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Johnny Reno

Reloading .38 S&W

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Been reloading .38 Spl for monthly matches but want to get in on some pocket pistol side match action at our annual event in September. I already have an older S&W revolver that's chambered in .38 S&W and would like to stick with that cartridge. I'm shopping for an appropriate pocket pistol now. So here are a few questions:

 

a) recommended dies for my Hornady Lock N Load progressive press?

 

b) recommended loads for what will likely be a turn of the century/probably black powder originally break action revolver?

 

c) whose got a gun they want to part with at a reasonable price? ;)

 

Thanks,

Johnny

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I load all my pocket pistol ammo on a single stage press. It's not worth all the trouble to set up a progressive for 50-100 rounds a year.

Some say you need to use .361 diameter for 38 S&W, I've used .358 diameter 105's for years with success. 

 

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53 minutes ago, Johnny Reno said:

Been reloading .38 Spl for monthly matches but want to get in on some pocket pistol side match action at our annual event in September. I already have an older S&W revolver that's chambered in .38 S&W and would like to stick with that cartridge. I'm shopping for an appropriate pocket pistol now. So here are a few questions:

 

a) recommended dies for my Hornady Lock N Load progressive press?

 

b) recommended loads for what will likely be a turn of the century/probably black powder originally break action revolver?

 

c) whose got a gun they want to part with at a reasonable price? ;)

 

Thanks,

Johnny

a)  LEE  (my opinion only)

b)  Fill with ffg Black Powder.  I use a 110gr bullet

c)  You're NOT gettin' mine!

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Lee dies, 2.2 gr of Trail Boss under a 125 gr .358 RNFP. Goes bang, hits out to a couple yards. What else do ya need?

No, ya can't have mine either. Nice little Forehand & Wadsworth.

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I can post specific loads when I get home to check my charts.

 

One thing you need to determine is if you gun is safe for smokeless or if it requires the use of black powder only.   If it's a true antique, that is to say 1898 or older, then yes, it needs black.  If it's newer than that, you need to check on the specifics for the make and model of the gun to know if it's safe for smokeless.

 

As far as bullets go, I use either a 158 grain .360" round nose or a 150 grain .358" round nose hollow base.  The hollow base allows the smaller bullet to "expand" to engage the rifling on the .38 S&W's larger bore.  

 

For brass, and this is where the two bullet sizes come from, Winchester nickle brass (and some others) is undersized.  If you use the .360" bullets, the case with bulge and not chamber.  Most other other brass takes the larger bullets no problem.

 

The other reason for the 150 grain bullet is that it seats a little higher in the case, allowing for use of slightly more powder.   For Black, this give a marginal increase.  For smokeless, it makes it easier to create "hotter" loads for use in things like the Mark VI Webley or S&W Victory models that were technically chambered for .38/200.   Also, note that .38 Colt New Police is the same cartridge with a different name.

 

Keep in mind that balloon head cases can occasionally be encountered.    I have found older factory ammo, that after shooting, I discovered had these types of cases.   This allows for slightly more powder as well.   (Smokeless as well as black.  Yes, factory smokeless.)   It all adds up to this, depending on what you want to use it for, and what kind of guns you have, you can go from one load, to several specific one based on what you use for powder, brass and bullet.   It all makes for a fascinating cartridge.

 

Finally, there is also a cartridge known as .38-44.   This was a proprietary cartridge made by S&W for use in the full size New Model 3 revolver.  It was essentially an elongated .38 S&W case for use in that gun.  (Colt also chambered the SAA for it)  It should NOT be confused with the .38-44 that was the forerunner of the .357 magnum.  That's a completely different animal.   

 

IF you get yourself a vintage gun chambered for the .38-44, you can safely chamber and fire .38 S&W in that gun as well.   With the proviso that the gun itself is an antique and you need to load appropriately.  If you get such a gun and someone includes a handful of .357 Maximum brass that has been trimmed to the .38-44's length, toss it. 

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Johnny,

 

I've reloaded about 1200 rounds of 38 Special using RCBS's Cowboy Die set (RCBS p/n 18251) for 38 Special/357 also in a Hornady LNL AP.  I use the sizer/deprimer and seater/crimp dies with a powder expander in the Hornady powder drop.  It is a carbide die set so the cases do not need to be lubed for the sizer.  The nice thing about the RCBS Cowboy dies is that they are sized for lead bullets, that is, .358" bullets instead of the standard .357" dimension used for jacketed bullets.  The crimper also makes a roll crimp which is recommended for magizine-type rifle and revolver rounds.

 

I also use the RCBS powder stop die.  After a couple of passed squibs using the Hornady powder cop, I sent it back and got the RCBS.  The Hornady Powder Cop requires you to watch the indicator every time.  If you don't you can pass squibs or double charges.  I passed a squib and found out at a match.  I passed it because I got distracted by a casing that was bent, and in the process of removing that case, I didn't watch the marker and passed the squib.  The RCBS Powder Stop freezes the press if you have no charge or a double charge.  It simply won't let you pass a bad charge.  HIGHLY recommended.  I won't load without it.

 

As for my recipe, I use 3.6 gr of Alliant Powder's Sport Pistol powder and 125 gr Teflon-coated bullets crimped to the recommended AOL.  Alliant claims Sport Powder is design specifically for coated lead bullets.  They say they have minimized the flash generated at ignition since flash can burn the coating off the bottom of coated bullets.  3.6 gr is the lowest recommended load by Alliant.  I get minimal recoil and very reliable firing.

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Missouri Bullet Company makes the exact bullet you need - .361, 145 gr.  Hodgdon has load data.  Lee dies work fine.

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I load all my pocket pistol ammo on a Lee Breach Lock hand press.  I clamp it into my gun vice at a 45 degree angle.  When you only load 100 rounds a year it is much easier and cheaper than setting up my turret press.

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Lee dies are fine and will be labeled .38 S&W New Police. Same cartridge. NO SMOKELESS powder for the vintage you are describing. Metallurgy of the era you describe wasn't up to smokeless pressures. Fill the case with BP or sub so it contacts the base of the bullet. 

 

The above assumes the gun is in good shape to begin with. Many of these old pocket pistols have been beaten to death with it and should relegated to wall hangers (I have one). Get it checked out beforehand.

 

Good luck!

 

 

 

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Thanks for all the help and suggestions. I was forced to go out of town this weekend fishing and was off the grid.

 

I appreciate the replies.

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 have two 38 S & W but don't if they qualify for side matches.  One is a lemon squeezer and the other is a top break, spur trigger.

Also dies and brass.  Will be listing next week.

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1 hour ago, Rufus Brady said:

 have two 38 S & W but don't if they qualify for side matches.  One is a lemon squeezer and the other is a top break, spur trigger.

Also dies and brass.  Will be listing next week.

 

Don't see why they would not qualify.   I have used my Merwin  and Hulbert spur trigger in side matches, and I have seen people using lemon squeezers.  They only thing that could possibly disqualify them would be the barrels being too long.

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