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Old July 5, 2013, 08:22 PM   #1
Nick_C_S
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38 Short Colt Reloading Help

I've decided to start loading for 38 Short Colt. I would like some info from experienced reloaders with this cartridge. I've been reloading for 29 years, so I kinda got the process down :-P

What I really need to know: Will a 38/357 resize die work? Or do I have to buy a 38SC-specific die for resizing?

I'm pretty sure I need a 38SC-specific flare die. Please confirm that for me. And I'm 99+% positive I need a 38SC-specific seater/crimp die.

I'm going to shoot these in 38 and 357 revolvers. I'm just looking for some really light practice loads; and hopefully, something light enough to get my wife into shooting - who is scared s#!tless of guns.

Any recipes you'd like to share would be appreciated too.
Thank you.
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Old July 6, 2013, 10:32 AM   #2
g.willikers
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Other than the case length, the other dimensions are the same.
But why bother, when the normal cases for the gun can be downloaded, too.
Check the powder company websites for the recipes.
Not quite as low as the short colt, but within about 50 ft/sec.
If that proves actually noticeable, why not just use a .22?

Most of the time new shooters, are put off not by the recoil, as much as the blast.
If she has really good ear protection, like both good fitting plugs and ear muffs, large wrap around safety glasses and a protective hat, that will probably go a long way to reduce aversion to the gun.
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Old July 6, 2013, 10:46 AM   #3
oldpapps
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"Nick_C_S
I've decided to start loading for 38 Short Colt... Will a 38/357 resize die work? Or do I have to buy a 38SC-specific die for resizing?...

I'm going to shoot these in 38 and 357 revolvers. I'm just looking for some really light practice loads; and hopefully, something light enough to get my wife into shooting - who is scared s#!tless of guns.

Any recipes you'd like to share would be appreciated too."


Nick, why?

The 38 Long Colt is very obsolete and the even lesser produced 'short' version is more so. As you are not special loading for an old collectors item (I always want just a few rounds for those that I will never fire too), I can't see any advantage to this utilization. If you have.38 Short Colt Brass in any quantity, I would think that collectors would love to deal with you for some.

To your questions:
Just use .38 Special brass and load it back. This precludes the need for any 'special order' loading dies.
I offer a better option, pick up a heaver revolver in .22RF. Find (easier said than done in today's market) if possible, .22 'CB' or 'BB' ammunition. Combine the heavy/er weight of the revolver and the 'wimp' factor of the rounds and you have a no recoil, quiet, non intimidating weapon to work with. (Note, my daughter first shot at the age of 2. Her 'bid boder' did and she wanted too. It was a 1911A1, single fed, .45ACP. Her brother started at the same age, 3 years earlier, with a Browning HiPower.)

Loading information. I can only repeat what I have seen. AND I HAVE NEVER TESTED THIS DATA.
.38 Long Colt - 150 grain lead bullet - 3.0 grains Bullseye - 810fps MV
Dropping to the 'Short' version , case length is down to .762 inches and bullet weight is down to 130 grains and is listed as 'outside lubricated'. No charge/s are listed but the velocities is listed as 770 fps.

I would not use this data without other sources that I trusted (I don't trust this source, please conciser this only reference data).

Did you ever think of making up 'Hot Glue' bullets. They are cheap, low noise, no recoil, (fun) and a lot less work than working with 1875 vintage loadings.

Load with care and enjoy,

OSOK
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Old July 6, 2013, 10:55 AM   #4
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I don't know if what you're doing is a good idea or not. But .38 Special sizing die will work just fine. Your crimp die will not work, and probably not your flaring die -- but you can probably use 9mm dies for those. I'm sure a Lee universal case flaring die would do it and they only cost about $10 (last time I checked) You also might not need a crimp.

Before you do all that (unless you just like to tinker, then go for it) try 148 grain wadcutters in .38 Special brass with about 2.5 grains of Bullseye.

Or wax bullets (or plastic) with just a primer, but you'll have to drill out the flash holes to keep the primers from backing out and jamming the gun.
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Old July 6, 2013, 11:04 AM   #5
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Seems like a lot of work when .38 special can be loaded to extremely mild levels.
I don't believe I've ever seen a .38 Short Colt cartridge or case. If you don't actually own a .38 SC revolver, this seems like taking a trip from LA to San Diego...via Phoenix. If what you want to do can't be done with 148 gr Wadcutters and tiny powder charges, then you need to look into a .22 or perhaps an air pistol.
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Old July 6, 2013, 11:39 AM   #6
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If you have a gun chambered for .38 Colt, loading for it is reasonable to do. If you only have .38 Special and .357 Magnum chambers, I recommend you use .38 Special and .357 Magnum cases in them, respectively. The reason is that while you can fire shorter predecessor cases in these chambers, and people often do, when you do it with lead bullets you create a cleaning problem you have to be careful to keep aware of and address as needed.

The extra space between the end of the short case and the start of the actual chamber throat tends to pick up lead blasted off the base of the bullet by gases bypassing the bullet as it jumps to the throat. This deposits lead in the chamber between the end of the case mouth and the start of the throat. It can build up enough to actually prevent chambering the longer round the chamber is intended for. Even if it just makes chambering the longer round a little snug, it can interfere with release of the bullet from the longer case, causing pressure to increase and usually spoiling accuracy and increasing bore leading by necking lead bullets down.

To remove the fouling from your chambers, you can use the penetrating oil and copper scouring pad (real copper; not copper washed steel) strands on a brush method, or a Lewis Lead Remover, or the Wipe Out product called No-Lead, which actually chemically converts lead into a black crumbly compound you can just push out with a patch. I prefer to avoid extra narrowing of my chambers in the first place by using the cases the chambers were made for. Even then, I still have to remove lead from time to time; just not as much and the potential pressure threat isn't there.

To download the gun for your spouse, use the lightest bullet and fastest powder combination to minimize recoil and muzzle blast, respectively. Pick up some 90 grain Cowboy Action Shooting bullets and put about 2.5 grains of Hodgdon Clays behind them in either the .38 Special or .357 Magnum case. That should do nicely. Raise it to 3 grains if the accuracy is not satisfactory. It will still be a pretty light load. The common round nose with small flat made for CAS will identify the light loads to you, as they are not normally used in .38 Special or .357 Magnum outside of that discipline.
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Old July 6, 2013, 12:21 PM   #7
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This is in the same league as trying to load 32S&W with 32 H&R dies.

Will a 38/357 resize die work? Or do I have to buy a 38SC-specific die for resizing? You can get away with the sizing die.

I'm pretty sure I need a 38SC-specific flare die. Please confirm that for me. You may or may not get away with the flaring die; it depends on who made it. For my 32's the flaring die didn't quite work right...I had to substitute my 32 ACP flare die for proper flare.

And I'm 99+% positive I need a 38SC-specific seater/crimp die. This is where you definitely have a problem.

Quote:
But why bother, when the normal cases for the gun can be downloaded, too.
A) Better powder burn with the reduced charges due to running in the right pressure range. Less chance of squibs this way.

B) Uses less powder to achieve similar results. Compare 38 S&W data to 38 Special to see this. Note: in Speer #12 there are plenty of (as in all listed) standard pressure 38 Spec. loads with DNR listed using jacketed bullets. You only see that with one of the 38S&W loads....refer to point A) above.

C) Far less likely to double charge due to smaller case making double charging more evident visually.

D) Perception to the novice shooter; shorter round looks less scary.

E) If the OP wants to load BB caps using a proper OOO Buck ball (not Hornady as they measure .35") they will work far better in a SC brass than in a Spec. brass.
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Old July 6, 2013, 05:52 PM   #8
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Thank you for the replies everybody.

SHR970: Yes, for ALL those reasons (except "E").

I'm not a big fan of simply downloading recipes. The 38Spl case is cavernous with approved loads as it is. I'm concerned about squib loads and inconsistent ignitions. And yes, when reloading manuals show "DNR" in their tables, that's a clue to not reduce the loads.

I'm in a similar friendly debate regarding powering down 357Mag brass loads down to 38Spl power in another string. It seems a lot of people do it with no problems. Fair enough. I'd rather not.

And yes, I like to "tinker." Loading for 38 Short Colt sounds kinda fun. There was a guy at my last IDPA practice meet that was running 38SC in his 8-shot Model 27. They were very light loads with nearly no recoil (I'm sure they didn't make the IDPA power floor requirement - it was a practice meet).

I already purchased 100g DEWC from Penn Bullets. Like UncleNick said, light bullets with fast powder. I'm going to run W231 - or Bullseye if I can find it.

Okay, so it's mostly about tinkering
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Old July 6, 2013, 06:10 PM   #9
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Quote:
I'm going to run W231 - or Bullseye if I can find it.
Clays or Red Dot would be even better.

I have a friend who loads light wadcutter target ammo for his .357. He uses .38 Special load data, .357 brass, and seats the bullets *below* flush. Just because you have a cavernous case doesn't mean you need to use all of it.
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Old July 6, 2013, 06:31 PM   #10
Nick_C_S
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zxcvbob: Yeah, I know you don't have to fill the case space all the way.

And thanks for the idea: I'm going to try my 9mm expander die for flaring.

Clays or Red Dot probably would be better. I'll use what I can find these days, uggh. I have 231 and AA2 - those are my fast powders right now.

In "case" (excuse the pun) anyone was wondering: I ordered the brass from Midway. Starline. Amazingly, they have new 38 Short Cold brass. They also have loaded 38SC ammo (Remington).

Well, I guess I'm off to buy a seater die.
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Old July 6, 2013, 06:47 PM   #11
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You might get away with using your 9mm crimp die. Since you are using a DEWC, the taper crimp might just work fine.

RD and BE would work well, but based on what you have, I would go with W231. In my experience, AA#2 doesn't work as well at lower pressures (based on the old AA#2).
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Old July 6, 2013, 07:27 PM   #12
Nick_C_S
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All my dies are RCBS, btw. And I also have a Lee FCD for all my calibers. (9mm, 38/357, 44, 45ACP, 40/10mm)

Agree - I had no intention of using AA2. It'll be 231. I love AA2, but it's definitely slower than 231. I consider it to be slow, for a "fast" powder, if that makes any sense. And I also noticed that it performs best when you load it up a little bit. It burns cleaner on the higher end of the recipes.

Yeah, I'm going to give the 9mm seater die a shot. What the heck. Good advice - again.
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Old July 7, 2013, 01:40 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick_C_S
The 38Spl case is cavernous with approved loads as it is. I'm concerned about squib loads and inconsistent ignitions.
The danger is in becoming, as the British say, too clever by half. This can be a real fooler. Take a look at the data from Hodgdon below. It shows the same 148 grain HBWC bullet loaded with 231/HP38 (same powder; different brands), both seated near the case mouths.

.38 Special, 1.16" COL, 231 or HP38, 7.7" barrel, Win SP primer

Start: 3.5 grains, 14,200 CUP 885 fps
MAX: 4.0 grains, 15,900 CUP 956 fps

.357 Magnum, 1.290" COL, 231 or HP38, 10" barrel, Win SPM primer

Start: 3.0 grains, 14,300 CUP, 845 fps
MAX: 3.4 grains, 17,600 CUP, 908 fps

Well, larger case, less powder, more pressure, but less velocity despite a longer barrel. The magnum primer could be part of it, but IME, not that big a part. What I think is happening is that in the shorter case the wadcutter is crowding the powder space so much the primer is unseating the bullet before the powder burn gets fully up to speed, so the actual case volume the pressure peaks in is higher for the .38 Special case than for the .357 Mag case. The way to tell for sure is to chronograph the loads and see which has the lower velocity standard deviation as a percent of muzzle velocity. Bullets that are jumping due to primer pressure (a common issue with the .22 Hornet, for example) tend to be more erratic in velocity because ignition is more erratic. Additionally, if a bullet jumps through a space wider than a normal freebore, as your .38 Colts will do in the wide part of the chamber, the amount of gas bypass gets larger and makes this worse, as that stalls out the build in pressure until the bullet plugs the escape route.

So, while you may think you are making for safer, less squib prone ignition by going to the shorter, tighter powder space in the loaded cartridge, it can work out the opposite is happening, depending on how high the primer pressure is. If you don't have a chronograph, you want to beg, borrow, or steal one to check the velocity regularity of your loads with the .38 Colt as compared to .357 Magnum cases loaded to the same velocity with an adjusted amount of the same powder. Same with the .38 Special cases. It's the only thing I know that will give you an indication of ignition consistency without pressure measuring gear.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick_C_S
And yes, when reloading manuals show "DNR" in their tables, that's a clue to not reduce the loads.
But you normally only see that with rifle powders and slow pistol powders, like H110/296.

Rifle powders generally don't like to be loaded much below 60% case fill, as pressure can get higher than better case fill gives. This is thought to be due to exposure of a larger ignition surface area to the primer flash, causing the powder to ignite more rapidly than normal and therefore make too much gas before expansion gets very far along. Use of case fillers like Dacron fiber tufts stops it, even though they don't remove much of the actual air volume. They just hold the powder over the flash hole more normally.

Slow pistol powders can be a squib risk in reduced loads in revolvers, especially. That's because pressure is still building when the base of the bullet clears the barrel/cylinder gap, allowing gas to start escaping. If enough powder isn't burning by then, that can drop pressure enough to cause the load to squib out.

But a fast pistol powder isn't normally at risk of the above. It normally burns up before the bullet base clears the barrel/cylinder gap, so it doesn't have to fight to keep burning during that gas bleed off. That's one reason I recommended a really fast powder for the .38 Colt loads. It's to try to get it peaking up before the bullet clears the case mouth or not long after. Clays, VV N310, and Norma R1 all would be good choices.

Anyway, have at it the way you propose. If you get some good chronograph data, please share it. I would be interested to hear how the short and long cases turned out to compare for velocity standard deviation in this instance. Maybe your light bullet is short enough not to crowd the .38 Colt much and the primer unseating won't turn out to be an issue. But I would like to know. My only point in this post is that the idea it is better or safer for powder ignition isn't a gimmie.
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Old July 8, 2013, 10:01 PM   #14
Nick_C_S
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All good stuff Unclenick. Thanks. It just goes to show that things are rarely as simple as they may seem. When the pin strikes the primer, a whole bunch of dynamics start playing their roles in a very short period of time. They may not always play out the way we expect.

I'm getting a chronograph in a couple days. I have no idea when I'll start loading 38SC. The brass in coming with the Midway order in a couple days, but there's no ETA on the DEWC's. Then there's the die issue that isn't a certainty yet (see previous posts w/ SHR970). We'll see how it goes.
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Old July 11, 2013, 05:21 PM   #15
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Update: Well I got the brass (Starline 500ct) from Midway. I ran one through the 38/357 sizer die and it worked - no surprise there.

I also successfully flared with the 9mm expander die - just had to turn it downward a little further.

Haven't tried loading yet. I don't have my 100g DEWC's yet. I will attempt with a 9mm seater with a taper crimp. An actual 38SC seater die is on special order from Midway; but that's not due in until November. So in the mean time, 9mm seater w/ taper is is.
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