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Old June 22, 2001, 02:15 PM   #1
Johnny Guest
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Hollow Base Handgun Bullets

On another string in this forum, JohnK wrote:

The only caliber/load that seems to have any reason to use hollow base bullets is the 38 special with ultra light target loads using the hollow base wadcutter. With the 380 you're dealing with such a short case and short OAL cartridge I don't see any advantage to using a hollow base bullet.

Not to argue, but just for the sake of discussion, I will throw in at least two other times that HB bullets might be used to advantage:

.38 S&W/.380 British. Actual diameter is somewhat larger than the .38 Spl,( not merely a shorter case.) For finest accuracy in the good ole Webley breaktops, .38 Spl HBWC with mild charges of Bullseye or Unique work quite well. Also, certain factory .38 SPL RNL had hollow bases, as did the old Winchester Super Police blunt 200 gr. Bullets. I have bought these as loading components in years past. These soft bullets would slug out and engage the rifling quite nicely

Pre-WWII .45 Colt and .455 Webley: Both of these will work with modern .45 Colt bullets, which are mostly sized at .452, but accuracy is not really good. The pre-war .45 Colt barrels were .454, usually, and I had a really nice Colt New Service that wouldn’t hit a Resistol hat at 25 yards with hard cast .452 bullets. I was able to order some soft lead bullets sized .454 which worked fine. These same bullets shot pretty well through the .455 Webley barrels. What worked best of all, though, were old Winchester factory .45 Colt bullets, soft lead, in RNFP hollow base configuration. These, too, slugged out and took the rifling well.

I’m told that hollow based bullets are really the way to go for the .41 Long Colt, as well, but I have no experience in handloading for that old cartridge.

Can anyone else think of a cartridge in which hollow base bullets are desirable or necessary?

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Old June 22, 2001, 02:33 PM   #2
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Johnny, about 30 years ago the Winchester 45 Colt factory load was a 255 grain hollow base bullet. It had a copper "wash" on it and shot really well in a friends Colt, and my Ruger. Problem was my cast bullet loads (sized 451) shot well in my Ruger but would not group worth a hoot out of his old Colt. I guess that HB design left over from the days of the "minie` ball" was doing EXACTLY what it was supposed to do.......expand and seal the bore.
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Old June 22, 2001, 03:21 PM   #3
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Hi Johnny,
Both excellent examples of when a hollow base bullet would be, and I must admit two I didn't think of - I was so focused on common calibers/firearms, older calibers didn't even occur to me. I suppose I should have said "The only caliber/load that seems to have any reason to use hollow base bullets today is the 38 Special..."

I've read of tales where people used hollow base wadcutters in 38 specials and pushed them above minimum velocities and caused the hollow portion to tear off and be left in the bore. That is one good reason not to use them, especially today when there are so many other fine bullets to choose from. This obviously would only apply to calibers that don't need them such as those you've already mentioned.

Now that you mention it I have heard of it used in the 41 Long Colt as well, for the reason that Southla1 mentions - it expands to fill the bore better. I would think that most of the older low pressure/low velocity calibers could take advantage of such a design.

I have in a drawer somewhere an old conical bullet that I got in Jamestown or Williamsburg many many many (did I say many?) years ago at a civil war shop that has a hollow base. Maybe some civil war buffs will respond and let us know if that was a common practice back then, or if this bullet style was rare.
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Old June 22, 2001, 03:55 PM   #4
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Oh no John they were the most commonly used bullet in the war. The way the minie` ball worked is it was easy to load in a fouled barrel because it was slightly undersized. The powder was poured and the bullet dropped in the barrel and rammed home. When it was rammed down the base slightly opened to hold the bullet from sliding out. When it was fired the hollow base expanded to grip the rifling and seal the bore. A full sized bullet would have been almost impossible to load after a few firings due to the black powder fouling in the bore. With the minie` ball troops of both the north and south had a bullet that could be loaded quickly, had a better BC (slightly) than a round ball, and could be loaded easier even in a dirty barrel.
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Old June 22, 2001, 06:58 PM   #5
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.41 Long Colt used a heeled bullet. Heel diameter bout .386, bore diameter bout .401. Using Lyman #386178 hollow base 200gr bullet allows one to use internal lubed bullet of single diameter........seemed to expand well to fit the bore. Worked OK out to bout 850fps with Unique.

148gr HB .357 bullets, loaded backwards with gas check on old nose (new base), driven at 38/44 velocities makes an awesome car penetrater that expands to huge when hitting meat. Penetration and expansion.

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