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.38 s&w

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Old Grumpy, Feb 28, 2012.

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  1. Old Grumpy

    Old Grumpy Member

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    I just received a set of dies for my .38 S&W but before I get started I am looking for information on reloading for this older round. :)

    I have been able to find a couple manufacturers that offer LRN in .360" and .361" with a BHN of 12. These should work for the S&W. Next I would like to use either Titegroup or W231 (because I have both on hand and have experience using them in my .45acp).

    Does anyone on this forum reload for the old S&W? I'll be shooting them through an Iver Johnson Trailsman 66 (manufactured between 1961 and 1964). The Trailsman is a top break so I want to keep the loads nice and mild. :rolleyes:

    Does anyone have any information or experiences they would like to pass along? :confused:
     
  2. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    There a ton of folks on this forum that reload the .38 S&W cartridge. Use the search feature (found on the right in the green bar at the top of the page and enter "38 S&W" in the Handloading and Reloading sub-forum.
     
  3. Galil5.56

    Galil5.56 Member

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    I use 9mm Mak dies to reload for my Webley MK 4, and so far have used soft swaged .358" 158 grain LSWCs driven by WW231. Have not chronographed them yet, but accuracy with this revolver seems pretty good so far. have also used unsized Lee 125 2R RN bullets I cast with OK results for plinking.

    158 grain LSWC-HP's look kinda cool in the stubby little case, and you might try some swagged .358" lead bullets you might already have and see how they fly... Perhaps they will work perfectly fine, even though sized "small" by traditional .38 S&W sizing.
     
  4. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    I have three revolvers chambered in .38 S&W. If I catch a deal on another, I will have four. It's lots of fun.

    I recommend against very fast powders in .38 S&W simply because it is such a low pressure round, especially in older revolvers, and the fast powders can get you in trouble just .1 Grs more from a load that is fine. Ask me how I bulged some .38 S&W brass to the point it did not want to chamber again even after sizing. :eek:

    If you do not want to fool with lead, a plated 148 Gr DEWC or a 158 Gr SWC will work well.
     
  5. MMCSRET

    MMCSRET Member

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    I load and shoot two S&W Regulation Police revolvers. I like the old cartridge. I cast all my bullets and size to .360, they work very well and I load very mild, even tho these are solid frame hand ejector guns. I cast very soft, about 8BHN, maybe less. Great cartridge in a great variety of guns. Have fun!!!!!!!
     
  6. PRD1

    PRD1 Member

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    After considerable frustration...

    with the great variations in chamber mouth and groove diameters in the several .38 S&W revolvers I shoot, and the difficulty of finding proper diameter bullets...
    I decided to try the standard .358" diameter hollow-based wadcutter.
    It works wonderfully!
    It is necessry to size the case with a .38 Special/.357 Mag. die, use an expander from the same die set, and, for best results, shorten a .38SPL seater die for the shorter case.
    I load the Hornady 148Gr. HBWC with 2.7Gr. Bullseye (the same load I use for .38 SPL wadcutters), to an overall length of 1.135" and lightly crimped.
    They shoot very accurately in all my .38 S&W revolvers, and are close to factory ballistics for the similar-weight bullet. Pressures are mild and the ammunition is very pleasant to shoot. It might be advisable to reduce the load for very light or questionable breakopen pocket revolvers - use your best judgement.
    PRD1 - mhb - Mike
     
  7. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    I use W231 for loading the 38 S&W but I can't help you out unless you tell me what bullet weight you're using.
    I load a 170gr bullet and a 200gr bullet but I know the commercial loads are a 145gr bullet.

    With a 145gr bullet I have data that lists 2.3gr W231 as a starting load and 2.6gr W231 as the Max charge.
    With a 158gr bullet the charges are 2.2gr to 2.5gr W231.
    With a weak top break revolver I would stick with the starting loads!
     
  8. Old Grumpy

    Old Grumpy Member

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    ArchAngelCD, the bullets I'm leaning towards are 150gr LRN. Reportedly they are very close to the original style round nose bullets. However since I'm not THAT OLD I have to take it with a grain of salt. I plan on staying with lighter bulets and starting charges. The pistol is a top break so by just that fact it is not as strong as the solid frame models. It is in good shape (I'd wager no more than 50 rounds through it) and I'd like to keep it that way.
     
  9. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    In that case I would start with a charge of 2.3gr W231 with that 150gr bullet and work from there. As soon as you get an accurate load, stop and enjoy! (up to 2.6gr of course)
     
  10. Old Grumpy

    Old Grumpy Member

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    I loaded up a few test loads this week. Now I just need to get out to the range. Here are a couple photos of the finished product. My loads are in the Starline brass cases. 150gr lrn (using 1.8gr W231, 1.9gr W231, and 2.0gr W231). The round in the nickel case is a Winchester 145gr lrn factory load.
    :)
     

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  11. MMCSRET

    MMCSRET Member

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    What bullet/mold are those that you loaded, please?
     
  12. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

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    Those powders are a little fast for shooting lead. TG burns way too hot for Lead besides being moody, loose if. As you see the load range is very narrow even with 231 but will work. I like 2400 for 38spl and 357mag.
     
  13. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Those look great. W-231 is a good choice.
     
  14. Old Grumpy

    Old Grumpy Member

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    MMCSRET, the bullets came from Matt'sBullets.com and reportedly they mimic the originial LRN profile. Check out his web site. Prices seem reasonable and he will answer your email quickly.
     
  15. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    Please read carefully, the OP is loading .38 S&W ammo, not .38 Special ammo and even if he were loading .38 Specials, W231 is in no way too fast a powder. 2400 is way too slow a powder for use in the 38 S&W and the .38 Special although I will agree 2400 is a good powder for use in the .357 Magnum but again, not what the OP is loading...
     
  16. FROGO207

    FROGO207 Member

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    I like using Trail Boss for those old top break revolvers in 32 and 38 cal. It seems to shoot really well with light loads and lead bullets in all of mine. I like the fact that it is always working at low pressures. If you have a chance to try TB I think you will like it also.
     
  17. MMCSRET

    MMCSRET Member

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    I cast Ideal 358246, it duplicates what you are showing, that's what made me think maybe you had come up with a mold. Good looking round.
     
  18. dagger dog

    dagger dog Member

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    A word of caution, some of the older top break revolvers chambered for 38 S&W were designed to shoot blackpowder only !

    That being said does anyone here load blackpowder for your old shooter ?

    I have an old Iver Johnson 1st Model (blackpowder) Saftey Automatic in 38 S&W,and I'm in the process of getting together some brass and bullets.

    Wanting some info on BP granulation, will FFg work or do I need FFFg,also what primers do you use.

    I have several once fired cases that have not been resized and they chamber fine in my ol IJ revolver, I'm thinking about partial size just the case mouth area, and going to try to bump up some .358" some soft cast bullets to .360-.361" then load with BP.

    Any help on this project will be greatly appreciated.
     
  19. Old Grumpy

    Old Grumpy Member

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    dagger dog, as I am sure you are aware, the older revolvers have a wide variety of barrel dimentions. If you have not done so check out how to and slug your bore. I've heard bores running anywhere from 0.358" to 0.363", maybe more.

    I wish I could offer some help but I have no experience with blackpowder weapons. Check out the bullet caster I bought my bullets from if you want to try some finsihed bullets. (See post #14)
     
  20. Galil5.56

    Galil5.56 Member

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    Tested the loads I mentioned in this thread, and got a 705 FPS avg w/34 fps ES. Webley seemed happy with them with good accuracy hitting steel plates @ 25 yards, with no issues at all or expected. WW 146 grain factory ammo that was given to me was pathetic; 597 fps avg w/17 fps ES... Kept checking for squibs, as I could not even see impacts in the soft dirt, and wanted to make sure the bullets cleared the barrel.
     
  21. FROGO207

    FROGO207 Member

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    Dagger Dog I would recommend using Trail Boss in your revolver. It was specifically designed to mimic black powder and be used with lead bullets but does not require the cleaning that is associated with BP. With black powder cartridges the case was designed to be filled to the bottom of the bullet and the pressure was safe. The TB is loaded the same way BUT you need to determine the weight of it and back off 10% for a starting load then work your way up with it per the instructions in the manufacturers web site. The difference from black powder is that you can NEVER compress Trail Boss as this will cause dangerous pressures. If you are going to use Black Powder I use FFFG in my percussion revolvers. FFG is used in larger bore rifles mostly, say 50 cal and up as it burns slower. FWIW Trail Boss is available almost anywhere there is propellant sold and black powder is not nearly as available around here.
     
  22. Old Grumpy

    Old Grumpy Member

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    Hit the range today and here is the data from my test loads:

    1.8gr W231
    Lo: 380.5 fps
    Hi: 467.1 fps
    Avg: 422.94 fps
    XS: 86.6 fps
    SD: 21.25 fps

    1.9gr W231
    Lo: 363.9 fps
    Hi: 447.8 fps
    Avg: 410.37 fps
    XS: 83.9 fps
    SD: 26.05 fps

    2.0gr W231
    Lo: 422.6 fps
    Hi: 482.9 fps
    Avg: 447.34 fps
    XS: 60.3 fps
    SD: 21.11 fps

    All three load shot well and were VERY comfortable loads in my old top-break. I had wondered what the reloading guides used to determine the starting load and I can see by these numbers (since the first two loads were below starting charge weights) the extreme spread was huge. Each charge was weighed so they were as close as possible and all were loaded in unfired Starline cases. The 2.0gr charge is the starting load in the book and the extreme spread did start to drop. The standard deviation for all three were close but I'd like it a little smaller.
    I also noted the velocities of the 1.9gr loads were slightly lower than those of the 1.8gr loads. Magic?
    The energies developed were minimal. 56 to 66 ft/lb. However I was just looking for a light target load for my old Iver Johnson so these will do. I'm sure the pressures were low enough to not harm the weapon and I don't know if I'd ever get pin-point accuracy from a pistol with fixes sights and a 2" barrel.
    I hope this information helps fill in the gray areas found in most reloading guides for the old .38 S&W.

    If you have an old top-break please take extreme caution attempting to use reloads. My pistol was manufactured in the early 1960s not the early 1900s. It was purchased by my father so I knew it's history (less than 100 rounds).

    I used W231 because I did find some data and I was familiar with it. The charge weights were extremely small so I took great care to measure each one. I don't know if other powders might do better (more consistent pressures) with such low charge weights. If anyone has an opinion on that I'd love to here it.

    As always, if you are unsure about your weapon have it checked out by an experienced gunsmith, slug the bore, and work up.

    Stay safe,
    Grumpy
     
  23. JLDickmon

    JLDickmon Member

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    subscribing
     
  24. Clark

    Clark Member

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    I am in the process of inheriting my grandfather's 38 S&W and box of ammo that he bought for the Alaskan Gold Rush.

    I also have a Klondike news paper that I am going to donate to a museum.

    I shot at a grouse with my grandfather's revolver in 1972, using some of his black powder ammo. Only half of the ammo went off.

    My grandfather's revolver is only worth ~ $35, but it will be treated well.
    1 or 2 gr or Unique or Bullseye pushing a .375" Lead round ball.

    I have fired 38 Super +P loads with JHP bullets in other 38 S&W break tops, and it stretches the latch.
    As my late gun designing father pointed out, ~that is not from pressure, that is from recoil on the barrel mass and bullet friction.~
     
  25. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    IMO you shouldn't have loaded charges that were lower than the starting charge weights. You are a little lucky you didn't cause a squib load and with the velocities you listed it was possible.

    Sure the ES numbers started to drop when you got up to the starting charge weight. As for the 1,8gr and 1.9gr loads, that was probably caused by erratic or incomplete powder burn caused by too low a charge weight.

    It's never a good idea to use lower charges than are listed as minimum in the books...
     
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