ready to give up on "target loads" for my .357


November 19, 2012, 10:42 AM
Revolver is an old Taurus 689, with a 6.5" vent rib barrel, which has historically been very accurate for me.

I've tried several different loads with Berry's plated 148 DEWC & 148 HBWC using both .38 and .357 cases, and W231. I've also loaded the Zero 158 JFN with both W231 and downloaded it with 2400.

None of these "target loads" have been very good.... though full power magnum loads continue to shoot just fine.

So, after burning through another batch of 148 gr. dissappointments, I switch over to my newest experiment using Rem 6-1/2 primers with 14 gr of 2400 pushing the Zero pills.

First I load up some very old Federal factory 158s, so I can have a mental baseline to judge the report and recoil of my full power hand loads.

My target is a 1" orange dot sticker on a sheet of letter size paper.

First shot at 50 ft. hits the bottom edge of the orange. Second shot touches the first at 8 o'clock. The third shot is ~1/4" below the second. Now I'm thinkin' I just might shoot a group worthy of a letter home to momma. The fourth shot is 1-1/2" high and the fifth is ~2" low. Sorry momma, no letter this week.

This is still good shootin' for me, and a huge imporvement over my target load failures.

My full power reloads go on to deliver similar performance, and there's no sign of the 6-1/2 primer causing any kind of over pressure with the 2400. Primers are still rounded on the corners and recoil is just less than that of the Federal factory rounds.

So I'm thinking this .357 likes to shoot magnum loads and am ready to pack it in with the target loads.

Or maybe I'll give it another try with lead HBWCs.

What do you guys think?

Ps. I did have two of the 6-1/2 primers that failed to set off.... even after three taps. And I've never had that happen b4 with this revolver. Perhaps they weren't fully seated? Or perhaps the 6-1/2 is too hard for handgun use?

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November 19, 2012, 11:06 AM
I dont think Rem 6 1/2s are your problem. I shoot nothing but CCI SR primers in all my handgun rounds and never had ftf. Has your mainspring been replaced/fiddled with?

About the bullets. Have you slugged your barrel for actual size? Improper bullet sizing can product results similar to your.

November 19, 2012, 12:21 PM
How does your barrel look? Is there leading?
One of the biggest problems with accuracy and leading is bullets that are too hard and too small along with charges that don't build up enough pressure. Typical commercial cast bullets are way too hard along with the "hard crayon lube". The reason they make them that way is so they don't have to pack them between sheets of tissue to prevent damage.
The hard bullet won't expand to seal off the hot gases and the lower pressures don't get high enough to slightly upset the base to expand the bullet.

If you want to reduce the recoil, use a faster powder at a lower charge. You retain the high pressures of a full house load, but end up with a lower muzzle velocity. 3-3.5g Clays or a comparable charge of Red Dot will generate as much pressure as a +P 38 full load, but bring the muzzle velocity way down. Your POI may move, but the groups should be more consistent.

November 19, 2012, 12:39 PM
SSN Vet,

W231 and especially 2400 are not powders for LWC target loads. Suggest you move to faster burning powders in the Bullseye burn rate.


November 19, 2012, 12:45 PM
Try hard cast DEWC's and a non-mouse-fart load of a very fast powder like Red Dot -- 3 to 4 grains in .357 brass.

I like 4.5 grains of Red Dot (Promo) with an OAL off 1.35", but that might be hotter than you want for target work.

November 19, 2012, 12:51 PM
I think I'd try some 148-150 gr. DEWCs loaded over a medium load of Unique. Sounds like your gun likes hefty loads...

November 19, 2012, 12:55 PM
Or maybe I'll give it another try with lead HBWCs.

Personally, I'd first try a tried and true target load: A lead HBWC, seated flush in a .38 case, over 2.7 - 2.9gr bullseye.

FWIW, I've not had accuracy issues with W231 over a wadcutter. It's a fast powder, and meters well. My W231 loads have been about as accurate as my Bullseye loads. YMMV, though.

Steve C
November 19, 2012, 02:26 PM
You don't need mag primers let alone small rifle primers with 2400. Mag primers drive up pressures dramatically with 2400 and the harder small rifle primers will mast pressures that are excessive in handguns. I'd suggest you use standard primers with 2400. I load 14.0grs of 2400 lit by standar primers with 158gr JSP/JHP bullets and they chrono at 1,243 fps from my 4" S&W M66. Pretty much right at factory published velocities for their 158gr loads.

I have always been a bit suspicious of the copper clad HBWC's as to if the skirt would expand enough in the barrel to take up the rifling like the typical soft lead HBWC's do. For target loads in my .357 mags I've always shot .38 spl with 148gr lead wad cutters or 158gr soft swagged or cast bullets.

Had good luck using 3.1gr of W231 and a Speer HBWC in .38 spl case for a mild 740 fps from the 4" S&W 66. For the 158gr LRN and LSWC's i generally use 4.5gr to 4.7 gr from the .357 mag for a full power .38 spl loading.

I don't stick with W231 exclusively and will load practice target ammo with any fast powder I have on hand like Red Dot, Green Dot, AA2, Clays.

November 19, 2012, 02:34 PM
In a .38spl case use 2.8 grs of Bullseye and a 148 gr HBWC or DEWC. For .357 mag target loads I like 4.6 grs 231 and 158 gr LSWC. I find both these loads to be accurate in my .357 mag revolvers. Or at least as accurate as I am.

November 19, 2012, 02:39 PM
Try the X-Treme 158 Gr SWC with WST, Competition, American Select, Clays, Solo 1000, 700X, N310, or Red Dot. Got any of those powders?

November 19, 2012, 06:35 PM
I seat my Berry's plated DEWC long, 1.430" OAL in magnum brass. Both of my .357 revolvers and my Handi rifle shoot better with the longer OAL.

November 19, 2012, 07:10 PM
From my past experience a revolver that is inaccurate with low velocity ammo always has small sized cylinder throats. If they are smaller than the barrel there will be dismal accuracy unless you push them at the top end. Have you slugged all your cylinder throats? If you want to shoot light loads that is where you should start IMHO. If they are too small the throats should be made to the correct size for the barrel. Then when the throats are sized correctly and the forcing cone is angled right the loads should not make the difference they do now. I am curious what the throats are in your revolver.

November 19, 2012, 07:11 PM
Warning, the following contains loads that are not necessarily published and any use of them is at your own risk.

W231 and plated DEWC can work, but you need to be away from the mouse fart loads or you risk sticking one in the bore. In 38 Brass I use 4.0 gr. of powder, seated flush, and a good crimp. In 357 my load with DEWC is 5.4 gr. W231 with a COL of 1.535.

November 19, 2012, 07:14 PM
SSN Vet, how many grains of 2400 were you using for your "target loads"?

Even for mid-range, let alone a "target" load, I'd use a way faster powder than 2400.. like Red-Dot or Unique.

November 19, 2012, 07:48 PM
My 4" M-19 never did like the classic target load of 3gr Bullseye / 148WC.

With Berrys plated DEWC's 6.0gr of Unique in a 357 case did fine.
I've also used Dardas 148gr H&G wadcutters over 4.5gr of Unique, also in 357 cases.
The current load is 4.5gr of Bullseye in a 357 case topped with a Missouri 158gr Action bullet. I think I have to push this harder than a target load to get the bullet to upset or obturbate in the bore. A softer 158gr SWC may do better.

I never could get W231 to group well in that gun.

10 Spot Terminator
November 19, 2012, 09:09 PM
+1 FROGO207 !!!

Just recently saw an article in one of the many shooting mags I view talking about this very thing and actually how common an issue it was with several of what are deemed to be "THE GOOD" revolvers. It went on to say you could have just one or two possible smaller than the rest cylinder throats on a given cylinder that are responsible for opening up a nice group or possibly all of them. In the article it recommended using a felt pen to mark one cylinder as #1 and record each round fired in succession starting with #1. If a particticular one or more tends to pull off target then you most likely have an issue. If this occurs find a machinist who has a good set of pin gauges and do a measurement . If this pans out to be true you can have the cylinder redone ( within limits of course ) to cure this. All of the afore mentioned voodoo is of course after you have insured your bullets are correctly sized and the alloy correct for the application you are using to insure you are getting correct obturation of the bullit when it enters the bore and powder selection plus charge weights are not a factor. If it were too easy everyone would be doing it ...

November 20, 2012, 07:56 AM
not to be a butt-munch or anything..

but isn't the idea behind reloading/handloading to find the most accurate load for the arm in question?

if likes a particular load, shoot it!

November 20, 2012, 09:29 AM
Has your mainspring been replaced/fiddled with?

Nope.... and the DA trigger pull is, how to prhase it, robust!

How does your barrel look? Is there leading?

clean and shiny (like all my guns)

You don't need mag primers let alone small rifle primers with 2400

I know.... but I've got > 2K of them and need to find a use for them. Though Remington now says "don't use 6-1/2 primers for pistols" they packages used to be labeled "for rifle and high speed handgun loads". Lee lists 13.8 gr as the starting load for 158 gr jacketed, so I figured this would be a safe load to test with the 6-1/2 primer.

Try the X-Treme 158 Gr SWC with WST, Competition, American Select, Clays, Solo 1000, 700X, N310, or Red Dot. Got any of those powders?

Unfortunately, no.

small sized cylinder throats

this is new info. for me.... I'll have to measure them.... but I only have a caliper, not a proper i.d. gage.

to clarify....

all my DEWC and HBWC loads have been with Berry's plated & I've only used W231 on these.

I've loaded the 158 gr. JFN Zero bullets with 2400, ranging from 11 to 14 gr. with the hotter loads grouping better and shooting to POA.

Thanks for all the replies guys.... Here's my to do list.

1. Slug the barrel
2. Measure the cylinder throats
3. As I also load .45 acp, I've always wanted to try Unique, so I may pick up a pound. Since I'm sitting on several pounds of the W231, I don't think I'm ready to pick up another fast powder, so I'll try other bullet/charge/COAL options b4 I pick up any Bullseye or Red Dot.

Since I've improved my hearing protection, I find that I don't mind the full power magnum loads. But I'd like to challenge myself with longer distance shooting (25 yds) and am working up to that goal. So I'm looking for a load that I can shoot several boxes of at a time.

Always more to learn... that's why I love reloading and a little basement gunsmithing.

Stimulates the gray matter.... unlike my job ;)

November 20, 2012, 12:42 PM
An older revolver shooter told me he uses 4.0 gr. of W231 under 158 gr. SWC for target usage, CCI SP primers in .38 Spl brass. Out of my old Smith .38-44 HD, I can keep 12 rounds in one ragged hole @ 15 yds. , whats not to like? I'm definitely not Camp Perry material either!

November 20, 2012, 09:36 PM
SSN VET you should slug the cylinders individually and keep track of which is which. Measuring them with a set of calipers will not give the whole story as they could have a narrow spot or be out of round that your calipers can't accurately measure from one end. You will however find it when measuring that slug you just pushed through.:) Just put a mark or piece of tape on cylinder #1 to keep track of where you are when doing it.

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