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Old Yesterday, 08:34 PM   #1
Join Date: September 24, 2010
Location: New Hampshire
Posts: 353
Thinking of Getting Into 38 Special

Good Evening,

I thinking about getting a Ruger GP100 with a 6" barrel for target/plinking/range fun.

What is a "standard" or "baseline" load in 38 Special? I've got a fair amount of experience in autoloaders but none in revolvers.

I've got Bullseye, Titegroup, and Power Pistol on hand as well as some 700X, Green Dot, Longshot, and Blue Dot for shotguns that may cross over to revolvers.

My impression is that a 158 gr LSWC is a good place to start. Is another bullet weight/style better for my purposes?

I tend to think of cast lead bullets with revolvers. Any reason to go to fmj or plated?

This appeals to me because I can download nice, easy target loads and yet have the ability to crank it up with full-house 357 Magnum rounds for the rare situation that requires it.

Thanks for any input.

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Old Yesterday, 09:17 PM   #2
Join Date: February 12, 2008
Location: Northern Michigan
Posts: 420
The Speer 148 gr HBWC over 2.7 gr of Bullseye is the classic
"NRA Bullseye Load" for .38 Special.

I load and shoot a lot of these out of a S&W Model 15. Very mild and accurate. A pound of Bullseye goes a long way.
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Old Yesterday, 09:18 PM   #3
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Join Date: September 17, 2007
Location: Eastern KS
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Standard loads for the .38 Special have been a 158 grain lead RN at about 850 FPS, or a Mid-Range Match 148 grain LWC at about 750 FPS for ever.

The 158 SWC or 148 WC is more effective on small game killing, but both are slower to speed reload then the LRN.

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Old Yesterday, 09:28 PM   #4
Join Date: July 22, 2012
Location: LV county KS
Posts: 1,435
3.2gr of Red Dot and a Missouri Bullet 158gr LSWC. Thats an amazing load that I worked up for my dad's 4" GP100. Quite accurate out to 100 yards if your eyes are good and your hands are steady.
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Old Yesterday, 09:31 PM   #5
Dirt Diver
Join Date: January 1, 2010
Location: Piedmont NC
Posts: 8
Welcome to the revolver world!! Your revolver does not eject 6 feet away, back and to the right. It ejects straight down into either your palm or easy to retrieve piles o' brass Your back will soon thank you!

Reloading for the .38 Special is what got me through the .22LR shortage. Now it's my go-to range plinking all-around fun caliber to shoot.

I like the 158 gr. LSWC over 3.5 gr of Titegroup. Makes for a fun afternoon of showing those tin cans who's the boss!
"...an elegant weapon of a more civilized age"
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Last edited by Dirt Diver; Yesterday at 09:37 PM.
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Old Yesterday, 10:02 PM   #6
Join Date: November 20, 2006
Location: Alabama
Posts: 37,551
158 gr SWC is indeed a good place to start, and your Bullseye, Green Dot, or 700X will all work well. I really like 700X and lead in .38 Spl. I would try the Green Dot with that bullet weight as well.

I am sure Titegroup would work as well, I'm just not a Titegroup fan.
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Old Yesterday, 10:08 PM   #7
Average Joe
Join Date: August 29, 2005
Location: Easton, PA
Posts: 990
Unique and the 158 grain have been a long standard. HP38 is also good, note the 38 stands for 38 special, and of course W231 ( same as HP38).
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Old Yesterday, 11:09 PM   #8
Steve C
Join Date: January 5, 2006
Posts: 4,314
Of the powders you list, Bullseye, Green Dot, TightGroup and 700X are most suitable for .38 spl standard pressure target loads using lead bullets in the 148 to 158gr weight. Load data is plentiful though you may have to look at older data for Green Dot loads.

Don't use a hard bullet as hard bullets will usually lead at the low pressure of the .38 spl. Swagged bullets from Speer or Hornady and Missouri Bullet Co. Brinell 12 Cowboy and Target bullets or others of similar hardness level work best with little to no leading.
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Old Yesterday, 11:27 PM   #9
Join Date: November 30, 2003
Posts: 2,945
You might look into coated cast bullets, low prices, no leading.
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Old Yesterday, 11:35 PM   #10
Join Date: November 14, 2008
Location: Cornelia, GA
Posts: 3,666
Welcome !

Ruger has a new model of the GP100 called the "Match Champion" which you may want to look into. It's basically a highly refined GP100 with special grips and other internal changes just for target shooting and other high accuracy endeavors. It's fairly new and hard to find, but well worth your internet time to research.
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Old Today, 12:23 AM   #11
Join Date: September 18, 2004
Posts: 591
You could also do with your GP100, what I do with my still-pristine 1962-built Smith Model 19...shoot .38 Special-ish loads, in .357 Brass.

4.0 Gr of 231, Starline .357 Brass, Russian primers, and a 158 Gr LSWC.

You would have to shoot it to believe how well it shoots. Better than I can shoot.
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Old Today, 01:15 AM   #12
Join Date: December 21, 2002
Location: Nashville, Tn.
Posts: 2,344
I have used Unique, HP38, Bullseye, and WST over the years. All good. All fun.

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Old Today, 01:19 AM   #13
Join Date: February 1, 2014
Posts: 2,359
38 SPL is low pressure and low velocity. There is no reason not to load cast. I load 38 cases so weak I can watch the bullet travel down range...or hot enough to ring the wrist and ears. Lots of powders work because your not trying to do anything other than drive a bullet with it, your not trying to work an action or drop a deer at 400 yards. On load setups, any .358 or .359 bullet will work, but the 150+- grain bullets are the norm.
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Old Today, 01:24 AM   #14
Join Date: June 21, 2008
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I load over 15k of the Missouri bullet 357 Action! bullet each year. While these are a BHN18 bullet I load them in 38 loads that are below starting charge with AA#2, real pipsqueak loads. I get ZERO leading.

If the bullets are a good fit for the throat they don't need to be any softer. This allows you to keep one bullet for soft plinkers and hard hitting magnum loads. For example I load that bullet over 3.5gr AA#2 in 38 cases and over 14.5gr 2400 in magnum cases.
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Old Today, 01:56 AM   #15
Join Date: January 20, 2015
Posts: 1
Favorite load for .38 is 6.8 gr of bluedot under a soft(er) 158 lswc. Great plinking load in both my nmbh and my 1894 marlin. Don't go too hard on your lead bullets for target loads.
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Old Today, 01:59 AM   #16
Join Date: April 17, 2012
Posts: 867
38? my favorite target caliber. brass lasts forever and you dont loose it. I shoot and load ~5k a year and have ~5k pieces of brass. In the past 3 years, ive split 4 pieces of brass. My brass WILL outlive me

I have tried bullseye, unique, hp38 and 700x. UNIQUE was a fail, poor metering and loads that did not cause leading left unburnt powder. 700X does not meter great. anything under 4.5gr in my lee pro autodisk will give me a .5-1.0gr charge 10% of the time. The next disk up works fine but 4.8gr is too heavy for a 158gr bullet. Its excellent with powder coated 105gr rn bullets! Bullseye and HP-38 are both great powders for lead. I like bullseye a hair better for softer lead loads and hp38 is good for anything from mild to wild.

If you are willing to cast your own- absolutely go with lead. or even powdercoat the suckers. If you are buying bullets, you might as well spend a few bucks more to buy some copper plated bullets.
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Old Today, 03:07 AM   #17
Join Date: March 2, 2010
Location: Saint Louis
Posts: 167
For targets and planking, I load 3.2 grains of bullsye under a 158 grn SWC from Berrys. I too shoot the GP100 blued, with a six inch barrel. I love the load, Its just enough pop to remind me what Im doing, but not enough at all to worry about. I loaded some of my brass 20 times and havnt had to trim yet. The only thing Ill say about my GP, not complain but say, is my sights were way off when I first bought it.
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