliber fantastically. (I personally believe that the 1911 is limited by the .45 ACP caliber, instead reaching its full potential in .38 Super caliber.) Colt was the first one to design guns expressly around this, which is why the designation “.38 Super Colt Automatic” exists. And law enforcement LOVED it.
The designation of this caliber has shifted over the years, right now the current one is “.38 Super +P” although you may see guns stamped “.38 SA” on the chamber. The designation “.38 Super +P” seems to be meant for ammo.
The .38 Super could shoot through cars at the time with ease (this was back when cars were mostly metal instead of mostly plastic like modern day, thus cars had bullet resistant* properties). The increased velocity means this caliber will streak through various types of metal like butter. I have personally shot various types of steel with my own .38 Super, and anything that isn’t AR500 steel is no match for this hot caliber. It was also capable of shooting through bulletproof vests of the time. Though vests weren’t particularly great back in the day, since Kevlar wasn’t invented until the 1960s.
*bullet resistant doesn’t mean bulletproof
The success being enjoyed by the .38 Super was not to last, however, as the .357 Magnum ate its lunch. There were still some dedicated fans of the caliber, particularly detectives. But for the vast majority of law enforcement, the wheelgun reigned supreme. This wasn’t helped by some headspacing issues of the .38 Super that wouldn’t be completely worked out for another few decades. The final nail in the coffin for the .38 Super in the law enforcement world was that John Dillinger’s signature handgun was a .38 Super custom pistol. With this negative affiliation, most LEOs didn’t even want to look at the .38 Super anymore. Yet, this caliber has stubbornly refused to die.
While the law enforcement world moved to wheelguns, the .38 Super caught on in the world of competition shooters as well as civilians who live in restrictive areas. I will address both of these in order.
Competition shooting places restrictions on what you can use for safety reasons as well as keeping the spirit of competition alive. I myself shoot IDPA, which is almost entirely common duty calibers. We can’t use muzzle brakes or compensators. And we must use quality defensive gear. (Every single person I’ve seen who showed up with a Serpa holster was DQ’ed on the spot.) The .38 Super is very controllable and many of the guns for it are 1911s, which means there’s a lot of quality gear already available to you. Though I myself run the Tanfoglio Match Pro, which is an Italian gun built on the CZ-75 design. Competition shooting is super popular in Italy, there’s a lot of quality competition guns that the Italians make which aren’t very popular in America. Like check out the Breda shotguns, especially if you don’t have the money for a Benelli.
The .38 Super is even more popular in IPSC, which I’m admittedly not very familiar with the rules on but everything I’ve seen about IPSC is that it places even more importance on the caliber of ammunition you run than IDPA does.
My .38 Super Tanfoglio Match Pro that I bought for competition shooting, these pictures were taken fresh out of the box.
The .38 Super again found a perfect niche in a role it wasn’t ever designed for, in how it bypasses a lot of anti-gun restrictions. It’s most famous for being carried by lawful CCWs in certain parts of the world such as Italy and Mexico, where caliber restrictions are a thing. Even in some parts of America with various types of restrictions on magazines or ammo, a 1911 in .38 Super will bypass those laws without sacrificing any performance. In fact, my personal top choice for carry in restrictive states is a 1911 in .38 Super.
And on that note, Rock Island Armory who are known for making durable beater 1911s on an affordable price make several 1911s for the .38 Super caliber. I’ve seen them go for anywhere between the $300-$600 range. They aren’t the buttery smooth 1911s you find in the 4 digit price range, but a work horse won’t ever be the same as a race horse. And while I haven’t shot a .38 Super caliber Rock Island Armory 1911, I have nothing but good things to say about the .45 ACP and 9mm models.
W ell, nothing but good things to say aside from the fact that it’s a dang 1911.
One of the biggest joys of running a hipster caliber is finding ammo for the damn thing. In which case, Buffalo Bore is a name that is synonymous with hipster calibers.
Originally designed for large bore hunting (hence the name), Buffalo Bore has begun loading all sorts of ammo in lesser known calibers. I even like using their ammo in some popular duty calibers. For example: When I was working security for a zoo, I carried their hard cast .45 ACP Outdoorsman loads in my Glock because my likelihood of shooting an animal that got out was leagues greater than shooting a person for any reason. This ammo manufacturer has seen to breathe additional life into calibers of all kinds. Buffalo Bore also has a reputation of loading their stuff HOT but for a caliber designed around hot, speedy loads like .38 Super? That is a perfect pairing! (Underwood also loads .38 Super ammo, they are another name known for hot loads.)
Buffalo Bore loads various 9mm bullets into .38 Super (which is quite common for the caliber, even more so than the comparable 357 Sig). My favorites are the 147gr XTP and the 147gr Gold Dot. Normally these are subsonic in 9mm, but loaded up to .38 Super they are trucking out at supersonic velocities. Combined with their weight and sectional density, these things hit with the hammer of god. I would have no qualms running that XTP load for trail defense or running that Gold Dot load for defensive use.
Buffalo Bore also loads the Barnes TAC-XP all copper hollow point bullet. While Gold Dot isn’t keen on Buffalo Bore using their name, Barnes absolutely is. These loads are proudly labeled Buffalo Barnes. I’ve not been super impressed with most copper hollow points in pistols, simply because the increased length of the bullet means increased air friction acting upon the bullet while in flight. As a consequence, velocities are lower than other bullets in the same weight and thus consistency of performance can vary. I also find it difficult to justify the cost of most all copper hollow points, not because the bullets themselves are more expensive to make. I’ve seen a lot of people, particularly Barnes, put too much effort into the appearance of the box and appearance of the ammo. I don’t care what it looks like, I care how it runs. I have been much more impressed with all copper hollow points loaded into revolvers and rifle caliber carbines, but I have noticed that all copper hollow points are fantastic loads in zippy calibers such as .38 Super. These bullets handle the higher velocities well, especially since they have virtually no core-jacket separation being one piece of solid copper. (See below)
But what about ammo that isn’t nuclear hot? No worries, I am happy to report quality loads from Wilson Combat, DoubleTap, and Winchester also exist. I personally would encourage people to go for the Wilson Combat ammo, which is fantastic performing ammunition in every caliber I’ve run it through. I seriously don’t know how it isn’t more popular, especially given how Wilson Combat is a legendary name. I’m too poor for Wilson Combat guns, but I will boost their ammo any day of the week.
The always effective Corbon DPX is loaded in this caliber, as well. My issues with all copper hollow points in pistols doesn’t extend to the Corbon DPX. Every single caliber I’ve ever seen, the Corbon DPX has been a solid performer. Similarly, Corbon isn’t concerned with the appearance of their ammo like Barnes is. They know the name “Corbon DPX” on its own is the selling point, and Corbon is highly venerated among the law enforcement community as well as 1911 shooters (for their Pow’rball design).
As for ball ammo, you can find a bunch of European and Central/South American stuff out there such as Aguila or Magtech. There are a few American loadings such as Federal and Winchester as well. I personally run Fiocchi and Sig Elite. Fiocchi is called “the Best Buy of ammo” because it’s the only stuff that manages to be both really inexpensive and really clean. They are also Italian, so obviously I’m feeding spaghetti bullets to my spaghetti gun. Sig Elite is a lot alike Wilson Combat ammo in that hardly anybody has heard about them. Except in Sig’s case, there’s a reason why you haven’t heard of it: the only one they aggressively marketed, the V-Crown, wound up to be extremely disappointing. That being said, their FMJs are great if you run heavy-for-caliber stuff. Sig Elite also loads some great heavy-for-caliber SMK bullets in rifle calibers, as well as a variety of all copper hollow points in rifle calibers. And if this ain’t a powerful endorsement: I have switched entirely from Federal American Eagle to Sig Elite for my practice ammo.
Sheriff Jim Wilson
Being an officer in the state of Texas, it would be a disservice not to mention Sheriff Jim Wilson when discussing .38 Super. A lawman with over 30 years experience, as well as a bona fide cowboy, Sheriff Jim Wilson is like Texas’s own Massad Ayoob. Jim is even friends with the Yoob (see below picture). While my experience with the .38 Super has been mostly as “the competition caliber”, Sheriff Jim Wilson has a ton of verifiable experience using it for its originally intended purpose: a capable lawman cartridge. Wilson even worked around the DFW area, same as me. He originally signed on with Denton police before going out west to become a sheriff in Crockett County.
Most of you youngin’s ain’t ever heard of Sheriff Jim Wilson. He’s an old timer still operating today. (He was also partly the inspiration for Tommy Lee Jones’s character in No Country For Old Men.) But Sheriff Jim Wilson is very much modernizing and keeping up with the times. I would highly advise people to check out his articles for Shooting Illustrated as well as his own personal blog. Sheriff Jim Wilson is among the other old fudds still on their grind to this day like Massad Ayoob or Clint Smith- a definite case for indomitable spirit.
Tanfoglio .38 Super
(This is not my gun, this is one of the regular steel frame model Tanfoglios in .38 Super.)
Not related to the caliber itself per se, but the .38 Super is almost synonymous with 1911s. I wanted to include a little review/first impressions/my experiences on the Tanfoglio Match Pro that I own since it’s not as well known.
The Tanfoglio is known best as being the highest quality “knock off” CZ-75 pistols chambered in various calibers. The steel frame ones are great beater guns, no doubt. And the .45 ACP and 10mm models are certainly more viable modern carry options than the CZ-97 or Bren Ten or Colt Delta Elite are. Tanfoglio also makes some long slide models under the Elite and Hunter names, which are surprisingly high quality given the other work horses they have churned out. So what about the Match Pro?
-large ammo capacity
-some are DA/SA making them viable carry guns
-the Single Action only ones have nice triggers
-the slimmed down design makes it more comfortable to shoot and carry
-aggressive grip texture
-large trigger guard that makes it easy to use even when wearing gloves
-gargantuan ejection port and consistent ejection pattern
When I say a gargantuan ejection port, I mean a GARGANTUAN ejection port. Italian pistols are known for their large ejection ports to increase reliability, but I dug up some Federal suppressor ready .45 ACP ball ammo that I had and dropped it into my Tanfoglio Match Pro… it fit inside.
The big one being the magazines. Magazines are the Achilles Heel of any gun. Now these magazines are good quality. I mean, real real good quality. Double stack magazines have a reputation for being unreliable in .38 Super caliber, but these are top quality. The problem is that you can only run proprietary mags in this particular kind of gun. While other Tanfoglio pistols are compatible with a variety of CZ mags, which is a major selling point of them, finding in-stock proprietary magazines can be a challenge. The basic bitch Mec-Gar mags aren’t as reliable in this one as proprietary mags are. I mainly have to poke around online for proprietary mags, and they ain’t cheap. They usually go for $30 a mag from what I can find. (Contrast that to my Glock where I can purchase a pack of 5 mags for $60.)
Another negative is holsters. Good luck finding a reliable duty holster for the Tanfoglio pistols, because they are incompatible with the Safariland ALS. Safariland does make a competition holster for these, though. There is also the Dasta lock block holster. It was designed from the ground up for CZ pistols, I have no experience with it as of this time but CZ advertises it on their website. The question is eyeballing them for your Tanfoglio, which is doable for the regular ones but for the special lines? I doubt they’ll be compatible with this absolute pig of a handgun. I plan to buy them and test them out however, so when I do I’ll be sure to edit them into this post. This isn’t an issue for the 1911, since both the .38 Super guns and magazines are compatible with holsters and mag pouches for the .45 ACP model 1911s.
Another negative I have noticed is that for online purchases it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether you are buying a DA/SA or SA model, at least with the Match line.
To demonstrate how thick this gun is, here it is next to the Glock 21 that I carry for work. Due to the CZ-75 based design, however, the gun feels very slimmed down. If not for the flared magwell I wouldn’t really notice how thick it actually is in my hand.
If you take those 2 main downsides into consideration and find that the Tanfoglio is still something you want to run, definitely pick up a steel frame model. I only grabbed the polymer frame because I found it on sale for under $500. (This line of Tanfoglio, as well as the Hunter and Elite, have all otherwise gone for $700 at the lowest. It’s not uncommon for them at all to go up into the 4 digit price range, too.) I have fired the regular steel frame Tanfoglios in every caliber they come except for .40 S&W, and I can highly recommend any of them if you need a workhorse pistol built like a tank. As for the polymer frame ones, I have heard of reliability issues with those but I have yet to see any with my Match Pro. Possibly because the polymer is much harder than literally any other polymer frame handgun I’ve run. The real issue is recoil, because it was nothing like I was expecting it to be. It wasn’t bad, with the inverted rails I find the polymer frame Match Pro to be comparable to a steel frame 1911 in terms of felt recoil. (The steel frame Tanfoglios are still the best when it comes to felt recoil, however.)
If you are someone who will train on this extensively and run thousands of rounds through it (like, say, a competition shooter) then this is a very viable option. Though for 9mm, you’re probably better off with a true CZ. I’ll either come back to update this or make a new article entirely once I’ve run thousands of rounds through my Tanfoglio for a definitive verdict on the gun.
Given that many people have either never heard of .38 Super at all, or they’ve heard of it but don’t have much experience with it, I’m going to leave several bits of information.
I’ve already linked Sheriff Jim Wilson’s works above, though I would like to include an article done reviewing the Rock Island Armory 1911 in .38 Super. If you want to pick one up as work horse or carry pistol and don’t have the money for the Wilson Combat Sentinel.
There are a handful of YouTube videos done on the .38 Super by Hickock45 as well as Paul Harrell. (Just don’t watch TheYankeeMarshal’s video on .38 Super, he’s a dramawhore asshole with little if any actual substance to his content.)
LuckyGunner has also done an article on the caliber.
As usual, I’m supporting charity
Black Rifle Coffee Company is one I’ve been supporting for a while. They’re legendary for people in the line of duty, though recently they’ve started exploding in popularity. (Apparently one of the Trumps shouted them out last year, which I only recently learned about. That’s how little I pay attention to political drama.) They support a variety of charities aimed towards supplying first responders as well as investing in their mental health. One of these includes Warrior’s Heart, which helps people in the line of duty of all stripes who struggle with PTSD, drug addiction, and TBIs (traumatic brain injuries). Tom Spooner is doing good work.