.38 special 148 grain wadcutters with Trail Boss? (or red dot?)

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Jan 19, 2006
Happy Valley, UT
I read this thread

And would like to know if anyone has any additional advice...

I have some 158 grain LRNs as well... maybe I'll save the trail boss for those. I was at Cabela's and didn't research an appropriate powder beforehand (as usual) but I remember a lot of people talking about how much they love trail boss for all revolver stuff. I guess it's not ideal for 148 wadcutters, based on the info in the thread above.

Anyone use Red Dot successfully with wadcutters? My manuals list blue and green dot and herco and clays (and a bunch of others) but not red dot that I've found yet.

Alliant's website lists 3 grains red dot with 148 grain HBWCs, but mine are flat base WCs, not HB. I suppose that will make a difference.

Advice, info would be appreciated. Thanks!:cool:
Loads for HBWCs are used for DEWCs, but don't use DEWC data for HBWCs. Over 850fps, or so, the skirt on the HBWC can separate from the bullet and may be left in the barrel, causing a barrel obstruction that could damage your barrel.
Red Dot will produce better accuracy, but Trail Boss will be very safe (you can't double charge a case" if you DO NOT compress the powder.
2.3gn of Trail Boss and 2.6gn of Red Dot work very well. I find that the most consistently accurate powder with wadcutters for my guns has been AA2. 2.8-3.3gn AA2 are very accurate.
In the limited use I've made of TrailBoss, I find that it's best relegated to the specific purpose and intent it was meant for; Use in large capacity low pressure "Antique" cartridges in "Antique" firearms.

I like TB in the .45Colt, and have tried it in the .45acp and .38spl as well as the .45/70 rifle.

Only in the .45Colt was I pleased or otherwise impressed by it's performance.

I neither saw accuracy or velocity I was impressed by. However, the ease of loading the .45Colt and obvious charges of powder in the rather voluminous case was satisfying if such bothers you.

For accuracy in the .38spl, it didn't even approach Bullseye for accuracy. In the .45/70 I still prefer #2400 for light cast bullet loads and Imr4198 or IMR4064 for "fast" loads.

In the .45Colt, I still prefer Universal/Unique......

RedDot has such large flakes (likewise TB) and I don't get good, consistent powder throws from my measures on my progressive loaders....
Sorry, but thats just my experience.......
The main reason a lot of people rave about Trail Boss is that you generally can't fit a double charge into a case.

I like Green Dot or Bullseye in .38 Special loads. I worry more about a squib than a double charge.

Never tried Red Dot but have seen some good reviews on it. It's an even faster powder than Bullseye. Users claim the Red Dot is very clean.
I had some 20+ year old Red Dot left over from my shotgun days. Lyman's Cast Bullet Handbook lists Red Dot loads, I was using 3.5gr and a cast 148gr wadcutter in my 357.
In my experience cast wadcutters need to be pushed a little faster than HBWC's to get them to shoot accurately, at least in my M-19.
The usual starting point to work up a Trailboss load is to ,fill the case to the point that the base of the bullet just touches the top of the powder, then use 70% of that weighed amount as a starting load.

With out having a .38 Special case and a 148 gr HB wadcutter in my hands , I would think there would be very little powder using the starting data.

Also would the space of the HB have an effect on performance ? It is stated in IMR data not to compress Trailboss.
Thanks for the ideas/info. Again, these are not HB wadcutters. The bases are flat. They're not double-ended either. Some are Speer "Bevel Base" (which looks flat to me) and most are Merkel flat base).

I've determined that the Lee "scoop" that comes with the .38 dies is 3.5 grains of red dot (which is pretty 'fluffy' for its weight) and 2.1-2.2 grains of Trail Boss. Amazing.

I think I may try a few WCs, but will probably save it for LRNs or maybe .45-70 if I can talk myself into buying a rifle.

Maybe I was remembering a different revolver powder that everyone likes. Ah, well... it was 'free' with my cabela's points anyway.
Here is 148gr WC data showing Red Dot from the Speer No 9 manual. No 13 has essentially the same data but goes 4.2 grs for maximum in the Bevel base. Red Dot is the better choice for WC's which limit case capacity if loaded as intended at near flush to the case mouth.


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I shoot almost nothing other than W231/HP-38 in my .38 Special ammo. With a 148gr DEWC I usually charge 3.4gr W231. That's one of my 2 favorite .38 Special loads. (the other being a 158gr LSWC over 4.0gr W231)
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