Best 38 Super Pistols of 2022 – Ultimate Review

| Last Updated:
August 13, 2023

In 1929, Colt improved the design of Moses Browning’s .38 Automatic cartridge, and the result was the obscure and oft-ignored .38 Super cartridge.

Despite its lack of major popularity and industry support, the .38 Super is still a very viable option for both competitive shooting and for self-defense.

Check out some of the best .38 Super Pistols out there today.

What to Watch For When Buying a .38 Super

Considering the fact that the .38 Super isn’t as popular or common as other calibers, it is important to keep a few things in mind when shopping for one. Keep reading to learn about a few things to look out for.

Brian Belko: Gunmann Author

This Section Written By:

Brian Belko

Expert Author

Brian is an experienced freelance writer and technical writer who has previously written for publications such as Wide Open Spaces, Bigfoot Gun Belts, Alien Gear Holsters, and Kampgrounds of America. He brings both a passion for writing and a love of the outdoors to his published content.

Aside from writing and the outdoors, Brian enjoys gardening, being a co-host on The Nostalgia Blast Podcast, and learning to code.

Hard to Find

One important thing to keep in mind if you decide the .38 Super is the caliber you want to shoot is that scarcity will come into play. This goes for both actual handguns chambered in it as well as factory ammo for it. This isn’t to say it is impossible to find .38 Super guns and ammo. However, it won’t be as easy to find as more popular calibers such as 9mm or .45 ACP. It can be frustrating to have to hunt down ammo in a specific caliber, but for some, the .38 Super is worth it.

This won’t be as big of a challenge for reloaders. The .38 Super is an easy round to reload and the brass for it lasts a really long time which makes it more affordable in the long run.

Competition Standout

If it isn’t very popular and can be hard to find guns and ammo for, then why are we even talking about the .38 Super? A few reasons. Popularity is fickle and doesn’t tell us much about performance or usefulness, it was created by one of the most venerated names in firearm history, and oh happens to excel in the world of competitive shooting while also being an excellent self-defense option.

The .38 Super can hold an additional round or two when compared to the .45. That extra capacity can offer an edge in competitive shooting. The .38 Super also runs at a higher pressure than the .45. Higher pressure means more gas feeding into compensators and therefore less muzzle rise and more control. To summarize, the .38 Super gives shooters an extra shot or two and more control. You don’t even need to be a competitive shooter to see the advantage there.

On the Defensive Front

The .38 Super should also not be overlooked as a self-defense caliber. It offers a high velocity for an auto-pistol cartridge and it also has a noticeably lower amount of recoil than .40 S&W and .45 ACP, two other common self-defense cartridges.

In addition to those two self-defense benefits, the .38 Super also offers more penetration than 9mm cartridges. This additional penetrating capability is born from the higher velocity (about 200 feet per second more than the 9mm) and that higher velocity deforming the .38 Super bullets to have a smaller front diameter. Combining higher impact velocity with deeper penetration and you have an excellent self-defense option on your hands.

The one real question about the .38 Super is...why isn’t it more popular?

Comparison of the Best .38 Super Pistols

  • 9 + 1 round capacity
  • Wooden grip for superior control
  • Best .38 Super Pistol for the money
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  • 17-round capacity
  • Adjustable rear sights
  • Synthetic grip made from high-quality materials
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  • 9-round capacity
  • Wooden grip included
  • Barrel length measured at 4.25 inches
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Review of the Best .38 Super Pistols

The following is a list of the best 38 Super Pistols that are currently available on the market. As you go through the list, you should get a good idea of what your “ideal” 38 Super Pistol is. If you have a description in mind you can then note the features and characteristics of each pistol on the list.

Find one that is close enough to the description and give it a closer look before buying. Now, let’s take a look at the first 38 Super Pistol on our list -- the “best overall” choice:

Best Overall: 
Rock Island Armory GI Standard FS


  • Outstanding durability
  • Excellent accuracy at various distances
  • Great for self-defense and target shooting
  • The grip allows for excellent, no-slip control


  • Disassembly might be a bit tough at first
  • Trigger pull might be a little heavier than expected

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of new buyers were able to use this pistol to their advantage in a target shooting situation by being able to hit their targets as far out as 40 yards. Most of them were using it for casual shooting while a good handful went a step further and used it for competitive purposes. One user said that the shooting ability was decent and it wasn’t that difficult to fire off a shot or two. Overall, they were quite satisfied with the performance of the pistol. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pistol should be worth more than the price tag it’s going for. But thankfully for those on a budget, it’s affordable enough for those to grab it and give it a go for their desired applications. It’s tough as nails and allows for excellent shooting ability without any jamming or any other reliability issues that may arise from flimsy and cheap pistols. Also, the wood grip gives the pistol a bit of a classic look. So if you are a sucker for the old school, this pistol might be something you’ll like on the looks alone. But don’t let that overshadow the true performance and quality of the pistol itself. 

Who Will Use This Most

This will be used as a beginner pistol for those who have never fired a 38 Super pistol before. So if you need a pistol that will be able to shoot fast, smooth, and without any reliability issues at all then this could be the pistol for you. And it’s also pretty precise with its accuracy as well. And at a price that you can afford, why not take up the chance to give this a go?

Bottom Line

The Rock Island Armory GI Standard is the pistol for those who want a 38 Super Pistol that will get the job done regardless of any application. You can shoot targets, defend yourself from danger, and get an edge on the competition with this one pistol. And at a price that you can afford, what’s stopping you from getting it? Even if you do have money to play around with, this is a pistol that will not disappoint in terms of performance. Who knows? It just might outperform any given high-end pistol you can think of. 

2. EAA Witness Elite Match


  • Durable construction
  • Rear sight is easily adjustable
  • Reliable and accurate shooting
  • Excellent for concealed carry purposes
  • The grip allows for excellent control and recoil reduction


  • May be too loud for some users
  • Might be a bit heavy when loaded
  • Trigger pull might be a little heavy with some creep

What Recent Buyers Report

Most of the new buyers were quite happy with their purchase of this pistol. They first noticed the consistent accuracy with this pistol. One user said that when hitting targets at about 35 yards out, he said that the shooting groups were noticeably tighter compared to the shots fired at 25 yards out. Overall, they were quite happy with some of the other features like the high-quality grip. One other user said that it allowed for superior groups even in bad weather conditions.

Why it Stands Out to Us

For a 38 Super Pistol, it has a bit of a powerful punch to it. And even better, you have 17 rounds to work with. So you have a good amount of superior firing power at your disposal. If you need a pistol for target shooting (casual or competitive) or when you need it in a life or death situation. Either way, you’re ready to use it when the situation calls for it. Furthermore, you can use this if your palms tend to sweat or if you are firing it off in wet weather conditions. This synthetic grip will allow you to retain control without worrying about any slippage.

Who Will Use This Most

This pistol will be great for the outdoors. If you are a frequent visitor of outdoor ranges, you’ll want a pistol that will make every experience enjoyable. You can use it for competition purposes or something that you can fire off for hours so long as you have enough rounds. It’s got the reliability, the quality, and the willingness to step up and rise to the challenge of any target shooting application. This pistol will surely give some of the others a run for their money in some of the characteristics and features it has.

Bottom Line

The EAA Witness Elite Match is a pistol that you’ll probably use for all of your target shooting and competitive shooting applications alike. Whether you’re using it for fun or when the competition is getting fierce, this pistol will definitely make a name for itself among those types of shooters. You get excellent accuracy, unrivaled dependability, and the chance to really give yourself total control over it when the weather outside is not the best.

3. Dan Wesson Guardian


  • Solid construction
  • Fits in most CCW holsters
  • Sights allow for precise shooting
  • Accurate shooting up to approx. 40 yards
  • Great for concealed carry and target shooting


  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

As expected, they were quite happy with this pistol in terms of performance and quality. They said that the trigger pull was smooth and light (about 3 pounds). A lot of the new users say that they were confident in using the pistol in situations where time was a certain factor. One user said that he was in a timed shooting competition and was able to blast through a couple of magazines while hitting his targets accurately.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pistol has the right measurables for it to fit as a concealed carry pistol. All you have to do is find the right kind of pistol to ensure that you get that perfect glove-like fit and you’ll be in business for whenever you need it. Even if you’re at the range, it’s good to have a holster that will securely carry your pistol while you’re walking around. Regardless, this pistol won’t allow for any bulging no matter where you take it. If you want the closest thing to maximum concealability in a 38 Super Pistol, then make no mistake about it. This pistol will certainly fulfill your concealed carry needs. But remember, it can also serve its purpose as a competitive or casual target shooting pistol. So in short, it can do it all.

Who Will Use This Most

This pistol will be a multi-purpose pistol that has the right kind of measurements for you to carry it in a holster and forget it (and by forget it, we mean you won’t feel like you are carrying so don’t confuse that with actually forgetting that you have it). It’s always good to be prepared for any lurking danger or being able to keep it out of the wrong hands while you are out and about. But we digress. This pistol gives you excellent concealability and will certainly have your back in any given self-defense or target shooting situation.

Bottom Line

The Dan Wesson Guardian is a pistol that has proven itself time and time again why it belongs on the list. You’ll have excellent accuracy and reliability that will make the other shooters at the range envy you. It’s built like a tank and will be the go-to choice for even some beginner shooters.

4. Colt Gold Cup Trophy 38 Super


  • SA/DA mechanics
  • Super durable construction
  • Reliable in most applications
  • Fits in most concealed carry holsters
  • Classic 1911 design


  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of new buyers were quite happy with this pistol. They were impressed with the overall aesthetics of the pistol but cared more about the actual performance and quality. They were happy with the overall durability and were fairly confident that it would work for them for a long time. To add, it was quite accurate from distances between 30 to 40 yards. One user said that it was actually easy to disassemble for cleaning and maintenance.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We kick off the list with a Colt brand 38 Super Pistol. Colt has been around for a long time and is considered to be one of the handful of trusted names. It’s proven itself time and time again to provide reliable and accurate firearms.

This 38 Super pistol is no different. It’s built for the applications it will excel at most (concealed carry and target shooting). In fact, it’s one of the preferred 38 Super Pistols that is preferred by competitive shooters due to some of its excellent qualities. You get light enough trigger pull, superior quality, and unmatchable reliability. Roll that all into one and you get a pistol that is built for the competitive shooter. If that’s something you want in a pistol, you’ve got it with the Colt Gold Cup Trophy 38 Super.

Who Will Use This Most

This pistol will be a perfect fit for competitive and casual target shooters. But it won’t be rendered useless by anyone who wants to use it for concealed carry. In fact, the ability to shoot fast and its inability to jam makes this a real lifesaver in the event you are caught up in a dangerous situation. Simply put, this pistol can do it all. If that’s the kind of pistol that you want then you’d be hard-pressed to find anything else quite like this.

Bottom Line

The Colt Gold Cup Trophy 38 Super is a pistol that belongs on the top of the list and for good reason. It shoots fast, it’s durable, and can certainly give you an edge over the competition or an attacker who is stupid enough to mess with you. If you want a 38 Super Pistol that is really one of the best in the business, this might be it.

5. Colt 1991 Government


  • Superior durability
  • Trigger pull is easy and light
  • Very reliable, little jamming to speak of
  • Consistently accurate
  • Excellent for competitive shooting and concealed carry


  • A bit pricey for budget shoppers
  • The trigger may have some creep
  • May be a bit weighty for some users

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of new users were pretty impressed with how well this pistol was performing overall. For the most part, they were able to shoot rather quickly and had been able to effectively hit their targets from ranges between 15 to 30 yards. One user said that the shooting groups appeared to be quite tight with targets located from farther distances. The pistol was also durable and they loved what they liked to call “head-turning aesthetics”.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pistol is a thing of beauty, no doubt about it. But it was perhaps, one of the most reliable pistols that have been trusted by the US Government for years. Yes, Colts have long been a favorite among military members who utilize it for a sidearm (and even federal agents have relied on Colts for years). But now, they rely on SIG Sauer pistols. If you want a pistol that is a replica of the real deal sidearms that were trusted by our soldiers for many years, this might be a pistol that you’ll appreciate. Its performance is top quality and the overall build might just give it the longevity that you’re probably looking for in a pistol.

Who Will Use This Most

This will be used more in tactical and home defense situations. It will excel in these applications thanks to the durability, reliability, and the light trigger pull that will allow for quick shooting. Timing is everything when it comes to these situations, so you need to quickly get a shot off without any jamming issues at all. This pistol will certainly give you no grief at all.

Bottom Line

The Colt 1991 Government is an excellent pistol that stands out as a concealed carry user’s favorite. It will likely last you many years provided that you take good care of it. The better the shape that it’s in, the better the chance that it will take care of you. With a performance that is hard to beat, why wouldn’t you want to take good care of it.

What Are the Best Uses For a .38 Super Pistol?

Prior to owning a .38 Super Pistol, it’s good to know what they are used for. You may already have a purpose in mind, but they differ from one person to the next. Here are some of the applications that are ideal for .38 Super Pistol owners:

Concealed Carry

Most of the 38 Super Pistols that are on the market have the right kind of measurements for concealed carry. You can fit these in a holster that will fit like a glove. Some of them are smaller than others and therefore will have better concealability than those that are somewhat larger in size. Find a size that fits you perfectly and be sure that you are able to have proper control over it. 

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Target Shooting

You might just spend the day or the weekend casually shooting targets at the range or somewhere in the woods if you know a good spot. A 38 Super Pistol is known for being pretty accurate. And the shooting groups will depend on the kind of rounds your shooting and the specific 38 Super pistol that you are using.

Competition Shooting

If you are a competitive shooter, then there’s a good chance that you will use a pistol like a 38 Super Pistol. They are accurate, reliable, and will come in through the clutch if and when the situations were to arise. All you need to do is hit your targets and come out on top against the competition. What better way to use a pistol like a 38 Super Pistol when the game is on the line.

What Do I Need to Know Before Buying a .38 Super Pistol?

Being well informed before making a purchasing decision is important. Especially when it comes to purchasing a 38 Super Pistol for your own use. Knowing what to expect is key so you know how the gun functions and what it can be used for. Here are some things to be aware of:

You Can Conceal Carry if You Wish

Like many pistols, you can carry a 38 Super Pistol as a concealed weapon. It is imperative that you check with your local and state laws to ensure that concealed carry is allowed. And you must also have a holster since it is required. But worry about that after you choose a 38 Super Pistol.

Clean and Maintain it Regularly

Cleaning and maintaining your gun is essential for it to perform at the highest quality. However, some of the 38 Super Pistols may need a bit more maintenance than some other pistols. 

Be sure to clean and maintain it on a regular basis (about twice a month) to ensure that it is in excellent shape and will not slow down in performance.

Choose Your Rounds Wisely

There are different brands of .38 Super Pistol rounds that are available. Keep in mind that some of them will provide tighter shooting groups (by being more consistent) than others. It would not hurt if you purchased a couple of different brands of rounds so you can determine which ones work best for you in terms of shooting groups. 

Rock Island Armory GI Standard FS


The best 38 Super Pistol is out there. And you’ll want one that will perform at its best in any given application. Find one that is great in quality and superb in accuracy and reliability and you will certainly have a pistol that will surely rise above and beyond the pack. Remember, this pistol may stay with you for the long term so choose wisely.

People Also Ask

The following is a list of frequently asked questions that are often asked by prospective buyers. You should consider using this section as a guide so you are able to make a more informed decision on 38 Super Pistols and how you can use them to your advantage. Here are the following questions:

Is .38 Special and .38 Super The Same?

Not quite. In fact, the 38 Super has slightly more power compared to the 38 Special rounds. The Supers are more likely to be used in competition shooting applications since they provide a flatter trajectory.

Can a .38 Super Shoot 9mm?

Surprisingly, yes. Both a 38 Super and 9mm round are identical to each other. So you would have no problem using one round or another while shooting a 38 Super pistol. There may be a slight difference in ballistics depending on which round you may use. 

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Can You Shoot .38 ACP in a .38 Super?

Despite having the same dimensions, it is not highly recommended that you shoot a .38 ACP in a .38 Super. A .38 Super pistol is designed to shoot at higher pressures. Using .38 ACP may be deemed unsafe with such pistols designed for the other.

Can a .38 Super Be Fired in a .357?

No. a .357 is a revolver round while a .38 Super is a semi-automatic round. Plus, it might be unsafe to fire off a revolver round inside a semi-automatic pistol and vice versa.

Is a .38 Super Good For Self-Defense?

The .38 Super is a fine round for self-defense. It’s similar to a 9mm which is widely accepted as a good self-defense round, with a little extra oomph behind it. However, there are not as many specialty self-defense rounds made in .38 super as compared to 9mm.

Michael Lutes

Michael Lutes is the managing editor and owner at Gun Mann. He is a veteran, gun enthusiast, 3 gun competitor, and 2a advocate. Mike has a passion for innovation and education across the industry to create great content, training, and insights from the best and brightest.

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