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Full Power .38 Wadcutters?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Lone Star, Jan 29, 2003.

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  1. Lone Star

    Lone Star Member

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    Many here will recall the late Maj. George C. Nonte, whose byline once dominated the gun magazines.

    He mentioned that, at one time, there was a factory .38 Special wadcutter full power load. That is, it was loaded to give the same velocity as the 158 grain RN lead ammo, about 860 FPS, at least in catalogs.

    A recent article by Charles Petty leads one to suspect that handloading a HB wadcutter to that level may be unwise.

    So: Was the factory load a solid base bullet? Is it safe to load the HB wadcutter to that level? Should one use the solid base bullet? And is there any real impact advantage to it over the SWC, which will have better flight characteristics beyond about 25 yards?

    I thought this might be a useful load for S&W .38's made before 1957.

    Your thoughts?

    Lone Star
     
  2. mec

    mec Member

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    Terry Murbach wrote an article a few years ago about loading solid based wadcutters to nominal factory rn levels. ( the factory RNs actually usually clock mid sevens instead of the 800 fps range). The old factory loads were probably solid base but some of the old lyman hbwc molds threw bullets with fairly heavy skirts that probably wouldn't funnel out on you. I remember one that a friend bought from Lyman when they discontinued it. It weighed 160 grains and was accurate loaded backwards over fairly heavy charges.
     
  3. tbeb

    tbeb Member

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    I have older reloading data from Hornady and it shows powder charges that will propel their HBWC (manufactured back then) to 850 fps from a 4" barrel. Would have to check but I think it shows a maximum load that will push it 900 fps. I am a reloader and would recommend a flat base WC for these velocities.

    Anyhow, I've always used a hard 158 gr. LSWC when I wanted over 800.
     
  4. duck hunt

    duck hunt Member

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    I'd like to see a lower-grainage solid wadcutter in a +P loading.
     
  5. Wil Terry

    Wil Terry Member

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    HEY! I KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT THIS SUBJECT, BY GOLLY.

    Remington did make full-charge wadcutter loads, a 148gr HBWC at 850fps in the box I had to shoot, test, and chronograph. The ammo was made right after WWII. The stuff shot like gangbusters and started me on a long search to duplicate the loads in all mt 38SPECIAL sixguns and the M52 pistol.
    I shot up about 10,000 WC bullets in these tests including bullets from SPEER, ZERO, HORNADY, 3-D[?]...DAMN! can't remember the others off hand, plus the complete line of cast wadcutters from BULL-X.
    To a gun, every one shot its' best with full charge wadcutter loads, and to a gun they all shot best with a charge of 3.4grs. Now some preferred 3.4gr of BULLSEYE, some liked 3.4gr of REDDOT, or GREENDOT, or 452AA, or AA2, or WST, or whatever.
    I REPEAT: EVERY GUN SHOT ITS' BEST EVER WITH A CHARGE OF 3.4GRs OF ITS' PREFERRED PROPELLENT.
    I never had any problems with shirt failures with the HBWC bullets. [ BUT DON'T TRY THIS WITH UNIQUE ]
    The guns involved were a 3" M36, a 4" M15 and M19, a 5" M52, a 6" M19, and a 6 1/2" M23 outdoorsman...AND I'LL BE DAMNED AGAIN...I can't remember the othe 38's.
     
  6. cxm

    cxm Member

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    cxm

    A number of makers of cast bullets make a solid LWC bullet. I have used several brands and all seem to give excellent service and are very accurate indeed.

    Curious thing... my current loading for the 148 gr. LWC is .....(drum rolll) 3.4 grains of Clays....

    V/r

    Chuck
     
  7. Adventurer_96

    Adventurer_96 Member

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    I'm glad I saw this thread because I'm going to be loading a .38 wadcutter for both my revolver loads and a Gold Cup in .38 Special that I'll be shooting soon. What I'd really like to find is a good load with a clean burning powder and a clean shooting wadcutter bullet. I'm leaning towards trying Bullseye since I think my Red Dot loads might be a bit dirty, and I'd prefer a cleaner load for a semiauto.

    Thanks for the info.
     
  8. JMLV

    JMLV Member

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    according to hornadays web sight

    their factory wadcutter loads are listed at 800 fps volicity. Of course whens the last time you saw horaday ammo in wal-mart?:D
     
  9. Quantrill

    Quantrill Member

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    Wadcutters

    The standard reload for .38spec. wadcutter TARGET load is 2.7 Bullseye with a 148 or 141 wadcutter. For a little cleaner burning, I use 2.5 700X with the same wadcutters. These are NOT equal to full load 158gr. factory loads but ARE equal to factory wadcutter TARGET loads. Quantrill
     
  10. 444

    444 Member

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    TERRY
    Were these loaded with the hollow base up or down ?
     
  11. Gordon

    Gordon Member

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    3.4 Grains of 231 !
     
  12. Coot

    Coot Member

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    I'll second Gordon's recommendation! Win 231 shoots so well out of my M60 snubby and GP 100 it's scarey...
     
  13. Al Thompson

    Al Thompson Moderator Staff Member

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    Atlanta Arms makes a very nice 148 gr FMJWC. I've shot quite a bit of it and like it. If I had someone who was recoil sensitive, this would be the load. I did some penetration tests and it works fine.
     
  14. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    And the point is?

    I never liked full power since it meant more leading. Buy some copper mesh (choir boy) from your supermarket to scrub out the barrel later.
     
  15. Poohgyrr

    Poohgyrr Member

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    Mr Murbach,

    Do you think I can expect similiar results out of our 1980's Detective Special ?? That could be a nice round for this little .38.

    Thanks.
     
  16. braindead0

    braindead0 Member

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    If I'm not mistaken, a lot of HBWC's (and WC's for that matter) are swaged out of relatively soft lead. Pushing these to full power .38 speeds would probably get you a lot of leading..

    I usually use Meister 'hard swaged', 3.2gr bullseye in a .357case.. works pretty well at around 600fps or so.
     
  17. Gewehr98

    Gewehr98 Member

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    I've done the 3.4 grains of WST trick...

    in my 6" K-Frame PPC revolver. I didn't want the leading problem, so I found Berry's 148gr HBWC bullets, that have been copper-plates. Dunno about proper skirt expansion, but no leading, and excellent accuracy at the extra velocity!
     
  18. Ed Harris

    Ed Harris Member

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    .38 Special Standard Loads with Alliant Bullseye

    Winchester stopped selling lead component bullets for reloading several years ago. Remington hollow-based wad-cutter bullets are still available and shoot extremely well. The black, dry lube builds up in seating dies and affects seating depth unless cleaned out periodically.

    With today's Alliant Bullseye you must increase the nominal charge from the often recommended 2.8 grains of the former Hercules product to 3.0 grains of Alliant to approximate the 770+/- 30 fps velocity of factory wadcutter ammunition.

    For a "full charge wadcutter" load suitable for field or defense use in revolvers you may increase the charge, not to exceed 3.5 grains of Alliant Bullseye, for a velocity of about 850 f.p.s. from a 6" revolver or 750 from a 2" snubby.

    Remington hollow-based wad cutters shoot consistently well with charges in the range of 2.5 to 3.5 grains of Alliant Bullseye, even though these are somewhat lighter and heavier charges than those usually recommended.

    Fifty-yard results are revealing. The best factory wad-cutter loads I’ve tested are of historical interest, Remington-Bridgeport production used by the U.S. Pistol Team in the 1960 Olympic Games. It averaged 1.16” at 50 yards for ten consecutive 5-shot groups from a Unertl scoped BSA Martini action with Green Mountain barrel and .357 Magnum chamber having throating similar to the .38 AMU. Norma 158-grain lead, round nosed ammo from the mid 1980s averaged 1.6” at 50 yards.

    Of the factory swaged hollow based wad cutters sold for hand loading only Remington’s consistently averaged less than 2” at fifty yards. The often recommended 2.8 grain charge of Bullseye was quite good and averaged 1.8”, from the test barrel, but increasing the charge to 3 grains shrunk the average to an inch and a half.

    The Remington 158-gr. Lead SWC flat base of .358 diameter loaded to 1.45” overall with 3.5 grains of Bullseye averaged an inch and a half. Speer’s 158-gr. Lead Round nose with 3.5 grains of Bullseye shot as well as my prized lot of Norma LRN. Dispersion of groups with the .357" diameter Remington component bullet were approximately DOUBLE that for the .358 diameter ones. Be sure that you buy .358 diameter lead bullets!
     
  19. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Poster #18, are you THE Ed Harris of Ed's Red fame?
    If so, glad to have you aboard, always thought your stuff was some of the most sensible around.

    Now if I could just get Jan Stevenson to post...
     
  20. MortalWombat

    MortalWombat Member

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    Buffalo Bore makes a hard cast 150 gr wadcutter, 868 fps (out of a 2" barrel).

     
  21. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Member

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    I've loaded .357 Magnums with DEWC bullets and 5.7 grains of Bullseye. They do a number on steel targets; I haven't tried them on paper targets yet to determine their real accuracy. They only leaded a little just in front of the forcing cone, like any other lead bullet being pushed to the edge.

    They also get the attention of the shooter next to you when touch one off after they saw you loading wadcutters and assumed they were wimpy .38 Specials. :D
     
  22. dmickey

    dmickey Member

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    Well Mr. Harris, you seem to be out of date with the information about Winchester components. They are currently available.:what:
     
  23. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    I have read (but not seen) that loading a HBWC to higher velocities can result in part of the hollowbase blowing out leaving a ring of lead in the barrel with obvious results with your next round.

    I think you're better off usin plain base WCs if you want to crank up the velocity.
     
  24. Bullet Bob

    Bullet Bob Member

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    This is my once a year off-topic thread deviation post.

    Is anyone else here old enough to remember Dean Grennell (gunwriter)? Before the reliable hollowpoints of today, he used to experiment with HBWC reversed for snub barrel loads, theorizing that the soft lead and huge hollow point would expand even out of short-barrelled guns.
     
  25. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    I well remember Dean Grennell and have two of his books. For him, the inverted HBWC was just the jumping off point for bullets of his own design and manufacture. Like the Parajax, "guaranteed to open" (pair of jacks, poker, get it, get it?)

    I don't know why it is that the inverted wadcutter has to come up every time the subject of expansive bullets is mentioned. Usually by people who would have apoplexy if you suggested any other form of handload for self defense.

    The only thing worse is those who recommend the unaltered midrange wadcutter for self defense. I have shot those at a variety of targets and while the flat front transmits energy well, it doesn't have much to transmit and does not carry it very deep. Maybe the Buffalo Bore highspeed hard wadcutter would do better.

    Dmickey, could you tell us where to get Winchester LEAD bullets as Mr Harris said to be discontinued. I cannot find them at Midway, Midsouth, or Grafs. Plenty of jacketed Winchester bullets, though.
     
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