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Old April 30, 2011, 06:42 AM   #1
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38 special load info

I have a hypothetical question. Is it possible to use a .357 mag powder charge in a 38 special case? If it is fired with a .357 mag capable gun. Is the .357 case stouter? I realize that it is dangerous if fired from a 38 special. I just had nothing better to think about at 3:00 in the morning, boring life huh.
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Old April 30, 2011, 06:44 AM   #2
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The reduced case volume will increase chamber pressure above even magnum levels.
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Old April 30, 2011, 07:06 AM   #3
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CAUTION: The below post describes an advanced loading technique that may result in increased pressures in revolvers. PROCEED at your own risk. Neither the writer, The Firing Line, nor the staff of TFL assume any liability for any damage or injury resulting from use of this information.

This is an advanced reloading technique, and you have to seat the bullet out. Of course, it's possible to make a heavy .38 special charge, but you risk losing your revolver. However, if you seat the bullet out to .357 length, then there is room under the bullet for what you want to do. We all know that the .38 Special and the .357 magnum are virtually identical except for case length. So, if you seat the bullet out to .357 length, you've got the room under the powder charge that you need.

The old Lyman 358156 has two crimp grooves. It is a Ray Thompson design and was made especially for what you're talking about. For regular loads, either .357 or .38, you loaded as usual and crimped in the top crimp groove. However, when you didn't have .357 brass, you loaded the .357 charge into the .38 Special case and seated the bullet to .357 length and crimped in the lower crimp groove.

This technique, as all advanced reloading techniques, required that you mark your box of ammo so that you didn't inadvertently load it in a .38 Special cylinder. Depending on the length of the cylinder, some .38 specials would let these loads chamber, some wouldn't.

I've used the same technique myself during a local shortage of .357 brass. I use the Lee TL358-158, which is a 158 grain semi-wadcutter with the micro grooves. I simply prep the brass as usual and load to the .357 OAL. Then crimp into one of the lube grooves. No problem at all.

Again, this is an advanced technique that requires you to seat the bullet out farther than normal. Proceed at your own discretion.
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Old April 30, 2011, 09:37 AM   #4
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That would be a completely unnecessary and dangerous move. Just load in mag cases and be safe. Nothing to do but answer your question this morning, boring life huh.
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Old April 30, 2011, 09:52 AM   #5
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Thanks like I said just pondering the question thanks for the great answers!
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Old April 30, 2011, 09:55 AM   #6
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357 brass is cheaper then 38 revolvers, lot cheaper the an ER trip.

Even if you could get the pressures to safe levels for a 357, too easy to get the ammo mixed up and shot in your 38 revolvers.

When they came out with heavy revolvers they wanted to make sure the ammo wasn't fired in 38s so they made the case a bit longer so it wouldn't fit in the 38s.

Bite the bullet and get some 357 brass, goole 357 brass and I bet you can find some pretty cheap once fired 357 brass.
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Old April 30, 2011, 05:33 PM   #7
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You would be making .38-44 rounds.
A version of the .38 that evolved to the .357.
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Old April 30, 2011, 08:12 PM   #8
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I would say that there is too much variance in brass for .38 spcl. Now the reason for the longer case was not for more room, or to fit more powder, rather to keep the powerful rounds from being loaded into guns that would not handle the pressure. Though you risk a lot by going to extremes.

Personaly I would not load above .38 spcl +p. I can pick up more .357 brass at the range then I can give away most times. Traded off a 2 gallon wash pail full of them for 2k primers last month.
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Old April 30, 2011, 08:23 PM   #9
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I found one way to do it that I think is safe: Used hard cast wadcutter bullets. Crimp the bullets long; the OAL will be about 1.35" or 1.36" and they will not chamber in a .38 Special. (7.0 grains of WSF powder is a pretty good load with 148 grain DEWC's. It's not a full-power .357 but it's up there pretty good)

Not that I would ever do such a thing you understand...

Last edited by zxcvbob; May 1, 2011 at 09:23 PM.
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Old April 30, 2011, 11:43 PM   #10
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I don't understand +P loads.
If I want a .38 Special, then I load a .38 Special.
If I want a hotter load, I load .357 Magnum.
The +P is just a higher pressure for little real increase in pressure and additional risks. There are a lot of things I COULD do, but they have to make sense and be worth any increased risk.
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Old May 1, 2011, 08:28 AM   #11
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I could, so I did

But I did it in my 7.5" 357 Redhawk; know what I mean?

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Old May 1, 2011, 09:27 AM   #12
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My dad did it without any problems. But then he had a nearly endless supply of free .38 brass from the police range. .357 was a lot less common.
My brass supply is more limited. Whenever I have a load that's unsafe for .38 Spec. it's on .357 brass. No chance for any absent minded mistakes by me.

Can you do it? Yes, with due caution. Should you? That's a decision you will have to make.
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Old May 1, 2011, 01:15 PM   #13
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I am aware of the Thompson design bullet with two crimp grooves and don't doubt you can seat other bullets long to increase powder space.
Skeeter Skelton used the type but did not load it with full magnum powder charges even at the shallower seating depth* and he only loaded heavy .38s a few times before retiring the brass to mild target loads.
He reported a 155 at 1200 with his load (look it up, there are plenty of references) and if that is not enough, you should splurge on some magnum brass.

I once did a little work with IPSC Major loads in Special brass for cost savings and easier ejection, but did not pursue it after shifting over to IDPA which has a different power factoring system.

*Some of the old reloading texts like Phil Sharpe's listed seating depth, which directly controls powder space. But few loaders now are willing to bother with the measurements and arithmetic to go from seating depth to OAL. So we get frequent attempts to use the same OAL for different bullets... which does not always work.
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Old May 1, 2011, 09:15 PM   #14
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The very best reason to never do it is simply for the good of anyone that might ever have even a chance to use your ammo. Whether that person be you (most likely scenario) or someone that ends up with all of your stuff if you get in a vicious car wreck tomorrow on your daily commute.

You know that you'd never accidentally stick one of your 35,000 PSI bombs in to a revolver that is expecting 18,500 PSI and no more... (hopefully) but what if you screwed up somewhere? Or what if your son or grandson (whenever that time may be) ends up loading that round somewhere?

All because you couldn't get some .357 Magnum brass?

Penny wise... pound foolish. It's such a small payoff for a large risk. It's not a good idea.
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Old May 1, 2011, 09:31 PM   #15
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Boy, this thread brings back memories of reading Skeeter Skelton's articles in Shooting Times. He mentioned doing this back in the early days of the .357 when the magnum brass was scarce. I always imagined someone finding those loads, seeing .38 Special on the case head and putting them in an airweight Bodyguard and.......
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