.38 Wadcutter Midrange Loads


October 12, 2003, 07:38 PM
I'm reloading for a Gold Cup in .38 Midrange, and I've had some good accuracy with the 148gr cast flat base wadcutter bullets I've bought and Bullseye powder. However, I'm not sure how much crimp is required on this kind of load. I'm guessing that next to none would work, due to the nonexistent recoil, but I'd like to be sure I'm seating the bullet deep enough and crimping properly. Also, shooting this gun into a headwind is a pain in the neck with the smoke it generates. I'm guessing it's the lube from the bullet, but unfortunately I don't have a chrono to determine if my speed is too low. The powder charge is factory-recommended, I just can't think of it off the top of my head.

If anyone has any Bullseye or Red Dot suggestions, I'd like to hear them as well.

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Old Fuff
October 12, 2003, 09:40 PM
The usual load is 2.7 grains of bullseye. Seat the bullet so the nose is flush with the case. For best accuracy use a light, roll crimp. Might try changing to an another brand of bullet with a different lubricant. It shouldn't smoke that bad.

October 14, 2003, 12:50 PM
Old Fuffs data is right on.

As for crimp, only a little is needed generally, but you'll need more for proper functioning with the M-52. Use the least crimp that will still give proper (read "reliable") feeding.

I once had the opportunity to test fire a shop/range owners "shop" M-52 which he hadn't been able to sell as he nor potential customers could not get it to feed or fire.
I took it and ran some of my personally loaded 148gr HBWC, flush seated over 2.7gr of Bullseye. I returned to the "store" portion of the shop with a 5-shot group target I had fired after zero'in the sights. I told the shop owner that I couldn't find any thing wrong with it except for some light pitting on the side of the slide from rusty finger prints left on it. (group measured 0.85" ctc). He was stunned (didn't know gun was only for firing flush-seated wadcutters only.)

I left the remnant of the 148-hbwc I had loaded for customers to test fire the gun. He sold it less than a week later, had been "sitting" on it for over 5 years. Had 4 magazines with it, all worked fine.

Other powder combo's that work well are:

Cast DEWC flush seated w/ either taper crimp or roll crimp. I can't find a difference in roll vs. taper crimp; provided that either are properly applied. That stated, a taper crimp is "easier" to get proper application, generally. The above mentioned load was 2.7 Bullseye, a Star "match" 148gr HBWC, flush seated and taper crimped sufficient to allow easy-reliable speed loading of revolver with Safariland Comp-III speed loaders.

Recommend Winchester primer in Mod 52, as primer sensitivity is less issue than with a target "worked" revolver. IMO the Winchesters generally give slight accuracy advantage with M-52 over Federal #100.

powders: (listed in order of preference)
Bullseye @ 2.7gr
Win231 @ 2.9gr
AA#2 @ 2.9gr
WST @ 2.6gr
Titegroup @2.6gr
VV-N320 @ 2.8gr (too expensive, no sig. advn. except smells good!)
VV-N310 @ 2.5gr *(I haven't used this, but this is reputable souce info)

All of these will give proper velocities for function and accuracy from M-52.
I don't recommend RedDot as the flake size is HUGE and gives large weight variation with powder measures/progressive loaders.

October 14, 2003, 12:59 PM
Mod 52 and Colt 38 Special Auto:

I just buy some flush seated 148 gr WCs from Georgia Arms. About $10 for 50, IIRC. The work well in both pistoles. Too many calibers, not enough time. :eek:

October 14, 2003, 01:30 PM
The above remarks cover your question admirably. The only things that I would add is 2.5gr of 700X has always worked great for me. An old NRA Handloaders guide addressed the question of crimps in target wadcutter .38 spec. reloads. Their conclusion was that the type and amount of crimp did not matter as long as they were CONSISTANT.

October 14, 2003, 11:40 PM
Just for a lark, you could try some plated wadcutters...
No smoke, y'know.

Tony Z
October 15, 2003, 10:11 AM
I would also recommened some West Coast or berry's Copper plated 148Gr DEWC. Even better would be precision Bullet's (link) http://www.precisionbullets.com/ this bullet over 3.5Gr Red Dot have shot very well for me and no smoke or leading.

Tony Z

October 15, 2003, 01:47 PM
Bullseye is like that. Kind of smoky. Try it with 148 grain hollow based swaged wad cutters over 2.7 grains of Bullseye loaded flush with the case mouth the way they should be. No crimp required.

Old Fuff
October 15, 2003, 05:12 PM
In this case, I'd still recommend a light roll crimp - not only to hold the bullet (which may or may not be necessary depending on neck tension) but because the slightly rounded mouth aids feeding in a semi-automatic.

October 18, 2003, 02:07 AM
To all who responded, thank you very much. This is exactly the kind of info I was looking for, it just took a while to get back and read the thread.

I had gone up to 2.8gr of Bullseye from 2.7, but I think I'll back down to 2.7. I've only had one failure to chamber from the magazine in around 500 rounds or so, I think I had the bullet seating depth a bit too low without enough crimp. I was wondering also if a light roll crimp, combined with the bullet being seated just at the first edge of the bullet would aid in feeding, as there are no real sharp edges to catch, and it seems like that might be conventional wisdom based upon what I've read here.

I did have an unusual problem a few weeks ago, I loaded up some rounds on my single stage, before I got my progressive up and running, and there's a bulge in the case at the base of where the bullet is seated. It's more pronounced on the nickel cases I loaded, but they wouldn't even fit in a revolver. I must have had the dies set up improperly, but now I've got all of this loaded ammunition that can't fit in a chamber. I'll have to give the Midway catalog a glance because a friend has told me that Lee makes a sizing die which might be able to resize all of these rounds.

I have thought about just buying the ammunition, but I have a few thousand rounds of .38 brass that was given to me, so I figure I'll use it up over the next year or two, and then switch to storebought if it functions well enough in the pistol.

Just for a lark, you could try some plated wadcutters...

That is a great idea, thanks. Do lasercast bullets have a lube on them as well?

It's remarkable how well this pistol can shoot, it's my close favorite with my target 1911 in .45. I can't get over the lack of recoil. The only drawback is that now I'm looking for a Model 52.

Old Fuff
October 18, 2003, 10:25 AM
You may, or may not be able to run the loaded cartridges back into a resizing die, but doing so will probably cause inaccurate groups caused by now undersized bullets. I am wondering if the bullets you used were sized to something larger then .358? Anyway, if you can find something they'll chamber in shoot them up and recover the brass.

October 18, 2003, 11:44 PM
The funny thing is the bullets are all from the same batch. The measurements are all either .358 or .359 on the high end. I can't figure it. The only explanation is the die setup.

By the way, I think the RCBS carbide dies in the gray plastic boxes leave something to be desired. First, I strip the brass locking screw, and then the decapping pin bends, along with the whole decapping pin assembly. I guess it's time to buy another new set of dies.

October 18, 2003, 11:50 PM
Adventurer96: This is not intended to be a smart@&^ comment, but did you ever try Lee dies? I haven't bought them in 38 but I use them for some big rifle calibers and they are better than RCBS. Come with the shellholder, have an unbreakable decapping pin, etc. and cost about $20. Anyway, just thought I'd mention it. Good luck!

October 19, 2003, 03:29 PM
I've got Lee dies for 9mm and 9mmMak, but you have to replace their locking ring. Besides, the progressive press that I use has a proprietary shellplate, so I don't need a shellholder. I may try them, but I just bought these dies and I'll be calling RCBS tomorrow a.m. to see what they might do to fix the situation.

October 19, 2003, 03:51 PM
I have found that Smith&Wesson chambers are larger than Dan Wesson or Colt (at least in my few revolvers). Quantrill

October 24, 2003, 12:30 AM
Kudos to RCBS customer service. I called Monday about my broken decapping pin assembly on my brand-new .45ACP dies, as well as the stripped brass set screws. I got an envelope today with new screws and a new decapping assembly. Now, to see if I can get this press going.

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