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Old February 15, 2001, 08:55 PM   #1
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I just loaded my first batch of .38 special and have a problem. Here's the specs-

6.8 grains Hodgdon HS-6
125 grain Berry's copper plated hollow point
Winchester Small Primers
Mixed Brass- loaded to 1.450" overall length

After firing, the brass has a dark mark along the outside on one side of the brass. Also, there is a lot of unburned powder left in the chambers. There is so much residue that it is difficult to insert subsequent rounds into the chambers after firing one cylinder-full.

What could be the problem? There is a LOT of unused volume in the case with 6.8g. HS-6. Is this the problem, or is HS-6 too slow burning? I notice that a starting load of Bullseye only calls for 4.0 grains of powder.

Any help is much appreciated.
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Old February 15, 2001, 11:31 PM   #2
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My Uncle who manufactures amunition tells me the HS-6 is EXACTLY the same as W231. He has 100lb kegs with both HS-6 and W231 labels several of them from different lots. His supplier said that was correct.

Having said that try reducing to 5.6 grs and tighten your crimp and OAL of 1.43

What manual are you using?
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Old February 16, 2001, 01:36 AM   #3
dick w. holliday
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i shoot 231 in 38-45-44spec- 9mm and it is just not very clean burning-in my opinion-you may want to try hodgin Clays- as soon as i run out of 231 i'm switching over to it-it is also good for 12ga shotshell...Dick
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Old February 16, 2001, 02:54 AM   #4
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According to my Hodgdon manual your load looks well within parameters. Try a tighter crimp.

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Old February 16, 2001, 08:24 AM   #5
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Seems like a .38 case is never more than 1/2 full of powder.
Double check your load data, and try a tighter crimp. Also, if you're still in the low/midrange, sometimes you just have to get to a certain minmum pressure level before the powder starts burning cleanly in a particular load/gun combination.
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Old February 16, 2001, 08:46 AM   #6
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Obtain Redding Profile Crimp die. Apply tight crimp.
Use Hodgdon Universal Clays.
"all my ammo is mostly retired factory ammo"
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Old February 16, 2001, 09:18 AM   #7
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My Uncle who manufactures amunition tells me the HS-6 is EXACTLY the same as W231

I think your Uncle ment Hodgdon HS-38.
W231 and HS-38 are very similar and their burn rate's almost identical. Both are spherical powder with about the same propertys.
Hodgdon HS-6 is a little slower burning powder.
Hodgdon list their powders uses in a reloading data book that you can get for free from their web site.
HS-38 in pistol use, for target and light loads, HS-6 in pistols is for Light to medium duty loads.
I agree with WESHOOT you need a good tight roll crimp.
The Redding Profile Crimp die is just the Item.
You can also try a tighter crimp and see how that works.

Here is Hodgdon URL it might help you.

Best Tony
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Old February 16, 2001, 10:58 AM   #8
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How tight should I crimp? I can only taper crimp as I am using a Dillon Square Deal B. I assume that tighter crimping results in the bullet staying attached to the case longer, thus allowing more burning time and increased pressure. Is this the theory of the tighter crimp? Again, how do I know how tight to crimp? I have never had this problem loading .45 ACP or .40 S&W.

Thanks for the replies.
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Old February 16, 2001, 01:04 PM   #9
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Your assumptions are correct. A proper crimp holds the bullet a little longer, allowing the pressure to build up a little more before the bullet starts it's journey. Various test data I have seen also indicates that ignition is more consistent from one round to the next, which contributes to better grouping.

Collect a few different factory rounds (or borrow from friends) and inspect the crimps with an eye lupe. They'll all be a little different, but seeing for yourself is worth a thousand words.

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Old February 16, 2001, 01:26 PM   #10
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Why is there so much wasted volume in the .38 Special? It is a long cartridge, but is not very powerful. Why the waste? Wouldn't it make more sense to build a j frame sized revolver around a smaller cartridge? A 9mm is generally more powerful than .38 special, even though it is a lot shorter. Shouldn't someone develop a 9mm cartridge with a rim for revolvers? This would allow for a much shorter cylinder and a smaller, lighter gun. What am I missing?
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Old February 16, 2001, 01:59 PM   #11
Bill Adair
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Both the 9mm Luger and 38 Special were introduced in 1902, but in different countries, and for different guns.

Pressure is the main difference, with the 9mm autoloader cartridge operating at twice the pressure of the 38 Special revolver cartridge.

Smoke and soot are a fact of life with guns, but higher pressure loads tend to seal the case to the chamber walls better than lighter loads.

Try cleaning your chambers before shooting to remove all traces of protective oil for a better case seal, and use higher velocity/pressure loads with a roll crimp on bullets with a well defined cannelure, and you might see some improvement.

Win 231/Hogdon HP-38 are about as clean burning as it gets, though I believe I've seen slightly cleaner burning from my current favorite powder, Ramshot's True Blue, in my 357 and 45 Colt.

I often carry a pistol cleaning rod with brass brush attached, and brush out the chambers and barrel every so often while shooting.

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Old February 16, 2001, 02:54 PM   #12
Paul B.
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Flyguy. The .38 Spl. was originally a black powder cartridge, that very quickly was loaded with smokeless powder. This explains all the excess space. It was designed to give a little more power that the .38 Colt cartridge, the one that failed so miserably in the Phillipine insurrection of the Moros.
I forget what the BP charge was, but I think it was on the order of 28 gr. or thereabouts. We have the same problem with cartridges such as the .44 Spl. and .45 Colt,(AKA .45 Long Colt.)
There have been loads for the .38 Spl. that filled the case nearly full. They were the 33/44 loads specially loaded for certain S&W "N" frame revolvers. They were also the forerunners to the .357 magnum. These 38/44 handguns were discontinued in the early 1960's, I believe. I've owned two of them. Sold the first one, darn it, but I'm keeping #2.
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