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Case length for .38 special

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by callgood, May 25, 2005.

  1. callgood

    callgood Well-Known Member

    After reloading 10mm and .45ACP, I'm getting ready to try .38 special. I have been using new brass to this point and have 500 new .38 Starline cases that I've reamed the flash holes, measured, and sorted by length.
    Since the auto cases were taper crimped I didn't worry about the lengths, which were pretty close. But since the .38s roll crimp, I sorted the brass by length- 1.375, 1.380, 1.385, etc.. Just about all of the 500 ranged from 1.1375 to 1.1475.
    The trim length in the manual is 1.145. That leaves a lot that are going to be "short." Will the difference from 1.1375 to 1.145 affect the crimp and (a)safety-pressures, etc. or (b)accuracy? I guess I could trim to 2 lengths- 1.1375 for the cases shorter than 1.145 and the rest to the 1.145 length in the manual. That way I would only have to set the crimp twice.
    This spread may not amount to enough to affect the roll crimp, but I've never seen a "don't sweat it in print."
  2. 41 Redhawk

    41 Redhawk Well-Known Member

    Here is what I would do.

    1. Load 'em up and shoot them the first time with the crimp dies set with the longest case. I might even concern myself to use a easy to light powder like bullseye or Win 231 but I doubt it.

    2. Trim those that are still too long to the trim to length.

    3. Set my crimp dies to for a perfect crimp on a trimmed case

    4. Keep loading and shooting.

    5. Repeat 2 - 4

    Keep in mind that the cases will shrink after the first firing.
  3. callgood

    callgood Well-Known Member

    "Keep in mind that the cases will shrink after the first firing."

    And I thought only George Costanza had to worry about shrinkage. Thanks for the advice, Redhawk.
  4. The Bushmaster

    The Bushmaster Well-Known Member

    Shrink??? I'll admit that .38 cases don't grow very fast, but I have not seen them shrink before. Goodcall...You indicate that you measure all your cases...That's good, keep it up. I agree with Redhawk on most of what he said except that I would set my crimping die for the mid length case instead of the longest case. I load a lot of .38 specials and the cases will last a long time. In fact it's rare that I toss any and I load 5.3 grains of W-231 under a 125 grain SJHP most of the time. Be aware that this is a max load and approach it with caution. By the way 4.5 to 5.0 grains of W-231 is an excellent way to go for most .38 specials. :cool: You might even try 140 grain SJHPs. :D
  5. Smokey Joe

    Smokey Joe Well-Known Member

    .38 case length

    Sounds like you're approaching this quite carefully, and that's a good thing.

    My opinion: The bullets should all be seated to the same OVERALL CARTRIDGE LENGTH, not to the same depth. This length can be any length that chambers in your gun. That way, you always have the same volume for your powder inside the case, and accuracy will not be affected. The brass will come up over the bullets to a slightly greater or lesser extent, depending on the length of the brass, but that is not as important. Using lead bullets, you can crimp the bullets anywhere you please--the case mouth will just make its own little "cannelure" for itself wherever you and the crimp die tell it to. The longest brass will get a little more of a crimp. The shortest brass will get a little less crimp. I set the crimp die for the average length of the brass, and try to keep all brass as close to the same length as practical. But I keep the OAL for the loaded cartridges, the same, that is, with the same bullet.

    Since you're roll crimping, I expect you're loading for a revolver rather than an autoloader. And even in an auto, a rimmed case like the .38 headspaces on the rim, not on the case mouth. So case length is not the big issue that it is with a rimless cartridge that headspaces on the mouth of the case, and has to be taper crimped--classic example of that is the .45ACP for which you have been loading.

    BTW, I've never noticed that .38 cases change length appreciably with use. Don't think I've ever had to trim one.
  6. The Bushmaster

    The Bushmaster Well-Known Member

    Hi Smokey Joe,

    I'm glad you agree with me. Although I load only jacketed bullets we are on the same page.
  7. VonFatman

    VonFatman Well-Known Member

    I don't trim any of my pistol reloads....45 ACP, 44 Mag, 45 Colt, .357, .38, 44 Special.

    I don't even own a case trimmer.

    I've measured and measured and never seen the need to trim pistol cases.

    I have a friend that does...he trims all his handloads. His bullets don't fly or land any better than mine. I think he is considering giving his trimmer a rest. He is the only shooting buddy I have who trims pistol brass.

    IMHO trimming pistol brass (unless you are some kind of competitive shooter OR enjoy the process and trim to add something to your hobby) is a waste of time.

    When I buy a single stage and begin loading rifle ammo...a case trimmer will be shipped with the press!

    Just my .02

  8. 41 Redhawk

    41 Redhawk Well-Known Member

    Try it some time. Most all of mine shrink on the first firing. Take a new case and size it, measure it, load it, fire it, size it again, and then measure it. I'll bet it is shorter. (applies to straight wall cases)
  9. The Bushmaster

    The Bushmaster Well-Known Member

    Terry, It might be a while before I have any NEW .38 special cases as I have around 5000 once fired cases in the wings. But I will remember this when I have new ones, as I even measure them before reloading because I don't trust the manufactures to give me 100% quality...
  10. callgood

    callgood Well-Known Member

    Lots of good advice. I do have a very few that were "way" long out of the sample. I may trim these <12 back just to get some experience. Hope to load 5.56 some day. Thanks, again, for all your help.
  11. Smokey Joe

    Smokey Joe Well-Known Member

    Trimming rifle brass

    Von Fatman--If you always neck-size rather than FL resize, and only use the brass in one rifle, there is hardly any growth to rifle cases, either, IMX. FL resizing each time WILL stretch the cases, and in any case [pun intended] it is not a bad idea to check the case length from time to time. But bottle-neck cases are known for stretching much more so than straight-wall cases.
  12. Guy B. Meredith

    Guy B. Meredith Well-Known Member

    Ream primer pockets? Trim cases? On Starline brass?? Bench rest shooting with a revolver?? Bullseye? :confused:

    I just reload for general paper target marksmanship shooting and IPSC, but have never bothered with case length on .38 spl. I have never heard that there is any need. I use copper plated bullets with a canalure, set all rounds to the same length and never noticed case length variance wide enough to not fall into canalure at about the 90% mark.

    By the way, taper crimp works just fine unless there is a special requirement for bullseye or something. I am using roll crimp now as it is a Hornady seating die on a Hornady LNL at the ejection station where clearance is critical if you don't want to eject manually, but have loaded thousands with an RCBS taper crimp. I intend to go back to taper with a Hornady taper die (doesn't come in the standard set) under the theory that it will be less wear on the case mouths.
  13. griz

    griz Well-Known Member

    You got me curious enough that I got out the caliper and a bunch of cases. All were 38 cases fired many times. For all but a few pieces, there was more variation between brands than among cases within the brand. The Starline and Remington were on the short side, around 1.137, with the very longest only 1.145. Federal, PMC, and WCC averaged about 1.140 to 1.145.

    I have been treating them interchangeably with respect to crimp and never noticed the difference. But I will compare the crimps on long versus short cases on the next couple batches.

    I'll check some new Starline cases soon.
  14. callgood

    callgood Well-Known Member

    "Ream primer pockets? Trim cases? On Starline brass?? Bench rest shooting with a revolver?? Bullseye?"

    Being new to reloading, I probably tend to go overboard. I got this tool to de burr the flash holes, so I drag it out while I'm watching an old movie or something. Probably doesn't make much (any) difference, but I'm just trying to start out as uniform as I can while I try to find the most accurate powder/load.
    And never having taper crimped (I started on autos) it seemed to me the case mouth wouldn't hit the cannalure at the same spot if the cases were different lengths- keep in mind I don't know if the spread on my case lengths is great enough to matter to the crimp.
    Now, a taper crimp on a revolver never occurred to me. I just started hearing about it when I posted my questions. The crimp die (Lee) I ordered
    for .38/.357 came as a roll crimp type, didn't know there was another flavor.

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