My updated position paper on +P ammo (a bit long).


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SaxonPig
June 10, 2006, 11:34 AM
I was a little surprised when I began visiting these Internet forums and saw so many questions regarding +P .38 Special ammo. It seems each new day brings yet another post asking about the safety of using factory +P ammo in one gun or another. I always assumed the short answer was that if you had a Star, or Ruby, or some other gun that might be questionable as far as strength is concerned, then stay away from +Ps. But many shooters seem concerned about using this ammo in quality guns of recent manufacture* and I didnít expect that. I saw many inquiries about K frame S&Ws using +P and I found it odd that anyone would worry about using factory +P ammo in such a gun. Then I started seeing postings from owners of .357 Magnum revolvers asking if +P .38 Special ammo would harm their guns. One forum member was concerned that +Ps would damage his Model 28 S&W.

Come again? I donít know what caused such a mystique to surround +P ammo to make people with N frame Magnums think itís too much for their guns, but it strikes me as overblown all out of proportion. The fact is that +P isnít ďall thatĒ anyway. Winchester, Federal and Remington list the velocity of the 125 grain +P at 925-975 FPS. These velocities are actually fairly mild. I have shot many rounds of Remington 125 grain +Ps in a 1942 S&W Military & Police revolver and I can literally shake the fired cases from the gun without using the extractor. In my opinion these loads are actually pretty mild and show no sign of even moderate pressure in any of my guns.

Why is everyone so terrified of +P? I believe that +P is a marketing ploy used to sell ammo and any perception that this ammo is powerful is a myth.

The factory ammo made back in the 1960s and 1970s was hotter than that made today. I have seen the specifications for standard .38 Special ammunitions from a 1940 catalog listing the velocity as 960 FPS with a 158 grain bullet. This load would clearly develop higher chamber pressure than the current +P load and yet it was used for decades in all models from Colt and S&W without incident. The current +P is really about what the .38 Special should be in standard form. But note that the standard load is no longer what it once was, either. In 1940 it was the 158/960 that was considered standard. During most of my youth the load was advertised as 158/870. Current specifications are pretty wimpy at 158/750. Again, we see the ammo companies reducing the loads over the years. The current +P (which means +Pressure if you didnít know) is really only +P when compared to current standard loads. Stacked up against past standard loads the +P looks pretty anemic and the current standard load is truly pathetic.

The fact is that +P is only called +P in comparison to the standard .38 Special loading, not because it exceeds the pressure limits set for the caliber. The SAAMI pressure limit for the .38 Special is 21,000 PSI (the .357 Magnum is 35,000 for comparison). The standard load for the .38 Special as offered by Winchester, et al, generates 16,500 PSI. This is so far below the maximum allowable as to be ridiculous but the ammo makers fear lawsuits from people using the ammo in cheap guns. The +Ps from these manufacturers run about 18,000 PSI. This is more than the standard loadings (hence the +P designation) but is still far below the maximum allowable pressure. Those "really hot +P loads" from the specialty manufacturers like Cor-Bon, etc., are simply loaded to the caliber's full potential of 21,000 PSI and should be perfectly safe in any quality arm in good condition.

So why are we seeing these less powerful loadings? Because there are some guns out there that are not well made. Because of liability concerns the ammo makers must load their products to pressures that are safe in these lower quality guns. They mark the "high pressure" loads as +P (even though as I noted they really aren't high pressure) to give them legal cover should someone hurt himself shooting this ammo in a cheap Spanish S&W knock-off of dubious quality.

S&W ran advertisements in the 1930s and 1940s specifically stating that the .38/44 load, which pushed a 158 grain bullet at an advertised 1125 FPS making it far more powerful than the current +P load, could be used in the K frame revolver. Colt ran similar ads for using this ammo in the Detective Special. If these 1930s-era medium frame revolvers could handle the 158/1125 Heavy Duty loads, why should anyone worry about the same guns shooting the current 125/975 loads labeled as +P?

Lee Jurras started Super Vel in the 1960s. This was maybe the first of the specialty ammo companies and he offered truly high performance .38 Special loads. I have some of the 110 grain loads and they clock around 1300 FPS. Based on this I would guess his 125 loads would go around 1200 or so. This would be a true +P load but itís still lighter than the old .38/44 load. I donít recall seeing or hearing of guns being damaged by this ammo.

Check out a reloading manual from the early '70s. The Speer #8 from 1970 has one listed for the .38 Special pushing a 158 JHP to 1,250 FPS, one for the 125 grain bullet at 1426 FPS and one for the 110 grain bullet at 1536 FPS! A 1971 Sierra manual shows a load for the 125 grain .38 Special at 1250 FPS. Sort of makes that factory +P at 975 seem less intimidating, doesn't it? Now, of course, new manuals don't include listings that are this hot. Now they stop at about the same levels as the factory +P. Why? Lawyers and lawsuits are the reasons why. The reloading manual publishers are just as scared as the gun and ammo makers about being sued. Fear of lawsuits is the same reason the gun makers caution against the use of +P ammo. They also say donít use reloads. They have to say this on advice of counsel to protect themselves.

I load 125s at 1,100 FPS in my .38 Special carry guns. This load came from the 1970 Speer manual and is not the top load listed. I have shot many rounds of it through both K and J frame guns and they seem to work just fine. Recoil is slightly more pronounced than with standard ammo, but the cases fall from the cylinder with no sticking and I see no signs of excessive pressure. Just for fun I once put 6 rounds of this ammo through an old small-frame Rossi revolver. Nothing bad happened although I wouldnít advise using this ammo in such a pistol.

Ask yourself this question: Would any ammo maker in today's litigious environment sell any ammunition that would be unsafe or harmful to use in the typical gun that a consumer may own? If factory +P were really hazardous would Winchester, or Federal, or Cor-Bon sell it to the general public?

With all the many, many questions regarding the safety of +P ammo, there must be many reports of blown-up guns, right? How many guns blown-up by factory +P ammo have you seen? How many guns blown-up by factory +P ammo have you heard about? I have been participating in the shooting sports and studying firearms since 1967 and I know of absolutely NONE.

Certainly, using a gun causes wear. A gun is a machine and using any machine will cause it to wear. Using hotter ammo will likely accelerate the process to some degree. But a quality gun from S&W or Colt or Ruger will not blow up with +Ps. Nor will it excessively stretch the frame or split the barrel in my opinion. It will possibly wear a little faster, and I doubt if anyone could predict how much, but I think the added wear on a good gun will not be all that much. The gun would probably still last longer than the man who owns it.

I admit to paranoia about warm loads in an alloy-framed gun. I do not have any alloy revolvers but if I did I would stick to standard ammo even though it seems obvious from my research that current factory +P is hardly any warmer than the original standard .38 Special load. In a steel gun of good quality I have no concerns at all about +P on a regular basis since I consider factory +P to be nothing more than standard pressure, anyway.

This is just my opinion based on personal experience and research. There are differing points of view. Some replies to the +P question are quite adamant about avoiding regular use of this ammo. Others advise occasional use. Some say only carry +P for defense but donít use it for practice at all. The fact that there are so many answers to this question tells me that there is great confusion on this matter. Iím a simple man and I take a simple course to the truth. I do basic research and try to find the facts. I have presented the facts as I see them. All one must do to find the truth about current factory +P ammo is look at the specifications. I submit that a 125/975 load is hardly high performance, and certainly nothing to cause concern for owners of quality revolvers. All are free to disagree.

Some forum members have accused me of being irresponsible in recommending the loads I mentioned. Of course, I am not recommending anything, only stating what I do. Also, all of the loads I use came from reputable reloading manuals. If the loads were safe in 1970 I donít see why they arenít safe now, but I donít recommend anything to anyone. Each of us has to make our own choice. If you think any of the loads I mentioned are too hot then avoid them. If you are in any way uncomfortable with +Ps then stick with standard loads.

* The manufacture and tempering of steel was imprecise before around 1930 or so. Any of my guns made before this date get reduced loads just to be on the safe side. Note that early S&Ws, those made before around 1918, had cylinders that were not tempered at all. A similar situation likely is true with Colt revolvers but I have no specific knowledge of when Colt began tempering their cylinders.

PS:

This same situation that has affected the .38 Special occurs with the .38 Super. The original loading for the Super was a 130 FMJ at nearly 1,300 FPS. But the Super cartridge is the same physical size as the old .38 ACP, just loaded to higher pressures so the ammo makers started fretting over some yahoo stuffing Supers into his 1905 Colt in .38 ACP and spreading parts all over the range. Thatís why Super cases were nickel and the .38 ACP were brass until a few years ago, so shooters could instantly recognize which ammo they had. I was curious a few years ago when I noticed that they stopped doing this and I saw Super ammo in regular brass cases. I guess thereís no need any longer since factory Super ammo now clocks about the same as .38 ACP. The last box I checked ran 1,120 FPS, only 40 more than the ACP. They have down-loaded the Super to nearly the same level as the ACP. No lawsuits. Of course, the Super isnít soÖ superÖ any longer, is it?

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dbarale
June 10, 2006, 11:57 AM
WOW, that is GREAT information. Thanks a lot!

I just wanted to add that I regularly shoot Speer .38+P ammo in a stainless Rossi 88 and I have yet to see any ill effect. Also, I wouldn't have any reservation about shooting a steady diet of any commercial load in a .38 Ruger (Six series, GP or SP).

Jim March
June 10, 2006, 12:22 PM
Hmmmmmm.

One thing I notice is that you're completely ignoring the pressure differences of jacketed vs. lead rounds. 158gr lead at the same velocity as 125gr JHP can indeed end up right around the same pressure.

You're also ignoring some historical points...the 38-44s in K-frame 38s were damaging them. Dunno about the Colts in frame sizes bigger than the Dick Special.

You're also missing how there have been warnings regarding older loading manuals for two reasons: the powder formulas have shifted over the years even for what's supposedly the same powder (2400, etc.) and there have been extreme improvements in pressure test measuring since the '70s.

In short, using the recipes from a 1970 reloading manual isn't something I'd be inclined to do.

SaxonPig
June 10, 2006, 02:29 PM
I am told by someone who was there that after WW II S&W started advising against the use of the 38/44 ammo in the K frames claiming that there was increased wear. Someone else suggested that they wanted to sell N frames and didn't want owners of the many K frames to simply buy the hotter ammo. I dunno 'bout that. I did speak to a retired police officer who carried a K frame and he told me that the department had a large stock of 38/44 ammo left over from when they issued Hevy Duty model S&Ws and he shot several thousand rounds of it through his Model 10 during a two-year period (he said this was 1958-1960 so it must have been an early Model 10) and he noticed no damage or excessive wear to his revolver.

I'm not trying to ignore the differences between lead and jacketed bullets but I'm not sure how much difference exists. I don't recall seeing any figures on comparing the two but if you have a source for some I would like to see it to help me understand this situation. Lead is softer than copper, but lead bullets are usually sized a bit larger to seal the bore so I'm not sure how they actually compare. My first reaction is that there probably isn't a tremendous amount of difference but I may certainly be wrong and I want to know for sure if I can find the info.

I realize that some powder formulas have changed over the years but I doubt that we're talking huge differences here. Note that I (and others) are indeed using the old loading data and I am getting about what the manual states I should be getting in velocity. I would be seriously surprised if the newer formulas really did much other than improve stability and shelf life in the powder. I can't see them making changes that simply increased the chamber pressures.

Again, I am suspicious of recent warnings from ammo makers and suppliers of reloading supplies because I think that for the most part these are based on advice of counsel rather than any real danger or change in the products. I can see no other cause for the major ammo companies to keep reducing the power levels in their loadings.

Like I said, I am not advising anyone to do anything. Everyone is free to call me a crackpot (or worse) and move on. I am only stating my opinion based on my research (including anecdotal evidence from personal contacts) and personal experience. My conclusions are that factory +P ammo is not nearly as potent as suggested, being rather wimpy in fact and no more powerful than what standard ammo was a few decades ago AND that a quality revolver will not suffer any undo harm or wear by firing this ammo.

This is my opinion. If anyone thinks I'm full of condensed apple sauce or still has concerns about shooting +P ammo in their Model 10, or Detective Special, or even their Model 28 then I say stick with standard .38 Special loads and sleep well at night. As for me, I do not believe any ammo maker would sell any ammo that would unsafe or unwise to use in a gun chambered for that caliber. If it says .38 Special on the barrel then I think ANY factory loaded .38 Special ammo is safe to use in it. Making the usual allowances for those cheap, imported guns discussed previously.

nitesite
June 10, 2006, 09:47 PM
SaxonPig~

Good writing style, Sir.

Remember the blue and white Smith & Wesson ammunition from the early 80s? That .38-Spl stuff ROCKED compared to what I buy today.

Same with Federal and Remington ammo back then.

The one example I can think of today that hasn't lowered velocity/pressure in a .38/.357 revolver load is Remington R357M1 125-gr JHP. It still advertises 1450-fps from a 4" barrel.

Yikes!

(I own several boxes of this wonderful stuff) :)

SeanSw
June 10, 2006, 10:30 PM
Thank you for the information.

I have considered handloading, even as an informal shooter, just for the sake of improving the .38 special I use for practice. I'm still looking for reasonably priced ammo that's loaded hotter because the last time I loaned my revolver to a friend at the range, and he was using the same ammo I'd been using, I could watch every bullet leave the barrel and see it to the target. Pathetic is indeed the appropriate word.

JohnKSa
June 10, 2006, 11:00 PM
Weren't some of the old velocity figures measured in longer test barrels than are commonly used today?

Crosshair
June 10, 2006, 11:10 PM
This is why I handload. Good read.

Old Fuff
June 11, 2006, 02:30 AM
S&W ran advertisements in the 1930s and 1940s specifically stating that the .38/44 load, which pushed a 158 grain bullet at an advertised 1125 FPS making it far more powerful than the current +P load, could be used in the K frame revolver. Colt ran similar ads for using this ammo in the Detective Special. If these 1930s-era medium frame revolvers could handle the 158/1125 Heavy Duty loads, why should anyone worry about the same guns shooting the current 125/975 loads labeled as +P?

Can you post a scaned copy of a pre-World War Two Smith & Wesson advertisement stating that .38-44 ammunition was O.K. to use in K-frame revolvers? I find nothing like that in my catalog collection.

On the othr hand, Colt did advertise during the latter 1930's and early 40's that one could use .38-44 cartridges in their Detective Special, Police Positive Special and Official Police revolvers, as well as the New Service model. However following World War Two this recomendation was dropped.

One problem with S&W .38 1905 Hand Ejectors (Military & Police model) is that they didn't change in appearence from the time of their introduction until after World War Two. However over that time span many small changes were made, and heat-treated cylinders weren't introduced until 1919, so the word "older" in this case can cover a lot of ground.

The possibility or probability of Plus-P ammunition causing a "Ka-Boom!!" in an older gun (meaning post-1919) has never been an issue, although an expanded chamber is a possibility. Accelerated wear and tear is, especially when one looks at the wide performance standards that are found under the Plus-P label.

Occasional use is not likely to cause any problems, but I see little reason to use much Plus-P ammunition in revolvers not rated to use it. There are plenty of Plus-P rated guns offered by all of the recognized revolver makers in this county today, and anyone who feels the need to use the high-powered (?) stuff - which appears to be just about everyone - can easly resolve the issue by purchasing one of them.

RON in PA
June 11, 2006, 02:57 AM
Just remember that the higher velocities that the manufacturers used to advertise were based on 6" or sometimes longer, unvented barrels. Now it's 4" vented barrels. Unless there has been a change in chamber pressure over the years nobody can state with certainty that 38 special cartridges have changed. Are they any different today pressure wise than they were when the 38 special was loaded with black powder?

Saxon, I have an assignment for you since you have been on this crusade for a while. Contact the major cartridge companies and see if there have been any changes in chamber pressure over the decades in the standard 38 special cartridge.

SaxonPig
June 11, 2006, 10:23 AM
Ron, you only need look at the published velocity figures to see that they have reduced chamber pressures over the years. Going from a 6" to a 4" test barrel would not cause a loss of 210 FPS (960 to 750). More like 50-60 FPS.

Old Fuff, I do not have a copy of the S&W ad but an advanced S&W collector who has a large volume of pre-war printed material told me about it and I have absolutely no reason to doubt his word.

My point in all this is that current +P isn't +P at all, being loaded to 2,500 PSI BELOW industry standards for the .38 Special. As far as I know, a S&W or Colt revolver made in 1918 was intended to shoot ammo generating 21,000 PSI. But over the years the ammo makers have backed off from that level, not because it was too much for the Colts and the S&Ws, but because they worried about the Stars, the Rubys, and the other crappy imported guns that were of poor quality and made with inferior materials.

MCgunner
June 11, 2006, 11:03 AM
There are many reasons to handload. I'm pushing a 140 grain bullet from a 2" gun to 931 fps which is pretty good and within +P pressure limits. However, the ability to tailor a load for accuracy as well as velocity and to make consistent practice loads cheap is another bonus. I also cast my own for hunting and practice, though I use factory hollow points for self defense, I must admit. But, I like being able to cast the same bullet for consistent loads when I need 'em. Some consider the time a waste, but I quite enjoy it.

The only reason I'll shoot a factory load anymore is because factory 9mm is dirt cheap. I can't reload much cheaper. Oh, I can reload a cast bullet for half what Walmart wants for a box of WWB, but hey, six bucks is pretty danged affordable and I save the brass so if you consider the price of once fired brass, it's a pretty good deal. I don't buy high end carry ammo, though, load my own.

Lots of good points on the +P thing and I agree you shouldn't load out of PO Ackley's 50s era manuals...:D ...but, reloading manuals aren't expensive and much data is available from magazine articles, pamphlets from the powder companies and such. Reloading is an interesting hobby in itself. Plan to go shoot some stuff over my chrony today, maybe, even though it's hot out there and the skeeters might carry me off at the range. :banghead:

Gary A
June 11, 2006, 11:23 AM
Can someone post definitively on the accepted SAAMI pressures for standard and plus P .38 Special? I have always read that it was 17000 psi for standard and 18500 psi for plus P.

Speer recently e-mailed me that it is 20000 for plus P and 17000 for standard pressure when I queried them on the pressure of the 135 Gold Dot. They said Gold Dots do not exceed 20000. Their technical manual lists a pressure of 21500 psi which Speer told me is a "Maximum Probable Lot Mean", (meaning 97.72% of individual pressures in a test will be below this level)."

In these threads I have read 20000, 21000. Which is correct? Was it ever 18500?

I still believe that 20,000 or 21,000 psi would have a negative effect on an older-style alloy J-frame, meaning shortened life, not catastrophic failure.

JohnKSa
June 11, 2006, 02:48 PM
Ron, you only need look at the published velocity figures to see that they have reduced chamber pressures over the years. Going from a 6" to a 4" test barrel would not cause a loss of 210 FPS (960 to 750). More like 50-60 FPS.Some of the old test barrel lengths I've read (no hard evidence to support this, just digging stuff out of my memory) were much longer than 6". I seem to recall that the first figures posted for the then new .357 Magnum were derived from a test barrel that exceeded 8" in length--no mention of venting.

Gary A,

Most of the time, SAAMI limits are quoted in terms of MAP (Maximum Average Pressure) . I'm not sure how the MPLM figure that Speer quoted relates to that.

The Maximum Average Pressures figures for .38 Special I have seen are as below:

Standard pressure: 17,000psi (SAAMI)
+P: 18,500psi (SAAMI)
+P+: 22,000psi (NOT SAAMI, Informal industry standard?)
Maximum Proof Pressure: 27,500psi (SAAMI)

johns961
June 11, 2006, 03:20 PM
Hmmmm.... Very interesting thread. What I am getting out of all this is
38 special +P is actually weaker then the original 38 special of long ago.
With the exception of the Corbon's and Buffalo Bore types, I could shoot
Speer 135 +P in a old colt or S&W and not worry about damaging my
firearm.....Does anyone agree or disagree with that ?

John!
:)

bg226
June 11, 2006, 03:47 PM
I found a thread on TFL that speaks about this subject.

http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=192490

Here is a quote from that thread:


here are the numbers from several mid to late 60s factory loaded ammo boxes...Winchester 38 special 158 gr lead...855 fps 255 ft lbs...

This makes me think. What really are the "true" .38 Special numbers? Is the new stuff downgraded or is the older stuff hotter?:banghead:

johns961
June 11, 2006, 05:00 PM
I do not believe the new 38+P's from the "big guys" are as powerful as yesterdays 38's. I think the same is true for 357 magnums.....


John!

mete
June 11, 2006, 06:12 PM
Over the years the metallurgy of the guns have changed, the powders have changed and the method of testing [pressure barrels] have changed .There has always been a great difference in dimensions and therefore velocity.The old Speer book had an interesting chapter on this .They took 357, 125 grain ammo and fired it in various revolvers of the same barrel length . The resulting velocities IIRC varied from 1200 to 1600 fps , all from the same lot of ammo !! So we have standard loads, +P, +P+, and now even 'reduced recoil ' loads . It all muddies the water quite a bit .A little knowledge and wisdom [ very rare these days] can serve you well .Of course there are many who buy a gun a ask "how hot can I load it ?"

JohnKSa
June 11, 2006, 06:28 PM
you only need look at the published velocity figures to see that they have reduced chamber pressures over the yearsI do not believe... I think...I think we might be getting a little ahead of ourselves.

I think that estimating pressures from advertised velocities (measured under unknown and varying conditions) is quite unscientific and likely to result in some severe misconceptions.

I think that the advertised velocities have been adjusted to match reality now that there's a good chance that a buyer will have a chronograph or a friend with a chronograph. If you go back to the seventies, chronographs outside of laboratories were very rare. These days they're available for under $100.

I think that the simpler explanation is that ammunition companies simply can't get away with publishing velocity numbers from testing revolver ammo in long unvented test barrels any more.

This is sort of like the "great awakening" that happened in the airgun world when chronographs started becoming common.

Gary A
June 11, 2006, 07:39 PM
JohnKSa wrote: "The Maximum Average Pressures figures for .38 Special I have seen are as below:

Standard pressure: 17,000psi (SAAMI)
+P: 18,500psi (SAAMI)
+P+: 22,000psi (NOT SAAMI, Informal industry standard?)
Maximum Proof Pressure: 27,500psi (SAAMI)"
________________________________________________________________

Thank you, John, for that information. I was sure my memory said +P was 18500. Now, I really like the Speer load for sturdy, steel-framed revolvers. I do know that the Speer Technical Paper posted on their LE website states that the 135 grain SB Gold Dot produces Maximum Average Pressure of 21,500 psi (which to my mind puts it in +P+ territory. The response from Speer to my query said they do not exceed 20,000 psi, which the email says is the +P limit. The response said, as I noted, that the 21500 psi is the MPLM or Maximum Probably Lot Mean. The short is the Speer load is pretty hot any way I look at it and is well above 18,500 psi. In the technical paper, the gun used to test the load was a Model 640. I think I'll pass on them for my little 37-2, though I could see the circumstance where I might load the little critter with them, but I won't be practicing with them.

308win
June 11, 2006, 08:09 PM
Thank you SaxonPig. I have an S&W 642-2 that I use as my primary CC weapon. I have shot a small number of +P through it and frankly I don't notice any difference in the recoil or muzzel report.

bg226
June 11, 2006, 11:09 PM
I notice an anomaly in standard pressure loads from winchester.

Some loads appear to have more power than others.

Win Q4196: 150 gr / 845 fps / 238 ftlbs (LRN)
Win X38S1P: 158 gr / 755 fps / 200 ftlbs (LRN)
Win USA38CB: 158 gr / 800 fps / 225 ftlbs (Cowboy Lead)
Win Q4171: 130 gr / 800 fps / 185 ftlbs (FMJ)

Crosshair
June 12, 2006, 01:14 AM
The pressures in these rounds used to be measured in CUP until SAAMI changed the specs to PSI and in the process LOWERED the maximum chamber pressure.

JohnKSa
June 12, 2006, 02:27 AM
Do you know how much the MAP was lowered and when?

Jim March
June 12, 2006, 02:35 AM
In the 357 we know that 158gr is easier on the gun than 125gr all else being equal. It's all about the speed of the hit at the forcing cone and back of the barrel. I see no reason to think the principle is different in 38.

We also know that plain lead drops pressure over jacketed. Hardcast, maybe not depending on width starting out but softer lead alloys as used by Winchester, Federal and Remington (and Buffalo Bore) in hollowpoints? Definately lower pressure.

Check BuffBore's numbers for their two 38+P loads. They're getting 50ft/lbs more energy out of their 158 lead than their jacketed 125s. Now these guys press the edge AND they're well known for publishing accurate performance statistics for named barrel lengths (2" in the case of these two loads). If they COULD get equal energy out of both loads, they would. They can't. If *they* can't, I don't see anybody else doing so.

--------

The issue of performance data being "tweaked" by ammo makers prior to the chrony-at-every-range-practically era is very well known. The much-vaunted "original 357" was a soft lead 158 doing between 1,500 - 1,600fps. But the original 357 GUN had an eight inch barrel! The initial data was published for that length tube. Today it's possible to hit that energy level with several 357 loads including of course :) BuffBore:

http://www.buffalobore.com/ammunition/default.htm#357

The more modern barrels of the Ruger and S&W L frame are "shooting faster" - a 180gr doing 1,400fps is delivering only fractionally less energy than the "classic superload" did out of an eight inch tube! I wish they had a full suite of data on the 6" barrel GP100 because based on what the 125 is doing it's very possible several loads will exceed the old load's power level with 2" less barrel.

(NOTE: we don't know how fast a 1930's-era barrel will shoot compared to a 1960s/70s-era S&W Model 27. We do know that an intermediate-era 27/28 doesn't shoot as fast as the newest S&W barrels or a Ruger tube.)

1911Tuner
June 13, 2006, 09:25 PM
As a long-time user of 2400...Hercules and Alliant...I can personally attest to the fact that it has indeed changed. I used to use Elmer's old standby 22 grains with 245-grain hard cast semi wadcutters with nary a problem. 15.5 grains of the stuff with 150-160-grain pills in .357 revolvers was a real hoot, and produced some wicked velocities...and if I had known the true operating pressures that these rounds were burnin'...I'd probably have nightmares. But...as I said...there were no obvious problems, other than shootin' a few fabulous revolvers loose.:rolleyes: (Hindsight and foresight, y'know)

2400 changed while I wasn't lookin'. I had put my revolvers into semi-retirement for a good 15 years, and rarely shot'em. When I did, it was with old lots of ammo loaded with the old lots of powder. Eventually, that was exhausted, so I replenished and referred back to my old data. I knew better, and even though I backed off a full 10% with the new lot and started over,
20 grains with a 240 cast bullet proved to be dangerous. New cases split,
and the ones that didn't, refused to let go of their grip on the chambers, requiring a dowel rod to get'em out. Primers flowed to fill out the pocket edges so completely that if they had been the same color, I would have barely been able to see the parting lines.

So, the data that you get for the old reliables in a 30 year-old Speer or Lyman manual no longer apply. Unique seems to be the only one from that lineup that has remained consistent over the years, and is one of my three favorite pistol powders...and even that should be approached with caution for top-end loadings.

Blue Dot is a caution. Always has been. That one has the dubious honor in my entire reloading life of being the only powder that's ever busted a revolver with a recommended load...and it was a half-grain under max at that.
It may have changed for the better since those days, but I won't be using it again for anything that has "Magnum" after the numbers.

SaxonPig
June 14, 2006, 04:46 PM
I have always used and still use the old 22G of 2400 with a 250G bullet and I have not experienced the effects you note in my 29-2. I can only speak of my own experience.

1911Tuner
June 14, 2006, 04:55 PM
SaxonPig...That may mean that Alliant isn't maintaining minimum lot-to-lot variations...or they've possibly gone back to an older formulation. I noticed this in two different lots that I bought not long after Alliant aquired Hercules. Since they were both in 2X4-pound kegs, I still have quite a bit left.

How old are your lots? What lot numbers? I'd like to go back to using 21-22 grains again...but I'm a little skittish.

MidnightRambler
June 14, 2006, 08:04 PM
I too have read in a few publications over the last couple of years that old .38 special loads were hotter than today's +P loads.

JohnKSa
June 30, 2006, 01:12 AM
Interesting article in the August/September issue of Handguns.

Looks like a well researched article.

Pressures have come down some due to advances in powder technology.

Velocities have not changed, but the measuring standards have. Up until the late seventies, it was apparently common to post velocities measured in 8.375" pressure testing barrels and manufacturers often "rounded up" the numbers.

In 1977, SAAMI pushed the industry to begin measuring the velocities in 4" vented barrels which change naturally made it appear that the performance of the cartridge had been reduced.

There's lots more in the article--a good read.

'Tis worth noting that pressure is not what usually wears out guns. Pressure can blow up guns, but that's a rare and worst case scenario.

RECOIL and friction are usually what wears out guns. Shaking the gun around hard moves the parts against each other and gradually this pounding begins to loosen things up. When that happens, the added looseness allows the parts to build up more speed before they bang against each other and that accelerates the wear.

So hotter ammo will wear out a gun faster than mild loads EVEN if both loads are well within the pressure specifications of the firearm.

BluesBear
July 26, 2006, 03:15 AM
...pressure is not what usually wears out guns...

So hotter ammo will wear out a gun faster than mild loads EVEN if both loads are well within the pressure specifications of the firearm.Testify!

I've been preaching that for years.

Old Fuff
July 26, 2006, 10:56 AM
RECOIL and friction are usually what wears out guns. Shaking the gun around hard moves the parts against each other and gradually this pounding begins to loosen things up. When that happens, the added looseness allows the parts to build up more speed before they bang against each other and that accelerates the wear.

In my experience - mostly with K-frame S&W revolvers - the problem most often seen after using (real) heavy loads is cylinder end-shake. In the case of earlier aluminum snubbies I've seen distorted cylinder windows in the frame, loose yokes, and recoil plates pushed back into the softer frame.

There is no question in my mind that heavy loads in revolvers not made to handle them accelerate wear, and may also cause gas cutting around the barrel throat in some cases. When Plus-P ammunition was introduced (and supposedly restricted to Law Enforcement agencies) this was well known and understood. Most of today's Plus-P ammunition is tamer - sometimes much so. The problem is that some brands aren't.

During those long-gone days when police departments trained, practiced and qualified using .38 revolvers and 148-grain mid-range wadcutters we didnít see anything like the wear & tear that showed up after Plus-P ammunition was used for this purpose. This was one of the major reasons that many departments changed to .357 Magnum revolvers (primarily S&W models 19 and 66) to use their Plus-P .38 Special ammunition in.

MCgunner
July 26, 2006, 12:10 PM
Blue Dot is a caution. Always has been. That one has the dubious honor in my entire reloading life of being the only powder that's ever busted a revolver with a recommended load...and it was a half-grain under max at that.
It may have changed for the better since those days, but I won't be using it again for anything that has "Magnum" after the numbers.

I don't like Blue Dot either. I've never hurt a firearm with it, but when trying to develop loads with it, I get pressure signs long before I get the velocities I'm after. I gave up on the stuff. I have an old can, used to reload 12 gauge hot loads with it, good for that. But, i no longer reload shotgun stuff anymore.

A 158 grain load in .357 does involve less than that 15.5 grains you speak of. :eek: :D I ain't gonna say what I load, because it's hot, but it's less than that and I'm getting 765 ft lbs out of a 6.5" barrel (would give you a velocity, but I'd have to look it up, just remember the energy figure). That one's killed a couple of deer and it's a universal good load in all my .357 caliber guns, carbine or revolver. The bullet is cast from a Lee mold, gas check design. I love it when I can find such a useful load using a bullet I can cast, saves lots of money and gives you a sense of accomplishment. :D If I run out of 180 grain XTP loads, I can always fall back on the 158 grain load even though it has a little more drop out at 100 yards. It's quite accurate at that range, though.

I also very much like unique, especially in 9mm and .45 ACP hotter loads. It is also great in .38 special. 5.0 grains of unique behind a 158 grain bullet is an old standby that still works today, very accurate with a Lee TL158 grain bullet, mildly +P, but I have no qualms about shooting it in non- +P rated guns.

My other old standby for light loads is Bullseye. I have some AA#9 and I know W231 can do what bullseye does and w296 can do what 2400 does, but my loads are all around 2400, Unique, and Bullseye and I see little reason to change. I don't have to worry about keeping, but 3 handgun powders, sorta like that.

Back to the 2400 issue, I know it's likely changed, too. I haven't had such an obvious illustration of it, but I know I've backed off my old 140 grain load. I don't go so long without buying powder as you did, but I've noticed the change. I used to load that 15.5 grain load you mention behind 158s, too, and backed off the charge 20 years or so ago because I got to noticing pressure signs.

I think IMR 4350 has changed a bit, too, over the last 40 years, but that's another story.:D I can't find my 50s era PO Ackly reloading manual, don't know where it went. I wouldn't use any of the loads in it, but it was kind of a classic. It belonged to my Uncle and I inhereted his reloading stuff when he died since my cousin doesn't reload. Wish I could have inhereted that P08 and that JP Sauer drilling, bummer....:(

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