Four High-Performance .38 Special Handloads - Page 2

Four High-Performance .38 Special Handloads

This is a discussion on Four High-Performance .38 Special Handloads within the Reloading forums, part of the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics category; Hi 336A; Glad to see you here though I was thinking you were already a long time member. I sure do want a whiz-bang little ...

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  1. #16
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    Hi 336A;

    Glad to see you here though I was thinking you were already a long time member. I sure do want a whiz-bang little cast bullet load using Unique for the .41 Magnum. I've had the bullets now for some months but need to actually poke them into some cases. I intend to run the whole gamut with Unique and cast 210 grain SWCs from mild to wild just for the education of it all. What a great revolver cartridge the .41 Magnum is. Why did I go so long without one?

    Unique is the staple handgun powder around here. I use others but load more Unique than anything else.
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  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmcgilvray View Post
    Hi 336A;

    Glad to see you here though I was thinking you were already a long time member. I sure do want a whiz-bang little cast bullet load using Unique for the .41 Magnum. I've had the bullets now for some months but need to actually poke them into some cases. I intend to run the whole gamut with Unique and cast 210 grain SWCs from mild to wild just for the education of it all. What a great revolver cartridge the .41 Magnum is. Why did I go so long without one?

    Unique is the staple handgun powder around here. I use others but load more Unique than anything else.
    One thing that I'd like to add is that according to a long time user of the .41 once you get up to 9.0gr of Unique it is best to turn to another powder for more performance. His point was that he started running into diminishing returns much beyond that, the pressure wasn't woth the small gain in performance. I can't comment on his advice but I worked up to 8.7gr and decided to stop there since recoil was getting to be more than I wanted for a general purpose/plinking load in the BH. The 8.5gr load was more accurate too so that was why I settled on it. I plan on turning this load loose on some piggies this fall

  3. #18
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    sorry for resurrecting this old post but I thought this was interesting.

    Last night I made a spreadsheet using calculations from the chapter on reduced loads in the lee reloading manual. I've been punching numbers into it all morning from hodgdons website and my lyman handgun manual. using powder/bullet combinations with 3 charges/pressures listed (starting, max and +p) I've been getting pressure estimates out of the spreadsheet that are within 100-700psi when staying within 38spl and within 1000-3000 psi when entering 357mag loads into the spreadsheet and reducing to 38spl charge weights.
    not knowing what bullet or OAL was used in these tests makes it possible to only give a rough estimate, but I have made estimates from several different loads, both working up from 38spl data and down from 357 data (which seems to work especially well for the lyman 170gr SWC, btw). I have rounded these numbers out for convenience.


    first lets go with "The Load"

    8.0 grains of 4756 should give you somewhere around 42,000psi depending on the bullet its used with and assuming you keep the OAL as close to max as you can. this figure comes from 357mag data because "The Load" was 1.5grains higher than the max charge for 357. when working from 38spl data I projected the pressure to be closer to 30,000 psi, but this number is most likely very low. as you add powder to a case it takes up volume which by itself causes pressure to increase further, basically each .1grain gets you a little more pressure than the last. because Richard lee's calculations are based on 2 points of data and I'm bad at math, these calculations become more and more inaccurate as you move farther outside the 2 points your using. hence the calculations based of 357mag data are probably closest to the truth

    next lets talk about the 11.5 grain charge of 2400

    this ones not so bad. depending on the bullet your using and the OAL, your looking at somewhere between 21,000 and 29,000psi. I personally have worked up to 10.5 grains with 2400 and the speer 158g LWSC-HP and all cases dribbled out of my S&W 15-3. with that bullet/charge I estimate I was at 22,000-25,000psi. this one worked out different than the 4756 load in that the 38spl data yielded the higher estimates while the 357mag data yield the lower estimates. this is consistant with 2400 being a slower powder, giving the pressure increases a less pronounced curve as powder is added because the powder takes longer to burn.


    well that's what I have to offer. I didn't bother with the other loads because 5.4g of unique is still max for lyman in my handgun manual and is of course a high end but saami approved load. ditto 5.0 of herco. for pressures on those loads see a load manual, not a madman with a spreadsheet. if anyone is interested in hosting the file for the spreadsheet I made to do these calculations I will be happy to share. honestly i'd like to see it stickied for use estimating reduced charge pressures, which is its intended purpose.
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  5. #19
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    "The Load" is what it is. It is nothing more than an actual published load found in an older manual. It is the starting load listed for IMR 4756 with a cast lead 158 grain semi-wadcutter bullet as found in the .38 Special chapter of the Speer No. 8 manual which has a publication date of 1970. Some later printings of the Speer No. 8 don't show it and neither does the Speer No. 9. "The Load" is the result of a bunch of friends' discussion on a private firearms forum over several years time. We all worked it up and conducted various tests with it using revolvers as small as a steel J-Frame Smith & Wesson up to as large as a N-Frame Smith & Wesson .38 Special Heavy Duty. Colt Detective Special and Official Police models saw some use by members of this group. For my own 6-inch barrel chronograph tests I employed a .357 Magnum revolver. I'm not aware that it was tested in any other brands of .38 Special revolver. It is very heavy and would not be recommended for extended use, even in quality .38 Special revolvers of steel construction. It would be completely unsuitable for use in alloy-frame revolvers or cheapo revolvers. No prudent person should take any load data at face value whether it is a shooting bud's pet favorite, or found on the internet, or even found in loading manuals, old and new. Always work loads up for one's own gun.

    You mention pressure estimates and pressure estimates would be fun to calculate but it is hard to say how accurate they truly are. One out of the group owns a commercial bullet casting operation and went to the trouble to pay to have "The Load" tested by SAAMI. I didn't know this was possible and don't know the cost. He apparently prepared the ammunition and sent it to them. He says that SAAMI tests showed "The Load" returned an average pressure in the range of 26,000 psi. This is still above all SAAMI .38 Special +P specifications, a figure which has been a moving target over the years. It's been variously set at 18,500, 20,000, and 21,500 psi.

    We had a good time seeing what could be accomplished with the .38 Special cartridge and published data from days gone by. I was willing to work up to the minimum listed charge weight of IMR 4756 but personally saw no future in striving to go any higher. Given the outstanding velocity performance with the minimum charge of IMR 4756 there is no need.

    Practically speaking, there is no real need to use such heavy handloads at all since revolvers chambered for the excellent .357 Magnum are readily available. I have several .357 Magnum revolvers on hand if truly increased performance is required. For the avid handloader though, who only possesses a .38 Special revolver, such heavy loadings could find a niche. Playing with the .38 Special has been a lifetime academic exercise that I enjoy. It's an underdog cartridge that has been severely underrated. Despite current conventional wisdom, the .38 Special and the 9mm are two peas in a pod yet the 9mm enjoys an unfair measure of performance respect that the .38 Special doesn't enjoy. I place the .38 Special ahead of the 9mm simply because the .38 Special handles heavier bullets more capably. The .38 Special revolver can be far more than just a small, light 5-shot snub and .38 Special factory loads can be far more than lightweight jacketed hollow points at 800-900 fps. In the not too distant past, accepted and published .38 Special handloads could be even more potent. Some of us ol' geezers have long memories.

    The data and results for the four loads mentioned in this thread were presented for interest to avid handloaders, not as a suggestion to attempt them. They happened to work out for me and my guns.
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  6. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmcgilvray View Post
    Hey thanks Glockman10mm;

    I can use the advice about the .41 Magnum as I keep stumping my toe on the box of 500 210 grain lead SWCs I have on the floor by the loading bench. I've been vacillating on how to approach a Unique-fueled load with the bullet in the .41 Magnum. I would like to come up with a combination that gives 900 to 950 fps.

    Yeah, I need to get to work on the grand ol' .44 Special too. My data is dated (sad to have dated data) on .44 Special. Unique is a favorite for it but seems the formulation has changed. I have used and continue to use the .38 Special more than any other center fire handgun cartridge but have always thought that I was a .44 Special kind of guy. If the revolvers weren't quite so large...

    Hey OldSchool;

    Then your revolvers weren't so far off from the age of that 4-inch Model 10 Heavy Barrel shown which lettered to have been shipped in June of 1971. I didn't get it however until 1975.
    Too bad "The 44 Associates" were pre-internet, they did extensive work with the old .44 Special.
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  7. #21
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    Dancing around 1000 fps with the .38 spl is good stuff and deserves to be dug up and dragged out into the street now and then.

    Thanks, Joe!
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  8. #22
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    158 Grain Lead SWC/5.4 Grains of Unique

    2-inch Barrel
    MV 964 fps
    ME 326 ft./lbs
    ES 75 fps
    SD 33 fps

    4-inch Barrel
    MV 1026 fps
    ME 369 ft/lbs.
    ES 31 fps
    SD 13.4 fps

    6-inch Barrel
    MV 1047 fps
    ME 385 ft./lbs.
    ES 43 fps
    SD 16.6 fps

    8 3/8-inch Barrel
    MV 1149 fps
    ME 463 ft./lbs.
    ES 56 fps
    SD 23.3 fps
    This load I never would risk Shooting in an 38 spl (even not 38 spl +P) Revolver. I would shoot this only in an 357 mag Revolver.
    I get somewhat flat primers using (38 spl cases shot in 357 mag revolver) up to 4.0 grain VV N330 powder with an deep seated 148 grain Wadcutter lead cast (Lee mold) bullet (about 1000 fps velocity and 329 ft-lbs of energy).


    Even in an 357 mag Revolver I would not load 5.4 grain Unique even seated normally.
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    Hi S.A.Reloader;

    My K-Frame .38s, especially my old favorite Model 10 (especially back in the mid-1970s when I was young) have digested so many of those 5.4 grain loads of Unique under a 158 grain lead bullet that I cannot feel any trepidation over the load.

    Doesn't mean that one shouldn't be cautious, working up loads for his own guns.
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  10. #24
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    I would say that load is then in about in the 357 mag Levels.

    I assume steel thickness determines the difference between 38 spl and 357 mag.
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    5.4 grains of Unique with the 158 grain bullet has been standard as a maximum published load for the .38 Special in several editions of Lyman, Pacific, and other loading manuals for a number of years. It's not that fearsome a load when compared with the .357 Magnum served up with full-charge loads.

    The pre-World War II .357 Magnum revolvers, being only the Smith & Wesson N-Frame .357 Magnums, the Colt New Service .357 Magnum, and the smattering of Colt Single Action Army revolvers chambered for .357 Magnum, did rely on thick steel to contain .357 Magnum performance. Those revolvers are large guns. Later, in the early 1950s Colt produced .357 Magnum revolvers on its intermediate frame, which was introduced in 1907 as the Army Special. Smith & Wesson "one-upped" Colt by introducing the .357 Magnum in its even lighter K-Frame revolver. Now we have J-Frame Smith & Wesson .357 Magnums and Ruger LCRs sporting plastic frames. Metallurgy and other engineering feats have tamed the .357 Magnum. Well, that and a general watering down of factory loads to some extent.
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    Deep-seating wadcutter bullets over a charge of a powder with a burning rate very similar to that of Unique, such as the Vihtavuori N330 you are using would certainly raise pressure levels.

    Your photo is a bit dark and my reading glasses are a bit weak, but it appears that the loaded round featured with the recovered bullets in the photograph is showing a bullet that is seated well below the case mouth. Given the length of the .38 Special 148 grain wadcutter, this is almost certainly a load with a compressed powder charge, a combination that would very likely result in flattened primers when fired. This would also explain the unusually high velocities you report that you obtain when using Vihtavuori N330 in that charge weight with that bullet.



    This is a very abnormal way to seat bullets. Resulting pressures would be well above any maximum published .38 Special Unique load in an old Lyman reloading manual. Compressing relatively fast-burning propellant powders such as are suitable for handguns would be hazardous in the extreme.
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  13. #27
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    bmcgilvray,

    How much velocity did you get back then in the 1970's from those 158 grain loads? You most likely back then did not have an chronograph availlable I may guess.

    smattering of Colt Single Action Army revolvers chambered for .357 Magnum,
    I guess that is the case of my Pietta (Heritage) 357 mag SAA revolver since it is supposed to be an replica (although modernized with safety bar) of the classic 1873 Colt SAA. However chambered in the smaller 357 mag (.358") caliber this gives more "meat" to the cylinder and thus more thicker cylinder walls. The cylinder walls are fairly thick on that gun. On top the gun is forged steel as I suppose and not cast steel as Rugers are so the cylinder walls are not quiet that thick as on an Ruger revolver (and do not need to be as I understood The Yankeemarshall on Youtube).

    Yeah! It's a way to cut costs as well isnt it?
    Reducing pressure levels for the 357 mag (and even maybe reducing SAAMI standard pressure) in order to be able to manufacture "plastik" revolvers. At least they will never be sold to me. But for old age maybe an 36 oz revolver as mine is is a bit heavy. Age has to be taken in account as well but best is shooting while one is young since age brings other "variables"who may hinder the shooting sport.

    Regards my deep seated bullets.
    I found the power levels of normally seated bullets that meager (the bullets fell in front of the target to the ground) that I opted to improvise a bit.
    One told me on a forum that an 9mm Luger case must have about 7.5 grain water content in the powder compartment (deprimed case, then seated the bullet as normal without primer and powder. Then you weight the round. Put then with an syringe water into the primer hole to fill it up without airpockets. Then you weight the round again. The difference for an 9x19 should give about 7.5 grain of water content). Same principle I applied to the 357 mag since both have the same pressure levels (35000 psi).
    I figured out how deep I could seat the Wadcutter in the 38 spl case in order to have 7.5 grain of water weight room for the powder. As you see the round loaded it has exactly 7.5 grain of Water weight in the powder space. So I am fine.
    The powder is as far as I can see NOT compressed. It would be with 5.4 grain of Unique. So basically my 38 spl cases loaded to 35000 psi pressures have the same charge as my 9x19 for pistol.
    I do not weight anymore the powder but rather use the Lee powder measure kit. For both 9mm Luger and 38 spl (35000 psi) I use the 0.5 cc powder dipper. I readjusted the loading technique to the 0.5 cc powder measure to speed up the reloading.

    However I noticed my 9x19 have not 7.5 grain water weight in the powder compartment if loaded with the 124 grain lead TC TL Lee bullet. My 9x19 have now an OAL of 1.050" with that bullet and same 3.9 grain VV N330 powder (as for the 38 spl +P+). I had a hard time to adjust the 9x19 load to cycle the gun reliably since again I had to adjust seating depth to the 0.5 cc powder dipper. The 9mm Luger rounds chamber below 1.085" in the chamber of the Taurus PT 92 but by no means the pistol works reliable with that seating depth. So I ended up with the optimal seating depth of 1.050" for the 9mm Luger pistol and get with that about 235 ft-lbs having an velocity of 925 fps (then the pistol works reliable).

    I shot recently an 600 lbs heifer for slaugthering with the 9x19 and the animal dropped immediatelly on its knees (1 meter distance shot). So the 9mm Makarov power levels are plenty for practical use and since it's a bit more power than an 380 acp I guess the 188 ft-lbs of an 380 acp FMJ/lead will do any job as well.

    Both my 9x19 and those 38 spl +P+ reloads you see in the picture have the same powder space and thus should be safe to use. Obviously the 38 spl is shot from an 357 mag revolver.
    2. Timothy Chapter 3
    But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
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    Wow! Very impressive! And great thread. I struggled to get 920 fps with my 135 gold for load. I had to go WAY over any max that I could find. This is great info on the 158s :)

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    Yes.
    For this info they blocked me out of CastBoolits.com.

    However remember one thing: If you seat the bullet deeper than normal you MUST reduce the powder charge.

    Seating deeper the bullet rises pressure.
    2. Timothy Chapter 3
    But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
    The Bible

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    S.A.Reloader; You really do seat your wadcutter bullets as deeply as shown in your photograph?

    If the bullets were falling on the ground in front of the targets, there is a better way of addressing that disappointing issue then through improvisation by compressing powder charges. Simply increase the propellant beneath a normally seated and crimped bullet. If satisfaction cannot be obtained with one particular powder then experiment with other kinds. There are endless load combinations that may be had from out of published loading manuals. These same loads are also bandied about on numerous internet sites. Respectable, reliable loads having a history of fine performance.

    I would not be alarmed at shooting 4.0 grains of Vihtavuori N330 under a flush-seated 148 grain solid base wadcutter if it is similar to Unique as is found in the positioning of both propellants on most burning rate charts. I've never used that particular powder but I would expect the combination to render ammunition with performance that would propel bullets to the target. A quick look on the internet finds comments that indicate N330 isn't so commonly found. I would not fire a compressed charge of the N330 (or any other such powder) as is illustrated in your photograph in any .38 Special or .357 Magnum revolver.

    How do you effect a reliably uniform and adequately secure crimp with a bullet so deeply seated? If the load is not compressed as you say you assume then what keeps the bullet from backing further into the case, thus creating a condition of compressing the powder charge? What keeps the bullet from shifting forward under a revolver's recoil and tying up the revolver's cylinder where it will not turn?

    I have had a chronograph since the tail end of the 1970s, 1979 to be exact and the 5.4 grain charge of Unique under the 158 grain cast lead semi-wadcutter is one of the very first handgun handloaded concoctions I tested.

    I would suggest getting that bullet out of the bottom of that case. Castboolits has a point, not wishing to promote an unconventional, unnecessary, and potentially hazardous handloading practice. Defensive Carry Forum cannot promote such excessively deep bullet seating either.
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