Loading Wad Cutters


April 11, 2007, 09:30 PM
Well I've got a box of 38 (.358) wad cutters for my 357 and figured it should be pretty self explanatory. Forgive me, but I'm new to reloading. I've loaded quite a few rifle rounds but this one is new to me. One end of the bullet is deeply hollow (more pronounced than hollow points) and the other end is flat. Which do I load into the casing and which is the business end of the bullet?

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April 11, 2007, 09:54 PM
The hollow end is loaded into the case on top of the powder. The bullet is then seated flush to the top of the case. These bullets are called hollow based wad cutters and were used as a mid range target load (upto 50 yd) for bullseye shooting in target pistols and revolvers. The idea of the hollow base was for the expended gases to expand the base of the bullet so that it fit tightly in the lands and grooves of the barrel. This is an excellent accurate bullet for light target loads. The bullet is rather soft and will lead badly if pushed too hard. BTW, about 20 years ago it was very popular to load this bullet backwards as a very large hollow point. It would expand to a size of a nickel upon hitting a solid surface. It was loaded in the various snubbies as a PD load, but accuracy was non existent. This was the bullet for the S&W Moel 52 Master in 38 Special.

Bad Flynch
April 11, 2007, 10:01 PM
Well, since you are a new reloader--or at least new to pistols and HBWCs, I will lay out a couple of things.

First is that the big hollow cavity is the base of the bullet and goes into the case. HBWCs are customarily seated flush with the case mouth and a heavy roll crimp is applied. That is the way factory ammo comes. If you are in doubt, go to a sporting goods store and ask to look at some factory fodder and then use it as your guide.

You are not obliged to seat the bullets that deeply. Some believe that a long bullet jump in to the cylinder throat of a revolver is detrimental to accuracy and things might be improved by seating the bullet out just far enough to rest in the throat--but not far enough to interefere with proper loading.

HBWCs are not suited to much over low velocity/low pressure loads. High pressure loads have been known to spread the back end of the barrel (forcing cone) and ruin the barrel. In addition, they have an aerodynamic profile much like that of a brick wall and do not fly well if pushed over about 800 fps. 700-800 fps is the norm for these bullets and 50 yards is the accuracy limit: up to that 50 yard limit they can be superbly accurate.

If you really want to start out with a winning combination and save time, start with your HBWCs in .38 Special cases with a mild primer like the Remington small pistol 1&1/2 or Federal and about 2.7 grains of Bullseye. If you use .357 Magnum cases, you will need to use a tad more powder to make up for the extra room in the longer cases. Be careful with Bullseye, as one can double charge a case and destroy a revolver. Examine all of your powder filled cases in a loading block by looking into them with a flashlight. Look for any significant variance in powder level as a problem sign. When you have all of the cases, say 50, in one block and inspect like that it is easy to see a problem case.

April 11, 2007, 10:23 PM
You didn't say what brand of HBWC. My old Hornady book does not give loads for that bullet in the .357 case; only for .38 Special cases. I load 3.0 grains of BE for my wadcutter autoloader which is pretty much as hot as I want to go with that bullet.
What brand bullet?

Navy Vet & SWIFT Boat OIC

April 11, 2007, 10:24 PM
isn't there a risk that if you shoot hollow base wad cutters to hot, the "tail" end can seperate and leave a ring of lead in your barrel.....causing big, big problems on the next round fired????

April 11, 2007, 11:20 PM
I've never heard of that happening. With the Hornady bullet and 3.0 of BE the velocity is around 850 fps, which is not a particulary hot load. The max (old Hornady book from 1973) is 3.3 grains of BE which is around 900 fps. I suppose if you went faster you'd get a lot of leading, but I doubt if it the bullet would separate.
I did see separation of some gas checks during a match in Phoenix one time. It was HOT; around 110 and this guy's reloads were coming apart so he was gettting two hits for every round fired. It was in the International Centerfire event where you can use anything from a .32 to .38 caliber. He was shooting some pretty hot loads from a .38 revolver, which is kind of overkill for that event.
I did load some Remington HBWCs up to the 3.3 grain load for the 50 yard slow fire just to see how they would work. Still pleasant to shoot and no leading, but I wouldn't go past the max in the book simply because the bullet is not designed to do that; it's a target load.

Navy Vet & SWIFT Boat OIC

April 11, 2007, 11:34 PM
I prefer Double ended Wad Cutters. #1 you can't put them in upside down. # 2, you can load them a bit hotter, which is important because I shoot them out of a .357 magnum revolver for a cheaper practice round.

April 12, 2007, 12:16 AM
"...what brand of..." The brand doesn't matter. You load for the bullet weight. You don't need special data to load .357 cases to .38 velocities. Just load the .357 cases using .38 data. Eliminates the ring of lube gunk in the cylinders too.
"...if you shoot hollow base wad cutters to(sic) hot..." You don't load WC's, hollow based or otherwise, hot. They're target bullets. They're made to give a nice clean hole in the paper. Makes scoring easier.
HBWC's are usually swaged as opposed to cast and are rather soft.

April 12, 2007, 08:13 AM
I prefer Double ended Wad Cutters. #1 you can't put them in upside down. # 2, you can load them a bit hotter, which is important because I shoot them out of a .357 magnum revolver for a cheaper practice round.
I use both.

I prefer HBWCs for my .38 Special M1911. I seat these slightly below the case mouth and heavily roll crimp over them. I really liked the Stars, but they're out of business. When my stockpile is gone, that's the end. I'll have to switch to Zero or somebody else's.

For revolvers, I like the DEWCs, particularly Penn and Magnus. I seat out to the crimp groove and roll crimp into it. I get excellent results with my S&W Model 14.

I use 2.7-2.8gr. of Bullseye and [usually] a Remington primer for both.

April 12, 2007, 02:16 PM
Hollow based wadcutters are usually swaged, softer and more accurate. Double ended wadcutters are generally cast, harder, more convenient, and less accurate.:confused:

April 13, 2007, 12:38 AM
Well, I did a couple. What do you think, A or B? And how do I avoid the excess crimp of A with a Lee Die set?

Edit: These are 38 Special with hollow base wad cutters using 2.6 - 2.7 grains of Bullseye (Lee Dipper #3 and measured on Lee Balance)

April 13, 2007, 01:01 AM
Use the one on the right without that enormous crimp. Target loads do not need crimping. Crimping is bad for target loads.
You take out the crimp by adjusting the die up. The die should be set up so the shell holder just kisses it when the ram is all the way up. A 1/16th gap is fine. Then lock it and adjust the seating rod for seating depth. You'll also find that most die sets come with more than one seating rod too. One for WC's and SWC's and one for RN's. Use the WC rod.
Forget the crimping groove altogether. You don't need to crimp just because there is a crimping groove.

Bad Flynch
April 13, 2007, 06:32 PM
Go with example A, but back off the crimping die just a little; that is too much.

>Crimping is bad for target loads.<

In fact, crimping can actually improve the accuracy of target loads by improving the burning of the powder in what is otherwise a low pressure/low velocity/irregularly burning load. Been there with a Ransom Rest, and it can help. (Else, why would factory HBWCs be so good if the heavy crimp is detrimental. You will seldom load at home and get groups as good as your revolver's preferred brand of factory fodder--and that especially applies to Remington)

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