38 Special -What velocity for an accurate target load?


November 26, 2007, 03:19 PM

I am going to give the ISSF center-fire match a go with my new (2nd hand) S&W 586 .38/.357.

I was wondering if anyone could dig up some of there accuracy testing results and tell me what the best velocities were for accuracy with....

.38 brass and 148 grain Hollow based Wad Cutter projectiles (Hornady).

There is plenty of previous discussion regarding powders, but it's all Greek to me as many of the listed powders are not available here in NZ. (I will be using AP50N by ADI powders, an Australian manufacturer). So perhaps we could talk in average velocity's instead.

I am used to driving bullets around 800-900 ft/sec but realize that may be a bit faster than required for an ISSF match with these projectiles.

I would be interested if you had any accuracy comparisons shooting from at least 25m (27 yards).

Cheers :)

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Rod B
November 26, 2007, 05:23 PM
A very popular & accurate .38 Special load.

148gr wadcutter

2.7 gr Bullseye

WW small pistol primer

Seat bullets flush with the case mouth using only enough crimp to remove the belling created by the expander die.

November 26, 2007, 09:06 PM
Rod B is dead-on.

I use 2.8 gr. of Bullseye to get 780 fps with a 148 gr. HBWC from a 4" Colt Diamondback. This load will cloverleaf five shots at 50 feet and should do well at 25 meters.

November 26, 2007, 09:51 PM
As noted, 2.8gr of Bullseye is a classic accuracy load for 25 and 50 yards, 38Spc, 148gr HBWC. 231 is often loaded at 3.2gr for the same bullet.
AP-50N is just a little faster than 231.

If you have the choice, you might want to load into 357 cases to avoid the crud buildup at the length of the 38s...just saves a little cleaning labor. I add 1/10th gr when using 357 cases.

Good luck at the match...Post back with your loads and how they do.

November 26, 2007, 10:26 PM
Use .357 cases loaded to between 485 fps and 811fps. The velocities for the 'classic' 2.7 grains of Bullseye run around 758fps. Using .357 cases eliminates the lube gunk build up in the cylinders.

Steve C
November 27, 2007, 01:30 AM
For hollow base wad cutters I'd say a velocity of 750 fps would be a good basic load for most handguns.

November 27, 2007, 08:48 AM
I just had my .38 Special Clark 1911 conversion tuned up by a gunsmith here in the DFW area. He took my reloads (3.0 grains of BE with 148 bullet) and some Remington factory wadcutters and checked out my pistol with a Ransom rest at 50 yards.

My reloads were within a 3 inch group, but the factory rounds were in an inch and a half group. My reloads were up around 780 fps, while the factory rounds were around 730. In this case slower is better. I've gone back to loading 2.7 grains of BE for this pistol.

Hope this helps.

November 27, 2007, 08:59 AM
Keep the velocity of HBWC down to 800 fps or so. I've read that if you up the velocity of a HBWC it's possible (especially with a swaged bullet) to actually blow out a ring of lead from the base that will stay in the barrel with disasterous results with the next round. Never saw this happen but I don't want to try and disprove it either.

November 28, 2007, 09:46 AM
Ditto what most of the others have stated.

Most factory .38spl 148gr HBWC loads are loaded to 690fps now. Previously prior to about mid '90's, the loads were spec'd to 775-785fps but after Precision Delta loaded ammo set so many PPC records, Federal led the charge to lower the speed to 690-710fps to duplicate the performance of the Delta Precision load. Winchester followed. Remington's seem to still be loaded to faster spec.

They (Delta Precision) used 2.9gr of Win231 (actually HP-38 according to the 110lb drums I've seen) under a Star (Star swaged 148gr HBWC mfg. on Delta's equipment- Star is out of business and Precision is having Berry's of Utah mfg. the bullets for them now, or at least I'm told so. Haven't talked to Joe Tranum [owner of D-P] in several years now. Closer to the lead mines/foundrys.........), in a Star-Line Brass case, and Federal #100 primer; Flush seated and taper crimped. Lube was originally a wax-alox base lube, now is a black moly base and ammo is nothing like it was previously [accuracy wise].
He (D-P) is using IMI-630 or something similar now. It's VERY CLEAN ammo, but scores aren't !!...............

I find my guns like 2.6gr of Bullseye better, and a Zero HBWC re-lubed with Lee Tuble-lube Alox. Same velocity [690fps from 6" bbl on Mod10 S&W [modifided].

November 28, 2007, 08:01 PM
For my 4" Model 686 I like to load a 148gr DEWC over 3.4gr W231. The average velocity from a 4" barrel is 770 fps and SD is usually under 20 fps.

November 28, 2007, 08:56 PM
a Zero HBWC re-lubed with Lee Tuble-lube Alox

How do you apply the Lee Alox?

November 28, 2007, 11:38 PM
I strip the original lube by swirling in a 1gal plastic tub with mineral spirits- sufficient to cover the bullets, and then drain and dry the bullets overnight.

You'll need to use a dedicated tub as there is a LOT of lead "flashing" that comes off the bullets. I drain the bullets through a plastic collander that I use for separating media from tumbled bullets. (I also re-use the mineral spirits used for the washing.)

I then place a quantity of lube (about a tablespoon) in another plastic tub.

I then place the bullets in the tub and swirl. This keeps from getting so much lube in the hollow bases.

Bullets are then placed in a cardboard box (slide type box used for 5,000 Winchester primers) and allowed to dry over-night.

I also use the lube on my cast bullets.

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