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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I wanted to make up some light recoil .38 Special loads to introduce new shooters to center fire handguns.

I really hoped to find one of the fast “shotgun” powders, but it didn’t seem like it was going to happen anytime soon, so I dipped into my stock of HP-38.

I use HP-38 for a lot of cartridges, and happily. However, I’ve never gotten the advertised speeds for powder charge in ANY cartridge.

Knowing that, I started with a 158 grain truncated cone bullet cast from a “cowboy alloy” (softer than normal hard cast, I assume) and 3.4 grains of HP-38, which is in the middle of Hodgdons’s 3.1 - 3.7 range, and got about 600 fps from a 4 inch S&W Model 10. Maybe a tad under where I was intending, but it sure is light recoiling, quiet, and at beginners range puts the bullets to the same point of aim as the more assertive loads.

My question is: How slow do you let a bullet roll out of a revolver before you give SERIOUS worry to stuck bullets? My standard deviation is reasonable, and 600 fps seems to me to be a long way from a stuck bullet’s velocity of 0 fps, and so I’m really not concerned. Am I complacent? The most dangerous possibility would be if at the time we were at the range the Action Pistol course might be open and they’d give that a go and be too caught up to notice a squib.

I know folks should always be conscious of a squib, anything that can go wrong will go wrong eventually; but have I reduced the velocity to the point where I’ve significantly changed the odds of that happening?

Thanks.

--scott
 

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Here's my opinion on making cap-gun loads.

Be very careful. I never go below the suggested load data minimum for one reason personally .... because what might manage to make it out of a snubbie, might not make it out of a six inch 686-6 and would definitely not make it out of the end of a 20" CB LTD.

So I figure, why risk getting it mixed up and ten years from now you get a squib and a pill stuck in a barrel and you follow that up with a full load of something and you've got a recipe for disaster, yes.

I've got one baggie full of loads marked "pistol only - NO RIFLE" that I loaded just for my wife's body guard, and I wish I had never done it because I am constantly obsessing over accidentally letting one of those loads get mixed in with some other stuff. I red-fingernail polished the primers and the tips just to try to not make the mistake ... but it's just not worth working-up those sort of loads IMHO.
 

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I've been loading 125 gr copper HPs for the wife's practice rounds at 600 fps and they do just fine. She shoots a Charter Pink Lady
 

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Wrangler
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IMHO, squibs don't happen at 600fps, and your loads do indeed fall well within Hodgdon's published data, the lower numbers you are getting would be caused by the 3.7" less barrel you are running. If these loads reliably chrony in the 600fps range, the chances of a squib are not from the load data, but other factors. The simple act of asking this question elevates you above the level of complacency.

Concerning the lowest velocity that can be safely shot, consistently? It has to leave the barrel to be measured as velocity, so any bullet that consistently leaves the barrel would be safe, not necessarily useful, but safe.
 

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Didn't really want to do much posting, but this needs to be answered in context...

HP-38/W-231 and 158 gr bullets in shorter barreled .38 Spcl is one of those things about reloading... I've loaded a 3.5 charge weight of HP-38 under 158's in .38 Spcl cartridges and fired them from my 3" Barreled GP-100. My chrono'd velocity was in the neighborhood of 660 fps - - but that was with Rainier 158 gr PLHP's. What is the sized diameter of the 158 gr TC cast bullets you are shooting. FWIW, HP-38 in a .38 Spcl cartridge, coupled with a 148 gr Wadcutter goes together like peas and carrots - - especially when you keep those velocities in the 750 fps neighborhood

Will you get a round stuck in the bore? Probably not.

Are you going to get substantially reduced recoil compared to a 3.7 gr load of HP-38 under the same bullet? Not really.

If the sun is to your back when your shooting those loads, can you physically see (and watch the bullet) find it's way to the target? You bet you can.

Are those loads good for anything other than limping along to the target, poking a hole, making some noise, and producing light recoil for brand, new shooters? Nope... Not really.

If you load those same bullets over the 3.7 gr charge weight recommended by Hodgdon, I doubt the shooter (inexperienced or otherwise) will notice the very slight increase in recoil. The difference in pressure though will amount to about a 10% increase, and your velocity will then bump up some as well. You may not be generating sufficient pressure to cause that cast bullet to obturate to the bore diameter - - depending on BHN and the sized diameter of your cast bullets.

Given what you described, and a reasonable concern for sticking a round in the bore, I would load those rascals up with 3.7 gr of HP-38 and probably not look back. The peace of mind from getting a slightly higher velocity out of the bore certainly offsets the comfort of extremely low recoil and noise of new shooters, IMO.
 

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I've been reloading light 38 spl loads for years with a 148gr wadcutter and 3 gr of W 231. I have never had a problem and my wife appreciates the light recoil.
Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks guys. I’m less worried already.

Gallo: Since 3.4 is smack in the middle of Hodgdon’s range of 3.1 to 3.7, it’s not “below the data minimum.” And, I’m not likely to stick it into my carbine since I’ve got more .357 brass than .38 and have a stash of .357s loaded up with 3.8 grains of HP-38 which do 670 fps out of a 4 inch GP-100 and 805 fps out of my 1894c.

DWB: My posting is going to be a lot less soon too I’m guessing, but I wanted to tie up loose ends... I’d bet you’re right on re. the BHN of 12, they’re obviously softer than most store-bought cast, and harder than swaged. They ARE .358 inch. I “could” have started with 3.7 grains based on my previous experience of ALWAYS getting low velocities with any bullet, cast, swaged or jacketed, when used with HP-38 but I’m too old to START load development at the manufacturer’s Max even when I’m pretty darn sure that Max is very hypothetical.

Whatever velocity loss I’m experiencing, outside of my usual HP-38 disconnect, short barrel or poor sealing isn’t too obvious in the barrel. It was one of the easiest to clean barrels I’ve seen in a while.

--scott

P.S. Gallo again: You sure don’t waste any white space on them baggies, do you?:biggrin:
 

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I courted disaster once... ended up marrying her too. :ahhhhh: :biggrin:

Sorry I couldn't resist.
 

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I wanted to make up some light recoil .38 Special loads to introduce new shooters to center fire handguns.

I really hoped to find one of the fast “shotgun” powders, but it didn’t seem like it was going to happen anytime soon, so I dipped into my stock of HP-38.

I use HP-38 for a lot of cartridges, and happily. However, I’ve never gotten the advertised speeds for powder charge in ANY cartridge.

Knowing that, I started with a 158 grain truncated cone bullet cast from a “cowboy alloy” (softer than normal hard cast, I assume) and 3.4 grains of HP-38, which is in the middle of Hodgdons’s 3.1 - 3.7 range, and got about 600 fps from a 4 inch S&W Model 10. Maybe a tad under where I was intending, but it sure is light recoiling, quiet, and at beginners range puts the bullets to the same point of aim as the more assertive loads.

My question is: How slow do you let a bullet roll out of a revolver before you give SERIOUS worry to stuck bullets? My standard deviation is reasonable, and 600 fps seems to me to be a long way from a stuck bullet’s velocity of 0 fps, and so I’m really not concerned. Am I complacent? The most dangerous possibility would be if at the time we were at the range the Action Pistol course might be open and they’d give that a go and be too caught up to notice a squib.

I know folks should always be conscious of a squib, anything that can go wrong will go wrong eventually; but have I reduced the velocity to the point where I’ve significantly changed the odds of that happening?

Thanks.

--scott
I am sure what you are doing is fine and I can promise you that you know more about reloading than I do. I also load 38 Special for my revolver and enjoy it. The alarm that went off reading your post to me is LIABILITY! That would be caused by my 30 years in the insurance business. My concern is that if for ANY reason anything goes wrong and someone is injured or claims to be your assets are on the line. Make sure you have all your bases covered for that problem. I would not touch it with a mile long pole, the cost of store bought ammo would be cheaper than the sleep I would lose.
 

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One of the problems in going really low in charge weight in the (relatively) lengthy 38 Special case is that everything can be fine........then.....you decide to lower the pistol, then raise it before shooting. Now, instead of being near the primer or strung along the bottom of the case the powder is near the bullet. Your 600 fps average then drops precipitously for the next shot....and in a longer barrel, you're courting a stuck bullet. Revolvers allow new shooters to fire another round right into the back of the stuck bullet.

Because their first impulse, if the gun doesn't go bang, is to pull the trigger again before you can yell STOP!!!!!!!!

The load should be checked for said position variations. If velocity dips below 600 fps with the powder positioned forward in the case, discontinue its use with that light of a charge. Velocity of a load should be adequate in the worst case scenario. Add together a light load, forward position in the case and cold weather and you have a real chance of needing a new barrel. Which isn't cheap.

Speaking only of lubricated lead bullets, you are at absolute bottom end for your 4 inch. Check the load as I have described. Generally it's a good idea, in terms of load consistency, to make your bottom end velocity somewhat higher than that. Not to mention the safety standpoint should all the contributing factors line up against you. To answer your own question of whether the load is too light as is, you MUST make this check of velocity variation with forward powder positioning. Worse case scenarios must be modeled to arrive at correct answers.

Does your Smith have the wide land rifling or the narrower type? This has a bearing as well.

The NRA has posted articles detailing extremely light loads in the snubbie 38 with wadcutters, but that's a higher loading density situation that you have, and their suggestions are not for general use, but rather an experienced shooter who checks via sensory input to see that each bullet has exited. Your newbies are not of this sort.

Be careful not to compare what DWB is mentioning with wadcutters (2.8 to 3 grains) to what you are doing. A wadcutter takes up much more case space than your round does and gets much higher pressure and velocity with the same charge as compared to a more shallowly seated bullet like you are using.

I am a Model 10 (actually a wide land, five screw type) shooter myself. Wonderful gun. Most new shooters get to really liking it......almost as much as I do. I often load .36 caliber roundballs I cast myself, somewhat more deeply seated in the case, over a couple grains of Bullseye for really mild recoil for new shooters, then graduate to light wadcutter loads. The short bearing surface of the roundball minimizes sticking odds with low velocity loads. Other viable options to reduce recoil are lighter wadcutters of approximate 100 grain weight, but this option is usually for bullet casters or those fortunate to know a well heeled bullet caster. Lighter bullets don't hit to point of aim at extended ranges either.
 

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I've loaded a ga-jillion .38 Spl. HBWCs over 3.1 grains of HP-38 over the years. It's an accurate load out of my Smiths (any of them).
If you want less recoil for first time shooters, drop you bullet weight and a corresponding reduction in recoil will be appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Who’d’a thunk, but I am still learning things at my advanced age.

35Remington: I always thought that the barrel up / barrel down thing was for bench rest shooters with guns that cost more than my house. I whipped up another batch this morning and ran out to the range where I made more consecutive single action shots with a double action revolver than I’d probably ever made in my life. (And waved a cocked revolver around a little more than usual too.) Sure enough there was a difference, a significant difference since it was greater than two standard deviations, but all velocities still hovered around 600 fps. Since this is only range fodder (as DWB pointed out, it sure ain’t good for much else) and thus will be shot horizontally, and since I imagine that when the cylinder clunks into place in double action fire that the powder probably fills the length of the lowest “side” of the cartridge, the problem is probably non-existent; still, it’s nice to know I checked anyhow.

Wide lands or narrow? I wouldn’t know without two to compare. However if your five screw has wide lands, my substantially more recent 10-11 probably has narrow.

Golphin: I see your point. I may well reserve these for the square range (and my own amusement) and keep a box of WW Whitebox in the range bag just in case the gregarious souls who do action pistol invite my newbie friends over for a “try and see” run at their little corner of the range.

Minute-of-berm’s thoughts echo mine. My deviations are so small that it’s not likely that (short of forgetting powder altogether) my bullets will reach 0 fps within the barrel or anywhere nearby.

Anyway, thanks to all that responded. Until I ever come across something in the speed range of Clays or Red Dot, which is what I originally intended, I’ll quit for now. I’ve got this powder and those bullets and the combination shoots to the point of aim. (At beginner distances anyway.)

--scott
 

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"Non existent" problems have a way of coming into existence......simply because they can. If forward to back velocity variation can bite you at a bad time.......it will. If forward to back produces 100 plus fps variation, or approaching that, I'd pay attention. Otherwise I'd let it go.

So, what was your high velocity? Your low?

If it's a recent model 10, it's narrow land. Such present less travel resistance than my wide land Smith, which really was intended for lead bullets only. One benefit of wide land rifling is less skidding on rifling contact with lead bullets.

IF powder can vary in position in the case with your handloads, it is a proper step of load investigation in terms of ranking relative desirability to model said variation. In this way better or worse powder selections for a particular task can be judged. From here on out, make it part of your handloading procedure in investigating the relative worth of a handload. Your shooting games might involve raising the pistol from the "low ready" position or to simulate holstered draw and even with DA fire the powder is gonna be in the front of the case in such a situation.

When bullets stick in a barrel.....it's not a matter of some just above a certain velocity not sticking and those just barely below that sticking. If you've ever recovered revolver bullets, you'll notice some suffer from what Ed Harris calls "asymmetrical scrub".......some enter the forcing cone a bit off line, evidenced by greater compression/closure of the lube groove on the "scrub" side with some revolvers. These bullets encounter more "stop-start" when transiting the forcing cone. The fact that some revolvers have more barrel/cylinder gap than others, and tighter or looser chamber throats and barrels all play a role.

Add these factors to some others in judging what could happen. Let's say, for instance, you've been shooting jacketed and you decide to break out the lead. This bullet strikes the forcing cone a bit asymmetrically, and there's no lube in the barrel from the previous shooting since you were using hotter jacketed bullet loads so bore drag is increased. Let's also say the powder charge is one sensitive to velocity variation. You might very well go from 500 fps to zero in a longer barrel. It's not a slowly incremental thing in some cases when speaking of a bullet's tendency to stick, and the worst case is what you're guarding against when investigating load minimums in terms of reliably exiting the barrel.

It is worth noting that even low velocity lead bullet cartridges like the British 38/200 and .455 used 600 fps as the bottom end of their velocities and that these same arms, particularly the 38, were noted for sticking bullets when jacketed were substituted for treaty reasons for military use. This is 600 fps to zero....with jacketed. Further, the reason the various 45 ACP military revolvers used shallow rifling was to avoid sticking jacketed bullets in the barrel......and these had near 800 fps starting velocities! The military is quite aware of how everything can go against you and cause a stuck bullet in a revolver.

You should be aware of these things too, and now you are.
 

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Forces having to do with inertia throw the powder to the front of the case when a pistol is raised quickly into a firing position from a muzzle down orientation as the pistol is "swung" around a pivot point. Always investigate powder position sensitivity if powder can move appreciably from front to back in the case. If it can move appreciably back to front.......at some point, it will.
 

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May be a stupid question but can you pack a pistol cartridge with Dacron to prevent powder movement? I've read about it in rifle cases but not so sure I've ever seen anything about it in pistols.
 

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Dacron would require more space than we have here to discuss. I have a great deal of experience with it. Yes, it can work to do what you describe. Smart powder and bullet choice can reduce position sensitivity as well. The thing about Dacron is to some extent you are the beta tester, and are in effect developing your own data as you go.

That doesn't bother some people, but to most it does. Regular sources of hand loading data advise you not to use dacron with their data for the primary reason that they have not developed the data using it. Since they cannot quantify the effect of its inclusion, they advise you not to go there.

I regularly use it in both small and large cases under specific conditions and for specific purposes. If it has no effect on results its use is abandoned. Sometimes its effect is found to be beneficial.
 

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If some one cant handle a 38 special normal round, maybe they should not be shooting at all

My 5ft 4 122lb daughter shot one when she was 77lb and 10 years old.

Ive been shooting a 45acp since I was 10, got to carry an 1903a3 Springfield deer hunting when I was 12.

Dont cuddle the inexperienced, it only handicaps them
 
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