.38 s&w, and .38 spl die interchangability?


November 18, 2007, 12:02 PM
Hi, quick question for any experts out there. Do any or all of the dies between these two calibers interchange? I just got a canadian military marked s&w m&p.
I have a set of dies for .38 special, and I have lots of .38 s&w live rounds I want to reload them after I shoot them off. It is no big deal if I have to buy new dies, but half the time I buy new lee dies they are marked as if they are used for two or more calibers. For example I got a set for .455 webley and some of the dies say .455/.45 colt/.45 schofield or some such. I already had a set of dies for .45 colt, that are just marked .45 colt, but they seem to be the same.

O.K. next question, any idea where to get 200 grain jacketed lrn bullets for .38 s&w. I got a small wooden case of 1944 marked canadian military ammo for my revolver that is marked .380 IIz. They seem to be 200 grain lead round noses that are nickel washed or something like that (they are silver instead of copper coloured)

Anyway thanks for your patience if you read all this.

If you enjoyed reading about ".38 s&w, and .38 spl die interchangability?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
November 18, 2007, 12:18 PM
The sizer for the .38 S&W, and probably the expander, is slightly bigger than the dies for the .38 Spl. because the .38 S&W uses a bigger, .360, diameter bullet.

You may be able to make it work, especially if you load .357 jacketed or plated bullets, but I would recommend that you get the proper dies.

I bought some Lee dies to load for the .38 S&W and they work well.

November 18, 2007, 12:24 PM
No, the dies are not interchangeable between those two calibers. First, the .38 S&W case is larger in diameter.
Second, it is much shorter, so the .38 Spl. seating die would be way too long to seat & crimp the bullets.

As for bullets, .357 dia. lead bullets will probably work. I know some of the custom cast bullet companies make the proper .360" bullets, but I don't have a name handy.

Your other option is to cast your own.


November 18, 2007, 12:49 PM
Find drawings for the two cartridges and I believe you'll be impressed there is no significant external difference.

There was a short-lived 9mm rimmed cartridge from Federal, I believe, until they noticed the similarity. A high pressure 9mm in a low pressure .38 S&W pistol could have spectacular results.


November 18, 2007, 01:39 PM
There is a very significant difference when it comes to reloading dies for .38 S&W & 9mm Luger, if thats what you are suggesting.

The 9mm case has a .012" - .013" taper from back to front, while the .38 S&W case is nearly perfectly straight from end to end.


November 18, 2007, 01:47 PM
O.K. just checking, I can get a set of dies no problem. I do quite a bit of handloading so it shouldn't be a problem. I knew the case was slightly bigger but I wasn't sure how much bigger.

November 18, 2007, 02:22 PM
My Lee dies for the .38 S&W are marked .38 Auto, at least the resizing die is, this bothered me until I checked the min/max. case dimensons (both are straight walled) and its not an issue. I've been using the dies for awhile now and not had any problems with them.

Your .380MKIIz should be 178 gr bullets, the original service load using the 200 gr. bullet was a different Mark number. The "z" indicates nitrocellulose powder (as opposed to cordite, IIRC). All the surplus ammo I've found in this caliber, which hasn't been a lot, either had berdan primers or odd size primers making it unsuitable for reloading but if yours was loaded in Canada (Dominion CIL?) hopefully it will work.

Two loads that work for me in my Webley and Victory's are 1.5 gr 231 behind the Hornandy 148gr HBWC, this round makes less noise than a .22, has zero recoil and is very accurate at short range only, beyond ten yards the bullet begins to tumble. Increase the powder charge to 2.0 grains of 231 and the bullet stablizes better and it will hold decent groups out to 20 yards. I've also had good results with a 2.5 grs of 231 behind a 158gr SWC, the bullets as I buy them measure .358 on my dial caliber, no leading and decently accurate.

You might try the .358 cast bullets available and see it they work for you. Have fun, I think shooting the old .38/200 S&W Victory's are a hoot, but that factroy ammo is too expensive.

November 18, 2007, 04:27 PM
My Lee dies for the .38 S&W are marked .38 Auto, at least the resizing die is
So is mine.

November 18, 2007, 06:21 PM
I didn't know you could get factory ammo, but sure enough winchester makes it. Super expensive!

I bought the revolver planning to handload so thanks for the tips.

Do yours shoot to point of aim with the lighter bullets? I was planning to try to duplicate the military load, thinking that it would be necessary, but if it isn't then I will try other bullets weights. I have some revolvers in .455 webley and they seem to need the 230grain bullet to be anywhere close to accurate.

November 18, 2007, 08:12 PM
The 158gr SWC load (2.5 grs 231) shoots to POA for me, the light 148gr wadcutter load shoots 2-3" low at 10 yards. The 148gr HBWC will start keyholing beyond beyond 10 yards, but going to 2.0 grs (again 231) it seems to stablize the bullet better, but the groups are not as tight. I know other guys have had good luck with Bulleye but I have not tried it yet in .38 S&W.

After seating the wadcutter I just barely bump them in a crimping die, the SWC gets a good crimp in the groove. I think, in a solid frame revolver like a Smith Victory, you could crank the loads up significantly and approach or equal, with the right powder, some .38 Special loads. I haven't because I don't want to chance gettings any hot loads into a topbreak, and I enjoy the lighter load more.

Penn Bullets (www.Pennbullets.com) I believe offer, as an option, bullers sized up to .360, I have not used their products but they have a good rep. Try them if you cannot get .358 cast bullets to perform to your satisfaction.

November 23, 2007, 10:19 AM
Sounds like you have the die question figured out.
Here's a load I like in my S&Ws...shoots pretty much point of aim thru my Regulation Police and 32-1.

148gr HBWC (Zero swaged)
2.5 gr. Bullseye
Mixed Brass
OAL: 1.090

680 fps S&W Model Regulation Police w/4 in. Barrel
648 fps S&W Model 32-1 snubby


If you enjoyed reading about ".38 s&w, and .38 spl die interchangability?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!