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38 Special Loads with 125gr Speer JHP

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Andrew Webber, Mar 16, 2020.

  1. Andrew Webber

    Andrew Webber Member

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    I'm new to the forum, and to reloading and I'm looking for a little advice on 38 Special loads.

    A little background. I'm just getting started in reloading so I wanted to buy limited supplies. I wanted to be able to load 38 Special and 357 Magnum for my 6" GP100. My range requires FMJ ammo (there aren't many indoor ranges to choose from, and winters are long and cold in Maine) so after some research I ended up with Alliant Unique powder, 125 gr Speer TMJ bullets and CCI 500 primers. For load data, I used the Lyman 50th manual as well as data Speer publishes on their website.

    I loaded some 38 Special with 5.7 gr of Unique which is what Speer recommends and is within the range for the 125 grain bullets in the Lyman manual. When I shot them at the range, they seemed to have a lot more kick, noise, and muzzle flash than any factory ammo I've shot. The Lyman manual shows 4.0 grains as the minimum, but the Speer data says not to reduce below 5.7 grains. I'd like to reduce it, but I'm not sure which source to believe. Would splitting the difference with like 5.0 grains be okay, or do I need to take the DNR advice from Speer more seriously? Is there that much difference between the Hornady 125 JHP Lyman tests with and the Speer 125g TMJ?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Dunross

    Dunross Member

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    The difference is whether a jacketed hollow point will expand or not at a given velocity. Below a certain speed the bullet may not perform as it should, as in expand.

    This isn't a problem with the tmj bullet because it's not meant to expand in the first place.

    For those bullets the Lyman data is what you want, but chances are the point-of-impact will not be the same as the hollowpoint loaded to a higher velocity. May not be a radical difference, but there will probably be some.

    If you're using a Speer hollowpoint bullet then the Speer manual should be what you follow if you want the bullet to expand.

    Does your Speer manual indicate the barrel length their testing was done with? A six inch barrel length likely will produce a higher velocity than a two or four inch barrel. If the load was developed for a shorter barrel length and you are using a longer one then you should be able to reduce the charge somewhat to achieve your ends.
     
  3. Andrew Webber

    Andrew Webber Member

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    The Speer data I'm using is from here:
    https://www.speer-ammo.com/download...gun/38_caliber_357-358_dia/38_Special_125.pdf
    It says its for the hollow points as well as for the TMJ. I know the Speer manual has more information such as barrel lengths they used. Honestly, at this point I'm not as concerned with point of impact as with not damaging myself/my firearm. I know I'll get better results in the future with different powders. In my research here I've seen people say the Speer manual explains the DNR is to prevent the bullet from being stuck in the barrel, but 4.0 vs 5.7 as a starting load seems like a huge difference. The hollowpoint expansion makes sense to me if that's part of the reason.
     
  4. Jonesy814

    Jonesy814 Member

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    That load data lists 5.7gr as a Maximum load. It can safely be reduced by 10%. I dont know why they would say do not reduce unless it is for expansion reasons. As far as damaging your gun, there is no published 38 special load that will come close to hurting a GP100, 357 magnum.
    When reloading and ESPECIALLY when you dont have the exact components listed, you should start low and work up to the max charge.
    I would load a few at about 5-5.1gr. and a few at 5.3-5.4gr. Try them and see what feels goid and seems to have good accuracy as well as a clean burn. Often minimum loads will leave more soot and debris behind due to not enough pressure & heat for a complete burn
     
  5. illinoisburt

    illinoisburt Member

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    The Alliant guide shows 5.7 grains of Unique as max for the 125 Speer gold dot bullet for standard pressure 38, 6.0 grains max for +P. 357 is 9.6 grains so you are no where near a danger area for a 357 Ruger revolver. You can always back down 10% from the standard max to 5.0 grains without concern for sticking a bullet.

    https://www.alliantpowder.com/reloaders/Powder.aspx?powderid=3
     
  6. Andrew Webber

    Andrew Webber Member

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    Ok great. I couldn't imagine why 5.0 grains wouldn't work since everyone but Speer says it's ok. Only because it's their bullet did it give me pause.

    Thanks so much!
     
  7. Steve C

    Steve C Member

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    The Quote below is from the Speer Number 13 loading manual Pg 517 .38 special at standard pressure and explains why Speer lists their loads for 110 and 125 grain jacketed bullets with maximum load only and the DNR designation:

    "Lead bullets are usually best for loading standard pressure .38 Specials . They are easily propelled through the barrel by modest powder charges. Jacketed bullets create more resistance than lead bullets and can actually stick in the bore with charges that are too light. This condition is aggravated in revolvers with large chamber throats or excessive barrel/cylinder gaps.To avoid these problems we are showing jacketed bullet data for only 110 and 125 grain bullets. Heavier bullets may not attain sufficient velocity to reliably overcome friction. Note that these loads are marked "DNR" meaning "do not reduce." Reductions of loads below the levels shown can result in bullet-in-bore condition in revolvers with excessive barrel cylinder gaps. THESE JACKETED BULLET LOADS MUST NOT BE USED IN RIFLES."

    The 5.7gr load of Unique behind a 125gr JHP is not a light load and should provide sufficient velocity from a 4" barrel to ensure likely expansion. Why wast an expensive JHP in a low velocity light load.

    Loading the Speer TMJ bullets for target shooting in ranges that require metal jacketed bullets at lower velocity wouldn't give me any concern as long as you stay within 20% or less reduction of the 5.7 gr max. IMO much of the reasoning behind the DNR warning is mostly CYA on Speers part.

    Personally I wouldn't spend the money for Speer TMJ bullets for anything but serious competition where there's money to be won. You can get lower cost copper plated bullets from Berry's, Ranier and other vendors in wad cutter or semi wad cutter form that work well for lower velocity target shooting and should be acceptable at your indoor range, just check with them first before ordering.
     
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  8. mdi

    mdi Member

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    Look at the chart/data again. DNR is in the Starting Load column. There is no starting load listed so when there is only one charge listed it is normally the max load and common reloading practice it to reduce that data by 10%...
     
  9. Andrew Webber

    Andrew Webber Member

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    I struggled in my selection of bullets. The range isn't super strict, so I'm sure I could get away with lead, but the rules do say FMJ so I was trying to follow them. I selected the 125 gr Speer TMJ over the Berry's because I wanted to be able to used them in 357 Magnum loads as well which, according to Lyman, can get up to ~1350 fps with Unique which is over their limit of 1250 fps. Even the 158 gr can get over 1250 fps in some 357 magnum loads which rules out the plated. Also, at about $14/100 the Speers were cheap enough that reloading was still saving me money. I personally couldn't find a cheaper FMJ bullet that was ok at that velocity, but again I'm new to this so I may be looking in the wrong places or missing something obvious.

    Even reducing the max load by 10% gives me around 5.1 gr. Lyman says 4.0 is ok. That's seem like huge disparity percentage wise.

    Thanks again all for your input.
     
  10. bangswitch

    bangswitch Member

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    The Hornady tenth Edition lists 5.7 grains of Unique with a 125 grain bullet as a +P load, with 5.8 being the max recommended. Unique is a fast burning powder and small changes in amount make big differences in velocity, and especially chamber pressure. Try a slower burning powder like Power Pistol, you have more latitude with the load. You can go as low as 5 grains with Unique, it will give you about 800 fps, should be a good target load, less recoil.
     
  11. forrest r

    forrest r Member

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    Might not hurt to look at a couple different sources for cowboy action loads. Cowboy action starting loads are typically on the low side but safe.

    Coated bullets are considered tmj's. When coating a cast/lead bullet it gets 100% coverage including the bullet's base.

    Any Alliant data starting in 2008 uses speer bullets (unless otherwise noted), The parent company owns both alliant & speer.

    Unique is 1 of those powders that does better at the higher end of the reloading data. It burns cleaner and is more consistent (velocity wise) from shot to shot at those higher pressure levels. You'd be better off saving your unique for 38spl p+ loads and heavy 357 loads & buy a # of powder like clays or bullseye for your tmj/range loads. 3.5gr to 4.0gr of either powder will easily do what you're asking of unique and do it better.

    On a side note:
    Decades ago they used light weight lead bullets in the 38s&w and 38spl's. They called those bullets gallery bullets/parlor bullets/etc & were loaded with extremely light loads of powder to be used at short ranges (light load/less chance of ricochets). I have an old cramer 3-cavity mold that casts what cramer called a "indoor bullet" that is supposed to weight 105gr. Mine cast &coat out at 108gr/109gr, the bullet on the right is that cramer bullet.
    xHUCNJn.jpg

    Never really did a lot of testing with that bullet other then making extremely light loads with it. Got to looking at it 1 day and decided to do a little testing with unique in a snubnosed (2" bbl) 38spl. Using heavy 38spl p+ loads of unique that bullet did 1100fps+ out of that 2" bbl'd snubnosed 38spl. Impressive considering I normally use 3.0gr of clays with that bullet for a +/- 750fps gallery load with that bullet in the same revolver.
     
  12. Hanshi

    Hanshi Member

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    For the Speer 125 grn. JHP (not FMJ) I loaded 5.0 grains of Red Dot and up to 5.9 grains of Unique for enough velocity to insure expansion. Since these were "carry" loads and not for any kind of practice I didn't worry about using them in any of my K frames. I see no need to push the velocities of that bullet when the object is practice.
     
  13. Bill M.

    Bill M. Member

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    I shoot a lot of the Berry's 125 plated. I fiddled around with loads to where they shoot close to the same POI as my full power 158 grain .357 loads. My barrels are 6". You have nothing to loose by trying a hundred or so of the Berrys (I gauge my order by the shipping cost), the Unique should work well with them, and you can load the FMJ for when you want more snap to the load. The 125 are double plated and rated for higher velocity than I like to drive them.
     
  14. Andrew Webber

    Andrew Webber Member

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    I see that the Berry's don't have a cannelure in them. I'm looking online and it looks like you can just put a real light roll crimp on those and they'll be ok for 38 special loads. Does that sound right?
     
  15. tightgroup tiger

    tightgroup tiger Member

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    I taper crimp my light and medium .357 mag loads and don't have trouble with them. You don't need to roll crimp any standard.38 spl load unless your using a hard to ignite powder. Unique is not hard to ignite.
    Get you self a .357 mag taper crimp die and use it on the .38spl with those bullets. You won't have to trim your brass with it either.
    https://www.midsouthshooterssupply.com/item/0000690781/38-special-357-mag-taper-crimp-die
    All brands make them so get whatever your favorite brand die is.
     
  16. Random 8

    Random 8 Member

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    I've shot a lot of .38 over 5 gr of unique, however my bullets were cast lead. I have also loaded the 125 XTP over unique, can't remember the charge, but I believe it was in the 5.2 gr range.

    Gives a good, mild load, however unique tends to burn dirtier as the pressure decreases. I think many makers of "plinker grade" .38 spl are running soft loads in deference to many ancient .38s out there. Your initial load probably is hotter than standard .38 loads, but well within specs for the cartridge. I would feel free to reduce it down to 5 grains or even a touch lower until you find your happy place. Going forward, for this specific application I would recommend a faster burning powder such as HP-38.

    Just a quick question, are you weighing your charges or interpolating from a volumetric measure such as measure setting/weight table or lee dippers? Unique can vary in weight vs volume, and is not known to meter particularly well. You have plenty of safety margin in .38s in a .357 gun, but just want to make sure your actual initial charge was 5.7 gr.
     
  17. Andrew Webber

    Andrew Webber Member

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    I've been actually weight them. Its not the greatest scale but I have some calibration weights and it's within a tenth or so.

    I loaded a few rounds at 5.1 gr of Unique and shot them yesterday. It seemed a lot more like factory 38s. I also took some of the above advice and picked up some Bullseye and loaded 4.1 gr of that. I think I liked that a little better. I can save the Unique for lower powered 357s.
     
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  18. Bill M.

    Bill M. Member

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    I bought and use taper crimp dies for my plated and coated bullet reloading. Not sure it is necessary but it is what I do. I checked for bullet pull a few times at first and never found any. The plating on the Berrys seems very tough. I have test roll crimped them until it really shows and then pulled them with no apparent damage to the plating.
     
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