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Old June 9, 2005, 10:23 AM   #1
Steve Morgan
Join Date: April 29, 2005
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 35
Reloading .38+P ammo

Hi guys,
I got a new .38 snubby and am having a little trouble reloading. First of all, I have been reloading shotgun and rifle ammo for 30 years and .44 magnum as well as .357 magnum for about a year, all with no problems. Just do what the reloading manual says and blammo My .38 snubby is a different story though. I bought some factory Remington +P loads, so I know about how it should feel with recoil, velocity etc. I tried the appropriate amount of Clays powder for a standard .38 load and think that I might be able to throw the bullets as fast as it was shooting That was with 110 grain bullets. Unique powder at standard .38 pressures was a little better, but the first of 5 would almost always feel very soft. Blue Dot powder at +P pressures with 125 grainers seemed to do OK, but the first shot usually hit low and felt soft and the velocity of some other shots seemed slow.
Please, can someone tell me which powder/bullet weight combos to use for consistent velocities? Thanks
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Old June 9, 2005, 08:39 PM   #2
Person of Interest
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I use loads published in a Speer manual from 1970. I pack 125 JHPs at 1,100 FPS for my carry load and this is more than factory +Ps.

Loads like this don't appear in more recent books due to liability concerns with older and cheaper guns that turn up. In my steel frame S&Ws (K and J) I have had no trouble with these loads.
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Old June 9, 2005, 09:41 PM   #3
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With a short barrel I would use no powder slower than Unique. In fact I would only use the faster powders. You just don't have enough barrel to burn the slower powders.
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Old June 9, 2005, 11:13 PM   #4
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Agree with Majic. 231, bullseye and Unique are great for this. One thing I have noticed though, is that a couple tenths of a grain can make the difference between regular and +p pressures with these powders. So be precise.
Theoretically, a slower powder than these can be loaded easily to +p pressures, but I wonder if you will get any benefit from them in snubby barrels. And less burned powder means more of a mess....
But then, I'm not exactly an expert. I have to admit to liking light loads for practice, and haven't tried much in full power loads. I did recently buy some WST, a slightly slower relative of 231, to try for some heavier loads. Don't know when I will get around to actually trying it......

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Old June 10, 2005, 08:49 AM   #5
Steve Morgan
Join Date: April 29, 2005
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 35
reloading .38 spl.

Thanks for the replies. I realized after I posted that I should have searched on the reloading section of this site. Guess thats just a "Junior" member for ya
What I found on the other site was that most people recommended Titegroup or Bullseye, but since I have several pounds of Unique, I'm going to have to just weigh every load. That should keep me busy. Thanks again for the replies.
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Old June 12, 2005, 05:57 PM   #6
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Steve, I have been using 4.7 grains of Unique behind a 158-grain SWC in .38 Specials such as 2" Colt Detective Specials and S&W Chief's Specials. It shoots to the sights and is managable with the factory-issue grips.

A lot of the lighter bullets do not land anywhere near the point of aim--usually they impact low.

Unique meters poorly out of my old RCBS Uniflow measure. But it meters well through the measure on my Dillon 550B.
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Old June 13, 2005, 08:35 AM   #7
Lone Star
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The current Speer manual lists Plus P loads, even with lead HP bullets.

I's refer to that if I was loading such ammo.

Lone Star
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Old June 13, 2005, 02:49 PM   #8
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The problem is doing this without a chornograph has you just guessing. Feel includes noise and blast whether we want it to or not, and we just can't quantify speed based on feel. Recoil is also a poor indicator of speed, I have a 357 magnum load for example that is downright nasty on recoil yet it is a full 150 fps slower than a load that doesn't kick as bad with the exact same bullet, case and primer.

If you are using jacketed bullets try Universal Clays, very consistent and tolerant of low loading density.

If you are using lead Unique is a good choice.

Skip the Blue Dot, it needs more pressure than even +P will make to burn well and it is VERY dependent on position in the case for consistency. Tip the gun back and tap it, then carefully lower and shoot, I'll bet your BD loads feel very consistent and the chronograph will bear this out.
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Old June 14, 2005, 12:36 PM   #9
Steve Morgan
Join Date: April 29, 2005
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 35

I bought some Titegroup and a powder thrower (no more scoops for me! ) and loaded some +P with 5.0 grains and regular P with 4.5 grains.....shot about 50 or so rounds. The +P recoiled slightly less than the factory loads, but very close..... and both loads felt consistent to me.
I know, I I mention the 'scoops'. I'll say it before someone else does ---Looks to me like the consistency problem was with your reloading.
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Old June 14, 2005, 03:21 PM   #10
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One excellent resource for .38 Special snub load info is right here:

High Powers and Handguns - Other Handguns
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