2nd batch ever reloading .38Special - safe load?


April 26, 2007, 12:02 AM
A week ago I loaded my first ever reloads on my own equipment (Lee Classic Turret kit), a dozen rounds of .38 Special using 3.1gr of Winchester 231 powder and 148 gr lead button-nose wadcutters. These shot fine if a bit light in a Rossi R462 .357 magnum this weekend. This was using a friend's powder, primers, and the lead bullets.

I went and bought my own powder (a pound of Unique) and some CCI primers, and made my 2nd ever batch of .38 special wadcutters tonight, a box of 45 rounds. But, I have a little doubt about this batch now that it's done and would like to ask for some advice.

I loaded this batch with 4.4 grains of Unique powder using a Lee auto-powder measure, OAL is 1.295" per the Speer manual.

After I was done, it occurred to me to look at the other 2 reloading manuals I have at home. There's a problem in that these manuals disagree with each other, and the 4.4 grains of Unique I put in are significantly over the max grains of unique for two of my three reloading manuals as shown below:

Lee 2nd Ed --> 3.2 and 3.2 grains
Lyman 3rd Ed--> 3.7 and 4.2 grains
Speer #13 ----> 4.5 and 5.1 grains

I'll be shooting this batch through the same Rossi .357 magnum revolver. If this was you, would you worry about shooting a 4.4 grain Unique load like this, if the Lee and Lyman guides indicate using less powder? Based on my noobish experience level I'd guess it'll be ok in a 357, but I don't really have the experience to tell. This is the first time I've reloaded with Unique and only my second batch reloading at all.

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April 26, 2007, 12:17 AM
4.4 grains of Unique is a near max load for a cast bullet. It won't bother a .357 though. My Lyman Pistol and Revolver manual gives 3.1 to 4.6 of Unique for a cast 148 grain bullet. The loads in all manuals are averages of test loads. It's not unusual for them to be different. The loads given in all of 'em are safe in any firearm in a given calibre.
If you ever decide to shoot .357 ammo out of your Rossi, you will have to clean the ring of lube gunk out of the cylinders first. No big deal. It comes out with normal solvent and a .45 calibre brush. Loading .357 cases to .38 Special velocities makes this go away.
2.5 to 2.8 grains of Bullseye with your 148 grain WC's may be something you want to try. It's been the standard target load for eons.

April 26, 2007, 12:17 AM
I think you're okay with that load. My Speer manual #12 shows the 148 grain BB-WC with a starting load of 4.5 grains of Unique, with a max of 5.1. The 47th edition of the Lyman manual shows 3.8 grains of Unique as the starting load with their 141 grain DEWC with a max of 5.3. You should be getting around 850 fps which is an okay load for that bullet.

Navy Vet & SWIFT Boat OIC

April 26, 2007, 06:42 PM
You're fine. Some of the loads for HBWC are kept much lower than SAAMI spec in order to keep leading down. There's also rumors/reports of over-driving dead-soft HBWC and blowing the top have of the bullet off the skirt, and leaving the skirt in the barrel. Never seen it, but that's the word on the street.

April 26, 2007, 06:49 PM
You may find that Unique load barks a bit louder, but it's plenty safe in a .357 magnum. No problem. Enjoy.

April 27, 2007, 06:13 AM
Thanks very much for all the advice, 'preciate it!

April 27, 2007, 02:08 PM
When you can, use the reloading information from the bullet manufacture.

For instance, a 200gn Hensly and Gibbs bullet has a different shaped frontal area than a Lyman cast bullet of the same weight. Not to choose any particular one, but just as a 'possibility', this puts more bullet inserted into the case while still maybe having an overall length being quite near the same. (a skinny frontal makes it that a bullet needs to be longer to be the same weight as a fat frontal/shorter bullet)

Now you're looking at a difference in the amount of air in the loaded cartridge. The same powder charge could create more pressure and bullet velocity.

Not so much a problem with cast bullets, but when you start shooting jacketed bullets near maximum loads, this could result in an enlightening experience.

If you don't have bullet manufacture reload information, then experience and multiple reloading manual reference is your next best choice.

Unfortunately, the Sierra and Nosler manuals don't list cast bullet data. Speer and Hornady do, along with the tried and true Lyman cast manual. Still, many of the loads in the Lyman manual are for H&G or Lyman cast bullets. Their molds. If you're shooting Rainier's or some other brand, you may want to start with charges that are under the 'mid' range for a given bullet weight.

I'll agree, in your pistol, you shouldn't see issues with this load. Maybe a bit more leading and deffinately a dirtier pistol since Unique is not as clean as the W231 you shot before. They'll be a bit more stout, so if you're looking for just some light target loads, then maybe back off the powder charge by5% or or even 10%.


April 27, 2007, 02:28 PM
X: it's safe. In one of my older SPEER manuals they show 4.5 grains as a start charge using a swaged 148 gr. Bevel Base Wadcutter that's very similar in shape to a Button Nose. Yeah, Unique was changed slightly a few years back, but not enough to worry about in this case.

Jack makes a good point about different molds and alloys and such, and the length of the bullet shank is a factor. The longer the shank, the more engagement the bullet has with the rifling in the barrel and consequently pressure runs a bit higher with additional shank length, and the deeper seating associated in comparison to a Semi-Wadcutter. Wadcutters have the longest shank you'll encounter with lead bullets.;)

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