Bare Necessities for .38 Special

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Panzerschwein, Dec 2, 2014.

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  1. Panzerschwein

    Panzerschwein member

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    Hello friends!

    Well, two brand new revolvers just walked into my life: a S&W Model 64 and a Ruger GP100. I absolutely love a good .38, and this brings my total of .38 special/.357 magnum revolvers to 4. The only thing I like more than the revolver themselves, is shooting them.

    However, I've come to the conclusion that in order to get my marksmanship up to the level I want to, and to just plain shoot as much as I want to, I'm going to have to start reloading. Let me start off by saying that I'm on a budget, but have plenty of time on my hands to do this.

    Basically I am looking to purchase the absolute bare necessities for reloading .38 special 148 grain wadcutters, or other style bullets of .38 special. I will be reloading only for practice ammunition and will not be doing any hot loads or anything of the sort. All I want to be able to do is make a quality box of .38 special target loads as inexpensively as I can.

    I am not a reloader, and while I know the general basics behind it, I am not sure as to what would be the best equipment for me to buy. All I know is I have plenty of time, so one of the cheap single stage presses would be fine. I do know I need some dies and stuff... but am not sure exactly what I need.

    So I am looking for as low cost and simple a set up as possible for reloading about 300 +/- .38 special target loads per week or so.

    Please help me in making a list for the stuff I need! Thanks! :D
     
  2. Average Joe

    Average Joe Member

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    I just answered your post on the Smith& Wesson forum.
     
  3. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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  4. J.R.W.

    J.R.W. Member

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  5. Haxby

    Haxby Member

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    If you get one of the Lee kits, dies, and the length gauge that works with the case trimmer, you don't even need a caliper to start reloading the 38 & 357.
     
  6. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    300 rounds a week isn't a lot of ammo but it's more than I would like to load on a single stage press. The Lee Classic Turret Press costs no more than a single stage but once you get used to loading you can load ~180 to 200 handgun rounds per hour.

    Kemph Gun shop online has a good kit that doesn't cost a lot. I suggest you do the upgrade at the bottom of the page for the PRO Auto-Disk. It's a much better powder measure for not a lot more money.
    https://kempfgunshop.com//index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=shop.flypage&product_id=630&category_id=190&manufacturer_id=0&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=41

    The kit comes with the press, a set of dies, a powder measure, the on press priming system which I feel works very well and a few extras for only $219 plus $14.95 for the upgrade. Add a set of calipers and you can load for the .38 Special very well...
     
  7. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Member

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    You need a scale, too. $25 for the Lee scale, $75 or so for an Ohaus 505 (no matter whose label is on it, Dillon, RCBS, Lyman) on up to $180 for a superb 1010.

    You NEED a scale, and a balance beam is the way to go. An electronic one if you want, but whatever else you have, a gravity-powered balance beam should be there.

    Lost Sheep
     
  8. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Member

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    Thanks for asking our advice

    Any list I make will do very well for me but may not be ideal for you.

    If you are to load only one caliber, but large quantities, a Dillon Square Deal would be the cat's meow. For about $500 you can be loading several hundred rounds an hour if you have the concentration for it.

    (From what you have said, this is what I would recommend for you,)

    For half that, you can have a first-class turret and do about two hundred rounds an hour once you get well practiced at loading

    (This is what I prefer for my needs)

    For around $150 a good single-stage setup and you are loading 50-80 rounds an hour.

    (This is where I started, then went progressive and settled on a turret at last.)

    What's your preference? Any of us can send a shopping list if we know your needs. (I acknowledge that you have specified a good portion of your needs, but there are more questions:

    Will you be able to leave your setup set up permanently or put it away after each loading session?

    What quantities will you be reloading for those calibers? (Per month)

    How much time will you be willing to devote to those quantities?

    How large of production runs before swapping calibers?

    What is your budget for the initial purchase? (Not components, just the equipment)

    Will you want to get your entire setup at once or, after an initial setup that does all you need, add accessories and conveniences as your experience suggests and finances permit? Building slowly allows you to afford to buy first-class gear and never have to trade in.

    Will you be putting your gear away after each session or leave it set up permanently?

    How much space will you devote permanently to a loading area, if any?

    Do you want it to be portable?

    Lost Sheep

    P,S, The saga of the growth of my loading bench is introduced here:
    www.rugerforum.net/reloading/29385-budget-beginning-bench-you-will-never-outgrow-novice-handloader.html
     
  9. 41 Mag

    41 Mag Member

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    Some good info there on getting set up. Also if your not in a rush, look around locally at estate sales and such as you can sometimes find plenty of loading equipment as well as components in those as well for not a lot of outlay. If you shop one of the online auction sites be aware that presses aren't usually light weight, and you might pay as much in shipping as you do for the auction. (don't ask how I know this)

    I would also suggest looking to some of the commercial cast bullets makers for your bullets. They all usually sell a 146 or 148gr DEWC of some type, as well as a 158gr SWC. With those two, some standard small pistol primers, and a jug of Bullseye powder, your set.

    I know the majority of folks NEVER trim their revolver cases. I didn't either for a number of years. However I found that it can and does make a difference if you are looking for top accuracy. If you cases aren't the same length or within about .002" your crimp is going to be different from one shot to the next. While it may or may not be noticeable depending on your own ability, if you are able to cut a one hole group, you will start to notice the fliers and wonder whats up.
     
  10. Panzerschwein

    Panzerschwein member

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    Thank you guys so much! You are really helping me.

    There is a guy who works at the local indoor range who does a reloading class about every month, cost is $85 and he says you get to load ammo in his class. Do you think it's worth going to, or would that money be better spent on buying equipment and a good reloading book?

    Thanks!
     
  11. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Two or three books.
    Memorize them all.

    Then buy reloading equipment.

    Then come back here and ask when you think you have a problem.

    That's how many of us had to start in 1960 something before Al Gore invented to Interweb machine.
    But we had to skip the last step because there was no one to ask.

    rc
     
  12. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Member

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    I started loading with the guy who sold me my press. He loaded three cartridges and narrated while I watched. Then I loaded three while he watched over my shoulder to make sure I did not make any mistakes. After that, it was all what I learned from books. There is nothing like a tutor, or better yet, a mentor. A longer mentoring period might have changed my reloading style, but I learned a lot in those first 6 rounds, as he explained each step. Then I educated myself after that.

    Whether your $85 is as well spent as my "free" lesson was. A mentor is good. A teacher in a class (depending on how he conducts his class) may not be able to give you the attention that would be most beneficial. There is no substitute for someone watching you load a few cartridges and critiquing your technigue BEFORE you develop bad habits or make a dangerous mistake. (A mistake might not have consequences right away, but maybe only after you have escaped trouble a hundred times until one day you get bit.).

    This was LONG before the internet. I read books, magazines and talked to other loaders when I ran cross one. But mostly I depende on books, using logic and being conservative to keep me safe.

    Lost Sheep
     
  13. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    A fellow at work got G&A magazine, so when he was done I would read it. Ordered my own subscription. Every month I would jump straight to the reloading section. Ordered a couple of reloading magazines. Ordered an RCBS reloading kit. Read the manual over and over and over. Then nervously reloaded my first handful of .45 ACP rounds. Success! Been going ever since.

    Too many people try to skip the reading/studying manuals. I think that in general it is a bad idea. While the internet is a wonderful aide to learn something new, the information in the manuals is priceless and will give the new reloader a big head start into understanding how it is done, what powders are good for what, how to prep cases, etc, etc, and if they then come to someplace like THR to ask questions, they will ask much better questions which will result in much better advise, and they will understand the answers better.

    By and large we get those kinds of well prepared folks here, but sometimes there will be a thread with a question that makes me cringe, because I know the member has done zero due diligence.

    If you are confident in your ability to read manuals, decipher advise on the internet, and have a bit of mechanical ability, then I am not so sure $85 is worth whatever this fellow will show you (I'm pretty frugal (OK, cheap)), but that said, there is nothing like hands on with someone who knows what they are doing to learn something. $85 worth of stuff, or training? Hmmm.... Only you can make that call. :)
     
  14. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    I use a Lee Loader for the majority of my 38 Special loading. Got it on eBay for around 15 dollars. A Lee dipper kit and manual completes the setup.

    Not for everyone though. I got it when I was going through a "less is more" phase of my life.
     
  15. 4895

    4895 Member

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    Scale (Digital is fine)

    Powder Measure (Lee is fine)

    Dies (Lee is fine)

    Press (Lee hand press kit)

    Will set you back about $150

    or

    You could buy the kit from Kempfs (better deal) $250

    or

    You could buy a Dillon and never look back $400 (capable of 300 rounds an hour, lifetime NO BS warranty, retains value if you decide to sell or upgrade, not a cheap toy)
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2014
  16. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    I'm not so sure spending $85 on "lessons" would be the way I would go. (I'm also frugal" but like said above, that's your call. I was lucky enough to have a mentor who helped set up my press and go through the basics of reloading with me, hands on.

    If there is a Cabela's near you they sometimes have free classes on reloading. Check with the local NRA rep and see if they have a reloading class going any time soon. If you can't find a mentor there are places to learn without a financial outlay.
     
  17. rsrocket1

    rsrocket1 Member

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    There are so many reloading videos on Youtube that you should be able to watch enough to learn how to reload without spending any cash. Take your time and watch lots of videos and read up on these forums. You will eventually know what is being done right and what is being done wrong on the videos if you watch enough of them. Lee makes a bunch of good videos on how to set up and adjust their dies so I would recommend these even if you don't buy Lee dies.
     
  18. Arkansas Paul

    Arkansas Paul Member

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    Others have suggested Lee equipment as a quality, inexpensive brand, and I agree. Their equipment is very good for what you're paying. No doubt about it.
    So I'll move onto one more suggestion, since you said you have plenty of spare time on your hands.

    If you want to load handgun ammo as inexpensively as you can, look into casting. You don't have to have hundreds of dollars worth of fancy equipment to do it. A decent iron pot, a burner of some sort and a ladle. Lee 2 cavity molds are very inexpensive at about $20 each and cast great bullets.

    I can load 1,000 rounds of .38 Spcl for around the $65 mark. How's that for inexpensive? ;)
     
  19. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

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    A single stage press, scale, Lee case length gauge type trimmer, prime on the press, 38/357 dies, shell holder if the die set doesn't come with one, loading tray, scoops to handle the powder with or use with the scale, powder, primers, bullets, brass, and a couple of reloading books.

    You could probably get by without the Lee trimming tool, but doing so will likely cause you problems when crimping them. But do buy at least one good reloading book to start with. Lyman 49th and the Speer will answer most any questions you'll have.

    GS
     
  20. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Member

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    Go to the range you mentioned and put a note on their bulletin board about looking for local used equipment. You'll meet lots of people, some will be aging out of the hobby. That's a great way to pick up quality equipment for a song. And at the same time you'll meet a mentor.

    If all else fails, take the class and buddy-up with someone you meet there.
     
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