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.38s & .357, same dies?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Ranger J, Jul 2, 2007.

  1. Ranger J

    Ranger J Well-Known Member

    In several past occasions when someone had ask if you could load both .38 special and .357 mag. cartridges from the same set of dies I have piped up and said that yes, I do it all the time. I would like to qualify that. I have Lee dies and have loaded probably a thousand .38s with no trouble. I was loading jacketed SPs and just reaming the mouth of the case opened it enough to allow the bullet to be seated. A couple of nights ago I tried loading some hard cast bullets that I had been using on .357 loads and they didn’t want to go in the case well. No problem, I thought, Ill just use the case expander like I do on the .357s. Wrong, I found that the Lee case expander will not descend low enough to open up the .38s. I looked in the catalog and found that Lee sells a separate die for .38s. I checked on some other brands and found that some claim to load both .38s and .357 and some like Lee sells separate dyes. So it looks like I have a few options. I can order a separate .38 dye set, load my .38 loads in .357 cases, or order a bunch more Mag Tec JSPs. So, can I load both 38s and .357s with my Lee die? In my case, yes, if I stick to jacketed bullets.
  2. cmidkiff

    cmidkiff Well-Known Member


    I have an older steel set of lee dies, marked .38spl/.357mag. I use the expander die on either case with equal results. Yeah, you have to crank it down quit a bit, but it flairs the .38 cases just fine.

    I'll be picking up a set of carbide lee dies next weekend, marked the same, so that I don't have to mess with case lube on .38's any more. If it won't flair .357's, I'm going to be upset!

    Well, I guess I can still use the older flair die, with the new carbide resize die...

    I had noticed that Lee shows a .38spl die separate from their .357, and always wondered why on earth anyone would buy one. Perhaps you've found the reason?
  3. The Bushmaster

    The Bushmaster Well-Known Member

    I have a set of Lee carbide dies and they will open a .38 Special case up plenty wide enough to seat a lead bullet. You sure you are getting the proper adjustment?
  4. cpaspr

    cpaspr Well-Known Member

    If the dies will load .38 specials, they will also load .357 magnums, by backing out the various components. If, however, the dies are for .357 magnum, they may not necessarily load .38 specials if they aren't designed to thread in that additional tenth of an inch.
  5. baz

    baz Well-Known Member

    I have this die set, which is advertised as being for both 38 special and 357. I am just getting ready to use it for 357 for the first time. I've been using it so far for 38 special, with no problems that I'm aware of.

    I don't see any other Lee dies for 38 special or 357 magnum at MidwayUSA.
  6. Bula

    Bula Well-Known Member

    With the Lee powder Thru die, you need to screw the die in a few turns to get the case belled when going from .357 to .38's. Is the .38 case inserted all of the way (bottomed out) into the die and still not getting flared?
  7. Sunray

    Sunray Well-Known Member

    "...reaming the mouth of the case..." You don't need to ream the cases. Just bell them.
    There are some die manufacurers who want you to buy two sets of dies. Most make a .38/.357 die set that'll do both with a washer under the die to make up the difference is case length. RCBS is one. Mind you, unless you have a revolver that's .38 Special only, using .357 cases loaded to .38 Special velocities is the way to go. It eliminates the ring of lube gunk in the cylinders and doesn't change anything else.
  8. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    The only difference between the .38 Sp and .357 Mag cases is the added length of the .357 Mag case. You must readjust the Powder Through Die and the Seating Die or you will slightly crush the .357 Magnum case if you try to use the settings for .38 Special. Other than the case being slightly thicker so you have to put a little more muscle into it, there is no problem using the same Dies for both.
  9. MarineTech

    MarineTech Well-Known Member

    Truthfully, as inexpensive as Lee Carbide dies are, I bought a set for .38SPL and a set for .357 Magnum. I just set them for my standard loads and leave them alone.
  10. baz

    baz Well-Known Member

    Can you point to a source for some such loads?
  11. Hawk

    Hawk Well-Known Member

    In the case of Dillon and Redding, yes. At least with the ones I have.

    Redding even includes instructions stickied to the inside box cover for folks like me that might forget to adjust for the 1/10th difference.
  12. lee n. field

    lee n. field Well-Known Member

    I made the same mistake, back when I was starting. I bought a .357 dieset, and found that I couldn't crimp .38 special.

    Get the .38 Special die set. You'll be able to do both .38 and .357 with it. RCBS includes a spacer ring so you don't even have to mess with die adjustment to switch.
  13. Steve in PA

    Steve in PA Well-Known Member

    Thats why I use RCBS. I reload .38 and .357 with the same dies, the only exception being the spacer ring required when doing .357 reloading.
  14. benedict1

    benedict1 Well-Known Member

    The Lee Deluxe .38 Special/.357 Die in carbide will load both, as they advertise. The directions will clearly tell you how to set them up. There is no problem flaring either case.
  15. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    I have two identical RCBS .38/.357 die sets just so I won't have to keep adjusting things. I have a Lee set for .38 S&W.

    Same with .44 Spl. and .44 Mag, and again, a Lee set for .44 Russian. :)
  16. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    As said above that's not necessary. All you need to do is add the 1/8" spacer nut to change over from .38 special to .357 Magnum. I have a set of Lee Deluxe dies for 38/357 and I bought the spacer nuts from RCBS and that's that. No need to spend an extra $30-$40 when you can but the spacer for a few dollars.
  17. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    You are right, it is not necessary, but it's easier than adjusting or useing spacers, which I have as well. I used one set for a while. :)
  18. Ranger J

    Ranger J Well-Known Member

    The regular Lee carbide .357-13 die will not flare a .38 case even when screwed down so far the press won’t cam over. At least mine won’t. Just to be sure I checked last night. On page 24 of the newest Cabalas catalog they list both (Lee) a .38 and a.357 dies, separately. Marinetech, your right at $22 a fling, Lee carbide dies are cheap enough to have a set for both .38 and .357. I needed to order some more bullets anyway. I would load all my .38 loads in .357 cases if I didn’t have so many .38 empties setting on my shelf. An empty case is a terrible thing to waste.
  19. benedict1

    benedict1 Well-Known Member

    I feel like Yogi Berra, "deja vu all over again!"

    What is so hard about all this? No, .357 dies will not work for .38 Special. Yes, Lee dies advertised as .38 Special/.357 Mag WILL WORK FOR BOTH CALIBERS!

    No spacers, no fiddling, just adjust for each size case and load away.
  20. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    You are totally correct. I see no big deal with making the slight adjustments needed to change over from loading .38 Special rounds to .357 rounds but some people do. In that case I don't see why adding a small spacer is considered hard to do. For goodness sake, you unscrew the die, screw on the spacer and then replace the die into the turret. I'm guessing it will take no longer than taking the spare turret from it's case, replacing the turret and storing the removed turret in it's case... NO? lol

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