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Thread: 38 special lead bullets

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    38 special lead bullets

    Two very popular sizes of lead bullets for 38 special are 125 gr and 158 grain. Obviously the lighter bullets will have greater velocity in most loadings.

    My question is each of the these two sizes, would you prefer soft lead (about hardness 12), or harder alloy bullets?

    For soft bullets I would guess from reading around that 1200 fps and below should not lead if the bullet diameter is fairly the correct size compared to the bore diameter, the lead bullets need to be very slightly larger, say .001 larger?

    Given that normally these bullets are purchased in lots of 500 the trial and error method can lead to being stuck with bullets you later chose not to use. So I think it will be prudent for me to have in advance a good idea what perhaps hardness is more likely to end up being 1) non leadings and 2) provide better defense terminal effects.

    reference: I have just gotten a S&W #10 5" barrel (used) revolver and never had a 38 special before. I plan to keep it in a quick access safe for personal home defense. Thank you.

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    Senior Member early's Avatar
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    I think 12 BHN or softer will be fine for 38spl. Even +p loads will be at or below 1,000fps with either bullet weight useing prudent care for that very fine revolver.

    Edit
    Im sure .358 will abturate to fill the throats and fit the bore.
    Last edited by early; 01-23-2017 at 09:16 PM.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    I size my cast bullets to 0.358" and a BHN of 12 should be okay. Though I pretty much doubt the "defense terminal effects" are going to be much more than a deep hole. So I'd suggest as large a meplat (flat nose) as possible. A cast 148gr full wadcutter would make a decent choice IMO.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    I never had good accuracy with 125's; so I'd want 158's.

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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Quote Originally Posted by knitepoet View Post
    I size my cast bullets to 0.358" and a BHN of 12 should be okay. Though I pretty much doubt the "defense terminal effects" are going to be much more than a deep hole. So I'd suggest as large a meplat (flat nose) as possible. A cast 148gr full wadcutter would make a decent choice IMO.
    When I could find loaded ammo in 148 gr it was phenomenally accurate in a Highway Patrolman.
    It was SWCHP.

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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Clip on Wheel Weights have an approximate BHN of 12 and when melted and cast into bullets are fine for .38 Special. If you intend to use your .38 for home defense, use commercial hollow points, like a Speer Gold Dot, the same as the Police.

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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    One of my favorite 38spl bullets is the soft lead Hornady swaged 158gr LSWCHP. They can be safely loaded to low velocities without fear of sticking in the bore for pleasant shooting light target loads. I have no idea if the hp expands reliably.

    If I kept that piece for HD, I'd keep factory loads in it. Either 148gr wad cutters or 125 gr hp's.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    I personally would not use cast bullets for self defense. You would have to go to something really soft like a swaged bullet to get any expansion and the hollow point bullets available have been designed through tons of research and expense to get them to work as well as possible for their intended purpose. I cast for all my self defense rounds to make inexpensive practice ammo. I carry store bought rounds but I manufacture ammo that shoots to the same point of aim and has the same recoil as my carry ammo in order to have inexpensive practice ammo.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Thanks, all.
    I'm looking in my speer #14 and it says for jacketed bullets in standard (non +P) loads, don't go above 110 grains. They say the 38 special is old technology and the case is very large compared to the safe volume of powder loaded. So depending on orientation of the gun squib loads can occur with jacket bullets due to their increased friction. And therefore might not exit the barrel. In fact they say under all circumstances do not consider any bullet over 110 grain in any rifle due to the long barrel increasing odds of bullet staying in barrel. Which is why I was looking at cast lead instead. But I suppose 110 gr jacketed is probably better based on reading the messages above.

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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Im not big fan of the 110's. They make great small game loads at magnum velocities, but Im not sure I'd care to depend on them for SD.

    I think full weight lead would be better, but I'd want confirmed chronographed speeds for handloads.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Quote Originally Posted by Darto View Post
    Thanks, all.
    I'm looking in my speer #14 and it says for jacketed bullets in standard (non +P) loads, don't go above 110 grains. They say the 38 special is old technology and the case is very large compared to the safe volume of powder loaded. So depending on orientation of the gun squib loads can occur with jacket bullets due to their increased friction. And therefore might not exit the barrel. In fact they say under all circumstances do not consider any bullet over 110 grain in any rifle due to the long barrel increasing odds of bullet staying in barrel. Which is why I was looking at cast lead instead. But I suppose 110 gr jacketed is probably better based on reading the messages above.
    That's the biggest load of horse poopy I've heard in quite some time.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

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    That's the biggest load of horse**** I've heard in quite some time.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Quote Originally Posted by bullsi1911 View Post
    How did that get past the autocensor?
    Beats the out of me. We can't say , but out a horse in front and it shows up. I paid it no never mind. Never seen it let slip. Or . Or . Or . Or . Or
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Quote Originally Posted by Darto View Post
    Thanks, all.
    I'm looking in my speer #14 and it says for jacketed bullets in standard (non +P) loads, don't go above 110 grains. They say the 38 special is old technology and the case is very large compared to the safe volume of powder loaded. So depending on orientation of the gun squib loads can occur with jacket bullets due to their increased friction. And therefore might not exit the barrel. In fact they say under all circumstances do not consider any bullet over 110 grain in any rifle due to the long barrel increasing odds of bullet staying in barrel. Which is why I was looking at cast lead instead. But I suppose 110 gr jacketed is probably better based on reading the messages above.



    I just thumbed through the # 14 Speer manual and could not locate the data that you are reciting, could you reference to the pages? I've been loading 38sp and 357mag for quite a while and have never read such a thing but then, I'm kinda slow.
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    Senior Member early's Avatar
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    The Speer data does have significant warnings cautioning the use of jacketed bullets in 38spl.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Quote Originally Posted by early View Post
    The Speer data does have significant warnings cautioning the use of jacketed bullets in 38spl.

    I saw that but they caution about using reduced loads and they give data for 110gr and 125gr loads with jacketed bullets. They do warn not to use reduced loads with jacketed bullets in rifles.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    I think he read very light loads in a .38 may cause issues in rifles. I mean ones with just enough powder to get them out the bbl. Never heard to use 110 grain in rifles either?????

    The .38 Spl is about the most popular handgun cartridge that is reloaded there is and has been around a long time.

    I'd go with 158 factory lead SWCHP cold swagged not cast, like those from Speer or Hornady. Good for SD and target shootin.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Alliant shows 919 FPS using 5.2 grains Unique powder for a +P load and 4.7 grains for 815 FPS for a standard load.

    Lots of load data out there for all kinds of .38 Spl bullets.

    If you go with factory SD loads plenty to choose from and if you want a lighter bullet at higher velocity Fiocchi makes a 125 grain +P load using Hornady XTP bullets at 1050 FPS.

    https://www.grafs.com/retail/catalog...26172/inline/1

    Then as mentioned, there are plenty offerings out there from major makers like Gold Dots and Golden Saber.
    Last edited by Big Chief; 01-24-2017 at 02:43 PM.
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    Senior Member Teach's Avatar
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    When the Brit military downsized their Webley revolver from .455 to .38 S&W, I've heard rumors that the last inch of the 6" barrel had to be smooth bored to assure the bullets wouldn't get stuck in the barrel. That's pretty anemic!
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Allan Jones in his post retirement from Speer writings also cautioned about stuck bullets in 38spl.

    As has been said a wide selection of loads and ammunition is avialable. A little caution should easily avoid any problems.

    I think sometimes folks get hung up on hollow points being the end all of SD bullets. As has been already said, a full or partial caliber met-plate should not be over looked as being effective. Such designs impart much greater damage on target than a round nose profile and are not as velocity dependent as hollow point designs.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Quote Originally Posted by early View Post
    I think sometimes folks get hung up on hollow points being the end all of SD bullets. As has been already said, a full or partial caliber met-plate should not be over looked as being effective. Such designs impart much greater damage on target than a round nose profile and are not as velocity dependent as hollow point designs.

    Good point, I get caught up in that mindset myself but when I think about it objectively I realize that all of my cast bullets that I make for hunting are designed with a large meplat rather than a hollow point.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member Big Chief's Avatar
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    http://www.grantcunningham.com/2011/...rge-wadcutter/

    Full WCs have been loaded and tested in about every power level from barely getting outta the bbl to magnum velocities. I've loaded cold swagged HBWC upside in .357 cases which make for dramatic visual effects on targets like muddy creek banks sending mud high into the air and making huge shallow surface cavities. I don't know if the sweet spot of expansion and penetration was ever figured out for them though.

    I can see some uses for full wad-cutters, but tend to believe they are not that popular for SD/HD and that may be because factory loads are low power and it's usually advised not to use them with so many better choices available. They were primarily designed to shoot paper targets.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    Quote Originally Posted by Darto View Post
    Thanks, all.
    I'm looking in my speer #14 and it says for jacketed bullets in standard (non +P) loads, don't go above 110 grains. They say the 38 special is old technology and the case is very large compared to the safe volume of powder loaded. So depending on orientation of the gun squib loads can occur with jacket bullets due to their increased friction. And therefore might not exit the barrel. In fact they say under all circumstances do not consider any bullet over 110 grain in any rifle due to the long barrel increasing odds of bullet staying in barrel. Which is why I was looking at cast lead instead. But I suppose 110 gr jacketed is probably better based on reading the messages above.
    I regularly shoot .38 Special jacketed and cast bullets out of my .357 Mag. single shot rifle, and at pretty low power loads(starting loads for both cast and jacketed). I've NEVER had a bullet, cast or jacketed, fail to exit the 18" barrel on that rifle. And that is with bullets ranging from the 110 HP jacketed to 138-180 grain jacketed and cast. The 180 cast are for .35 Remington, but sized to .358 work just fine. And same with my .38 and .357 Mag. revolvers with anything from 110-148 grain bullets. Don't know where you got that info about bullets stuck in the bore, but I find it questionable given what I've experienced.

    For SD-HD I'd just go with commercial HP loads. The research has already been done and they will work as advertised. Hard cast lead tends to just bore a hole with no expansion. Soft swaged wadcutters might give better results as to expanding.
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    Re: 38 special lead bullets

    I was going from memory. The Speer does have 125 jacketed bullets in 38 special standard loadings, iow 110 is not the largest they list:

    Speer 14: "Reloaders must remember that the 38 special case is much bigger than necessary for most modern propellants... air space is high, especially when loading standard (not +P) loads... Jacketed bullets create more resistance than lead bullets and may lodge in the bore if propellent charges are too light or too slow burning. To avoid these problems we are showing jacketed bullet data for only 110 and 125 grain bullets...These loads should never be used in rifles".


    Thanks everybody for your experiences. I'm long time reloader but new to 38 special. I only put a portion of what Speer's introduction to 38 special standard loads says on this and closely related subjects, there are qualifiers etc. I would post all of what Speer said, but it is copyright material, not sure how much of it I can quote.
    Last edited by Darto; 01-24-2017 at 07:57 PM.

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