Leading From .38 spl LSWC Loads?


December 9, 2010, 02:55 PM
Gonna start reloading for my new, color-case hardened :) model 36 and my trusty model 27. I've only ever used factory jhp loads in the past, but have come to understand that both the 158 gr. factory and properly reloaded lswc loads are cheaper and usually more accurate. My question is this: is barrel leading a problem? I hate cleaning my revolvers as it is. I certainly don't want to prolong the agony by having to "get the lead out".

Talk amongst yourselves and...Cheers!

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December 9, 2010, 05:22 PM
All depends on whether your bullets are at least .0005 over your bore size. If they're at least .0005-.001 over your bore diameter you should have minimal leading, providing you keep to target velocities (650-800 fps).


December 9, 2010, 05:40 PM
The answer isn't simple and has many variables. Among them:

Throat size (should be equal to or a hair bigger than bore size, not undersized)
Bore size (bullet should be a hair bigger)
Bullet hardness (and for 158s, whether it was cast or swaged)
Bullet lube
Pressure and velocity
Bore condition (a nice smooth, lapped or well-seasoned bore does well, a rusty or rough one not so much)

I'm sure there are others things too, but that might give you some ideas of what to research. Don't let it scare you though, I've loaded and shot lots of cast bullets without being super-scientific about it, and I've never had serious leading problems, even with velocities around 1300-1400fps.

Jesse Heywood
December 9, 2010, 05:48 PM
We discuss this all the time in the reloading forum. Leading is affected by lube, fit in the bore, and matching the hardness to the pressure. There's a good page on hardness at http://www.missouribullet.com/technical.php. Also a good place to buy bullets. If you are using light loads, go with softer bullets. For heavier loads, go with the 18 BHN hardness. Brad at MBC uses a good lube, not all do.

December 9, 2010, 05:49 PM
I was told that lead buildup would be reduced, prevented, or at least minimized if some occasional FMJ rounds were used.

Idea seems to make sense, but is it true?
Or is it another "maybe"?

December 9, 2010, 05:59 PM
Avoid swaged lead bullets like the plague and you won't have any problems. Yes, a lot of people will shoot some jacketed rounds after lead in the belief that it will remove the lead. But then you will have a bore plated with lead and then plated again with copper. Getting all of the lead out is easier than removing copper fouling. Probably 95% of my reloading has been with hard cast lead bullets and I have not had anything more than very minor lead deposits at the beginning of the rifling. You do need to get the bullets sized correctly for your barrel. If they're undersized they will lead as hot gases push around them.

December 9, 2010, 06:01 PM
Probably the worst leading I ever experienced using 158 gr. commercially cast(hard) SWC in 38 Special was in a S&W 66-5, 3", RB. Beautiful revolver, balance, size, everything was perfection. Until I got to the target loads, 158 gr. SWC @ 850 FPS average. The chambers leaded so bad from only 36 rounds that I started getting pressure signs on the primers and head stamp lettering. It was a serious chore to clean the chambers in that cylinder. I had to remove it from the frame and work it with a cordless drill and bronze brushes to remove the lead. I don't know if it was too small or too large or what. Those loads worked well in my Model 10 and my Model 65 but the 66-5 was wrong, somehow. It went to market and was replaced with a Colt.

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