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Old August 22, 2011, 12:32 PM   #1
Six_Rounds
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Making .38S&W from scratch...

So, since I got an 1890's Iver Johnson breaktop in .38S&W, ive been on a quest to make proper loads for it. My problem has been that I don't have much money to buy all the proper components to load "correct" .38S&W ammo. What I do have is the correct brass, .356 115gr RNL bullets, and 9x19mm dies.

After a lot of reading, I assembled a few loads using those components, and a case full of Pyrodex FFG, compressed 1/16th inch or so. My final loaded dimensions show the round is just .010" smaller in the case diameter than the .38S&W nominal dimensions in my manual.

Using an undersize bullet, im guessing my accuracy will not be great, and my velocity might be lower than normal. Also with no lubed wad, I expect to have a decent amount of cleanup. Is there any other problems I may encounter?
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Old August 22, 2011, 01:20 PM   #2
Hardcase
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I would count on being able to hit the broad side of a barn, but maybe not too much more. OK, maybe the barn door.

.38 S&W barrels are .360"-.361", so your .356 is going to be a little rattley. Maybe for the next batch you can try using a .36" round ball instead. The soft lead will also be helpful.

As far as other trouble, I think that you're OK. The original .38 S&W had a thinner case and (I think) used a heeled bullet, so with a modern case and bullet, the case volume is reduced. That means that you shouldn't be able to overcharge it.

Oh, and you're right, count on plenty of fouling. But that's just part of the charm
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Old August 22, 2011, 01:21 PM   #3
Magnum Wheel Man
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personally that might be hot for the gun if it's not in pristine condition... although the smaller diameter bullets will likely help keep the pressure down

I load lots of 38 S&W cartridges, I have 3 loads... I load Trailboss in all 3 loads & shoot soft lead roundballs in my softest "check out the gun load"

other than not using any of the corecct components or tools... you'll be working thew brass alot & will likely see shorter case life than normal blowing them to chamber diameter, & sizing them with the 9mm die
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Old August 22, 2011, 01:48 PM   #4
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The condition of the gun is excellent. Cylinder/bore alignment is perfect, it locks up well (or at least as well as any of the older guns with the freespinning cylinders), and there is zero rusting or pitting anywhere, inside or out.

I hadnt thought about case life, thats a good point. I wont be shooting this much, but if I do wear my brass down, I can always buy brass from a local commercial reloading company that loads this caliber.

Any thoughts on what velocities I might be seeing out of a 2" barrel?
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Old August 22, 2011, 01:59 PM   #5
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my best guess with that charge & bullet weight, would be around 600 fps... + or - due to the looseness in the bore... if you get too much blow by, your results will be lower, if you get enough seal but less resistance, you may see more
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Old August 23, 2011, 12:40 PM   #6
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Well I fired my out-of-spec rounds today, and to my surprise they were not only quite consistant as far as POI, but had a nice thump to them as well! The range wasnt great, maybe 15 feet, but between me and my grandfather, we managed to put 3 out of 5 rounds fired in the same ragged hole!

I think next I want to try a MBC .361 146gr LRN with a full charge of pyro to try and make some semblance of a decent SD load for the gun.
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Old August 23, 2011, 11:02 PM   #7
JiminTexas
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maybe I'm just wierd, but I bought .38 S&W brass on Gunbroker and the bullets I get from Missouri Bullets for pretty cheap. The brass that I got was surplus U.S. Army brass. There is no headstamp on them, but they are made by Winchester and the Army uses them as detonators for some sort of Artillery simulator. Starline also sells the brass. You are right to use only B.P in those rounds too. The early (pre 1900 or so) Iver Johnsons, Empire State Arms, Eastern Arms, etc. were B.P. only. They are fairly easy to spot. They are usually made of Iron, not steel. It was only the latter models of revolvers like the Enfields in 38-200 and S&W and Colt in 38 S&W and .38 Colt that are suitable for smokeless. All three of these catridges are virtually identical except for the bullet weights and are interchangeable.
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Old August 25, 2011, 06:42 PM   #8
Joe the Redneck
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As for reloading 38 S&W, if you have a 38 shell holder and a 9mm expanding and taper crimping die. Well, I let you think about it from there.

Not that I have ever seen that done or anything.
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Old August 27, 2011, 02:16 PM   #9
JiminTexas
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Why bother with all of that? Lee makes the die set and Midway sells them for under $30.00.
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Old August 27, 2011, 09:01 PM   #10
Bishop Creek
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That's what I use for my 1890s Iver Johnson, a Lee .38 S&W die set. $25 from Cabela's.
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Old August 28, 2011, 12:39 AM   #11
T. O'Heir
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"...accuracy will not be great..." As in none. Like Hardcase says, your bullets are undersize. And you're using the wrong dies. .38 S&W ammo, proper brass and dies aren't hard nor particularly expensive to get.
Wouldn't have been loaded with BP in 1890 either.
"...usually made of Iron, not steel..." Nope.
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