Need advice for loading .38 special


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SuedePflow
November 26, 2013, 09:21 AM
I'm just starting to load .38 special for the first time. I'm using semi-jacketed bullets for the first time too and I'm having seating issues.

I'm getting varying COL's and furthermore, some rounds aren't seating all the way to the cannelure. It seems the lead is "crushing" down and the bullets aren't moving further down into the case.

Do .38 spl cases require an extra large bell? And do nickel cases require more bell than brass? Any advice would be appreciated. I want to make sure my dies are set right before I prep 1000 pieces.


In this pic, the COL is within .01", but it's obvious that the left one is seated more shallow.

http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i17/paulvolk/Shooting/20131126_014638_zps9317d146.jpg

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fallout mike
November 26, 2013, 09:39 AM
I would try a bit more bell. I would seat the bullets a bit deeper as well. There is a bit more cannelure left on the right. The left is a bit short of it. You will always have some brass that isn't the exact length. Nickel brass seems to be more brittle than yellow brass. Dont get carried away with the bell on them or you'll start splitting necks.

JerryND
November 26, 2013, 09:47 AM
Unless my "uncalibrated" eyeballs are deceiving me there is a definite difference in the two bullets. Depending on the style of seater the round one on the left did not get down all the way. There is a definite longer lead exposure on the conical bullet on the right.

SuedePflow
November 26, 2013, 09:54 AM
Jerry, both bullets started out like the one on the right. The one on the left smashed down when it met enough resistance in the case.

Both cases in the pic have the same amount of bell. The brass one turned out fine. I assume I need more bell on the nickel cases?

What's a good target COL with this type of bullet? I got mixed answers when checking various manuals. As it stands right now, I was targetting half way into the cannelure, which happened to be right in the middle of the lengths I was seeing in my books.

bluetopper
November 26, 2013, 10:04 AM
You aren't using some type of powder that is filling the case are you?

243winxb
November 26, 2013, 10:09 AM
Are you expanding when you bell? The expander should open the inside of the case so the bullet seats with less pressure. This will help stop the nose getting deformed. The seating stem that contacts the bullet may be of the wrong shape.

ljnowell
November 26, 2013, 10:10 AM
I would think the brass would buckle before a bullet would deform that badly. Are you positive that bullet wasnt different before the seating process?

ranger335v
November 26, 2013, 10:11 AM
All mouth flair does or can do is allow bullets to start without shearing the heel.

It's obvious your nickeled case was much more difficult to seat, the meplat has been deformed by a round nose seater plug. Either the nickle case walls are much thicker (likely) or you have a compressed charge, or maybe a double charge?

243winxb
November 26, 2013, 10:12 AM
The Lee "hammer" loader deforms bullets like in the photo, without buckling the brass. Make sure the bullet is not being crimped to early, requiring more pressure to seat it.

SuedePflow
November 26, 2013, 10:36 AM
You aren't using some type of powder that is filling the case are you?
I'm using 3.2 grains of bullseye. Not even enough to fill half the case.

Are you expanding when you bell? The expander should open the inside of the case so the bullet seats with less pressure. This will help stop the nose getting deformed. The seating stem that contacts the bullet may be of the wrong shape.
I'm using a regular 3-pc RCBS carbine die set. I assume the amount and depth of expansion is simply dependent on how far the I run the mandrel into the case, right?

The die came with two seating stems. I'm using the one that better matches this bullet type.

SuedePflow
November 26, 2013, 10:40 AM
I would think the brass would buckle before a bullet would deform that badly. Are you positive that bullet wasnt different before the seating process?
Really? I wasn't surprised that the bullet gave being that lead is softer than brass.

I'm 100% sure they are identical bullets. I have several that have mushroomed like that.

All mouth flair does or can do is allow bullets to start without shearing the heel.

It's obvious your nickeled case was much more difficult to seat, the meplat has been deformed by a round nose seater plug. Either the nickle case walls are much thicker (likely) or you have a compressed charge, or maybe a double charge?
The rounds in the pic don't have powder in the case, so no chance of a compressed charge. These were done just to test seating while tweaking my dies.

243winxb
November 26, 2013, 11:06 AM
Measure the diameter of the bullets, should be no larger than .358" Then measure the expander diameter, should be about .356" http://i338.photobucket.com/albums/n420/joe1944usa/expander_1.jpg My RCBS expander unit.

243winxb
November 26, 2013, 11:17 AM
The last thing i can think of is, a defective seating die. The inside die diameter is to small. On seating the case/bullet is being sized. The nickle brass wall thickness would have to be greater than the brass case. Measure both over a seated bulllet & compare. The fix is to remove metal from the die in front of the crimping area. Or return to RCBS.

Grump
November 26, 2013, 11:38 AM
This is just poor fit of seating stem to bullet nose.

Friction all around the circumference of the bullet/neck interface is PLENTY to cause what you are experiencing.

One solution is to relieve the seating stem enough so the contact point is down on the jacket rather than on the lead nose.

Too much nose contact on seating can lead to the bullet not being seated straight, with substandard accuracy compared to what the gun/bullet/load combination would otherwise be capable of delivering. I had that quite badly with some 9mms a few years ago. Four-to-five inch groups at 25 yards from a pistol that was always 3 inches or less and often delivered 1.5 inch groups.

243winxb
November 26, 2013, 11:48 AM
Roll or Taper Crimp die? RCBS makes them both way.

SuedePflow
November 26, 2013, 12:11 PM
It should be taper crimp. I'll double check tonight when I get home from work.

Arkansas Paul
November 26, 2013, 12:37 PM
Make sure the bullet is not being crimped to early, requiring more pressure to seat it.

I was thinking along these lines myself.

243winxb
November 26, 2013, 12:38 PM
If die is taper crimp, than its an adjustment issue. To much crimp while seating the bullets.

Salmoneye
November 26, 2013, 01:04 PM
Seat and crimp in two steps...

Adjust your die accordingly...

James2
November 26, 2013, 01:27 PM
If die is taper crimp, than its an adjustment issue. To much crimp while seating the bullets.

I am thinking along these same lines. Check the crimp adjustment.

SASS#23149
November 26, 2013, 01:56 PM
one of the most mis-understood things in reloading,especially by new reloaders..and some experienced ones..is how to set up the 1-piece seat/crimp die.Ive read scary accounts of people running the die all the way down to the shellplate just like they do the sizer die.

so,I have to ask since I don't know you or your experience...have you read and followed the directions for the seat/crimp die. ?

one thing I will never do is use the same die for seating and crimpin. Yes,you can do it that way,but 2 dies are way easier to adjust than a combo die is.

check how you have that die set up,let us know if things improve,etc.

Blue68f100
November 26, 2013, 02:04 PM
I think you are crimping before the bullet is at proper seating depth. Back of the locking ring on the die body. Get your depth set right for you OAL and cannelure grove is centered. Once this is set back off the seating plug and run the die body down to do the roll crimp or TC. Then run the bullet seating plug back down and lock.

Jesse Heywood
November 26, 2013, 02:29 PM
Really? I wasn't surprised that the bullet gave being that lead is softer than brass
While lead is softer than brass, the cross-sectional area of the brass is so small the load applied cripples the brass.

Seating and crimping 38 spl simultaneously isn't that difficult. Follow Blue68's instructions. The taper crimp should be small.

On the seating stem. If you are going to be loading this bullet in the future, call RCBS. They should be able to machine a stem to match the bullet profile.

gibekim
November 26, 2013, 03:19 PM
Really? I wasn't surprised that the bullet gave being that lead is softer than brass.

I'm 100% sure they are identical bullets. I have several that have mushroomed like that.


The rounds in the pic don't have powder in the case, so no chance of a compressed charge. These were done just to test seating while tweaking my dies.
I would think that the bullets themselves are the problem (IMHO Junk). I am not familiar with partially jacketed bullets, never seen one until now. However, given the fact that there is no powder in the pictured examples, how can the bullet deform as it did? The case wall tension is not sufficient to hold the bullet firmly enough to allow the seating die to deform the lead and if there is nothing in the case to support the bullet, like a double charge of powder, then the bullet should be pushed into the case with little or no resistance no matter how much flare is on the case. Do you know the brinnel of the bullets? Did you measure the diameter? What brand are they? They must be mush.

warhwkbb
November 26, 2013, 03:40 PM
Here's how to set the die...
1. Without using any crimp, seat a bullet to the correct depth.

2. Unscrew the bullet seating stem (almost) completely and screw the die until light contact is made.

3. Continue to screw the die down until the case lip at the cannalure is .002 - .003" smaller diameter than before the point where the crimp begins or about 3\16th below the top of the case.
Your crimp is done! Any more than this, your cases will buckle or the bullets will deform. If you want a harder crimp, you must seat and crimp in separate steps.

4. Screw the bullet seating stem until firm contact with the bullet is reached.

If you use mixed brass, your seating depth and crimp level will always vary. A separate crimp die, or seat and crimp in separate steps is recommended.

SuedePflow
November 26, 2013, 04:16 PM
I'll readjust the seating/crimping die tonight. I am familiar with crimping too much/too soon, as I had that issue when I first started loading 40s&w. But I'll readjust and see where that gets me.

For reference, these are the bullets I'm using: http://www.midwayusa.com/product/196204/remington-bullets-38-caliber-357-diameter-125-grain-semi-jacketed-hollow-point-box-of-100-bulk-packaged

I'm not at all partial to them and I plan to buy so FMJs soon to try those too.

Jesse Heywood
November 26, 2013, 04:44 PM
It's been 20 years since I saw those bullets. That was the premier 357 mag round for police in the 70s. Replaced by the Winchester Silver Tip.

Vern Humphrey
November 26, 2013, 05:37 PM
I think you are crimping before the bullet is at proper seating depth.
That's exactly what's happening. The crimp is coming too early in the cycle, clamping down on the bullet, and the seating die is trying to seat the bullet against the tension of the crimp.

The advice to seat first and crimp last is good advice.

BSA1
November 26, 2013, 08:25 PM
I agree. Crimping to soon. Easy fix.

You do have calipers to check o.a.l. don't you?

warhwkbb
November 27, 2013, 08:39 AM
It's been 20 years since I saw those bullets. That was the premier 357 mag round for police in the 70s. Replaced by the Winchester Silver Tip.
YUP! In 125gr, these are the bullets that gave the .357 its fearsome man-stopper reputation.

SuedePflow
November 27, 2013, 09:17 AM
Readjusted my seating/crimping die last night and all is well. I'm now getting consistant seating with brass and nickel cases, repeatable COL, no more lead crushing, and juuust enough crimp.

Thanks for the advice, gents.

SuedePflow
November 27, 2013, 09:24 AM
Being that these rounds will be fired from a revolver, not an autoloader, does the amount of crimp really matter much? I'm thinking a light crimp should be just fine and I don't need to bother with a heavy crimp as a separate function.

Walkalong
November 27, 2013, 09:33 AM
As long as it prevents bullet creep, and is accurate, your good to go. Adjust as appropriate, but tiny tweaks won't make much difference.

Vern Humphrey
November 27, 2013, 10:33 AM
Being that these rounds will be fired from a revolver, not an autoloader, does the amount of crimp really matter much? I'm thinking a light crimp should be just fine and I don't need to bother with a heavy crimp as a separate function.

For rifles, no crimp is needed (tubular magazines are an exception.) For Automatic pistols, enough crimp is needed to iron out the flare -- unless you unload and re-chamber the same round over and over. Then you need more crimp to keep the bullet from being driven back in the case.

For revolvers, you need crimp for two reasons. The first is to get full combustion of the powder. If there isn't enough resistance when the bullet starts moving, you'll get unburned grains of powder blown out of the case.

The second reason is to prevent bullet creep. Your bullets are "objects at rest" and as Newton taught us, objects at rest tend to stay at rest. That means as the revolver recoils, the bullets want to stay at rest and the case is literally jerked backwards. After several shots, the unfired rounds may have their bullets sticking out so far they tie up the revolver.

So check for unburned powder and bullet creep. If you find either one, increase your crimp.

Walkalong
November 27, 2013, 10:39 AM
Yep, left out complete/better burn, which also results in lower ES & SD numbers.

warhwkbb
November 27, 2013, 11:32 AM
Roll crimps give me better accuracy, but only if the brass is trimmed. Otherwise, I taper-crimp my .38 loads.

SuedePflow
November 27, 2013, 02:25 PM
Going to the range on Saturday. I'll be sure to check for creep.

Vern Humphrey
November 27, 2013, 02:28 PM
One good test is to mark the head of one case with a magic marker and load it so its the last round in the cylinder. Fire five rounds, then reload and repeat. Then check for creep in the marked round.

4895
November 28, 2013, 12:53 AM
Be careful loading semi-jacket bullets in .38 special. I have read that minimum velocity is a concern due to jacket separation lodging in the bore. I can't remember off-hand what the lowest fps is but I want to guess 750 fps.

The bullet deformation could be from incorrect crimp setting. I seat and crimp in separate steps. If that doesn't help, try putting some aluminum foil into the seating die where the stem contacts the bullet nose. It should lessen the impact on the soft lead. I have a bunch of those bullets and have had a few do that. I would try a wad of foil first before sending me all of those bullets. :-)


P.S. It is possible the amount of bell is affecting the seating pressure which could be caused by different case lengths. You should try to measure and trim cases to the same length and that should alleviate any inconsistencies with bell amount which seems to really matter with soft lead nose bullets.

SuedePflow
December 5, 2013, 11:22 PM
I got these semi-jacketed bullets to load properly and they shot great.

But I've now moved onto plated bullets. Specifically Xtreme Bullets 158gr.
http://www.xtremebullets.com/38-158-RNFP-p/xc38-158rnfp-b0500.htm

The cannelure rides high, so to get the taper crimp on the cannelure, the COL comes out to be a bit on the short side (1.410"). That seems a little shorter than the specs in any of my manuals. Should I be worried about that, or is it no big deal? If it makes a difference, these will only be fired from a 2" barrel.

Do cast bullets typically use less powder than jacketed/plated bullets of the same weight? I have some Unique powder that I want to use up. Anyone got a recommendation on how many grains to use on a lighter load?

Walkalong
December 6, 2013, 07:46 AM
I use the X-Treme 158 Gr SWC loaded to the cannelure and they shoot really well in everything I have tried them in, including .38 S&W (http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=146207&stc=1&d=1311635146).

dagger dog
December 6, 2013, 08:24 AM
As Fallout Mike pointed out


Both of those cases have depth cannelures pressed into the case. The object of that cannelure is to stop bullet set back. Some times even firing that type of case it won't remove the cannelure completely. Try some cases without the cannelure or load a shorter bullet .

SuedePflow
December 6, 2013, 09:14 AM
Walkalong]I use the X-Treme 158 Gr SWC loaded to the cannelure and they shoot really well in everything I have tried them in, including .38 S&W
What COL do you end up at?

Walkalong
December 6, 2013, 09:32 AM
1.440 in .38 Spl with brass trimmed to 1.140, +/- 001. I use a flat seater plug and OAL is very consistent. I also use it in .357 Mag light loads. Lots of fun. I can hit a 12" plate at 100 yards pretty regularly with my 586 with a red dot on it. A better shooter wouldn't miss much, if at all.

gamestalker
December 6, 2013, 07:48 PM
I've been seating jacketed and semi without any bell for a very long time and have never had any problems, so I seriously doubt it has anything to do with the bell. And for a bullet to deform to that extent, I would feel 100% confident that the brass would buckle long before changing the profile of a bullet. Not only that, but if it was starting with that much resistance, I would think it would be shaving the jacket.

I would take a resized case and run it up fully into the press, full ram extension. Then thread the seating die in until you feel it contact the case mouth, it will stop when it makes contact. Then back the seating stem out all the way, place a bullet on the case mouth, run the ram to full extension and then thread the seating stem in until you feel it make contact with the bullet. Back the ram down, thread the seating stem in some, run the ram back to full extension, check your oal, and repeat until you have the case mouth in the middle of the canelure. Once all of your bullets are seated, then back out the seating stem one full turn, then thread your seating die down in small increments until you have the amount of crimp you want, done.

I also load with a lot of nickel brass, and it has not been any different to work with.

Even if you were using a powder that fills the case up, I would still think the brass would buckle before that bullet would mash to that degree.

GS

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