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Getting started .357 reloading during Covid times-many questions

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by HereToLearn, Nov 9, 2020.

  1. HereToLearn

    HereToLearn Member

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    Hello all,
    I have been a hunter and firearms enthusiast for about 15 years but have just purchased a .357 and reloading supplies this year (worst possible time to get into reloading, I know). I want to be safe in this new endeavor and have many questions regarding my hodgepodge assembly of components. The revolver is a Ruger SP101 4.2" .357. My goal is to become proficient enough to use this as a hiking personal protection sidearm for bears, big cats, 2-legged predators as well as for hunting jackrabbits, and eventually antelope and deer. I know many would have gone with a larger caliber, but I could not argue with the weight, strength and barrel length of the SP101. I also wanted something I could learn to shoot very proficiently. *I really don't want this to become a philosophical discussion about whether a headshot on a charging bear with hard cast from a .357 is really adequate or not. I have the budget for ONE handgun I will not be be buying another one or firing my handloads in any other firearms.*
    This said, With COVID shortages I managed to get a box of 50 .357 mag bullets to use for for brass, 100 .38 special bullets, and an unopened package of 100 .38+p Starline brass. I found 2000 small magnum pistol primers, 1 lb of Clays powder, 1 lb of Win 296 powder, 250 HSC 158 gn hollowpoint plated bullets, 500 158 gn swc hard cast bullets, 100 180 gn XTP hollowpoints. I got a used single-stage Lee, RCBS carbide dies, Lee ram prime, Redding beam scale, and calipers. I could not find any .357 brass. I have loaded .30-06 with a LEE Loader hammer kit with good success.
    Now to the questions:
    1. Given that I have all this .38 special and +p brass, would it be unwise to attempt to load up higher pressure loads (with the 296 or Clays and magnum primers I have) to practice and get used to recoil in my .357? Can the brass take it?
    Thoughts: -I've read about looking for signs of excessive pressure
    -This would only be fired in MY Ruger .357. (I would mark them "FOR USE in .357 MAG ONLY")
    -I find no published data for high pressure .38 special but I understand that there is some older high pressure data available.
    2. I'm hoping to use the 158 gn hard cast loads as mountain protection and possibly for hunting but also figured the 180 gn XTP would be good for hunting. Do I need to load hard cast lead and jacketed bullets to a different velocity? I have read so many conflicting ideas about barrel leading I don't know who to believe.
    3. Given COVID times and the limitations of my current supplies, how would you seasoned reloaders and shooters proceed with getting into shooting/reloading the .357 with the goals I have in mind? Am I missing something critical? Would you hold out to get a different powder?
    Should I find someone to trade my .38+P brass for some proper .357 brass? Is the 50 .357 brass that I have enough to get by for awhile?

    I appreciate any help in these matters and will be happy to clarify anything if needed.
     
  2. AJC1

    AJC1 Member

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    Check out the free ramshot manual for download on their sight. It may have the 38+p you want. I have not used the powders you have as I'm more of a unique, or 2400 kind of guy. With 296 you should get some reloading experience first because it has a narrow charge window. It's a great powder and accurate which might end up in your hunting and carry loads. I would focus your inital effort on the 38s to develop confidence with increased protection being shot in 357
     
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  3. Dudedog
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    Dudedog Contributing Member

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    Welcome to THR, lots of great people here.

    You could do it in .38 brass but for defense purposes but I would really try to find some .357 brass.
    Clays is a fast burning powder good for light-med practice, target loads but not what you want for top vels.
    W296/H110 makes great Full power .357 loads but Hodgdon does not list any data for it for .38 Special +P.

    I don't have any spare .357 brass or I would send you some but maybe someone here can spare 100 for you if you can't find any to purchase.
     
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  4. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    The brass can take it, but it’s a bad idea in general to load .38 Spl cases to mag levels, be patient and find some .357 Mag cases.
     
  5. Dudedog
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    Dudedog Contributing Member

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  6. entropy

    entropy Member

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    Nomenclature:
    A loaded cartridge ready to fire is not called a "bullet".

    The bullet is the projectile. The complete round is called a cartridge, or a round. Nomenclature is very important in reloading.

    On to your questions:
    It indeed would be unwise. Yes, the brass can take it, with shortened case life (less reloads before splitting) being the result.

    Gas checks. Get some gas checks. This will allow higher velocites with hard cast lead. The XTP is a fine hunting bullet.

    Well, I got into .38/.357 reloading in 1977, so I really don't know how to answer that, nor would I recommend you follow my example at that time of 'hot-rodding' .357 rounds to dangerous levels. (I was a teenager, young and dumb...)
    I used Blue Dot for .357 loads (it was also my duck load powder) but I exceeded published max at the time. I do not recommend it, even for shooting in a Ruger. The plus with Blue Dot now is there is less demand for it, my LGS has plenty. Clays will not get you to the magnum levels you want for your .357's, but it is a great powder for some .38 plinking/practice loads. The other powder I used back then for .357 Mag. was WIn. 572.

    Yes, the 50 pieces of brass will get you by for load development, and a cylinderful for carry. Just keep an eye out online for .357 brass.
     
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  7. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Member

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    I’ll echo the advice not to put magnum loads in .38 brass. If you look into the development of .357 mag, you’ll find that initially they were able to load those velocities and pressures into .38 cases but it ran the risk of blowing up some .38 pistols that weren’t strong enough to handle the pressure. Therefore they extended the case so that it wouldn’t fit in a .38 revolver. BAM! The new .357 Mag is born! This ensured that everybody knew exactly which guns were designed to handle the higher pressures.

    The whole reason behind the way .357 Mag was spec’ed was to keep people from accidentally blowing up guns and getting hurt. I humbly recommend you don’t screw with that.

    Anyway, the .38 brass you have can be used to make .38 loads (and very likely with the same dies you already have) so that might be a good place to start in reloading. That way you have an additional significant safety factor on the strength of the gun and can have lower recoil rounds to play with at the range. Some ranges don’t allow magnum rounds to be used on steel pistol targets, so that’s something to watch out for too.

    The trick to buying components (or really anything gun related) during a shortage is knowledge, persistence, and speed. Make a list of things you want/need and what the current going rate is vs what was “normal”, and have some funds set aside. Keep an eye out on websites and trading forums and when you see something on your list that’s in stock (and at a price acceptable to you), quickly jump on it and place the order.

    It’s not pretty and takes a good bit of time and effort, but that’s the best way I’ve found to deal with buying during shortages.

    As far as reloading, just take your time and be very detailed in every step and you’ll make some great loads. 50 pieces of brass for .357 will be a good start and definitely get you through load development and practice. I’d keep an eye out for more though. Even though you can get numerous loadings out of a piece of brass, you’re basically limited to only having 1 box of ammo loaded at any one time.

    Also, I may have missed it on your list, but I’d recommend a case tumbler if you don’t have one already.
     
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  8. NMexJim

    NMexJim Member

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    So, you're using a hand reloading set? Wow, I started off with one of those and still have it (set waaayyy back on the shelf). .357 too. Loaded a lot of rounds with that thing. Had the sore hands to prove it.

    When you get enough .357 brass, you can put the .38 aside. Light loads, heavy loads, .357 case for all. I had to use a lot of nickel-plated .357 cases (good to have cops as friends back then) and that worked fine. Eventually, they'll split a bit around the mouth and you can pitch 'em. I always keep new or once fired (fired by myself) for higher pressure rounds.

    I had the predecessor to the 101, the Security Six. That was and is a very good revolver, and I think the 101 series is very good. I put a lot of stout loads through it and never lost timing nor did it shoot loose, My son-in-law begged mine off of me, and it continues to perform well. I replaced it with a SW686.
     
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  9. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    Don't.

    Sure, you probably won't forget, but it's such an awful precedent; if you start there, you're going to screw something up catastrophically sooner or later.

    Published data, until you know what you're doing.
     
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  10. Bill M.

    Bill M. Member

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    There is no way to read or judge pressure in a handgun. So there is not way to really work up a load over pressure for the manuals. No, do not overload the .38 special cases. The first real pressure sign could be a big boom. If you want them I will sell you 100 brand new Starline cases for $15.00 plus shipping. It took me 9 weeks to get the order of cases from Starline and that is what I paid for them by the 1,000. If you want a feel for full .357 loads that is the way to go. Incidentially I download almost all my .357 loads anyway.
     
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  11. mjsdwash

    mjsdwash Member

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    1 I was in a very similar situation to you, and do not recommend it. Loading magnum loads in 38spl cases, even reduced to accommodate the lower volume resulted in several cases cracking. One case broke in the chamber and was not easily removed.
    2 there is different load data for lead vs jacketed. Lots of online sources too, powder manufacturers, and Speer reloading are free and decent.
    3 Wait until the thousands who stockpiled components with no REAL interest in taking up reloading start loosing interest. Most will want at least what they paid, and many will want what the were selling for at peak, long after stuff comes into stock. Wait it out.
     
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  12. Ru4real

    Ru4real Member

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    Yes, both your Ruger and 38 Special brass will handle higher pressures, as you suspected. The down side is you have to be the guardian to make sure the ammunition is not mis-used. All the posts above mine are warning you about this.

    A favorite load of mine in 38 Special brass is 158gr hardcast SWC or 158gr JHP crimped at 1.5” loaded round overall length using magnum primers and 16 grains of W296 / H110 powder. I did my work up starting at 14gr of powder. For the JHP, the cannelure will be almost 1/8” above the case mouth and crimp, so they look a little goofy. But 1.5” is important - see 357 overall length data.

    I shoot these in a S&W 586 w/ 6” barrel and a Kimber K6S w/ 4” barrel. For a new person starting out, the H110 load is probably safer than loads using Clays powder because you can easily double or triple charge a 38 with Clays powder.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2020
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  13. .38 Special

    .38 Special Member

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    I'm a little conficted here. Decades ago it was common to put up .357-like loads in .38 brass, as .38 brass was less expensive and more available. The load data is still out there on the internet.

    It might not be a great idea for the inexperienced handloader to take this on as his introductory project, though, and I'm also not convinced that shooting magnum revolvers is the best way to become comfortable shooting magnum revolvers.

    My honest advice would be to start out making mild to moderate loads with something like Trail Boss. Not only is that the safest way to gain experience handloading, but it makes for a great practice load in a mid-frame revolver. After burning through that first bottle of Trail Boss then maybe Clays can be next - although I strongly dislike that powder in handguns and find that it has a very narrow working range and is eager to bite anyone who tries to load it very hot. As for 296, it can actually be used in the way the OP intends, but again, I really believe it to be a project for the most experienced handloader.
     
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  14. Kevin Rohrer

    Kevin Rohrer Member

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    The OP needs to buy Lyman #50 or similar manual and read the opening chapters, then find someone who can keep him from losing an eye (or worse) by learning to reload safely.
     
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  15. AJC1

    AJC1 Member

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    The obvious answer is to buy the offered starline brass. Hell it's even cheap. Know if you play with the 296 that mag primers are required. The trailboss is a great way to learn. There are a lot of good ways for this to go but trying to hotrod 357 loads with Clay's in 38 cases is a bad plan.
     
  16. Frulk

    Frulk Member

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    Be aware that the Sp101 is Ruger’s smallest revolver and full power .357s with 158 grainers lead slugs WILL produce more than adequate recoil.

    You mentioned you had 180 grain bullets as well. I have an SP101 and off the top of my head don’t remember if it will accommodate 180 grainers. Double check your overall cartridge length to what your cylinder will accommodate before you make a bunch of rounds that won’t work.
     
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  17. lordpaxman

    lordpaxman Member

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    I would load the .38 cases to .38 published data. Clays will produce a very light target load, which will at least allow you to practice. 296 is .357 powder and just about at the opposite end (meaning slow) then Clays. Any chance you can get a powder somewhere in between? W231 or W244? Something at that burn rate, and checking the published data, should get you SD loads in .38 without any problems.
    I shoot .38 and .357 in a 686, I like them both and eventually you’ll get .357 brass but use what you have to get started. Good luck!
     
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  18. AJC1

    AJC1 Member

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  19. Riomouse911

    Riomouse911 Member

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    Based on your list it sounds like you’re just getting into the revolver game. Welcome!

    You don’t need to go full throttle 24/7/365, shooting full house magnum loads in a smaller framed .357 like the SP 101 can lead to a bad case of “flinchitis” that can be tough to break. Sometimes it’s very beneficial to shoot lower powered rounds regularly and work on solidifying the fundamentals. I know I get a ton of instant feedback when I’m focusing on doing the little things right... because when I don’t the target shows me.

    The best part of owning a .357 is loading both .357 and .38 Spl. rounds for it. You can go from very mild to wild and still have the same heft, grip, trigger action and sight picture.

    If you can find any, a pound of Unique powder will do a lot of what you’ll need. Basic soft beginner loads of 3.5 gr. Unique under a 148 gr Wadcutter, a decent .38 load is 4.5 gr Unique under a 158 gr SWC, a mild magnum load in a .357 case is 6.7 gr Unique under the same 158 gr SWC.

    You can then read up on higher level .357 loads with powders suitable for them to produce some good ones for your chosen reasons for carry.

    Good luck, and stay safe!
     
  20. halfmoonclip

    halfmoonclip Member

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    One thing of at a time. Back in the dim mists of time, I learned reloading on a single-stage press, loading handcast 'bean can' wadcutters, at target velocities.
    There's a lot of minutiae to reloading; not roaring off running max loads, or even a whole variety of loads, is a much more prudent policy.
    Think of where you want to start, and develop one good load that you like. Your 150 gr SWC are a place to start; check the manuals to see which of your powders will produce a moderate load...I'm away from home, so I can't check my own manual stash.
    Loading is a satisfying and money saving undertaking, and it marks you as more than a dilettante shooter. ;)
    Moon
     
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  21. Random 8

    Random 8 Member

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    Personally, I would use both 158 plated and cast for full power (.38 spl) practice with your .38 brass. Your clays will stretch quite a ways in this application. Without referencing data, I'm pretty sure you can get into the spicy range for .38 safely with these. Use these loads to build proficiency. Use the 180s for a workup with your W296. Once you have found a safe, accurate load, reload in quantity with what you have left. For obtaining a zero and carrying around and likely not shooting very many, you can ration these a long ways. This should get you going until you can fill some holes. I like the Speer 158 JSP for your application where a bit more penetration may be desireable. Unique or HS-6 are good picks for top power or +P .38 and mid-range .357 with the 158 weight if you can find any along the way.

    Did a little shopping for you too. https://www.evergladesammo.com/brass/handgun-brass/357-magnum-new-reloading-brass.html
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2020
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  22. MetalMan52

    MetalMan52 Member

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    I would offer this advise. Stsrt a reloading notebook for allof your loads.
    I keep the following information on my loads.
    Brass brand & trim to length, primer type & manufacturer, exact powder type & weight, bullet weight and product #, overall cartridge length (over seated bullet), crimp used and notes on each load. The notes for accuracy good or bad any problems ect.
    I keep a section for each caliber and refer to them all the time.
     
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  23. Bfh_auto

    Bfh_auto Member

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    I have done all the unrecommended things with 38/357 in the past.
    I realized it was a bad idea after I got a 38 special.
    Load 38 and 38 +P for a while. It will help your shooting skills and save money. After brass is available. You can try h110.
     
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  24. bullseye308

    bullseye308 Member

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    You could also look for BE-86, Bullseye, or HP38/WIN231(same powder) for light to midrange loads to practice. I load a cast 158 swc over 5.0 grains of bullseye in 357 brass for a nice target load in a 6” gp-100.
    Accurate 2400 or WIN296 work great for full power loads and will handle most any hunting needs.
     
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  25. gonoles_1980

    gonoles_1980 Member

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    I use a moderate load of 4.5gr of HP-38 with 158gr LSWC in my snubby, easy to shoot, I have a 1.8" barrel. I bought primarily new brass from Starline because I found most factory loads hurt my hand and I didn't want to shoot that much factory ammo to get the brass I needed. You can alway buy once used brass. I've bought from these guys https://www.oncefiredbrass.com/357magr-pnickel.aspx and was happy with the results, I ordered .380 brass though. Ordered all my 357 brass from Starline.
     
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