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Old June 27, 2013, 10:07 AM   #1
Tennessee Jed
Join Date: July 14, 2010
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How to reduce smokiness of 38 Special handloads?

My favorite 38 Special handload is a cast 158 grain swc, using 3.4 grains of Bullseye. I'm shooting it primarily out of a Ruger GP100 with a 4 inch barrel. The bullets I use come from RimRock Bullets.

Recently, I fired some factory 158 grain, 38 Special rounds and noticed how less smokey they are than my handloads. (Federal American Eagle LRN and Winchester semi-wadcutters). The difference in the clouds of smoke was huge.

I'm shooting more often at indoor ranges, and I'm not thrilled with the cloud of smoke coming out the end of my barrel with my handloads. My question is, does anyone know why the factory rounds are much less smokey?

I've done some research, and I know that smokiness is usually the lube from the bullet burning off. If that's the case, then do the factories usually use swaged bullets? And are there some 38 Special swaged bullets that are less smokey than others?

Thanks so much.
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Old June 27, 2013, 10:16 AM   #2
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I've had the same issues. Started with 125 gr plated, then went to 158 gr cast. Definitely a lot more smoke from the cast with the lube. I've just accepted it. If I want less smoke I go with my plated reloads and save the cast for outdoors.
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Old June 27, 2013, 10:29 AM   #3
Jim Watson
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Moly or other dry coated lead will smoke a good deal less than wax lubed cast.
Bear Creek is good, I got my last from

I have shot Billy Bullets. They don't smoke much but the coating comes off on your hands worse than other brands.

Precision no longer lists revolver bullets, nor does BBI.

I used to shoot a lot of Speer wadcutters but have no recollection of how smoky they were. The rate of fire in PPC is not fast enough for it to matter much.
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Old June 27, 2013, 11:35 AM   #4
Real Gun
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A variable in the factory ammo is the powder and the amount.
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Old June 27, 2013, 03:05 PM   #5
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I have loaded several hundred Alox tumble lube 158 LSWC with clays powder.
Never noticed an issue with smoke.
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Old June 27, 2013, 10:33 PM   #6
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Old June 28, 2013, 02:03 AM   #7
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Smoke is mostly from burning lube.
Make sure the bullets are sized properly for your throats and bore.
You can switch to a cool burning single base powder like Universal or SR-7625.
You can lube them with liquid alox.
You can use vegetable fiber wads under the bullet base. (never push a wad down on to the powder, it must be right at the base of the bullet)

My loads have very little smoke, I would say less than the average factory round. I load alox coated swaged bullets and charge with Universal.

IME the swaged bullets are a better choice for .38 spl and light .357 loads. Hornadys are the best IMO. I use them in silhouette competition (IHMSA Field Pistol) out to 100 yards and they are always accurate.
I suspect the soft swage bullets obturate in the bore more rapidly/completely in low pressure rounds and they are more consistent than cast.
Too bad the Hornadys are out of stock everywhere.
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Old June 28, 2013, 04:25 AM   #8
Sure Shot Mc Gee
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If you don't like the smoke. Shoot jacketed or plated bullets instead of lead. So long as there's wax used in a bullets lube recipe. Count on seeing some smoke. And the use of certain powders can indeed exacerbate the problem also.
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Old June 28, 2013, 12:54 PM   #9
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As the others said its lube. You can try the hornady cast bullets they are really good and they have a dry lube. I lke them as they stay stable out past 50 yards
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Old June 28, 2013, 01:33 PM   #10
Tennessee Jed
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Thanks for your help everyone.
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Old June 28, 2013, 05:05 PM   #11
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I've taken cast bullets and dissolved the wax lube out of them with mineral spirits, let them dry, and re-lubed with liquid Alox. Much less smoke. No leading issues.

Next time I order bullets I'm going to request non-lubed.

All the Best,
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