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Reloading .38


Sheriff Judy

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Gearing up to reload my 38’s for CAS and was wondering if there is any published reloading information or data dedicated to CAS for revolvers/rifles to meet match regulations, 38 specifically. 
 

What seems to be the bullet weight of  choice or preferred for CAS in both the rifle and revolvers? Bullet manufacture? 
 

Preferred powder?

 

 

 


 

 

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I like 105 grn for pistols, 130 grn for rifle. Both with 3.0 bullseye powder. Mid range power factor. 

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I use the same load for rifle and pistol. 125 grain tcfp hightec coated bullet from CheyCast with 3.0 grains of clays

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We use the 105 gr. truncated point with the hi tech coated on them. We use 3.0grs.clays  currently. The reason I say currently is because of the availability of powders. We have a supply of different types of powder that can be used in the 38 specials. Just a few that will work in the 38 special are Alliant bullseye, IMR 700x, Hodgdonhp38, win 231, Vit 310, Vit 320, and Alliant unique. And ther are many more that can be used.

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In an answer to your question.  Hodgdon has phamplets with cowboy loads listed.   Their website should have the info also      GW

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Pistol 96 grain Bear Creek 2.5 Clays/ClayDot seated low in case

Rifle 105 grain truncated poly 2.5 grains Clay/ClayDot 1.499 COL

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17 hours ago, Sheriff Judy said:

Gearing up to reload my 38’s for CAS and was wondering if there is any published reloading information or data dedicated to CAS for revolvers/rifles to meet match regulations, 38 specifically. 
 

What seems to be the bullet weight of  choice or preferred for CAS in both the rifle and revolvers? Bullet manufacture? 
 

Preferred powder?

 

 

 


 

 

Alliant publishes CAS loads for their powders.  However, powder manufacturers publish velocities for their powders.  Compare their published velocities to SASS specs to pick a load.  The Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook is an excellent resource.

 

125 grain bullets seem most preferred.  TC or RNFP profiles work best in rifles.  There are many quality casters.  I prefer coated bullets with of BH12 hardness and not hard cast.  Try to find a caster who delivers to matches you attend to save shipping costs.  If you can't find one, look for one that offers free shipping in larger quantities or ships in USPS flat rate boxes.  I currently deal with Missouri Bullets, Bang and Clang, Penn Bullets, Desperado Bullets, Chey Cast, SNS Casting and Colorado Cast Bullets.  I have not bought bullets from Badman Bullets or Bullets by Scarlet but would do so.  BTW, you may have to experiment with cartridge overall length to get good feeding in your rifle.  If this is a problem, ask us for suggested lengths.

 

Regarding powder, there is a long list pistol or pistol/shotgun powders that work well.  My last batch of smokeless 38s was loaded with American Select though I have loaded with Bullseye, Unique, W231, Green Dot, Sport Pistol, Trail Boss and N320.  All worked well.  Clays is the local favorite.  Currently, Tightgroup and W231 seem most available online.  Skip black powder or BP subs for now.

 

You did not ask about brass, but once-fired brass is available (in normal times) from online auction sites.  I pay a nickel apiece (or less) for once-fired, all brass cases.  I don't buy nickel-plated cases as they split after just a few reloads.  I do use unfired cases from Starline in my rifle for major matches.

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105g for revolvers and 125 grain tcfp hightec coated Bullets by Scarlet, 2.7 grains of trail boss for both

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On rifles I had a slightly fussy Rossi M92 that would not feed any 38 Specials with less than 140 grain rnfp bullets, my Uberti 1873 has not been that fussy.

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I use anything from 125 to 140 grain bullet, depending on what's available or what I might have cast up, and any of a dozen "ideal" powders, and a dozen more that will work if none of the "ideal" stuff is available. I usually use Clays or Titegroup in .38 Spl, but 3.0 - 3.5 grains of Bullseye, Red Dot, IMR Red, Clays, Clay Dot, 700X, Titegroup, American Select, Trail Boss, AA #2, HP-38, W231, Unique, and a few others in that range should work fine. Unique might need a little more, maybe 4.0 grains or so, to be consistent with bullets lighter than 158 grains.

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Many powders are fine for CAS.38's. Needs to be a pistol/shotgun powder (fast) not a rifle powder (slow).  Make a list of all the responses and buy whatever you can find.  I've used mostly Unique, but also Clays, WST, and Trailboss.   Since you are just starting, make life simple and use the same load for pistol and rifle.  125gr is the best for that IMO. The bottom end of the load data is usually fine for CAS, though some powders can be cold-sensitive (if it's cold enough to affect my powder, I'm staying home. :) ). Coated bullets are very popular, I like cimarronbullets.com but there are lots of others that are popular.   

BUT: this is assuming you are using a '66 or '73.  As DeakonKC meantioned above, some other models may need longer ammo for rifle, which might need a different bullet.

 

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For smokeless powder loads..... I use 3 gn of any fast powder that falls out of the powder locker when I open the door. Right now Titegroup seems to be at the front of the cabinet. It use to be Clean Shot.... why ...... because that was what was for sale at the time. It just does NOT MATTER! 3 gn of any of it will work in a 38. Same goes for bullets. Loading to play this game is not very critical. As long as you keep your loads down toward the bottom, it just really doesn't matter much. All the fast powders will give adaquate performance to hit the targets at the ranges used in this game. That being said...... overall length of the ammo used in most of the rifles is a factor that is worth looking at. Most of the 73s will operate with ammo that is too short. But if you want to use the most efficient ammo in the 73, you will load a round that is the length of the lifter, something close to 1.5 oal. This keeps the ammo from being pushed in and out of the magazine with every shot. Some rifles, such as the 92, like a weight forward round loaded into it. This keeps the nose down and helps stop them from stove-pipeing. The revolvers don't care what length ammo you use in them. Most of the light loads used in straight-wall cases in this game will leave some amount of soot and blow back from low pressure and limited sealing in the chamber, so you ought to clean out your action fairly often to keep it runing smoothly. Using just one load for both pistols and rifle makes for a lot less hassle when loading. If you want to start getting more critical, then you can load a faster round for your rifle to keep from dragging the round off target as you sweep through across the targets on your 12 sec run..... Ha! But the bottom line is this....it's hard to not produce a load that will work just fine in this game. For any serious shooting, I have my favorite bullet. ;)

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I’ve been reloading for CAS for almost 11 years. During that time my ‘recipe’ hasn’t changed much. I use 125 grain TCFP bullets over 2.7-2.8 grains of Clays. I load to an OAL of ~1.45. Following the KISS principle rifle and pistol loads are the same. I buy once fired brass for about .05 each. I do not use nickeled brass.

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125 gr bullet with 3.6 grs of Tite-Group. A little "snappy" but very controllable and works for both rifle and pistols.

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Here is a link to the Hodgdon's reload center.  The the load I use. I use 3.0gr. Clays behind a 125gr TCFP bullet is exactly middle of the road. You can put it whatever caliber and bullet weight you want and click on which powder you want(as long as it is one that Hodgdon sells).

 

https://www.hodgdonreloading.com/reloading-data-center

 

Randy

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Some of the most important things to be aware of and that are under your control;

 Use enough powder so your primers are reset into the case when you shoot. 

 A good crimp will help as it also will aid in this direction and will also help you to not have bullets pushing back into the case in your rifle.

 Make sure you don't have high primers before you start shooting. 

 Make sure there is powder in your loaded bullets BEFORE you shoot them, visual checking before seating bullets is one way or checking loaded bullets with a funnel to listen for powder is another.

 Check for cracked cases before you prime and load them will save a lot of irritation on the line.

kR

 

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105gr coated truncated flat nose & 2.7 Grns of TiteGroup for both rifle & pistols. 125 grn bullets work just as well with everything else the same. Only brass cases for me, & seat the 105's to 1.45. You can leave the seating depth the same when using 125Gr bullets, & the press will seat those to 1.42, which word fi e inl 4 of our rifles & all of our 38 pistols. Red Dot can be loaded the same. When I used Clay's, it took slightly more powder for the same ballistics.

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7 hours ago, Randy Saint Eagle, SASS # 64903 said:

Here is a link to the Hodgdon's reload center.  The the load I use. I use 3.0gr. Clays behind a 125gr TCFP bullet is exactly middle of the road. You can put it whatever caliber and bullet weight you want and click on which powder you want(as long as it is one that Hodgdon sells).

 

https://www.hodgdonreloading.com/reloading-data-center

 

Randy

Looks like at 3.6 grs of TiteGroup with 125 bullet I’m at close to maximum. (3.8) Good I like a little recoil I feel like I’m shooting !!

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The wife used to run 105s in revolver and 125 in rifle.  She now runs 125s in both with no complaint about recoil.

Smokeless: 3.4grn of Tite-group.

BP: heaping 1cc scoop of APP 3F.

 

With 125s you shouldn't have to worry about pistol knockdowns.

 

BS

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105 gr. Chey cast coated bullet and 3- 3.5 gr.. Of Tite Group for both rifle and pistols, been using it for years and ain’t likely to change!

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13 hours ago, Barry Sloe said:

The wife used to run 105s in revolver and 125 in rifle.  She now runs 125s in both with no complaint about recoil.

Smokeless: 3.4grn of Tite-group.

BP: heaping 1cc scoop of APP 3F.

 

With 125s you shouldn't have to worry about pistol knockdowns.

 

BS

No problem running a space under the bullet with APP? It takes about 1.2 to touch the base. I just loaded some to the base but haven't shot them yet. 

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15 minutes ago, Mister Badly said:

No problem running a space under the bullet with APP? It takes about 1.2 to touch the base. I just loaded some to the base but haven't shot them yet. 

Not with APP. And with a heaping 1.0 there is minimal space. 

 

BS

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I tend to overthink things, and as a result some of my loads do not follow the common guidelines. 

 

That was my warning. 

 

I suppose the first thing I'd want to know is what rifle do you shoot? And what handguns do you shoot? 

 

I shoot a '66 with a 16" barrel, and the magazine is designed to hold 9 rounds. The spring has been shortened so that about 4" sticks out the end, and it will hold 10 if the OAL (Over All Length) is held to 1.5". I can go as short as 1.45 before feeding becomes an issue. Also, with all the toggle link actions, a truncated cone bullet feeds most reliably. I use a 147 gr TC , one that is coated and doesn't have a cannelure. I crimp into the bullet body, hard, so no part of the case mouth is higher than the surface of the bullet. 

 

I use AA452 powder because I have it, but basically the goal is to load to a decent and consistent velocity. My load is well under 1000 fps in my rifle, and about 750 in a handgun. It will not beat you up. With Trail Boss the velocity is a bit lower with consistent velocities. 

 

This is a rifle load, but it shoots well in my handguns as well. I don't like changing the front sight height on my handguns as that involves removing metal, permanently. 

 

Shooting the same ammo in handgun and rifle is convenient, but not mandatory. My supply of 147 gr bullets dried up so I began rationing them and therefore developed an alternate handgun load. My handguns are 357 Mag, and until now I have shot 38s out of them. Who knows that the future will bring. My quest for a suitable handgun round did not go any further than shooting a wadcutter, a LEE 358-148-WC. Loading data is fairly easy to come by. But it's your basic about 3 grains of any fast powder. It shoots to the sights in just about every handgun I own. I use TB, 2.5 grains for just under 650 fps. It is consistent and shoots to the sights. 

 

A lighter bullet is the goal of many shooters and you cannot argue with that. Light and slow for a nice shooting round. I didn't have much luck with light and low. To get consistency my velocities were higher than my goal. I went to 38 LC brass, and that helped, but they are a bit short for the 357 chambers. Revolvers tend to tolerate one step shorter ammunition, but start to loose performance (mostly accuracy) at 2 steps shorter. Same as 44 Russian in 44 Mag, 44 Spl OK, but you start to loose some with 44 Russian from what I've read. 

 

From what I can determine, 38 Spl has the most varied loading preferences of all the Cowboy calibers. It's fairly hard to not have decent cowboy ammo with just about anything. 

 

Pick a weight of bullet, settle on an OAL that works best in your rifle, and then pick a powder. Bullseye, 231, Trail Boss, Titewad, Clays, Red Dot, and so on. A double charge is a real and dangerous thing, I'd suggest Trail Boss to begin with. Unfortunately it may not be obtainable due to production issues. 

 

If you could give us the bullet make and weight you'd like to use, I'm sure someone can give you a good load. 

 

Here's my 38 WC load. 

 

Calibre

38 S&W Special

Date Loaded

2019-08-24

Powder

Trail Boss

Weight in Grains

 2.5  (5S)

Bullet

358-148-WC LEE

Weight in Grains

149 > 150

Primer

Fed 100

Loaded OAL

1.24

Case

W-W 38 SPECIAL (Nickel)

Weight in Grains

 

Times Loaded

 

Number loaded

10, 10, 50

Rifle

NV 320

Barrel clean/fouled

 

Velocity Av

638/638

Es

29.5/19.9

Sd

14.2/7.4

Shots

5>/5<

 

I use Nickel cases, cause they are pretty. At the pressures and velocities I shoot, they last long enough. And because lots of shooters don't like then, they are cheap., under 0.05$ each most of the time. Any lower a charge will give erratic ignition, that will show up with a greater Extreme Spread and Standard Deviation. 

 

A bit old, but still a good reference is the Oregon Trails manual, available for download all over the internet. 

 

https://oregontrailbullets.com/xcart/images/filemanager/uploads/otbc-load-manual.pdf

 

BB

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On 12/31/2021 at 11:33 PM, DeaconKC said:

On rifles I had a slightly fussy Rossi M92 that would not feed any 38 Specials with less than 140 grain rnfp bullets, my Uberti 1873 has not been that fussy.

 

whatever bullet you plan to use, get some samples from a pard first and make some dummy rounds to confirm they feed through your rifle before you load up 1000 of them (or order a whole bunch)  you'd hate to get a bunch of bullets your gun doesn't like.  if you need samples of the Lee 358-125-rf, the Lee 358-158-2r or the Lee 358-200-rf feel free to DM me and I'll send you some.  for reference, if you are a bullet caster, all three of these bullets work in my recent production Rossi 92 in 38 special and .357 magnum brass (the 200 grain is over the OAL when crimped in the groove for .357 mag, so I seat that one back to .357 mag max length and it ends up being the same OAL whichever brass I put it in.

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35 minutes ago, El CupAJoe said:

 

whatever bullet you plan to use, get some samples from a pard first and make some dummy rounds to confirm they feed through your rifle before you load up 1000 of them (or order a whole bunch)  you'd hate to get a bunch of bullets your gun doesn't like.  if you need samples of the Lee 358-125-rf, the Lee 358-158-2r or the Lee 358-200-rf feel free to DM me and I'll send you some.  for reference, if you are a bullet caster, all three of these bullets work in my recent production Rossi 92 in 38 special and .357 magnum brass (the 200 grain is over the OAL when crimped in the groove for .357 mag, so I seat that one back to .357 mag max length and it ends up being the same OAL whichever brass I put it in.

Chey-Cast, Bang and Clang and SNS Cast Bullets all offer sample packs of their cast bullets.  Yes, loading dummy rounds to check feeding in your rifle is wise.

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On 12/31/2021 at 9:27 PM, Marshal Chance Morgun said:

pistol, 130 gr. FNRP. rifle, 147gr. truncated cone, OAL 1.52". both with 2.7 grs Clays or ClayDot

Is the Clays or ClayDot powder clean?

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On 12/31/2021 at 11:34 PM, Edward R S Canby, SASS#59971 said:

Alliant publishes CAS loads for their powders.  However, powder manufacturers publish velocities for their powders.  Compare their published velocities to SASS specs to pick a load.  The Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook is an excellent resource.

 

125 grain bullets seem most preferred.  TC or RNFP profiles work best in rifles.  There are many quality casters.  I prefer coated bullets with of BH12 hardness and not hard cast.  Try to find a caster who delivers to matches you attend to save shipping costs.  If you can't find one, look for one that offers free shipping in larger quantities or ships in USPS flat rate boxes.  I currently deal with Missouri Bullets, Bang and Clang, Penn Bullets, Desperado Bullets, Chey Cast, SNS Casting and Colorado Cast Bullets.  I have not bought bullets from Badman Bullets or Bullets by Scarlet but would do so.  BTW, you may have to experiment with cartridge overall length to get good feeding in your rifle.  If this is a problem, ask us for suggested lengths.

 

Regarding powder, there is a long list pistol or pistol/shotgun powders that work well.  My last batch of smokeless 38s was loaded with American Select though I have loaded with Bullseye, Unique, W231, Green Dot, Sport Pistol, Trail Boss and N320.  All worked well.  Clays is the local favorite.  Currently, Tightgroup and W231 seem most available online.  Skip black powder or BP subs for now.

 

You did not ask about brass, but once-fired brass is available (in normal times) from online auction sites.  I pay a nickel apiece (or less) for once-fired, all brass cases.  I don't buy nickel-plated cases as they split after just a few reloads.  I do use unfired cases from Starline in my rifle for major matches.

Which powder do you prefer if you had the choice, which is cleaner?

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6 hours ago, Sheriff Judy said:

Is the Clays or ClayDot powder clean?

 

No powder is "perfectly clean," especially in typical Cowboy match loadings.  Both Clays and Clay Dot are clean enough that if you load so as to generate 7000 PSI chamber pressure that you will likely never notice fouling from powder.  So are several other pistol and shotgun powders in pistol cartridge lead bullet loads.

 

6 hours ago, Sheriff Judy said:

Which powder do you prefer if you had the choice, which is cleaner?

 

I slightly prefer Clay Dot over Clays because it has been more available over the last 8 years and slightly cheaper (usually).   As well, when used in VERY light Cowboy type loads, Clay Dot will not get weak and squibby at temperatures of 40 F and colder when in equivalent loads Clays will. I've used both, and made the switch from Clays to Clay Dot for SASS .38 special loading, due mainly to availability and cold weather performance.

 

Both are good enough powders that I would not shed a tear if the other was not available, however.  Sometimes figuring out a "perfect" solution is a fool's errand when lots of powders are quite good enough.   Especially when any one powder, or worse many powders, are just about unobtainable.

 

(and when our required accuracy levels are greater than 75 MOA!!!    That's 15 inch wide targets at ten yards, which is a long shot anymore)

 

good luck, GJ

 

 

 

 

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54 minutes ago, Sheriff Judy said:

Is the Clays or ClayDot powder clean?

I have used Clays since I started CAS in 2005 and I think it is much cleaner than a lot of other powders I’ve seen used. I briefly tried Trail Boss when I was shooting .45 Colt and didn’t like it as I got too much unburnt powder. When I switched to .38 I stayed with Clays and have never regretted it. I load 3.0 gr. behind a 125 TCFP bullet and don’t have any trouble in cooler weather.  
 

Randy

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