Reloading .38 for 357

This is a discussion on Reloading .38 for 357 within the Reloading forums, part of the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics category; I am reloading for a 357 magnum K-frame revolver (Taurus 617). For home defense I keep the cylinder loadedwith 38 special +P (currently Corbon DPX ...

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Thread: Reloading .38 for 357

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    Member Array a__l__a__n's Avatar
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    Reloading .38 for 357

    I am reloading for a 357 magnum K-frame revolver (Taurus 617). For home defense I keep the cylinder loadedwith 38 special +P (currently Corbon DPX 110 gr) rather than 357 mags to lessen the risk of permanent hearing damage and to somewhat limit over-penetration.

    In order to control costs (DPX runs a buck fifty per round!) I plan to do most of my practice using hand loads, with a couple of the deluxe PD rounds thrown in each session as a reminder of the feel. I want to work up some 158gr SWC loads with a similar recoil to my PD rounds for most of my range practice. POI vs POA doesn't have to be the same, as long as I have an idea how the loads differ.

    So I have a question. Given that I am shooting these .38's in a stainless steel 357 magnum, can I venture beyond the .38 special loading guidelines into 357 magnum territory in .38 special brass? I wouldn't want to push the upper limits of 357 territory but getting the same recoil is going to require a bit more Bullseye than a standard .38 special.

    Of course, as an alternative I could load up 357 brass. But it would be nice to specialize in one size brass.

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    .357 power in a .38 case? Don't do it! Shoot light loads in .357 brass, but don't over do the weaker .38 brass.
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    VIP Member Array Guantes's Avatar
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    I would think that 158gr SWC's loaded to top .38 Spec velocities would give similar or increased recoil over the Corbon. The Corbon .38 Spec +P 110gr DPX makes 1050fps, which doesn't really qualify as +P veolcity by my book.
    "I do what I do." Cpl 'coach' Bowden, "Southern Comfort".

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    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    First thought I have is that at SD distance you are not going to see enough poa/poi on paper to make a difference regardless of load. Back in the day, there was a 38 caliber revolver called the 38-44 Outdoorsman that fired a 38spl cartridge at mid 357 velocities as we know today. However this was before the 357, and the gun was an Nframed revolver. Do not do this with any lightweight gun, as a matter of fact, load 38spl to 38spl velocities, and load the magnum cases to magnum velocities.

    But, to answer your question, 5.4 grns of Unique under a LSWC bullet is what you want. As a matter of complete fact, its really all you need.
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    Senior Member Array Devilsclaw's Avatar
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    I personally would NOT load even 38 Sp +P pressures in regular 38 Sp brass. There is even some difference in regular 38 brass--such as that made for wadcutters, which is often very light and flimsy.

    If you are wanting to load for 38 Sp +P pressures, I'd use either actual 38 Sp +P brass or 357 Mag brass. Just my advice, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

    And remember, velocity has nothing to do with your brass and gun's limitations--you load to PRESSURE. That's what matters. Velocity is just a measure of speed.

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    Member Array Hamour's Avatar
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    The classic load Elmer Keith developed for the 38/44 S&W was 13.5 grs 2400 under a 173gr cast Keith SWC. I can assure you this will be all you will need in the Self Defense department. To get my N frame Smiths to shoot the bullet Elmer used I have to use 38 cases and this powder load.

    As far as this practice being dangerous, it is no different than hot loading 45-70 or 45 colt up to their fullest potential. Get any of the hot loads into an older or weaker gun and bad things will happen. For me, any 38 with the big keith style bullet I know is for my N frames or other .357 mags.

    Here is a picture of the Keith HPT


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    VIP Member Array Majorlk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Devilsclaw View Post
    I personally would NOT load even 38 Sp +P pressures in regular 38 Sp brass. There is even some difference in regular 38 brass--such as that made for wadcutters, which is often very light and flimsy.

    If you are wanting to load for 38 Sp +P pressures, I'd use either actual 38 Sp +P brass or 357 Mag brass. Just my advice, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

    And remember, velocity has nothing to do with your brass and gun's limitations--you load to PRESSURE. That's what matters. Velocity is just a measure of speed.
    I seriously doubt there is any measurable difference (other than the headstamp) between brass marked +P and "standard" brass. Brass loaded with wadcutters is NOT weaker than any other brass. When I was shooting a couple of thousand rounds a month, I was getting eight to ten loadings out of the cases (including cases that were originally loaded with wad cutters) before I had to discard them. The most common reason was split case mouths, with loose primer pockets a distant second. Of course, I was not loading maximum pressure loadings.

    If one wants .38 loads approaching .357 velocities, then just load .357s to begin with.
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    Member Array a__l__a__n's Avatar
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    I've seen varying opinions about whether there is a real difference between .38 special brass and .38 special +P brass. Maybe the brass varies from one brand to another. Also, some folks claim that modern +P standards simply match older non-+P standards.

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    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    There is no difference in the brass, other than the +p designated inscription on the rim. And as noted, loads today as currently printed are not near what some in the past were.

    I believe you will not find any currently printed data with a load listing in 38spl using 2400 as a powder to choose from, but it was once considered normal to do so.

    With the progression to smaller and lighter guns, it's probably a damn good idea. However a good N frame revolver or even a K frame revolver made in 357 should be able to handle it.
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    VIP Member Array Majorlk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by a__l__a__n View Post
    I've seen varying opinions about whether there is a real difference between .38 special brass and .38 special +P brass. Maybe the brass varies from one brand to another.
    Yes, there is some slight difference between brands.

    Also, some folks claim that modern +P standards simply match older non-+P standards.
    That is also true. Just compare the loading manuals from the 70s to today's manuals. Many of my .357 loads far exceed today's maximums. Same deal with the heavy .45 Colt loads for Ruger Super Blackhawks and Contender single shots. My heavy .45 Colt loads approach .41 Magnum performance.
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    Any sort of reasonable ( and a few unreasonable) handloads may be put up in plain ol' .38 Special cases. The +P cases are not required for heavy handloads.

    Read Skeeter Skelton.

    Here's a dandy article that was quickly found on an internet search.
    http://www.sixguns.com/tests/tt38spcl.htm
    “No possible rapidity of fire can atone for habitual carelessness of aim with the first shot.”

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    Quote Originally Posted by bmcgilvray View Post
    Any sort of reasonable ( and a few unreasonable) handloads may be put up in plain ol' .38 Special cases. The +P cases are not required for heavy handloads.

    Read Skeeter Skelton.

    Here's a dandy article that was quickly found on an internet search.
    http://www.sixguns.com/tests/tt38spcl.htm
    Good stuff. Thanks for the link!

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    VIP Member Array Majorlk's Avatar
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    If you want a good plinking load, try 2.8 to 3.0 grains of Bullseye under a 158 grain semi-wadcutter. Very easy on the cases. I have no idea how many thousand of these I have loaded and shot over the years.
    An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. - Robert A. Heinlein

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    Member Array Mr. Chitlin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Majorlk View Post
    If you want a good plinking load, try 2.8 to 3.0 grains of Bullseye under a 158 grain semi-wadcutter. Very easy on the cases. I have no idea how many thousand of these I have loaded and shot over the years.
    Back in the mid to late 80's I shot PPC almost every weekend. I have shot untold thousands of rounds using 2.8 gr BE under a 158 gr SWC in a 4" Smith "L" frame 586. They were moving just fast enough to go through the paper at 25 yards.

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    All preceding advice is true, accurate and valid.
    To this I add from my own experience:
    Too many years of shooting .38s in a .357 and a fellow lawman had the devil's own time getting the lead ring out of his chambers so he could stoke up with .357s.
    I ended up soaking the chambers in Hoppe's 9 Plus, then GI bore cleaner, and it still took forever to get the accumulation out!
    Once we were done, though, the chambers were clean as a whistle and slick as a gut!
    Free advice is generally worth the price you pay for it, so for what it's worth, here it is:
    Shoot .38s in a .38 revolver and .357 brass in a .357 revolver.
    (Like anything else, though, you pays-a you money and takes-a you choice.)
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