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plumbshotsam

reloading 38 special under a microscope

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OK, Here we go! I have been into reloading (.. generally, .. successfully, ... still with 19 or so appendages/digits) for about 12 years now. Basically, 9, 38, 40S&W, and 45- 3 types. I do well and am pleased with my results; I stay within guidelines and don't get too creative. I have availed myself of the wealth of info available on the net and in published manuals. ( I give a particular shout out to Cast Boolits) In light of events recently I have modernized/upgraded my equipment and still try to keep it simple; I do like the Lee products for obvious reasons. I also track roughly the number of rounds that I load. ( currently, completed around 15 - 20 thousand rounds, over the course of those 12 years) [.. and still with 19 or so ...] In my modernization I have attempted to concentrate on quality, ... rather than quantity. I have singled out 38 special as it is my favorite caliber and what I shoot the most of. I can regularly build a round that 10 out of 20 will hit the scoring rings of a 25 yard target, at 25 yards, from a sand bag, with the balance still on the 8 1/2 x 11 target paper. If I could shoot free hand like this I would be a Merc!!!! 

 

NOW!! Here we go. I would like to pick the brains of the best out there and start a dialogue possibly about how different aspects of the reloading process effect performance of the round. I really WOULD like to limit the talk to the 38 special and we are talking bullseye type target shooting here at 25 yards. I'm not particularly asking for load data or what you shoot successfully; I am very curious as to whether anyone has any info on some of the more elusive and non published info; how does powder brand/ variation of charge  ( 3.2 grns Bullseye vs. 2.9 grns on a 148 gr. wadcautter)  (crimping in the groove, over the end)  ( HP 38 vs. Universal)  Does the powder brand/charge/crimp effect velocity that will engage the rifling and just HOW! HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE does a CCI primer make as compared to a Remington? Will you get a "fall off" .. wider spread .. "flyer" ...??  For example, I have recently learned that 38 special cases with a double cannulure were manufactured as wad cutter cases! (thinner wall, and interior stop?) When you load a wad cutter in a "heavy" (thicker) Winchester or Remington case, and run it through the factory crimp/sizer you can "feel" it being squished down. This has to effect engagement of the rifling in the barrel? Considering the different burn rates, ignoring what "everyone likes" how do you select a powder for a 125 grain rnfp bullet?  Did anyone ever get this nutso crazy or is it just me?  ..................  Oh! .. and while you are at it, could you solve world hunger, ... and take care of the reloading primer situation! 

 

I personally shoot a S&W 586   6" bbl,    Ruger Match Champion 4' BBl. ,    S&W Mod 67 4" bbl    and a Rossi Mod 52 3" bbl.  From these I draw my data.  I have used new Starline brass, once fired and new Remington and Winchester brass,  plusP nickel brass, and "wad cutter brass" from Winchester, Federal, and Remington. I regularly load X-treme 125 gr rnfp and coated 148 gr wad cutters over Bullseye, 231, HP38, Titegroup, and Universal in the specified load ranges. Have experimented with other bullet brands and weights but no real difference. In my modernization I am also using a Hornady powder trickler and digital scale. 

 

.... PANT, ...PANT, ... PANT!!!!    Done, now!  

        ..... am I expecting too much ....?

                  Thanks, Guys

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I load a lot of light .38 loads for police revolver matches.   You named a bunch of excellent powders, but I've been slowly converting my target loads (.38, 9, .45) to use WST powder.  It burns so cleanly, especially compared to Bullseye, and it meters with amazing consistency. I've gone years without having to adjust the powder setting on the Dillon.  It just stays within 0.1, seemingly forever. My load data is consistent with that shown here:  https://www.bullseyeforum.net/t9231-wst-38-loads-for-hg-50-bullet and I crimp with a little less than 1/8" of the wadcutter exposed.  There isn't a crimp groove, but with such light loads it doesn't matter.  

I like Hornady, Zero, and a few other bullets, but I use almost exclusively the 148 gr wadcutters from CNJ casting.  Lower cost, great quality, very fast shipping, and they are always in stock.  

I favor CCI primers, but will use Winchester, and to be honest I'm not sure if I can tell the difference.   Federals are great, but harder to find, and since I don't have a problem with light strikes (a problem that can sometimes be solved with the 'softer' Federal primers) I don't bother looking for them.  I've read that magnum primers increase the variability of velocity--you'll see it in the standard deviation when you chrono a bunch of rounds.  I've not tested that myself, I just avoid magnum primers for target rounds.  It's not like the fast powders are hard to ignite.

I use Starline brass, all from the same lot, for matches.  I'm on about the 7th reload of this batch, and I expect to keep using it for a good while yet.   I use mixed brass for practice, and it does pretty well also.  I do get some loads that bulge at the bottom of the seated wadcutters, and so can't fit into a match chamber but they almost always fit in another revolver, so they get used.

These loads will consistently group under 3" from a sandbag rest at 25 yards.  I suspect they'd do better if I worked on my sandbag technique and put a scope on the gun.

 

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