38/357 Bullet recommendations

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Jesse Heywood, Feb 9, 2019.

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  1. WrongHanded
    • Contributing Member

    WrongHanded Contributing Member

    Jul 6, 2017
    Having looked at some ballistic gel tests (Lucky Gunner) of .38+p in both a 2" and 4" barrels, even Hornady's own SD cartridges in both 125gr and 158gr seem not to expand at all. So it seems their ".38" caliber XTP bullets are only really designed for magnum loads. In the .357 mag offering the same bullets seem to expand more reliably.
    Galil5.56 likes this.
  2. forrest r

    forrest r Member

    Oct 6, 2016
    Interesting thread to say the least. The op never said what bbl lengths they were targeting/dealing with. Bullet selection starts with velocity & a 6" bbl'd 38spl has huge advantages over a 2" bbl'd snubnosed 38spl. Any bullet selection starts with velocity. Once a velocity is established the style/type of hp comes into play. Typically when you use bullets in the same weight range/same load the material the bullet is made out of makes a huge difference. Slowest to fastest:
    plated bullets are the slowest
    jacketed bullets
    cast bullets
    coated cast/swaged bullets tend to be the fastest

    Might not sound like much but when you can take a bullets of the same weight and get 50+fps more out of 1 bullet compared to the other simply because of the material they are made out of is huge in a snubnosed 38spl. An old ww 158gr bullet for their "fbi" 38spl load. WW knew what they we doing when they designed that bullet. It's lead which ='s higher velocities, it has a hb (hollow base) which allowes the bullet to seal the cylinders/bbl better/faster increasing velocity & it has a large/wide hp which is good for low velocity loads.

    Once you've established how much velocity you can get out of your bullet/firearm combo it's time to look at the hp/hp design. Not all hp's are created equal. A picture of the different hp's I tested in a 2" bbl'd 38spl last year. As you can see some hp's are bigger than others, the smallest hp is the bottom center bullets. That's a cramer "hunter" bullet designed in the late 40's for the higher 357 velocities. The h&g and lymans have the standard 1/8" hp pin except for the 358156 (top right) that has a special order .156" pin that is typically used for the large hp's of their 44&45cal bullets. The top left is a home made hp that was swaged from 380acp cases.

    Of those 8 bullets pictured above these 4 bullets consistently gave the highest velocities with any load tested in that 2" bbl. What they have in common is they have a bullet base/body that seals the cylinders/bbl quickly because of the large bottom drive bands/bullet base. Faster/better/tighter/longer base ='s higher velocities. There was 40+fps difference between those bullets and the bullets with the poorly designed small base designed bullets (that "fbi" hb bullet design thing).

    Between choosing a good bullet design and the correct material that the bullet is made out of I'm getting 90+fps more out of the same loads when compared to standard jacketed bullets in that snubnosed 38spl.

    The hp design plays a huge role in bullet performance and the design of the hp in mandated by the velocity of the bullet. A picture of the same "keith" swc bullet cast with 3 different hp pins/3 different hp designs.

    The penta hp's ='s 800fps to 1000fps
    The large round hp's ='s 1000fps to 1200fps
    The small round hp's ='s 1200fps to 1400fps

    At the end of the day I went with the Mihec 640 hp's for that snubnosed 38spl. The small bullet base gave up +/- 30fps compared to the top performers but the huge hp is designed for the slower speeds of the snubnosed 38spl p+ loads/950fps.
    WrongHanded and Galil5.56 like this.
  3. forrest r

    forrest r Member

    Oct 6, 2016
    A lot is made of having a jacketed hp expand & stay intact/retain weight. It comes down to the jacket thickness, how hard the alloy is, bonded or not bonded cores and hp design. Having swaged my own jacketed bullets since the 90's and either hunted with them along with dispatching a lot of vermin with them. Has got the idea of that perfect mushrooming hp that retains 90+% of it's weight meaningless to me.

    You're going to find people saying what works @ +/- 900fps in a 38spl load isn't going to work in 1400fps 357 load. Actually it will and do extremely well. The bullets designed for the low velocity 38spl loads might not get that perfect 12" fbi penetration. But they will get 7+" of penetration along with fist sized holes at the point of impact.

    A couple of years ago I decided to take a hard look at using shell cases for jackets to swage jacketed bullets with. I also decided to test the "xtp" notch design at the same time. I made these 35cal bullets using 9mm cases. Now I use 9mm for the fn's and 380acp cases for the hps (no trimming with the 380acp's).

    After getting the initial design I started testing with work hardened jackets, annealed, soft cores, hard cores, bonded cores. Don't know if it's true or not, been told that 1" of wetpack is = to 1 1/2" of ballistics gel. Don't know or care, I do like testing bullets in wetpack before testing them on vermin. Wetpack ='s newspaper bundled together and put in a cooler & the cooler filled with water and let sit overnight. That same 150gr hp pictured above with a hard jacket/hard alloy for a core. It blew huge holes in the front of the wetpack and all's that was left of the bullet was the shell case. The same thing will happen if you use a jacketed bullet designed for low velocity in a fast 357 load. Not as much penetration, the bullet will implode and there's massive carnage.

    Same bullet with a hard jacket & soft cores.

    Same bullet annealed shell case & bonded soft alloyed core.

    Playing around with 265gr hp's for the 44mag made out of 40s&w cases. Took 5 or 6 tries to make a bullet that would stay intact @ 1100fps simulating 75yd to 100yd hits/deer bullet
    A close-up of that 265gr 44cal hp. Front crimp groove for the 629 back crimp groove for the long throated contender.

    Making hp's for the 45acp, I wanted these to implode/shred/loose their mass in whatever they hit. Testing them in wetpack @ 50ft

    Those bullets were recovered either in the last inch of the wetpack or blew out the back (holes in the blue picture on the back of the wetpack)

    Just because a hp doesn't retain 90%+ of it's weight and have that perfect mushroom doesn't mean it will not work. When a hp implodes it makes a massive cavity (fist size) and then the bullet fragments makes multiple wound channels with the main body of the bullet getting good penetration as it sheds it's weight.

    I use that same Mihec 640 158gr cast hh in a snubnosed 357 that I use in a snubnosed 38spl p+. With the 1200fps load I use in the 357 (950fps in snubnosed 38spl) that mihec bullet is nothing short of violent when it hits something.

    I'd be taking a hard look at the rim rock 158gr gas checked swc hp for both the 38spl & the 357.
    WrongHanded and Galil5.56 like this.
  4. Galil5.56

    Galil5.56 Member

    Dec 20, 2007
    NW PA
    Good stuff Forrest r... Thumbs up!
  5. RealGun

    RealGun Member

    Mar 21, 2004
    Upstate SC
    I have 110s that I use for J-frame 38. The 125s could go either way but I use them for 38 and for small frame 357 loads. The 158s are what I choose for serious 357 Mag. It is not a different bullet but rather a different weight.
  6. Jesse Heywood

    Jesse Heywood Member

    Dec 9, 2009
    I will be starting with 38 +P in 2" and 4". Later will work 357 Mag in 3" & 6". I had thought that one bullet would cover all, but the evidence shows that to be wrong. I am thankful for the education. Keep it coming. :thumbup:

    Saying this thread is interesting is an understatement. I would call it overwhelming.
  7. Z28roc

    Z28roc Member

    Mar 11, 2018
    I like 140 gr. XTPs for magnums out of 4" barrel. (1230 average) 17 grains 296
    And 125 gr. XTPs for 38 special +P out of 2" barrel. (867 average) 5 grains titegroup
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