Trail Boss and the 38 S&W - THR

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Old March 9, 2013, 05:56 PM   #1
Join Date: November 16, 2011
Location: PA
Posts: 864
Trail Boss and the 38 S&W

Has anyone had any luck with loading trail boss in either 158g or 180g flat point bullets? I don't mind using unique since 38 S&W isn't exactly recoil heavy anyway, but just kind of wondering if anyone does it. Was really happy to get a jug today, Trail Boss has been pretty hard to find. I was kicking myself for not getting some last time, but I didn't make the mistake again. My store had NO primers in besides cci 35.

The gun I'm using is a Colt Police Positive Special chambered in 38 S&W.

Last edited by gfanikf; March 9, 2013 at 06:03 PM.
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Old March 9, 2013, 06:07 PM   #2
Join Date: January 25, 2010
Location: Southern Arizona
Posts: 93
I have used Trail Boss exclusively for the past three years when reloading for my CZ 550 American bolt action .30/06 rifle - 15 grains powder, Hornady .30 cal 150 gr FMJ/BT bullets (max load: 19.3 grains IAW Hodgdon formula) with very satisfactory results, therefor I am most interested in postings to this thread. My revolver is a circa. 1955 Smith & Wesson K38 Target Masterpiece with a 6" barrel.


Last edited by jamesicus; March 9, 2013 at 06:13 PM. Reason: added info
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Old March 9, 2013, 06:45 PM   #3
dagger dog
Join Date: January 30, 2008
Location: SO. IN
Posts: 2,574
I would imagine the reason behind no TrailBoss data for the 38 S&W, is beacuse there are so many old 1800's topbreak revolvers still out there that could be dangerous to shoot with smokless powder.

Your Colt not being one of those, and it is in shootable condition, you can use the universal method to work up for TB powder.

Decide on the bullet you are going to use, hold the bullet against the case with the case mouth even with the crimp cannnelure, mark the outside of the case at the bottom of the bullet, add powder in the case to that mark, place that charge on a scale and record that weight, take 70% of that weight and use that for your starting charge. Trail Boss warns against compressing , not to be done and can be dangerous.

I haven't shot the 38 S&W with TB but have shot 38 S&W Special, 45 Colt.
I do load the S&W 38 with FFg blackpowder and shoot it from a top break Iver Johnson revolver. It's fun and suprising how accurate, with a boolit that fits the bore, 38 S&W nominal diameter bullets are 0.360" as 38 S&W Specials are 0.357".

With the "powder panic of '13" going on why don't you try blackpowder in your Colt ?
With a proper lube and the design of your Colt PP it should be easy to keep clean.

Last edited by dagger dog; March 9, 2013 at 06:56 PM.
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Old March 9, 2013, 06:50 PM   #4
Join Date: November 20, 2006
Location: Alabama
Posts: 35,921
I am using N320 and plated bullets for .38 S&W. Good stuff. I imagine Trail Boss would work well with lead in the .38 S&W, but have not tried it. Trail Boss doesn't play particularly well with plated in pistol calibers, especially if you cannot fill the whole empty space. As in it would be an over charge. Very erratic. I don't see that with lead. It plays very well with lead.
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Old March 9, 2013, 09:27 PM   #5
Old Fuff
Join Date: December 24, 2002
Location: Arizona
Posts: 21,911
A Police Positive Special chambered in .38 S&W (.38 Colt New Police) is an unusual combination, but they did make some after World War Two.

Anyway, since you are handloading be aware that these revolvers have tight bores (.356") and chamber throats (.358) which were the same as Colt's .38 Special specifications. So use .358" (not .361") lead bullets.
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Old August 8, 2014, 07:27 AM   #6
Join Date: February 21, 2011
Posts: 2
Don't know if anyone is still reading this thread, but after looking it over, I loaded up five rounds using a .3cc Lee scoop, which, according to my RCBS 10-10 scale, gives 1.3 grains of Trail Boss. I based my "data" on the fact that this is the recommended scoop for at least two other powders (Green Dot and 700X) with this cartridge and a 158 gr LSWC. The primary mission in developing loads for this powder seems to be not compressing it, which does not happen with this combination. As this powder is designed to be bulky, I reasoned that if I did not compress it, I could not get enough into the case to cause any problems. I used Acme bullets sized at .358. Test gun was a Colt Police Positive. Old Fuff is correct, Colt used the same bore and throat specifications as for .38/.357 revolvers, so in this revolver, .357-.358 is the "correct" bullet diameter (your mileage may vary). Shooting this load was a pleasant experience, very little recoil, very little noise, and acceptable accuracy for a 4-inch revolver with rudimentary sights fired by a 58-year-old man in dim morning light. The box of Cheerios did not survive. If I am permitted by She Who Makes My Schedule, I will do some more serious testing this weekend.

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Old August 8, 2014, 08:27 AM   #7
Join Date: November 25, 2006
Location: Northeast PA, USA
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IMO Trail Boss isn't everything it was cracked up to be. I have has some success with it in very light .38 Special loads, in some 45 Colt rounds and in the 45-70 but accuracy isn't as good as I would want. I see no reason why it shouldn't work fairly well in the .38 S&W although I use W231 in that cartridge.
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