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Old April 25, 2008, 08:41 AM   #1
jdscholer
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38 S&W Reloads

I've been messing around with light loads for an old top break Smith.
Would love to hear from anyone with ideas and experiance.
Any problem using jacketed bullets in these old guns?
My gun is very good mechanically, only fair cosmetically. I've been having good results with 2.5 gr. Red Dot, pushing a 125 gr. jhp Hornaday. CCI small pistol primers. I just wonder about the jacketed bullet thing.
I'm a newbe around here, be gentle.
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Old April 25, 2008, 08:52 AM   #2
jrinne0430
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I used to reload the 38 S&W for an old Iver Johnson top-break. Never used jacket bullets but I don't see any reason why not. Here is a link for more reloading data.

http://www.reloadammo.com/38sw.htm
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Old April 25, 2008, 12:43 PM   #3
Mike Irwin
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Yes, there can be major problems using jacketed bullets in these old guns.

First, depending on its age, your gun may have a frame that was intended for use with black powder only.

It wasn't until about 1900 that S&W changed the frame to accommodate the new smokless powders.

Second, jacketed bullets can be VERY hard on the old, soft steels often found in guns of this vintage.

Washed out rifling can result very quickly.

Last, the extra stress of both smokless powder and jacketed bullets can result in the frame stretching, even on smokless models.
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Old April 25, 2008, 01:22 PM   #4
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I am some what new to reloading and I have reloaded the 38 S&W prior (lead only) and please correct me where I am wrong. Assuming that the revolver was designed for smokelss powder, how would the softer copper jacketed ammo wear the steel riflling out "very quickly"? Isn't copper softer than any steel? Also, if I remember correctly, the 38 S&W was designed to use a .360 diameter bullet and most likely the reloader would fire .357 or .358 jacked pistol bullets (mainly what is availible). I don't see how this would cause over pressure and frame stretching or the quick wearing of the barrel. Once again, I am new to reloading and always seek new information and if I am incorrect, please correct me.
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Old April 25, 2008, 01:40 PM   #5
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The copper is much harder than lead, so it takes more force to squeeze it into the rifling. This raises the pressure the propellant has to develop earlier in the bullet's travel, so the bullet enters the rifling with higher pressures and temperatures behind it and puts more general pressure and stress on the gun.

The fact the copper is soft enough to provide some lubricity doesn't mean there is no friction present, and that wears a barrel gradually. In addition, the lead bullets the gun was intended for all have lubricant on them that is left in the barrel to ease the way for the next bullet. The jacketed bullets have none of that, so the friction gets quite a bit higher for copper, even though lead actually has a higher kinetic coefficient of friction with steel when unlubricated.

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Old April 25, 2008, 02:50 PM   #6
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So what are y'all's thoughts on using jacketed bullets in old old milsurp rifles?
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Old April 25, 2008, 10:49 PM   #7
jdscholer
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Top Break 38 S&W Reloads

Thanks Guys, for the feedback on jacketed bullets in my top break Smith. I can understand the logic of higher pressure caused by forcing a harder bullet into the barrel.
I was thinking that by using light weight bullets, I could keep pressure down and that might be true if I go with lubricated lead.
Also, I am hoping to lower the point of impact by using the "lighter recoil, less bullet time in barrel theory". Any coments?
This little handgun has very good accuracy, but shoots quite high. I don't really care to change the front sight blade, and have had some success with the above hair brained theory.
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Old April 25, 2008, 11:16 PM   #8
jdscholer
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Top Break 38 S&W Reloads

Thanks Guys, for the feedback on jacketed bullets in my top break Smith. I can understand the logic of higher pressure caused by forcing a harder bullet into the barrel.
I was thinking that by using light weight bullets, I could keep pressure down and that might be true if I go with lubricated lead.
Also, I am hoping to lower the point of impact by using the "lighter recoil, less bullet time in barrel theory". Any coments?
This little handgun has very good accuracy, but shoots quite high. I don't really care to change the front sight blade, and have had some success with the above hair brained theory.
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Old April 25, 2008, 11:35 PM   #9
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A few issues you will need to deal with when reloading 38 S&W:
* 38 S&W uses a larger diameter bullet than 38 Special/357 Mag, .360" IIRC vs .357" (jacketed) or .358" (lead) for 38 Special. You can reload with .358" lead bullets, but accuracy will be mediocre.
* It needs to be a lubricated lead bullet. The angle of the leade is not right for jacketed bullets. Firing jacketed bullets will hammer on the frame.
* The case head is larger in diameter also, so using 38 Sp/357 Mag dies will not give good results.
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Old April 26, 2008, 08:59 PM   #10
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For lead bullets in the 38 S&W you may want to try the Lee 38-148-WC cast bullet. It has 3 lube grooves and my mould usually throws them right around .360 or .361. This is right where you need your diameter; the 3 grooves hold plenty of lube and will go easy on your top break. You also get a fairly good whap value from the flat nose should an emergency present it self.
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Old April 26, 2008, 09:28 PM   #11
jdscholer
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38 S&W Cast Bullets

Hey crowbeaner,
Do ya load your bullets from your Lee mould in their "as cast" condition, or size them.
I've heard of using Lee moulds without sizing, but never tried it. If the diameter is correct, and accuracy is adequate for what you're doing, why not.
I'm interested.
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Old April 27, 2008, 02:01 PM   #12
Mike Irwin
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"So what are y'all's thoughts on using jacketed bullets in old old milsurp rifles?"

Define old, old.
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Old April 27, 2008, 05:11 PM   #13
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Quote:
"So what are y'all's thoughts on using jacketed bullets in old old milsurp rifles?"
If we are talking cheap milsurp, like the ones you see for $120 that come from a crate with 1,500 rifles, offloaded from a boat that has 5,500 crates, then I say shoot the thing until it won't shoot anymore, then bury it in the garden to hold up the tomato plants.

If we are talking valuable and collectible milsurp rifles from the last 100 years, they were all designed to use jacketed bullets, so I wouldn't lose much sleep over it.
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Old April 27, 2008, 08:04 PM   #14
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I size them and lube them with an RCBS Lube-a-matic. I haven't shot any 38 S&W in years, but we tried some as-cast, and they didn't shoot as well as ones we sized .360. They were pan lubed and cut out with an expanded case turned upside down. Sizing them trues up the flat surfaces, and they seem to obturate better in the bore; I don't know why, but the old top break my neighbor had preferred the sized ones. I size the ones for the 38Spl. and 357 to .358 inch.
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