Sometimes I get the feeling that the young guys around the IMO offices have the perception that we older guys (and I’m including anybody 45 years old or older in that category!) aren’t interested in trying any guns or loads that aren’t our longtime favorites. Well, I’m here to say they are wrong–sort of.
Case in point: I have long favored the 1911 platform for my favorite auto pistols. And I’ve generally taken the .45 ACP cartridge as my favorite auto pistol round. Oh, I’ve shot quite a few of the others out there, including double-action, double-stack auto pistols in .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and 9mm, but the old 1911 just feels better in my hand. And no argument against the .45 ACP has ever held any weight in my mind. But just to prove those young bucks wrong, when I decided to look closely at Les Baer’s Premier II pistol, I decided to take it in a “new” chambering. I picked the .38 Super.
Here’s a down-and-dirty look at the gun and the cartridge.
|Manufacturer:||Les Baer Custom, 563-289-2126; www.lesbaer.com|
|Magazine Capacity:||9 rounds|
|Barrel:||5 in.; rifling: six grooves, 1:16 LH twist|
|Overall Length:||8.5 in.|
|Weight, empty:||39 oz.|
|Sights:||LBC low-mount adjustable rear, LBC dovetail front|
|Trigger:||4.0-lb. pull, LBC speed trigger|
|Safeties:||Manual thumb safety, grip safety, internal firing pin block|
The Premier II is a full-size, all-steel, 5-inch-barreled 1911. It features a Baer match frame and a Baer steel slide hand-fitted to the frame. The throated barrel is Baer’s National Match tube with a stainless-steel match bushing, a supported chamber, and a polished feedramp. The sights are an LBC deluxe adjustable rear with hidden leaf and a Baer dovetailed front post. Other features include a Baer extended ejector, an extended ambidextrous thumb safety, a Baer aluminum adjustable speed trigger, a Baer deluxe Commander hammer and sear tuned to a crisp 4-pound pull (according to my Lyman trigger pull gauge), a Baer tuned extractor, a Baer beavertail grip safety with pad, a grooved flat mainspring housing, and a beveled magazine well. The grip frame’s frontstrap is checkered 30 lines per inch, and magazine capacity is nine rounds. The retail price is $2,070, and the Premier II comes with a 3-inch, 50-yard accuracy guarantee.
.38 Super By The Numbers
The .38 Super is a round that I never had any dealings with–other than to read about it–until this project came up. It was born in 1929 when handgunners were looking for a more powerful auto pistol cartridge than the original .38 Auto cartridge. So, in relation to the .45 ACP, which was developed in 1905, you could consider the .38 Super as “new.” I know. You young guys are saying the .357 SIG and even the 9x23mm are much newer, and you’d be right. But, hey, what’s old is new these days. Just look at all the “new” automobiles that are really just throwbacks to older models, especially in styling details. And besides, the .38 Super is new to me.
The .38 Super’s ballistics are pretty darned impressive. In fact, longtime Shooting Times Technical Editor George Nonte wrote, “… the .38 Super is the finest all-around auto-pistol cartridge in existence, far outstripping the 9mm Parabellum and .45 ACP in effectiveness and lethality.” He had two favorite handloads, and they consisted of the 90-grain Super Vel JHP and the 112-grain Super Vel JHP over Unique. I won’t give you the powder charge weights because by today’s standards he was way over the recommended maximums, but those loads churned up velocities of 1,600 and 1,450 fps and muzzle energies of 511 and 523 ft-lbs, respectively. Of course, Super Vel bullets are no longer being made, but comparable component bullets are.
I’ve been shooting three factory loads in the Premier II–Federal’s American Eagle 130-grain FMJ loading, Remington’s 130-grain MC offering, and Winchester’s 130-grain FMJ load. They generate 1,224 fps on average in the 5-inch-barreled Premier II according to the RCBS chronograph I used. Energy figures for those loads are 435, 428, and 435 ft-lbs.
Compared to the classic .357 M
agnum with 125-grain bullets, which generally produces 1,450 fps and 580 ft-lbs of energy in a 5-inch-barreled revolver, the .38 Super loads I fired have velocities that are on average about 240 fps less than the .357 Mag. And their energies are approximately 160 ft-lbs less than the Magnum’s. Said a different way, the .38 Super is about 20 to 25 percent less powerful than the .357 Magnum.
The chief complaint against the .38 Super for quite a bit of its life was its questionable–even poor–accuracy. But I think that might have had more to do with the guns than the cartridge because when the .38 Super began being used as a competition round in IPSC, accurate pistols chambered for it came on the scene. I did the accuracy shooting for this report at 25 yards and with the LBC pistol mounted in a Ransom Rest, and you can see the results of my shooting session in the accompanying chart. Overall group average with the three loads was a bit more than 1.50 inches. The best average was right at 1.25. I don’t think anybody would complain about that kind of real-world accuracy.
With the factory rounds I’ve put through the pistol so far, there have been no malfunctions or stoppages of any kind. On top of that, the felt recoil of the rounds I fired by hand for the velocity figures in the full-size 1911 was virtually nonexistent.
So there you have it. The Les Baer Premier II is a top-notch pistol in all ways, and the .38 Super is a powerful yet light-recoiling cartridge. And oh yeah, we old dogs are willing to check out something “new” once in awhile (well, newer at least).
|LES BAER PREMIER II ACCURACY|
|Ammunition||Velocity (fps)||Extreme Spread (fps)||Standard Deviation (fps)||25-yard Accuracy (inches)|
|Federal American Eagle 130-gr. FMJ||1227||34||11||1.25|
|Remington UMC 130-gr. MC||1216||60||18||2.00|
|Winchester USA 130-gr. FMJ||1228||44||12||1.75|
|WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors, Inc. assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data. NOTES: Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups fired from a Ransom Rest. Velocity is the average of 10 rounds measured 12 feet from the gunâ€™s muzzle.|