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Old December 19, 2009, 12:35 AM   #1
Caboclo
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Wadcutter Bullets

What is the purpose of a wadcutter? I see them mostly in revolver calibers; are they a throwback from old times, or do they occupy some narrow niche?
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Old December 19, 2009, 01:07 AM   #2
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They cut a nice clean hole in a paper target for easier scoring. In bullseye competition you don't want to drop a point because someone couldn't define the edge of the hole when reading the target.
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Old December 19, 2009, 08:16 AM   #3
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I use them in a lot of my pistols. It makes it much easier to spot the hole in the target because I can see them more readily through the spotting scope. (yeah, my eyes are that bad I need a spotting scope to see a bullet hole at 25 yards, and I am too lazy to walk to the target and back after each shot. )
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Old December 19, 2009, 09:56 AM   #4
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Some of the characteristics of full wadcutter bullets include the following:

--look like a coffee can... no point, just a cylinder
--long bearing surface promotes accuracy, consistency
--punch tool-like clean holes in target paper
--long construction all (or most) of which is loaded deep in to the brass reduces internal space in the cartridge which helps develop sufficient pressure with VERY small charges of propellant
--swaged wadcutters are typically hollow-base in design and are loaded dead flush with the case mouth
--cast wadcutters are typically double ended in design and it doesn't matter which end is the front and vice versa
--full wadcutters are designed for revolvers and were never meant to be able to "feed" in semi-auto pistols... but that didn't stop Smith & Wesson from building a pistol that did exactly that. (Model 52)

The most popular caliber full wadcutter bullet must be .38 Special and these were THE go to bullets for the popular PPC shooting events in the 70s and 80s.
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Old December 19, 2009, 09:58 AM   #5
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I learned about wadcutter bullets when I started shooting NRA 2700 matches in the 1960's.

When I started reloading .38 Special, one of my first bullet molds was an RCBS 148 grain BBWC --- which has kept me in small game hunting bullets for over 40 years.

A .38 wadcutter at about 770 FPS works great for small game hunting because it is quite accurate but neither obnoxiously loud nor does it destroy excessive amounts of meat. It simply knocks a full-caliber hole (like a cookie cutter) through the rabbit, squirrel, etc. producing instant stops.

Later, I cast SWC bullets in .41 Mag and .44 Mag for deer and had excellent results. Once again, I got full-caliber holes completely through the animal which produced quick results and did not needlessly destroy the meat (unless you hit a big bone).

I have not been hunting in some years, but now that same RCBS .38 wadcutter mold is keeping me in bullets for the local Bullseye pistol matches.

JMHO - YRMV
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Old December 19, 2009, 10:43 AM   #6
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Quote:
Semi-wadcutters came about because full wadcutters don't work well in semi-autos that weren't specifically built for them. I see the "semi" in SWC referring to semiautomatic, and not to mean "half" a wadcutter. That said, SWC's work very well in revolvers too with the added bonus of them being a good hunting bullet.
Please, please do not repeat anything you read here as being a fact. Before you believe anything posted, do the research of printed books, manuals, by authorities on the subject of cast lead bullets. Some of the posts are correct, some complete bar-room blather.
Elmer Keith should be turning over in his grave. I will just leave it as that.
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Old December 19, 2009, 11:50 AM   #7
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A little tact goes a long way if the intention is to improve the s/n ratio of the forum.
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Old December 19, 2009, 12:38 PM   #8
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Thanks for the info.
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Old December 19, 2009, 07:02 PM   #9
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Wadcutters make easy to see holes in targets as stated, but could also be a good choice for SD in certain applications. I have Lyman .44 cal 180 gr wadcutter mould that seems to be made specifically for the Charter Arms Bulldog. The light weight promises more velocity and wadcutter design would hit harder than any other profile of bullet. Backed up by some SWC's in a speed loader for ease of reload and I'm comfortable.
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Old December 19, 2009, 08:47 PM   #10
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Quote:
A little tact goes a long way if the intention is to improve the s/n ratio of the forum.
There can only be one primary purpose. If the forum's primary purpose is to provide correct information than tact is not likely to enhance the primary purpose. Furthermore, it can embolden and encourage those who post inaccurate "folklore" if they are not taken to task.

However, if the primary purpose of the forum is social interaction then, indeed, tack would be a legitimate factor in achieving that. But then, any posts would be acceptable, no matter how inaccurate. Which would you rather have? If you prefer the latter, I can invent very entertaining b.s., but it will not add to anyone's knowledge of the sport.
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Old December 19, 2009, 09:18 PM   #11
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Correct info in handloading is essential. as to semi wadcutter vs wadcutter the semi was not made for semi autos only. There are many seni wadcutters used in loads for revolvers also many of these are referred to as "Keith" style semiwadcutters, named for Elmer Keith who designed them. The are some semi autos that will handle "full wadcutters. The S&W mod 59 was designed to shoot .38spl wadcutters and I have seen 1911's converted to shoot them also.
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Old December 19, 2009, 09:48 PM   #12
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Most of us are adults and would appreciate proper correction without being a prick, dahermit.
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Old December 19, 2009, 11:10 PM   #13
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Did Elmer use SWC bullets in his revolvers before folks were using them in 1911's? When was the first SWC bullet used in a 1911? Where do you find facts like these?

If I was wrong I'll be happy to edit my post.
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Old December 20, 2009, 01:03 AM   #14
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Okay, I did a little research and found my perception to be false. The .44 semi-wadcutter bullet was around when Elmer Keith was in diapers. L. A. Himmelwright designed one in 1900 (Ideal #429220) and at the time it was called simply "The Wadcutter".

Keith was a relative latecomer to the game, developing his bullet design in 1928. By then what we recognize as semi-wadcutter bullets had been popular for 25 years.

A fair read on the subject can be found here.
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Old December 20, 2009, 04:14 AM   #15
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As mentioned the wadcutter's main purpose is for shooting in various matches and tournaments. It cuts a nice, cleanly defined hole the full size of the bullet which makes scoring targets less subjective.

As noted, the wadcutter (WC) can be used for small game out of a .38 caliber revolver just fine. Their low velocity makes them suitable for potting rabbits as well as getting rid of possums and raccoons with a minimum of mess.

For years, many folks recommended the .38 WC round for up-close defense from a .38 snubby. This was because most JHP rounds (at the time) failed to expand anyhow when launched from the short barrel. The WC's sharp edge acts like a hole-punch and even out of a short barrel often left a handsomely circular hole in ribs, spleens, loops of intestines, etc. And because it cuts such a nice hole, if a major vessel is ruptured, blood flows quite freely from it.

The semi-wadcutter (SWC) appears to be more stable during longer, higher speed flights and the elongated nose "atop" a cylindrical base keeps it plowing through tissue and quite often bone. It retains the sharp shoulder of the wadcutter but focuses energy into a smaller point (or meplat) at the tip. This aids in penetrating dense (animal) muscle tissue and bone, especially when cast hard. There are Lead semi-wadcutters and partially jacketed semi-wadcutters available (LSWC & JSWC).
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Old December 20, 2009, 09:13 AM   #16
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At short range they apparently would make a pretty good self defense round. I have talked to several guys who loaded large bore(.44) full wadcutters of hard cast alloy running at 1000 fps and used them on hogs. They said the damage from these rounds was much greater than any other type of bullet they had ever seen. I am thinking of loading some for a Charter Bulldog that I carry. I don't know how much velocity I can acheive from a 3 in barrel though.
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Old December 20, 2009, 11:18 AM   #17
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lead

Does it apply to a revolver like a s/a that the rule of thumb is to keep them below 900 fps so they won't lead foul the barrel??
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Old December 20, 2009, 12:15 PM   #18
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If they are cast from a hard alloy and not swaged from pure lead you won't have leading problems, unless your throats are undersized to the point that the bullet gets swaged down passing through the throat and then goes rattling down the bore because it is now undersized. I have pushed hard cast bullets through revolvers that have correctly sized throats and bores at 1200 fps for years and never had leading problems. Undersized throats can be reamed to proper size. The devil's in the details.
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Old December 20, 2009, 03:31 PM   #19
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Ksmoker -

You asked: "Does it apply to a revolver like a s/a that the rule of thumb is to keep them below 900 fps so they won't lead foul the barrel?? "

I have not noticed any difference between my S/A revolvers and D/A revolvers when shooting cast bullets.

I've been casting plain-base bullets from wheel-weight lead with a little bit of tin added for .41 Mag and .44 Mag ammo for a "while" (), and normally I can clean the bore with a patch when I use H-4227 or IMR 4227 power and adjust the charge weight to get about 1,250 fps. By the way, I purchased a chronograph in the 1970's and it has really saved time and money in my re-loading experiments.

I have shot cast bullets at much faster velocities from my revolvers --- but since I observed that a cast SWC bullet of that size going 1,200 fps will blow a full-caliber hole completely through a deer sideways or lengthways, that is enough velocity for me.

However, if you are asking about factory-made swaged HBWC bullets made of almost pure lead, those rascals produce some leading in the bore of my target guns even when shooting them under 800 fps --- but I normally only get only a touch of leading in the forcing cone area with my cast BBWC's (that I mentioned in my first response to this thread).

I have loaded my cast .38 BBWC's to well above 900 FPS, and depending on the powder used, have had them shoot without bore leading too.

JMHO - YRMV
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Old December 20, 2009, 04:34 PM   #20
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buffalo arms recommends using semi wadcuters (jacketed) for smaller caliber SD rounds. they even recommend using JHP's and SWC's in the same mag for self defense carry. their idea is that a .380 jhp only has 10-12" penetration in people while the semi wadcutters have 20" penetration and do alot of damage smashing thru tissue. sounds reasonable, but i still carry hornady CD.
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Old December 20, 2009, 04:58 PM   #21
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powder

Thanks for the prompt reply, I'm asking a lot of questions & learning as I go.
I just use the good/sd loads for that purpose basically & shoot the lead bullets the rest of the time. Right now I have some 125 & 147 gr lead bullets from Missouri bullet that I'm using for my G32.(357 sig). I have the LW barrel for that gun. I've kept them down around an estimated 900 fps, using 5.5 gr Universal right now.

They are cycling good and hitting the target most of the time & handle pretty good, for what I'm doing this has gone pretty well but I'm always listening to see what others are doing as well.

It's about time to shift back to the 38 & 357 stuff for awhile.
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