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Old 11-19-2011, 08:25 PM
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Default reloading for the .38 special



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I would have thought this would have come up before but nothing came back in the searches, so here I go. I have a small .38 snubnose revolver that is designed to shoot nothing more powerful than standard pressure .38 special ammunition. I want to learn how to reload for this gun. I need some advice on what would be the best bullet style to reload the cases with for self defense. I am particularly interested in cast bullets. TP
Old 11-19-2011, 09:17 PM
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I prefer semi wad cutters in mine for lead cast. I'm rather fond of the 125grain Uni-cor ucsp soft point from Speer. Its a soft point but it expands like a hollow point.

Pick up a good load manual like the Lyman or similar, they are handy.
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Old 11-19-2011, 09:23 PM
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Some good info here,it may help you figure out which load you want to try and duplicate or factory ammo you choose to use instead. Speer GDHP or the Speer 158 gr. lead SWCHP are my two favorite bullet both can be purchase as reloading components.

http://www.snubnose.info/docs/snubby_ballistics.htm
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Old 11-19-2011, 09:38 PM
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For a standard pressure .38 I would go with 158 gr LSWC. Get a reloading manual and check different powders, suggested starting loads etc. Do you reload now, or just getting started?
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Old 11-19-2011, 09:43 PM
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Regardless of what you put into it, a .38 snub is just not much of a defensive gun. You know that, right? The short barrel and high line of recoil guarantee that if you have much power at all, you also have a slow rate of repeat hits. A locked breech 380 can be loaded to have as much or more power, if it is done right, and it conceals a lot more easily and is more controlable in rapidfire. The 9 oz Keltec is too light. The Sig is SA and too expensive. I choose the out of production, $300 Star Pony 380. I pull the 85 gr jhp from Winchester Silvertip ammo and reload it to produce 1200+ fps in that locked breech. It produces nearly 300 ft lbs and that bullet really expands at that speed, yet I can get repeat hits on the chest in .20 second or less, at 5 yds or so. 158 gr standard loads have 200 ft lbs from a .38 snub, and they waste one third of that "power" on overpenetration of the man. That leaves a whole 140 ft lbs to do damage with. From a RIFLE barrel, a .22 Stinger has 160 ft lbs.
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Old 11-19-2011, 10:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Palma View Post
Do you reload now, or just getting started?
No, I have never reloaded. I bought a Lee turret press in the early 1990s but I lost it in a move. I did find all my reloading dies though! Do they make bullet molds for a hollow point LSWC or is that unnecessary? TP
Old 11-19-2011, 10:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tern View Post
Regardless of what you put into it, a .38 snub is just not much of a defensive gun. You know that, right? The short barrel and high line of recoil guarantee that if you have much power at all, you also have a slow rate of repeat hits. A locked breech 380 can be loaded to have as much or more power, if it is done right, and it conceals a lot more easily and is more controlable in rapidfire. The 9 oz Keltec is too light. The Sig is SA and too expensive. I choose the out of production, $300 Star Pony 380. I pull the 85 gr jhp from Winchester Silvertip ammo and reload it to produce 1200+ fps in that locked breech. It produces nearly 300 ft lbs and that bullet really expands at that speed, yet I can get repeat hits on the chest in .20 second or less, at 5 yds or so. 158 gr standard loads have 200 ft lbs from a .38 snub, and they waste one third of that "power" on overpenetration of the man. That leaves a whole 140 ft lbs to do damage with. From a RIFLE barrel, a .22 Stinger has 160 ft lbs.
I agree, it's not the best gun to bring to a fight, but I bought it for my wife. She has had strokes and does not have the hand strength for working the slide on my Ruger 9mm or Springfield Armory M1911A1. She also has small hands and she chose the Rossi snub nose because it felt good to her hand, the recoil was controllable for her and she actually enjoyed going to the range with it! I have cases of ammo for my other guns but only a box of Winchester White box 158 gr LRN. I thought this might be a good gun to start learning reloading on. TP
Old 11-19-2011, 10:26 PM
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you can still find standrd load .38 special in the NOT +P......as factory load. But a good inverted base wad cutter will still punch a respectable hole.......
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Old 11-19-2011, 11:33 PM
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I prefer 158gr LRN. Bought nothing but in almost a decade and a half. (Ok, make that twelve years. Just did the math.) I like classics. Got a few boxes of JHP in the closet here but they're gathering cobwebs. Never have cared for casting my own, I just buy them. Let someone else do the dirty work.

You can get a Lee Loader manual reloader set off of Ebay, Midway, Leeprecision etc. Handy item to have.

I like the .38spec. My fav carry pistol right now is an S&W 36 snubby. Carries five S&B 158's. I don't feel undergunned.

God bless.

rich

Last edited by randkl; 11-20-2011 at 04:40 AM.. Reason: removed the pic lol
Old 11-20-2011, 03:21 AM
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A .38 snub in the pocket beats the hell out of the .45 at home on the nightstand.

As others have mentioned, get a good reloading book and follow the recipe (like canning). I recommend the Lee book because they cater to all bullet types where as the RCBS, Hornady etc only have loads for their bullets.

Like 53convert says, the hollow base wadcutter turned around makes a nice hole.
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Old 11-20-2011, 04:00 PM
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I have both a .357 magnum and a .38sp+P snubby revolver and I load for both. I use both LEE load data and Hornady data, Hornady for the Hornady bullets and LEE for everything else.
I just follow the recipes for the load I am building but I do make up a few custom rounds in .38 special.
I make a .38 birdshot round for snakes and small critters and a .38 buckshot round for larger critters and self defense if necessary. It has 3 #1 buckshot pellets in a plastic case made by SPEER over 5.5 grains of Unique powder and a WSP primer to light it off. The load information is on the back of the box for the plastic cases.
I build lots of wadcutter loads, lead round nose, semi-jacketed soft and hollow point and some fully jacketed hollow point. Just depends on what I'm in the mood to load that session.
My personal favorite for my .38 special revolver is the buckshot round, three pellets within 8 inches at 15 yards. Good enough for me.
Handloading and reloading are not difficult tasks but do have a bit of hazard inherent. Get one or two different load manuals and read them thoroughly first then, if you can, find a friend to help you learn at first and be certain to stop and ask questions if you hit a snag. Here is a good place for information and there are many reloading forums all over the internet for information and assistance.
Be absolutely certain to follow ALL of the safety recommendations provided in the load manuals, they can keep you from causing serious harm and injury to yourself and others.
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Old 11-20-2011, 07:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texas Patriot View Post
No, I have never reloaded. I bought a Lee turret press in the early 1990s but I lost it in a move. I did find all my reloading dies though! Do they make bullet molds for a hollow point LSWC or is that unnecessary? TP
I'm not sure about a mold, I know they did have Lead Semi-wadcutter HP's, but they were used in +P and +P+ factory loads. With a standard pressure load you're not going to get enough velocity for expansion. Start with a large heavy bullet and go for penetration in a non +P. I believe I used 4.4 grains of Uniuqe.
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Old 11-20-2011, 07:56 PM
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Quote:
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Like 53convert says, the hollow base wadcutter turned around makes a nice hole.
It also gets better penetration than I expected.
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Old 11-20-2011, 08:20 PM
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I load cast bullets for .38spl I use in about a dozen different barrel lengths from 2-20".

I started cheap:
- Lee Manual, $20
- Lee Classic reloading set, $18
- Lee 158gr TL SWC bullet mold. $18
- Unique powder

I get scrap wheel weights free from auto repair places. I melt them down in a cast iron pot over a propane side burner on my grill. Pour them in a muffin tin for ingots. Oven mits, overalls, etc. All from thrift store. You can find some good homemade recipes for bullet lube on the web (google cast bullets).

The classic reloading set requires a board and a hammer. I upgraded to a hand press so I could use standard dies, and a scale instead of a dipper so I could work up loads. I'd also recommend a caliper ($10 at Northern Tool) and a bullet puller ($10 at Midway) for the mistake.

FWIW, i have a 6 shot 357 mag snubby that'll put em all in a paper plate at 10 yds. Even out of a 2" barrel, its got enough oomph to deliver. Using a snubby for defense is a completely different skill set than using a hicap plastic gun ... if you know an old cop, ask them for pointers.
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Old 11-22-2011, 05:04 PM
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I have a couple of recommendations for you. I'd try reloading commercially purchased cast bullets first before deciding on casting your own. You might decide that you don't like reloading after all and then you'll be stuck with all that expensive equipment. You'll be able to find pre-cast bullets at most larger sporting goods stores.

Besides buying reloading manuals, also pick up a few reloading texts like ABC's of reloading.
It has several chapters on loading shotgun or pistol or rifle ammo, and goes into much greater detail into the "why's" in reloading instead of the "how's".

Eventually it may turn out that to you reloading is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then again, you might hate it.
Good luck.
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Old 11-22-2011, 05:58 PM
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As far as the .38spl not being up to much, I think this Officer would STRONGLY disagree with you.
http://discoverpolicing.org/people/i...=detail&id=140

The .38spl was used by Law Enforcement for many, many years and those officers went home to their families at the end of their shifts. Is it the best? No it is not, but it is quite a bit more effective than the .380/.32acp class of handguns.

A favorite load of mine that I developed while teaching a lady friend of mine to shoot, is a 124gr cast lead bullet and 5.0 gr of Unique. this is a very accurate load, has minimal recoil, and would be an acceptable defensive load. Note that I stated acceptable, not great. She now carries a S&W Airweight with 135gr Speer loads that are designed for the short barrel guns.

For REAL one shot stops (as proven in multiple tests) the answer is the .357mag with a full power 125gr JHP.
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Old 11-22-2011, 06:11 PM
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It doesn't have to be expensive, although like anything involving firearms there will be those that won't be satisfied unless they get the biggest, best, latest and greatest. I was blessed to have been introduced to casting and reloading by some folks that had spent more money on equipment than on a car, and they encouraged me not to follow in their footsteps as all they're doing now is using the simple stuff. Unless you shoot 1000s of rounds a month, or looking for match grade qualtiy (subMOA) keep it cheap.

All you need in special equipment for casting is a mold.
- Lee 2 Cavity molds are currently $17.50 at MidwayUSA.
- Yard Sale cast iron pot with wooden handle.
- Used 5 gal painters bucket of water for quenching.
- Used Oven Mitts
- Used Muffin Pan, blacker the better.
- Electric or propane burner.
- I wear safety glasses, gloves, and a filter mask when over the pot.
- Shredded plastic or sawdust or leftover candle wax for flux.

Casting for 38s is great because typical molds drop them slightly larger in diameter than jacketed commercial, so they seat well in a straight walled case without a crimp. I switched to cast specifically because I could skip a whole step (crimping) in the process, and a quenched 158gr was giving me what I wanted in expansion for cheap enough that I don't feel I need a JSP commercial. And you can slightly warm the tips with a butane lighter to get a soft over hard cast effect. And I've not had any barrel leading issues.

I've got less than $100 in new equipment to cast and reload for all my calibers, including manuals. I bartered for dies in all my calibers. I also bartered for brass. My only ongoing cost is powder and primers.
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Old 11-23-2011, 11:33 AM
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One of these days I'm going to start reloading 38spl.

Have 5 guns I can shoot it out of:
Rossi 357mag lever action.
2 Ruger Security Sixes.
1 S&W 357mag Highway Patrol.
1 S&W 38spl M&P.

Bought a good 3000 LRN bullets from a friend and have a good 3000+ "once fired" casings.

Have a couple cans of powder I was using to reload 45acp.

Just need primers and need to set up my reloading press.

Got a fishing boat taking up the 3rd bay of my garage. Need to 1st figure out where to park that boat so I can set up a workshop where it is now.
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Old 11-23-2011, 01:47 PM
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If you want a good load for snubby that doesn't use a lot of powder, try the 158gr lead bullet over 1 1/2 grains of Bullseye. It burns fast enough for the short barrel, and you can load a lot of cartgridges with a pound of powder! The recoil is easily manageable. The only problem is in getting a consistent load with such a small amount of powder. I don't use that load much, so I load small batches and weigh each powder charge on a good scale.
Good luck!
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Old 11-23-2011, 02:25 PM
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If you want a good load for snubby that doesn't use a lot of powder, try the 158gr lead bullet over 1 1/2 grains of Bullseye. It burns fast enough for the short barrel, and you can load a lot of cartgridges with a pound of powder! The recoil is easily manageable. The only problem is in getting a consistent load with such a small amount of powder. I don't use that load much, so I load small batches and weigh each powder charge on a good scale.
Good luck!
Friend of mine who kinda talked me into reloading would only use Unique powder on his 45acp rounds.

Unique powder would overflow a 45acp case if you accidently double loaded it.

With Bullseye you have a better chance of getting a double load since charges are so small.

All depends on what you want to do.
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