View Full Version : Goex FFFg load for .38 SPL?

November 10, 2008, 10:16 PM
Hi. I'm usually hanging out in the smokeless area of this forum but I have a question or two some of you may be able to answer. I reload .38 SPL and I know that it was originally a black powder cartridge. I have a can of Goex FFFg in the house and was wondering what would be a good load with that particular powder. I Googled and found someone that said a .38 SPL case will hold 25 gr. of Goex FFFg. 30 gr. is about normal for a .44 Colt Army repro I have, if I remember correctly, but I'm not sure. It's been a while since I used it.

Anyway, the reason I ask is that I would like to shoot some black powder loads from a K-frame S&W. Would a .38 SPL case full of Goex FFFg and a 148 gr hollow base wadcutter be ok for my K-frame? Thanks for any help.

November 10, 2008, 10:48 PM
If you can find a soft lead round-nose or SWC bullet (158 grain) I think it will work better than a WC. You want all the case capacity you can get, and a WC bullet (hollow-base or not, it doesn't matter) will use up too much of it.

November 10, 2008, 10:51 PM
Thanks! I have SWC 158 gr bullets, too.

Jim Watson
November 10, 2008, 11:09 PM
You will have a coked up mess if you shoot common hard lubed hard cast bullets with black. You need some rather soft alloy bullets with lube meant to keep black powder fouling soft.

The original .38 Special load was 21.5 grains of black, probably closer to FFg than FFFg, but that won't matter much.

November 11, 2008, 08:46 AM
Thanks again! I think I'll make 6 up and shoot them last on my next trip to the range just to make some smoke.

November 11, 2008, 10:27 AM
Thanks again! I think I'll make 6 up and shoot them last on my next trip to the range just to make some smoke.

Just make sure you clean it first without using any petroleum based lubes. If you don't you're going to have an awful mess to clean up. BP doesn't get along with petroleum based lubes and smokeless bullets are lubed with petroleum based lubes. Once you've fired bp out of it you need to clean it with soapy water. Smokeless solvents don't work on bp, water does. Also modern guns aren't designed to shoot bp. The cylinder gap is too close. It won't shoot many rounds before it starts to bind.

November 11, 2008, 10:39 AM
My original post was (a correction follows):
"I know that it was originally a black powder cartridge."
I don't believe that is correct, not that it makes much of a difference as far as the answer to your question is concerned.
As noted in Barnes' CotW the .38 Special was developed by S&W in 1902 as a relacement for the .38 Long Colt. This is well into the era of smokeless cartridges. Remember that the 1st smokeless military loads, 7X57 Mauser and the 30-40 Krag, were introduced in 1892 and the .30-30 (1st American smokeless sporting round) in 1895. There is detailed info about the development of Cal.38 Ball cartridge in the "History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition" by Hackley, Woodin, and Scranton.
The .38 Colt Navy / aka the .38 Long Colt was a BP cartridge (148 gr. bullet/15.4 grs BP/ 750 fps) from 1892 to 1900 when smokeless loading for that cartridge took over. The original .38 Navy used an outside lubricated bullet; this was changed in 1889 in favor of an inside lubed bullet; this was the .38 Long Colt. As noted, by 1900 smokeless loading of the Long Colt had begun (using Bullseye powder, I believe). The .38 Spl was introduced in 1902 as it's replacement.
I don't believe that a BP load in the .38 Spl. case would be an improvement over the .38 Long Colt smokeless load.
I load .38 Spl. BP cartridges. It is one of the few loads that I do without weighing, as one cannot put enough fffg into the case to produce dangerous pressures in a modern gun. I use a Lee dipper (don't have the size in front of me) that drops enough BP so that there is room left for a wad and the bullet with slight compression of the powder upon seating.

"The original .38 Special load was 21.5 grains of black"
I am always trying to learn. Where did you find that information?
Aha! - did more research. Found the data. I stand corrected (IF Wikipedia can be trusted. They provide no source for the BP loading reference, only for the Model 10 intro. If one of y'all has that reference, I'd sure like to get a look at it). The intro date of 1899 was news to me, as was the original BP loading. Just goes to show that there's always something to learn. I have found no note about the charge weight. Source?