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Why do my .380 loads suck? Or is it me?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by 1KPerDay, Dec 30, 2011.

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  1. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

    Jan 19, 2006
    Happy Valley, UT
    I started discussing this in the general forum but I supposed it probably belongs here...

    I'm loading pulled 95 grain Speer TMJs from rmrbullets, which may be the issue, although I wouldn't imagine it would make THAT much of a difference at 10 yards.

    I've tried 2.8 and 3.1 of red dot, and 3.6 of HP-38.

    At 3.6g HP-38... still bad groups (by my estimation), slide not locking back except the last 2 mags. They feel much lighter than factory ball from Federal and Winchester, and certainly lighter than speer gold dot.

    According to which source you check, 3.6 HP-38 is a "do not exceed" load. 3.5 is listed as max in my hornady manual, and hodgdon says 3.2. Some have reported that speer has 4.0 listed as max for 95 grain pills.

    In any case, they FEEL light and as noted do not lock the slide back on my P230. Upward and onward, I guess? Or just buy some new fmj or jhp and see if that makes a difference?


    2.825" avg groups edge to edge for 3.6g HP-38 through P230 (6 groups).
    3.6" avg groups for 3.1 grains Red Dot (3 groups)

    Fed ball 1.8"
    Win ball 2.4"
    Magtech ball 1.6" and 2.6"

    HP-38 loads
  2. RandyP

    RandyP Member

    Jan 28, 2009
    I load a Berry plated 100gr RN with 2.8gr of Win 2312/HP-38. Works great, shoots accurately and cycles both my P3AT and Bersa Thunder just fine.

    You are shooting from a rest to gather those group size samples?
  3. mdi

    mdi Member

    Dec 31, 2007
    You mentioned "pulled" bullets in your post. Have you "miked" them to see if they are out of round or undersize?
  4. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

    May 25, 2011
    Piney Woods of East Texas
    Could be both you and the ammo. Need to use a rest at a min to test accuracy. As for the loads you did not mention COL or they type of crimp used. Both can impact the ammo performance.
  5. DanTheFarmer

    DanTheFarmer Member

    Sep 24, 2010
    New Hampshire
    Hi All,

    I'm loading 3.1 of Bullseye under a 100 grain Berry's plated bullet. When I rested it against the bench and used my Crimson Trace laser the bullet holes obliterated the "X" and were touching at 10 yards. I'll write this down as an accurate load for my Bersa Thunder 380.

    The story changed when I was shooting offhand. The good news is I've got plenty of room to get better as I practice more! Yeah...the groups were a bit...larger shall we say.

    I will try backing off the load a bit as it is near the top end but with this size cartridge and fast powders there isn't much room from top to bottom.

    Good luck and be sure to have fun along the way while developing accurate loads.

  6. JDGray

    JDGray Member

    Sep 16, 2005
    SW MI.
    I got great results with Missouri bullet cast lead RN, over a max charge of Power Pistol! My LCP loved them, and so did my buddys Bodyguard. This is the worst group I shot with the LCP, learning the trigger.
  7. J_McLeod

    J_McLeod Member

    Nov 21, 2010
    Homestead, FL
    To the OP, how's the recoil with those rounds? I'm loading the same bullets with 2.8gr of 231 at .980. I haven't done much int he way of accuracy tests with my loads, but they make the LCP fun to shoot.
  8. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Member

    Aug 16, 2009
    Failure to lock slide back?

    This may not pertain to your cause, but I found with my 45 ACP and target loads I could reliably cause my slide to not lock back and cause stovepipe jams by deliberately holding my 1911 (Gold Cup) loosely (commonly called "limp wristing") and cure the malfunctions by holding firmly.

    GREAT way to induce malfunctions for FTF Clearance drills. Not so good for serious target work (accurate, though).

    Since your loads are near the top of the published range, this is not likely to be the source of your difficulties, but it does provide food for thought.

    How strong is your recoil spring?

    Can you get your loads chronographed?

    Are you sure you are getting full power from your powder? Charge weight correct? Primer supplying the proper ignition? Bullet tension (crimp strength) correct? Your powder measure/scale correct?

    As has been mentioned before, are your bullets right?
    You bet it could. If the bullets are irregular in size, the amount of drag, especially at the start will cause velocity variations all down the barrel and out the muzzle. I would kind of expect more vertical stringing, but you never know. Check the bullet size with calipers, looking particularly for out-of-round bullets as well as off-size bullets as mdi suggested.

    Good luck.

    Lost Sheep
  9. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

    Jan 19, 2006
    Happy Valley, UT
    I did mic some and they seemed fine at .355. Out of a hundred or so loaded I had to toss one because it had a flat spot on one side and wouldn't seat properly.

    Crimp is measuring at .02 over the bullet diameter; I'm using lee dies (not the factory crimp die). Seated to .96". I've cycled some and measured setback and had no problems (some moved a thou or so).

    Should I try some longer? Should I crimp more aggressively? I just basically removed the minimal bell. I barely flare them enough to get the bullets started.

    Mixed range brass (maybe a factor?). I have had excellent results loading .45 ACP, .40, and 9mm so far using the same methods and mixed brass (but with either Berry's or Missouri bullets) and red dot. All of my "good" handloads have proven more accurate than factory ball for me in my pistols at least, and 100% reliable.

    Recoil spring is stock and has never given me ANY problem with factory loads. Factory magazines. No chrono available.

    Shooting from a solid bench rest, but hand held. ( not Ransom rest)

    I considered potential limp wristing and really tried to get a firm grip... seemed to make no difference.

    As you can see the factory loads group (reasonably) well.

    Recoil is definitely softer than factory ball, as noted.

    I weighed every charge with a Redding balance scale.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2011
  10. Bovice

    Bovice Member

    Sep 27, 2009
    I would try chronographing the handloads you have. If they're not making the velocity they should be, you need a heavier charge. If they feel like they recoil softer than your factory rounds and they aren't functioning then they are indeed too light. Try making it to factory velocities and see if that doesn't shrink up the groups.
  11. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

    Sep 10, 2008
    SW Arizona
    I would change powder, or risk pressure spikes while trying to beef up the charge your working with. But often times my solution is suggesting slower burning powder's, what can I say, I've never experienced cycling problems or other issues that ruin your day and have used slow burner's for decades. I like slow burning powders because they are much easier to start load developement, they produce more realistic working pressures and velocities without having to play around with max, or near max spikey data to get there.

    There are plenty of slower to mid burn rate powders that will do that for you, if you can get used to the larger powder charge they require. 630 is a powder that will deffinitely cycle your slide, increase velocity, and is likely to increase accuracy at the same time. The charge looks scarry to those not familar with slow burner's, but it is published data with safe pressures. 630 data for a 100 gr. JHP ranges from 6.6 grs. - 6.8 grs.. HS5 is also another good powder and will cycle your firearm with a load range of 4.3 grs. - 4.5 grs. 100 gr. HP. For a 95 gr. jacketed bullet you could use the max charge for the 100 gr. as your starting charge with the 95 gr. with either of those powders. HS5 actually produces better velocity than the bulky 630 will, but velocity isn't everything when your simply trying to get reliable function and decent accuracy.

    Take a look at some of the slower burning powders for that application, and I'll bet you they'll meet your expectations, and then some.
  12. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

    Nov 25, 2006
    Northeast PA, USA
    According to Hodgdon your charge weights are high. They list the Max charge @3.2gr HP-38... It's possible your velocity is too high causing inaccuracy. I would drop your charge weight og HP-38 and see the results.

    That said, an under 3" groups form such a small pistol isn't all that bad depending upon the range.
  13. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

    Jan 19, 2006
    Happy Valley, UT
    There's no way these are hot. As noted... Some other sources list 3.6 or 4 grains max. I expected excellent accuracy based on people's reports and the fixed barrel. Maybe my expectations are too high.
  14. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Nov 20, 2006
    Try some AA #2 or N310 if you have it.

    I have a Beretta 81 and a CZ 82 in .32 ACP. When I am having a good day I can hit a 10" steel plate at 35 yards nearly every time (Miss if I get sloppy), but on a poor day, I get to worrying about missing the entire gun range. (Yea, a slight exaggeration ;))

    They are very easy to shoot poorly. (My Seecamp even more so.)

    It takes concentration and a steady hold to shoot small guns well. Some days I just don't have it. But then again, they are kind of picky about the charge weight, so I have to figure out if it is me or the load. Some days that is tough.

    I also went through some dies getting the right combo. Had to ditch the sizer die I was trying. (Actually two) They just would not give adequate neck tension with any but the very thickest of cases. Ended up with all RCBS dies in the set.
  15. zeke

    zeke Member

    Dec 29, 2002
    NW Wi
    When loading the 380 for a ppk had more trouble with bullet pull, than bullet set back. Especially with the Win fp's. Used a combination of undersize die and lfc.

    If you're measuring for setback and only finding .001 in, it would not appear case neck tension is your problem. Would also suggest chronographing your loads, and compare to factory loads. Your slide not locking back may indicate the load does not generate the desired force.

    When loading for the smaller rounds, am using a Redding powder measure with pistol opening. My RCBS uniflow measuer with regular opening does not function well (if at all)with the very light powder charges. Before using the Redding, had to individually measure every powder charge for the 380 and 32 acp to ensure they were getting enough powder.
  16. Trad Archer

    Trad Archer Member

    Dec 5, 2010
    I use 3.2 grains of HP-38. Works great for me.
  17. Jurist

    Jurist Member

    Aug 19, 2010
    Ocean Cty New Jersey
    Loads I use in my Browning BDA

    95grn FMJ Renington 3.1 Red Dot 900 fps 0.980 M.O.L.

    95grn FMJ Remington 4.2 Unique 910 fps 0.980 M.O.L.

    4.6 Unique 1034 fps 0.980 M.O.L.

    100grn FMJ 4.2 Unique 977 fps 0.980 M.O.L.
    4.3 Unique 1005 fpr 0.980 M.O.L.

    2.7 Red Dot 877 fps 0.980 M.O.L.
    2.8 Red Dot 930 fps 0.980 M.O.L.
    These were taken from Alliant sheets,Lee re loading and Hornady manuals,hope it works for you.With these loads I manage to keep all eleven rounds is a 3" circle at 10 yds.
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