Understanding Reloading Formulas .38 Spl

Discussion in 'Reloading Forum (All Calibers)' started by Odyssey, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. Odyssey

    Odyssey

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    I’m preparing for my 1st reloading project. I purchased Berry’s 38/357 158GR RN bullets. I will be reloading approx. 300 rounds of .38 spl. I inherited quite a bit of old powder from the 1990's that I know was stored in an appropriate environment. I have read that powder stored well lasts for very long time. I would like to use the powder I have rather than purchase new powder. I have a 1lb can of 231 that’s never been opened and a half full open can of 231. I read that 231 is a popular powder for .38 spl. I’ve been looking at load formulas specific to the 231 powder from the sources I inherited. I’m struggling to understand the load data from the various sources. I interpret it to have a wide variation from source to source which seems odd but again, I am just starting out.

    I understand from Berry’s Bullets site I can use any formula as long as it is for the 158gr bullet and it does not exceed the max velocity for the bullet. In this instance, 1250 fps.

    Modern Reloading Lee Richardson 2nd Ed. = (lead bullet) start 3.1gr / 782fps. *Not to exceed 3.7gr
    Sierra handgun Reloading Manual 50th Anniversary = (JHC & JSP) 4.9gr / 850fps
    Speer Reloading Rifle & Pistol Manual #12 = (L-SWC, L-HP, L-RN) 4.0gr / 792fps & 4.4gr 878fps

    If Lee manual states not to exceed 3.7gr how can 4.0gr & even 4.9gr stated in Sierra and Speer respectively be safe?
     
  2. Rdlningcltchdmpr

    Rdlningcltchdmpr Gold $$ Contributor

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    Maybe it has to do with the bullet construction. I know it's not advisable to push lead bullet's fast, whereas jacketed bullet's can withstand the pressure. ? Call some bullet manufacturers and ask. And look at the speed of factory ammo for comparison.
     
  3. whatsupdoc

    whatsupdoc

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    From my Hornady Third Edition manual 38 Special 158 Grain Lead Round Nose #3586

    Win 231
    3.0 Grains 650 FPS
    4.4 Grains 850 FPS

    Now I will tell you from experience you do NOT want to load Lead Bullets Fast.
    I have done it with 38 special and 44 Mag, only to have a lead coated bore that looked like a rusty old drain pipe.

    I became an expert with a Lewis lead remover.
     
  4. rsmithsr50

    rsmithsr50

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    do NOT MIX LOAD DATA FOR LEAD BULLETS WITH JACKETED BULLETS.
    FIRST ERROR, BUT YOU asked which is good.
    berrys bullets are more than lead but LESS than jacketed( they are copper PLATED soft lead)
    so use jacketed data up the speed limit.
    these are not FORMULAS.. they will not make exactly what is listed. they are load data to WORK FROM.
    guns are diff, bbl are diff, lots of powder are different.
    do not load all three hundred..load 10-25 and go test

     
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  5. spclark

    spclark Gold $$ Contributor

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    Yep, good advice.

    Different manuals have info from different testing scenarios; test barrels aren’t all created equal.

    Same applies to the firearms being loaded with the ammunition you intend to make up for your own personal use. Cylinder bores, forcing cones, cylinder-to-barrel gap, barrel length, barrel characteristics... all play a role in what works best.

    Different companies making load manuals available have lawyers on retainer that don’t always agree among themselves about where the line between safe and not safe should be drawn. Some are more conservative than others but the starting loads indicated are generally agreed upon to be safe... as long as you do your part to follow the rest of the instructions they provide.
     
  6. lb-ft

    lb-ft

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    Specific to Berry's plated bullets, I've typically had the best luck loading from the upper limit of lead to the lower limit of jacketed.
     
  7. JSH

    JSH

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    You will see variations in charge weights because
    They don’t all use the same exact gun or barrel
    Bullet design
    Bullet weight
    OAL will vary also because of bullet design and throat length.

    With cast bullets,size is king period.
    Cast can be shot at jacketed velocities in a fair number of applications, pistol and rifle. Though most designs will shoot well without pushing them to jacketed thresholds.

    38 special is easy to work with most of the time.
    Forcing a powder into play because it was free or you don’t want to buy more, well YMMV. Depends on what you expect from it.

    I strive for jacketed accuracy and get it after some work.

    The plated bullets should cause no issue unless you chase magnum velocity, last I had said what top speed for them was.

    231 will work, but bullseye or unique is your friend.

    Cast bullets, all I need for any rifle or pistol is unique,2400 and 4895. Will work well in about anything from 22 through 50.
     
  8. Rsadams

    Rsadams

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    I have loaded thousands of Berry's bullets in .38 and 9mm.... Load them as lead , hopefully you have a cronograph.... You are not going to have to worry about reaching Berry's max speed especially in .38 spl.... One word of real GOOD advise is it's super easy to double charge a .38 case because it's an old black powder load so be careful and watch for it.!!!

    Win 231 which I use also , will be position sensitive in the .38 case...The day I stopped reloading for .38 spl was a happy one for me because of the above mentioned comments.... It was the only thing I loaded for that gave me problems... I am not saying don't , by all meens give it a try , just be sure you know exactly what's going on... Win 231 is not a powder that is made for full power loads , medium power , it works fine... If you looking for full power loads use another powder...Hogdons powders webpage has load data for win 231 and lead bullets.... Start LOW and work up.... I normally always end up about the middle with Berry's bullets....
     
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  9. Mikemci

    Mikemci Gold $$ Contributor

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    ^^THIS^^
     
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  10. K22

    K22

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    I've used 231 Win powder for over 30 years in the 38 special with swagged, cast and jacketed bullets. It meters very well and is very effective under certain conditions and observing certain precautions. You can also get a lot of reloads out of one pound of powder.

    Precautions:

    This a fast burning powder so don't push it - work up slowly. Not the good choice for heavy jacketed bullets.

    Also, you must have a fail safe system to prevent a double charge since a double charge will easily fit in the case. My system is to turn all cases in a loading block primer side up so as I charge each case this greatly minimizes the chances of a double charge. After all cases are charged with powder I also visually check to make sure each case is charged and doesn't contain a double charge. This is a must since a double charge will blow up the gun and can cause serious injury to the shooter. An uncharged case may result in a bullet becoming lodged in the barrel. If you fire another round you'll blow up the gun and possible suffer injury.

    Performance:

    In my experience this powder works best with light charges of swagged & lead bullets and moderate charges of light weight jacketed bullets, i.e. 110 and 125 grains.

    If it's the ultimate accuracy you're seeking nothing beats the 148 grain Speer Hollow Base Wadcutter. This a swagged bullet intended for light charges of fast burning powder for precise target shooting.

    The Hornady 125 XTP is the most effective and accurate jacketed bullet I've found with 231 and the 38 special. If your pistol is rated for 38+P pressure, this makes an effective defense and small game load. My Speer Manual No 13 contains load data for both standard 38 Special revolvers and those rated for +P.

    I've had good results with the Oregon Trail Laser Cast bullets in 125 grain using 231. Very accurate but they're not cheap. To avoid serious leading problems, light to moderate charges work best.

    The problem with 158 grain jacketed bullets in the 38 special is that they can't be driven fast enough to be effective especially with 231. I would avoid them in a 38 special revolver.

    I have no experience with Berry bullets but as some one else mentioned, it seems they are between a lead and jacketed bullet.
     
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  11. Rsadams

    Rsadams

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    Some are saying don't load Berry's as lead... Hmmmm...... In 124gr Berry's bullet in 9mm a max charge loaded as lead was 1199fps over my crono... That's way hot , I accidentally loaded 5 at that charge and decided to try them... I normally load them down to about 980ish fps because the paper doesn't care and it's less wear and tear on both the gun and me... So I can't even imagine loading them middle of the road data for a FMJ.. It's alot more than the max using lead data.. Be careful...
     
  12. Twicepop

    Twicepop Silver $$ Contributor

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    My first suggestion is do not use the 231, it's too easy to get a double charge with that and Bullseye also. I'd suggest something along the lines of Unique, Power Pistol, Blue Dot Longshot (one of my favorites for the 38) even 2400 for some stiff loads. Pick something that is in the middle of the burn rate range, a double charge will ruin your gun and could cause life changing consequences.
     
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  13. riflewoman

    riflewoman Gold $$ Contributor

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    Here’s a snapshot from the 1997 edition of the Winchester loading booklet. It shows a start load of 4.0and a max load of 4.5. These are for standard pressure loads. I would load 4.0 and 4.2, see which shot the best, and be done with it. 1F054192-E10D-48C4-B4C2-6DC975472036.jpeg
     
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  14. Odyssey

    Odyssey

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    Thank you for the great info. and sharing your experience. I spoke with Berry's. They were very helpful. They suggested using the Hogdon website reloading data and using the starting load load for the 158gr HDY XTP using the 231 = (3.8gr 661fps 12,600 cup).
    I agree loading a small quantity and test shooting them before loading all 300 is good advice.
    Will running loaded cartridges across the scale I purchased allow me to identify a double charge? The scale I purchased from Midway claims 0.01 gram tolerance.
     
  15. AJC

    AJC

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    I would say no. You would have to weigh all your components first then calculate the largest value you can achieve between all the lightest and all the heavy components used. That will likely be larger than some load weights.
     
  16. Odyssey

    Odyssey

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    I agree. After reading more threads that would not be an effective way to identify a double charge. Visual seems the be the consensus. Is there a powder that would fill the 38 spl and .45 LC cartridges enough that a double charge would spill over? Safety is the most important thing to me. It seems a spill over is extra help in identifying a double charge. Still, won't help with spotting a squib.
     
  17. Rsadams

    Rsadams

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    You are going to have a very hard time finding a powder that will over flow a .38 case when double charged.... I don't think it exist but I could be wrong.... The only way to check for a double charge is to look into each and every case before seating bullets to insure the levels are the same , preferably with a small flashlight... If you're not exactly sure about reloading , take the time to be sure... Ask any questions here and you will get a answer , we all started at some time and most of the questions you asked we have all asked... Reloading is a safe hobby once you have learned it... My best advice at this point is if you're not sure , DON'T and if your gut says there's a problem STOP.. Take your time and safety first....
     
  18. Odyssey

    Odyssey

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    Rsadams, Thank you. Great advice. I'll make certain I have a well lit reloading area and appropriate lighting to clearly view into each case as it's charged.
     
  19. Uncle Ed

    Uncle Ed

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    Last year I made the mistake of placing each bullet in the case after charging each case from my Chargemaster. I was loading very light cowboy action loads for my Ruger Vaquero .357 magnum and double charged one of the cases. I was lucky the cylinder had very thick walls and built like a tank and no damage was done. BUT the case had to be pounded out of the cylinder and the case was very deformed.

    Bottom line, when loading light charges of powder check all the cases in the loading block making sure the powder is at the same level in each case. And after this check then put all the bullets in the cases and seat the bullets.

    This was the first mistake I ever made when charging a case with powder in over 48 years of reloading. The Chargemaster didn't make the mistake, I simply became distracted and forgot to move the funnel. And the biggest mistake was not visually checking all the cases in the loading block and making sure the powder was at the same level in each case.

    [​IMG]

    Below a Ruger Blackhawk .44 Special cylinder on the left and a .357 cylinder on the right. And the thicker .357 cylinder did not let go and protected my screw up. You can also use a powder that is impossible to double charge the case with. But this may prevent the lower velocity in mouse fart reduced loads.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
  20. Odyssey

    Odyssey

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    Uncle Ed. I appreciate it. I will be loading .45LC after this 1st .38spl project. I'lll start a new thread specific to selecting cowboy action bullets & loads for that project when the time comes. I chose the .38 first simply because I have a lot of brass and my cartridge inventory is low. My father in law wanted to shoot the .357 Python he bought with my boys. After the 50 rds of .357 magnum he brought with him, they proceeded to shoot up my .38 spl. A good time was had by all.
     

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