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Old January 11, 2019, 01:00 PM   #1
Join Date: April 14, 2013
Location: Akron, Ohio
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Power Pistol in the .38 Special

OK everyone, I know this is an old cartridge and an old powder and I'm sure it has been discussed over and over fact, I know it has because I've done my homework. The question here is really not looking for load advice, but for your opinions on safety with a particular load.

Here goes...I have loaded some .38 Special with 158 Grain Semi-Jacketed Hollowpoints, I used between 5.55 and some may be as high as 5.6 grains of Power Pistol. The charge bar was set to 5.55 but, a few extra flakes here or there happens. I check my charges frequently when's not that I don't trust the Dillon, it's for my own peace of mind. This was stuffed into mixed range brass and lit with a CCI 500 primer.

I fired 18 rounds today through my chrono, although I only got seven shots recorded...the sun just would not cooperate.

1.) 772 FPS
2.) 837 FPS
3.) 856 FPS
4.) 767 FPS
5.) 864 FPS
6.) 839 FPS
7.) 813 FPS

Average = 821 FPS ES = 97 FPS SD = 36 FPS

My question comes from this:

The Lyman 49th shows a 158 Grain XTP as being a +P load at it's maximum charge of 5.2 grains of Power Pistol, if I remember correctly, but the Hornady 10th shows the same bullet (158 XTP) as having 5.7 grains of Power Pistol being the max charge for a standard pressure load, and 6.0 grains being the max charge for a +P load with that bullet. I am not loading XTPs in these cartridges, but a similar hollowpoint bullet. I measured them side by side and the Hornady bullets measure about .010'' longer than what I am loading, which makes sense as my rounds are about .010'' shorter than the Hornady book load, being crimped at the canelure.

It is cold out today...about 30 degrees in Northeastern Ohio, but I kept the rounds in the house and carried them to my backyard range in my pocket, where they stayed until I fired them so they would not be cold.

The chrono data I have showed me a touch more velocity than I was expecting, but nothing shocking. Primers looked fine, and the cases all came out into my hand with an easy push on the ejector rod...nothing sticky, no pounding. The photos are of the brass that was used. So why the huge variation in charge weight? According to Lyman, the rounds I fired today were way over charged, but the results were a slightly stout .38 Special round that shot to point of aim, with no trouble ejecting and no flat primers...

So....what say the experts?

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Old January 11, 2019, 02:36 PM   #2
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Hi. The short answer from me would be: Because that's the data Lyman published. I know that's not an answer, but that's what they published. Your mileage may vary - and it did.

You've actually transcended their data - you now have real world data. YOUR data should now be your guide for any further load development, if applicable. As loaders, we can spend a lot of time pulling our hair out trying to understand why published data conflicts with each-other. The best you can do is decide a safe place to start, and start. You've done that. Time to look forward, not back.

I looked in my load data, and I have dabbled very little with Power Pistol (one of my favorite propellants - but I generally use it for more stout chamberings than the low pressure 38 Spl) and 158's in 38 Special. I don't want to get into details, but I will tell you that I have loaded 158/PP with more charge weight than what you have done with no trouble at all. I shoot my 38 Special ammo in a 38 Special gun, btw - a Smith M67, 4" bbl. There are times where I have had pressure concerns. During those times, I'll first shoot them over a chronograph through one of my L frame (686) 357's. That gives me additional safety headroom for test purposes.

BTW, flat primers and difficult extraction is definitely NOT an indicator to use with 38 Special. Normal pressures for 38 Special get nowhere near where those sorts of things will occur. And of course, the argument could (and probably will) be made that those things should never be used as a guide for load development for any cartridge.

I know it wasn't a direct answer, but I hope it helps. From what you're saying, and with the pics, I have no reason to believe whatsoever that you're doing anything unsafe.
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Old January 11, 2019, 02:46 PM   #3
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Power Pistol in the .38 Special

Sounds like you’re in the zone. It’s really not a huge variation in data. Lots of variables go into testing so you’re going to get slightly different results from different tests. Data books always have a degree of safety built in for you. And ultimately load data is a guide and a starting point.
That said, i have found the Lyman book numbers are generally closer to my personal test results than the Hornady data (speaking only of pistol loads i should say.)
But, you’re using published data and getting velocities that are about what should be expected. Unless you want more velocity i wouldn’t sweat it. It’s time to start tinkering with load and loading techniques to maximize for accuracy.

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Old January 11, 2019, 02:55 PM   #4
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I would not worry about your loads being too hot, as in damaging the gun. I would be thinking about your high Std, as in wasting powder for little gain. PP is a good powder for the old 38, but I'm thinking your data is telling you to back off just a touch.
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Old January 11, 2019, 03:35 PM   #5
Join Date: April 14, 2013
Location: Akron, Ohio
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Thanks for the quick replies....helped put my mind at ease.

I always test my .38 Specials in the pictured M65-1. I like having the pressure headway of the .357 Mag handgun for testing, but now won't hesitate to fire them in other guns. I bought 1000 of these bullets at a good price to make a good general purpose plinking round for the .38 Special with decent velocity and I think this hits the mark. I may play with them for accuracy, although it may be decent already...shooting off-hand in ~30 degree weather isn't the most precise test...
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Old January 11, 2019, 04:13 PM   #6
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You only got one flat looking primer, but that's often not a reliable indicator in a revolver. I've seen some start to get sticking ejection when the primer was still rounded. About, all it tells you is the primer itself thought the load was as high as it should go.

Note on the photos, it's best to make and post a copy that is resized to not over about 1024 pixels wide so they fit on everyone's screen. Some viewers with older, lower resolution monitors may have to make the text too small to read before they can see the whole image, if at all.
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Old January 13, 2019, 12:09 AM   #7
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I don't have a source in my notes, but I have listings for the "FBI load," all using 158gr LSWC.They are:
Power Pistol/5.5gr

One day I tested ten of each, along side ten of the Remington HTP .38 Special +P 158gr L-SWCHP (aka FBI load). I used the Remingtons as a base line shooting two of them, then two of one reload. That was repeated for each different reload. The Remington HTP, HP-38/4.3, 231/4.3, and Power Pistol/5.5 all felt just about the same. I couldn't tell the difference in recoil when shooting any of them. The Unique/5.3 was definitely the hot load of the bunch.

Short answer, fwiw in my limited experience your Power Pistol/5.55gr load is definitely softer than Unique/5.3gr. As you said, Alliant lists Power Pistol/6.0gr as a .38 Special +P load.
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