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.38 Special Load question

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by bengals1975, Apr 1, 2013.

  1. bengals1975

    bengals1975 Active Member

    A friend of mine is trying to load .38 special with IMR 700X and Berry's 125 gn hard cast RNFP bullets (picture attached). Dropping the bullets into the cylinder he's noticed that some of his rounds will drop in just fine, others don't (he's also noticed that the same bullet will drop fine in to some holes in the cylinder and not in others, which we thought was weird. The gun loads factory ammo just fine I guess though). He's using the Lee Classic Hand Loader and measuring the powder by hand to a 3.8-4.0 gn load. He's then seating the bullet to a 1.445 OAL.

    The only load data we could find for cast 125 grain bullets was on the IMR/Hodgdon/Winchester web tool and this meets the recipe they list. I took a look at one of his loaded rounds and I noticed the cannelure was still showing on the round. Is he supposed to seat all the way to the cannelure in the bullet? If so that's probably almost another 1/8th of an inch more than the load data shows in the IMR website. I've looked at the load data in my Lyman's #49 and while they don't have a cast 125 gn bullet, they have a JHP one that seems to measure close to the same dimensions (I'm estimating), it's OAL is 1.470! even longer! The 120 gn cast RN bullet in the manual is slightly longer OAL as well.

    Does anybody out there load the 125 gn Berry's cast RNFP? What OAL do you seat to? We're a little concerned about seating to the cannelure (which is what I would think it was there for) because that would lead to a much shorter round than shown in any load data we've been able to find. Then to avoid an overly high pressure situation would probably need less powder, but we can't find any load data to indicate what that would be.

    Any thoughts? Thanks!


    Attached Files:

  2. 4895

    4895 Well-Known Member

    Cast bullets should be seated to the cannelure with a medium roll crimp. As long as the oal is within the max specs and you work up the loads accordingly, you shouldn't have any problems.

    As far as dirty cylinder bores, this is not uncommon with lead bullets. If you chuck a .40 or .45 caliber bore brush wrapped in a copper mesh material (chore-boy, copper scrubbing pad, etc), into a drill and clean the cylinders, you shouldn't have any problems. Be sure to soak the cylinders with hoppes or whatever you use.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  3. floydster

    floydster Well-Known Member

    Give Berry's a call, they will tell you what the O.A.L. Should be.
  4. Hondo 60

    Hondo 60 Well-Known Member

    Seat to the cannelure, that's what it's there for.
    But if it's shorter than what the recipe calls for, you have to adjust the charge.

    Please stay safe!
  5. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam


    As Hondo60 said.
    "Thats what it's there for'.

    Pressure excursions in standard pressure .38 Special using any standard load data cannot be changed by simple seating depth as long as there is still some bullet sticking out of the case!

    In other words?

    Seat to the crimp groove & roll crimp lightly.

    Choot'm Lizabet! Choot'm!!

  6. joneb

    joneb Well-Known Member

    Case length variations will cause bulging at the case mouth (over crimped) The measurement at the case mouth should not exceed .377"
    Best solution is to trim bass to a consistent length.
    He may also what to clean the cylinders thoroughly.
  7. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    Just as a side note, if you're going to load lead bullets you really want to buy Lyman's 4th Edition Cast Handbook. It's an extremely valuable book if you load lead bullets.

    Also, there are much better powders out there than 700X for .38 Special target loads.
  8. Mike 27

    Mike 27 Well-Known Member

    Make sure they are not seating crooked. put your caliper length ways down the loaded round and look for variations.
  9. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    As posted, seat and crimp into the cannelure. That will be the correct OAL for that bullet.

    Here is a similar 125 Gr .38 bullet.

  10. Steve C

    Steve C Well-Known Member

    Its not unusual to find slight variation in chamber diameter in revolvers. If the rounds are hanging up at the base its likely he doesn't have his sizing die set down far enough and isn't sizing the last little bit of the expanded case before the rim. That small amount can hang up the case on a tight chamber. Probably doesn't have to do much adjustment down, maybe a 1/4 turn or less. It could also be sloppiness in the way the press is operated where sometimes the handle isn't fully being worked.

    If they will not chamber because they're hanging up at the bullet end its likely that the bullet is being over crimped causing the case to bulge OR not using enough crimp to take out the case belling.
  11. bengals1975

    bengals1975 Active Member

    Awesome guys! thanks for all the help!

    He sent a message to Berry's today, we're pretty confident on the OAL now though with your help, and plan to seat to the cannelure. Just checking w/ Berry's to see what they say.

    This really helped, gonna pay attention to not over crimp, I don't think that's his issue, but now that we know it could be a player, he's gonna pay more attention to it.

    so RC, I want to make sure I understand this statement, because it could really simplify life a bit. I think the standard load (not +P) was 3.7-4.2 gn 700X w/ 1.445 OAL. So is what you're saying that if we seated deeper, for sake of discussion say 1.200 (if that's what it ends up once he seats to the cannelure), then this won't cause a high pressure situation? Seems to me that decreasing the volume in the case would increase the pressure when the powder ignites. Am I misunderstanding something this?
  12. hovercat

    hovercat Well-Known Member

    Whenever you change anything about your loads, please do 2 things.

    Make sure that the load is listed on a mfg website or reliable loading manual. Youtube does not count.
    Re-start at the starting load and work up to the load you want, staying within maximum.
    In reloading, 0.2 is a lot. Yes, reducing case volume will increase pressure.
  13. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    Come on now, no one is talking about a .38 Special LRN or SWC bullet being seated @ 1.200" and I have never seen a .38 Special bullet with a crimp groove that deep. The OAL in your manual is useless unless you are using the same exact brass, trimmed to the exact same length and seating the same exact bullet. Your bullet may deliver an OAL of 1.440" or 1.447" but if you seat to the crimp groove supplied by the manufacturer it will be the correct depth for THAT bullet.

    Actually, I have never measured the OAL of revolver round using a lead bullet with a factory set crimp groove, never... Try not to insult someone trying to help you by saying the OAL of a .38 Special using any bullet other than a wadcutter would have a factory crimp groove that delivers an OAL of 1.200". :rolleyes:
  14. bengals1975

    bengals1975 Active Member

    I wasn't trying to insult anyone! I don't know what the OAL is for this bullet when seated to the cannelure since my friend hasn't pushed one in that far yet. so I just threw a fictional number out there for the sake of discussion to try to understand the concept mentioned. I'm just trying to learn by asking questions.
  15. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    .38 Spl has so much case capacity and runs at such low pressures, that no sane seating depth for a 125 Gr lead bullet will affect the pressure enough to worry about it.

    Seat them, whatever 125 it is, to the cannelure and sleep easy with any good load data.
  16. Jesse Heywood

    Jesse Heywood Well-Known Member

    The only concern with seating lead is to seat and crimp into the cannelure. Next you need to do the plunk test, making sure the round drops into the cylinder and that the nose doesn't protrude past the end.

    The first time this should all be done with an empty case, no powder or primer. Once you get the settings perfected, you can save the dummy round and use it to set or check your dies.
  17. Arkansas Paul

    Arkansas Paul Well-Known Member

    A fan of Troy I see. :)
  18. bengals1975

    bengals1975 Active Member

    Seated to the cannelure, OAL ended up at 1.345". Works great!

    Thanks for all the help and information guys!
  19. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Well, imagine that! :D

  20. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    I just love a happy ending!

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