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Old January 26, 2014, 11:31 PM   #1
RX-79G
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.38 Special 125 gr. loads all over the place in pressure?

I was thinking about the oft stated ".38 is weaker than 9mm" thing, so I started looking up comparable jacketed 125 gr. loads in my loading books and manufacturer's websites. I can't believe what I'm seeing:

Several ammo companies make 125 gr. +P loads that go 950 fps. But other companies and some handloads make standard pressure loads that run well into the 1100 fps range.

I realize that different powders produce different pressure curves, which is why one may hit max pressure at a lower velocity, but aren't the makers of SD ammo aware of that and using the correct powders to avoid low velocity at high pressure? I just don't understand why anyone would beat up a gun with +P pressures and running up to 200 fps slower than standard pressure rounds.

A 1120 fps 125 gr. .38 round may be short of 9mm +P performance, but it is pretty much close to standard pressure 9mm. What am I missing?
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Old January 26, 2014, 11:40 PM   #2
Willie Lowman
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Just because a company stamps +P on a box means that it is.
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Old January 27, 2014, 01:35 AM   #3
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Clearly.
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Old January 27, 2014, 01:50 AM   #4
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I can't say that I see a lot of standard pressure.38 Special, 125 grain jacketed bullet loads that run to 1,100 fps and beyond. Hodgdon's online resource shows one such load, using the CFE Pistol powder that does, but their published data shows a 7.7 inch test barrel and I believe you'd be hard pressed to replicate that performance... but I haven't tried. I'll admit that I hadn't yet heard of this powder... is it new to the market?

I did a quick click to Alliant's online published data (which is a lousy source for published data, IMO) and I've also seen first-hand how optimistic some of the data Alliant has published in the past, and they don't list any .38 Special, 125gr jacketed loads that even get to 1,000 fps, and even their +P loads don't show velocity that quite gets to 1,100 fps.

Because I don't care for what ATK has done to absolutely dumb-down Alliant's load data, I hold the 2005 printed Alliant guide very near & dear. This was the last printed source of Alliant powder load data before ATK removed most of the bullet options and replaced almost everything with a Gold Dot slug. In that printed guide, there are three loads that get to 1,000 fps with a 125gr jacketed bullet, but none that eclipse 1,040 fps. And there is but one load that actually approaches 1,100 fps in .38 Special+P with a jacketed 125gr, but it falls short at 1,090 fps.

Accurate's 3.5 printed guide shows nothing in .38 Special or .38 Special +P that would suggest that any Accurate powder will take a 125gr jacketed bullet to anything near 1,100 fps in .38 Special. Not even close here.

My Lyman 49th manual shows three loads with a 125gr jacketed bullet that barely get to 1,000 fps, and all three are +P loads. (I'll submit that this entire manual has always seemed on the "reserved" side to me...)

The guys at BBTI (these are cool folks!) tested two different factory 125gr jacketed .38 Special loads (not +P) and they almost got to 1,100 fps in a Korth revolver, but they really came nowhere at all close in eight other handguns.
http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/38special.html

So...
I'm not finding where we can do what you're seeing.

Can handloaders push a 125gr jacketed slug to 1,100 fps and beyond with a 17,000 PSI ceiling in .38 Special? Well, that doesn't sound like anything I'm familiar with, but I don't have anything more than a chrono, so I can't say that I really know. But a good place to start might be with some Quickload simulations. It's been said that it's not quite as accurate with straight-wall handgun rounds as it can be with bottle-neck rifle brass, but it might help us find a place to look for these fast loads that I'm not finding.

And as I love perusing published load data, I would like to see your sources for 1,100 fps .38 Special loads running 125gr jacketed slugs... even if they are +P loads. Because I'm not sure where you've seen these. Maybe some Ramshot data? I don't have any Ramshot powders. Or Vihtavuori powders... those have a phenomenal reputation amongst those that use 'em.
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Old January 27, 2014, 04:43 AM   #5
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I just don't understand why anyone would beat up a gun with +P pressures and running up to 200 fps slower than standard pressure rounds.
It's all a matter of dollars and sense......

If 5 grains of power "A" gives you 950 fps and 10 grains of Powder "B" gives you 1100 fps, then your cost for powder doubles just to gain that extra 150 fps.
Powder "A" might be running at higher pressures, but, as long as they don't exceed spec. it doesn't matter.
Actually - in the hype driven market they label it +P+ or something like that and suck in the unsuspecting.

BTW - kudos to you for picking up on this.
This is what the real value of reloading/handloading is - looking under the covers to see what makes things tick.
Saving money on the ammunition is just fallout.
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Old January 27, 2014, 05:33 AM   #6
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If 5 grains of power "A" gives you 950 fps and 10 grains of Powder "B" gives you 1100 fps, then your cost for powder doubles just to gain that extra 150 fps.
Powder "A" might be running at higher pressures, but, as long as they don't exceed spec. it doesn't matter.
Often when you see two powders that produce as you've laid them out here, the powder "B" offers a much more linear, predictable pressure curve and also gives you a better loading density which (it's been argued) offers more consistent, predictable results. And 150 fps... in a handgun round is a substantial gain in any way it might be measured where math is involved.

Of the four parts that make up a handloaded handgun round, the powder is typically the lowest in cost, depending on how you wish to figure the cost of the brass. (how you got it, if you'll eject & possibly lose it, how many reloads you'll get out of it)

Many folks only ask for versatility from their powder.
"How many different calibers and loads can I use it in?"
Others love the options they have when they keep a wider cache of powders on hand and don't worry about doubling the charge weight to get the results they seek.

Neither are necessarily "wrong" in their approach, but some think the "other guy" simply doesn't understand why he's chosen his preferred route.

And there are still other reasons to choose a particular powder over another not yet mentioned. Some powders meter -far- better than others in a certain tool. Some powders are easier to find locally for a particular buyer. One of my all-time favorite powders comes only in 1 or 4 lb containers which annoys me, because I'd rather buy every powder I ever care to use in eight pound jugs.
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Old January 27, 2014, 06:48 AM   #7
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Of the four parts that make up a handloaded handgun round, the powder is typically the lowest in cost, depending on how you wish to figure the cost of the brass. (how you got it, if you'll eject & possibly lose it, how many reloads you'll get out of it)
Agreed - but - the OP also mentioned ammunition companies.
Even if the savings are a few cents - multiply that by the tens of millions of rounds made and it - makes sense - to go with the lower cost.

Quote:
And 150 fps... in a handgun round is a substantial gain in any way it might be measured where math is involved.
I've mentioned in the past my idea of "significant" and "substantial" when it comes to handgun velocities. IMHO - 150 or even 200 fps don't matter that much to me - YMMV.
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Old January 27, 2014, 01:36 PM   #8
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Agreed - but - the OP also mentioned ammunition companies.
Even if the savings are a few cents - multiply that by the tens of millions of rounds made and it - makes sense - to go with the lower cost.
I agree, but we also have -no idea- what the ammuntion companies are putting in their ammo when they craft it. The big guys are constantly altering & updating their load and tailoring it to pressure. Some of the boutique "high performance" ammunition outfits? Those guys are using the powder that gets them the -MOST- bullet speed, typically. Underwood, Buffalo Bore, Double Tap? They market all of their products around eye-popping velocity and in many of the cases, they actually reach the velocity they advertise. They aren't doing that with a pinch of Red Dot to save money on propellant costs.

Mike McNett (the man behind Double Tap) did a lot of his early 10mm testing out in the open discussion area of the Glock Talk forums. His company was started & built around 10mm ammunition.
Quote:
I've mentioned in the past my idea of "significant" and "substantial" when it comes to handgun velocities. IMHO - 150 or even 200 fps don't matter that much to me - YMMV.
Agree here also, and you stated it even better in your post above when you talked about the ability and control that handloader has over his ammunition. The skilled handloader can make anything he wants, to accomplish any reasonable task, to meet his own personal goals.

When I'm trying to replicate some of the hottest defense ammo on the market in feel, blast and blinding light, running the slug closer to the limits is my goal.

When I want to ensure the heaviest steel plates fall, even with a low hit near the hinge rather than a center hit or a ding up high with more leverage, extra bullet speed becomes a nice little buffer I can add in to my ammo.

And when I'm trying to tone down my .38's with the least amount of felt recoil for the most sensitive shooter that may be shooting them, but I don't have the luxury of using lead bullets, I can do that also... using a much faster burning powder.

There's a big "hobby" side to handloading that folks who've never handloaded may not understand. There is absolutely a hobby side to handloading that some handloaders have no interest in whatsoever. And it's been my experience that MOST new reloaders all want the SAME THING out of their early choices in smokeless powder: "I wanna spend $20 on -one- bottle and use it for everything I own..."
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Old January 27, 2014, 01:57 PM   #9
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Maybe some Ramshot data? I don't have any Ramshot powders.
Bingo! I just looked at the Western 5.0 guide that's bursting with Ramshot powders, none of which I have, and there are a number of loads running Silhouette and True Blue that are smoking in .38 Special.

What's either funny, interesting or just plain mysterious is that this newer Western 5.0 guide also lists Accurate#5 loads in .38 Special that are way, WAY over Western's previous 3.5 guide for Accurate#5 in .38 Special.

Outside of Ramshot/Western, I don't see where almost anyone pushes the .38 Special this hard. I'll bet you can find some -crazy- stuff in one of the old Speer manuals (from the 1960s), but that's really a different subject altogether.
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Old January 27, 2014, 02:47 PM   #10
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Some of the boutique "high performance" ammunition outfits? Those guys are using the powder that gets them the -MOST- bullet speed, typically. Underwood, Buffalo Bore, Double Tap? They market all of their products around eye-popping velocity and in many of the cases, they actually reach the velocity they advertise. They aren't doing that with a pinch of Red Dot to save money on propellant costs.
Agree - but - they also get some real eye popping prices for their goods also!
The profit margin on a Porsche is a lot more than it is on a Ford.
I do know for a fact via personal conversation that a large commercial reloader bases his choice of powder on price alone.

Quote:
And it's been my experience that MOST new reloaders all want the SAME THING out of their early choices in smokeless powder: "I wanna spend $20 on -one- bottle and use it for everything I own..."
LOL!
Some of us that have been at the handle of a press for going on 4 decades still feel pretty much the same!

If pushed hard enough, I got get by with just using Unique or 231
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Old January 27, 2014, 04:38 PM   #11
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I was looking at a 12 year old Lee reloading book (can't remember which powders) and this site:

http://www.ballistics101.com/38_special.php

The Extreme Shock 124 goes 1185 for standard pressure versuse 830 for Federal's Nyclad police load, and even if that's and outlier, the 1200 fps 125 +P load from Underwood or 1258 fps from Buffalo Bore make the CorBon 950 fps +P stuff seem just anemic.

Isn't CorBon known for their "hot" loads?

I realize there's some crazy stuff being done by handloaders that might make 200 fps not seem like a big deal, but an increase in velocity of 42% for a standard pressure and 32% for +P between premium defense loads is wild. You just don't see spreads like that for 9mm, which I've played with the most.

I have to wonder if the very low operating pressure of .38 has the effect of making the bell curve wider than higher pressure cartridges. Or it could be function of the huge case volume.
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Old January 27, 2014, 05:11 PM   #12
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I believe everything I read

Perhaps CorBon's 110g 38 Special +P ammo runs nearer an actual 30K PSI?
Perhaps the case capacity of the 9x19 allows for higher safer pressures?
Perhaps published load data is specific to that specific and unique test of specific components, tooling, test equipment and environment?

I don't know. I DO know that some '38 Specials' are old, junky, made of pot metal, and should never-ever use +P loads. I DO know that any ammo must be appropriate for its specific intended launch platforms.


I also know that I load a 140g XTP-HP in social 38 Special ammo, any velocity.
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Old January 27, 2014, 05:25 PM   #13
Hal
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Isn't CorBon known for their "hot" loads?
Yes - or rather, they were many years ago.

Cor Bon would load a light bullet to very high velocities.

For example, the 125 grain .38spl and/or .357 mag was what most other companies offered.
Cor Bon would come along with a 100 or 110 grain bullet that was a lot faster.

They (Cor Bon) seem to have dropped that in favor of better design.
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Old January 27, 2014, 05:25 PM   #14
RX-79G
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.38 Special is 17,000 psi, 20,000 for +P. Both are about half of 9mm pressures, and a long way from 30,000.



Of course, the other interesting thing here is that many of these faster loads are well into 9mm territory, rather than being 9mm's weak kid sister.

Last edited by RX-79G; January 27, 2014 at 05:34 PM.
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Old January 27, 2014, 08:00 PM   #15
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With a 6" barrel I clocked a Buffalo Bore 158 LSWCHP .38 spl +P at 1157fps.

That's faster than a 130gr PDX1 which only went 1013 out of the same weapon.
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Old January 29, 2014, 03:56 PM   #16
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gotta know what yer doin'

Some years back CorBon's 110g +P load was pressure-tested in excess of 30,000PSI.
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Old January 29, 2014, 04:27 PM   #17
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I had a Speer book where they described an experiment .They took a group of 357 revolvers and fired 125 gr ammo from the same company and same lot.The velocity ranged from 1200-1600 fps !!
The ammo maker uses a test barrel which may be very different from your revolver.
Take your revolver , fire 5 shots from each cylinder but a separate target for each cylinder.You'll find different accuracy in each cylinder. Do not then use just one cylinder for things like matches , it will damage the gun !!
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Old January 29, 2014, 07:23 PM   #18
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Quote:
And it's been my experience that MOST new reloaders all want the SAME THING out of their early choices in smokeless powder: "I wanna spend $20 on -one- bottle and use it for everything I own..."
I have to admit I use either 231 or Blue Dot for almost everything.
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Old January 29, 2014, 08:04 PM   #19
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I had a Speer book where they described an experiment .They took a group of 357 revolvers and fired 125 gr ammo from the same company and same lot.The velocity ranged from 1200-1600 fps !!
I've seen a bunch of similar results over the years.

That's one of the reasons - as I mentioned in post #10 above - that I don't get excited about a couple hundred fps one way or the other.
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Old January 30, 2014, 11:23 PM   #20
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One cannot look at 20 year old reloading data/testing and take it as gospel today.

Ventend test barrel or unvented test barrel? What barrel length? I KNOW i can get a regular non +p 125 grain bullet to 1100 in a rifle
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