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38 spl question

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by jhamilt, Dec 29, 2011.

  1. jhamilt

    jhamilt Member

    Hi all, been reading up on reloading for a while and just got a hornady kit. I'm trying to put together some 38 practice loads, using 158 gr lead round nose flat point bullets from sutlers creek. The only powder I found in town was HP38, which is a range of 3.1-3.7 grns for a 158 gr lead bullet, with a col of 1.475. The problem is that when I seat the bullets in the crimping groove,O I get a col of 1.428. What should I do? Should I just seat them out further and ignore the crimping groove? Both my 38s are +P rated, (taurus 82 and ruger lcr 357) My powder measure is dropping 3.4 grains, measured at least every 3rd round. Would I be ok to just load them and not worry about it?
  2. Haxby

    Haxby Well-Known Member

    Yep, just load them and don't worry about it.
    That's a very light load. My guess is you're looking at cowboy competition loads.
  3. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    You load revolver bullets to the crimp groove, regardless of what the book says OAL should be.

    The book wasn't using bullets from Sutlers Creek's mold I betcha!

    There are about a kazillion differnet bullet molds made over the last 100 years for that bullet, and no two designs are exactly the same.

  4. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Yep, seat them so you can roll crimp into the crimp groove. That is the correct OAL for that bullet, whatever it may be.

  5. Josh45

    Josh45 Well-Known Member

    Yup, What Walkalong and RCModel said.

    Crimp them in the cannelure.
  6. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Well-Known Member

    OAL irrelevant?

    OAL is not the critical dimension. The volume UNDER the bullet is.

    The only reason we use OAL (overall length) is that we cannot directly measure the volume under the bullet on a loaded round. So, the OAL is a proxy for the distance from the bullet's base to the bottom of the inside of the case.

    Please don't tell me it either bullet is a hollow base bullet. That would add another element of complexity.

    So, to be more confident that you are within specs, you have to do some arithmetic.

    1) Measure the length of your 158 grain RNFP (round nose flat point) bullet. Write that down. For best results, measure several and get an average.

    2) Look in your loading manual for the length of the 158 grain BULLET they cite.

    3) Subtract THEIR bullet length from their cited cartridge OAL and add YOUR bullet length.

    That should be your cartridge's OAL.

    If it is off from that figure, then you can adjust your powder charge to accomodate the difference in pressure you can expect.

    You will have to consult with ballisticians more educated than I am to get recommendations of how much adjustment to apply, because the adjustments are not straight proportions.

    If you want to put an even finer point to it, note that the bearing surface of the bullet on the barrel also will affect the pressure, but that is probably too fine a distinction to matter much.

    Just watch the bullet weight and that free space under the bullet. The pressure is inversely superproportional to the volume and can get dangerous if there is too much OR too little free volume.

    Good luck and thanks for asking our advice. Post dimensions if you want me to go further.

    Lost Sheep

    p.s. I do agree with most of the others' advice here. Seat to the crimping groove. Most of the time, the position of crimp groove has been adjusted so that the nose shape's effect on the free volume is nil. All my arithmetic usually does is confirm that the folks who designed the bullet shape were paying attention.

    If these bullets caused gun blowups, they would disappear from the marketplace pretty quickly. So, seldom is it necessary to adjust the powder charge for case volume.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2011
  7. billybob44

    billybob44 Well-Known Member

    ^^^All Well+Good..

    This is some impressive measuring--BUT--I go with Walkalong+rc..Seat a REVOLVER bullet on the crimp groove/canalure.
    On a revolver load your quality of crimp is more important than the slight different amount of air space between your powder and bullet base.
    As we all say---JUST my 2 cents worth..Bill.;)
  8. J-Bar

    J-Bar Well-Known Member

    OAL can be an issue in a lever action rifle such as those commonly used in Cowboy Action Shooting. Some rifles chambered for .357 Mag. will accept the shorter .38 Special without a hiccup, others get twitchy and jam. Tweaking CAS rifles to accept .38 Specials is a common procedure.

    OAL length is not going to be much of an issue in revolvers, unless you load them so long that the cylinder can't rotate!!
  9. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    Just to let you know, you got lucky the powder you found locally was HP-38 (W231) because it's one of the best .38 Special powders available. It's my favorite handgun powder.

    Like said above, lead bullets made for revolvers should be crimped in the supplied crimp groove. It's set by the manufacturer and is correct for that bullet mold.

    Your load of 3.4gr is a fairly light load and will shoot just fine for you. I load 158gr lead bullets with 4.0gr W231/HP-38 and that is my go-to load.
  10. jhamilt

    jhamilt Member

    thanks for the help, about to get some sleep then going to load up 100 rds to try out tomorrow. A little more practice with the 38s and I will start loading for my 270 and 45/70. let the fun begin :evil:. I've been wanting to do this for a while just never pulled the trigger. Glad I finally did
  11. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus


    Whenever data in a manual is given, the pressure produced with the bullet being profiled is what was produced with that bullet seated to the crimp groove or the center of the cannelure...and the cartridge OAL is taken from that. This is one of the important reasons why we should never go strictly by bullet weight when using a different manufacturer's bullet. Two bullets of identical weight/mass can result in dramatically different pressures, depending on how much of the bullet is below the crimp groove.

    Other things like jacket thickness and core composition...harder or softer...and bearing surface also factor in...but the case volume under the bullet base is critical.
  12. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    I always record the bullet length (as well as width), along with the OAL, so later on if I use a different bullet, I can do the math and see how much more or less the bullets seats inside the case. Sometimes this comes in handy.

    9MM full loads? It can be critical.

    Reason. High pressure round with very little case volume loading at or around max.

    Light .38 SPl plinking loads? Not so much, if at all.

    Reason. A low pressure round operating at even lower pressure with lots of case volume.
  13. x_wrench

    x_wrench Well-Known Member

    you do realize, now that you are reloading, and the cost per round is cut substantially, you WILL be shooting more, don't you? any cost savings that you may get for the initial month or so will very soon go out the window, any you will be shooting more and more. kind of like a druggie graduating from the occasional popping of pills, to a full blown heroin user. at this point, you are in transition mode. be very very careful. once your a junky, there is no going back!:evil::evil::what::cuss::banghead::evil:
  14. Metal Tiger

    Metal Tiger Well-Known Member

    How do you tell if your a junky? X-Wrench please let me know if I have to detox?
    Gone from 800 rounds per month to 1600. Have I reached addicted yet? I want more, does that give you a hint?
  15. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Well-Known Member

    Since your pretty low on your charge and shooting a revolver you can get away with 100 rounds. Normally you need to work up your loads. Load 10 ea in 0.1gr increments then make notes as you shoot them, for over pressure signs, accuracy, smokey/dirty...... There is nothing fun about pulling 100 bullets because they did not work in your gun.

    Just like already said, saving money is a myth, you just shoot up your savings. But your still saving money but you have nothing to show for it since it went up in smoke.
  16. Big JJ

    Big JJ Well-Known Member

    Hi Guys
    I have the same Hornady set up and I am also new to reloading.
    I am reloading 38 specials for my LCR 357.
    I have Rainier bullets with no crimp ring.
    How do I determine the seating depth of the bullet?
    Do I just use OAL?
  17. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Just load them to a reasonable looking OAL, and taper crimp them a bit. You can play with the OAL some to see if longer or shorter shoots better.

    I have loaded similar plated bullets (125 & 158 Gr) in .38 cases anywhere from 1.415 to 1.445 OAL.
  18. USSR

    USSR Well-Known Member

    If it's a SWC bullet, I load them so I can crimp over the shoulder.

  19. jhamilt

    jhamilt Member

    Yeah I'm well aware that I will be shooting more, thats whats making me happy. I figured it up, and I'm saving 2/3rds of what a box of factory ammo costs, but like has been said, that just means I get to shoot up more. Is it a bad thing that I have my next 5 orders from midway planned out? Think I'm already to junkie status.
  20. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    I have some moly coated bullets with no crimp groove similar to plated.
    I seat them to about the same OAL as factory LRN and taper crimp. That comes out noticeably longer than the usual hemispherical nosed commercial cast revolver bullet.

    I think the main thing on these smooth sided bullets is to do the taper crimp near the front of the full diameter bearing surface. I don't want a lot of bearing surface to have to push into the chamber throat and I don't want to crimp over the ogive where it will have little effect.

    Old old Hercules load data gave the seating depth instead of overall length. That gave a better picture of working volume but required the loader actually do arithmetic akin to Lost Sheep's. OAL is much more convenient, these days only requiring the loader to read a digital caliper.

    I don't load more than the high end of standard .38 Special anyhow. I once worked in the border between standard and +P, depending on which manual you go by, but have now got a load that equals the old standard police special 158 @ 850 within standard pressure levels.

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