1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

.38spl Match loading questions

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Jenrick, Feb 16, 2011.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Jenrick

    Jenrick Member

    Mar 17, 2005
    Austin, TX
    I'm just getting into bullseye pistol shooting (well PPC actually). I've done a decent it of match rifle ammo loading, but pistol has all been plinking loads. So couple of questions.

    Is trimming really necessary in .38spl? I can't imagine the case grows all that much, even with full length resizing.

    How important is crimp? What type/amount is desired if it is?

    Any recommendations on dies? I'm currently using Lee dies, is it worth it setup to Redding or the like?


  2. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

    Nov 25, 2006
    Northeast PA, USA
    Take what I say for what it's worth because I don't build ammo for competition. I have never trimmed handgun ammo and don't feel it's ever necessary. I also use Lee dies but again, I don't load "match" ammo.

    IMO crimping revolver ammo is very important because if you don't you will probably experiance bullet set-back. The pressure increase could be great enough to destroy your revolver and possible do a lot of harm to the shooter too.
  3. DBR

    DBR Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    Actually, it is semi-autos that get "bullet set back". Revolvers get "bullet pull" where the recoil pulls the bullet out of the case. A good roll crimp done with the proper die prevents bullet pull unless recoil is extreme.

    A pulled bullet can definitely tie up a revolver but it will not blow it up.
  4. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    I only have little bit of experience in re-loading for merely Plinking and fun.

    Really, 95 percent of it, Black Powder Cartridges for older Revolvers.

    None the less, it seems obvious to me, that if one wishes for uniform Loading Density, and, for uniform Crimp, then, uniform Cases ( of all same make and ideally, same batch ) are in order...as well as to inspect to make sure all Primer holes are as uniform as possible, also.

    This then includes, sizing the Cartridge Cases to length so for their all being the same length, they will accept a uniform Crimp, while also having as close to the same volume as possible.

    A heavy Crimp would not be necessary of course for Mid Range or relatively light Loadings of Target Ammunition for Revolver in .38 Special, but a decent Crimp - enough to ensure no Bullet Creep or set-back is possible under the usual array of conditions anyway - would still be called for.

    Whether Case re-sizing is called for, or to what dimension exactly, I suppose would depend on the loadings one is shooting, and, on the relation in size of the Bullets one is electing to suit the actual Cylinder Bores and Barrel of the particular Arm.

    Personally, with some of my Revolvers, I found it exasperating to re-size a Cartridge Case, only to find the Bullet was then far too fat for even a proper Bell to oblige, so I just stopped re-sizing, or, found ( or will Lap to create ) larger re-sizing Dies to allow a couple thousandths more for Cartridge Case diameter, to allow Bullets which were better suited to the actual Bores of the Cylinder and Barrel.

    All of which one does well to measure...so one knows what they are.

    I am no Match Shooter, but, if I was, I would definitely not only be paying particular attention to all of these things, and, also, to the Bullet Alloy, and Bullet Lube of course, as far as their suiting the charge and acceleration/FPS or kind of distance or purpose the Arm in question and the Ammunition for it, is being asked to provide.

    At fifty yards or more, all these little things can start to matter quite a bit...if they were not already doing so.
  5. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Nov 20, 2006
    I would trim them the first time. After that they may not need it again at light target power levels, but for PPC I would surely trim, if for the only reason I would feel like it helps. In the accuracy game consistency in everything is big.
  6. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

    Apr 13, 2007
    I don't formally compete in target events, but love informal targeting shooting, using my pet .38 target loads, so here's my $0.02:

    1. I got the biggest gains in accuracy by finding the load that's most accurate in my gun. Fortunately, .38 target loads have been around a while, so one of the tried-and-trues got me closest. Only after I find that load did I start fine-tuning.

    2. I don't trim cases, but I have sorted them by length and weight. I've noted noted any difference between sorted and unsorted accuracy, but I only shoot inside 25 yards. It might be a different story at 50. I also suspect that since I didn't see an effect, if trimming/sorting matters, the shooter and the gun have to be accurate enough to notice.

    3. I use Lee dies and they work fine. I've been tempted to buy a set of high-end dies, but from what I've read, there's little to be gained here. Those who formally compete may feel differently, though.

    4. Sizing: My main target load uses a HBWC, and in this case, I resize the case only to the seating depth of the bullet. The idea here is that since my S&W K-38 has fairly chambers, the un-resized bottom end of the case holds the round in there snugly. Because the cases don't rattle around in the chamber, each bullet enters the throat more uniformly. I've not systematically compared the accuracy of partial & full resizing, though, so I can't tell you if this matters a hoot.

    5. Powder dispenser: Though I load on a Lee turret, I add powder using a separate Redding dispenser, which I found to be a bit more consistent than the Lee auto-disk.

    6. Bullet seating: When seating the bullet, I'll seat it a bit, rotate the case, seat a bit more, rotate, seat a little more, etc, until fully seated. The idea here is that this seats the bullet straighter, will less internal strain on the bullet than if it had been seated in a single step. I actually have found this step to be very helpful, particularly with long HBWC. Also, the turret on my Lee press actually rises off the press frame a wee bit as the bullet's seating, so the bullet and die are no longer in a perfectly straight line. Without rotating, I can actually shave lead off the bullet.

    7. For SWC loads, I use the Factory crimp die, and for HBWC, I use the Lee taper crimp die. A light-to-moderate crimp. Target loads aren't very powerful, so they don't need much of a crimp to hold the bullet. Excessive crimping risks deforming the bullet, too, which can hurt accuracy. It's not a bad idea to seat & crimp a powderless case, then pull the bullet and examine it for deformation.
  7. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Hopewell Big Woods
    PPC Rules & Target Ammo - 38 Special

    First read the rules if you have not already. Yes, trim your brass. Use a light roll crimp.Any die set that does not over work the brass.You may want to look at the RCBS Cowboy dies made just for lead bullets. Swaged lead or jacketed bullets will be more accurate than cast.(this statement will draw comment from some, but its true because of the nature of a cast bullets):uhoh: Click Sec 3 http://www.nrahq.org/compete/RuleBooks/Police/pol-index.pdf
  8. Sunray

    Sunray Member

    May 17, 2003
    London, Ont.
    "...trimming really necessary..." Check the lengths of new brass and trim as required, but after that you'll rarely, if ever, have to trim.
    A crimp is detrimental to accuracy. Haven't ever crimped match ammo, myself, in 30 some years. Mind you, I only shot ISU/ISS bullseye. Like 243winxb says, check the PPC rules.
    "...recommendations on dies..." As long as the sizer die is carbide, the brand doesn't make any difference. Redding or RCBS' warrantee is better than Lee's. Lee's is 2 years. The others are forever.
    Redding won't fix it if there's evidence of abuse, careless handling, modifications or somebody else tried to fix it. And they want it returned to them.
    RCBS doesn't care what the problem is, who caused it or who bought the kit new either. Have any problems and they'll fix it with a phone call. Mind you, their prices are higher.
  9. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Member

    Sep 15, 2007
    S.E. Minnesota
    I've been loading a lot of DEWC's lately (Lee 148 grain TL) for Bullseye competition. I was loading them pretty hot, but I've backed down to "target" loads for a while until I get better. My latest load is 2.5 grains of International Clays because it measures small charges better than most powders and it burns cleaner than equivalent loads of Bullseye.

    I sort my target brass by headstamp, but I don't trim them. I seat the bullet and crimp at the same step *if* I'm crimping into a crimping groove (which I am with the TL bullet.) I experimented with using a 9mm die to do a taper crimp, and they looked good, but a light roll crimp was more accurate.
  10. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

    Apr 28, 2005
    Oregon Coast
    Back when I was shooting PPC on a regular basis and shooting roughly 1,500 rounds a week in practice and two matches per weekend, I went through a lot of .38 Special ammunition. I did this for almost 4 years, so the amount of ammunition I put downrange really mounted up.

    With this said, I never once trimmed a .38 Special case (and probably never will). I'm still loading over 10,000 rounds of .38 Special ammunition per year for my wife and I, and the thought of trimming that kind of volume would send me into convulsions, and it isn't necessary at all.

    I shot at the top of Grand Master in PPC, and what's important is cleaning primer pockets, consistant powder measuring, proper primer seating, good primers (Federal are my choice), good bullet seating and a light crimp. If you don't crimp, you won't be able to get those square case mouths to drop into the chambers of your cylinder from the speed loaders.

    A good quality bullet is also important, and those have gotten expensive, since there isn't the demand for HBWC bullets these days like there was back in the 1970's, when bullseye and PPC were quite popular. Nowadays, young shooters think 15 yards is "long range", but in bullseye and PPC you're shooting precision at 50 yards with a handgun. (and yes, all those tacticool shooters, a handgun will shoot accuractly at 50 yards, and beyond)

    Don't waste time trimming cases. Spend all that time learning sight alignment and trigger control.

    Hope this helps.

  11. Cop Bob

    Cop Bob Member

    Feb 15, 2011
    Deep in the Republic of TEXAS
    Finally Something I Have Some Real World Experiance In.

    Jenrick, This is not all that complicated because MANY people have traveled this road before you.

    I started shooting PPC in the mid 70's. I own more .38 wheel guns than I can count in just about any configuration you can think of.

    As far as trimming cases, I never did mess with it. For matches, when they allowed it, I used once or twice fired brass. I did separate, but only by Brass and Nickel.

    Personal experience tells me that Nickel case have a bit of a tendency to stick and it can frustrate you on the reload under time, brass cases are a "slippery" and I use them exclusively in informal matches.

    Bullets, Lyman and RCBS both make a 150 gr. Keith style bullet mold, If you can get someone to roll them for you, or you have the time, patience, equipment, and skill set, they are great. Again, the Keith style bullet helps a bunch in the reload and they group like a madman. Many matches will not let you shoot them. I like the Remington HBWC for reloading, but there are a bunch of options there. Try them all. But when you find one, STICK WITH IT!

    Bevel Base, and Double ended WC's are not my favorite, but for short range practice, go for it if it is all you can get. Murphy will always show up when it comes to supplies.

    Most often you have to shoot ammo issued at the match, or instructed to bring factory loaded Issued at the match it will be 148gr HBWC, either Federal or Winchester. Rarely Remington. Often it will be nickel cases, so swab your chambers between stages.

    I have shot HBWC for years, in both match and practice. It really is the bullet of choice.

    As far as loads, the standard for many years was 2.7gr of Bullseye. I have used WW Std Primers exclusively, why, they have fewer feeding problems in my progressive presses, and they are consistent as all get out.

    However, we worked up a load with 2.8grs of 700-X and it is the cat's behind. Velocity's lock step with the Bulleye load, burns cleaner and it prints like a house afire. Out of my factory barreled distinguished guns, one ragged hole at 25yds off a Ransom Rest. With my Heavy Barreled open class guns, even tighter. The 700-x also we find shoot at tad flatter, and a tad tighter at the 50yd line.

    The loaders that I have used for this load over the years have been C&H Autoload, Star, Phelps, and finally the best overall, the Dillons. I have both the 550b and the 650. Dang I like the Dillon dies. Easy to set up, easy to clean, occasionally you will have to clean you seating dies, as no matter how hard you try, you will occasionally shave a bit of lead. This is with ANY die and wadcutters. If you set the expanding die to flare enough to prevent it, you will overwork the brass to the point where you shorten case life. Minor little slivers (hair like) will not effect accuracy enough at the 7, 11, 15, or really the 25 enough to matter.

    Tests on the ransom rest put that fear to rest many years ago. At the 25yd lines it did product some minor fliers with the open class guns with their higher twist rates. (1-14, 1-15) but it was minimal.

    I can't tell you how many 5 gallon buckets of 38 brass I have gone through over the years.

    However, with these loads, the 700-x and the old Bullseye load, you are right on step ballisticlly with the Federal and WW Midrange Match loads. they are well under max for these powders and bullet weights, case life will be excellent. I have gotten close to 20 reloads out of a case. The nickel cases are almost always the first to split.

    The key to success in PPC, trigger and sight control, use up ALL your time, If your going/have to rush, rush the reload.... the faster you reload, the more time you have on target. Slow down and breath.

    And consistency... practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Again, when you settle on a bullet powder configuration, STICK WITH IT....

    Good luck, good shooting.

    One more note on powders... An accidental double charge of either one of these powders will get you attention, the 700-X has a much more forgiving pressure curve than Bullseye. I have experienced a double charge with both the Bullseye load (damage to the gun) and the 700-x, dang that smarted, but the gun was fine. Both instances, K-frame S&W's.

    I also have had a squib load that I did not catch with the 700-x, the following shot got my attention, and it did ring the BBL slightly, (6" Mod 19) if anything the gun shot tighter after the incident... (I can only summize that the ring gave the HBWC a place to flare and maybe a tighter bite in the groves. Who knows.) However I would not recommend it.

    I only mention this to note my experience/observations with the working pressures of these loads.
  12. fecmech

    fecmech Member

    Feb 21, 2004
    Buffalo NY
    I would echo the two previous posters in regards to brass trimming it's a waste of time. I also did not prep primer pockets but then I was not competing at the level Fred was but I can see his logic at that level. I also used Federal primers as they are the most sensitive to light hits. Mainly load good quality bullets and practice are the keys to good scores. There are 3 main things to remember in shooting a handgun well, sight alignment, sight alignment and not disturbing sight alignment when you pull the trigger.
  13. cheygriz

    cheygriz Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    High up in the Rockies
    When I started shooting B.E, many, many years ago, I bought 500 new cases. I never trimmed them.

    Just loaded them with standard small pistol primers (I used Remington 1 1/2), 2.8 grains Bullseye, 148 grain cast full wadcutters for practice, and 148 grain factory hollow base wadcutters for matches.

    Just enough "crimp" to straighten out the sides of the cases from the belling die. (actually, no real crimp, just a straight case.)

    In my old K-38, the accuracy was almost scary.

    If starting out with used brass, I'd trim them before the first loading, just for consistency.
  14. GLShooter

    GLShooter Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    I am like the other guys on here that have shot a ton of PPC stuff over the years. I had one lot of 1000 cases I used when I started out. I loaded the SAME hulls 21 times in 21 days for practice for my first PPC match in 1980. I won my class!! LOL

    I never trim the cases period. I shoot Magnus 148 gr. HBWC's over 2.8 of BE or 3.1 of 231. Winchester SP primers.

    If you are not belling excessively the brass will last a long time. I use RCBS and Dillon carbide dies. I hit the cases with Hornady One Shot to slick things up a tad though it is not really needed. Crimping over the front of the bullet for a nice rounded case mouth is important for reloads. Look at some factory WC ammo and it will give you an idea on to the degree of roll over.

    Good luck on the shooting.

  15. Jenrick

    Jenrick Member

    Mar 17, 2005
    Austin, TX
    Thanks for all the response. Glad I don't have to worry about trimming all that brass :) I'll stick with my Lee dies as well. I picked up a box of 158gr Laser Cast SWC's at Cabelas last week, as that was all had available in bulk. I went with a moderate crimp, we'll see how they shoot. I'll probably put in an order to Precision Delta at the end of the month for some HBWCs.

    Thanks for all the advice. Off to dry fire the 1500.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page