Making PF with .38 Special load


January 6, 2009, 05:08 PM
I have been doing some hand loading in a effort to find a .38 special load that makes a 125,000 power factor. I would like to use these rounds for IDPA. So far my efforts have come up short. Using Berry's plated 158 gr. bullets 5.0 g of Unique, and Federal primers, the average velocity of 10 shots was 762, making a power factor of approx. 119,000. An eight shot group with 5.1 g of Unique also resulted in a average velocity of 762. So am I doing something wrong? It does seem odd that the av. velocity for 5.0 and 5.1 gr. of Unique was the same. What can I try changing to make a 125K power factor? Thank you.

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Jim Watson
January 6, 2009, 05:40 PM
I use moly coated 158 grain roundnose lead bullets which get down the barrel easier than jacketed or plated and smoke less than lubed cast. Takes me 4.6 grains of Win 231. Less might do in some guns, but my .38 loader has a bushing measure and the choices are limited.

Bear Creeks are good, if still available, which I don't have anything current on.
Call 209-874-4322, they dropped their website.

I have been loading Billy Bullets' .45s, you could try their .38s.
Their 160 gr does not have a crimp groove and should be taper crimped, but it will load faster than the 158 gr SWC.

January 6, 2009, 05:56 PM
FWIW: i.e., I've not loaded explicitly to IPDA / 125PF goals but in working on my "short barrel reloads database" I have found that

1. Unique was nothing to write home about, at least in barrels under 4".

2. Power Pistol does seem to give the fastest 38 Special velocities.

3. With 158-gr. bullets, I seem to be getting the best velocities at safe pressures with Ramshot True Blue.

4. The "GoldDotShortBarrel38+P135-gr" ballistics--135-gr. bullet, 860-900 fps might be worth looking at. For that, the best powders do seem to be AA#5 and True Blue.

Jim H.

Steve C
January 6, 2009, 08:04 PM
As I understand it the PF is simply the velocity X the bullet wt in grains which means that you need an average velocity of 792 fps to achieve a PF of 125,000.

I've loaded 158gr Speer LSWC and LRN bullets on top of 5.0grs of Unique lit off with a Wincheseter SPP and got an average velocity of 901 fps out of my S&W M67 4" and 782 fps from my 2" Colt DS.

Speer #13 says you can go to 5.2grs with their Lead 158gr bullet, Lyman says 5.4grs is +P max. I have older manuals that went as high as 6.1grs with lead.

I chrono'd some 5.5gr Unique loads that I'd been using for years several years back when I first got my chrono and they averaged 1,084 fps from the 4" M67 and 878 fps from the DS after which point I reduced the load down a bit.

As Jim said, switch to lead bullets and you sould get the velocity you're looking for. Speer and Hondady lead bullets work well at .38 spl velocity and are pretty clean. If you buy hard cast you'll probably need to add a light coating of Lee's Liquid Alox to avoid leading at the .38 spl's low velocity.

January 6, 2009, 09:25 PM
That velocity seems low. What length barrel? How's the cyl gap? Have you checked your chrono against another for reference?

My 3" Model 60 gets 882 fps avg with 158 Speer LSWC HP's, 5 grains of Unique and WW SPP's. Substitute 5.8 grains Power Pistol (in between std and +P Alliant data), everything else the same gets 924 fps avg. Hornady LSWC's give very similar results for me.

January 6, 2009, 10:30 PM
Thanks all for your repies. My gun is a SW-66 with 4 inch barrel. Cylinder gap should be ok. (Gun went back to S&W for an upgrade package last year, and they confirmed to me that the gun was in good working order.) Yes, it would be good to check my chonograph with another one. Or, I can try it with some factory rounds of known velocity.

January 7, 2009, 03:27 AM
If Unique doesn't work out for you I know Power Pistol, HS-6 and AA#5 will all make power with your bullet/caliber combination without pushing the pressure limits. Even W231 will work well.

That's a good idea, check your chrono against another unit before you condemn your load.

January 7, 2009, 09:56 AM
Jim Watson, Steve C (or anyone else):

Have you done a good chrono study of the moly-vs-conventional-lube issues? Particularly any repeatable velocity changes?

I've got some moly samples here in .45ACP and .401...but haven't looked into it yet.

A variant on this is the obduration-BHN powder-speed issues, I think. I know that my short barrel loads generally work best with "medium" BHNs and those 'medium-slower' powders, like #5 (fastest) on down to True Blue.

FWIW--I'll probably be loading up Unique again this winter--but last year's initial testing showed such wide ESs that I set it aside for the time being.

Jim H.

Steve C
January 7, 2009, 10:54 PM
Have you done a good chrono study of the moly-vs-conventional-lube issues?

I've tried moly coated bullets in the 9mm and the .45 ACP. They leaded the bore up with mild loads so I never bought any more.
Unique doesn't give the most consistent loads velocity wise until you get to magnum pressures but it still produces accurate loads and tight groups when shot on paper.

Jim Watson
January 7, 2009, 11:24 PM
I can try it with some factory rounds of known velocity.

Save your money. The muzzle velocity of factory loads out of your mass produced gun is NOT a known quantity suitable for calibration. Maybe .22 lr match ammo would let you know if your chronograph were grossly out of time.

Jim H, I have not studied moly vs wax lube velocity side by side. My main consideration is making PF at a reasonable load level and minimum smoke.

January 8, 2009, 01:07 AM

Adding to what others said... With 158 gr. Berries 6.0 gr SR4756 will get you minor PF from a 4-incher. You can also try 6.5 gr. HS6 or 7.5 gr. AA7.


January 8, 2009, 05:55 PM

Have you searched the IDPA Forums? There are several threads on the subject. Also, there is a bunch on the Brian Enos Forums too. :)

January 8, 2009, 06:00 PM
My SSR idpa loads use 38 brass but a 357 revolver. They are beyond 38 +p loads however, far below 357.

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