Power Pistol for 38 special


November 24, 2007, 07:56 PM
6.8 gr of Power Pistol behind a 125gr JHP.
2" 38special snubbie +P rated
In your opinion is it safe?:evil:

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November 24, 2007, 08:01 PM
Yes, it should be perfectly safe in a modern gun.

7.1 grains is a low end +P load.
7.5 grains is a max. +P load.


November 24, 2007, 08:19 PM
According to Alliant's reloading guide, 6.3 grains of Power Pistol is a max charge for a 125 JSP loaded to +P (17500 psi.) 9.2 grains is a maximum .357 magnum load.

Whether 6.8 is safe or not depends on your gun, but it looks like an overload to me (I overload my .45LC all the time)

November 24, 2007, 08:34 PM
I was just wondering because I looked up the load in a Hornady reload manual and it said the same thing the first gentleman said, then when I went to the Alliant website I didn't see where they recommended Power Pistol for any standard 38 special load which got me a little worried about the 10 rounds that I just loaded.

Thanks for the Info.

November 24, 2007, 08:37 PM
with the GDSB 135-gr JHP bullet.

Speer worked up a Power Pistol load for this 135-gr. bullet to replicate their factory road--i.e., about 860 fps from a nominal 2" barrel. Their max charge is 6.4 grain--and that is using a 20,000 PSI +P rating, not the current SAAMI 18,500 rating. See the new Speer manual for more details, or e-mail me for a copy of the PDF file they had put up.

My guess is that you would be at or over 20,000 PSI with your recipe. I can tell you that 6.4 gr. of PP under the GDSB 135-gr. will do about 870-900 fps from any my 2" barrels, including the 442. Although it does match the factory spec, the recoil is noticably different--much sharper, not as full.

Where did you find the 7.5 max recipe, rcmodel?

Jim H.

November 25, 2007, 02:57 AM
6.8gr of Powder Pistol under a 125gr JHP bullet is a VERY HOT load. I wouldn't fire that round in a snub nose revolver unless it was a .357 Magnum revolver. I don't know where rcmodel got that 7.5gr number but just for reference, Alliant lists 9.2gr as a full power .357 Magnum round. (1,585 fps @ 33,800 PSI)

Like said above, Alliant lists 6.3gr of PP as the Max charge (1,165 fps @ 17,200 PSI) and Speer pushes it a little higher to 6.4gr. Your charge of 6.8gr is probably well above the old standard for the .38 Special +P let alone the new standard of 18,500 PSI.

Be very careful because that's extremely hot for anything marked .38 Special!!

November 25, 2007, 11:49 AM
I ran a QuickLOAD simulation for this problem (using a Remington 125gr SJHP and 1.420" OAL) and got numbers exactly equal to rcmodel's, assuming the Speer 20,000 psi upper limit for +P.

November 25, 2007, 12:08 PM
RidgwayCO: That QuickLoad report is VERY interesting. It certainly gives credence to the "they've been lowering the loads to CTA" argument about the manuals of the last fifteen years or so.

In my 38+P replica loads reloading project, I think I am starting to see data that suggests barrel length is a VERY important factor in charge level as well as powder speed. That's assuming, of course, that all other mechanical variables can be a constant--which is simply untrue: IOW, my M&P340 gap is tighter than my 640 gap, that sort of issue.

So, what data did you input--and what can you vary?

Jim H.

November 25, 2007, 01:40 PM
Jim, QuickLOAD doesn't allow for a barrel-cylinder gap entry, but you can vary the barrel length. For semi-autos I enter the exact barrel length, and the program deducts the OAL to compute a corrected barrel length. For revolvers I usually enter a longer barrel length that allows the corrected barrel length to equal the actual barrel length. It sounds complicated (at least the way I describe it), but it's actually pretty easy.

For this simulation, I used 7.5gr Power Pistol (giving a computed psi of about 19,400), and a 125gr Remington SJHP bullet seated to give an OAL = 1.420".

Corrected Barrel Length --- Computed fps --- % Powder Burned

2" --- 920 fps --- 72.9%
3" --- 1058 fps --- 80.0%
4" --- 1153 fps --- 84.2%
5" --- 1224 fps --- 87.0%
6" --- 1280 fps --- 89.1%

It would be interesting to run a test on the same revolver, cutting off 1 inch of barrel length at a time to see if these numbers hold up. At first glance, they seem to me to indicate more velocity due to barrel length than I have observed in real life, but maybe I just wasn't paying attention!

With QuickLOAD you can vary almost any input variable such as seating depth, case capacity, bullet length, bullet weight, powder used (if it's in the database... most are), barrel length, bullet base type, moly-coating, etc. There's even a "weighting factor" you can use to adjust the computations to match the actual results from your weapon. I've found that the more precise I am with the data I input (especially things like case capacity and bullet seating depth), the more closely the computed outputs match the "real world"
results measured with my chronograph.

Of course, there are lots of warnings with QuickLOAD that it can compute bad data (essentially: garbage in = garbage out), so you have to be careful with it, and should compare it to other published sources. Also, I usually start at least 10% low on any new load and work up slowly. And if I hit the velocity I was looking for at a lower-than-expected powder charge weight, I stop right there, always assuming that there's no free lunch.

November 25, 2007, 02:20 PM
I know it took time to put that up.

I have to say I am impressed from what I see in your example. In addition to working with the (nominal) 2" barrels of my M&P340 and the 640, I am also intermittently testing in my M60 /3", and I have a 686P / 4" on hand as well.

In the last six weeks, I've run about 200 cylindersfull of loads over the chrono. About 85 % of them have been variations on the Speer Data for the 135-gr. JHP / 38+P loads in 38 Special or 357 Magnum cases. The remainder have been with the factory rounds of the same bullet, and I have also ventured into loading WSF. As I've started to critically eyeball the data from all these test after it gets into my spreadsheet, I've noted the different velocities for the barrel-length "delta" and how it changes for powder. IOW, a PP charge changes more going from a 2" barrel to a 3" barrel than does AA#5, for example.

WSF appears to be the wonder powder for 38+P / 135 gr. bullets in 2" barrels, and I want to work with it further--but I really want to know pressures before I push it harder. There are simply NO conventional pressure signs (primer analysis, sticky cases, significant case diameter changes) from it at charge weight levels I consider to be on the low side, given its (LEE) VMD.

From what I can see here, QuickLoad may not handle all the input variables, but your example here shows it can produce a good starting spot. It certainly appears to go a long way towards quantifying the variables--do you see any significant weaknesses in it? (Not the GI-GO issues, but in software "results." Does it tend to break down at the boundaries, for example?

I think I'm gonna have to break down and get Quickload as my Christmas present to myself.

Jim H.

November 25, 2007, 03:37 PM
Speer #13 and #14 both list 6.8 grs of Power Pistol as max loads in 38 Special +P for 125 gr bullets. Speer #14 lists pressure for 38 Sp +P at 20,000 psi.

December 10, 2007, 06:54 AM
Just a follow up on my post.
I didn't want to abuse my 38 snubbie so I went ahead and bought a sp101 in 357 and fired off the 38 specials with the 125gr bullet over 6.8gr of Power Pistol. I believe that the pressure is more than likley at the very top of +p. The recoil and muzzle flash were substantial. please keep in mind that none of this was done in any kind of scientific fashon. As I stated before my reloading info came from the current Hornady manual that states this recipe is at the top of standard 38 special pressures.

December 10, 2007, 09:47 PM
Would you be so kind as to run this through QuickLoad for me?

.38 Special +P Brass
Winchester WSPM Primer
Hornady 158gr LSWC/HP bullet (.358")
7.0gr HS-6
OAL 1.475"
1 7/8" barrel (S&W M638)

I'm trying to work up a good Short Barrel FBI load but I was a little worried about the pressure using a charge of 7.0gr of HS-6.

Thank you Sir...

December 10, 2007, 11:35 PM
ArchAngelCD, you may not like the results...

With your information, QuickLOAD shows a pressure of over 24,000 psi. The max computed load (with a MAP of 18,500 psi) was with 6.0gr of powder, giving about 750 fps (200 ft-lbs).

A 1 7/8" barrel makes it tough to achieve high velocities. For example, a 4" barrel gives a computed velocity of 940 fps with the same load...

(Be advised, QuickLOAD doesn't show HS-6 as an option, so I substituted Winchester 540. I've read elsewhere that they're the same powder. Also, QuickLOAD doesn't have an option for primers, so I always assume magnum primers will give me higher pressures.)

Please make sure you compare QuickLOAD data with published sources. It's just software, not the holy grail...

December 11, 2007, 12:09 AM
in both 38 Special and 357 Magnum, and with both 140LTC and the Speer 158LSWC-HP bullets using SR-4756.

Unfortunately, we now have 8" or so of snow on the ground and the pistol range area remains unplowed--not to mention battery issues for the chrono when it is this cold.

Based on your query here, and RidgewayCO's workup, I'll note that on the newest Hodgdon Burn Rate chart, HS-6 is no. 31--right after AA#5 at 30, and just before V.3N37 and V.N350. I've given up on V.N350 for 2" barrels, and I suspect 3N37 won't make it, even with a +.2 grain venture into the +P+ range (as taken from the V. 2006 load data).

SR4756 is just below AA#5, at 29--and 800-X is 28, with V.N340 is 27. WSF(3) at 25 still looks like the Holy Grail for 2" barrels, maybe--I shot some more loads at the indoor range last week and the subjective recoil was still smooth and long, but not hard--but it did flash more than a bit.

My chrono goals from the 2" barrels remain as before--900 fps for the 135-140 38+P / +P+ loads, and close to 850 for the 158LSWC-HPs. I think you read elsewhere, as have I, that 6.8 gr. of SR-4756 just ventures into the 38+P+ range and will replicate the FBI load.

I'm going to get some N340 and build those--do you have any 800-X?

Jim H.

December 11, 2007, 03:48 AM
Thank you for taking the time to run those numbers for me. I really appreciate it...

December 11, 2007, 03:45 PM
This is getting interesting!

Ridgway, can you run some loads with Ramshot Silhouette? It's pretty close to HS-6 and WSF, but with lower flash and possibly higher velocity potential. Just curious because no Silhouette data exists for revolvers. I have used it with good results for a short barrel .357 Magnum load with the Rem 140 gr. SJHP. The 135 gr. Gold Dot might be a bit more relevant to the discussion. Thanks!;)

December 11, 2007, 05:18 PM
CZ57, out of curiosity I ran several powders thru QuickLOAD with ArchAngelCD's specifications. Unfortunately there seems to be no "magic powder" for the .38 Special that attains high velocities from short (1 7/8") barrels, or at least none in QuickLOAD's database.

Here's a short list (the powder weights shown took the computed pressure as closely as possible to 18,500 psi (per SAAMI), but not over):

Accurate Arms #5 ------ 6.2 gr (748 fps)
Accurate Arms #7 ------ 7.5 gr (758 fps)
Alliant Unique ---------- 4.9 gr (755 fps)
Alliant Herco ----------- 5.4 gr (754 fps)
Alliant Power Pistol ----- 6.1 gr (769 fps)
Alliant 2400 ------------ 9.3 gr (763 fps)
Hodgdon Universal ------ 4.4 gr (735 fps)
Ramshot Silhouette ----- 5.4 gr (748 fps)
Ramshot True Blue ----- 6.0 gr (753 fps)
Vihtavuori N330 -------- 4.6 gr (746 fps)
Vihtavuori N350 -------- 5.9 gr (755 fps)
Vihtavuori 3N37 -------- 6.0 gr (753 fps)
Winchester 540 -------- 6.0 gr (754 fps)

I'm going to be working up a 158 gr LSWC-HP load in .38 Special this winter, and I'll be looking carefully at VV N330. Why? Because it's projected speed is almost equal to the other slower powders, but QuickLOAD projects it to be by far the cleanest (99% of the powder is burned in the barrel).

Observation: I've often read that the energy level of a .38 Special from a short barrel equates closely to a regular .380 ACP. After this little exercise, I believe it.

Once again, please compare these figures carefully with published data and use the data that is most conservative. QuickLOAD is nice, but it's not magic.

December 11, 2007, 06:20 PM
RidgewayCO, thank you for publishing those calculations.

I have no real sense of how to assess them--but I do have a couple of immediate observations.

1. "Retail" powders readily available do not appear to provide the power that the custom-blended ones do used by manufacturers.

2. Individual firearms respond differently, and each one is unique.

Based on my tests to date--about 200 cylindersfull through the chrono screens of PP, AA#5, V.N350, V.3N37, AA#7, Unique, and WSF--both of my 2"-barrelled revolvers have different "patterns" to the velocities.

For example, #7 produced the lowest velocities--but it was also the slowest powder tested. Power Pistol had the highest, and with the exception of Unique, was the fastest.

Then, there is that factor RidgewayCO mentioned--% of powder burned. When I get QuickLOAD in a month or so, I will have to see how things vary if one constrains the burnt volume....

Jim H.

December 11, 2007, 06:35 PM
Jim, I agree with all of your observations, especially that each firearm is an individual and may be "fast", "slow", or "average".

I also think you are going to really enjoy QuickLOAD... Nice Christmas gift!

December 11, 2007, 07:07 PM
You all really got my attention with the idea of using WSF for .38. I'm a heavy-bullet sort (easier to make power factor for competition) and didn't see anything for that weight.
As for .38 Special, I've settled on VV 320 for maximum power. 4.8gr sends a 158 Berry's plated downrange at about 830fps in a four-inch Colt. It fades to close to 800 in my Colt snubs. This load, incidentally, is not too hard-kicking and the cleanest load I ever fired in a sixgun.
Any clues on using Super Field with 158s, since I already keep it on hand for 9mm? It's way my favorite for that, sort of like how WST works in .45ACP for me.

December 11, 2007, 07:33 PM
WSF(3) in .38/357: Bill, I have NO chrono results yets for WSF with 158s--got too cold before I could get it.

Having said that--if you have access to a chrono, a guess might be to start at about 4.8 grains in a 38 Special case with a 158-gr. bullet. That load will be noticably weak, I think, but I really don't have any good data other than subjective recoil, some goat-entrail readings (primer lookovers), and some chrono readings for 135-140 gr bullets.

My WSF is "3"--and I bought it at least 12 years ago. That's one reason I am reluctant to suggest anything higher--i.e., who knows what the current batches are like.

If you can get some WSF/158 chrono data, e-mail me; I am all ears and probably will have some more information by that time---

Jim H.

December 11, 2007, 07:41 PM
cherryriver, I've added Herco to the above listing (similar to WSF).

December 11, 2007, 08:03 PM
My status as the club chrono freak is on hiatus since two weeks ago, when I opted to test the effect of a 151gr .38 Super Rainier travelling at 1110fps on the readout panel.
I did take the care to bring home the remnants rather than leaving them in the club dumpster.
While I'm pretty thrilled with the VV320 for .38, it is sort of expensive, and I only know of two shops within my usual driving range that carry, making it necessary to plan out a Vihta Vuori trip.
WSF is much more common and a good seven bucks less a pound around here.
I will see about getting a new targ... chrono and will check back.

December 12, 2007, 12:18 AM
As you note, Herco is right next to WSF on that burn rate list--at 24.

I dunno why I've ignored that so far--part of it was that I got off to a slow start: I focussed on slower powders first, during the 'subjective recoil' workups why I was acclimating to my 2" guns and conditioning my hand.

I may even have some on hand--I'll check that out.

Jim H.

December 12, 2007, 02:39 AM
That's good to know since WSF is $29.95 locally but Herco is $19.95. (not that I would buy at those prices, gota love gun shows!!)

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