+P through a SAA?


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zplug123
July 30, 2008, 02:54 AM
So I've acquired a Pietta SAA clone, black-powder frame type. Heading off to the range tomorrow, with a report to follow shortly. The concern is that I've got an abundance of .38 Special 158gr SWC +P, clocking roughly around 900 fps, which I usually reserve for my S&W Model 28. My new addition handles .357 Magnum (or so it says), but how often should I put higher-pressure ammunition through such an antiquated design?

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KiltedClaymore
July 30, 2008, 02:59 AM
one word: NO

never put +p thru a SAA.

EVER!!!

The .38 may work, but dont THINK about the .357's.

if its a BP frame, use BP rounds. end of story. the open tops have a habit of sending that cylinder into your nose if you screw up.

HammerBite
July 30, 2008, 04:01 AM
There is no such thing as an open-top SAA. The "black-powder frame" style refers to the SAA variation in which the cylinder base pin is held in place by a screw that angles into the frame from the front. The later "smokeless-powder frame" style has the base pin held in place by a transverse spring-loaded latch.
My new addition handles .357 Magnum (or so it says), but how often should I put higher-pressure ammunition through such an antiquated design?
The fact that it is an old design doesn't mean that it is an inferior design. The only shortcoming of an 1873 SAA would be the metallurgy. Your Pietta wasn't built in 1873. If Pietta says that .357 Mag. is OK then .38 SPL +P would certainly be OK.

Jim March
July 30, 2008, 05:09 AM
KiltedClaymore, sorry man, you have no idea what you're talking about here.

OK.

First, Pietta makes a pretty decent gun. About on par with Uberti, with strength right in the same ballpark as a post-WW2 Colt SAA or Ruger New Vaquero.

The term "Black Powder Frame" in this context has nothing to do with strength. It means they've duplicated a cosmetic feature found on Colt SAAs of the 19th Century, a retaining screw for the base pin instead of a spring-loaded cross-pin. There's no strength difference; if anything, the older design is actually better (resists spitting the base pin - I do recommend blue locktite on this screw...).

Next, if the gun is stamped "357" on the side, you can ABSOLUTELY shoot 38+P in it. Unlimited diets of same. 357 pressures can top 35,000psi, 38+P never tops 20,000.

Finally, if you compare the cylinders between an SAA-family design like this one in 38 or 357 and, say, a Ruger GP100 or S&W L-Frame, the SAA-family cylinder is fatter and has more overall "beef" in every direction. No surprise there, the cylinder was originally meant for 45LC. By our standards it's kinda borderline as a 45 (which is why the 44Spl is well thought of in these guns) but in 38 or 357, you've got GOBS of strength available.

Upshot: you can shoot the nastiest Buffalo Bore, Doubletap or Grizzly Ammo 357 fodder in this gun. Some of it hits 800ft/lbs energy. This stuff will be just fine in this gun, except that to eliminate the base pin retaining screw, use a drop of blue locktite. Firing a hot round with a loose base pin could be REAL bad.

Now understand, I'm NOT a guy who advocates "skirting the edge of safety" in any gun, any caliber. I'm pretty damned conservative on this stuff. This is one time I'm telling you that you can stretch this gun's legs and let it run.

The only way you could hurt it is with handloading at the ragged edge of the 357's performance envelope. THAT I don't recommend, even though this is an abnormally beefy 357.

For the record: my favorite gun (and daily CCW) is a Ruger New Vaquero in 357, which is in this same strength/size/heft range. And I've run monster factory ammo through it no sweat. I have a cross-pin base latch system; I've put an over-strength crosspin spring in, again, to prevent base pin jump under big recoil.

WARNING: one thing the Pietta doesn't have is a decent safety. Carry it FIVE UP, load one, skip one, load four, that should lower the hammer on the empty cylinder bore. Load it six-up, drop it and there's a fair chance it will go off...hammer down OR hammer back.

HammerBite
July 30, 2008, 06:12 AM
Darn it, Jim, I completely missed the fact that the OP said .38 SPL. That's what I get for surfing forums instead of sleeping at night.

I am glad to read your favorable impression of the Pietta because I have been thinking about getting one.

Beagle-zebub
July 30, 2008, 09:22 AM
The cartridge that the SAA can't handle in +P is .45 LC. THOSE will blow up a SAA. They call them "Ruger/Freedom Arms/Contender only" loads for that reason.

qwert65
July 30, 2008, 09:44 AM
not to hijack but if I have a ruger blackhawk it's my understanding it can andle ANY 45LC including those crazy buffalo bore rounds?

SaxonPig
July 30, 2008, 09:46 AM
I still don't get it.

Why, why, why do people THINK 38 Special +P ammo is hot?

WHAT IN THE WORLD would cause someone to fret over shooting 38 Special ammo in a gun made for 357 Magnums?????

For crying out loud the allowable pressure for the 357 is 35,000 PSI. The 38 +P is loaded to 18,000 PSI (well below the maximum allowable 21,000 for the caliber, BTW).

Can someone please explain to me why people think a 357 revolver can't shoot 38 +Ps?

StrawHat
July 30, 2008, 11:03 AM
The SAA was used to develop some hot loads in the smaller calibers. Elmer Keith, Skeeter Skelton, and Thompson all loaded the 38 Special to at least 38/44 levels with the SAA. It will handle the modern +P with few problems.

csmkersh
July 30, 2008, 11:19 AM
Elmer blew up more than one .45 Colt SAA pushing things. That's what got him going on hot loading the .44 and then pressuring S&W to delvelope and market the .44 Magnum. FWIW, there are no SAAMI specs for .45 Colt +P. There are specs for the Ruger .45 Colt which are much hotter than the standard load. See attached pdf file:

wheelgunslinger
July 30, 2008, 12:25 PM
not to hijack but if I have a ruger blackhawk it's my understanding it can andle ANY 45LC including those crazy buffalo bore rounds?

Your blackhawk is not a Single Action Army clone like the OP's revolver.
As Jim explained, there are differences in the original metal of the SAA and those of later production models made by Colt and other manufacturers.
Your Blackhawk is another animal, entirely with regard to metal type and design.

zxcvbob
July 30, 2008, 01:05 PM
not to hijack but if I have a ruger blackhawk it's my understanding it can andle ANY 45LC including those crazy buffalo bore rounds?

I have one and I load it to 25000 or 26000 psi on occasion, but the 20000 psi loads are more fun to shoot. The really hot loads hurt my hand; perhaps because the gun has fancy checkered grips on it.

A .45LC Blackhawk can slightly exceed .44 Magnum energy levels, but *not* .44 Magnum chamber pressures. The .45 accomplishes approximately the same thing at 25000 psi that the .44 does at 35000 (especially with heavy bullets) because it has more case volume and more area. Do not try loading your Blackhawk >30000 psi -- just take a look at how thin those cylinder walls are and how the lock-up notches line up with the cylinder bores and weaken them even more. (if you want to treat your gun like a .454 Casull Junior, get a 5-shot custom cylinder for it.)

Back to the original question, any .357 SAA can handle the hottest ammo out there, although the base pin might wear out prematurely. The .45's can't because the cylinders are too small. Hot-loaded .44-40's might be really interesting...

Vern Humphrey
July 30, 2008, 01:28 PM
My second generation Colt SAA is chambered for .357, and I have shot a lot of full charge loads over the years. The SAA design is perfectly safe for .357.

The problem with high-pressure .45 loads is the cylinder stop cut is at the thinnest part of the cylinder wall and in .45, there is little metal left at that point.

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