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Old December 13, 2007, 05:49 PM   #1
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Copper Plated Load Data??

loads for west coast x-treme

I posted this yesterday, but omitted that this info is for a 357 mag load out of a Ruger Gp-100 with a 4" barrel.
I am new to reloading and am about to purchase my first batch of bullets. I can get lasercast 158gr or west coast x-treme 125gr - 158gr for the same price. I am having trouble finding load data for the west coast x-treme copper plated bullets. In my Lee manual(copper plated 125gr), it has a listing of 4 loads: accur #9-11.8 gr, accur#7-10.1 gr, accur #5-8.0 gr, and accur#2-6.2 gr. accur #9 being the load that fills the case most. I thumbed through the reload guides at Sportsman's Warehouse and couldn't find copper plated bullets listed. I have searched through this site and found interesting that some people say to load them as you would lead. I called their 800 number and a nice lady told me x-treme bullets recommends the Speer Manual loads for any of their jacketed bullets. Does anyone have any good loads for these copper plated bullets. If so could you share with me? I also need to know what primers (mag or reg) and min oal if you have it. I have already bought some unique and trail boss. Thanks in advance.
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Old December 13, 2007, 11:44 PM   #2
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You haven't had an answer over several hours, so I'll give it a shot. Surely someone here has experience with the powders you are choosing. I do not use either powder, but for my take on this, that won't matter.

Plated bullets are more of an art than a science to load, up to a point, anyway. The reason you have been given recommendations to load as though these are plain lead bullets is because plated bullets act like lead bullets with the exceptions that they do not deposit metal on the barrel as badly, they cause less smoke, and they are gilded and do not require a lubricant. There are probably other elements, and I'm sure someone here will remind me in short order if I blow it too badly.

Since the plating offers minimal hardening of the bullet contact surfaces with the lands and grooves, higher velocities will cause surface metal to deposit in the barrel. In this case, that will be copper, or copper and lead, adversely affecting subsequent accuracy. This deposition of metal in the barrel is dependent on velocity. (There may be some deposition with some hotter powders melting the base of the bullet, despite the plating, but that is not an issue here.)

The velocity usually used for the limit is nominally 1100 fps. Below this, leading is usually not a problem. Above this, it becomes more problematic as velocity increases. Personally, I've had a lot better performance with plated bullets than with cast lead bullets in general. Naturally, this is a personal view/personal taste.

I do not use cast or plated bullets in .357 magnum, as the leading issue is one I choose to avoid. If you load below whatever the limit for metal deposition is in your gun, then you'll have no problems. Personally, I use the plated bullets in .38 Spl. +P, and have remained well below the copper/lead deposition limit. I did use Ranier in .357 Mag for a training class a few years ago, loaded to about 1100 fps., and had no problems whatsoever. Using Hodgdon Universal Clays, the combination was outstandingly clean, allowing easy ejection, and no variation in point of impact, even after hundreds of rounds. YMMV, depending on powder, charge and gun.

Bottom line: Read up on reloading data for your powders, and keep your velocities down to the "no metal deposition" point (<1100 fps. nominally) and everything should work fine.

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Old December 14, 2007, 12:12 AM   #3
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My experience with plated bullets is a bit of a crap shoot, I start in the lead range and work up and down, sometimes working down has provided very good results. Copper is not lead. and should not be treated as such. I prefer fast to medium burn powders for plated bullets where a lighter crimp is sufficient to ensure a adequate start pressure, a heavy crimp can cut the copper plating causing separation of the copper and lead.
I picked up a .38 taper crimp die which works well with non-cannelured plated bullets. For .38spl and .45acp I load some where between min. and max. of jacketed data for plated bullets.

Last edited by joneb; December 14, 2007 at 11:46 AM.
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Old December 14, 2007, 10:18 AM   #4
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Load them using lead data. Plated bullets are as accurate as other bullets, but they are accurate enough for blasting.

Also, if you don't have any lead data to start with, back off the start load for jacketed about 10% and work up from there. I hope this helps.
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Old December 14, 2007, 06:04 PM   #5
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not all plated bullets are alike


You said you were told to "use Speer data" for West Coast Xtreme plated bullets and you said you have Unique and Trail Boss powders. The Speer manual #14 lists Unique but not Trail Boss for 125 gr and 158 gr "Unicor" and "Gold Dot" bullets. Both are actually plated construction, but I don't know how they compare to West Coast Xtreme's bullets. Speer says it chooses different lead alloys with different hardnesses for different bullets, and builds-up electroplated "jackets" to thicknesses that vary from 0.007" to over 0.030" on different bullet designs. So, the loading data can vary quite a bit from one plated bullet to another of the same weight by a different manufacturer, or even different bullet designs of the same weight by the same manufacturer.

The issue is really one of pressure, not velocity. The softer the lead and the thinner the jacket, the lower the pressure that will cause the bullet to expand against the inside of the barrel and increase friction, which causes pressure to increase more than if the bullet acts solid. I am shooting some Speer Gold Dot bullets (but in a different cartridge) at 1400 fps without copper fouling the bore and with good accuracy. Those bullets were designed for that velocity and pressure (40,000 psi). Another example is the Federal "Fusion" rifle bullet, which is also a plated design that is used at about 3,000 fps and 60,000 psi in a .270 Winchester. But, some plated bullets have very soft cores and very thin plating. Those act like unplated soft swaged lead bullets with repsect to how much pressure they can withstand before deforming in the bore and causing rapid pressure increases with a little additional powder.

You should also be aware that unplated lead bullets are not all the same, either. Soft swaged lead bullets need to be kept below about 10,000 psi, but heat-treated, hard-cast bullets can be loaded up to about 45,000 psi. The first pressure restricts velocities to about 900 fps in a handgun, but the second allows velocities up to about 2,400 fps in a rifle.

So, here is the Speer data for Unique in the .357 mag case with Gold Dot bullets:
125 gr bullet: start load: 8.6 gr 1259 fps
max load: 9.6 gr 1343 fps

158 gr bullet: start load: 6.9 gr 978 fps
max load: 7.7 gr 1040 fps

The Speer manual says these loads stay below 35,000 psi. The velocities are for a GP-100 with a 6" barrel. Velocities from you 4" barrel will probably be 50 to 80 fps less.

For comparison, the same manual lists the 125 gr bullet (but not the 158 gr bullet) in the .38 Special case at normal (17,000 psi) and +P pressures (20,000 psi). The max load of Unique for 17,000 psi is 5.7 gr and for 20,000 psi it is 6.0 gr in the (smaller) .38 case.

One final comment: you gave Lee's load data for Accurate Powders for a 125 gr plated bullet. According to Accurate Powder's manul #2, those data are the start loads for a 125 gr Ranier plated bullet. The maximum loads in that manual are:

#2 Powder 6.8 gr 1390 fps 32,100 psi
#5 Powder 8.9 gr 1493 fps 32,200 psi
#7 Powder 11.2 gr 1578 fps 33,500 psi
#9 Powder 13.1 gr 1630 fps 32,200 psi

These velocities are for a 8" test barrel, and are a lot higher than you will get from a 4" revolver barrel with its gap between the cylinder and barrel. Comparing these loads to the loads for the same powders in the Speer manual, I see that Speer's max loads are more than a grain higher for the Gold Dot bullets of the same weight. That means the Speer bullets are probably harder than the Raniers. I do not have data for the West Coast Xtreme bullets, so it is hard to guess what their max pressure loads would be. Also, the Accurate Powders manual does not say that the Ranier bullets stayed accurate and did not foul the barrel with maximum pressure loads - - it just said they were still safe at those loads. Therefore, start with the start loads and go up until either (1) the load is as fast as you want, or (2) the barrel starts to foul, or (3) the accuracy deteriorates, or (4) you reach the maximum listed load.

Good luck, have fun, and be safe.

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Old December 15, 2007, 06:37 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the helpful info. I hope to working up a test batch this weekend.
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