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Old July 14, 2000, 12:08 PM   #1
James E
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The lowly peforming .38 S&W cartridge is not nearly the oumph the .38 special is capable of. Yet, I am wondering how it would perform with the lighter bullets under 148 grains, be they lead cast or jacketed would they perform any better than their heavier counter parts.
What would happen if one used .380 acp 88 grain HP, 95 or 110 grain bullets with .355 diameter? Or how about .38 special bullets with .357 diameter in the 110 to 125 grain class. Keeping in mind that the .38 S&W cartridge uses .358 to .360 diameter bullets.
Putting a .355 dia. bullet to the barrel front looks promising as it doesn't look too undersize. Anyone have any experience with this?

Jim
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Old July 14, 2000, 01:43 PM   #2
Paul B.
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James. I think that if the bore of your handgun is .358, it might work. Notice I said might. If your bore is .360, methinks they would rattle down the bore and accuracy would be zip. Nada. No way.
Something to consider. Prior to the geneva conventions bans on lead bullets, Great Britain was loading what they called the 38/200 round. This was the .38 S&W loaded with a 200 gr. bullet. They claimed it eas just as effective as the .455 Webley.
I believe the velocity level was around 630 to 650 FPS. I once loaded up some 200 gr. bullets in .38 Spl. for an LEO buddy of mine for use in his back up snubbie, and he told me they worked very well. I did not have a chronograph at that time, but velocity was estimated to be in the upper 600's.
I don't have any data for reloading purposes, so I can't help you there.
Paul B.
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Old July 14, 2000, 07:45 PM   #3
Southla1
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I have a good one to tell ya'll about what was done with one of the S&W 38 S&W's made for Great Britain, chambered for the 38 S&W. It was in 60's and the USAF had decided to eliminate the great .45 auto in favor of the puny little .38 Specials for issue sidearms for aircrew and Air Police (dumb decision in my way of thinking). Well in typical military style this decision was made before anyone checked with S&W about being able to arm the entire United States Air force in a timely manner with the Smith & Wesson .38 special Combat Masterpiece. Naturally it would take time for Smith to manufacture the amount of guns needed. As a stop gap measure the Air Force "un-retired" thousands upon thousands of old S&W .38 special "victory models" still in storage from WWII. I had a group of Air Policemen out on the range one day, when one airman said to me that the spent brass fromm his 38 looked "kinda bulged". I looked at it and sure enough it was. Upon inspection of his weapon it turned out to be a Smith&Wesson .38S&W made for Great Britain! It had the British crown stamped on it and had US import marks also! My best guess was it was sent to Britan during WWII and was somehow re-imported back to the USA after the war, making its way into storage with the 38 Special "Victory Models". The problem with it was that of course a .38 special was too long to chamber in it. Well some enterprising soul had simply taken a drill and drilled out the cylinder till a .38 special would fit! Of course the .38 S&W case being bigger in diameter than the .38 Special the cases bulged upon firing. The barrel was still marked .38 S&W Cartridge. Then it dawned on me why this particular trooper was having problems with his groupings. The .357 bullet in a .360 bore was not being spun properly by the rifling. I handed him a new .38 Combat Masterpiece and he had no problem qualifing. I gave the weapon to the Air Police NCOIC of the armory and explained the situitation to him. He turned it in to depot. A few weeks later over a few beers he asked me to stop by and check the pistol. well all depot had done to it was mark it "for combat use only" not for training or qualification!!!! It made me remember that bad batch of ammo in .38 Spl. that would not clear the barrel in fact some stuck between the cylinder and forcing cone locking up the weapon. That lot of ammo was marked the same way! In other words its ok to send a trooper into combat with that junk but do not let him try to qualify with it! Of course it was the McNamara-Johnson years.....what a pitiful pair of men........let alone so called leaders.

------------------
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Old July 14, 2000, 08:54 PM   #4
James E
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Southla1:

Hello, that was a great bit of information on the aircrews .38 specials. I carried a .38 special as an aircrew man with the Navy. Don't remember ever firing it, probably just as well...they were really loaded with tracers and to be used if down at sea or in the desert. Sort of an extra signal device.
Some of our flashier pilots wore .38 S&W 2" snub nose in shoulder rigs. I think they were the little chief specials. Small and light is what they prefered. That was around 1956 or so. Thanks again for the story.

Jim
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Old July 14, 2000, 09:16 PM   #5
JackFlash
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Hodgdon Data Manual #26 (1994) lists the barrel diameter of 38 S&W as 0.359" and notes acceptable accuracy with loads using 38 Spc bullets varying from 0.355" to 0.358".

BUT, a lighter bullet will change the back pressure characteristics of the load and thus affect the burn rate of the powder. Suggested loads include medium-fast to fast burning powders like Red Dot, Unique, 231, Trap 100, HP38, and Bullseye--the fastest powder on the market.

No 38 S&W cup pressure specs are shown, but the velocities of 145 gr. bullets are in the 500 - 600 fps range.

As a benchmark, in 38 Spc a 148 gr. bullet over 3.2 gr. HP38 generates 830 fps and 11,800 cup. A 145 gr. bullet in 38 S&W over 2.5 gr. HP38 generates 630 fps. Pressure decreases exponentially with load reductions so we might GUESS that the cup could POSSIBLY be somewhere in a VERY LARGE ballpark of 9,000 -- and that's a maximum pressure load with a powder rated number two behind Bullseye for speed.

9,000 cup is very low pressure, and Hodgdon warns that these old 38 S&W chambered guns are both "tired" and not very robust to begin with. A lighter bullet -- even with the faster burning Bullseye -- may not develop the working pressure to ignite the charge cleanly.

You MAY be able to load a lighter bullet and get some increase in velocity with no increase in working pressure. But if you're looking to increase fpe (ft. lbs. energy) at the muzzle, you MUST increase working pressure or bullet weight--not a good plan for a tired old gun.

Muzzle energy is a combination of bullet weight and velocity. Velocity is a combination of bullet weight and working pressure. There ain't no free lunch.

In physics that's not just a hare-brained idea, it's the law.




[This message has been edited by JackFlash (edited July 14, 2000).]
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Old July 14, 2000, 11:00 PM   #6
James E
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Mr. Jack Flash:

Thank you very much for such a splendid break down on the .38 S&W cartridge using the lighter bullets theory. It give me much to think about and tinker with. I will be careful in working up any loads with this information. I'm really looking for accuracy with a low pressure light bullet. It may not be there, but will be fun to find out. I am also looking for a plinking load and maybe use it as a pest cartridge with little recoil factor. Don't want to work up any +P loads but only to try and improve an old cartridge for some possible use. Thanks again, Jack.

Jim
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Old July 15, 2000, 08:58 AM   #7
labgrade
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James,

The old bullseye standard is 2.7 grs Bullseye under a 148 gr wadcutter. I personally prefer the hollow base WC.

This load has hardly any recoil, is super accurate & will still provide for your pest control quite nicely.
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Old July 16, 2000, 03:59 PM   #8
Southla1
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by James E:
I carried a .38 special as an aircrew man with the Navy. Don't remember ever firing it, probably just as well...they were really loaded with tracers and to be used if down at sea or in the desert. Sort of an extra signal device.
Some of our flashier pilots wore .38 S&W 2" snub nose in shoulder rigs.
[/quote]

Seeing your answer to the .38 snub nose reminded me of one other thing . The USAF aircrews also carried a .38 Spl. Snub nose but get this .
When it came time to qualify they were allowed to use a 4" barrel Combat Masterpiece. Now they did carry ball ammo in the snubbie, but it was a 141 grain FMJ at about 800 fps. not exactly a fearsome load. The funny part was they NEVER fired the weapon they were carring.

------------------
Carlyle Hebert
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Old July 16, 2000, 11:49 PM   #9
Clark
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The tension force on the latch mechanism does not have a pressure component.

It does have bullet friction and recoil on the mass of the barrel tension forces.

THIS MEANS THE LATCH [WEAK LINK IN BREAKTOPS] ARE NOT AFFECTED BY PRESSURE!

I have shot 9mm +P loads in 100 year old 38s&w Iver Johnson break tops without problems. The eye of the latch stretches into an egg shape with 38 Super loads. The recoil can be handled with J frame overmolded grips [will fit].

What does stretch the latch besides recoil, is bullet friction. 357 158 gr JHP are too hard. 158 gr 358 lead are better for the exteme loads.

I have bored teh riflings out of a breaktop, but the recoil on the barrel mass is still the limiting factor.
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Old July 17, 2000, 01:05 PM   #10
Nestor Rivera
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I have 4 .38 S&W (1 Webbly, 2M&P 1 3rd Gen) and habe had the most success by using HBWC in them and Unique powder (have not shot 3rd Gen yet)

I got lucky at a local gun store they had som e hand cast Semi WC for sale - $4 - that were .360 I will try them soon.
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Old July 17, 2000, 02:05 PM   #11
Hutch
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Dean Grennell in my (old edition of) "The ABC's of Reloading" suggests that revolver bullets obturate or expand to fill the chamber ahead of the cartridge, and are swaged back down to correct bore size by the forcing cone of the revolvers. IOW, don't worry about shooting .355's in a .38S&W. It won't hurt nuthin'.
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Old July 17, 2000, 02:26 PM   #12
James E
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Thank you, Nestor Rivera and Hutch:

Good information from both of you and others on this thread. I just got off the phone placing an order for 500 Hornady 148 grain cast HBWC bullets. Can't wait to try them out. I will soon be shooting them in a Colt Police Positive .38 with four inch barrel.
Hope this little gun is a good shooter, though it could use an action job, it really cranks over good but kind of hard, hammer spring feels like it off a 58 Buick Roadmaster.

Jim
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