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.38 Special mild target loads

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Fu-man Shoe, Dec 20, 2006.

  1. Fu-man Shoe

    Fu-man Shoe Well-Known Member

    Hey all,

    I'm looking for a weak target load just to plink with, and to have a
    nice mild load for new shooters whom I take to the range with me.

    I am using el cheapo 158 grain cast lead bullets and Alliant Unique.
    "Modern Reloading: SE" says a good starting load is 4.0 grains.

    That load seems to work very well, but I'd like to downgrade it a
    bit. I have only begun practicing the art and science of reloading
    here recently, and thus far have been sticking to the book.

    (I have a Lee anniversary kit, and so far have only done a little over
    a thousand rounds reloaded...still doing a lot of learning!)

    But what do you like for mild target loads?

    Also, what is the lower limit? How low can you really go?

  2. Sheldon

    Sheldon Well-Known Member

    For really light loads I like the 148 grain wadcutter bullets over a light charge of Bullseye powder.
  3. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Well-Known Member

    Since you're a beginning reloader, then I think your safest bet is to use IMR Trail Boss powder, since it's so bulky, there wouldn't be any danger of double charging. Just use the starting loads and you should come up with what you're looking for.

    My personal preference is for the 148 grain Hollow Base Wadcutter and 2.7 grains of Bullseye. The problem with this load is you can get up to four charges of 2.7 grains inside the case and even a double charge will blow up most handguns. I've seen them grenade on the firing line in a match, and it's not a pretty sight.

    If you stick with the Trail Boss, you can't go wrong.

    Hope this helps.

  4. Ohen Cepel

    Ohen Cepel Well-Known Member

    I use the same load as Fred. However, he has a great point about Trail Boss. If I wasn't set up with a Star press I would use it. Adds an extra level of safety.
  5. loadedround

    loadedround Well-Known Member

    I shot a S&W model 52 in 38 Spl back in my competion days and the standard target load was, and still is, a 148 gr HBLWC under 2.7 gr of Bullseye with a W-W SP primer. Bullet was seated flush with the case mouth and just a kiss of crimp. This load is probably the most accurate mid range 38 Spl load around. BTW, we used Speer bullets back then, but Hornady's are just as good.
  6. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    I got some Trail Boss to try for just that reason, but have been busy with .45 loads and have not tried it yet.
    I have been shooting 4.1 Grs. 700X and 3.3 Grs. AA # 2 with a Lead 148 Gr. DEWC. Bought some Pltd. Raniers to try, but have not yet.
    The 700X is bulkier and a bit more accurate in my Mod. 14.
    My Mod. 14 does not seem to like 158 Gr. bullets, or maybe I just did not find the right load for them.

    These loads are safe in my gun with my load technique. Use at your own risk.
  7. MCgunner

    MCgunner Well-Known Member

    I've been loading and shooting this one for years. It's a very economical load. Good reloading practices will insure no double charges.
  8. benedict1

    benedict1 Well-Known Member

    I have tried Unique in the 4 gr. range but find that 3.9 gr. Win 231 with a 158 gr Berry's plated RN bullet is really nice. OAL~ 1.44"

    Soft and accurate. I shoot them in a Ruger New Blackhawk with 6.5" bbl. I have shot them up to 15 yds with good results.
  9. 45-4-me

    45-4-me Member

    For me and my .38's, I use 3.5 gr. WW231 with 158 gr. semi-wadcutter. Always worked good for me.
  10. Fu-man Shoe

    Fu-man Shoe Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the replies thus far gentlemen!

    As a new reloader, so far the only powder I have used is Unique.

    I recall reading about Trail Boss in a gunrag a while back, the
    bulky powder that is formed into little rings. Sounds interesting.

    I'll have to try some of that...it doesn't appear to be any more
    expensive than Unique.

    But I just got a fresh pound of Unique here a bit ago, so I'd like
    to continue using that. I've been using a reloading tray, and
    trying to be *extremely* careful about overcharging or double-

    I think what I'll try is working down from 4.0 grn, maybe to 3.8,
    and then ever slightly lower.

    What I wonder is this: How low is too low?

    When will I know that I'm loading them too weak? Is it dangerous
    to load them below a certain point? Obviously, if too weak, it's
    possible to get a bullet stuck in the tube, but wouldn't you pretty
    much have to do a primer only load to have that happen?

    What say you?
  11. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Well-Known Member

    You'll know when you've loaded them too light. Your primers will tell you when you've gone too low with your powder charge. Here's how it works:

    When the primer detonates, the pressure from the primer compound drives the primer back out of the primer pocket as far as the back plate of the revolver will allow it to go. When the primer flash ignites the powder in the case, the resultant burning of the powder produces gas, which in turn propels the bullet down the barrel. This pressure also expands the case to seal the chamber and drives the case back against the backing plate of the revolver, thereby reseating the primer flush with the case.

    When you start getting fired primers that aren't flush with the case, then you'll know you're not producing enough pressure to drive the case back and reseat the primer. You'll also get a lot of black soot on the outside walls of the case, indicating that the case isn't expanding enough to completely seal the chamber. A little sooting is normal with light loads, but excessive sooting isn't.

    Hope this helps.

    Last edited: Dec 21, 2006
  12. ilbob

    ilbob Well-Known Member

    I use 3.0 gr of BE for my Model 52. It is the lightest charge the reliably cycles it, although I have heard of people shooting as low as 2.7 grains with the same bullet. I tried going down and had issues with cycling so stayed at 3.0.

    If you are revolver shooting, cycling the action is not an issue.
  13. saltydog452

    saltydog452 Well-Known Member

    Revolvers 'cycle' also.

  14. HiWayMan

    HiWayMan Well-Known Member

    I use 3.5gr Unique with a 148gr wadcutter seated flush and a bit of crimp. Damn accurate out of a 4" tube, but often keyholes at 30' with a 2" barrel.

    If you want the ultimate in light target loads for new shooters.......wax bullets.
    I use Gulf canning wax and CCI magnum SPP. A box of 4 bricks of wax will make 200 rounds for $1.80. A slight pop and a hole appears in the target. Fairly accurate to 20'. I love them for draw and fire defensive practice.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2006
  15. Fu-man Shoe

    Fu-man Shoe Well-Known Member

    That sounds pretty nifty HiWayMan. I'd like to try that.

    What do you do, just prime the brass and stick it into
    the wax and just kind of get a plug of it in there?

    I wonder if those are quiet enough that you should shoot
    those in the backyard? :evil:
  16. SIRVEYR666

    SIRVEYR666 Well-Known Member

    Yeah, you can shoot them in the backyard. Heck, you can shoot them in the kitchen.:evil: They sound like an air rifle going off. They are kinda neat.
  17. ZeSpectre

    ZeSpectre Well-Known Member

    Another good idea would be to mosey over to the SASS site (or any cowboy action shooting site for that matter) and ask the reloaders what they use.
  18. HiWayMan

    HiWayMan Well-Known Member

    Wax Bullets

    Ok........the wax bullet process....see "No Second Place Winner" by Bill Jordan for what I believe is the first published account. What??? You don't have this in your library? For shame.........

    Deprime and size your fired .38 brass. Using a drill bit ever so slightly bigger than the flashhole drill out said flashholes. Since you have done this you can never use this brass with loads requiring powder ever again. They are now dedicated wax loads.

    You must not prime the case first, as this makes an incompressible air column.

    Take a Gulf wax brick, they are about 5/8" thick, and push the case thru the block. To make this easier you can warm the whole block in warm water first or do what I do. I have a small hairdryer, wallyworld $7, that I turn on high and direct onto my pile of cases. This warms the cases and allows them to somewhat melt their way thru the block. You don't want them hot to the touch, just warm enough to cut down on the resistance. I use a small block of wood under my thumb to push the case thru.

    You can push them all in one at a time and then unload the block or press one and pull it out right away. I like the latter method as I can get more out of a block this way. Save any excess wax, as this can be melted down to make more blocks later.

    Now I remove the de-priming pin from my die and size them again, as it is possible to deform the mouth a bit when pressing them thru. I like to take an unsharpened pencil and press the wax to the bottom of the case. I leave them this way and only prime right before I plan on shooting them.

    If you want to store them ready to shoot, then DO NOT press the wax to the bottom of the case and prime away. Store them with the mouth down. The reason for this is that if they get to warm the wax can melt some and deactivate the primer. Storing them this way cuts down on this.

    Store in a cool place, like the basement, away from the furnace. I also mark the case head with a black sharpie so I don't mix the brass in with good stuff.

    That's about all there is to it. I cranked out 50 in about 15mins last night. You should brush the bore of your gun and cylinder before firing live ammo, but I rarely do. I haven't been bit in the ass by it yet, but I imagine that at some time it will get me with my rotten luck.

    Sirveyr666 and I have shot them at IDPA targets and they landed about 50 feet past the target. I have to talk him into trying some force on force with these sometime. Collect the bullet if you can find it and re-melt it as well. I love these for training new shooters and old shooters alike. If you are having a bad range day, pop some of these and diagnose what you are doing wrong without the distraction of recoil and muzzle blast.

    A word about re-melting the wax. I store my excess wax in a large spaghetti jar. Place that jar in a pot of water on the stove, a double boiler, and heat it up slowly. When all the wax is melted pour it into a form, I use a Gulf wax box sealled up with Duct tape cut to the proper height for one block. It is slow, but damn cheap.

    Also, I shoot them indoors in limited quantities. If you do open a window and place a fan in it. After all, primers do contain trace amounts of lead.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2006

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