.38 s&w


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Old Grumpy
February 28, 2012, 10:57 AM
I just received a set of dies for my .38 S&W but before I get started I am looking for information on reloading for this older round. :)

I have been able to find a couple manufacturers that offer LRN in .360" and .361" with a BHN of 12. These should work for the S&W. Next I would like to use either Titegroup or W231 (because I have both on hand and have experience using them in my .45acp).

Does anyone on this forum reload for the old S&W? I'll be shooting them through an Iver Johnson Trailsman 66 (manufactured between 1961 and 1964). The Trailsman is a top break so I want to keep the loads nice and mild. :rolleyes:

Does anyone have any information or experiences they would like to pass along? :confused:

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Old Fuff
February 28, 2012, 11:13 AM
There a ton of folks on this forum that reload the .38 S&W cartridge. Use the search feature (found on the right in the green bar at the top of the page and enter "38 S&W" in the Handloading and Reloading sub-forum.

Galil5.56
February 28, 2012, 03:19 PM
I use 9mm Mak dies to reload for my Webley MK 4, and so far have used soft swaged .358" 158 grain LSWCs driven by WW231. Have not chronographed them yet, but accuracy with this revolver seems pretty good so far. have also used unsized Lee 125 2R RN bullets I cast with OK results for plinking.

158 grain LSWC-HP's look kinda cool in the stubby little case, and you might try some swagged .358" lead bullets you might already have and see how they fly... Perhaps they will work perfectly fine, even though sized "small" by traditional .38 S&W sizing.

Walkalong
February 28, 2012, 05:26 PM
I have three revolvers chambered in .38 S&W. If I catch a deal on another, I will have four. It's lots of fun.

I recommend against very fast powders in .38 S&W simply because it is such a low pressure round, especially in older revolvers, and the fast powders can get you in trouble just .1 Grs more from a load that is fine. Ask me how I bulged some .38 S&W brass to the point it did not want to chamber again even after sizing. :o

If you do not want to fool with lead, a plated 148 Gr DEWC or a 158 Gr SWC (http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=146207&d=1311635145) will work well.

MMCSRET
February 28, 2012, 05:34 PM
I load and shoot two S&W Regulation Police revolvers. I like the old cartridge. I cast all my bullets and size to .360, they work very well and I load very mild, even tho these are solid frame hand ejector guns. I cast very soft, about 8BHN, maybe less. Great cartridge in a great variety of guns. Have fun!!!!!!!

PRD1
February 28, 2012, 05:58 PM
with the great variations in chamber mouth and groove diameters in the several .38 S&W revolvers I shoot, and the difficulty of finding proper diameter bullets...
I decided to try the standard .358" diameter hollow-based wadcutter.
It works wonderfully!
It is necessry to size the case with a .38 Special/.357 Mag. die, use an expander from the same die set, and, for best results, shorten a .38SPL seater die for the shorter case.
I load the Hornady 148Gr. HBWC with 2.7Gr. Bullseye (the same load I use for .38 SPL wadcutters), to an overall length of 1.135" and lightly crimped.
They shoot very accurately in all my .38 S&W revolvers, and are close to factory ballistics for the similar-weight bullet. Pressures are mild and the ammunition is very pleasant to shoot. It might be advisable to reduce the load for very light or questionable breakopen pocket revolvers - use your best judgement.
PRD1 - mhb - Mike

ArchAngelCD
February 29, 2012, 07:40 AM
I use W231 for loading the 38 S&W but I can't help you out unless you tell me what bullet weight you're using.
I load a 170gr bullet and a 200gr bullet but I know the commercial loads are a 145gr bullet.

With a 145gr bullet I have data that lists 2.3gr W231 as a starting load and 2.6gr W231 as the Max charge.
With a 158gr bullet the charges are 2.2gr to 2.5gr W231.
With a weak top break revolver I would stick with the starting loads!

Old Grumpy
February 29, 2012, 10:51 AM
I use W231 for loading the 38 S&W but I can't help you out unless you tell me what bullet weight you're using.
With a 145gr bullet I have data that lists 2.3gr W231 as a starting load and 2.6gr W231 as the Max charge.
With a 158gr bullet the charges are 2.2gr to 2.5gr W231.
With a weak top break revolver I would stick with the starting loads!

ArchAngelCD, the bullets I'm leaning towards are 150gr LRN. Reportedly they are very close to the original style round nose bullets. However since I'm not THAT OLD I have to take it with a grain of salt. I plan on staying with lighter bulets and starting charges. The pistol is a top break so by just that fact it is not as strong as the solid frame models. It is in good shape (I'd wager no more than 50 rounds through it) and I'd like to keep it that way.

ArchAngelCD
March 1, 2012, 02:59 AM
In that case I would start with a charge of 2.3gr W231 with that 150gr bullet and work from there. As soon as you get an accurate load, stop and enjoy! (up to 2.6gr of course)

Old Grumpy
March 24, 2012, 12:47 PM
I loaded up a few test loads this week. Now I just need to get out to the range. Here are a couple photos of the finished product. My loads are in the Starline brass cases. 150gr lrn (using 1.8gr W231, 1.9gr W231, and 2.0gr W231). The round in the nickel case is a Winchester 145gr lrn factory load.
:)

MMCSRET
March 24, 2012, 03:09 PM
What bullet/mold are those that you loaded, please?

Blue68f100
March 24, 2012, 03:45 PM
Those powders are a little fast for shooting lead. TG burns way too hot for Lead besides being moody, loose if. As you see the load range is very narrow even with 231 but will work. I like 2400 for 38spl and 357mag.

Walkalong
March 24, 2012, 07:12 PM
Those look great. W-231 is a good choice.

Old Grumpy
March 24, 2012, 07:28 PM
MMCSRET, the bullets came from Matt'sBullets.com and reportedly they mimic the originial LRN profile. Check out his web site. Prices seem reasonable and he will answer your email quickly.

ArchAngelCD
March 24, 2012, 08:25 PM
Those powders are a little fast for shooting lead. TG burns way too hot for Lead besides being moody, loose if. As you see the load range is very narrow even with 231 but will work. I like 2400 for 38spl and 357mag.
Please read carefully, the OP is loading .38 S&W ammo, not .38 Special ammo and even if he were loading .38 Specials, W231 is in no way too fast a powder. 2400 is way too slow a powder for use in the 38 S&W and the .38 Special although I will agree 2400 is a good powder for use in the .357 Magnum but again, not what the OP is loading...

FROGO207
March 24, 2012, 08:25 PM
I like using Trail Boss for those old top break revolvers in 32 and 38 cal. It seems to shoot really well with light loads and lead bullets in all of mine. I like the fact that it is always working at low pressures. If you have a chance to try TB I think you will like it also.

MMCSRET
March 24, 2012, 09:12 PM
I cast Ideal 358246, it duplicates what you are showing, that's what made me think maybe you had come up with a mold. Good looking round.

dagger dog
March 24, 2012, 09:15 PM
A word of caution, some of the older top break revolvers chambered for 38 S&W were designed to shoot blackpowder only !

That being said does anyone here load blackpowder for your old shooter ?

I have an old Iver Johnson 1st Model (blackpowder) Saftey Automatic in 38 S&W,and I'm in the process of getting together some brass and bullets.

Wanting some info on BP granulation, will FFg work or do I need FFFg,also what primers do you use.

I have several once fired cases that have not been resized and they chamber fine in my ol IJ revolver, I'm thinking about partial size just the case mouth area, and going to try to bump up some .358" some soft cast bullets to .360-.361" then load with BP.

Any help on this project will be greatly appreciated.

Old Grumpy
March 25, 2012, 12:44 PM
dagger dog, as I am sure you are aware, the older revolvers have a wide variety of barrel dimentions. If you have not done so check out how to and slug your bore. I've heard bores running anywhere from 0.358" to 0.363", maybe more.

I wish I could offer some help but I have no experience with blackpowder weapons. Check out the bullet caster I bought my bullets from if you want to try some finsihed bullets. (See post #14)

Galil5.56
March 25, 2012, 12:54 PM
Tested the loads I mentioned in this thread, and got a 705 FPS avg w/34 fps ES. Webley seemed happy with them with good accuracy hitting steel plates @ 25 yards, with no issues at all or expected. WW 146 grain factory ammo that was given to me was pathetic; 597 fps avg w/17 fps ES... Kept checking for squibs, as I could not even see impacts in the soft dirt, and wanted to make sure the bullets cleared the barrel.

FROGO207
March 26, 2012, 08:30 AM
Dagger Dog I would recommend using Trail Boss in your revolver. It was specifically designed to mimic black powder and be used with lead bullets but does not require the cleaning that is associated with BP. With black powder cartridges the case was designed to be filled to the bottom of the bullet and the pressure was safe. The TB is loaded the same way BUT you need to determine the weight of it and back off 10% for a starting load then work your way up with it per the instructions in the manufacturers web site. The difference from black powder is that you can NEVER compress Trail Boss as this will cause dangerous pressures. If you are going to use Black Powder I use FFFG in my percussion revolvers. FFG is used in larger bore rifles mostly, say 50 cal and up as it burns slower. FWIW Trail Boss is available almost anywhere there is propellant sold and black powder is not nearly as available around here.

Old Grumpy
March 26, 2012, 10:25 PM
Hit the range today and here is the data from my test loads:

1.8gr W231
Lo: 380.5 fps
Hi: 467.1 fps
Avg: 422.94 fps
XS: 86.6 fps
SD: 21.25 fps

1.9gr W231
Lo: 363.9 fps
Hi: 447.8 fps
Avg: 410.37 fps
XS: 83.9 fps
SD: 26.05 fps

2.0gr W231
Lo: 422.6 fps
Hi: 482.9 fps
Avg: 447.34 fps
XS: 60.3 fps
SD: 21.11 fps

All three load shot well and were VERY comfortable loads in my old top-break. I had wondered what the reloading guides used to determine the starting load and I can see by these numbers (since the first two loads were below starting charge weights) the extreme spread was huge. Each charge was weighed so they were as close as possible and all were loaded in unfired Starline cases. The 2.0gr charge is the starting load in the book and the extreme spread did start to drop. The standard deviation for all three were close but I'd like it a little smaller.
I also noted the velocities of the 1.9gr loads were slightly lower than those of the 1.8gr loads. Magic?
The energies developed were minimal. 56 to 66 ft/lb. However I was just looking for a light target load for my old Iver Johnson so these will do. I'm sure the pressures were low enough to not harm the weapon and I don't know if I'd ever get pin-point accuracy from a pistol with fixes sights and a 2" barrel.
I hope this information helps fill in the gray areas found in most reloading guides for the old .38 S&W.

If you have an old top-break please take extreme caution attempting to use reloads. My pistol was manufactured in the early 1960s not the early 1900s. It was purchased by my father so I knew it's history (less than 100 rounds).

I used W231 because I did find some data and I was familiar with it. The charge weights were extremely small so I took great care to measure each one. I don't know if other powders might do better (more consistent pressures) with such low charge weights. If anyone has an opinion on that I'd love to here it.

As always, if you are unsure about your weapon have it checked out by an experienced gunsmith, slug the bore, and work up.

Stay safe,
Grumpy

JLDickmon
March 26, 2012, 10:39 PM
subscribing

Clark
March 27, 2012, 12:03 PM
I am in the process of inheriting my grandfather's 38 S&W and box of ammo that he bought for the Alaskan Gold Rush.

I also have a Klondike news paper that I am going to donate to a museum.

I shot at a grouse with my grandfather's revolver in 1972, using some of his black powder ammo. Only half of the ammo went off.

My grandfather's revolver is only worth ~ $35, but it will be treated well.
1 or 2 gr or Unique or Bullseye pushing a .375" Lead round ball.

I have fired 38 Super +P loads with JHP bullets in other 38 S&W break tops, and it stretches the latch.
As my late gun designing father pointed out, ~that is not from pressure, that is from recoil on the barrel mass and bullet friction.~

ArchAngelCD
March 28, 2012, 12:16 AM
The 2.0gr charge is the starting load in the book and the extreme spread did start to drop. The standard deviation for all three were close but I'd like it a little smaller.
I also noted the velocities of the 1.9gr loads were slightly lower than those of the 1.8gr loads. Magic?

As always, if you are unsure about your weapon have it checked out by an experienced gunsmith, slug the bore, and work up.

Stay safe,
Grumpy
IMO you shouldn't have loaded charges that were lower than the starting charge weights. You are a little lucky you didn't cause a squib load and with the velocities you listed it was possible.

Sure the ES numbers started to drop when you got up to the starting charge weight. As for the 1,8gr and 1.9gr loads, that was probably caused by erratic or incomplete powder burn caused by too low a charge weight.

It's never a good idea to use lower charges than are listed as minimum in the books...

Old Grumpy
March 28, 2012, 10:02 AM
ArchAngleCD "IMO you shouldn't have loaded charges that were lower than the starting charge weights. You are a little lucky you didn't cause a squib load and with the velocities you listed it was possible."

Yes I used lower than "starting charge weight" loads but I had studied and examined the possibilities for quite some time before I got my feet wet. Starting charges are set using several factors: consistent burning, consistent pressures, consistent velocities, etc. To think that 0.2gr less than published starting charge weight will prevent the bullet from exiting the barrel is not reasonable. The case volume to charge weight ratio was acceptable (not like using 2.0gr in a .357 mag case), the powder was not as temperamental as some (296) to low charge weights, and the shooter was careful to make sure every round exited the barrel. Each shot was run across my chrono and of the 45 total rounds (in three test batches) I had four that produced error messages not a velocity. Each time I could open the action and look down the barrel (top-breaks make that easy).

So I did not go into this half asleep and I did not go to extremes (like a starting charge of 1.0gr).

Your comment about erratic or incomplete powder burn is probably correct (one reason those weights are below published starting levels) and is supported by the data from my chrony.

I do not profess to be an expert reloader but I do have quite a bit of experience reloading. I understand how published data is developed and I also understand why the limits are set. If I had followed the published advice ("For use in solid frame revolvers only") I would not be able to make any reloads to shoot in my top-break. Even though it was made in the early 1960s, by it's design, it is grouped in with revolvers made over a century ago.

IMO, Using charge weights below published minimums should not be taken lightly (we agree on that) but I do feel that, within reason and with the proper cautions, starting charge weights can be reduced.

ArchAngelCD
March 28, 2012, 02:52 PM
Old Grumpy,
My warnings about using charge weights below the published minimums was more for the new reloaders reading this thread than you. I didn't mean to sound condescending.

Old Grumpy
March 28, 2012, 03:49 PM
ArchAngelCD, no offense taken. There are lots of new (inexperienced) reloaders who frequent these forums and we (those who post) should try to make everything as clear as possible. Your points were well taken and if a reloader does not know the basics and use reasonable caution they can get into trouble fast. If they are lucky it will just cost them money. However some mistakes can be very dangerous.

One of the basics all new reloaders must realize is the fact there are reasons for all data found in reloading guides. Maximum charge weights are there for a reason, exceeding them can be disasterous to both the weapon and to those nearby. Minimum charge weights for most powders (with some notable exceptions) are not quite as hard line as the maximum charges, but a reloader needs to know what they are doing before throwing charges outside the published limits (both lower and upper).

I keep detailed records of my loads and I know what signs to watch for. I never exceed the maximum published charges and 99.5% of my loads fall into the mid range charge weights. I also have full knowledge of my firearms, their conditions, and their history. Every reloader, no every shooter and reloader should have an idea of the condition of their weapons and their limits.

Reloading is fun but if you reload you owe it to yourself and those around you to learn as much as possible about this sport (hobby) and to always do it safely.

ArchAngleCD, I respect your position and value your opinions. Let's do it safely or take up knitting. :)

weekender823
March 28, 2012, 11:00 PM
Regarding TrailBoss and top breaks. I have been doing this for my top breaks, and have tried a couple of different lead bullets I use for 38 special. I just use the case capacity - 10% general guideline. My perception is that the loads are safe and shoot well, but it would really raise my confidence level to see some chronograph numbers on a couple of loads.Would anybody be willing to try that and post some results? I'm not particular about the bullet, I would probably adopt whatever load was posted, and would be really grateful for it.

As always, thanks to all to post here!

Old Grumpy
March 29, 2012, 10:52 AM
weekender823, I'd be willing to get you some reading but I don't have any TrailBoss, in fact I've never used it. I've heard it is a bulky powder (designed to more completely fill the case) and possibly designed to produce a little more smoke (for Cowboy Action).

The 2.0gr of W231 did fill the case enough to be easy to visually check. I'd say once the bullet (150gr) was seated there was not a whole lot of extra room left. No where near compressed but not enough room for another grain.

Walkalong
March 29, 2012, 07:04 PM
One nice thing about small cases, you can see the powder charge easily.

dagger dog
March 29, 2012, 08:47 PM
FROGO,

Thanks for the info, I shoot TrailBoss in 45 Colt and 38 Special,never thought about it in the Iver.

FROGO207
March 30, 2012, 06:03 AM
^^^ I usually try what is the most obvious answer first cause I need the extra time to load more ammo.:D I have a lot better luck with TB in the old black powder firearms and this also keeps me from hot-rodding something that should not be attempted.

Old Grumpy
April 27, 2012, 09:16 PM
Well gang I made it to the range this week and tried out another test batch for the old .38 S&W. Here is the information on this load and some photos. I have found some interesting "quirks" the old Iver Johnson has. First and foremost is the firing pin mark. The pistol's firing pin is milled out of the hammer blank. Therefore it is fixed and inflexable. When the firing pin strikes the primer and ignites the powder the pistol "flexes" (it is a top-break). While the movement is extremely small it does cause the firing pin to pull a small section of the primer cup. The marks appear a lot like a Glock's firing pin strikes. At first it had me worried, was I over pressured and the primer was starting to cup. All of my loads were either below or at starting charge weights. The cases ejected easily and nothing appeared wrong. Then I looked closely at the marks and the "light came on".

My S&W model 64 has a hammer mounted firing pin but it is "pinned" to the hammer and has a little bit of flex to it. Has anyone out there noticed similar marks on the primers of their top-breaks?

Here is the load data:
Brass: RP-UMC
Primers: WSP
Powder: Titegroup
Charge: 2.0gr
OAL: 1.154"
Lo: 552.6 fps
Hi: 625.9 fps
Avg: 593.39
XS: 73.3 fps
SD: 25.95
Ergy: 117.3 ft-lb

The loads were somewhat dirty but with such small charge weights and low pressures I think almost any powder will be somewhat dirty.

Salmoneye
April 27, 2012, 09:43 PM
My S&W model 64 has a hammer mounted firing pin but it is "pinned" to the hammer and has a little bit of flex to it. Has anyone out there noticed similar marks on the primers of their top-breaks?

My Albion Motors .38 S&W (.38/200) has a 'pinned' firing pin, and my primers look like your top row right two, and middle row left two...

solvability
April 27, 2012, 09:49 PM
I have been loading my Webley with either W231 or Unique and the 200gr lead bullet. I may be loading a bit hot for most other top breaks but they work fine in the Webley. A very gentle round -likely on both ends.

ArchAngelCD
April 28, 2012, 03:44 AM
Now that is a good looking revolver Grumpy. You're right, those are funky looking firing pin marks on the primers. Some at look abused! lol... I have a Enfield revolver in .38 S&W and while the firing pin hits hard the primers don't look like that at all. I just got a hold of a Iver Johnson 5 shooter in .38 S&W but it's nowhere near as nice as yours. As a matter of fact mine isn't safe to shoot yet, I need to get it repaired...

Old Grumpy
April 28, 2012, 01:49 PM
ArchAngelCD, photos? What model?

The Model 66 was normally a .22 but in the early 60s Iver Johnson built a few Model 66s in .38 S&W and called it the 66S. They produced these from about 1961 to 1964 and they appear to be fairly rare birds. I've checked GunBroker over the years and I have not found another 66S listed.

It shoots nice with these loads and I'll soon try some loads using N320. I've heard it works well in nthe .38 S&W. I'll keep posting my data as I develop it. :)

ArchAngelCD
April 29, 2012, 04:49 AM
I'll post a few photos as soon as I get some of the rust off the revolver, it's in really rough shape.

Old Grumpy
April 30, 2012, 07:10 PM
I made up yet another test load for the old .38 S&W. These rounds use 2.2gr of N320. A fellow reloader uses a 4.7gr load and suggested starting at 2.4gr but I went another 0.2gr lower. His loads (2.7gr) ran right at 690 fps from a 5" barrel. I'd like to see these around 580 fps but we'll see what they run. Stay tuned.

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