Swaged HBWCs


December 13, 2009, 10:28 AM
I'm shopping around for more HBWC bullets for target loads in a 6" S&W K-38.

I've used Speer WCs in the past with good results, but I'm reading good things about Zero and Delta Precision HBWCs, too (cheaper, too).

The thing that confuses me is that the Speer WC is 0.358", whereas the Zero and DP WC are listed as 0.357". Is there any way to know in advance which would be the better choice?

Any other quality HBWC manufacturers y'all know of?

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December 13, 2009, 10:43 AM
The design of a hollowbase wadcutter, with the correct pressure, will expand the skirt to suit the bore of the gun it's fired in.
But they are intended for lighter target loadings as they are usually swaged from soft lead and higher pressures will cause the skirt to seperate with the possiblity of leaving it in the barrel as an obstruction for the following shot.
Lately I've used Hornady .358" 148gr HBWCs, a little more pricey than others I've used in the past.

December 13, 2009, 10:59 AM
Thanks, but lemme elaborate a bit more:

Yes, the skirts are designed to expand at target pressure, but I guess I'm wondering about the rest of the bullet. On one hand, they're swaged (read: soft), so I assumed they'd need to fully (i.e. along the length of the whole bullet) obturate at target pressures, hence the 0.357".

OTOH, I don't know if this still applies to a HBWC, where the skirt is designed to expand. If the rest of the WC still needs to obturate for maximal accuracy, does the skirt inhibits this to some extent. Maybe 0.358" is best? Then again, if this is true, why would anyone make a HBWC that's 0.357"?

So, again, is there anyway to know in advance which is best?

December 13, 2009, 11:13 AM
I've used both sizes in my K-38 when I was shooting PPC. I couldn't tell the difference on target and I was a Grand Master shooter.

The only way you're going to be able to tell if it makes a difference in your revolver is to try some. No one is going to be able to tell you if it's going to work in your handgun without actually shooting some through your particular firearm. There are just too many variables to know without actually shooting them, but my bet is they will work just fine.

Hope this helps.


December 13, 2009, 11:27 AM
Most non-hollowbased lead bullets ie hardcast are sized at ~.358" to insure the bullet seals in the bore of a .357" barrel.
The lower pressures of a target round don't offen allow for the bullet to obturate much, unless the alloy is very soft. This is where the benefits of a soft swaged HB bullet are, the lower pessures expand the base of the bullet to seal it in the bore (in effect doing the same thing as obturating a flatbased bullet).
If your bore (groove dia) is greater .3575", then the bullets sized at .358" will most likely shoot a little better than the bullets sized at .357".
But you won't know until you shoot them in your gun, and upto 25yds the difference may not even be noticeable.

December 13, 2009, 12:13 PM
Thanks for the helpful info folks!

Fred - by coincidence, these would likely end up being, in part, for PPC. I've been itching to shoot PPC for a while, and just realized there's a private club nearby that hosts a match now and then. If it's ok, then, I may be peppering you with some questions via PM.

December 13, 2009, 02:58 PM

Feel free to PM. If I don't know the answers to your questions, I probably know where to find them. I still have my PPC revolver, which is just a basic K-38 with a Bomar Rib on it (and about a $200.00 action job). There's just nothing like shooting a super accurate handgun, with a superb trigger on it.


December 13, 2009, 08:19 PM
Fred: You have a nice revolver in your custom K38. Now if you want to talk superb triggers , come on over and shoot my S & W Model 52, and have a cold one on me. :)

Jim Watson
December 13, 2009, 08:50 PM
You can buy Remington wadcutters in bulk. Reviews at Midway say they are accurate if a little messy due to the lube used.

December 13, 2009, 09:11 PM

I had the pleasure of working for two days with Joe Norman, the S&W designer who did the Model 39, 52 and 59 pistols, back when I was rangemaster for our department in the late 1970's. Joe was brought back out of retirement by S&W to come up with an upgrade to solve some feeding and extraction issues with the Model 39 and 59 pistols. Our department had about 400 of the Model 59's (the rest of the department were carrying revolvers) and it took me a couple of weeks to get them all upgraded and test fired. He was a very interesting man.

As for triggers, I've never had the pleasure of firing a Model 52, but I've handled a couple of them, and would very much like to own one. My Model 14 has such a good trigger because every time I took pistols to the S&W distributor, the gunsmiths would work on my triggers while we discussed world events, etc. After several trips there, several of my revolvers ended up with outstanding triggers, among them the Model 19 I was carrying at the time, my Model 14 that I used for PPC, and later my Model 57 that I carried for the remainder of my career (except for the last year and a half, when I was forced to carry a G-22).


December 14, 2009, 10:29 AM
Thank you for your interesting comments and obviously you know your way around a pistol range. Outside of my Model 52, I do not own any 'smithed Smith & Wesson firearms. I do own an older Colt Python that was born in the Colt Custom Shop and as far as i can determine, has one othe best single and double actions around and accruracy isn't too bad either. FYI, I shot bullseye for the 6th Army Blue Team out of the Presidio of San Francisco and still have both the National Match 45 and Colt Woodsman Match 22 issued to me new. I was allowed to buy them upon completion of active duty. I still would love to shoot the s--t with you and buy you a cold one.

December 16, 2009, 08:27 PM
Sorry about being off-topic, but you mentioned the S&W model 59, 9mm pistol. I just bought a used model 59, that I dated to 1976. I want to use this pistol for PPC "stock service pistol" event. Can you recommend any particular ammo that would be above average accuracy wise ? Any tips on keeping this pistol humming along ?

December 17, 2009, 12:32 AM

No problem. MrBorland and I continued our conversation via PM.

Your Model 59 was an early one, probably in the first couple of years they were generally available to the law enforcement public. They were very, very hard to come by in those days, and the waiting list to get one was quite long.

Check your pistol and see if there is a punch mark on the front of the extractor. It would be on the short side, facing the muzzle. If there is a punch mark on the extractor, and the barrel bushing loop only goes half way around the recoil spring guide rod, then your pistol has the updated parts that were put into the guns in 1979. If not, then you may experience some feeding and extraction issues. The magazine followers should also have four legs, one at each corner, to prevent tipping. This was also part of the upgrade.

While I own two Model 59's at the present time, I've never found one accurate enough to use for PPC competition. I fired all 400 of our department's Model 59's, plus about a hundred or so that I upgraded for other, smaller departments. They would hold minute of chest at 50 yards, but wouldn't, or couldn't, be counted on to hold rounds into the 10 ring on the B-27 target. I challenged two Governor's 20 shooters to shoot a perfect 300 on the Team Target with the Model 59, and neither was able to do it, but the ammunition was probably not up to it, either, since we were shooting bulk 9mm with cast bullets from Ron Gromak at the time for practice. It was good reliable ammunition, but certainly not match grade, so that may have been a contributing factor, too.

If you have access to a Ransom Rest, with a grip insert for the Model 59, then you could test your pistol and see if it's up to it, but I doubt it. They were made to be Service handguns, not match handguns, so it's really not suited to the task.

Sorry to throw a wet blanket on your idea, but that has been my experience with the Model 59 and PPC.

As for keeping your pistol running, use the best quality oil or grease on the slide rails, since you have a steel slide working on an aluminum frame. Other than that, normal gun care will keep it going. I still have a few amall parts for the Model 59, and a complete slide/barrel assembly that I bought a couple of years ago off one of the auction sites. The parts aren't generally available, so I'm holding onto these to keep my two Model 59's, my Model 39 and my Model 639 running for many more years.

Hope this helps.


December 17, 2009, 08:20 AM
MrBorland and I continued our conversation via PM.

Fred's advice has been very helpful and I really appreciate his help! He's a terrific resource. Many thanks!

Ed Harris
December 17, 2009, 03:23 PM
This was how I answered a similar question on another forum:

Q-I am setting up to cast bullets for my Colt Officers Model Special .38 Special. I have slugged the bore, which measures .3545. The ball end chamber on one chamber measured 356, the others .357, so what size should I size the bullets to?

A- ALWAYS size cast bullets to fit the diameter of the barrel forcing cone or revolver cylinder throats. When bullets are sized correctly you should feel resistance in pushing a bullet when inserted from the rear of the chamber and pushing it out the front of the revolver cylinder, but you should be able to do so using hand pressure only. If bullets cannot be readily pushed through by hand, it raises chamber pressure and causes leading in the cylinder. If bullets readily fall through and out the front of the cylinder of their own weight, this causes forcing cone leading and poor accuracy due to asymmetrical bullet case deformation.

If one chamber is tight, and the others are large, the best solution is to lap out or ream the tight chamber to match the others. If you do not want to modify the gun, then mark the tight chamber and don't use it.

If bullets are sized to fit the one tight chamber, they will fit too loosely in the others and shoot loose groups. Bullets which fit properly in five chambers and which fit too tightly in the one tight give you an otherwise "good group" with a flier.

In my 1959 Colt Officers Model Match revolver I use the Saeco #348 double-end, bevel-base wadcutter cast 10 BHN using indoor range backstop scrap. As-cast bullet diameter is .360", which is the same as factory Remington 148-grain HBWCs. I load these as-cast and unsized, lubricating with Rooster jacket full strength in a proportion of 1/3 cup to 1000 bullets, or alternately using a diluted solution of Lee Liquid Alox cut 50-50 with mineral spirits in the same ratio. Both lubes work just as well for target loads, but if you change lubes you must thoroughly clean and dry the barrel and chambers of the cylinder and recondition the bore by wiping with a patch lightly wet with lube, letting it dry, and then wiping with two dry patches.

Double-end wadcutters require heavier charges to shoot well than hollow base types. I load 3.5 grains of Alliant Bullseye with Remington primers for double-end wad-cutters and 3.1-3.2 with factory Remington HBWC bullets. With the Saeco #348 I seat bullets sprue-cut forward, with the beveled base band exposed. I taper crimp using the Lee Factory Crimp Die applying no more crimp than is necessary to completely remove any mouth flare. Excessive crimp damages bullets and enlarges groups.

For serious target work use cases which were originally used for loading factory wadcutter ammunition. Wad-cutter brass has thinner walls with a long cylindrical section which extends all the way to the seated base of the wadcutter bullet, whereas +P and other cases made for JHP service loads are thicker walled and have a faster internal taper intended to increase bullet pull to improve ballistic uniformity with the slower powders used for factory loading jacketed service loads.

If your target revolver has tight chambers, as mine does, so that fired cases expand very little, .360 diameter bullets seat and hold friction tight in fired brass until the shell head on your loading machine moves to the final station in which rounds should be full-length profiled and taper-crimped.

With a close chambered target revolver or autoloader, it is unnecessary to resize brass. By loading as-cast bullets in unsized brass, and profile taper-crimping in this manner, case life is improved, bullet deformation is reduced and bullet pull is more uniform, because the brass work hardens and springs back much less when it is worked only once in profile crimping, versus when being cold worked three times in the usual method of full length resizing, expanding, seating and crimping.

In .38 Super automatics converted to .38 Special wadcutter and having one locking lug remaining on the barrel you can use the standard 16-pound service recoil spring and 3.5 grains of Bullseye with the Saeco #348 DEWC flush seated. In the Colt Gold Cup National Match and S&W Model 52 pistols with are of straight blowback design, load from 2.8 to 3.2 grs. of Bullseye with the Remington factory HBWC bullets, adjusting the charge as necessary for best accuracy. A 14 lb. recoil spring may be necessary for reliable rapid-fire functioning with the 2.8 grain load, whereas the heavier 3.0 to 3.2 grain loads often give better accuracy at 50 yards, but should be used only with the standard 16 pound service recoil spring to reduce wear and tear on the gun.

Standard .38 Special loading dies work brass excessively because their dimensions are intended to resize cases tightly enough to provide a tight bullet fit with jacketed bullets. If you must load sized brass use a .38 S&W Cowboy Expander plug of .358" to reduce bullet base deformation during seating.

But with a target revolver having correct chambers it is unnecessary to resize fired brass. My loading method is to separately de-cap brass, tumble clean, uniform primer pockets, deburr flash holes and hand prime brass so primers are always seated carefully by feel in a clean pocket. I then use the Dillon RL550b for final load assembly to flare case mouths, measure powder, seat bullets and crimp. I use this same simplified process in loading .45 ACP my match ammo as well.

Using the Lee Factory Crimp die sizes the bullet only if needed to ensure that rounds do not exceed SAAMI Maximum cartridge dimensions. It does so by gentle compression f the bullet inside the case instead of reducing it by radically shear in a die. The un-sized, exposed bevel band ahead of the case mouth enables a positive gas seal in revolver cylinder throats. My .38 Special wadcutter reloads average sub 2-inch 5-shot groups at 50 yards in long series of targets. It takes a very good lot of factory wad-cutters to beat this.

December 17, 2009, 06:37 PM
Thanks for the info on the model 59. I can see that I have alot to learn.

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