Loading .38 special

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by TonyAngel, Feb 14, 2010.

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  1. jfh

    jfh Member.

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    Here's a picture of 38 Special case head separations:

    2ynjme0.jpg

    OK, now that I know I got the image up OK, I'll add the comments.

    1. These were NEW Starline 38 Special cases.
    2. The recipe was from Speer, for AA#7 with the Speer GDSB 135-gr. bullet.
    3. A reloading error was made (not double-charging) resulting in an overpressure load.
    4. All 5 rounds were fired--and they were B-I-G rounds--but I've fired bigger (in a bigger 357)
    5. The revolver still functioned--but: when the gunsmith looked it over, he found stretching on each chamber.

    A reloader in another forum worked up the pressure from this load--ostensibly, about 17-18 gr. of #7--and calculated the pressure was at least 55,000, and maybe 72,000.

    Look closely at those primers: seen any that look similar? That look similar in a 357 Magnum Round? I have...

    Now, compare those primers to ones from a 38 Special recipe that runs 17,000, or 18,500. Can you accurately 'scale' the deformations?


    added on edit: I went back and reviewed the latest comments. I'll refrain from commenting on 38 / 357 brass differences, as I have done no real surveying of it. But, Bob's latest comment about manufacturing specs is worth amplifying. As he points out, we are dealing with what appear to be 'reasonable' assumptions about how manufacturers specify their brass and how they use it. There certainly is nothing to prevent them from using 357-spec sheet goods to stamp out 38 special cases--but there's nothing requiring them too, either. In sum, when we make assumptions about case and primer deformations, we operate on a paradigm often changed / modified by any party in the process. It ain't SAAMI (or whoever) certified. The point is NOT that official specifications are "better," the point is that any time we step outside that boundary, we are testing procedures--and those tests are not generally quantifiable by us out here in the field.

    Jim H.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2010
  2. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Member

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    Wow.
    Them's some atomic bullets you got there.

    What is the gun that was used for this accident?

    SAAMI spec for .357 Magnum is 35,000 or 45,000 for Piezo and Crusher respectively.

    Those extrapolated pressure-numbers you mention in the case of the Atomic Case-Head Separations exceed specs even for the .357 MAXIMUM by many 1000's.

    I hope nobody was thinking that I was suggesting that the OP should push his "hot" .38 Special loads anywhere REMOTELY NEAR the Oops-I-Accidentally-Loaded-Some-Atomic-Bullets pressures.

    Thanks for posting the pics and sharing though.
     
  3. hamourkiller

    hamourkiller Member

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    The original 38-44 data (as already mentioned) was loaded by Elmer Keith. 173grs SWC infront of 13.5grs 2400. Fired out of N Frame 38 specials. Lead directly to the .357 magnum.

    Some of my real loading books from the 70' list 10grs 2400 with 158gr cast bullets for medium and large frame 38's only. This works well for me.

    In my N frame .357 mags I use 38 special cases and the Keith style 173gr SWC with a load of 11.5grs 2400. Very good load.

    These loads are no different than "Ruger or TC only" 45 Colt loads or 44 mag or 45-70loads. You need to mark such loads and take comon sense precautions to keep hot for cartridge loads out of weak guns.

    Sounds like you will do fine.
     
  4. jfh

    jfh Member.

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    W.E.G.:

    1. The revolver (pictured) is a current-generation S&W 640--e.g., SS, 357-sized j-frame.

    2. These were rounds about 300. I shot another 100 rounds or so out of it before the 'smith saw it and found the chamber / cylinder stretching.

    3. S&W replaced the cylinder and barrel.

    4. Since that repair, I've shot about another 20,000 rounds from this gun, all without incident. The vast majority were rounds in the 38+P / 38 CIP pressure ranges. Perhaps 200 or so were mousefarts, and perhaps 1,000 or so were load development sets (10 rounds each, two-tenths grain increments) of current recipes running up to max 357 loads. (Those max 357 loads were with Ramshot Silhouette, and topped out over 1100 fps. In a 357 case.)

    5. The gun now has a trigger to die for, and no apparent frame stretching. The gap is the same as it was when returned by S&W after the repairs.

    At any rate, I too see no general "problem" with TonyAngel building up his rounds--problem, at least, in the sense of the case not working at perhaps 23-25K pressures, or in the gun blowing up. But, based on my experiences (there's another one in Hanson's magic hat), I don't think it is a good practice. Reloading errors can cause problems.

    Jim H.
     
  5. TonyAngel

    TonyAngel Member

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    jfh, the pics are cool. I've never seen that before. I do, however, suspect that this particular accident as it occurred, would have occurred even if .357 cases were used. Of course, I do see your point. Case separation did occur and some of the pressure signs that I look for are not there.

    I went and popped a few rounds this after noon and I think that there is something to that sonic boom theory that a previous poster mentioned. At 4gr of No. 2, I was getting beautiful round holes and very accurate shooting. At 4.4gr of No. 2 I was getting not so nice holes and not so accurate shooting. In any case, I've decided to limit my No. 2 loads to 4gr. I really don't think that it's a good powder to go hot with. It's too fast.

    My No. 5 loads using 6.3gr are very accurate and they burn cleanly. It's a keeper. I loaded up another 500 rounds of it for Sunday.

    I've also decided to order a keg of Alliant 2400. I'm going to see what all of the hubbub is about. From what I understand, it's what I should have been using all along.

    BTW, I ordered some .357 cases today. LOL.
     
  6. kelbro

    kelbro Member

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    There was a post here last fall that showed a side-by-side comparison of cross-sectioned 38spl and 357 mag cases. There was definitely a difference in the web areas between calibers and brands. It was an eye opener! Wish i could find it...
     
  7. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Member

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    I'm with you on that.

    I long ago decided I'd rather down-load .357 than up-load .38 Special.
    For handloads, there really is little reason to up-load .38 Special to shoot in dedicated .38 Special guns unless you are just so broke you can't afford premium ammo.

    If you want top-notch .38 Special ammo (or at least ammo that will do all .38 Special could ever be expected to do), just get some of the new-manufacture 125-grain class ammo with the wide hollowpoint that is less-likely to plug with fabric.

    As far as game-hunting goes, you are only really going to be hunting small game with a .38 Special. Wadcutters are as good as any for rabbits, squirrels, and possums. Did I mention that I had NO IDEA how much blood is in a possum? I was mopping that porch for a week.
     
  8. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Member

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    This one?
    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=419154
     
  9. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    I shot some Powerbond 125 GR HPs with more AA #5 than that in a 4" Model 10 HB this Sunday. The load was under what Speer #13 showed, but over Accurates data. The chrono results got my attention, although it was right in line with the manual. Shot great, although a bullet hole or so low. I am going to back it off some.
     
  10. Remo-99

    Remo-99 Member

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    I thought I was pushing things Jim H, loading 38spl at above 357mag data, in a s&w 686 357mag but that's dang pushing HOOOOOT lol.
     
  11. TonyAngel

    TonyAngel Member

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    I went to Cabelas today and picked up the "Complete Reloading Manual for the .38 Special." It turns out that there is (or was) published +P data for Accurate No. 2 and No. 5 for the .38. It turns out that I was just a tad bit over with the No. 5 at 6.3gr. The published load shows 6.2gr as being the max. For the No. 2 it lists 4.7gr as a max charge. Maybe the projectiles would have stabilized if I just pushed them a bit harder. I like the No. 2 better. It burns cleaner and has less recoil. I'm going to spend the day at the range tomorrow, so I'm going to load a few up and see how they do. Since I'm using magnum primers, I'll be loading them with 4.5gr.
     
  12. jfh

    jfh Member.

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    Tony, is that the little bound booklet that is a crude copy of various manufacturers' recipes? I have one of those around somewhere...

    Let us know what happens at the range.

    Jim H.
     
  13. TonyAngel

    TonyAngel Member

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    jfh, that is exactly what I have. It's just a reproduction of manufacturers data, but includes data from powder and bullet manufacturers. I grabbed it because a lot of the manufacturers only post abridged versions of their data on the net. I'll let you guys know what happened when I get back.
     
  14. hoptob

    hoptob Member

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    Hi Jim,

    If we are thinking about same "another guy", I think loads that stretched the frame of his 442 were clocked north of 1100 fps. Proves that 442 was not designed for a steady diet of magnum loads. ;) Heard that S&W fixed the gun and the guy still carries it.

    :)

    Mike
     
  15. jfh

    jfh Member.

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    Heh, I wonder if that guy is hopping around after trying to bob his revover--or something like that.

    I had missed the final rounds tested, I guess--Mike. Were they the really, really north-side 4756 rounds?

    Jim
     
  16. hoptob

    hoptob Member

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    No, no they were just a little north. As we used to say elsewhere "a starting 38 special load of SR4756 with 158 gr. JHP from Speer #8". In a head to head comparison with Remington R357M2's (in a 357 mag snubby) these "starting loads" were slightly faster...

    Closed course, professional driver, don't try it at home.

    ;)

    Mike
     
  17. streakr

    streakr Member

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    Why do so many reloaders insist on making these damn "warthog" loads? Loads at or above maximum are dangerous even in Rugers. What is it that you're trying to prove by shooting these thing? You Tube has dozens of videos of people shooting overloaded rounds and in nearly all of them the shooter suffers.

    What happens if you buy a 38 revolver other than a Ruger. Would you shoot these rounds in a Colt SAA? a S&W? a Taurus? How do differentiate these rounds from other lower power rounds? Would you use these rounds for defensive purposes in your home? I dare say that you would probably shoot clear through walls and into other houses. If you use these rounds in HD and do kill someone, local prosecutors do not look kindly on these types of loads.

    Don't do this!!! Gun control means hitting your target.

    NEVER exceed the maximum SAAMI loads.

    s
     
  18. jfh

    jfh Member.

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    streakr: Well, there are probably any number of reasons why reloaders like to do this kind of (overpressure) reloading. One, some of us are hot-rodders. Two, some of us find some sort of pleasure in developing 'the most efficient' type of round. Three (as in hoptob's example), there was a real very precise goal--to determine a certain bullet's efficacy--HP performance--as a round shot from a 2" carry gun.

    Now, I happen to agree with you, at least on the general premise that there is no good reason to build overpressure 38 loads. Why do it, when you can usually have a same or similar firearm chambered for 357 Magnum--i.e., build 357 downloads to obtain the same ballistics. But, historically, we also have to say that 1) there are large numbers of S&W firearms in 38 Special built to shoot 38-44 loads without undue damage, and that 2) the gunny public knows this. The 'Speer #8 / SR-4756 discussions' at the S&W forum had numerous examples of people shooting this round without damage to their 38-44 (N frame) handguns--for years and years / thousands of rounds.

    Human nature being what it is, someone will do it. If we have honest discussions about these practices, without advocating such practices, I see no harm.

    I do take issue with your statement to "NEVER exceed the maximum SAAMI loads." I disagree because of the continued downward adjustments to 38 Special SAAMI specs over the years--apparently done to reduce liability issues for SAAMI, because of early BP 38 Special guns still around--or worn-out guns, or whatever. Should I use 1970 reloading guidelines for shooting a 38 Special Model 36 made that year? (SAMMI specs then were about 15% higher than now.) And, there is the question of SAAMI specs being lower than another acceptable standard--the 'European' CIP standards. Should I believe all the US-produced 38 Special handguns--for either US or export sales--are not produced to meet CIP standards as well?

    For this reason, I choose to reload my 'maximum performance' to 38 Special CIP specs. By today's standards, that's about 10% hotter than the current SAAMI 38-plus-p spec--and certainly at or below the earlier (pre 1993(?)) spec. That's because I mostly own modern 38 Special firearms--e.g., a S&W 360--that are actually built to 357-Magnum pressure standards.

    TonyAngel has sorted out a couple of loads that either match earlier SAAMI specs or, from what I can tell, do not exceed CIP standards. So, I really don't see people here advocating shooting overpressure loads. Do you?

    Jim H.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2010
  19. ljnowell

    ljnowell Member

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    Yeah, whatever. Are you done preaching? I bought my ruger solely for the purpose of hot rodding. The 45 colt is a wonderful cartridge for it.
     
  20. hoptob

    hoptob Member

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    I guess we are just trying to impress you, streakr. Obviously we are not there yet, but we'll just keep trying. ;)

    Why did I shoot these rounds in 442? It is S&W 442 not Ruger. The answer is simple -- at the time we did not know how much over they were. We had a number of discussions on S&W forum about Speer #8 loads in 38 spl. Two very experienced reloaders reported that they shot hundreds of these rounds through their alloy snubbs with no ill effects. I tried it too. Later all 3 of us found problems with their snubs. We investigated; one person sent these loads for pressure testing at HP White Labs. That's how we learned that these loads were pushing rugged end of 357mag pressures and were obviously inappropriate for alloy snubs. Later yet someone found an edition of Speer #8 where all SR4756 loads were removed. Apparently the 3 of us weren't the only people who had problems with these loads. We learned our lesson and moved on.

    Also of note, nothing bad happened to my gun when I shot those loads. It worked itself loose over a period of time, after I tested several hundred different hot loads in it. Frame stretched by a few thousands, still within specs. S&W stretched the crane and fixed it; it's a standard gunsmithing job.

    As far as reloading safety goes, here is what one renown authority on hot loads had to say about it. I can't say it any better.

    [​IMG]

    Trivia question: who said it and when?

    Cheers,

    Mike
     
  21. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    "Complete Guide to Handloading" by Philip B. Sharpe, 1937.

    Do I get a prize?

    rc
     
  22. hoptob

    hoptob Member

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    Bingo, rc! :)

    Phil published this in 1937; the load development work he was talking about was the development of original 357 magnum load.

    Here is the prize -- full quote from Phil's book.

    PSharpe1937p406.jpg

    BTW, I think there is also an answer to OP's question here.

    Mike
     
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  23. streakr

    streakr Member

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    Not preaching, I know from experience; I still have scars on my left arm from a blown cylinder about 15 years ago. The guy was two lanes away and I was fortunately in between him and my 8 and 10 year sons. He was using a 44 magnum Ruger Blackhawk; I was using a 44 amg Vaquero.

    Be careful. Thats all.

    streakr
     
  24. TonyAngel

    TonyAngel Member

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    CAUTION: The following post includes loading data beyond currently published maximums for this cartridge. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Neither the writer, The High Road, nor the staff of THR assume any liability for any damage or injury resulting from use of this information.

    Why am I hot loading the .38? I don't know. It's fun and I haven't seen any signs of danger. Once my .357 brass and supply of 2400 get here, I may stop. For now, (and I want to stress that these loads are way beyond what is recommended by any load data) that I loaded up 25 rounds of the 158gr LSWC over 5gr of AA No. 2 and another 25 rounds of the same bullets over 6.5gr of AA No. 5. Again, the cases slid right out on ejecting and they shot really well.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2010
  25. jfh

    jfh Member.

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    Tony, see the sticky at the top of the reloading forum for the specific language THR wants you to include when posting overpressure recipes. IOW, we can do it--just make sure the disclaimer is present.

    Jim H.
     
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