38 and 357s


February 2, 2012, 09:50 PM
Been thinking about something. I've got a couple of 357s (Dan Wessons and Ruger Blackhawk) and i recently got into reloading. Maybe it's because I'm still wet behind the ears on this stuff but, as I'm loading my 38 casings (4.2gr Universal with 158gr Hornady XTP Jacketed) I'm constantly watching (correct that, worrying) that I might over-load. The fact that there's only a few 10ths between min and max makes me wonder about my room for error.

Both guns are 357s so, there's no worry about the gun handling a listed 38 load, I just wonder if the casing is the weak link.

I understand the dangers of double-loads. To prevent that, I weigh each load as close as possible (Lee scale) and once happy with the measurement, I pick up the casing (primer end up) and fill it. then the casing doesn't leave my hand until it's in the press and a bullet goes on top and through the press. I know it takes more time, but, I feel better about double charges not happening. Both guns are known for being stout but i'm just wondering how much window I have on the casings, and if that's even a concern?

To eliminate any question, no, I am not planning on loading up 357 loads in 38 cases! I just don't have enough experience to know how these react and, I'd much rather gain experience from asking questions than an autopsy (either mine or the guns!).

thanks for any insights.

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February 2, 2012, 10:11 PM
I don't think you have much to worry about there. Sounds like you've got a good, safe process down for someone starting out. You'll speed up as you get more comfortable. You can't get much more thorough than weighing a charge, charging the case, and immediately seating the bullet. Little room for serious error there.

Concerning the load, I think you're fine there. Hodgdon shows 4.0 - 4.4 at standard pressure with that combo, and a +p load at 4.7. My Hornady manual starts at 4.1 and goes to 4.6 at standard pressure, and a +p load at 4.8. That's pretty solid agreement between powder and bullet manufacturer.

I actually wouldn't hesitate at all to up that charge a little bit. Jacketed bullets, especially 158s, need to be run at pretty good pressure to make sure they clear the barrel in 38 standard pressure loadings. I definitely wouldn't go lower than where you started. In the guns you plan to shoot these in, you really don't have anything to worry about as long as you stick to this data.

Hope this helps a little and hope they shoot well!

February 2, 2012, 10:29 PM
Thanks TxLoader. That's part of the reason why I stuck with a middle load for the listing that I had. Knowing that the guns were good for 357 loads made me wonder if I was being overly worried about pressures. I did load up some +p and without going back to check numbers, I believe they were 4.5gr with 140gr Hornadys. Yes, they were +P cases. :p

I've got a fair amount of loads already but, a friend just dropped off some lead wadcutters and I might try a few different wieght bullets to work up a recipe that my gun(s) like best.

Being new at this, I feel like I'm walking on eggshells when I start thinking about changing loads and such. I hear about jackets hanging in barrels with lead flying out and on the other side of the coin, revolvers becoming convertibles due to overcharges. My high school wasn't known for its math program so, I have to slow down, look at things from about every angle, just to get caught up to speed with what seems so simplistic for folks sometimes.

February 2, 2012, 10:55 PM
Mr Rider -

I would suggest you find a "slower" powder with a wider load range. This will be much more forgiving of small errors than the "fast" Universal. Then, when your technique is refined and tightened up, then go back to the Universal.

One thing that may increase your safety and help refine your process is to work in "batches"... especially as to powdering the cases. The advantages are that you get very good at one task when you do nothing (for instance) but size cases over and over. When it comes to adding powder, you'll then have 20 or 30 cases (what ever your "batch" size is) to compare the powder levels inside before installing the bullets. Taking a bright light and making sure the powder is the same height on an entire batch will help you spot errors very fast.

February 3, 2012, 01:21 AM
No problem! Nothing wrong with slowing down and being careful. I do agree with the comment about working in batches. Get 50-100 or however many cases on loading blocks and size them all, prime them all, expand them all, etc... at the same time. This is expecially beneficial for charging, as you'll start to get into a rhythm with your powder measure and it will likely throw more accurate charges this way. When you've charged every case and they're standing up in your loading blocks, any possible double charges or no-charges will really stand out when you visually inspect them.

I think your powder choice is fine. I would consider Universal a medium burning pistol powder. In the burn rate charts, it's right there with Unique, AA #5, and other similar medium burn rate powders. You won't find many slower burning powders recommended for 38 spl loads. I use Universal a lot and find it to be very similar to Unique, only it meters better and is slightly cleaner burning. A good choice IMO!

February 3, 2012, 06:36 AM
Thanks for the input guys! I have been working in batches for pretty much everything but charging the cases. Since I have my press and everything handy and already assembled on the workbench, when I get a box or two of casings, I'll plop them in the tumbler, size them, prime them and have them ready for powder. Then I just go through and start pouring powder.

My dad used to reload A LOT when I was much younger. Only difference is, powders have changed a lot since then. He was amazed at how little powder was used and that it still "made it out the barrel". I can't remember what powder he used but, he said it was almost a compressed load. He helped me a lot getting started. Just that some things have changed and he was unfamiliar with Universal and how it acted.

Being a faster powder, we were both learning something new.

Thanks again.

February 3, 2012, 06:46 AM
I've been loading 30 years or so, and I still weigh each charge, dump immediately into a case and seat a bullet...

February 3, 2012, 07:55 AM
If I am only loading a few rounds then I will do as you are to save handling the casings often. Otherwise I will prep the brass in large lots and put in plastic bags for storage first. Then prime a pile of them another sitting and put them back in the bags with a note saying "primed". When I finally load them I will batch load filling several 60 round load blocks at a time. I find that if I fill a loading block on my left with empty brass primer up and move them to a separate loading block to my right after charging this is the best method. This way you see a correctly seated primer then you never have to touch the brass again after you have charged it until seating the bullet. +1 on the looking in the casings with a flashlight checking propellant levels a full block at a time. This will show small differences easily for me. I find this is MY safest routine for reloading ammo and has worked well for me since I adopted it many years ago. Find what works for you and become second nature with it. This will serve you well for a lifetime of reloading.:)

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