Need some .357/38 Reloading Help; What velocities are okay for lead bullets?


April 18, 2012, 09:02 AM
Alright so I'm finally getting somewhere! I got almost everything, just need some primers and a scale and I'm all set! I did a search and nothing really definitive came up so I just decided to start a new thread.

I only have 158gr lead bullets right now, and I was planning on pretty much just sticking to .38 special, although I will be cranking out some .357 Magnum rounds at some point. I'm using Red Dot powder by the way...

What I need to know is what velocity area is alright and won't cause total crap accuracy and excessive leading?

The other thing is the bullets I have are round nose flat points. Can I use the same recipe for normal round nose bullets for this or should I use recipes for semi wadcutter bullets?

And one liiiiiiitle thing on the side; Is a balance beam or electronic scale better? I like the simplicity of the electronic ones and they are around for like $35 or so which sure beats putting out $95 for the RCBS balance beam scale my grandpop has...

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April 18, 2012, 09:20 AM
It depends on the bullet. A soft swaged lead bullet can't go much faster than .38 special before it starts making your barrel look like sewer pipe. Hard cast bullets, on the other hand, I have driven to 1244 fps in my 4" GP100 with very good results.

Red Dot powder is very fast--too fast--for .357 Magnum.

I have had good luck with 2400, the classic .357 magnum powder from way-back-when. I like 14.0 grains with a hardcast 158 grain SWC. Avg velocity of 1244fps, and an ES of only 38fps.

And as for scales, I have way more confidence in my RCBS beam scale (with a check weight set) than I would ever have with an electronic scale that requires batteries.

April 18, 2012, 09:38 AM
I'm using soft lead bullets, if that helps.

Now going off of, Alliant lists a .38 Special load of 3.1 gr (start at 2.8) of Red Dot with a 158gr LSWC for 835 FPS.

Under .357 Mag, they (Alliant) have a load using Red Dot listed; 5.5gr (start at 5.0gr) of powder, 158gr LSWC bullet, 1200 fps. (Sounds a little too fast :scrutiny:)

The reason I'm so bent on using Red Dot is because it's left over from my .45 ACP days and A) I don't want to waste the powder and B) I'm tight on money and need to make every penny count. If I can get some 2400 for dirt cheap at the gun store today, I'll pick some up. I only have an $80 budget for primers and a scale so I'm trying my best to make this work. It's bad enough another gun store ripped me off at $30/box of .357 late last week, but I really needed the ammo...

April 18, 2012, 09:44 AM
So far as max velocities for proper lead bullets you can't go 'too fast' in a .38 or .357. But, that demands proper alloy, sizing and lubracant, it can't be done with just anything you want to pop in your cases. Without knowing how your bullet of choice is made we can do no more than make wild guesses but so long as you stay under maybe 700 fps you should be fine.

April 18, 2012, 10:02 AM*%29*%29

April 18, 2012, 10:09 AM
I tried some Red Dot in 357 once before, wasn't too impressed, but never gave it a fair test.
I'm a 2400 guy, but I have a bunch of WW cast bullets that lead up badly with 2400 even at near max listed loads. The mold threw them just barely big enough and they're a bevel base too which might have some effect.
Anyway, with Unique I get enough obturation to seal the barrel and they shoot pretty clean.
So, I'm thinking about getting the can of Red Dot back off the shelf and trying it out again. If they shoot clean and accurate enough for some target plinking I'll use some of it up.
Besides, one of the fast powders would sure cut down on powder used. :D

April 18, 2012, 10:14 AM
I try to keep the soft lead bullets to 900-1000 FPS max, and most of the time well under that. A 158 gr LSWC or RN load info should be the same as for as powder use. I prefer a balance beam scale over the electronic scales, they seem to drift to much. I would get the cheap Lee balance beam at about the same price of a cheap electronic scale. The lee scale works fine just hard to read for old eyes. I've never used Red Dot so can't help there. For the 357 mag I use a much slower powder like Universal Clays.

April 18, 2012, 10:18 AM
I use either 700X, Unique or 231 in my .357 Colts for velocities in the 1100-1150 range out of a 6 in. barrel, saves money over 2400. 231 meters the best though. I reserve 2400 for 1300 FPS and jacketed bullets. More than enough power for shooting out to 100 yards. The bullet is Lee's 158 tumble lube wheel weights dropped into water, double lubed and sized .358. 50-100 rounds later I have some slight leading that is easily cleaned with hoppes 9 and a brush. Remeber to clean the forcing cone area also when shooting alot of lead.

April 18, 2012, 10:30 AM
231 should be another good powder for cast.
I don't find much about using it it my pile of manuals, and keep forgetting about it.
Beats the flakes for metering.

April 18, 2012, 01:37 PM
Low loads of Red Dot and a swaged bullet will be OK in your .38, but I wouldn't try them at mid to high .38 or .357 velocities. I'd suggest cast lead bullets as available from Beartooth Bullets Fit is key to shooting lead bullets. Size (or purchase) bullets to the same demension as the gun's cylinder throats (if throats measure .359" use bullets sized .359"). You will get little to no leading and better accuracy. Properly sized, good lubed bullets can go magnum velocities easily.

April 18, 2012, 01:41 PM
What bullet do you use? Is it cast? Back in the day, soft swaged LRN and SWC's were the norm from factories.

April 18, 2012, 02:17 PM
I use Red Dot in .38 and .357 cases with good results...

The loads mentioned are good starting places...

April 18, 2012, 07:20 PM
Okay for the record, these are soft swaged 100% lead, round nose, flat point bullets.

I loaded 50 up today under a medium load of 3.5 grains of Red Dot, which according to the Hornady book, should put out about 800 FPS. Does this sound alright to everyone?

Now I know that this is a bit higher than Alliant's max load, but Alliant's max puts out only 16,800 PSI so even if I am a little high, I still have more than enough safety room to deal with. (These will be shot through a .357 Mag Ruger Blackhawk cylinder, which is rated for at least 35,000 PSI) This load is safe according to the Hornady manual though and according to it, I can max these out at 3.9 grains of Red Dot for 900 FPS if I want.

I'm probably going to load up another set of 50 of 100 or so with only 3.1 or 3.2 grains of powder and the same bullet. I'll be trying all of them out over the weekend so wish me luck!

April 18, 2012, 10:48 PM
3.5 grains of red dot is a very light load for a 357. It's not even max for a 38 special. Shoot the 3.5's before you go lighter. You might want to go heavier instead.

April 18, 2012, 10:53 PM
The pure lead should be good to perhaps 900fps. Maybe more. Work up with smallish batches to find out.

evan price
April 19, 2012, 02:25 AM
3.5-4.0 grains of Red Dot would be a nice, soft shooting load that won't break 1000 fps and shouldn't cause too much leading.

April 19, 2012, 08:45 AM
Alright guys thanks for the info. I'll be shooting the 3.5's just to see how they go, and probably load up a couple a little heavier just to mess around.

On the 100% other side of the spectrum, I picked up some 180 grain TMJ bullets that the gun store had a great price on, and I saw a load that was provided by Alliant that went like this:

180gr JFP (I'm using a TMJ bullet; don't quite know if it's longer or close enough in size to use the same OAL)
Starting charge of 4.8gr of Red Dot, max charge of 5.3gr. (Max pressure of 33,200; they don't give a unit so I'm assuming it's PSI/Max charge puts out 930 FPS)
OAL of 1.580"

Now has anyone used this? Does it sound safe? I really don't want to KB my Blackhawk... I'm thinking of starting with a 4.9gr charge and backing out the OAL a hair to 1.62" or around where the crimp groove is. Anyone know what the absolute max length for a .357 mag is?

Last thing, does anyone know why the heck Alliant has put out .357 loads that are touching 42,000 PSI? I thought the max for .357 was 35,000. Anyone care to chip in here?

Thanks for bearing with me guys :D

April 19, 2012, 10:22 AM
I do not see any Alliant data over 34.000psi...

My 2004 Alliant data for the 180gr bullet shows the same max of 5.3gr Red Dot for 930fps at 33,200psi...

April 19, 2012, 10:45 AM
Here. ( The first 5 or 6 loads by Alliant top 42,000 as far as pressure goes.

Anyway Salmoneye, what was the OAL listed, and was it with a TMJ bullet or would you use the same data? Thanks for the confirmation!

April 19, 2012, 01:19 PM
Max pressure for the 357 mag used to be 46,000 cup. Now it's 35,000 psi.

Your 3.5 158 load is probably about half that, and the Blackhawk is a big, strong, steel gun.

April 19, 2012, 01:57 PM

I always thought CUP was lower than PSI... Guess not...

April 19, 2012, 02:46 PM
I always thought CUP was lower than PSI...

It is, with most bottlenecked rifle cartridges. But it flips around the other way with most straight-walled handgun cartridges. I guess that tells you that there is no mathematical way to convert one measurement to the other.


Old Grumpy
April 19, 2012, 03:23 PM
Ranger, most revolver bullets have a cannelure that you will use for roll crimping so OAL can only vary slightly. Bullets for semi automatics without a cannelure are a different story. :)

April 19, 2012, 03:55 PM
This is a direct link to a PDF of the Alliant 2004 manual:

.357 Data is on page 42...

April 19, 2012, 04:51 PM
Isn't the maximum length in .357 Magnum "1.590" All my reloading manuals never go above that OAL.

April 19, 2012, 06:16 PM
Ranger, most revolver bullets have a cannelure that you will use for roll crimping so OAL can only vary slightly. Bullets for semi automatics without a cannelure are a different story. :)

Gotchya. I just didn't want to go .020 too far or something and double the pressure or something... If it's jacketed and has a crimp grove, should I just seat it till it's at the groove then?

Salmoneye: thanks a ton. That manual will be used quite a bit :D

Josh45: I think it's longer than that, because I've seen a couple loads that call for an OAL as high as 1.677. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the Ruger Blackhawk have a longer than necessary cylinder specifically to accommodate the use of heavier bullets? I don't have another .357 Mag gun to compare it to so I don't know.

April 19, 2012, 06:29 PM
Max pressure for the 357 mag used to be 46,000 cup. Now it's 35,000 psi..
So 35kpsi equals 46kcup?

April 19, 2012, 07:14 PM
So 35kpsi equals 46kcup?



April 22, 2012, 09:41 PM
Not trying to move off topic, but for all the lead shooters in pistols, try some of the "coated" bullets.... I' won't ever go back... much less smoke , clean-up and mess.

And or,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=27fff1a56866873a

April 22, 2012, 09:44 PM
I keep casting them, but they never seem to come out "coated".:D


April 24, 2012, 02:19 AM
+1 Bear Creek Supply Moly Coated lead

I load my 38 special with 4.2 grains of 231 and squash a 158 grain RNFP moly bullet in. No smoke to speak of, no lead in the air, no headache, easy clean up, great accuracy. $32/500

For the OP, I would start around 3.3 - 3.5 grains of 231 and seat the bullet at the crimp groove. Those loads will be very light and I would work up to 4.0 or so looking for pressure signs, odd noises, accceptable accuracy, etc. The light 38's really help my trigger control in DA pistols.

A Pause for the Coz
April 24, 2012, 03:14 AM
Good thread. I would have to disagree with some of the leading theories though.
You would have to work pretty hard to get leading out of any of the loads talked about.
Softer lead in the 12 bn range or so wont/ Shouldn't lead until you get in the 15/ 1600 fps range.
Actually a softer alloy should perform better because you will get a better seal than with a hard cast bullet.

After the 1500/1600 fps range then the harder alloys should start to seal better and the softer alloys will gas up from the heat/pressure.

I use gas checked bullets when going over 1000 fps just to be sure.

But I have shot 1000's of 12 bn .358 plain based bullets at 1300 fps out of my Rossi Crabine. Never had leading.

April 24, 2012, 10:31 PM
Leading posts.

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