View Full Version : .38 Special blackpowder loads

November 5, 2009, 09:51 PM
I plan to get an Uberti 1872 Open Top within a couple months. I want to get it in .38 Special, and I want to load the cartridges with blackpowder. I cast my own bullets, and I wondered what mould was used for the original bullets, with blackpowder. I wouldn't be against casting the Big Lube bullets, but I really don't want to buy a 6-cavity mould. I want a 2-cavity. So did the original bullet carry enough lube for using with blackpowder? (I already load blackpowder cartridges for .45 Colt.)

November 7, 2009, 05:56 AM
I believe that the original was a 158 grain LRN bullet. There are lots of two cavity molds available for that type.
You are not gonna get a lot of BP into that case. Some years ago I loaded a bunch up to use in a lever gun. Accuracy was non-existent until I loaded in a fiber wad between bullet and powder - which further cut the powder charge. They are fun to shoot, though.
The original BP load was only on the market for a year before S&W started offering a smokeless version.

November 7, 2009, 09:57 AM
Original .38Spl or original for the gun? All the original Open Tops were .44 rimfire so the closest thing historically would've been the 1851/1861 cartridge conversions which were .38Long Colt, centerfire or rimfire. They used a 150gr heeled bullet designed to obturate the larger .375" percussion bore. All the modern guns use a standard .357" bore.

November 7, 2009, 06:44 PM
I meant the original .38 Special blackpowder loads. But I know the .44 rimfire is what was originally used for the open tops. So is it not worth the trouble to load blackpowder for .38 Special? I had considered getting the gun in .44 Special. (I already have a couple .45 Colts so I don't want another one of those right now.)

November 7, 2009, 06:58 PM
The .38spl was introduced in 1899 as a black powder cartridge and it was only about a year later when it began being loaded with smokeless. I have had great results with loads using both 3F real BP and T-7. Go with about 0.030" compression on the real BP and snug but no compression on the T-7.

The original .38spl bullet was a 160gr nearly pure lead RN, neither Lyman nor Lee RN molds have the correct original bullet design. There is at least a couple sole-proprietor mold makers makers that do offer the correct (or nearly so) original bullet design which is a true RN and not the common elongated ogive RN's offered by Lee & Lyman. If you're looking for top accuracy, you're going to have to lap out production mold to cast the proper size using pure lead, if you get the mold made by one of the sole-proprietor shops, they can make the mold the correct size right from the start. I use the Lee 158RF mold lapped out to drop bullets at 0.359" with almost pure lead, makes a good accurate all-around bullet but is not historically correct.

The .38 Short Colt used a 130gr dual-diameter heeled bullet, heel smaller in diameter and seated in the case, the exposed portion of the bullet was the same diameter as the case just like a .22LR round. The .38 Short Colt was for use in the converted .36cal C&B revolvers. The .38 Long Colt used a single-diameter bullet 0.357" in diameter, they were not intended for use in converted C&B's and the accuracy problems in the early Colt cartridge revolvers resulted from the lack of proper chambering, the entire cylinder was bored to case diameter.

You can get 3/8" thick fiber wads from Circlefly that make for really nice light plinking loads. .357mag chambers allow for using the magnum-length case which is a fairly potent load with BP.

November 7, 2009, 07:31 PM
Thanks for all the great information everyone! I'll probably try a Lee or Lyman mould, with Emmert's lube, and I'll see how that works. I'm not necessarily trying to be period correct, I just want another cool gun for plinking. And I do enjoy shooting real blackpowder! I load blackpowder cartridges for my New Vaquero in .45 Colt. I also have an Uberti Navy 1851 .36 cap and ball. :)