38 Special: Sort by headstamp, times fired, or not at all?


October 13, 2011, 12:25 PM
For 38 special practice rounds (usually loaded Bullseye 3.5gr and 158gr lswc) in a non-target gun, would you sort by headstamp, bother keeping track of how many times fired, or just dump them all together?

If you enjoyed reading about "38 Special: Sort by headstamp, times fired, or not at all?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
October 13, 2011, 12:28 PM
Dump them all together = yes.
Then Sort by headstamp = Yes.

See this about that:

Times fired = No. Shoot them until the necks split.


October 13, 2011, 12:38 PM
My wife and I go through thousands of rounds of .38 Special ammunition per year in the SASS matches we shoot. It's all I can do to keep up with the loading, let alone sort the brass. I loaded 5,000 rounds of .38 Special just this last week, with a couple thousand to go. I also cast all our bullets, so there's a lot of time involved and sorting by headstamp would provide no advantage at all.

The only sorting I do is separate nickel from yellow brass. The nickel cases get loaded for revolver rounds and yellow brass gets loaded for rifle rounds. The nickel cases split sooner and will tie up a rifle, but the yellow cases last longer and it's easier to see when they're about to give up the ghost.

Hope this helps.


October 13, 2011, 01:22 PM
I sorted by both initially, but after firing a fair number of my home rolled .38s, I realized I was not seeing any difference from one headstamp to another. I still have a lot of them sorted by headstamp, but when I shoot them, unless something new happens, I'll lump them all together. This goes for those stamped +P as well.

Like Fred, I do segregate the nickel-plated ones, and I've never loaded a single one. I will load a bunch of these someday with some sort of bullets that are silver--nice shiny lead or maybe Winchester Silvertips, just for aesthetic appeal.

October 13, 2011, 04:22 PM
I like rcmodel's response.

I sort by headstamp also because of primer seating and crimping consistency.

It also makes the finished product look professional.

I also wear matching socks, matching shoes, etc. :)

October 13, 2011, 04:26 PM
Maybe next time I hit the range I will fire off some batches in different brands and see if they are statistically significant. I have my new infrared addon to my CED M2 chrony so maybe it will be more accurate than before.

Any people remember enough statistics to figure out the power calculation to determine what sample size I need to find a significant difference in ES or SD. Maybe a difference of 5 SD would seem worth finding?

October 13, 2011, 04:27 PM
It's also worth noting that some brands of P+ cases, and all military .38 Spl has thicker case webs & less capacity then standard brass.


October 13, 2011, 05:40 PM
RC, I don't load to +P levels and am not at risk either way; that's why I don't sort them separately. I guess I've never seen any military .38 SPL brass.

Hondo 60
October 13, 2011, 05:41 PM
I sort by headstamp for sure AND number of times fired if possible.
But every once in a while I'll forget & get 2 boxes mixed in the tumbler.

October 13, 2011, 05:47 PM
I guess I've never seen any military .38 SPL brass.

See the link in post #2.
That RA 67 in the photo is GI .38 Spl brass.


October 13, 2011, 05:57 PM
I used to sort .38 Spl, but now I do not, although I still trim it, and it still shoots better than I can most of the time.

October 13, 2011, 06:10 PM
Thanks, RC. Might be some of that in the GA stuff I've bought and not shot yet. Would factory RA 67 have crimped primers?

October 13, 2011, 06:15 PM


October 13, 2011, 06:19 PM
I sort by headstamp, mostly because the primer pockets are different. (and they look a little better in the box that way) Load one brand at a time so I don't have to resort them. Currently my target brass is RP and my full-power loads are S&B. Load until they split -- some may have hundreds of firings, other only 2 or 3, and I don't care.

October 13, 2011, 06:24 PM
I really don't think it matters in pistol rounds, but in rifle rounds it makes a different. IMHO

October 14, 2011, 01:00 AM
I wouldn't worry about the times fires especially with .38 Special brass. If you don't overwork .38 Special brass it will last almost forever. I have been using the same 1,200 pieces of Remington .38 Special brass for well over 6 years now and have not had to scrap one piece. (30X or more reloads) I have heard of reloaders loading their .38 Special brass so many times the headstamp is no longer readable.

October 14, 2011, 06:19 AM
I shot a couple of S&W M52s in .38 Special Wadcutter.
Working for accuracy, the important considerations turned out to be:
1) diameter of the bullet. The Rem L-HBWC was the best with its 0.360" diameter (provided the case was expanded enough not to swage the bullet diameter down)
2) powder and powder charge
3) Seating stem that matched the bullet better than just a flat seating stem
4) The use of a Redding Profile Crimp die
5) NOT sizing the cases. For a revolver, you will have to size to fit the cylinder. The light loads I fire, however, just expand the case enough that the Profile Crimp die reduces the case diameter enough that just the last 1/2" of the case is still large enough that the rounds are a tight fit. However, the slide always shoves the rounds in and the gun chambers just fine.
In all my testing, case weight, case head stamp, and case length had NO statistical effect on group size. I fired many sets of rounds with one set consisting only of R.P. or Win brass and the other consisting purposely of ever weird head stamp I could find. More than 50% of the time, the mixed cases shot smaller groups.
I decided that the thin walls of the R.P. case, in this particular case, were a plus. For match loads, I only use R.P. cases. For general practice and plinking, I still use mixed brass.

October 14, 2011, 07:44 AM
I tend to sort out the R-P brass because of their thin walls, and only use them for low powered target loads.


October 14, 2011, 12:47 PM
If you want to drive yourself crazy, start collecting a sample of each individual .38 Spl. headstamp. I have over 150 in my collection, and still find variations. Just found some that were headstamped ".38 Special", with no brand name on them at all.

The military cases alone will add to your collection, if you collect the different dates. Then there's the large pistol primed .38 Special cases..........

Hope this helps.


P5 Guy
October 14, 2011, 04:48 PM
I use headstamp for load lots so I guess that is a combo use?

October 14, 2011, 04:56 PM
Dump them together and go with it. My GP100 doesn't discriminate.

October 14, 2011, 08:40 PM
I just load em and shoot as my 38 SPL loads are always low vel target rounds.:D

October 14, 2011, 08:57 PM
I have tested shooting all the same headstamp and mixed up headstamps with the same bullet, powder, and primer from a sandbag rest. No discernable difference at 25 yards. Unless you are a High Master PPC shooter shooting the 50 yard line, you probably won't be able to tell the difference.

Just my .02,

October 15, 2011, 12:18 AM
I can't tell the difference when shooting, but I sure can when trying to prime mixed cases on a progressive press.

October 15, 2011, 12:23 AM
Shrinkmd, I would be interested in your statistical study.

Sorry but don't know how big a sample size you would need to get useful results.

October 15, 2011, 12:28 AM
I guess it would also make sense if I get around to this project to rest the gun and try to measure some groups at 25 and 50 yards to see. Of course, I guess it depends which gun (38 vs 357) shooting them.

And we've all heard that improved ES and SD don't necessarily translate into improved accuracy, which is what we're after.

I have plenty of brass which is once fired (so says TJ Conevera, anyway) so the next time I fire up the press to load up my 38 target/practice rounds, I will sort out some headstamps and measure. Maybe 100 round batches.

October 15, 2011, 12:35 PM
Dump them all together, clean, load and shoot. I started by sorting by headstamp, but I ended up with 50 of these, 20 of those (and several hundred Winchesters). When I load pistol on a progressive I just use a quart-sized Gladware container to catch the finished rounds off the press, and they hold about 150-170 .38s. Life is simpler just keeping all of the brass together and not stressing about it. Scoop a bucket of brass, load until the bucket is full, go shoot.

Besides, I can't shoot a handgun quite well enough to tell the difference in accuracy. ;)

October 15, 2011, 02:07 PM
Any people remember enough statistics to figure out the power calculation to determine what sample size I need to find a significant difference in ES or SD. Maybe a difference of 5 SD would seem worth finding?

A difference between means of 5 SD is actually very large, so you don't need many samples in each group to run your test if you only want to detect that large of a difference. Assuming that you're planning to use the traditional t-test with an alpha of .05, and a power of .8 (both of which are pretty standard), you only need 2 samples in each group if the true difference between means is 5 SD. That assumes normality and homoscedasticity, which are probably reasonable assumptions for the type of data we're talking about, and also the same number of rounds in each group.

Determining sample size by establishing a minimum difference in terms of SD is probably not the best way to go about this because I'm not sure how you decide what's an "important" difference in SD to test for. A better way might be to think in terms of the difference between the mean velocities of the groups. Is a true difference of 5 fps important? I'd say probably not. 50 fps? Yeah, that probably is. Let's say, for the sake of example, that we decide that a real difference between the two mean velocities of 15 fps is what we'd like to detect. For the power analysis, we also need to specify what the SD is, which can be approximated with a little testing ahead of time. As an example, I'm looking at some data I collected for factory 250 gr .45 Colt loads - approx. 700 fps (the actual velocity doesn't enter into the calculation, only the difference in velocity between the two groups) with an SD of 7.76, so let's use that.

So, if I want to detect a "true" difference of 15 fps, with an SD of 7.76, and the other parameter values discussed above, the required sample size would be 5 (in each group).

If you want to try some of these calculations, I use a program called PS, which is available on-line at no cost from Vanderbilt University. Here's the link: http://biostat.mc.vanderbilt.edu/wiki/Main/PowerSampleSize

October 18, 2011, 08:43 PM
For plinking don't sort by headstamp. ZERO BULLET CO. sells 38 reloads. Every box of Zero reloads contains mixed headstamps....works fine.

October 18, 2011, 09:15 PM
In pistols, some loads with big ES & SD numbers shoot great at close range, while some with better numbers do not. Numbers are not everything.

If you enjoyed reading about "38 Special: Sort by headstamp, times fired, or not at all?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!