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.38 Special loading question

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by bfunk, May 1, 2012.

  1. bfunk

    bfunk New Member

    I've been reloading 125 and 158 grain Berrys bullets in .38 and 9mm, with Lee 4 die sets. I've had zero issues with my 9mm, and I have actually had some really great results.

    With my .38's, I'm finding some of my cases when sized, with no belling, I can push the bullet into the case with hand pressure. I've been crimping quite a bit to get them to stay put a little. These are pretty light loads, and I'm not really all the worried about bullet jump, but they are obnoxious to load.

    Anyway, I did a test run with a few cases, and I can fully resize and decap a .38 case in my 9mm die, and I think that this may help with my almost complete lack of neck tension. However, I worry about sizing the brass too much and having them too undersized to seal in the pressure of fairly light loads. Is this ok/a good idea? I think that by the time I bell the case and press the bullet in, they will be just about back to where they need to be.

    I'm using mixed cases, mostly RP and Win, and they are all 20-30 years old. I don't have a ton of them, and if I had to buy a couple hundred new cases I wouldn't be out much, but is it ok to size them .002" smaller so I get decent tension?
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Rem & Win Brass of that age should be in spec, and you should have plenty of neck tension after FL sizing.

    I would suspect your sizing die is out of spec and not sizing them down enough.

    Or, your powder through expander is over-size and over-expanding them too much.

    Measure it.
    It must be at least .002" - .003" smaller then bullet size to work right.
    If that turns out to be the problem, chuck it in a drill and work it down to .354" or so with a strip of emery cloth.

    Whatever you do, don't use more crimp to try to correct a case neck tension problem.
    It won't.

  3. JEB

    JEB New Member

    are you trying to use your 9mm bullets in 38 special cases?

    bullets in 9mm are typically .355-.356, for the 38 you will need bullets that are .357-.358
  4. JLDickmon

    JLDickmon New Member

    what he said..
    mic the bullets..
  5. mnhntr

    mnhntr New Member

    You are aware that 38 is .357-.358 and 9mm is .355?
  6. bfunk

    bfunk New Member

    I'm using .357" bullets, not .355". I'm also not belling the cases at all. They are not all that easy to start in, but once they are, they slide right in. I pushed on in way too far, and I pulled it back out with my fingers...

    My .38 bullets measure .002 larger than my 9mm bullets that work as they should.
  7. bfunk

    bfunk New Member

    Sorry, I just re-read my first post, I am not mixing .38 and 9mm bullets between the two. I'm reloading 125 and 158 grain .357" bullets in .38 and 115 and 124 grain .355 bullets in 9mm. All Berry's plated.

    My 9mm loads have great neck tension, they load and shoot great. Its just the .38's I'm having trouble with.
  8. JohnM

    JohnM New Member

    You've used those 38 dies before? Without problems?
    If so you ought to check your bullets to make sure you got ones sized for 38.
    Pushing a bullet in with no belling really should shave the bullet.
  9. bergmen

    bergmen Member.

    If you have RCBS dies, they will generally replace the expander die (which sounds as though it is oversize - if your bullets are in spec.).

    As others have said, mike the bullets and mike the expander die. As rc indicated, the expander die should be .002-.003 smaller in diameter than the measured bullet diameter.

    The other issue could be undersized bullets. In either case, the micrometer is your friend.

  10. kingmt

    kingmt New Member

    I have some 38's that are .355" & some 9mm that are .3565".
  11. bergmen

    bergmen Member.

    SAAMI specifications call for .3555 diameter for 9mm Luger and .3580 for jacketed .38 Special bullets.

    I always mike a sample of bullets out of new boxes I get. I also keep my expanders dies clean since they can build up brass desposits over time and get generally gunked up.

  12. bfunk

    bfunk New Member

    I don't have a mike, but I can tell a measurable difference between the 9mm and 38 bullets. Right at .002", .355" 9mm and .357 .38's. I measured the inside of several chamfered and deburred fully sized cases and they are right about .356". (sized after chamfering and deburring) This is with the sizing die touching the shell holder at the top of the stroke. I can way too easily seat bullets without even using the expander. Should I send the die in?
  13. joneb

    joneb Active Member

    With RCBS carbide sizer the outside diameter of my 38spl brass measures .372+" the inside diameter is .352+. It would seem that your sizer die is out of spec ?
  14. Steve C

    Steve C Active Member

    Unless this has caused a problem like the bullet is jumping your crimp and interfering with the turning of the cylinder there is no problem. In revolvers you don't have bullet set back from the nose being jammed into the feed ramp by the slide. Don't try and make up imaginary problems before trying out the ammo. Just load a box and try them. You don't need a hevy roll crimp to hold the bullets in place with the modest recoil of the .38 spl in steel frame pistols but in some air weights you can have problems with heavier bullets like the 158gr even wih factory ammo. Just use a moderate crimp into the bullets side OR you can roll crimp over the front bullet shoulder which is what I usually do with .41 mag loads using Berry's bullets.

    You can buy a taper crimp die for .357mag/.38 caliber and it may work better for the plated bullets without crimping groove.
  15. 4895

    4895 New Member

    I would buy a vernier caliper first. They are more than "handy" when reloading!
  16. kingmt

    kingmt New Member

    I don't have a mike ether but I use a mic. You need a caliper to measure because there is no way you can tell a .002" difference.
  17. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Active Member

    I would have thought vernier calipers had gone the way of the dodo bird. I still have one but have not looked at it in decades.

    Digital or dial calipers are easier to use and reasonably priced these days, about twenty bucks or so for the economical units.
  18. JLDickmon

    JLDickmon New Member

    Even the Harbor Freight ones will do.. so yeah, $20 will cover it...
  19. JohnM

    JohnM New Member

    A lot of the digital calipers coming out of the PRC are amazingly good, but don't expect them to hold up.
    A person really should have a good standard to test them with to make sure they give a true reading.
  20. kingmt

    kingmt New Member

    I've been useing the same one for about 3 years. It replaced the one I had for better then 5 years. They have been used heavily & worth the $10 I spent.

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