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"Best" Powders for .38 Spl-.357 Mag

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by riverdog, Apr 6, 2008.

  1. riverdog

    riverdog Well-Known Member

    Doing some research on the best powders to buy to build up a few loads from .38 Special (standard pressure) to .357 Mag rifle loads.

    The.38 Special (standard pressure) will be fired in a S&W Mod 12 (alloy frame) and a non +P S&W Mod 14. I'll probably use both 148 gr LWC and 158 gr LSWC for these guns.

    A light .357 magnum target load for my 6" S&W Mod 19. 158 gr LSWC @<1000 FPS.

    For my 4" Mod 27 and 6" Mod 28 I'd like something in a 158 gr JHP @ ~1250 FPS.

    Last would be a load specifically tailored for a Marlin 1894C (micro-groove rifling).

    As I understand, Unique & Win 231 are good general purpose powders for the .38 Spl and should also work for the .357 light target load. 2400 seems to be a good powder for the .357 Magnum and should work well in a rifle load. Are there pros/cons to these powders over others?
  2. paperpuncher49

    paperpuncher49 Well-Known Member

    My personal favorite for handgun loads in the 38/357 has always been Unique. Some will say it is dirty, but I do not find it any worse than most other propellants. In the rifle, it would be hard to beat H110 (Win 296) if you are looking for highest possible velocity. However, I have used Unique, as well as Blue Dot, Bullseye, and a host of others in .357 rifle loads.
  3. evan price

    evan price Well-Known Member

    Winchester 231 or Hodgdon Hp38(Same powder). Good all around powder for target loads.

    If you want to maximize the Magnum cartridge a powder like Win 296 or Hodgdon H110 (again, same powder) will get you there.

    DUCKNDAWG Well-Known Member

    I like titegroup for mine, I want to try bullseye
  5. riverdog

    riverdog Well-Known Member

    Isn't Bullseye too fast for a long barrel?
  6. Mr.Revolverguy

    Mr.Revolverguy Well-Known Member

    Try HS-6 here. My favorite is 6.2gr it give me 915fps out of a 4in S&W66 and GP100. With this load I have actually been able to place 13 rounds in the 10 ring at 12yrds. I just have not been able to beat that score yet which sucks.

    I have tried tightgroup and 231 for this purpose. Only difference, mine is a S&W 64 and S&W 60 both snub noses. I have settled on 231. Accuracy was about the same but tightgroup burned so hot that my barrel leaded up more with it. If you happen to use copper plated then tightgroup has the edge on accuracy. With both of these snub noses, slow fire I can hold 8 shots in the 10 ring at 12 yrds. Rapid fire my record is 14 shots all within the 9 and 10 ring at 12 yrds.

    Yes it is a M64. Used a little Mothers Polish on it. Had to post pictures.

  7. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    for 148gr DEWC rounds I use a lot of W231. I find it to be a clean and accurate powder. Likewise for the 158gr SWC rounds.

    There are a few good powders for light sub-1000 fps lead rounds in the .357 Magnum. You can use W231, HS-6, Longshot, Universal, Power Pistol, Herco or 2400 with good success. If you want to use only two powder stick with W231 in a Magnum case for those lead rounds, this way you can use W296 for full power Magnum loads. If you want a slower powder for those lead Magnum rounds you can use 2400 because it can be down-loaded but when used for heavy Magnum rounds you won't get the same velocity as with W296/H110 and a 158gr Jacketed bullet.

    I load a lot of Hornady 180gr XTP bullets for my Marlin using W296/H110 and I'm testing Lil'Gun too. I'm also going to test some 180gr Cast Performance Lead bullets sometime soon. I'm not sure which powder to use but I think it will be W296 since those CP bullets are Gas Checked.
  8. riverdog

    riverdog Well-Known Member

    Thanks, that's just what I was looking for. Those two powders should be able to meet most of near term goals. I can fine tune and experiment later.

    I'm assuming magnum primers in all but the .38 Spl load.
  9. evan price

    evan price Well-Known Member

    Actually, you won't need MAgnum primers for the W231 loads- only for the W296. W296 is harder to ignite and needs th hotter primer.

    A pistol being a Magnum caliber is NOT what denotes need of a Magnum primer.

    I load my .357 Magnums with regular primers and Titegroup. In my hot ones, I use AA#9 and a Magnum primer.
  10. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Unique for handgun short-barrel .357.

    2400 for rifle.
    Do Not down-load 2400, W296, or H110 very much, or you will be having a lot of unburned power and sub-par performance.
    It needs to be cranking near full pressure to get a good burn.

    For light target loads, Bullseye, W231, and a few other fast powders work better then either Unique, or especially, 2400.

  11. The Bushmaster

    The Bushmaster Well-Known Member

    rcmodel...I've been getting and average of 1100fps using W-231 under a 140 grain SJHP from my 2 1/2" S&W mod 19. I would say that is not a light load, but within load manual specs. I really believe that people under sell W-231 and call it a mid range powder when it is not when used with short or snub nosed revolvers. W-231 also does well in my 2' S&W mod 10 too...

    In my longer .357 magnum barrels like 4" or better I prefer W-296 or Alliant 2400...
  12. Steve C

    Steve C Well-Known Member

    W231 and Unique are my 2 main powders for lead bullets in all my handguns from .32 s&w long to .41 magnum. I like W231 a bit better for the .38 spl but when optimizing velocity in lower pressure cartridges like the .38 and .45 acp Unique is my go to powder.

    Its hard to beat 2400 for a magnum powder. H110 and W296 haven't shown me any improvement over 2400 loads. Since you use 2 to 3 grains more H110 or W296 I seldom use them except for .357 mag rifle loads.

    A 14.0grs of 2400 in the .357 mag will give you a 158gr jacketed load right on factory standard and chrono's at 1,248 fps from my 4" S&W 66 and 1,354 fps from my 6" Colt Trooper. Use standard primers with 2400, with magnum primers I've got pierced and cratered primers at 14 grs.

    Another powder that I like almost as well as 2400 is AA#9. The charge weights are similar to 2400 though its a tad faster and you get similar velocities with a grain less. If you want to push a hard cast bullet to mag velocities 12.2grs puts a 158gr LSWC out the barrel of my 4" 66 at 1,258 fps. AA#9 is a denser powder than 2400 and takes up less room in the case. If your store is out of 2400 then #9 is a good 2nd choice.
  13. mag

    mag Member

    I used 18 gr of LiL'Gun under a Remington 158 gr SJHP with a mag primer, and got an average of 1223 fps out of a 2.25" Ruger SP101.

    Mike G.
  14. freakshow10mm

    freakshow10mm member

    Target loads: Unique, W231, AA #5
    Medium loads: Longshot, Blue Dot, 2400, AA #9
    Magnum loads: simply W296/H110
  15. tlen

    tlen Well-Known Member

    I use Herco for all my handgun loads. Herco burns slower than Unique but faster than Blue Dot. It is fast enough for light target loads and slow enough for magnum loads. Herco is also cheaper than other Alliant powders @ Sportsman's Warehouse.
  16. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Well-Known Member

    You got that backwards (Herco is slower than Unique and faster than Blue Dot), but Herco is a great powder; I love it for magnum pistol cartridges with heavy cast bullets.

    WSF seems to be interchangeable with Herco as long as you work up from a starting load. WSF measures better than Herco, although with large charges they all seem to measure OK.
  17. tlen

    tlen Well-Known Member

    Ooops, getting old; corrected the post......Thanks
  18. moxie

    moxie Well-Known Member

    For the light .38 loads, the classic formula is 148 gr. wadcutters over 2.7-2.8 grs. Bullseye. For mid-power .38 and .357 loads it's hard to top Unique. And as you mentioned, 2400 is terrific for hot .357 loads. These three powders will fulfill virtually all your handgun reloading needs.
  19. Pilot

    Pilot Well-Known Member

    For target loads I also use HP-38 or W231.
  20. SSN Vet

    SSN Vet Well-Known Member

    accuracy load for .357 cases w/ 158 gr JFP

    bullet = 158 gr. Zero Jfp

    brass = once fired .357 mag. brass (not looking for .38 spl brass loads)

    powders = W231 or 2400

    Goal = a nice 'temperate', ACCURATE load to shoot from a revolver w/ a 6" barrel

    Thanks in advance

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