View Full Version : Need an accurate 158 gr. load for my Model 14
February 24, 2013, 07:32 AM
After learning that a Distinguished Revolver badge must be earned in competition with 158 gr. ammunition, I loaded up 100 rounds of 158 gr. LSWC with 3.0 grains of AA#2, a light plinking load I have used before at the range for casual shooting. Let's just say the results were AWFUL at 50 yards. It was difficult to keep shots in the scoring rings at all, let alone inside the 7 ring. I suppose I could attribute some of it to the increased recoil of the gun, but after working at it I am accustomed now to averaging well into the 80s with my physically identical Model 17, so I didn't expect anywhere near what I saw yesterday. The funny thing is, the lack of accuracy wasn't nearly as evident at the 25 yard line, where the results were comparable if not slightly better than results in previous matches shot using 148 grain wadcutters in the same gun.
I discussed this with other shooters and they noted that it's very difficult to find a good 50 yard 158 gr. load. One, a very knowledgeable Master Bullseye shooter, suggested using Federal 158 gr. LRN commercial ammo, which he's found to be the most accurate, but I'd like to avoid that if at all possible due to cost and difficulty just finding the ammo.
Realizing that different guns like different loads, can anyone suggest a good recipe to try? I have Bullseye, Titegroup, AA#2 and Unique available. Is there a "classic" 158 gr. load used for Bullseye?
February 24, 2013, 08:01 AM
I can't speak about 50 yards, because I don't shoot my hand guns at that distance (actually I tried it with a semi-auto, once)....but, my K-frame Smith does VERY well with 3.7 grains of Bullseye, behind a 158 grain cast SWC. Literally, it will produce "one ragged hole" groups, if I could shoot that well consistently, out to about 15 - 20 yards (as far out as I normally shoot).
February 24, 2013, 08:28 AM
I'm sure that there is a classic 158 grain load for Bullseye, but I'm not familiar with it. However, my go-to load for the 158 grain semiwadcutter in .38 special is 4.3 grains of Unique. It's been my standard load for about 20 years and shoots very, very well in every revolver I've tried to use it in.
However, the standard .38 special target load is a good full 148 grainwadcutter and 2.7 grains of Bullseye. Lots of folks have used that over the years. Are you sure that the rules specify a 158 grain bullet?
February 24, 2013, 10:32 AM
Are you sure that the rules specify a 158 grain bullet?
Yeah, quite sure. Below are the details from the NRA Conventional Pistol rule book, which also precludes the use of red dot sights (no issues, that's how I always shoot).
3.1.4 Distinguished Revolver - The revolver must be capable of chambering and firing a 158-grain round nose or Semi-Wadcutter .38 Special cartridge. It must be a factory manufactured revolver with no external modifications except for stocks which may be modified or changed because of the size of the competitor’s hand or to facilitate loading. Except for stocks and the honing of the sear or sear notch to make a more crisp trigger, and maintain a 2 1/2 lb. minimum trigger pull, no external or internal modification may be made to the revolver as manufactured and sold by the factory of origin. No parts may be removed from the revolver, either externally or internally, nor may any part be added, with the exception of milling the cylinder to accommodate moon clips. Specifically prohibited is any system of recoil control based upon compensators, barrel venting, barrel porting or weighted grips. Exposed holes that have been drilled and tapped for mounting of a scope are not considered to be an external modification.
(a) Trigger - Must have single and double action capability and must be capable of lifting 2 1/2 lbs when the revolver is cocked for single action firing. Triggers will be weighed. Any trigger, sold by the manufacturer of the revolver, without modification, may be used.
(b) Sights - Fixed or adjustable rear sights may be used. An adjustable front sight is not allowed.
(c) Barrel - Length not to exceed six and one-half inches (6 1/2").
(d) Stocks - Except as set forth above, the right and left stocks must be mirror images of each other.
(e) Ammunition - Any safe .38 caliber ammunition using the 158 grain round nose or Semi-Wadcutter bullet only.
(f) The following are not allowed. Trigger Shoes, compensators of any type or design; any external trigger stop device; any internal trigger stop not originally installed by the factory as original equipment in stock revolvers of the same make and model; tape on the stocks or stocks flared at the base.
However, my go-to load for the 158 grain semiwadcutter in .38 special is 4.3 grains of Unique. It's been my standard load for about 20 years and shoots very, very well in every revolver I've tried to use it in.
Thanks, I neglected to mention that I also had a box of 158s loaded with 3.7 gr. of Unique that I tried for a few shots out of desperation, but it was just as bad consistency-wise and recoiled more heavily (in addition to giving a higher point of impact). Recoil shouldn't matter much for slow fire, so I can try 4.3 grains, but if it's a good load I'll have to figure out how many clicks to move the sights up/down assuming I continue to shoot a much softer load in timed and rapid, where recoil makes a big difference. To this point I've been able to get away with the same sight settings in slow vs. timed and rapid, with only minor adjustments (usually left and right).
my K-frame Smith does VERY well with 3.7 grains of Bullseye, behind a 158 grain cast SWC.
Thanks, again worth a try (see notes above on sight settings).
February 26, 2013, 06:12 PM
March 3, 2013, 08:19 AM
I've recently been shooting 3.5 gr. of W231 with a Fed. 100 primer under an HSM 158-gr. LRN bullet from my old Colt Trooper in .38 Spcl. They'll easily stay well under an inch at 7 yards. I would think a medium charge of Bullseye would also do well; 3 grains may be the ticket.
March 11, 2013, 06:16 AM
I am just wondering if you need to work on your Bullets more than the powder for accuracy?
I shoot lots of 158 round nose in Defensive Pistol and Steel Challenge Matches. I put the micrometer on some commercial bullets a while back that were .356. They are shooting OK, but I suspect they would not be the best for driving tacks at 50 yards.
Bullet Hardness is also an issue with accuracy.
If you do not find an answer here, you might ask about accurate bullets over on the Cast Bullet Forum Site.
I would probably look at the Semi Wadcutter Bullets instead of Round Nose for accuracy.
In my opinion you need to start with a very good bullet that is known to shoot very well, then start working on the powders.
Just My 2 Cents
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