Powder choice for 38 special


February 1, 2013, 02:48 PM
Im looking at getting into reloading. I have the tool set mostly figured out and figure Ill work all the kinks out as I go. Now I just need to figure out the components. The question I need help with is what kind of powder(s), if I had to stick to one or two, would give me a healthy set of options for load strength with different bullets and a little room to experiment. Maybe even branch into .357. Also, if anyone has suggestions for good jacketed or semi jacketed bullets, that would be helpful.

The gun in question is a Ruger sp101 with a 4" barrel. The applications are going to be plinking and paper punching. Maximum stopping power is not the goal here.


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February 1, 2013, 02:53 PM
Alliant Bullseye.
Alliant Red Dot.
Win 231 / Hodgdon HP-38. (same thing)
Alliant Unique. (Will do it all from standard .38 to near max .357))


February 1, 2013, 04:10 PM
Clays, Universal, Clay Dot are others to consider

Jim Watson
February 1, 2013, 04:32 PM
You can't be too choosy about powder etc in these crazy panic days.

Refer to your loading manual (You DO have a loading manual, don't you.) and pick a powder that gives 800 - 900 fps at the maximum. That will get you a relatively fast burning powder that you can adjust to plinking levels without erratic velocity.

I recommend lead bullets, even wadcutters for plinking loads.
I saw a shooter stick a jacket in his barrel trying to load a JSP too light.

February 1, 2013, 04:39 PM
I will 2nd Unique

February 1, 2013, 04:55 PM
Bullseye, Unique, W231 with a 158gr LSWC.

Good luck finding powders!

February 1, 2013, 06:03 PM
I use HP38 for 9x18, 9x19, .38 Special, and .45 ACP. I can't find it anywhere, but I stopped in Cabela's on my way home and they had 2 pounds of Unique left at $22 a piece, so I picked them both up. I've only ever used HP38 (been reloading less than a year), but a quick check on my phone told me that Unique is a very versatile powder as well, so I figured it would be a wise purchase.


February 1, 2013, 06:05 PM
W231/HP-38 and Universal are all I use for non magnum handguns. And Universal is only for a few specific loads.

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February 1, 2013, 06:15 PM
Unique, Bullseye, HP38, or 231. If you can't find those, look for Green Dot (it's often the last powder to run out; like C-cell batteries) or borrow some Red Dot from a shotgunner.

And get yourself some 158 grain cast bullets.

February 1, 2013, 06:22 PM
All good suggestions. Add AA#2 to the list.

February 1, 2013, 07:09 PM
Add Alliant green dot if you can't find the others.

February 1, 2013, 08:33 PM
I suggest using LSWC 158 gr. with a winchester super target powder. Starting with 3.3 gr. This has a very similar speed range to factory ammo

February 1, 2013, 08:39 PM

February 1, 2013, 09:10 PM
Bullseye and W-231 for me. I would like to try AA#2 in 38spl.
For .357mag Accurate #7 and #9 work very well in my 2.75" Sec.Six.

XD 45acp
February 1, 2013, 09:20 PM
Alliant Bullseye, Red Dot, Green Dot

February 1, 2013, 11:55 PM
If you get any semi-jacketed hollow point bullets, they have a minimum velocity to keep the bullet intact in the barrel. I believe it is 750 fps but I'm not 100% on that.

I like to shoot Berry's 158 grain round nose with Winchester 231, around 3.5 grains (soft load) up to 4.4 or so (full power). I think my OAL is around 1.455" or so. Hodgdon Clays Universal load data is almost identical but not the same powder.

Accurate Arms:

Red Dot


True Blue

It will be hard to find most powders until after tax season. Any of the above powders will work fine and I'm sure there are others you can try I didn't mention.

February 2, 2013, 12:13 AM
I'm a huge fan of W231/HP-38 for use in the .38 Special and most other handgun cartridges too. It's a clean and accurate powder that meters very well. What's not to like?

My "Powder Trinity" for which I can load any handgun cartridge is:
W231(HP-38), W540(HS-6) and W296(H110)
I do have many other powders on the shelf I've tried and use in specific applications but I always seem to come back to those 3.

I highly recommend W231 for what you are trying to do. W231 can even be used in .357 Magnum loads although of course you will not achieve the maximum velocities achievable with slower powders like W296/H110, AA#9, 2400 and the other "Magnum" powders. W231 will deliver 75% or a little more of the performance of W296/H110 and W231 also works well with lead bullets too.

February 2, 2013, 02:51 AM
I load a lot of 38 and 44 Special with Clays. What I like about it, above all else, is that it always seems to be in stock. I mite not always be able to buy as much as I'd like, but I can always get some Clays. At a quick glance, the heaviest max load I can ind for .38 special is 4.2 grains, so a pound of powder will net you just under 1700 rounds, making it a very economical choice.

February 2, 2013, 02:56 AM
+1 for Unique

February 2, 2013, 05:28 AM
I second on the Accurate #2

February 2, 2013, 08:22 AM
With lighter 38 special target loads, I have found several of the powders listed here to be very position sensitive. Hold the muzzle down and lift it up to shoot and it feels like a squib load. Start with muzzle up and lower it to shoot and it feels like a +P load in comparison. I've been experimenting with Trail Boss, which is extremely bulky, with good results.

February 2, 2013, 12:22 PM
I like Universal or Clays. I second getting into cast bullets, a lot cheaper. If you plan on loading for more than one gun/caliber, look at what powder will work for both and start with it. There is a great savings buying bulk.

February 2, 2013, 12:53 PM
Bullseye, Unique, W231 with a 158gr LSWC.

Good luck finding powders!
These powders will work in 90% of your .38 reloading needs...

February 3, 2013, 11:16 AM
This is the first cartridge I have that I will be able to economically reload. The other 3 guns I have are .22 and 12 ga. I absolutely plan to start casting bullets at some point but for right now Im trying to take one step at a time. I have the gun and a fair amount of factory ammo so I can start accumulating brass. the next step is going to be getting the press and related equipment and the reloading suppies. Casting will be the last part of this adventure. As I expand my gun collection, Ill start adding other dies and such. Maybe Ill even pick up the tools for shotshells. who knows.

February 3, 2013, 12:18 PM
I really like Bullseye because of more shots per pound!

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