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HP38 in 38 Special confusion

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by brewer12345, May 18, 2017.

  1. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    I am starting to reload metallic cartridges with 38 special. I have a pound of HP38, a bunch of resized and primed brass and 158 grain RNFP lead bullets. I am in the process of stumbling my way through the loading process with the first 50 rounds, but I thought I would ask about something weird in the load data. Hodgdon says that this combination should be min. 3.1 and max 3.7 grains of powder. They list pressures associated with each end of the range and the upper end is well short of the SAAMI limit at 14k and change. My Lyman manual says that HP38/231 is the most accurate powder with this combination, but they say that 3.7 grains is the minimum and you should not go over 4.0 grains. The pressure given for the 4.0 load is right up at max pressure. Who is right? Why the difference? As a practical matter, I only own .357 mag firearms so I have a large margin of error here, but I did wonder why there is such a big difference between two reputable sources.
     
  2. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    There are several things that are or could be going on here. I can think of...
    First, they are not likely using the same bullets. Lyman has two different 158 gr molds and they each take different loads.
    Second, there is some statistical massaging of PV data per SAAMI specs. I figure that Hogdon's results might be a little erratic and they were not able to go any higher on average pressure without exceeding the maximum.
     
  3. Sistema1927

    Sistema1927 Member

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    Look at three different loading manuals and you will get at least five different answers.

    However, from personal experience you will probably find that 3.5 gr. HP38/W231 in .38 Special is going to be a nice accurate load with just about any 158 bullet.
     
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  4. Sarge7402

    Sarge7402 Member

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    Part of it may be how far down into the case each bullet goes when seated.
     
  5. AZAndy
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    AZAndy Member

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    :D Ain't that the truth.
     
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  6. Jack B.

    Jack B. Member

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    The only real difference is that Hodgdon and the Lyman info on that bullet weight is that Hodgdon uses Winchester cases and primers and the Lyman guide uses Federal cases and CCI 500 primers. Not being familiar with that bullet , they could be quit different. Hardness and bearing surface are probably not the same. If you are going to be using a .357 magnum pistol only with this load, I would start at 3.7 grs. and see how it goes. Other company recommendations are, Hornady Win 231 Start 3.2- max 4.1. Speer HP-38 start 3.6- max 4.1 , 231 start 3.8 - max 4.3. Oregon Trail for their own swc bullet, HP-38 start 3.8 - max 3.7. They all use different component combinations.
     
  7. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    Interesting stuff. I would not be surprised if they all used different components and Hodgdon's numbers are simply conservative.

    I chose to start with 3.8 grains, FWIW. I will be shooting these out of a 357 lever rifle and a 357 revolver (I don't own a 38), so my interest is chiefly accuracy. Cannot imagine recoil will be an issue with either of these, and I don't need a ton of power. I will be using whatever round I settle on for punching paper and bagging rabbits.
     
  8. Jack B.

    Jack B. Member

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    If you are using a rifle I would definitely go with the higher charge of powder. I know you are using lead bullets, but you don't want to get one stuck in the barrel. I have found at least in my guns that milder loads are by far more accurate in my pistols and hotter loads are more accurate in my pistol caliber rifles. Go figure!:confused:
     
  9. Zendude

    Zendude Member

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    The Hodgdon data measures the pressure in CUP. Not sure what psi that converts to.
     
  10. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    I missed that! Good catch.
     
  11. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    For bulk plinking I have been shooting plated 38 reloads from Laxammo.com out of both the revolver and the rifle. These have been pretty good out of both and Laxammo claims that these suckers loaf along at 800FPS or so. I do know that they cleanly whack rabbits with minimal meat loss.
     
  12. someguy2800

    someguy2800 Member

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    bingo, cup does not = psi, and psi does not = cup.

    I have found in most but not all cases when comparing data hodgdon is the most conservitive. Since you are loading for 357 magnum guns you can go all the way up into 38 special +P load data which hodgdon lists at 4.6 for a jacketed bullet. I am too lazy to go check any of my books for other data.
     
  13. peterk1234

    peterk1234 Member

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    I am also at 3.5 grains for pistol. Nice comfortable accurate for me load.
     
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  14. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    Some of the Hodgdon data is kept low in fear of causing leading. I have been loading 4.0gr W231/HP-38 for more years than I want to admit with very good results.

    My favorite .38 Special loads are:

    158gr LSWC over 4.0gr W231
    148gr DEWC over 3.4gr W231
    148gr HBWC over 3.2gr W231

    All are using CCI-500 primers.

    Be careful when using load data from forums. Mistakes in transposing numbers can and will happen.
     
  15. Englishmn
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    Englishmn Contributing Member

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    Own at least a couple reloading books, and compare what you find elsewhere against them. Most books are fairly conservative, but work your way up carefully.
     
  16. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    Yes, I am not looking to do anything crazy. As I read things, 3.8 grains of HP38 under a 158 grain cast bullet is not even in +P territory, let alone magnum pressures. I have been reloading shotshells for a few years and stick to published recipes rather than stuff somebody posted online. Happy to take recommendations that fall within what is published, though.
     
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  17. Jesse Heywood

    Jesse Heywood Member

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    Ken Waters lists a Lyman 358156 wadcutter, 6" barrel Colt Official Police, 4.0 gr HP-38 at 834 fps as a maximum load.

    When Ken lists something as a max load, i believe him.

    Ken does show +P loads (>1,000 fps) but only with slower burning powders. Nothing for HP-38.
     
  18. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    Hodgdon shows a 357 mag load for a 158 gr LSWC at 5 grains of powder, so I think I am safe at 3.8 grains.
     
  19. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    Sticking to published data is a good practice. I never post data that is not in a book because it's not right to put someone in danger.

    Before it became common knowledge W231 and HP-38 were identical the last Winchester free yearly load data book listed 4.5gr W231 as the max standard pressure .38 Special with a 158gr LSWC bullet. 4.0gr was a very common and accurate load so I keep using it.

    I'm not telling anyone to do anything, on my what I am doing.
     
  20. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    I tried out my load this morning. It was quite accurate in the rifle and about as accurate as I am Wil a 4 inch revolver. However, in the revolver it was quite smoky. Maybe I only noticed because it was an indoor range, but my load was considerably smoker than the plated stuff I bought. Is this due to the lead bullet, the powder, something else?
     
  21. Englishmn
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    Englishmn Contributing Member

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    The lead bullet lube can be pretty smokey sometimes.
     
  22. billybob44

    billybob44 Member

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    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/forumdisplay.php?184-Coatings-and-Alternatives
    ^^^This is the direction that I went several years ago--No going back..Bill.
     
  23. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    Yup, most likely the bullet lube that's causing the smoke. You will notice if more indoors. There are several commercial lubes, some more smoke than others. Red lube seems worse than the Blue.
     
  24. brewer12345

    brewer12345 Member

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    Interesting that it is the lube. When I cleaned both guns there was no evidence of lead, although the revolver was perhaps a bit sooty.

    I will load a bunch of this flavor of 38 and make sure I am completely comfy with the process (which seems pretty simple), then I will try fooling with plated and jacketed bullets since I have both on hand for 38/357.
     
  25. Paladin7

    Paladin7 Member

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    First off, excellent choice to start reloading with a straight walled pistol case like the 38 Special.

    I've run into the same situation, and after a few phone calls with Speer and Hornady, in my case, I found that the situation has to do with lead hardness. Many reloading manuals will show recipes for swaged lead bullets (soft), and others like Lyman, will list recipes for hard cast bullets (hard). There is a major difference, since softer swaged lead bullets cannot be driven as fast as hard cast bullets due to the leading that will occur.

    Also, it is always best to call the reloading manual manufacturer and ask them.

    Hope this helps...
     

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