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setting up for 357 and 38special

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by tt5, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. tt5

    tt5 Member

    I picked up a 686 yesterday. :) .
    Guns Galore in Fenton, MI beat the big online shops prices, without the wait for shipping.

    I expect that most of what I load will be magnum cases with wadcutters and light powder loads, but I want the flexibility of running 38 spl cases too. So far I've been loading 9mm luger, so this is a bit of a departure.

    I use a Lee Turret press and I figure I'll get a Lee 4 die 38sp/357 set and a new turret disk.

    Which dies do I need to elevate with 0.135" spacers so that i can flex between 357 and 38spl? Clearly the seating and crimp dies need to be elevated, but do the size/deprime and flare/powder dies need it? Can I expect a lot of extra variability in with spacers?

    How picky do I need to be about case length with that roll-crimp? Trim them the first time? Do 357 cases grow?

    Anyone want to suggest your favorite lead wadcutter or semiwadcutter for a 6" 686?

    Any other advice for a newb?
  2. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    You have it, the sizer is set the same and the spacer is needed for the expander, seater, and if you crimp in a second step, the crimp die as well.

    .38 Spl cases can vary a great deal on length, so I like to trim mine. If you have a bunch of cases all pretty uniform, it is not so critical, and some people never trim .38 cases regardless of the variances.

    The more uniform the case length, the more uniform the crimp. It is up to you how picky you wish to be. Here is a thread with many crimp pics.

  3. Boxerrider

    Boxerrider Well-Known Member


    I trim revolver cases before I load them the first time. I get a nice consistent crimp that way. I keep batches of brass together and they seem to stay consistent through multiple loadings.

  4. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Well-Known Member

    If you don't actually own a 38 Special-chambered gun, I recommend doing what I do. Aside from one 50-round box of 38 Special brass I bought in 1975 and used until it wore out, I have never owned a single piece of 38 Special. (Well, I don't count those few pieces I occasionally find at the shooting range which I give to a friend .)

    Since 1976 none of my guns (357 Magnum or 44 Magnum) have ever chambered a Special cartridge. It makes logistics easier to manage, eliminates the need to adjust dies at all. Downloading Magnum brass to Special velocities is not difficult or dangerous.

    That's what I do. Before you get invested in 38 brass, I recommend you consider it.

    Congratulations on your new revolver. Thanks for asking our advice.

    Lost Sheep
  5. JoeDaddy

    JoeDaddy Well-Known Member

    Solid advice from Lost Sheep. Save yourself the hassles and stick with 357 mag cases. You also won't get the carbon build up that the shorter 38 cases can leave in your cylinders.
  6. 627PCFan

    627PCFan Well-Known Member

    Lost sheep nailed it.
  7. beatledog7

    beatledog7 Well-Known Member

    ^^ Except that .38SPL brass is so much more readily available and cheaper than .357 brass. That factor is why I started loading .38SPL cases with the .357 in mind. They cycle and shoot fine, and I can get an extra into the tube of my Marlin.

    This price factor doesn't seem to hold for .44Mag and .44SPL, as they are about the same in terms of availability and price. YMMV.
  8. tt5

    tt5 Member

    Thanks all.

    My shopping list is growing. Doesn't it always?
    • Lee Turret disk
    • Lee die set
    • Hornady lock rings
    • 0.135 Redding die spacers
    • Lee 357 trimmer shell holder and pin
    • Maybe the Redding profile crimp die if I'm not happy with the FCD
    • Brass
    • Bullets

    I think the crimp will take a lot of experimenting, but I'll start with consistent case length.

    Sheep, Joedad, 627pc- I plan to load everything in magnum cases for all the reasons you mentioned. I'll put the spacers on and probably never load a 38 special.
    But there's a guy at work who's offered me a bag of 38 special brass, and I have the 50 from yesterday, and... Sticking to the plan may be difficult.

    I think I'll go down to the basement and feed the monster by loading a few boxes of 9mm.
  9. Direwolf

    Direwolf Member

    I agree. I only wish I had thought of that before I bought 1000 pcs of 38spl brass! I've had them for years and haven't ever loaded them. I did clean them and deprime them but that's as far as I got before I decided to just go with 357 brass.
  10. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Well-Known Member

    With 38 Special level loads, the 357 magnum cases will darn near last forever. Original cost of the case is insignificant over its life.
  11. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Well-Known Member

    The seating-crimp die is the only one. The sizing die stays the same, and the expanding die is easy to set and not critical. But if you make a "pattern" cartridge you can set your dies up in a matter of seconds without a spacer.
  12. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Well-Known Member

    If you are not going to use 38 Special, you don't need the spacer.

    You don't have to buy the Hornady lock rings unless you find you are not happy with the Lee lock rings. The Lee rings have been working fine for me.

    Whether you crimp with the Lee FCD 1) as is or 2) modified (by removing the post-sizing ring which can SOMETIMES reduce neck tension, particularly with oversized lead bullets) or 3) a spare seat-crimp die with the seating stem removed or 4) the Redding profile crimp die or 5) some other crimp die is up to you. Just don't spend too much money before you determine your needs.

    Check out the kit from Kempf's gun shop. It includes dies and omits the scale (allowing you to pick one easier to use than Lee Precision's accurate but finicky scale).

    Brass and bullets are usually left off the list as they are a given. But if you do put those on your list, the other consumables, powder and primers should be included, yes?

    Good luck.

    Lost Sheep
  13. TrueTexan

    TrueTexan Well-Known Member

    I agree. I just switched to using only 357 mag brass saves me time and trouble also makes cleaning the cylinder easier, no carbon buildup from the 38 spl.
  14. tt5

    tt5 Member

    Lost Sheep,
    I should have been clearer above. I'm already reloading 9mm on a Lee Turret. My shopping list is the stuff I need or am considering to add 357/38 loading capability to the equipment I already have.

    Good points there. The Lee rings are working fine for me with my 9mm setup, but that's dialed in and I don't fiddle with it except for the seating die when I change bullets. If I decide to drop the option to load 38spl, I'll skip the spacers and locking rings. That's $20 I probably don't need to spend.

    This afternoon I read the crimp thread that Walkalong linked in post 2. That got me all tangled up in the world of taper and roll crimps. I'll use the FCD for a while. If I'm not happy with that, I can start to experiment with other dies.

    I got my set from Kempf last year. This time I just need dies and the 4 hole disk that holds them.

    I'm using W231 now and CCI-500 primers for 9mm. The W231 should work fine for the light, slow loads I'm planning. I accidentally bought a box of CCI-550's a couple of months ago, so that's covered.
  15. Maj Dad

    Maj Dad Well-Known Member

    Since I own 38s & 357s, I have both sizes of brass. Once in a blue moon I get one of the wrong size in the reloading queue, but I try to pay attention to what I'm doing and double check all the way (I know, an unproven concept ;)) As far as the 38s causing problems in 357 cylinders, I use another unproven tactic: cleaning them, and using a Lewis Lead Remover if need be. That little gem works wonders and I use it probably more than required, but it's easy and effective. I don't take issue or find fault with anyone who confines their brass to one size, just point out that it doesn't have to be a major pain provided you are a little OC... like me... :p
  16. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Well-Known Member

    Since you said in post #1 you'll be shooting lead bullets, I strongly recommend crimping with the seating die and save the Factory Crimp Die for later *if* you need it. The bullets will have a crimp groove that you'll crimp into, so there's no downside to crimping and seating in the same operation. It just takes a little practice setting up the die.
  17. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Well-Known Member

    No confusion is warranted. It's just a matter of chamber fit.

    Taper crimps are necessary for cartridges that headspace on the case mouth. A roll crimp may cause malfunction.

    Usually autoloading pistols.

    For cases that headspace on the rim (or extractor groove, as in moonclipped cases) roll crimp is standard. But there is no reason a taper crimp could not be used.

    Usually revolvers.

    Lee's FCD (Factory Crimp Die) for typically revolver chamberings is a roll crimp and for typically autoloader chamberings is a taper crimp.

    I forgot you mentioned that you already reload.

    Lost Sheep
  18. tt5

    tt5 Member

    again, lots of good points.

    Maj Dad- sticking to one case will help avoid mixing similar cases, but it will also eliminates another stack of plastic tubs of cases of various ages and stages of processing. That's the theory anyway.

    Zxcvbob, Lost Sheep- Have I got this right?
    • If I go with a 3 die set with the roll crimp in the seating die, I'd be covered for bullets with a crimping cannelure.
    • Then if I later use a jacketed or plated bullet with no groove, I can back out the seating die so it doesn't crimp, then add a taper crimp die in the 4th position.

    If I'd just go buy the silly thing and try it out instead of obsessing at the keyboard, it'd probably become clear very fast.
  19. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Exactly right. I'll add you can always back out the seating die and roll crimp in a fourth step if you wish as well.
  20. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Well-Known Member

    The seating dies in the 3-die set and the 4-die set are exactly the same. Both will do a roll crimp if you adjust them to do it.

    I recommend getting the 4 die set and not using the 4th die. It costs what, $7 more? Then if you ever need the FCD, you'll have it.

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