Doing business with Maggard Razors has always been a great experience for me. Reasonable prices, diverse selection, my orders have been promptly sent-out to the shippers and arrive in less than a week from the Midwest (Maggards) to the Pacific Northwest (me).
The Merkur 38 uses the same head as the Merkur 34c "Heavy Duty"/"HD". The difference is the length and style of the 38's handle. The black barber pole handle has a smooth finish. Occasionally wipe your fingers on a cloth or alumn block and support the bottom of the handle on your little finger while lightly gripping the upper portion of the handle between your thumb and index finger. I have never dropped any of my smooth handled razors using this technique.
I soak my razor (with blade loosely loaded) in Barbicide *before* each shave, soak in 90% rubbing alcohol *after* each shave, and lightly buff polish the razor, when dry, with a soft cloth. After several months of this treatment, the black and silver finishes of the razor remain unmarred by the chemical soaks and the cloth buffing.
As a head shaver, I prefer long handles, and the ball end of the barber pole style handle is, for me, just right for gripping and pulling the razor across the grain and against the grain of the nape of the neck. As for going with the grain, an inverted two fingered grip at the razor's balance point works well. The key is to tilt your head forrward (chin to chest) and let the weight of the razor do the work.
This particular Merkur 38 is a two-piece razor. As with my other two-piece Merkur razors, the stem of the top plate is much longer than other brands in my collection. I find the longer stem keeps more of my fingers away from the blade when handling the top plate and blade during blade changes. The silver bottom of the handle twists to unscrew the top plate. The bottom is held in the handle by a tension ring while the top plate lifts out. When tightening or loosening the razor, keep your finger grip about mid-way down the handle, safely away from the exposed edges of the blade.
There is a bit of blade overhang on the ends of the razor, no more than is typical for other razors in my collection.
A bit of fiddling to get the blade alignment; no worse than any other razor of mine.
To me, the Merkur 38 Black Barber Pole DE saftey razor falls squarely into the medium range of aggressiveness. For a milder shave (shaving daily or a touch-up before going out for the evening), I use a milder blade like Derby Extra or Treet Classic. For a more aggressive shave (I have a couple days' growth or want a BBS shave with fewer passes), I'll use a more aggressive blade like Feather or Astra SP.
For those who enjoy DE safety razors, I would say the Merkur 38 Black Barber Pole is a solid investment. As a beginner's razor, though not cost prohibitive, the price point is a bit high, in my reckoning. For those who are unsure if DE saftey razors are for them and don't want to spend a lot or the money just isn't there in a responsible budget, I would recommend Maggard's own brand of similar, mid-range aggression razor, the V3 with any of Maggard's brand of long, heavy, "MR" handles for shaving experiences comparable to those from the Merkur 38.