Top end 38 Special loads (not +P)


September 28, 2011, 08:42 PM
Im having trouble deciding what to use for powder to make some higher end loads for a Model 10 (38 special, not +P). I have some cheap 125gr HP that would be nice to load up in case I want to take it out on a nature stroll or throw it in a backpack just to have along. I also have some Berrys 158gr RN that would be nice to load on the higher end as well. My main goal is to keep pressure down while still maintaining respectable velocity. I have a 357 so Im not concerned with pushing the 38 to its limits. I have several powders on hand that would probably work well but wanted some input if anyone has any. Powders I have on hand are:


Also both standard and magnum primers

If you enjoyed reading about "Top end 38 Special loads (not +P)" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
September 28, 2011, 08:52 PM
HS-6 will give the best performance at lowest pressure with either bullet weight.

Longshot is too slow.

Titegroup & Bullseye are too fast.


September 28, 2011, 08:54 PM
As always thanks for the information, and quickly too.

Is a magnum primer needed since this is a top end load?

September 29, 2011, 12:17 AM
unless a load calls for a magnum primer or lots of chrono workups, magnum primers add extra pressure to the load with not that much velocity. Some loads need the extra bang in the recipe to get things off to the right start.

My books show no mag primers for 38 special(not +p). Hodgton site doesn't specify which primers

Steve C
September 29, 2011, 03:03 AM
No reason not to use +p loads in a K frame, esp if you want to achieve a level of velocity that will ensure bullet expansion which means you need to get close to 1,000 fps at the muzzle or over. I have used up to 8.5 grs of HS6 (1993 Hodgdons +P data) behind a 125gr JHP for a respectable 1,024 fps average from a 3.5" S&W 27. Current Hodgdon's on line data has curtailed the 125gr .38 spl +P load to 7.8 grs at 19,500 CUP. I doubt if real world ballistics would give you over 1,000 fps from a 4" barrel at this level but it may get you to the 950 fps + most of the manufacturers load their 125gr JHP's to. With a standard pressure load you'll be lucky if you make 900 fps out of a 4" at max loads.

Consider that the old CUP maximum mean pressure for the .38 spl +P was 22,400 CUP's the current Hodgdon data is barely over standard maximum pressure of 20 years ago.

September 29, 2011, 08:39 AM
I like AA #5 for top .38 loads. No need for a mag primer. HS-6 will not burn as clean at the low .38 Spl pressures. W-231 works well too.

September 29, 2011, 01:43 PM
My usual load for .38 in 125 grain SJ is 4.5 gr of Bullseye with a CCI 500 Primer (or 4.8 gr W231). I've found it nice to shoot and very accurate.

September 29, 2011, 03:42 PM
I conducted some load development with lead 125's.

They shoot low, but I don't think you will have any issues using JHP's instead of LRN.

4" S&W M10-5

125 Valiant LBBRNFP 4.0 grs Bullseye Mixed cases WSP
9-Apr-06 T = 59 F

Ave Vel = 863.4
Std Dev = 30
ES = 70.78
High = 907.5
Low = 836.7
N = 6
Windage centered accurate
Elevation at least 4" low

125 Valiant LBBRNFP 4.5 grs Bullseye Mixed cases WSP
9-Apr-06 T = 64 F

Ave Vel = 945.6
Std Dev = 27.28
ES = 75.21
High = 995.2
Low = 920
N = 6
Windage centered accurate
Elevation at least 4" low

September 29, 2011, 03:47 PM
Just for the record.
All .38 Spl 158 grain lead factory loads were loaded with 3.4 - 3.5 grains Dupont, and later Hercules Bullseye powder for about half a century.

So if ya got it, use it!


September 29, 2011, 05:32 PM
Longshot and HS6 both produce respectable velocity. Just stay below the +P data with Longshot and you'll be OK. With those two my velocity has been right around 1200 fps with a 125 gr. JHP. I did notice that Longshot is better served up with the heavier bullets, the 158 grain seems to be it's best match up.

October 2, 2011, 03:13 PM
I just got back from the range and have some data to report. All these loads were shot out of a Model 10. Weather was sunny and 70*F

158gr Berrys RN
3.2gr Bullseye
WSP Primer
Avg Vel 622.5
ES 27

125gr HP
7.3gr HS-6
WSP Primer
Avg Vel 866.2
ES 78

158gr Berrys RN
6.2gr HS-6
WSP Primer
Avg Vel 739
ES 24

October 2, 2011, 03:51 PM
My model 10 (5" barrel) absolutely loves Unique powder. I use 5.0 grains behind a 146 grain SWC and it is a tack driver. Works very well with almost any lead bullet between 125 and 158 grains.

Been using it for eons -- started about the same time that Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson named the cartridge after the bust size of their favorite exotic dancer -- Why else would a .357 barrel be called a "38 Special" :uhoh:

October 3, 2011, 01:14 AM
Is a magnum primer needed since this is a top end load?
The use of a magnum primer is powder specific, not caliber. If you use HS-6 you should use a magnum primer. Longshot, AA#5 and W231 won't need one.

With lead bullets and +P loads I really like HS-6. With +P jacketed loads Longshot works very well. For standard pressure .38 Special ammo IMO there's no better powder than W231/HP-38. SS$5 also works well.

If you enjoyed reading about "Top end 38 Special loads (not +P)" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!