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Smokeless powder Light Load Danger?


Iron Jim Rackham

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I was told today that it's dangerous to shoot light loads of smokeless powder. I never heard that previously, but was told/warned that the danger arises from the powder in light loads exploding, rather than burning with high pressure spikes resulting. I shoot 1873 lever rifles and would like to load .38 Special loads in .357 brass...on the premise that the .357 cases will help prevent short stroking. I am concerned though about shooting light .38 caliber loads in larger .357 brass. Can any offer any insights? Thanks

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By "short-stroking" do you mean closing the lever before it has has been fully opened and the carrier block has not reached a position where the bolt can slide the cartridge case into the breach?  I don't believe that cartridge length will solve your problem. 

If you mean not closing the lever far enough to engage the lever safety before you are opening it again, and jacking out a round, cartridge length is not the answer there either.  

Simply practicing technique will give you the "muscle memory" (for lack of a better word), to get you over this hump.

 

As for powder load... Don't load down at the minimum levels and you'll be fine.  For instance, I use a mid-range load of my powder in a .38 Special case with a 125gr bullet.  I can use that same load without problem in a .357 case, even though it falls a few tenths of a grain below min published data for .357 Magnum.  I wouldn't do that if I loaded at the .38 Special minimum or below.  Not because I'd be afraid of the load exploding, but because I wouldn't want a squib, where the bullet doesn't leave the barrel.

 

Can you explosively detonate with a very, very, light load in a large case?  Possibly, but it's been really hard to reproduce.  I'll leave you with this article:

https://reloadammo.com/light-loads-can-explode/

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Howdy

 

Smokeless Powders are known as Progressive Burning Propellants. They do not explode as Black Powder does. Instead, as the powder burns the exhaust gasses generated raise the pressure inside the cartridge. The more pressure there is, the faster the powder burns. Once the critical pressure has been achieved it will push the bullet out of the case and down the bore. Ideally pressure will continue to build until the projectile exits the muzzle but practically speaking most of the powder is completely burned before the projectile exits the muzzle. Of course all of this happens in a microsecond or two, so to our ears the resultant bang sounds like an explosion.

 

Here is the theory of what can happen with loads that are too light:

 

With a very light load of powder, the primer may begin to shove the bullet out of the case before the powder begins burning efficiently. The primer does not generate enough pressure to drive the bullet completely out of the case, so the bullet stops 'short'. Meanwhile, the light charge of powder has begun to burn progressively, but instead of being able to begin pushing the bullet the rest of the way out of the case, the bullet acts as an obstruction in the bore. The pressure can build exponentially, even with a very light load, and in the case of a revolver with thin chamber walls the cylinder can burst.

 

This is all theory, to my knowledge it has never been scientifically proven. It has been argued about in gun boards for a very long time. Often when a firearm bursts it is suspected there was an inadvertent over charge of powder, perhaps a double charge. But experience has shown over the years that this phenomenon, I think it is called a Short Shot or something like that, is a real possibility.

 

One reason why reloaders, especially novices, should always use data published in a recognized, published reloading manual, not something they heard over the internet, or something some guy at a match told them to try.

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To the best of my (admittedly limited) knowledge - the "light" load explosion has never been successfully replicated under controlled conditions.

 

The "push the bullet then stop then explode because of barrel obstruction pressure" theory makes zero sense (to me) - the bullet is an obstruction to the expanding gasses at ALL times - a bullet pushed into the barrel would actually pose a lesser obstruction to expanding gas than a bullet in the case as the barrel/ cylinder gap provides at minimum some relief for pressure to escape via path of least resistance.

Secondly while minimal - the bullet within the case has a "solid" contact seal with the case - the expanding gasses within the barrel "may" depending on a variety of factors (fouling, lead softness, bullet diameter, etc.), again "may" have additional paths of the rifling grooves to lower pressure after firing before the bullet leaves the muzzle.

 

My theory and one that can be replicated is the light load issue is not one of powder - but one of projectile.

I believe these occurances are "usually" the result of a second projectile being placed into a case. (Loss of concentration, sticky seating die, etc.) 

This doubled projectile keeps the entire pressure charge within the case and cylinder - and when triggered, the pressure curve is too great to contain as you no longer have a projectile but a bomb.

No designed place for pressure to be released - so it simply goes in the direction of least resistance.  Which sometimes is going to be the cylinder walls and top strap.

 

The practice of light small powder charges "may" contribute as their is sufficient room in the case for powder, projectile AND a second projectile to be placed and seated into a "normal" appearing case.

 

I have done the above ONCE by accident - discovered immediately.

I was loading on a progressive press; 38 spl over (I think) Red Dot and had a seating die that was gunked up dirty and it held the bullet (105gr) in the die.

The case arrived at the end of the cycle and promptly dumped itself and powder all over the loader and catch hopper.

But as I had been distracted during the process - I could not recall if I had placed a bullet on that stroke.  Since I couldn't find a loose bullet that had fallen sideways or on the loading bench - I made the assumption that I had simply missed a step.

I loaded the next round and diligently watched the bullet placement and seating.

Perfect round - but the missing bullet nagged at me because I am usually pretty focused when loading.

I continued to load and within 10 more rounds - the same "disappearing" bullet phenom occurred.

I stopped loading and began my search in earnest for an answer - found within the aforementioned seating die filthy from lead, lube and crud buildup - firmly holding my last placed bullet.

Out comes the inertia hammer and I begin pulling rounds apart - the round with two bullets in it; actually had to be cut apart with tin snips as the two 105 had compacted themselves into a nearly inseparable 210 grain bullet.

 

The case showed no bulging or outward visual signs of two projectiles.

I repeated this a few times to see if I could replicate and when seating on top of an already seated bullet - the case would bulge; but when both projectiles were inserted and seated at once (as per the seating die being sticky) - I could create perfect looking rounds with two projectiles.

 

I have seen this replicated in print and the results look just like the blown up guns that are being attributed to light loads.

 

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Creeker I think you hit the nail on the head. I had the same thing happen. I just happened to catch it when it did, and didn’t have to pull apart a bunch of rounds! I try to train my eye to look at primer feeder, powder check die, seated Bullet, crimped Bullet ever pull on the handle. One can’t do that and watch tv too. 

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Had the happen years ago and found the offending cartridge quickly as I could see the bulge was different. Same issue, gummed up seating die. Not an issue anymore with coated bullets.

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As others have stated you can run light/ medium loads in 357 brass but there really isn’t any benefit. 38 brass is cheaper and probably easier to obtain. Less case volume for light loads so you should get a better powder burn. Pick your bullet weight and look at published load data or ask for pet loads here and I’m sure you will get tons on info. 
LF

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Short stroking a 73 or most other lever guns comes from trying to shoot faster than your hands and timing will currently allow you to go.   Concentrate on getting a full lever stroke.   Then work on your timing of the operations of Lever Open Completely - Close Completely then Trigger Pull.  You will develop the capability to control short stroking AND loaded round jack-outs.

 

Using a longer case to prevent short stroking a lever rifle will not help one bit.  In either a toggle link or a pivoting carrier rifle, if the carrier gets to the right position for the case to release from magazine, a round will feed onto carrier.  If it is stroked short enough to fail to release a round, nothing feeds regardless of the overall length of cartridge.

 

Using a .357 case instead of a .38 special case helps if your gun really refuses to feed the shorter .38 special round.   First step in that case, to still use .38 special brass-  seat bullet shallower in .38 case and crimp into the band above crimp groove.   Otherwise, almost always you can use a Truncated Cone bullet with a long nose design to add extra Overall Length to the cartridge.

 

In our game it is ALMOST never necessary to have to step up to a .357 case.  But some folks may take that step to avoid finding a solution with bullet design and crimp location.

 

As mentioned above, ballistic laboratories have never been able to find a repeatable cause of a S.E.E. (secondary explosion effect) that a few shooters reported as occurring in their gun.  And most of those were with light loads of slow rifle powder in a large and often bottleneck RIFLE case.

 

I have never seen a light cowboy load in a pistol cartridge case that has ever been even suspected of causing a SEE blow up.  I've seen several double charges that did, though.  And a couple of double bullet loads, too.

 

good luck, GJ

 

 

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Another light load consideration... And while I have done a lot of reading, I have not yet reloaded anything.

 

From what I have read, if the case is not full enough, a light load may have too much air space between the primer and the powder. When the primer goes off, it may not ignite the powder or the charge may not get a "full" ignition.

 

Possible outcomes include misfire, hang fire, and squib.

 

Reading also suggests if the case is at least half full, any bad event is very unlikely.

 

A "slow" or less "energetic" powder would be more likely to display such problems. Such a problem would be more likely to occur on the first round down range before recoil redistributes the powder in the other cases in the gun. None of this is proven, came across it when considering constructing light loads in the future.

 

Reading also suggests this would be more of a concern with rifle rather than pistol cartridges.

 

Anyway, throwing this into the mix as the discussion here is about running minimum .38 Special charges in a .357 case.

 

 

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31 minutes ago, John Kloehr said:

Another light load consideration... And while I have done a lot of reading, I have not yet reloaded anything.

 

From what I have read, if the case is not full enough, a light load may have too much air space between the primer and the powder. When the primer goes off, it may not ignite the powder or the charge may not get a "full" ignition.

 

Possible outcomes include misfire, hang fire, and squib.

 

Reading also suggests if the case is at least half full, any bad event is very unlikely.

 

A "slow" or less "energetic" powder would be more likely to display such problems. Such a problem would be more likely to occur on the first round down range before recoil redistributes the powder in the other cases in the gun. None of this is proven, came across it when considering constructing light loads in the future.

 

Reading also suggests this would be more of a concern with rifle rather than pistol cartridges.

 

Anyway, throwing this into the mix as the discussion here is about running minimum .38 Special charges in a .357 case.

 

 

Be exceedingly careful when referring to case volume as a predictor of performance.

I don't load ANY powders than come anywhere near filling half case volume - and have loaded many that barely cover the case bottom (positional sensitivity is a component of choosing proper powders).

The claim that the primer must be completely covered in powder is commonly referenced but is highly unlikely of commonly occurring.

Just think about it for a moment - Any case with 60% volume or less powder charge when turned lengthwise would uncover a certain portion of the primer.

There is oxygen in the air trapped in the case AND the powder provides its own oxidizer within the product - the idea that the flame jump is too extreme to ignite a powder charge within the confines of the case is doubtful.

 

And because of the oxidizer within the powder charge - the burn is self propagating; once it ignites - it will supply fuel to continue burning.

 

bullet powder.jpg

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Let me expand on the subject of "explosions" involving smokeless powders:

Small arms smokeless propellants require between 5,000 and 7,000 psi (NOT CUP) to begin burning stably. If the minimum pressure is not reached, the powder, ignited by a primer will sit there and smolder. What normally happens is that because the burning powder is confined in the case by the bullet, the pressure will build up to stable burning IF the bullet doesn't move out of the case too quickly. This is called "premature shot-start (PSS)".  This can occur if there is insufficient bullet pull, caused by not enough friction between the case wall and the side of the bullet, and also by insufficient crimp of the case mouth on the bullet.  If the bullet moves out of the case before stable burning is reached, especially in a revolver, the bullet can stop in the forcing cone, bridging the gap between the forcing cone and the cylinder face.  Because it generally takes a lot more force to start a stuck bullet being engraved on the rifling than when it is moving when it hits the rifling, the pressure in the case builds up rapidly, and the powder burns progressively, with the pressure increasing dramatically.  If the chamber diameter is quite a bit larger than the cartridge case (more often occuring in older .45 LC guns, the cartridge can rupture, usually along the sides. as the case is usually lying along the bottom of the chamber.  When that happens, jets of hot gas act like a torch on the chamber wall.  That, and the upward force usually takes the top off the cylinder and the top strap of the gun. The obvious prevention is to insure there is sufficient bullet pull, and to keep the powder charge AT OR ABOVE THE MINIMUM LISTING FOR THAT PARTICULAR POWDER.  There is no reason you can't find such loads for .357 Magnum cases in loading manuals.  Lower velocity loads ARE there.  The reason for using .357 Magnum brass instead of .38 Spl, is if the latter won't feed reliably in your rifle.

 

As to the S.E.E phenomenon, this has been known to Naval Ordnance Engineers for decades.  It is a slightly different manifestation of PSS, and is the result of using too light a charge of slow-burning powders in bottlenecked rifle cartridges.  What happens is that the powder ignites without reaching stable burning pressures, but the pressure wave reflects off the bottleneck back to the powder, which then takes off exponentially until the pressures exceed the strength of the gun!  The prevention is not to download slowburning powders such as 4831 in bottlenecked cartridges.  If a shooter wants to load reduced loads in such cartridges, go to a faster-burning powder, even if it doesn't fill the case.  

 

As stated by others, DO NOT REDUCE CHARGES BELOW THE LEVELS LISTED IN LOADING MANUALS, AND CRIMP, CRIMP, CRIMP!

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5 hours ago, Creeker, SASS #43022 said:

The claim that the primer must be completely covered in powder is commonly referenced but is highly unlikely of commonly occurring.

 

Consider .22 (and other) rimfire cartridges - the powder in a horizontally-fired gun NEVER covers the entire primer charge, which is placed all around the rim by spinning cases.  And those have never been involved in a PSS or SEE event (as far as I know).

 

good luck, GJ

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I also have loaded lots of fast, energy dense powders in cowboy pistol cartridges which have run just fine, and at well under 1/2 full cases.   Such as WST, Bullseye, and TiteGroup.   Does that mean it's impossible?  Probably not.  But I lose no sleep worrying that my SASS guns will rapidly destruct.

 

good luck, GJ

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Thanks for chiming in Trailrider. I was trying to remember who could explain this, and you did a better job than I did.

 

Of course, two bullets in a case is a disaster waiting to happen, as is an inadvertent double charge of powder.

 

But what I was talking about does exist, as reported by Trailrider.

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If you do a search for detonation/reloading you can read for a week . There are lots if interesting theories out there, but to my knowledge they are just that . To my knowledge no one has been able to reliably reproduce the phenomenon. But as everyone else has said stick with published reloading data 

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Just now, Buckshot Bob said:

If you do a search for detonation/reloading you can read for a week . There are lots if interesting theories out there, but to my knowledge they are just that . To my knowledge no one has been able to reliably reproduce the phenomenon. But as everyone else has said stick with published reloading data 

 

See Trailriders post above.  The Army has also been aware of SEE  for decades and has analyzed it in a lot of detail.

 

Powder manufacturers are also aware. They don't do any testing as it is very expensive to replace their test set up when it happens It is also in their best interest to not publish loads that are even remotely capable of causing the phenomenon. 99% of all shooters are more interested in loads near maximum and not those approaching the minimums.

 

The problem with the internet is it is dang near impossible to separate the fly crap from the pepper.

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Just one additional note regarding the term "detonation:: Ordnance engineers define a detonation as producing a pressure front in excess of 25,000 ft/sec. I talked with some people from the old Hercules company (now part of Northrop-Grumman), who told me that their small arms propellants do NOT have enough chemical energy...even in their double-base powders (having nitroglycerin included), such as Bullseye, Unique, etc.) to cause a detonation.  That DOES NOT preclude over-pressure situations such as I outlined above.

 

Just follow the manuals and you will be okay.  Of course, watch for things such as double charges and two bullets in a case.

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Many thanks to all who replied, and alleviated my concerns about light loads. My concern is attributable at least in part to the lack of published load data for Vihtavuori N32C "Tin Star" powder. The data posted by the manufacturer suggested much greater velocities for starting loads  than would be used in CAS shooting. I found data on line offering low pressure, low velocity loads, but after being told of possible destructive effects of light loads, had concerns. I've fired thousands of rounds I made with this reduced load datas through both 1860 conversion revolvers and 1873 Winchester reproductions. The loads are very accurate, I can shootr one ragged hole at 50 yards off a bench with a rifle, and put 5 shots in the 10 ring with either of the revolvers I use. If I had never heard of the potentia danger of light loads, I would have thought I discovered perfect loads.

 

I recently switched to .357 cases in the rifles since attempting to load .357 ammo after shooting hundreds of rounds of 38 Special made chambering difficult. I don't use full power .357 loads often in the rifles, but like to take the rifles into bear country and feel adequately armed when shooting full power .357 cartridges. With that occassional use scenario in minds, I thought it just made sense to switch to .357 cases, and shoot light loads for CAS and full power for bear, since the overall dimensions of the light and full power loads are identical

 

I appreciate everyone taking the time to share their opinions on the topic. Thank you.

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You can also make a good scraper by slightly belling (expanding) the mouth of a .357 case.  Adjust the belling until you get some resistance when you insert and chamber the empty case into the rifle (or pistol cylinder).  The expanded mouth acts as a carbon scraper to remove that fouling from the chamber left after firing .38 special loads.

 

good luck, GJ

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On 1/27/2022 at 7:03 AM, BLACKFOOT SASS #11947 said:

Simple solution, load .38 sp cases using .38 sp data and .357 cases using .357 data.  

 

Blackfoot

If you are going to use 357 data, you need to use heavier bullets to stay under the 1000 fps max for SASS rules. I use 357 brass for my Lightning 357 Mag rifle and 158 grain bullets. I have been using Trailboss, but with it and Clays out of the supply line for now at least, one should make other plans (presuming to have primers). Some of the other powder choices in published data are running significantly higher in minimum velocity. A noted exception is W231/HP38, of which I have a good supply. What I lose in a tall, narrow case is the ability to easily see the powder before placing a bullet for seating.

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On 1/23/2022 at 7:57 PM, Iron Jim Rackham said:

I was told today that it's dangerous to shoot light loads of smokeless powder. I never heard that previously, but was told/warned that the danger arises from the powder in light loads exploding, rather than burning with high pressure spikes resulting. I shoot 1873 lever rifles and would like to load .38 Special loads in .357 brass...on the premise that the .357 cases will help prevent short stroking. I am concerned though about shooting light .38 caliber loads in larger .357 brass. Can any offer any insights? Thanks

Regardless of caliber, loading low velocity ammo will not increase speed, it only saves powder. Load your ammo near the middle velocities and you'll have fewer problems with gun function. 

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Quote

with ... Clays out of the supply line for now at least

 

Hodgdon sources Clays from a Canadian manufacturer now, and for last 2 years.   So ADI (Australian) problems with a powder shutdown does not affect Clays production.

 

good luck, GJ

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34 minutes ago, Assassin said:

Regardless of caliber, loading low velocity ammo will not increase speed, it only saves powder. Load your ammo near the middle velocities and you'll have fewer problems with gun function. 

This is oversimplified. In 357, "middle velocities" will exceed 1000 fps except with the heaviest bullets (180s), which themselves are counterproductive for recoil, staying on target, and optimal times. "Low velocity" for a given bullet weight, certainly lower pressure that accompanies, will give less muzzle rise, allowing staying on target for extremely fast pistol shooting. Overly dramatic rifle loads could be a problem too.

 

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17 minutes ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

 

Hodgdon sources Clays from a Canadian manufacturer now, and for last 2 years.   So ADI (Australian) problems with a powder shutdown does not affect Clays production.

 

good luck, GJ

Good to be reminded, thanks. There is the other issue of Clays being popular and out of stock everywhere and then needing a less popular choice or a backup.

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On 1/27/2022 at 11:10 AM, Sedalia Dave said:

 

 

Powder manufacturers are also aware. They don't do any testing as it is very expensive to replace their test set up when it happens It is also in their best interest to not publish loads that are even remotely capable of causing the phenomenon. 

It may never happen because of the cost . And it’s probably something most manufacturers aren’t interested in determining. But from everything I have read so far no one’s been able to reliably duplicate the phenomenon in that lab . So until they can I’m going to remain skeptical , there’s a ton of variables at play here .

This is just another one of those things that re enforces stick to the recipe in the published loading data .  

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4 hours ago, Roscoe Regulator said:

This is oversimplified. In 357, "middle velocities" will exceed 1000 fps except with the heaviest bullets (180s), which themselves are counterproductive for recoil, staying on target, and optimal times. "Low velocity" for a given bullet weight, certainly lower pressure that accompanies, will give less muzzle rise, allowing staying on target for extremely fast pistol shooting. Overly dramatic rifle loads could be a problem too.

 

I have a load manual from Laser Cast bullet company. There is a section for Cowboy Loads. 357 magnum, 158 grain bullets, using 3.3 grains of Titegroup, @ 750 fps. 3.3 grains of Bullseye 751 fps, 3.3 grains of Red Dot 752 fps, 3.9 grains of HP-38 756 fps. Not the lightest loads, not heavy either. Personally, I don't shoot anything under 800 fps. Most top tier shooters I know are running from 750-800 fps. 

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5 hours ago, Roscoe Regulator said:

This is oversimplified. In 357, "middle velocities" will exceed 1000 fps except with the heaviest bullets (180s), which themselves are counterproductive for recoil, staying on target, and optimal times. "Low velocity" for a given bullet weight, certainly lower pressure that accompanies, will give less muzzle rise, allowing staying on target for extremely fast pistol shooting. Overly dramatic rifle loads could be a problem too.

 

Sort of.

Might check with Doc Shapiro who researched this (utilizing quick shooters) and found that the string times from extremely low velocity loads (pistols) actually were slower than those with a slightly heavier load. There was definitely a point of diminishing returns and his conclusions showed that the feed back including recoil, from a somewhat more powerful load was necessary to achieve the fastest shooting string. At the time some were shooting loads so light that you could actually see the base of the bullet as it traveled to the target. My own loads are similar to Assassin's at about 750 FPS with a 125 gr bullet, 3.2 grains Titegroup and magnum Federal SP. I arrived at this loading after my own experimentation showed that Doc Shapiro's info was right on the money. Actually tried some all the way down to 2.2 grains Titegroup but found myself waiting to hear the bullet strike since the gun did not recoil at all.

Regards

:FlagAm:  :FlagAm:  :FlagAm:

Gateway Kid

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There has been a smattering of Old Wives Tales.  Rumors.  "I heard".  Quotes of famous scribes, all sorts of smoke and mirrors.  Damn FEW facts.

 

FACT:  There are only "X" Jules of energy in a given amount of propellent.  Period.

 

FACT:  No ballistics laboratory has been able to duplicate "Premature Shot Start."  They have all tried.  If you Google "Premature Shot Start" you won't find anything about gun powder

 

FACT:  S.E.E. is a known Phenom.   Military ordinance have see it in large bore guns, from unburned powder deposits.  Large Bore Guns are talking about CANNONS.  Large Cannons.  Naval GUNS.  It has not been duplicated in small arms.

 

FACT:  The oft cited Boogy Man of "DETONATION" cannot happen in small arms.  Ballistics laboratories have been trying make a detonation for decades.  No Joy.  Our propellants are also developed not to permit "Detonation." 

 

FACT:  A double charge of of most propellants WILL disassemble most any small arm.

 

FACT:  A bore obstruction can disassemble most small arms regardless of propellant amount.  Small amounts of propellant gas, confined to too small a space will seek an exit.  Like the side of a revolver cylinder, through the top strap.

 

The most common occurrence is sloppy maintenance of reloading dies, resulting in TWO bullets in the same case, compressing a powder charge into too small a space and not moving to relieve that pressure.  Followed by the Ubiquitous sloppy reload with a double charge of a fast powder.

 

It all boils down to read the reloading manuals.  Heed the information contained therein.  Lots of us use to hate reading the threads starting out with "How Low Can You Go" knowing squibs (bore obstruction) would surely be the result.  The lightest possible load is not necessarily the best load.  Be careful out there. 

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5 hours ago, Gateway Kid SASS# 70038 Life said:

Sort of.

Might check with Doc Shapiro who researched this (utilizing quick shooters) and found that the string times from extremely low velocity loads (pistols) actually were slower than those with a slightly heavier load. There was definitely a point of diminishing returns and his conclusions showed that the feed back including recoil, from a somewhat more powerful load was necessary to achieve the fastest shooting string. At the time some were shooting loads so light that you could actually see the base of the bullet as it traveled to the target. My own loads are similar to Assassin's at about 750 FPS with a 125 gr bullet, 3.2 grains Titegroup and magnum Federal SP. I arrived at this loading after my own experimentation showed that Doc Shapiro's info was right on the money. Actually tried some all the way down to 2.2 grains Titegroup but found myself waiting to hear the bullet strike since the gun did not recoil at all.

Regards

:FlagAm:  :FlagAm:  :FlagAm:

Gateway Kid

One has to find the happy medium. I like decisive feedback from the gun, but the minimum load in my 5.5" 45 Colts was a challenge to hold on target. My 38s are a different story and give me my best times.

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I think when answering the Op's original questions it is important to define the term "Light Load."  There is much published data for light, target type, loads that should be the accepted definition, however, I have seen some extremely light, Wildcat loads, used in this game that are far lighter than these tested and published loads and this type of experimentation is indeed dangerous!  Some of these loads barely even make it out of the barrel and at one local match I personally witnessed a guy that stuck bullets in his revolvers on every stage and didn't seem to worry much about it.  Frankly, if I was the RO or Match Director, I would have asked him to either change ammo or come back another day!  Unfortunately, these type of light loads are in use far too often due to the belief that light loads equal more speed.  It also seems that we see lighter and lighter bullets for our popular calibers, most of which have little or no published load data and all in the quest of less recoil and more speed.

 

Frankly, I think the whole light load equals more speed thing is way over-blown and all too often abused in our game.  At least to me, the true beauty of hand-loading is the ability to tailor one's loads to their end use and to the specific firearm involved, but creating "Wildcat" loads should be left to the professionals.  One can work well within the published limits to tailor their loads and be very effective in doing so.  Although accuracy is not a big priority in this game, I have found that even small changes in loads can produce some very real changes in the overall performance of some firearms, not the least of which is point of aim verses point of impact.  Personally, I like to shoot what the guns like and take the time to pattern and chronograph my loads for the best performance of my guns, then I learned to shoot those loads in them.  While it can be easier/simpler to shoot the same load in both revolvers and rifle and I have done so, I think it's worth the effort to produce and use different loads for my rifle than that used in the revolvers to obtain best overall performance in each.

 

I guess shooting Gunfighter style does allow me to shoot a bit stronger handgun loads than most would prefer, since a bit of recoil actually seems to help me when recocking for the next shot while shooting the other gun from the other hand.  Anyway, I generally shoot a 140 grain pill or a 148 grain wadcutter that clocks at about 800 ft/sec and have been pretty competitive overall.  As for my rifle loads I like to keep them subsonic (900 to 1000 fps) and use that same 140 grain pill in either .38 Special or .357 Magnum cases.  However, my first Marlin, 24" octagon barreled rifle, wouldn't pattern well unless I loaded them a bit hotter and at least for me, it was a prime example of how different loads can perform in different guns .  Anyway, these loads shoot accurately at 50 yards better than I can see the targets at that distance and recoil is near negligible in both my main match, 73 border rifle, and my backup Marlin carbine.  Honestly, the rifle is my best skill and I've even won a few speed rifle side matches with these loads.       

 

Anyway, my point here is that especially the newbies should not get caught up in the quest for light loads to increase speed.  Most of becoming competitive in this game is simply getting used to and proficient with the tools you have to use and even factory loads can get you to that point.  When you get good enough to need to shave 1/10's of a second off your times, then maybe a lighter load will help.  Otherwise, don't worry about it and get out there and have fun!  As for the light load detonation thing, I think that sticking a bullet in the barrel or forcing cone is a far bigger danger and I have actually seen this happen all too often with the use of excessively light loads.  Good luck and good shooting to all.  

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21 hours ago, Assassin said:

I have a load manual from Laser Cast bullet company. There is a section for Cowboy Loads. 357 magnum, 158 grain bullets, using 3.3 grains of Titegroup, @ 750 fps. 3.3 grains of Bullseye 751 fps, 3.3 grains of Red Dot 752 fps, 3.9 grains of HP-38 756 fps. Not the lightest loads, not heavy either. Personally, I don't shoot anything under 800 fps. Most top tier shooters I know are running from 750-800 fps. 

Hodgdon is more authoritative to me than Laser-Cast, who sent me bullets so hard I couldn't use them due to severe leading, is not a powder company. They have been acquired, I believe. Hodgdon's minimum load for 158 grain 357 Magnum in a section they publish as "Cowboy Action data" runs 3.5 for Titegroup 893 fps, 3.4 for HP38 @796 fps (one I had indicated as a good sub for Trailboss to get moderation in velocity), and 3.2 of Clays running 867 fps. The load I use is 3.2 of Trailboss @754 fps. Anything below these would require some testimony as to the testing credibility of the Laser-Cast loads from a bullet company. As with many things, one has to pick his authorities and go with it, assuming satisfied with ones own test firing for manageability.

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30 minutes ago, Roscoe Regulator said:

Hodgdon is more authoritative to me than LazerCast, who sent me bullets so hard I couldn't use them due to severe leading, is not a powder company. They have been acquired, I believe. Hodgdon's minimum load for 158 grain 357 Magnum in a section they publish as "Cowboy Action data" runs 3.5 for Titegroup 893 fps, 3.4 for HP38 @796 fps (one I had indicated as a good sub for Trailboss to get moderation in velocity), and 3.2 of Clays running 867 fps. The load I use is 3.2 of Trailboss @754 fps. Anything below these would require some testimony as to the testing credibility of the LazerCast loads from a bullet company. As with many things, one has to pick his authorities and go with it, assuming satisfied with ones own test firing for manageability.

Where do you think Laser-Cast got there data? They compiled the data from multiple loading manuals published by powder manufacturers. 

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