Using lead bullet data for loading Rainer Plated HP in .38 special

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Mar 5, 2009
Is it ok to use lead bullet data for loading my .38 special loads with rainier plated 158gr bullets?

I have read that lead bullets and plated bullets have very similar pressure, but I just wanted to hear it from some more people before I actually try to load them and blow my gun up.

Powder: Hodgdon CFE Pistol
Bullets: Rainier LeadSafe Bullets 38 Caliber (357 Diameter) 158 Grain Plated Hollow Point
Primer: Winchester small pistol
Lead data is perfectly acceptable for plated bullets. If that should be unavailable, it is usually fine to stay on the low side of jacketed load data, especially considering the relatively low pressure of 38spl.
My best .38 special plated load uses lead data. Load with confidence that you'll be in a perfectly safe pressure range and you'll likely find a load that shoots well and is easy on the recoil and the wallet :D
Rainier recommends jacketed data.
Lead data should be safe, but never go below the starting data or use a longer OAL so you don't end up with a bullet stuck in the bore.
Plated bullets chrono the same speed as jacketed bullets of the same weight.
I use a lot of Rainier plated flat points in my .357 at .38 speeds, you're gunna' like them.
I’ve never used Rainier bullets. But I have gone through many thousands of X-treme plated bullets. I always use the lead bullet loading data and have never had a problem.
I was always under the impression you use lead data with plated bullets.

That's all I have ever used with plated without any problems.
Neither Berrys or Ranier say to use lead data anymore. It's very easy to check their websites to see.

That said, the only potential trouble is some starting lead data could stick a plated bullet, especially heavier longer bearing surface bullets like the 158 in .38/.357. The only way you would have trouble is if you fire another round after sticking the previous bullet.

I would start no lower than midrange lead data and make sure all the bullets exit the barrel as you work up to a nice, accurate, fun load to shoot.

All that said, you cannot blindly go to max jacketed data with any plated bullet. The various PDFs with plated and jacketed data show that. Hodgdon, Vihtavuori, & Accurate all have some plated data.
You can use upper mid-range lead data up to mid-range FMJ data safely with plated bullets.
While there is not a lot of loading data specific to plated bullets, reference to published data shows a lot of overlap between cast and jacketed data, sometimes exact agreement. Why Hodgdon shows two cast SWCs along with one JHP I do not know. But one of them has THE SAME maximum CFE-P load as jacketed, the other .3 grain HIGHER than jacketed.
I bet a plated bullet would shoot just fine if loaded the same.

.38 Special is a special case. Its standard load is rather light so as to protect users of old or cheap guns, If you have a name brand revolver from the past 50 years, there is no reason to "work up" loads; the maximum is not very "hot." It is nowhere close to the velocity limits that Berry's talks about.
C'mon yall. Can we please squash the "you have to use lead data for plated bullets" myth once and for all?

It's clearly ok, and recommended by the manufacturers IIRC, to use middle of the road FMJ data for plated. Hell, the way they keep doing more and more to these plated bullets to toughen them up at the factory, I'll be surprised if in a few years we're not able to run them full speed or right at it.
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Berry's now says "you can use any published load data for a jacketed or lead bullet as long as it is the same weight bullet" while Ranier " recommends using commercially published jacketed bullet load data when loading our bullets". In either case, you are loading for a .357 magnum handgun so pressure is not a concern. I haven't used Ranier bullets but I've loaded Berry's plated bullets that passed the chrony at above 1300 fps from my levergun without any problem due to speed (125 gr at .38 Special +P+ type loads).
My loads look like this

Bullet: Rainier LeadSafe Bullets 38 Caliber (357 Diameter) 158 Grain Plated HP
Powder: Hodgdon CFE Pistol : 4.5 Grains
Primer: Winchester Small Pistol
Brass: Once fired federal
OAL: 1.498
In either case, you are loading for a .357 magnum handgun so pressure is not a concern.
If he was loading .357 brass I would agree, but since he is using .38 Spl brass, he really needs to limit it to .38 Spl pressures.
Powder: Hodgdon CFE Pistol : 4.5 Grains
That is under the minimum for a 158 Gr Lead SWC according to the Hodgdon website. If you start there make sure every round exits the barrel.
I find that rainier tends to work better at the mid to upper end of jacketed data. The rainiers are typically sized like a jacketed bullet at bore diameter. Berries are usually sized like lead at .001" over ant perform with a bit less powder. All that said always start low.
The Lee chart lists 4.4 as the minimum, your looking at the cast wad cutter load. The pressure difference is 100psi between the two
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Every time some one asks this question the answers go from "lead data" to "the manufacturer says...". What difference does it make?:confused: I personally use lead data. There is absolutely no downside to loading plated bullets to lead bullet load levels. But, I have no need to push bullets much faster (as long as the velocity is under 1250 fps). I don't go for "hot" loads with jacketed bullets, nor do I heavily load for my cast lead bullets. So, if you want "hot" loads, special use loads, just go with book data and use jacketed bullets. If you want clean shooting, plinking ammo, just go with lead data and plated bullets (I guarantee your targets won't recognize a 200 fps difference)...
The Lee chart lists 4.4 as the minimum, your looking at the cast wad cutter load. The pressure difference is 100psi between the two
The Hodgdon lead 158 Gr start data is over your suggested 4.5 Gr charge. It takes more pressure to get plated out of the barrel. Do please be careful and make sure each bullet exits the barrel if you start that low.
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