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Old January 29, 2011, 11:53 PM   #1
jephthai
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First Reloads - Mixed Experience

Okay, I decided to get into reloading (for various reasons). I bought ABC's of Reloading, and read tons of forums. My Grandfather was an avid reloader, so I went over his setup with him the last time I visited. I took the plunge last week, and bought the RCBS Rock Chucker kit. And I built a bench.

Today, we had a local gun show, so I went and picked up some bullets. I'm reloading 38 Special to shoot in my 357 Magnum revolver. I bought two types: 148 grain HBWC and 125 grain FMJ. I picked up some Bullseye (then regretted it, as I looked over the recipes in the books I've got), and dove in this evening.

The following picture shows my results:



Obviously, I ran into some problems. And, I think, I had some success as well ;-). Here is a summary, with questions:

(a) These are the 125gr FMJ bullets I bought. My caliper insists that they are 0.357", and my scale says they're about 124.6 grains. I did these measurements on about 8 samples, to make sure.

(b) This is how most of the first set of cases I tried to reload turned out. At first, I thought maybe I didn't bell the case mouth enough. Then I figured out how far you can bell the case (oops). I also found out you can fold the rim over itself with the seating die if you bell it just a little too much. I found a picture of this type of error in one of my books (I think it was Speer #14?), which said it may be "too much crimp." Don't know what that means, but couldn't find any other way to adjust my seating die.

(c) This is the only one of 14 attempts to survive from the 125gr FMJs. *sigh*

(d) These are the loveliest bullets I bought today -- 148gr HBWC.

(e) These convinced me that me+books are not insane. They went great, in my opinion.

So -- the obvious question: What happened with the (B) rounds? I applied much trial and error, consulting the books I have, and running some searches on Google. Are they bad bullets? Did I miss a step? Thoughts?

(BTW, I'm already pretty sure I'm an idiot somehow, so if I just did something stupid please be patient and enlighten me!)
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Old January 30, 2011, 12:04 AM   #2
P-990
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Okay, I'm pretty sure I can help out with your buckled cases.

Your seating die can be adjusted up and down independently of the bullet seating stem. Back the die out of the press about 1/4 (or even a 1/2) turn. This will back your crimp way off. Then set the seating depth with the seating stem to get your desired length. THEN, back the seating stem out and adjust the die down to get the crimp you want (and you don't need much with .38 Special loads). Adjust the die in a fraction at a time, no more than 1/8 turn and less is better. You'll develop a feel for it in time. Once you have the crimp adjusted, run the finished round into the die and set the seating stem to contact the bullet. Verify your set-up with the next round and you should be good-to-go.

As for case mouth belling, only use enough bell to start the bullet. Bell a little, check with a bullet and then adjust the belling as needed. This I find to be a bit of a trial-by-error step when I set-up, depending on the cases and bullets. I like just enough flare to hold the bullet on the top of the case.

Good luck and let us know how the next batch goes!
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Old January 30, 2011, 12:22 AM   #3
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pressure

I think there is to much downward pressure. I had a problem like this with my lee turret press. The turret was off a hair and when i went to seat the bullet it would crush the case. I reajusted the turret and the problem cleared up. I suggest starting with making sure that everthing lines up. follow the manufactures directions for sitting it up. be patient,
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Old January 30, 2011, 12:37 AM   #4
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Go to youtube and look up the user "ammosmith". He has some GREAT videos of all kinds for reloading. The "basic" series is the best I've viewed by far on the net.

The best thing you can do for setting up your bullet seating die is to have a bullet that's already made and use it as your guide. Put it in, then pull the handle all the way up. Next, put in your die and back out the bullet seating screw way out. Screw in the big part for the crimp until it stops, you'll feel the resistance once you hit the crimp on the bullet. From there, crank it down about 1/8th of a turn. It should be set. Then just turn the bullet seating screw down until it stops. From there you might still want to adjust it slight amounts for a slightly tighter crimp or a slightly longer or shorter COL. But overall, that will get you very close to being in the ball park. Hope that all made sense.

For belling the case, you should just BARELY be able to see the "flaring" on the case. The simplest method is to be able to put a bullet in and just barely push, then turn it upside down...does it fall out or stick? If the flare/bell isn't enough, you won't even be able to put the bullet into the case, it won't "stick". Keep in mind, you'll feel VERY LITTLE resistance from the press during the belling process.

And again, the youtube vids from ammosmith explains all of this and shows you examples of overdoing it. You can't "underdo" the belling process for the most part, but you sure as heck can overdo it!
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Old January 30, 2011, 12:44 AM   #5
jephthai
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Quote:
Your seating die can be adjusted up and down independently of the bullet seating stem. Back the die out of the press about 1/4 (or even a 1/2) turn. This will back your crimp way off.
Wow. I didn't even think about that. It makes perfect sense. I will try doing this tomorrow and see if I can make it work. Combining this with Clay's suggestion about building a dummy, I think I can make this work!
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Old January 30, 2011, 01:13 AM   #6
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First, you are measuring correctly with your calipers. The diameter of .38 Special FMJ bullets should be .357". Lead bullets may typically measure .358". There is history to why they are called .38 instead of .357 Special ut I will forgo that here. The same bullets are used for both .38 Special and .357 magnum.

The buckled cases can come from trying to seat a crooked bullet in a case mouth not flared enough, or from having too much crimp. It does not take much belling of the case mouth.

First with the expander die. Start easy one the case mouth expanding. Gradually screw it down and check with a bullet until you can place a bullet on the case mouth and it stays fairly upright on its own. It should not take a lot, just a small flare is enough. Once you get to this point any additional flaring will not hold the bullet any better.

Second, make sure the seating die is adjusted according to the instructions. Two operations happen to the ullet and case in the typical seating die. First the bullet is pushed into the case by the seating stem. Then as the case get toward the top of the die it encounters a raised step in the die wall which forces the case mouth inward toward the bullet, this is called a crimp. A gradual inward bend of the case mouth is a taper crimp and used for bullets without cannelures, such as most pistol bullets. A more abrupt inward bend of the case mouth is called a roll crimp and used for revolver bullets.

Adjust the seating die by adjusting for seating depth, back out the stem, adjust for crimp amount, then re-adjust for seating depth.
- You need a properly seated bullet to adjust for crimp. So unscrew the seating stem most of the way, then place an empty case in the shell holder and raise the ram. Screw in the die until the crimping ledge hits agaist the case mouth, and unscrew the die one turn.

- Now you can adjust the seating depth. Lower the ram, place a bullet on the expanded case mouth, and raise the ram. Screw in the seating stem a little at a time while lowering and then raising the cartridge into the die until you reach the desired cartridge overall length (aka, COL or OAL). I do this with a empty case and no primer to make a dummy round, but you can use a charged case as well.

- Next is to adjust for crimp. Unscrew the seating stem several turns, or even most of the way out. Now adjust the die down while lowering and raising the ram each adjustment until the case with the seated bullet start to get a crimp. The .38 Special will use a roll crimp but it does not need a lot of crimp. You can measure the case mouth diameter with your calipers and adjust at least until the all the flare is taken out. You can look closely and see the edge of the case mouth starts to be turned inward from the main diameter of the case. That is enough. You don't need to crimp so hard it starts shaving rass of the case mouth.

- Finally you need to readjust for proper COL again AFTER the crimp was set. With the crimped cartridge fully up in the die, now screw in the seating stem until it is firmly against the bullet tip.

You can see now that when the next case and bullet is raised into the seating die, the bullet will first encounter the seating stem and be pushed into the case as the ram is raised. As the case goes further into the die and the bullet goes further into the case eventually the case mouth encounters the crimping ledge. The case mouth is bent inward just at the last smidgen of the bullet being pushed in.

From this sequence you can imagine that if the crimping is set too much the case mouth starts closing on the bullet too soon. The crimp is fully applied holding the bullet yet the press is still trying to shove the bullet into the case so the case buckles. Basically it means the seating die is screwed too far down in the press head.

Sorry you asked?
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Old January 30, 2011, 02:07 AM   #7
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On the crumpled cases with 9 mm bullets.There is such a thing as a taper crimp die for 9mm,but lets ignore that.To make this simple(there are exceptions in the fine points of discussion)
The 9mm has heavy case walls, it headspaces on the case mouth,it has no cylinder gap to compromise ignition,so the revolver type roll crimp is not used.The 9mm bullets have no crimp groove.There is no place for a crimp to go.So the brass crumples.Wrong bullet choice.
Load to specified length with the WC's,to maintain internal volume.That effects pressure.Having said that,I am accustomed to seeing the wadcutters loaded with the little shoulder flush with the case mouth,and the crimp rolled over it.And,as a caution,you do not want to pursue hotter loads with hollow base WCs.the skirt can tear off under high pressure,creating a bore obstruction.
Be very careful with Bullseye.The small charge weights make a double charge hard to see when you do your powder level check.A double charge of Bullseye is not good.
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Old January 30, 2011, 03:09 AM   #8
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These are .38 Specials, not 9mm...
Quote:
I'm reloading 38 Special to shoot in my 357 Magnum revolver.
But that is a good point about the FMJ pictured not having a cannelure. Your standard RCBS die set will have a roll crimp in the seating die. So you want to apply just enough to take out the flare, but not cut into the bullet jacket.
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Old January 30, 2011, 07:14 AM   #9
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First thing I was going to mention was the bullet but someone has already covered that. If you intend to use bullets without a cannelure you may want to order a 38 cal taper crimp die from RCBS. I shoot a fair number of plated bullets and use the taper instead of the roll crimp, excellent results.....
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Old January 30, 2011, 07:25 AM   #10
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dont feel bad Jep.... I made a few a those when I first started also... and Im sure we are not the only two who have.
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Old January 30, 2011, 09:58 AM   #11
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Thanks for the various replies. This morning, I experimented a little bit with backing out the die (to adjust crimp), and I can see how that makes a big difference. I appreciate the insights. I also re-read the ABC's of Reloading book again, and noticed the relevant sentence:

Quote:
After the die is screwed into the press, adjust it so the case enters freely its full length. Gradually ease the cartridge in the die and check to see it does not pass the crimping shoulder, which turns over the case mouth.
That didn't make sense to me until you guys explained it!

One remaining question... HiBC mentioned the HBWCs should be flush with the case mouth. They were darn close last night, but this morning I pushed them further in. Still, I notice that some lead gets sheared off the side of the bullet and smeared around the outside of the case mouth. Is this a problem?
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Old January 30, 2011, 11:21 AM   #12
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"I picked up some Bullseye (then regretted it, as I looked over the recipes in the books I've got), and dove in this evening."
I am curious as to why you might have regrets with bullseye. For mild to midrange loads, I've found it to be a very good powder. I don't like it for more potent loads, however.
As has been stated previously, back out the seat/crimp die.
Another option is to purchase a Lee (or equivalent) Factory Crimp Die. If you turn the Seating and crimping into two separate steps you will have fewer issues. It has the bonus of full length sizing the entire cartridge.
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Old January 30, 2011, 12:40 PM   #13
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As far as picking up the Bull's Eye and regretting it I am scratching my head as to why. There are loads listed with it in almost every bullet manufacurer's guide on the market.

The suggestion about crimp is spot on as far as I can see. Once you have the dies properly adjusted you should not see anymore buckled cases. For .38 spcl. target loads just enough to remove the bell will do just fine, and your brass will last longer without splitting at the casemouth.
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Old January 30, 2011, 06:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
As far as picking up the Bull's Eye and regretting it I am scratching my head as to why. There are loads listed with it in almost every bullet manufacurer's guide on the market.
I wanted to load 357 magnum cases, but for the bullet weight I found at the show there weren't any for bullseye. That's all. I punted and grabbed 38 special cases instead. No big deal, but my intent (long term) is to load 357 magnum.

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Old January 30, 2011, 07:09 PM   #15
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Getting started with the 38spl is not a bad idea then graduate to the 357 mag reloading. That's how I started and it worked out fine. Go slow, ask a lot of questions here and everyone will help.

Try the ammosmith videos on youtube, he goes through each step very carefully.
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Old January 30, 2011, 07:35 PM   #16
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Once you get the basics sorted, you can press on to .357 loads. That said, it is a viable option to use .38 special data with .357 brass. You lose a bit of pressure, but there really isn't any problem. Standard cautions still apply. I have a .38 spec +p load that I built on .357 mag brass. It's a very nice load. You will eventually want to move past Bullseye for your more zippy loads, but light to moderate plinking loads, you will want to keep some Bullseye around. I like to use it for a number of other calibers, 9mm, .45 acp & .380 acp. Stay away from max pressures and Bullseye is good to have around. For midrange to warm, look at Unique, universal or AA#5 (among many others). They are all very versatile and work well with multiple calibers. For real booming .357 loads, I like 2400, it's not as touchy with lower pressures as some others.
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Old January 30, 2011, 08:04 PM   #17
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You got a lot of good advice here so I'm just going to add a little to it.

Crinkled cases are a standard new guy's problem, you shouldn't beat yourself up about it.
Some re-loaders swear by a separate crimping die for just that reason it crimps separate from bullet seating & so is a little less finicky to set up. Personally I don't I just sneak up on the crimp after figuring out bullet seating depth & making a dummy (no powder or primer) case & bullet for future reference.

There are 2 types of crimp Yup taper crimp & roll crimp, check your individual dies instructions for more info as it varies die to die. Some can get away with a taper crimp (it removes the case belling, so is mandatory) some go to a roll crimp, which is what most think of when they hear "crimp" a taper crimp is darn near invisible.

Bullseye is a good powder, just work loads for it specifically.

Instead of trying to make a .38 load from .357 data, or the opposite try this instead.
Check your reloading manual for a load for .357 that duplicates the performance, not the charge weight, of a .38 load.
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Old January 30, 2011, 08:18 PM   #18
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For a newby (and everyone), loading with a separate crimping die makes life much easier. You adjust the bullet seating depth and the crimp separately. I've got my seating die set so high I don't change the die setting between .38 Spcls and .357 Mags, I just adjust the bullet punch. For the crimping die you can use a .38/.357 spacer ring with the .357s and you won't have to re-adjust the crimp die once it's set.
Quote:
I wanted to load 357 magnum cases, but for the bullet weight I found at the show there weren't any for bullseye. That's all. I punted and grabbed 38 special cases instead. No big deal, but my intent (long term) is to load 357 magnum.
For light and medium loads, there's an the old school method of adding 0.1-gr of powder for the larger case. For target loads with the 148-gr WC's, I load 2.7-gr of Bullseye in the .38 cases and 2.8-gr in the .357's. It's a traditional load that's very accurate and with mild recoil; but, with enough to cycle a S&W Model 52 and old Colt 1911 target 38s.
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Old January 30, 2011, 09:30 PM   #19
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Well, thanks much to the kind assistance of those commenting on this thread, I had a much better experience today. Here's the result:



I can definitely tell the difference in leverage required to "seat" a bullet, rather than to "buckle" a case. Now I have to schedule a range day so I can make sure these actually work.

This was a much more enjoyable time -- last night had me worried, but I figured I was probably not the first ever to set the seating die the same way as the other two. I really appreciate everyone's help!
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Old January 30, 2011, 09:31 PM   #20
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Hey, I've been doing this for 2 1/2 decades and I even crumple one every once in a great while, it happens. You forget that your die was adjusted to the 38s and slap a .357 case in and crumpled it is. Don't worry about it. Now that you have made that mistake, you now understand that particular element of reloading with experience. One little tid bit to consider though is be careful loading the jacketed 38s or .357s that don't have a canelure (grove ). Pressures blow back through the front of the cylinder and can cause the bullets to dislodge. I'd say with your current powder charge, and powder choice your probably OK for now. Just keep an eye on what the other bullets in the cylinder are doing as you fire each round, until you've dtermined they are not moving up, or down in the case. I've had them do it to me from time to time, especially when working with higher pressure loads. Show us a picture of the heads so we can see the primer seating depth too. Not a big deal, just nice to avoid mis-fires.
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Old January 30, 2011, 11:49 PM   #21
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sorry for the length...

Good info, help and discussion here, so I will address a couple things that haven't been discussed as much.

First... 125 grain FMJ bullets are, for all intents and purposes going to be 9mm slugs that you bought. Measuring bullet diameter with a dial or caliper is a very inexact science -- a micrometer is the tool that you need to get an accurate measure of these. Chances are that the bullets you had bad luck with (and then better luck with) are 9mm slugs and they are going to be on the slim side for your use.

What that means in reality for you is that they may not give you the accuracy you need or expect. Also, if there's any substantial recoil in your loads, you may see those other slugs creeping forward under recoil because using undersized bullets won't give you the case mouth tension that .38 or .357 cases are supposed to have on the bullet.

The good news is that you aren't risking high pressure by having oversized bullets... you bought undersized bullets. (I should say you likely bought undersized bullets... I suppose it's possible that they are indeed .357" slugs, but I wouldn't bet cash on it!)

The other thing I wanted to mention is to be good and careful with the hollow base wadcutters you bought. Those are target bullets and you'll have real grief if you attempt to run them with any kind of speed over the target speed for which they are intended. HBWC bullets have been known to blow clean through if pushed hard, leaving a ring of lead either in the case or in the bore. That would take some real pressure, but I keep hearing that the goal is to make .357 Magnum loads (all well and good) but if you use those soft swaged lead target wadcutters to roll magnum loads, you'll be scrubbing a lot of lead from your bore. Lead in your bore ruins accuracy first... is hard to clean and remove later... but the REAL problem is that lead in your bore means your bore gets incrementally smaller. And if the bore is getting incrementally smaller, the pressure is incrementally rising as you continue to deposit lead in it. Eventually, catastrophic failure can be the result.

They aren't bad bullets -- far from it. Those have been known for the last 50+ years as some of the most accurate handgun rounds known to man, but they must be loaded as such. The aforementioned 2.7 to 2.8 grains of Bullseye load, the classic wadcutter target load in .38 Special is where they live. Try and run those bullets anywhere near hot and nothing good will come from it.

Oh yeah:
Quote:
One remaining question... HiBC mentioned the HBWCs should be flush with the case mouth. They were darn close last night, but this morning I pushed them further in. Still, I notice that some lead gets sheared off the side of the bullet and smeared around the outside of the case mouth. Is this a problem?
Yes, that's a problem. Here's what happened:

When you slice off shavings from the side of a lead bullet you take it out of round. For something that is spinning to try and fly straight, making it heavier on one side than the other is REALLY fighting it's ability to be accurate. If you have not flared your case mouth enough, you'll shave lead bullets and you'll directly attack your accuracy.

In your case, you seated them deeper after you had already loaded them. Your seating die most likely applied some degree of a roll crimp so you when you "pushed them further in" you pushed them right through the roll crimp. Poor little guys had no choice but to shave lead!

You can't properly seat bullets deeper after you've already crimped them. It sounds like you are figuring out how to set crimp with your seater die now so get proficient with seating depths and crimps and your problems should iron themselves out. But if you are applying a crimp, you can't decide later to seat the bullet deeper. It's just using two forces against one another and your bullet (and sometimes the brass) will pay the price.

Bullseye is a fine powder. It's a fast burning powder that develops pressure quickly. It is not ever going to be the best choice for making high speed, high velocity loads. It's almost ALWAYS going to use one of the smallest charge weights of any applicable powder. As was mentioned, that means it takes up very little space in the case and leaves a lot of room for catastrophic error if you inadvertently double charge, triple charge or over-charge a case.

Bullseye is a very old powder and because it's marketed by Alliant, the available load data (specifically from Alliant) sucks. Alliant's suggested online load data is lousy, especially compared to all of Hodgdon's offerings. (Hodgdon, Winchester and IMR) Bullseye has like 75 years worth of published loads from many fine sources, but the current distributor is a lousy source for decent load data. It gives great results when used in it's "zone" and for loading target .38 Special loads, it's very much at home. So you didn't buy a crap powder... you just didn't get anything new or cutting edge. You bought an old standby.
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Old January 31, 2011, 09:30 AM   #22
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Quote:
I wanted to load 357 magnum cases, but for the bullet weight I found at the show there weren't any for bullseye.
Grab yourself one of the "All In One Loadbooks" from somewhere like Midway. They are the opposite of "normal" reloading manuals because they collect load date from all the vendors for a single case, unlike conventional manuals where they list a single source for multiple cases. I'll bet you find a load table you can use for just about any workable case/bullet/powder combination.
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Old January 31, 2011, 01:59 PM   #23
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I have loaded some 9mm style bullets successfully in 38 special and as others have mentioned the secret was a taper crimp rather than a roll crimp. Seat and crimp in two stages. I even achieved good accuracy despite the bullets being a little undersized at .356. Once you consume your current stock of bullets it might be worth picking up some LSWC style bullets for future loading. They are suitable for mild can popper loads all the way up to low end .357 loads and cut a great hole in paper target. Good for shooting at cans, paper targets or small game. All with your roll crimp die and bullseye powder. Very versatile.
Your HBWC are also a favorite bullet of mine. It's almost impossible to load an inaccurate round. I use 3 grains of bullseye, seat flush with the case mouth and a very light roll crimp for great target ammo at about 725 FPS in my particular gun. Easy shooting and that flat face on the bullet really knocks the cans around for such a low powered load.

Enjoy your new hobby, you will get hooked

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Old January 31, 2011, 04:19 PM   #24
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Listed load for 125 grain bullet using Bull's Eye. (From Lyman Pistol and Revolver 3rd Edition, page 156. Load is listed for 125 grain JHP)

Minimum COL of 1.470 I would recomend it being a tad bit longer. You can seat them longer, just to not go shorter as it can greatly increase pressure.

.38 Special
Starting load 3.2 grains velocity of 568 FPS pressure of 10,200 CUP
Max standard load : 4.4 grains velocity of 860 FPS with a pressure of 16,500 CUP (Note this is listed as the most acurate load tested for this bullet weight by Lyman.)

+p Load is listed as 5.0 grains with a velocity of 920 FPS with a velocity of 920 FPS pressure of 18,300 CUP

Note the +p load is safe in the .357 Magnum, and revolvers that are rated for +p which is usualy noted on the where it states the caliber. If in doubt contact the manufacturer of the gun if you do not have an owner's manual that states which ammo the said firearm is rated for.
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Old January 31, 2011, 11:30 PM   #25
jephthai
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Join Date: July 5, 2007
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Quote:
.38 Special
Starting load 3.2 grains velocity of 568 FPS pressure of 10,200 CUP
Max standard load : 4.4 grains velocity of 860 FPS with a pressure of 16,500 CUP (Note this is listed as the most acurate load tested for this bullet weight by Lyman.)

+p Load is listed as 5.0 grains with a velocity of 920 FPS with a velocity of 920 FPS pressure of 18,300 CUP
I'm beginning to realize there is a great variety between the manuals. With my Speer #14 manual, I used the 38 Special +P starting load of 4.5 grains of Bullseye. The whole "DNR" thing weirded me out on the standard pressure loads.

Quote:
Grab yourself one of the "All In One Loadbooks" from somewhere like Midway.
Interesting you mention it -- I saw some of these at the show over the weekend. I will look again for it next time I go!

Quote:
Once you consume your current stock of bullets it might be worth picking up some LSWC style bullets for future loading.
After reading the responses on this thread, I was starting to think this. Thanks for the confirmation. It looks like my Speer manual also has loads for the 158-grain LSWC for the magnum cases, too, so if I want to I can transition to those when I feel comfortable.

Thanks, all!
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