Question on a load for my 1st batch of .38 Specials


December 10, 2007, 11:06 PM
I recently purchased a pair of .357's, a Ruger GP100 and a S&W 640.

Tonight I put together my first 10 .38 Special test loads, using Data from my Speer Reloading Manual #12 using the listed starting load of 3.8 gr. of Bullseye under a 158gr LSWC bullet. My concern though is that Alliant's website list this load as a +P loading.

Is that the case? While I know that it will not harm a .357 revolver to run hot .38's in it, I was wondering just how "hot" this load is. If Speer is listing a +P load as a starter, it makes me wonder how much I should be trusting their data.

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December 10, 2007, 11:16 PM
Powder manufacturers seem to always have more conservative data than bullet manufacturers. Alliant's reloading guide says that load is 17200 psi.

I use a different load that Alliant says is +P and Lyman's says is normal pressure in my S&W model 15. I always thought +P was 20000 psi, and 17000 was the upper end of standard-pressure .38 Spl.

December 10, 2007, 11:30 PM
Dont know about bullseye, but I use 5grs of v-v N320 with 158grLSWC
N320 is the second fastest pistol powder thay got, so I think your load is
very much on the safe side.

Dave B
December 11, 2007, 08:17 AM
That is a hot 38 spl load for sure. My old Lyman book shows 3.5 max-826 fps. It lists Bullseye at 2-3.5 gr, -519 to 826 fps in 6" test gun.

December 11, 2007, 09:56 AM
Off the top of my head, the start load for Bullseye and 158gr LSWC is 3.3gr.

Yup... 3.6-10% = ~3.3

December 11, 2007, 10:35 AM
Ruger GP100 and a S&W 640

Both my shooters bibles 2001 and 2003 say that 5 shot 640 is for .357 and .38 special and +p's
Hornady manual 7th edition lists their swaged 158 grain with 3.7 of bullseye as max--starting 2.8.
Lyman #48 158 gr. linotype starting is 3 gr. to 3.4 for max. lswc

speer #11 says 158 lswc 3.8 to 4.2 gr. of bullseye

Mal H
December 11, 2007, 11:20 AM
my Speer Reloading Manual #12 using the listed starting load of 3.8 gr. of Bullseye under a 158gr LSWC bulletI think that is the cause for the discrepancy you've noted. You're comparing older loading data with more up-to-date data. As testing methods became better (e.g., PSI gauges vs copper crusher) the old data was sometimes found to be a little too hot.

Speer #12 lists Bullseye as 3.8 min to 4.2 max for that bullet type/weight.
Speer #13 got a lot more conservative and lists Bullseye at 3.1 to 3.5 for the same bullet. Even their +P section has Bullseye going from 3.5 to 3.9. So your load of 3.8 is at the upper end of modern +P load data - from that particular manufacturer.

When available, current load data from the powder manufacturers/distributors is most likely better than older published data.

Should you fire those rounds in the pistols you mentioned? Absolutely - have fun!

December 11, 2007, 11:44 AM
Remember that some powders don't lend themselves to reduced loads in one caliber/cartridge as well as they might in a different configuration. While Bullseye is a great powder for 45acp in reduced target velocities, there's not a lot of room to play for that reduced pressure/velocity target load if you're working a load for .38spl.

This load is still a good starting point for you to get your feet wet reloading. To be cautious and ask questions in this forum is just what you should be doing until you are comfortable with load data comparisons from bullet powder manufactures.

I will suggest a powder for beginners... Unique. Yes, more dirty soot than other powders, but it weighs well, allows more room for error, and light or warm loads quite well in most all pistol calibers. -That said, I usually try not to 'suggest something other than what someone is using' Because, in most cases if a person has looked at the manuals, like you have, you've got a combination that will function just fine. In this case, I think there might have been a slightly more versital choice for a beginning reloader. Just as different designs of bullets have varied performance characteristics, so do powders. Do I use Bullseye? You bet. But I have specific loads using Unique also. And AA#9, and 296, and 231, and...

So, instead of insisting that you change your powder (if you're really trying to develope a less than +P offering) for your first attempts at reloading, I'll suggest that you purchase more than one reloading manual. In my 24 years of reloading, I have never once used a load data chart from a powder manufacture. I use multiple bullet manufacture manuals to compare with. But my starting point with a new load always uses their referenced Bullet and powder specs with no substitutions. If I remember correctly, Speer, Lyman and Hornady are the only major ones that offer load data for lead bullets. Those will provide plenty of data to compare and come up with the powder and bullet combination best suited for a particular purpose.

Making things go 'BANG' is a whole lot more fun than mistakingly making things go 'BOOM'.


December 11, 2007, 05:47 PM
that if you're using .38 cases in a .357 with LSWC, be ready to ream some lead from the cylinders. At least that's been my experience. I no longer use .38 brass, I just load light loads in .357 and haven't had to ream out my cylinder since.

December 11, 2007, 08:17 PM
Thanks for all the great info everybody! I think I'll go ahead and fire these ten rounds from my .357's just to experience what a hot .38 reload feels like, since it seems that we are all in agreement that these loads should be safe in those guns.

From here out though, I am going to reduce the load to a more reasonable starting point such as 3.3 grains.

I am also thinking more and more about switching over to Unique. I started reloading earlier this year and used Bullseye for .45's with a variety of weights using lead bullets, but loading for revolvers is an entirely new field for me.

Everything I read seems to suggest that Unique is more forgiving. Like JackOfAllTradesMasterAtNone said, I'd much rather go bang than go BOOM! :)

I also am seeing the logic in using .357 cases instead of .38's not only from the standpoint of cleanliness but accuracy as well. If I'm going to do all the work I may as well get all the accuracy that I can.

Thanks again all. Your help and advice is greatly appreciated!

December 12, 2007, 01:50 AM
When you get to reloading full house .357's for hunting or some longer distance shooting, I highly suggest working up a load using AA#9 pushing a 160-180gn JSP. Every .357 pistol I've used #9 pushing heavier bullets has produced very good accuracy. It meters better than 296 too.


December 12, 2007, 02:34 AM
Might I suggest using Lil'Gun when loading a 160-180gr JSP bullet for a full powder .357 Magnum load. Lil'Gun will give you greater velocities with less pressure than H110/W296, 2400 or AA#9 with those heavier bullets.

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