help diagnose .38 swc load problems


January 29, 2010, 01:19 PM
Hello everyone,

I am somewhat new to reloading. Not sure what I am doing wrong. Loaded up a bunch of .38, 158 gn swc lead hardcast bullets. 3.4 - 3.5 grns Bullseye with CCI small primers. Using Lee factor crimp into the crimp groove. Maybe a 'medium' crimp so to speak. checked OAL and seating depth. weighed every 5th or 10th powerder charge. Weights ranged from 3.3 to 3.5, with most right at 3.4.

Day was sunny but cold - around 40 degrees. Shooting offhand at 10yds.

Accuracy was non existent. very erratic and inconsistent.

With Remington UMC factory, I can usually at least do a 3" group offhand.

gun is a SW 686+, 5" bbl, 7 round, cocobolo grips, high-viz front site, V-notch rear (don't like the v-notch).

anyhow, if you have any suggestions i'd appreciate it.

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January 29, 2010, 01:27 PM
Are you getting any barrel leading??
Do the bullets fit the revolvers chamber throats?

Hardcast bullets are not a good thing, or needed, at .38 Spl velocity & pressure.
You will have better luck with softer bullets.

Not much else it could be unless the Lee FCD? is squeezing the bullets down under-size when you crimp them.


January 29, 2010, 02:38 PM
What RC said.

Look down your barrel [usual caveats: no ammo in cylinder; double-check; double-check your double-check]. Are the landes and grooves clean or is there a schmeer of stuff in there? Run a brass bristle with solvent down the barrel - getting silver flakes? What about looking up the bore into the barrel? You'll sometimes get significant leading in that area.

You've probably got lead caked in the grooves. Happened to me, once - pistol patterned like OOO-buck. Clean it up, get some softer lead bullets, and you should be OK.


January 29, 2010, 02:50 PM
Heck if I know. I use that load in my M10-5 S&W, which is a 38Special, I don't get leading and it is wonderfully accurate.

This is one of the few combinations which I can double action standing, and hit my 12" gong target six out of six at 50 yards.

As said before, check for leading.

Or maybe it was too cold to shoot straight. Those air molecules get dense in cold weather. :D

January 29, 2010, 03:05 PM
My M1917, M1937 and 25-2 wanted pure lead, or there was no accuracy.

January 29, 2010, 03:45 PM
158 gn swc lead hardcast bullets. What make, design, mould? Correct diameter should be .358" Alliant Bullseye at 3.5gr can be on the hotside, depending on components used. Pull a loaded bullet, see if it has been sized smaller by the FCD or brass.

January 30, 2010, 04:40 PM
Doh! cleaned the barrel w/out looking! cylinder was beaucoups dirty though. patches were on the dirty side as well. I will check the diameter and see if it is getting squished too much. Good idea.

As for mold, no idea. they were given to me by a friend who does not use .38's. Leading is a good idea to check.

And as for the cold. Maybe it was me shaking :neener:

January 31, 2010, 09:57 PM
Hardcast 38 special 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter bullets often give poor accuracy in revolvers with light loads. The reason is that the base of the hardcast bullet does not deform enough to press itself into the grooves of the barrel. Hot gas gets by the bullet, which drops melted lead everywhere. Softer swaged hollow base wadcutters are designed to overcome these problems (the skirt formed by the hollow base flares into the grooves at low velocity), that's why they have a great reputation for accuracy.

To get any kind of accuracy you really need to blast the 158 gr hardcast bullet over 1000 feet per second which takes you into the .357 range. Instead, try a softer swaged lead bullet from Hornady, Speer, or Remington. At the same time, you may need to bump your bullseye load up to 3.8-4.0 grains. You might also try the cast bullets made for cowboy action shooting, these typically have a Brinell hardness of around 12 vs 18 or so for hard cast. The cowboy actions folks shoot ultra-light loads so they were probably having trouble getting the real hard bullets to shoot.

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