Need a little help with .38 special/357mag loads(Not your usual questions..)


January 27, 2010, 11:54 AM
Hello every one, I've been lurking for some time. I'm usually a AR/AK guy, but I have a project I'm working on and I'm not getting much useful info on the Black rifle boards I usually haunt. I was hoping some of you fellas could throw in some of your hard earned experience.
I recently got back from my local smith a Rossi 92 in .357 mag/.38 special. I had him drill and tap the receiver for a Lyman 69a peep, mount the tallest gold bead marbles front sight Brownell's sells. He also cut down the mag tube 1/2 inch and threaded it for my YHM 9mm suppressor.(This is the only 9mm suppressor on the market right now that disassembles for cleaning, so I'm not afraid of cast bullets.

(sorry about the crappy picts, I'm working on getting some better ones...)

Let me tell you this thing is a kick in the butt! The giggle factor is way up there.

I've bought a rockchucker and all the gear to reload.
So far I've loaded 158gr lswc trailboss loads. I started at 3gr went to 3.5 and then 4gr. Cant really tell the difference in sound between the loads. So the 4gr has been the go to load.

I just loaded some 158gr jacketed soft point with 4.5 gr of hp38, but haven't shot them yet.

I would like to find a load that puts the heaviest round out at around 1,000 fps in the 16in barrel. I would also like to use .38 special brass,but could use .357mag.

My questions for you guys is how would you go about it??? What bullet would you recommend? What powder would you use? Any pet loads that might fit the bill??? Are there any heavy cast bullets with a crimp groove That puts them closer to .357 length that allows more room for powder? How heavy of a bullet will the puma Rossi stabilize at 1,000 fps???

Any help or advice would be really appreciated... Kinda flying by the seat of my pants on this one!!

Thanks, Fisty

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January 27, 2010, 12:13 PM
First, I would suggest you get a loading manual or two.
Lyman #49 is the best there is for a wide selection of jacketed & lead bullet loads.

Second, I would discourage you from shooting the 158 jacketed load with 4.5 grains HP-38 in a carbine.

The lightest starting load for a .357 158 jacketed bullet is 6.2 grains HP-38 giving 1,095 FPS in an 18.5" carbine.

Your 4.5 grain load is liable to result in stuck bullets in a carbine length barrel because it will be all burnt up and stop pushing before the bullet is out of the barrel.
It's jacketed bullet bore friction from that point on.

I believe you would be much better served, and safer, if you used cast lead bullets for sub-sonic carbine loads.

Hodgdon lists 3.5 grains HP-38 and a 158 Lead SWC as giving 901 FPS - 4.5 grains gives 1,059 in a carbine.

I can't tell you how heavy a bullet you might use, as I haven't a clue what rifling twist you Rossi Puma has.


January 27, 2010, 12:28 PM
I would use cast bullets and probably Herco, Unique, American Select, or Bullseye powder. American Select is so clean burning, it's scary. If the cast bullets make just too much mess in the the suppressor, try Berry's copper plated bullets -- probably the HP's or flat-points.

Try about 3.5 to 4.0 grains of Bullseye with a 158 grain RNFP bullet.

4.5 grains of Unique with a 158 grain bullet is a good load, but I think it'd be supersonic from a carbine.

January 27, 2010, 12:48 PM
Second, I would discourage you from shooting the 158 jacketed load with 4.5 grains HP-38 in a carbine.

I have a one caliber load book that lists 4.1gr 800fps 6 in barrel as starting load, and a speer reloading manual #11 that lists 4.5 850fps out of a 6" as a starting load. .38 special. I thought that 4.5 would be a good start. Do you think this will not be safe?? Will I gain or lose velocity with the 16" barrel??
Thanks, I really am a reloading newb....

January 27, 2010, 12:55 PM
850fps out of a 6" as a starting load.Well again, you are looking at handgun starting load data and shooting them in a rifle.

I do not know if it will work or not.

I just said the likelyhood of sticking a jacketed bullet in a longer carbine barrel is much greater then sticking it in a handgun when using a light charge of fast burning powder.

We have seen tests on pistol caliber carbines where certain loads lose velocity in a longer barrel due to bore friction with jacketed bullets.

Some manuals list the .357 in two chapters, one for handgun, and one for rifles.

The starting load data is often not the same with the faster burning powders.


January 27, 2010, 01:16 PM
I would like to find a load that puts the heaviest round out at around 1,000 fps in the 16in barrel. I would also like to use .38 special brass,but could use .357mag.

If you're looking for the heaviest around, forget the 158's and pick up some of the Cast Performance 200 grain hardcasts. I've been having a lot of fun with them. The extra weight will help keep them subsonic. Try with some trailboss or a light load of 2400.

I'm not sure about the twist rate out of your carbine, but the only way to know for sure how the bullets will perform is to try them with various powders and charges. Get the .357 loadbook, the little one that has photocopied bits from other manuals in it.

January 27, 2010, 02:07 PM
The Speer #10 manual (same loads in #11 too) has cast bullet loads that fit your criteria. Loaded in 357 cases, they give Bullseye charges from 2.8 to 4.8 grains with their 158 grain lead bullet. Their top load, 4.8 grains is going 1173 fps out of an 18" Marlin. That's just over supersonic.

I myself have shot Lyman's 358985 full wadcutter in my Marlin with only 3.0 grains of 700X. That is fast enough to clear the barrel each and every time, though I won't shoot it in my rifle because of feeding problems. It does feed other .38 specials with an OAL of 1.400" just fine.

I have to agree with everyone else about not shooting jacketed loads that slow. A stuck bullet can REALLY ruin your day!

Ed Harris
January 27, 2010, 02:22 PM
Cast your own. Seat the 190-gr. NEI #161A in its normal crimp groove using .357 brass so the cartridge OAL is 1.58”. A charge of 4 to 4.3 grains of Bullseye gives about 1000 f.p.s. from 24” rifle and in mine averages an inch and a half at 50 yards. You can buy 190gr. LFN bullets from Hunter’s Supply which are machine cast on a Magma Engineering machine from moulds cut with the same cheery #161A, but cast from a harder 92Pb-6Sb-2Sn alloy.

The Hunter’s Supply hard cast .358” diameter 190 LFNs with 4.3 grains of Bullseye averaged under an inch for a series of ten 5-shot groups from my Green Mountain barreled BSA-Martini with 6X Unertl small game scope at 50 yards. Increasing the charge to 4.5 grains the harder alloy averaged 1.26”, almost exactly half what my cast wheel weight metal bullets did when slightly overdriven.

I took my best loads and tested them at 100 yards from my Marlin 1894 Cowboy Limited with 2.5X Weaver scope. Norma .38 Special 158-gr. LRN factory loads averaged 3,” Hand loads with Speer 158-gr. swaged lead round nose and Remington 158-grain semi-wad cutters with 3.5 grains of Bulseye in .38 Special cases didn’t shoot as well, but did stay under 4 inches, which is good for ordinary revolver ammo in the rifle.

The Hunter’s Supply cast 190 LFN of 92-6-2 alloy and sized .358 from Midway, with 4.3 grains of Bullseye in .357 cases averaged 2.18” for five consecutive 5-shot groups at 100 yards in the BSA and 2.36” in the Marlin. When casting the NEI #191A from wheel weights I got comparable results as long as I kept velocities with the softer wheel weight alloy subsonic. Supersonic loads above about 1080 f.p.s. do not group as well at 100 yards as slower loads because the projectile is subjected to transonic buffeting as velocity decays below the speed of sound.

My advice is not to try to make it a magnum, but use the heaviest bullet of the most blunt profile having the shortest ratio of length to diameter. Keep it slow, accurate and quiet. A good working velocity range is from 950 to 1050 f.p.s. so there is no “crack” to disturb the neighbors. A big flat-nosed bullet is effective on groundhogs, wild turkey and larger edible hooved critters raiding your garden. Bon appettit!

January 27, 2010, 02:59 PM
I posted this on another forum ( a while back:

One of my good friends lives in NH and has a coyote problem. He lives in a sparsely populated, but still residential neighborhood (3+ acre lots). He wants to be able to take out the coyotes without disturbing his neighbors, and has no interest at all in bowhunting.

Living in a free state, he was able to buy a suppressor. He also bought a H&R HandiRifle in .357 Magnum. He added a mount, 2-6X shotgun scope, a tactical stock, shortened and threaded the barrel, and installed the can.

Here it is:

Is that cool, or what?

He tried a variety of .38 and .357 ammo and it all proved too noisy, so he asked me to load something for him that would be quiet and accurate, yet still pack enough punch to take out a big coyote with one shot.

Slow speed + lots of punch = heavy bullets, so I found some 200gr LSWC bullets with gas checks. The trick was making an accurate subsonic load that wouldn't stick a bullet in the barrel.

I tried using small charges of Red Dot, Bullseye, and W231 but when he tested them, they all proved either too noisy or too inaccurate. I ended up going to my standby powder for light loads in big cases: Trailboss.

I took a .357 case, marked where the bottom of the seated bullet would end up, and cut the case to that length. I then used the cut down case as a dipper, filled it to the top with Trailboss, and measured the charge weight at 4 grains (Trailboss is fluffy stuff).

I loaded a bunch of test rounds with 4 grains of Trailboss and shot them out of a S&W Model 28. They chrono'ed out at 800fps. I figured that the longer sealed barrel of the rifle would add about 150-200fps to the velocity, so the rounds would still be subsonic.

My friend tried them out in his rifle. They were quiet as a mouse, and produced groups smaller than 2" at 50 yards. Bingo.

I'm going to make about 200 more for him tonight.

Bruce H.
January 27, 2010, 03:26 PM
post deleted by author.

January 27, 2010, 03:40 PM
Trailboss has been great for the lswc ,but I don't understand why max load is the same for 38 special and 357 mag...4.2 gr...

I guess I'll save those 4.5gr jsp loads for my 638. I was worried about being to hot....breaking the sound barrier.The things you learn... I have a couple hundred more 158gr jsp. For powder on hand I have HP38, and clays. I'd like to load these as hot and as close to 1,000 fps as I can get with 38 special brass. Where can I look on line for good load data to achieve this?

I'm thinking of ordering some 158gr rnfp from Missouri bullets , unless someone can help me find some thing heavier in the price range.

Thanks Fisty

January 27, 2010, 04:19 PM
If you want heavier you'll need to cast them yourself or be prepared to spend a little more for the CP's.

January 27, 2010, 04:25 PM
Mastercast (there's two of 'em; I'm talking about the one in Illinois) has 180 grain truncated cones listed for $62/1000. I don't know if that price is current or stale. It's on the limited availability page so you might have to wait for him to run a batch:

January 27, 2010, 09:55 PM

How do you guys feel about the data on this page?

January 27, 2010, 10:15 PM
It is my understanding that hp38 and w231 are interchangeable, but sometimes I find data for 231 is that different than w231?

Hondo 60
January 27, 2010, 10:42 PM
Been reloading .38 specials myself & have used the data posted at with good results

Jesse Heywood
January 27, 2010, 11:26 PM
It is my understanding that hp38 and w231 are interchangeable, but sometimes I find data for 231 is that different than w231?

Since Hornady started producing W231 Hornady has said the powder are interchangeable. I am assuming the difference came before Hornady started making W231. As always, be on the safe side and work your way up to the listed maximum.

January 27, 2010, 11:37 PM
I'm having a real hard time finding any .38 special rifle data.......Any one know of any cowboy action reloading forums I can dig around in???

January 28, 2010, 12:08 AM
Here's a whole bunch of .38 Special rifle data I just generated. 1000 fps from a rifle-length barrel:
Cartridge : .38 Special +P (SAAMI)
Bullet : .358, 158, LEE 358-158-RF
Cartridge O.A.L. L6: 1.400 inch or 35.56 mm
Barrel Length : 16.5 inch or 419.1 mm

Predicted Data for Indicated Charges of the Following Powders.

Matching Muzzle Velocity: 1000 fps or 304 m/s

These calculations refer to your specified settings in QuickLOAD 'Cartridge Dimensions' window.
C A U T I O N : any load listed can result in a powder charge that falls below minimum suggested
loads or exceeds maximum suggested loads as presented in current handloading manuals. Understand
that all of the listed powders can be unsuitable for the given combination of cartridge, bullet
and gun. Actual load order can vary, depending upon lot-to-lot powder and component variations.

Powder type Filling/Loading Ratio Charge Charge Vel. Prop.Burnt P max P muzz B_Time
% Grains Gramm fps % psi psi ms
--------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Hodgdon Clays 65.7 4.1 0.26 1000 100.0 29149 652 1.555 !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
Vihtavuori N310 53.7 4.0 0.26 1000 100.0 26845 652 1.583 !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
Hodgdon TiteGroup 41.5 4.4 0.28 1000 100.0 21872 696 1.628 !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
Alliant RED DOT 61.7 4.0 0.26 1000 100.0 21781 707 1.637 !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
Accurate Solo 1000 58.8 4.2 0.27 1000 100.0 21404 703 1.632 !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
Accurate Nitro 100 57.1 3.9 0.25 1000 100.0 20142 732 1.651 !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
Vihtavuori N320 56.1 4.3 0.28 1000 100.0 19793 708 1.661 !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
Alliant GREEN DOT 58.0 4.2 0.27 1000 100.0 19723 725 1.668 !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
Hodgdon HP38 45.7 4.5 0.29 1000 100.0 18509 737 1.677 !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
Ramshot Zip 40.5 4.5 0.29 1000 100.0 18028 747 1.686 !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
Winchester 231 46.3 4.5 0.29 1000 100.0 18028 747 1.686 !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
Accurate Solo 1250 57.9 4.5 0.29 1000 100.0 17372 751 1.696 ! Near Maximum !
Hodgdon Universal 52.0 4.3 0.28 1000 100.0 16372 783 1.739 ! Near Maximum !
Vihtavuori N330 53.0 4.5 0.29 1000 100.0 16065 770 1.728 ! Near Maximum !
Accurate No.2 41.2 4.5 0.29 1000 100.0 15399 853 1.745
Vihtavuori N340 54.0 4.6 0.30 1000 100.0 14969 829 1.759
Alliant BULLSEYE 45.9 3.9 0.26 1000 100.0 14729 854 1.759
Ramshot Silhouette 43.0 4.9 0.32 1000 100.0 14006 890 1.787
Winchester WAP 43.7 4.9 0.32 1000 100.0 13971 895 1.787
Alliant UNIQUE 52.5 4.4 0.28 1000 100.0 13859 876 1.807
Winchester 540 39.6 5.3 0.34 1000 98.6 13254 952 1.816
Ramshot True Blue 39.7 5.3 0.34 1000 98.6 13240 953 1.817
Alliant HERCO 58.1 4.7 0.31 1000 99.9 13003 944 1.843
Hodgdon HS-6 42.6 5.5 0.35 1000 97.1 12867 980 1.832
Vihtavuori N350 54.7 5.2 0.33 1000 98.8 12660 967 1.830
Vihtavuori 3N37 52.2 5.2 0.34 1000 98.5 12480 982 1.844
Accurate No.5 37.8 5.5 0.36 1000 89.6 11884 1052 1.873
Alliant POWER PISTOL 48.3 5.0 0.32 1000 90.9 11332 1080 1.892

January 28, 2010, 12:38 AM
Damm zxcvBob that is cool, Thank you. Interesting that the hp38 is 3.8 gr. less than the 4.5 Load I loaded up yesterday...I'm loading some 158gr rdfp with 4.2gr trail boss tonight. Trying to get access of a Chrony in the local boards. It would be really cool If I could get close to the goal with trailboss. I really like loading with this powder...

January 28, 2010, 12:52 AM

January 28, 2010, 11:06 AM
To answer one of you other questions...

Hornady makes a 180gr XTP with two crimp grooves, so thoeritically you could load them in .38SPL brass to the first crimp groove and be at .357 OAL with .357 load data. MEASURE FOR YOURSELF DON'T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT.

Some will recommend against this due to the .38 brass not being as strong as .357 brass, however since you are only loading subsonic, I think this might be OK.

CAVEAT: 180gr bullets may require that you use a slower powder that those recommended above, and will more than likely be supersonic in a rifle. A powder like 700-X, Titegroup or No.7 may work though (No.7 would probably be the choice for lead, the others for jacketed).

YMMV and I hope some more experienced .357 reloaders than I will chime in on this.

January 28, 2010, 11:30 AM
I forgot to turn on "long barrel friction" when I made that chart last night. It needs to be done over, although I don't think there's any real danger of sticking a cast bullet in the barrel. (there might be with a jacketed bullet)

January 28, 2010, 11:44 AM
Since Hornady started producing W231 Hornady has said That would be Hodgdon, not Hornady.


January 28, 2010, 01:36 PM
I'm having a real hard time finding any .38 special rifle data.......Any one know of any cowboy action reloading forums I can dig around in???

Check out the .357 loads too.

January 28, 2010, 05:43 PM
If you want to try something a little difftent, look at 35 caliber rifle bullets in the 200 grain range. they measure out at .358 and with about 3.5 grains of IMR-700X behind it will go subsonic just fine. I would think something like a Hornady LEVERevolution Bullets in 200 grain wpould work out fine.

Jesse Heywood
January 28, 2010, 06:15 PM
That would be Hodgdon, not Hornady.

Thanks. My brain must have gone AWOL again.

January 28, 2010, 06:44 PM
"I'm having a real hard time finding any .38 special rifle data.......Any one know of any cowboy action reloading forums I can dig around in???"

I've chronographed my +P .38 special load in my Marlin rifle at 1265 fps. The same load in my 6" Security Six is 1056fps. It's Lyman's 358477 SWC pushed by 8.0 grains of Blue Dot.

For .357 loads with the same bullet I'm going 1400 fps in the Ruger and 1809 fps in the Marlin.

January 28, 2010, 07:43 PM
I posted new data with "long barrel friction" compensation. (above) The data looks much closer to what I originally expected.

February 14, 2010, 09:30 PM
So far I have just been loading 4.1gr trailboss w/ 158gr rnfp Missouri bullets. Real pleasant to shoot. Little dirty though.

February 16, 2010, 08:52 PM
Fisty--I've skimmed this thread and I think you may have one big problem with your Rossi. If I understand suppressors, the idea is heavy and subsonic. If your Rossi is one of the newer ones it has a 1 in 30" rifling twist which is not conducive to stabilizing heavy bullets at slow speeds. My Rossi .357 will shoot std 158 gr bullets @ 1050 fps very accurately at 50 yds (1.5-2" groups). Those same groups open up to over a foot with many bullets tumbling at 100 yds. Push the same slugs up to 1400-1500 no problem but that doesn't help you. As long as you are talking close range you may get lucky.

Ps. Here is some load data that may help you. this is chrono data from a Rossi 20" .357.

Federal Mag case,mag tech sp primer, 5.1 grs of Unique, 158 gr RN lead=1071 fps. Es was 39 fps SD was 13 fps.

RP Mag Case--4.2 grs bullseye, mag tech sp primer, 158 RN lead=1069 fps
ES was 44 fps and sd was 13 fps.

If you back off a couple tenths on this load data you will be pretty uniform and subsonic. Hope this helps.

February 17, 2010, 03:36 AM
I must be the only one that likes WSF in 38/357 with 158 grain bullets. 5.0 to 6.0 grains will get you about 1000 fps and is slow enough for a rifle. It is a very forgiving powder and can make magnum loads very smooth. I'm not posting for that because there is almost no publicized load data for this powder out so the risk is my own.

I know that WSF is not worth beans in 38spl using 110 grain bullets but it rocks in the smaller case 9mm

February 17, 2010, 10:29 AM
LW--I have used WSF in both the .38 spl and 9MM, it tracks Alliant Herco exactly in those 2 cartridges. It's a very good powder in the .38 and a good mid-range powder in the .357 Mag.

February 17, 2010, 10:49 AM
WSF also tracks Herco exactly in .45 Colt, and at least closely in .357 Magnum. I would be using it exclusively in .357 Magnum with cast bullets (save my 2400 for loading .30 Carbine), except I fell into a great deal on AA#7 two years ago and bought a lifetime supply of that.

February 19, 2010, 10:18 PM
Hey thanks guys! I've loaded up about 800 158gr 4.1gr trailboss loads. I've shot a couple hundred of them. They are quiet and pleasant to shoot. I haven't really tested them on paper(more of a beer can hunter....) Before going shooting this weekend I think I'm gonna load some bullseye and 231 loads. I'll be using laser cast 158gr lswc. I just bought the new Lyman manual and the bastards dont list a 158gr lswc :mad:....
They list:
155gr semiwadcutter looking bullet:
bullseye start 2.8 ,max 4.0,+p 4.4
231 start 3.5,max4.7, +p 5.0

and a 158gr rnfp looking bullet
bullseye start 3.0, max 3.4
231 start 3.6, max 4.0

Why such a difference in #?????
Would 4gr of bullseye or 231 be too much for a start point???
Any idea where they will start to be transsonic/supersonic?? How much speed gain is a 16" barrel going to give me over 4" published data??

Thanks again! Fisty

February 20, 2010, 11:30 AM
Fisty--Supersonic is aprox 1100 fps. the data I gave you above for Bullseye and unique should put you just below the speed of sound with a 158 gr bullet. Using 231, 4.8-4.9 grs will put you in the same ball park. If you get a sonic crack from the bullet back off a tenth or so on the powder. All the data I gave you is from a Rossi 20" barrel. I get essentially the same results from a 20" winchester barrel and a 24" Rossi barrel. Your 16" won't be much different,Bullseye,231,Unique are all done burning long before the 16" mark. Good luck. Nick

None of these loads are anywhere near max in the .357, starting at 4 grs is fine.

February 20, 2010, 01:16 PM
Fecmech, thanks! That is the kind of advice from personal experience I was looking for!

February 21, 2010, 10:14 PM
Hey,Fecmech, Do you get better accuracy from lighter bullets at these speeds??

February 21, 2010, 11:16 PM
Since Hornady started producing W231 Hornady has said

That would be Hodgdon, not Hornady.

yes, and also St Marks is still producing the powder (W231/HP38), just that Hodgdon has taken over the marketing of W231, as well, from Winchester (still using Winchester brand though).

Trailboss has been great for the lswc ,but I don't understand why max load is the same for 38 special and 357 mag...4.2 gr...

That's about the most you can fit into a 38/357 case without compressing TB, once you start compressing it, pressures start to become erradic and accuracy strays out the window.

If you want heavier you'll need to cast them yourself or be prepared to spend a little more

plus1, and 158gr LSWC at 900-1000fps will usually pass through a target the size of a coyote at suitable ranges and the heavier 180gr-200gr will allow for extending those ranges slightly.
The point type of the hardcast bullet used will be another factor for sub-sonic rounds, as hardcast lead will not expand at the low velocities and having a wide meplat such is on a LSWC or LRNFP will contribe more to tissue damage than bullet weight will.

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