38 Special Trouble


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swoter
January 14, 2007, 09:43 PM
I loaded about 100 38 specials the other day, 125 grain jacketed flat nose with 4 grains unique and cci primers. At the range about 1/2 of one box were squib loads, they would stick in the barrel, and I would have to use a rod to push them out, several others cleared the barrel, but had no power behind them. I weigh every 5 loads, and visually check the powder level before seating the bullets. I loaded about 10 with cci magnum primers, and these shot just fine. Any ideas? The powder seems ok, its been in my garage, hasn't gotten damp I don't think. I plan on pulling the ones I have left also, not shooting them. May be the primers I suppose, the load came from my set of Lee dies. I normally load 357 and 44 mag, haven't had any problem with those. It just seemed like the load was too weak. Shooting out of an old S&W 3 inch barrel.

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ReloaderFred
January 14, 2007, 10:01 PM
Your load is too light. My Sierra manual shows a minimum load of Unique for a 125 gr. JSP as 5.2 grains, for a velocity of 900 fps. You need to increase the powder charge to make enough pressure for the jacketed bullet to clear the barrel.

Hope this helps.

Fred

SASS#23149
January 14, 2007, 10:12 PM
and then some.My manuals show this load a tad light but but just barely so.
are you crimping the bullets after or during seating to aid in bullet retention? Lack of tension could affect the burn of the powder and cause these squibs.
I actually suspect a lack of powder in some as some of them did fire ok.
If all had failed I'd be rechecking my scale setting

wcwhitey
January 14, 2007, 10:15 PM
Ditto on the 5.2 grains minimum. My Sierra book has their accuracy load as 6.0 grains of Unique 1000 fps/278 ft lbs. 50% more than what you are loading. Unique is not the best powder for low power loads, very good for mid-power. A mellow good shootin load for me has been 158 Grain hard cast SWC's over 5.6 grains of Unique.

swoter
January 14, 2007, 10:16 PM
Ok, I'll try the 5.2, the alliant website lists 5.3, I wanted a light load for the old revolver, but not that light. Thanks.

SASS#23149
January 14, 2007, 10:29 PM
You dont mean one old enough to be a .38s&w instead of .38special do ya?
any revolver new enough to be for the .38special shouldn't need extra light loads.

Starter52
January 14, 2007, 10:47 PM
I recommend that you buy a can of faster burning powder. It will pay for itself in the long run. Bullseye and WW 231 work well with light .38 Spl. loads.

tbtrout
January 15, 2007, 12:14 AM
I second the 231.

Walkalong
January 15, 2007, 09:26 AM
W231, AA # 2, American Select.

joneb
January 15, 2007, 10:41 AM
You may want something faster than W-231, I have had mixed results with W-231 when looking for a light load for a 125grn plated bullet , I use 4.2 of Bullseye under a 125grn plated with good results from a 2,4 and 6" barrel.

With all of my .38 spl. and some .357 mag. loads I use standard primers.

Your 4.0grns of Unique would be on the light side with a 158grn jacketed bullet.

Some of trouble with W231 could have been related to this http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=246102

The Bushmaster
January 15, 2007, 11:26 AM
SASS#23149...I just looked up in my Lyman 48th Edition and it lists Unique for a 125 grain JHP at 4.0 to 6.0 grains. (??) I have a feeling that swoter has another problem he has to solve first. (Like crimp or having powder in the case in the first place) Most squibs that I've seen were caused by little or no powder in the case.
As for W-231 (my favorite) I have had excellent results with 4.5 grains for a little more then a light load. Lyman states that you can go down to 3.9 grains of W-231. Looking in the case with that little amount of powder scares me.

Steve C
January 15, 2007, 11:31 AM
At the range about 1/2 of one box were squib loads, they would stick in the barrel, and I would have to use a rod to push them out, several others cleared the barrel, but had no power behind them.
As others have mentioned, your load is a little light for Unique. Was there 4.2grs of unburned powder behind the squib loads? If not the load didn’t have any powder behind it to begin with. A primer alone will drive a bullet well into the barrel. You can load Unique pretty light and still get the bullet out the end of the barrel. A .38 spl load of 3.7grs of Unique behind a 148gr WC sends it down range at around 750 fps and isn’t considered a “light load”..

Do you load on a progressive or single stage? It could be that your powder measure was bridging and not dropping any where near 4.2 grs for most of the charges. It’s a good idea to weigh every 10th round when loading to check charge consistency. When loading in a single stage I charge all the cases in the loading block where you can look into each one and compare the level of the charge to the next case. Any discrepant levels are pulled, checked and thrown again. You can visually tell the difference of a couple tenths grain quite easily.

Was it possible that the powder had become contaminated after you charged the case? If you use any oil or lube on the expander, use water or a liquid cleaner to clean cases or anything that may leave such residue in the case it can contaminate the powder.

swoter
January 15, 2007, 08:56 PM
Load on a single stage press, and I visually check the loads before seating the bullets to make sure there are no major under or over loads. Weigh every 5th drop on a scale also. Pretty sure all the cases had powder, seemed like it did just not ignite properly. Come to think of it I did clean as bunch of cases a while back with some liquid I bought a Gander Mountain, but thought I used all those already. I normally load lead bullets, not jacketed, maybe the amount of crimp needs to be adjusted. I did notice that a couple of the bullets would spin in the case. It is a 38 special, not 38 S&W. I do have a problem somewhere, its very irritating to load one at a time because you're never sure if its going to fire. Thanks for all the help, would like to stay with unique for all my handgun loads if possible.

Phillip Allen
January 15, 2007, 10:04 PM
In my experience, Unique is a terrible powder to use in a metering device...it is inherently inconsistent. I use it but I weigh every load with that particular powder. The little flat flakes stack up and don't give consistent loads.

joneb
January 16, 2007, 01:06 AM
I wonder if I was over crimping these plated bullets :confused:
tbtrout
Member

Join Date: 10-14-06
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 47

Sounds like a bad crimp
I had the same problem today with a .357 round. stuck in the forcing cone. I did not hear a shot. plenty of unburned powder left also. Just my two cents.

joneb
January 16, 2007, 01:26 AM
I use a Redding mod. 3 with a micro pistol meter, I have experienced powder bridging using IMR Trail Boss, but not with Unique at worst I'll through +or- a tenth of a grain. I think this may be caused by the powder density in the reservoir (tube) I use a flow restricter near the base of the reservoir and need to settle down the bulkier powders.

Walkalong
January 16, 2007, 09:25 AM
I use a Redding taper crimp die with the .38 Spl. and the .44 Spl. with Ranier bullets and medium to fast powder. I like W231 for the .38 Spl. and 700X for the 44 Spl. although I bought some Trail Boss to try in these. We will see. TB stinks when shot.

HiWayMan
January 16, 2007, 09:51 AM
I did notice that a couple of the bullets would spin in the case.

That definately should not be happening. You need to crimp those puppies a bit tighter.

The Bushmaster
January 16, 2007, 10:33 AM
Swoter...Get a Lee FCD to properly crimp those .38 Specials. It's the only way I found to solve the loose bullet problem effectively in the .38...:)

swoter
January 16, 2007, 10:06 PM
So, a loose crimp will cause the squibs? Letting too much gas blow by the bullet, or pushes out too easily and doesn't give the powder a chance to build up pressure? May have to pick up a factory crimp die, if thats whats causing it, I should be able to recrimp the ones I have left and shoot normally.

Walkalong
January 16, 2007, 10:11 PM
Neck tension and a good consistent crimp are absolutely critical. Trim your brass to the same length or you can't get uniform crimps. If the plug in your neck sizer is too big in diameter you will not have enough neck tension.

KHawk
January 16, 2007, 11:02 PM
I agree with Reloaderfred. The Alliant manual shows 5.3 grains unique for 125 grain JSP bullet. You are loading a 75.5% load. The mag primers were just barely enough more to push the bullet out. Try starting at around 4.8 grains unique. That is a 90.6% load, probably about as low as you want to go. Back in the 1970's and 1980's I used my 6" Model 19 S&W in Combat compitition and Bullseye compitition. I have shot thousands of rounds of 158 gr LSWC over 3.4 grains of bullseye with a Federal #100 primer. When you go much lower than 3.2 grains of Bullseye you start to get squibs but bullseye is a good powder for working up light loads.

rmurfster
January 22, 2007, 03:14 PM
How does the Alliant Manual show 5.3gr Unique when their website shows 4.3gr?

http://www.alliantpowder.com/reloaders/RecipePrint.aspx?title=Pistols+and+Revolvers&gtypeid=1&weight=158&shellid=1017&bulletid=41&bdid=333

ReloaderFred
January 22, 2007, 04:28 PM
rmurfster,

The load you referenced is for a 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter bullet. The question concerned a 125 grain jacketed bullet. It takes less powder to push a lead bullet, especially a heavier one, than it does to push a jacketed bullet.

I think if you look up the 125 grain jacketed bullet, you'll see the load.

Hope this helps.

Fred

rmurfster
January 23, 2007, 08:58 AM
The load you referenced is for a 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter bullet. The question concerned a 125 grain jacketed bullet. ... I think if you look up the 125 grain jacketed bullet, you'll see the load.

Ugghhh...!! :what: Sorry about that! You're exactly right...

http://www.alliantpowder.com/reloaders/RecipePrint.aspx?title=Pistols+and+Revolvers&gtypeid=1&weight=125&shellid=1017&bulletid=38&bdid=330

JackOfAllTradesMasterAtNone
January 23, 2007, 04:16 PM
Adjusting the die you're currently using will get you what you're looking for. Yes, it's a light load, so I would bump up half a grain.

I've been loading 38spl with Unique with Lyman and Sierra dies for years. Never a squib. I don't knock the Lee Factory Crimp Dies, but you don't have to change dies to get things to work. Properly adjusting the seat/crimp die you have now will do the trick.

-Steve

joneb
January 24, 2007, 12:04 AM
I bought some Trail Boss to try in these.
IMR does not endorse loading plated or jacketed bullets with Trail Boss. I guess it could cause squibbs, or a high pressure problem :confused:

swoter
January 26, 2007, 12:09 AM
Think I found the problem. I moved my reloading stuff from the garage to the basement due to the cold weather, and when I set the scale, I did not zero it. It was actually reading right about 1 grain heavier than the actual weight. My loads had only about 3 grains unique instead of 4. Oversight on my part. I tightened the crimp up a little, and these last few came out very well. Thanks to all for the ideas and suggestions. I zero the scale now at least 2x during a session, just to make sure its not walking on me. Lesson learned, at least it was reading heavy instead of light.

Powderman
January 26, 2007, 04:23 AM
I did notice that a couple of the bullets would spin in the case.

This is also a bad sign; it shows that your case/neck tension is practically non-existent.

You might also be using a "universal decapper", which will decap the case without resizing. This is a potentially bad move; if you have one of these, ensure that you run your cases through an actual sizer die before reloading.

Check the expander ball, and make sure that you have the right one for the caliber you are reloading. Also, make sure that you are belling the case mouth just barely enough to sit the base of the bullet into.

Finally, use a good firm roll crimp for your revolver cartridges. There should be a cannelure to roll the case mouth into; in the case of full wadcutters in the .38 special, you can eith crimp into the groove provided; or with the swaged wadcutters seat the bullet about 1/32 below the mouth of the case and use a gentle roll crimp to close the case mouth over the lip of the loaded round.

Unique is a good powder; however, for reduced loads, I would recommend a powder like Clays, HP38, W231 or Bullseye.

Stanley Greenman
January 26, 2007, 03:02 PM
Try using Hogdons Titegroup. It is clean burning and very reliable. Try it, you'll like it.

skipjack
January 27, 2007, 09:46 AM
KHawk wrote:

"bullseye is a good powder for working up light loads"

This mirrors my experience with light loads in 38 special. Of the alliant powders, bullseye is my go to powder for 38 specials. It doesn't do too bad for 357 magnum or 45 acp, either.

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