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Old February 14, 2013, 06:11 AM   #1
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Cast bullet loads for 38 spec and 357 mag

I just ordered some 158 gr truncated cone cast lead bullets from Penn Bullets. I am trying to save the jacketed bullets I've been using almost entirely for my 25 year reloading career. I'll be loading for 38 spec and 357 mag revolver and 357 mag lever gun. The powders I have on hand are Bullseye, Unique, 4227, W296, 2400, W231. I have a Lyman Manual but am interested in some first hand info from reloaders and their accuracy results.
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Old February 14, 2013, 08:01 AM   #2
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If you are interested in target shooting with a light load, 3 grains of Bullseye or 3.3 grains of 231 will be find in either the Special or the Magnum cases.

If you want to load full power, use the manuals and work up slowly while watching for pressure signs. For magnum loads, 2400 should be a good choice with lead. In revolvers, as loads get into the high range, any tendency of the cases to be sticky to eject is a pressure sign and the load should be backed down 5% as it is starting to stretch the cylinder steel.

Also be aware that while lead bullets generally produce lower pressures than jacket bullets do, in revolvers in particular this often ceases to be true above some pressure point where the bullet starts to be upset out into the forcing cone, making it like shooting an oversize bullet. This is one reason (in addition to leading) you often see it advised not to go past the middle range of load data for jacketed bullets. In lead, that can already be at maximum peak pressure.
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Old February 15, 2013, 11:18 PM   #3
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This is one of my loads for 38 Special 158 grain.

Smith and Wesson 686+ (.357 Magnum)
6" barrel

Reloading Manuel Data (Speer Reloading Manual)
Speer LSWC HP 38 Cal .357 158 Grain
Power Pistol 4.8 Grains/Foot Pounds 257
856 FPS BC .121 SD .176

Weather and Date
November 24th 2012

Chronograph Results Eight Shot
771 (low)
835 (high)

Extreme Variation
64 fps

Average and Energy
809 fps
230 energy in foot/pounds

All rounds shot slower than Speer published data. A good load to avoid barrel leading. No signs of over-pressure.
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Old February 16, 2013, 12:05 AM   #4
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Of the powders on your list I would go with Unique. You get a very wide range of usable power levels with the .357 an 158 grain lead bullets.

I've been thinking of trying that bullet. Did they tell how long you can expect to wait for your bullets?
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Old February 16, 2013, 01:48 AM   #5
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About all I shoot in 38s and 357s is 150-158 gr, cast lead bullets.

My favorite load for the 357 is 14.5 grs of 2400 in 357s and 4.5 grs of Unique in my 38s.

But I'm getting low on Unique (hard to find around here) but I have a good supply of 231, gonna have to switch for a while. 4 gr of 231 works good and close to my unique load.

Never hit any steal targets that didn't fall to my 4.5 grs of Unique.
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Old February 16, 2013, 02:26 AM   #6
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I only use .357 cases and load everything from 4.0 grains of Unique up to 6.0 grs. I've pretty much settled on a 5.5gr load as my general-purpose load. I shoot a Missouri Bullet Co 158gr SWC in a 3" Ruger SP101.
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Old February 16, 2013, 05:55 AM   #7
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I don't have the exact bullet, but am going to start work ups on some loads for the wife to run out of her GP-100 using he same weight.

I have the powders listed as well as a couple of others to try. Full tilt doesn't bother her one bit, (she learned to shoot handguns with my top end 44 mag loads) so let the recommendations fly.

I'm not looking for specifically for anything top end rather something she can shoot while we're out and about in the country and become proficient with, and also have plenty of punch for dispatching a few hogs, some of which will be in a trap. These look to be right in the ball park so far. I'm looking more for accuracy than anything and powder recommendations work just as well as data.

I have several molds and alloys from which to choose from so I can taylor them to suit the load. I also have plenty of data to double check loads with, so not looking for anything specific. It just gets overwhelming sometimes trying to narrow down what "might" be a good powder, when you start looking at some popular bullet weights in some calibers, and this is one of them. The last time we got into shooting cast with her revolver it was some Zero 140'ish grain HBWC's and we were using Red and Blue dot for those some 20yrs ago. She has been shooting since but mostly ACP's from my 1911, and now she (we) wants to get back to "HER" gun...

I subscribed to this thread and will be taking notes.

Mike / TX
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Old February 16, 2013, 11:05 AM   #8
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As I read this, the lead pot is heating right now. It's time to get ready for the springtime pistol matches. I need to cast a bunch of bullets today while the weather is cool.

My go-to load for .38 special is a 158 grain semiwadcutter over 4.3 grains of Unique. I see that Kraig says 4.5 grains, and I don't know why I settled on the 4.3 grain load, but it's been one of my standard loads for many, many years. I suspect that it doesn't make a bit of difference between 4.3 and 4.5, but my load gives me 780 fps from my 4" revolvers and is gives fine accuracy.
Dennis Dezendorf
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Old February 16, 2013, 01:53 PM   #9
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If you have a Lyman manual, you for sure don't need our advice on loads.
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Old February 16, 2013, 06:46 PM   #10
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158gr SWC in 38 spl brass.... 4.0gn W-231...

per the above post.... straight out of the Lyman manual... 49th edition....\
listed as their favorite...accurate.
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