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Thread: 38 Special case resizing

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    38 Special case resizing

    I am a huge fan of the 38 Special cartridge and have accumulated allot of reloading equipment, looking for the best way to load the ammo. I want great accuracy and long case life. The long case life is particularly important with wadcutter brass, which is not easy to come by anymore.

    Here are some specs on case resizing dies I found in my notes and through I would pass them along. I used Lake City 78 38 Special brass for the comparison.

    I measured the resized cases at the base, the mid-point, the case mouth and the ID of the case mouth. I used RCBS carbide die (R1), a 1958 RCBS steel die (R2) and a Lyman Tru-line Jr. full length die (L) of undetermined age.

    Base: R1 - .377, R2 - .3775, L - .379
    Mid-case: R1 -.372, R2 - .3765, L - .377
    Mouth: R1 - .371 , R2 - 371, L - .376
    Mouth ID; R1 - .351, R2 - .351, L - .356

    A look at these numbers tell me R1 and R1 produce identical case mouth specs. However the R1 (carbide) sized the case the same as the mouth all the way down to near the base.

    The Lyman produces a case larger at the mouth, the mid-point and base. Cases sized with this Lyman die still chamber freely in the dozen Smith and Wesson and Colt revolvers in my safe.

    The Lyman die requires less case mouth expansion to seat the bullets.

    With the current lot of R-P wadcutter brass I am using the outside numbers are the same, but the ID of the case mouth is .358. This means I only need a slight bell to seat .358 - .359 cast bullets. I use a light taper crimp to keep these bullet in place.

    There is no such thing as "everlasting" brass cases, but case life can be greatly extended by working the brass less. The less the better. I also hold that rounds that fit the cylinder charge holes with less slop will introduce the bullet into the cylinder throat straighter for better accuracy.

    For ordinary cases like the LC 78, I use the RCBS steel die, but for the precious wadcutter brass I use the Lyman Tru-Line Jr. FL die.

    I have older steel steel dies by Pacific, CH, and Lyman Shell Resizer and their dimension are not significantly different from the steel RCBS die. The Lyman Tru-Line Jr. seems to be the outlier in this regard.

    I have a Redding Turret press set up for just 38 Special use, and both the Lyman TL Jr and the steel RCBS are installed in the turret.
    __________________________________________________

    For the 45 ACP, I use my RCBS carbide die as there is not significant different in the finish dimensions from the various steel dies in my collection.

    For the 44 Special and Magnum, I use steel dies as there is a significant difference in the finish dimensions from the carbide dies.

    For the 45 Colt, I use steel dies and again there is a significant difference in the finished dimensions from the carbide dies.

    __________________________________________________

    For those reloaders who consider not having to lubricate cases more important than case life, none of the above is significant to you.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master


    fecmech's Avatar
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    I am fortunate in that I have a CH carbide die that came with my CH Auto Champ that measures on RP WC brass essentially the same as your tru line die. I have found better accuracy using this die for all my 38/357 loads and use it for everything. My Lyman carbide die sizes.003" smaller. I have no chambering problems and no bullet pull issues in either special or mag loads using a mild taper crimp and .358/.359 bullets.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C. S. Lewis

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Good to know, thank you.

    I've heard of some bullseye shooters using 45 colt sizing dies to work the brass less for match shooting for the same reason.

  4. #4
    Boolit Man
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    @Char-Gar,

    I am not sure about your R-P wadcutter brass, but I have found ordinary R-P brass to give a larger ID after resizing than other manufacturer's brass (?thinner brass?). The ID is often so large than I have had jacketed bullets slowly sink into the case due to zero neck tension. My solution was to obtain an undersized resizing die so that R-P brass would reload like other normal brass. You may have a similar situation that gives the wadcutters more room, resulting in less seating force. It is even possible, that any R-P brass you have may work just as well as your current treasured lot of wadcutter brass. It would be most interesting if you resized and compared the measurements on a couple of standard R-P cases.

    Marshall

  5. #5
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 30calflash View Post
    Good to know, thank you.

    I've heard of some bullseye shooters using 45 colt sizing dies to work the brass less for match shooting for the same reason.
    There is only a slight difference between a 45 ACP case sized in a ACP die and a 45 Colt die, but it might make a difference in very critical high end competitions. Of course, real match 1911 pistols have a tighter chamber anyway. Competition shooters look for any mechanical edge they can find, no matter how slight.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marshall View Post
    @Char-Gar,

    I am not sure about your R-P wadcutter brass, but I have found ordinary R-P brass to give a larger ID after resizing than other manufacturer's brass (?thinner brass?). The ID is often so large than I have had jacketed bullets slowly sink into the case due to zero neck tension. My solution was to obtain an undersized resizing die so that R-P brass would reload like other normal brass. You may have a similar situation that gives the wadcutters more room, resulting in less seating force. It is even possible, that any R-P brass you have may work just as well as your current treasured lot of wadcutter brass. It would be most interesting if you resized and compared the measurements on a couple of standard R-P cases.

    Marshall
    OK, I dug out an R-P standard case and ran it through the Lyman steel die and then the RCBS steel die. The outside specs are the same as the same given above. Then I measured the neck thickness with a tubing micrometer and both R-P (standard and wadcutter) cases were .009" thick. One the other hand a Lake City case is .014" thick. The ID of the R-P standard case with the Lyman die is .358 and .354 with the RCBS steel.

    A case sized with the Lyman die would not give enough case neck tension to hold many cast or jacketed bullets. However with .354 tension from the RCBS steel die, you will be fine.

    There is no difference in the R-P wadcutter brass and the standard R-P brass other than the longer straight parallel sides in the wadcutter brass. Of course, it is not reasonable not to expect different lots of R-P brass to vary.

    For good measure, I pulled out some 38 Special cases of other makes and measured the brass thickness at the necks. Here they are;

    W-W - .011
    Federal - .010
    PMC - .011

    Thus it would appear that Remington brass at .009 is the thinnest of the cases I measured.

    I will note that as the brass cold worked in the die, it will have an effect on the tension as the resizing continues through several cycles.
    Last edited by Char-Gar; 03-18-2017 at 04:52 PM.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Char-Gar,

    Like you, I use RCBS steel dies for the .45 Colt due to the tapered chambers that .45 Colt chambers have. However, I have a lot of .38 Special wadcutter brass and use a carbide resizing die for them along with a custom made expander die that opens up the wadcutter brass mouths to .3575" for my .358" wadcutters.

    Don
    NRA Certified Metallic Cartridge Reloading Instructor

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USSR View Post
    Char-Gar,

    Like you, I use RCBS steel dies for the .45 Colt due to the tapered chambers that .45 Colt chambers have. However, I have a lot of .38 Special wadcutter brass and use a carbide resizing die for them along with a custom made expander die that opens up the wadcutter brass mouths to .3575" for my .358" wadcutters.

    Don
    At one time, RCBS offered by special order a long .3585 expander for wadcutter brass. Used in standard brass it would bulge the brass where the internal taper began. There was enough spring back in the brass for a .358 bullet to have a slight friction fit. It is on the far in this group of RCBS 38 expanders.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master



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    Quote Originally Posted by Char-Gar View Post
    At one time, RCBS offered by special order a long .3585 expander for wadcutter brass. Used in standard brass it would bulge the brass where the internal taper began. There was enough spring back in the brass for a .358 bullet to have a slight friction fit. It is on the far in this group of RCBS 38 expanders.
    Didn't know they did that.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by M-Tecs View Post
    Didn't know they did that.
    Not only do they not offer them, but the last time I called RCBS, they didn't know they ever made them. The institutional memory there is pretty short, as least by those who answer the phones.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    I got one from Redding which I did as a custom order at Commercial Row at Camp Perry about 20 years ago.

    Back then when they took my order they asked for sample cases and cases and bullets I was using to be sure to get the dimensions correct.

    I got a die set with custom steel sizer, long expander plug, flat-plug seater without crimp and separate profile crimper dimensioned for Remington .38 wadcutter brass and Remington 148-grain HBWC bullets.

    My expander plug is .3575" with a mirror-finished cylindrical section 0.5" long with full hemispherical radius end and 7-1/2 degree flared transition to a .360" diameter cylindrical above the flare.

    If you need to ask what a full custom wadcutter die set costs, you probably cannot afford it, but that is what it takes to load ammo as good as the factory stuff. Reloads assembled in these dies with Remington 1-1/2 primers, Remington HBWC bullets and 3 grains of Alliant Bullseye will average 1-1/2" at 50 yards for ten consecutive 10-shot groups fired from a slave action and heavy test barrel fired from a return-to-battery rest indoors in an underground test tunnel constructed in a poured concrete box culvert where I worked at the time...

    Unfired Remington-Bridgeport (1960s) wadcutter rounds measure .377" diameter at the base ahead of the rim, .3755" at their mid-point below the lower cannelure and .376" at the case mouth over the roll crimp.

    After firing in my Colt Officer's Model Match target revolver once-fired cases from the same lot measure .381", .379" and .379"

    After resizing in the custom Redding Die they measure .380", .3755" and .375"

    After expanding they measure .379", .376", and .376"

    After loading, assembly and profile crimp the rounds measure .379", .3755" and .376", exactly the same as new Remington rounds.

    This is what the boxes and headstamps of my old ammo look like:

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    Last edited by Outpost75; 03-18-2017 at 07:19 PM.
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  12. #12
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    Outpost75....It is very hard to make me envious, but you have managed to make it happen. I can't think of a more ideal set up for 38 Special target ammo. I have managed to cobble up a set of dies that is close, but not as precise as yours. How old are you and who are you going to will those dies to?
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Char-Gar View Post
    Outpost75....It is very hard to make me envious, but you have managed to make it happen. I can't think of a more ideal set up for 38 Special target ammo. I have managed to cobble up a set of dies that is close, but not as precise as yours. How old are you and who are you going to will those dies to?
    I am 68 and hope to be using them for a few more years...
    The ENEMY is listening.
    HE wants to know what YOU know.
    Keep it to yourself.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master 308Jeff's Avatar
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    Didn't really think of the significance of wadcutter brass until this thread. 3 or 4 years ago I bought a fair amount of once fired, in original boxes, from someone online. Gonna see if I can dig it out tomorrow to have a closer look at it.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master



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    A friend of mine from out of state asked me to move his no longer needed reloading stuff. He had a pile of stuff and I was able to move it for him. He offered 1000 rounds of once fired wadcutter brass in the original boxes for a fair price and I bought it. So, I am in pretty good shape for the coming season. I have been shooting a good bit of .38 Special in the past couple of years.

    I mostly shoot my own cast wadcutters (from an original four cavity H&G mold for the #50 BB). I shoot Ed Harris' "Full Charge Wadcutter" load. I have mostly been using my S&W Model 520 (adjustable sighted seven shot revolver with a titanium cylinder and composite barrel) using a Red Dot Sight due to my vision problems. That has been a VERY satisfying combination.

    FWIW,
    Dale53

  16. #16
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Outpost75 View Post
    I am 68 and hope to be using them for a few more years...
    Drat...I am 74.6 and have all kinds of health issues. Unless you lock it up with a semi you will outlive me by quite a few years.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  17. #17
    Boolit Man
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    @Char-Gar,

    Thanks for making and reporting those interesting measurements.

    Marshall

    Quote Originally Posted by Char-Gar View Post
    OK, I dug out an R-P standard case and ran it through the Lyman steel die and then the RCBS steel die. The outside specs are the same as the same given above. Then I measured the neck thickness with a tubing micrometer and both R-P (standard and wadcutter) cases were .009" thick. One the other hand a Lake City case is .014" thick. The ID of the R-P standard case with the Lyman die is .358 and .354 with the RCBS steel.

    A case sized with the Lyman die would not give enough case neck tension to hold many cast or jacketed bullets. However with .354 tension from the RCBS steel die, you will be fine.

    There is no difference in the R-P wadcutter brass and the standard R-P brass other than the longer straight parallel sides in the wadcutter brass. Of course, it is not reasonable not to expect different lots of R-P brass to vary.

    For good measure, I pulled out some 38 Special cases of other makes and measured the brass thickness at the necks. Here they are;

    W-W - .011
    Federal - .010
    PMC - .011

    Thus it would appear that Remington brass at .009 is the thinnest of the cases I measured.

    I will note that as the brass cold worked in the die, it will have an effect on the tension as the resizing continues through several cycles.

  18. #18
    Boolit Man JBinMN's Avatar
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    I don't have anything to add here myself, but I wanted to tell ya'll that I enjoyed this topic. Topics like this make this forum one great place.
    Thanks!

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    As I use pretty soft range scrap for my .38 loads, I found an older steel RCBS .38 Spec. die set on this site. I have made up custom expanders to prevent sizing bullets while seating. One thing I have found is to "neck size" only when sizing...set up sizer so as to only size to depth of seated bullet. Case is a closer fit in chamber & sizing is easier & faster. Best of luck.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Since we're talking .38 wadcutters, what's the story with the Albert's swaged lead wadcutters? I know they've been out of business for a number of years, but how did their wadcutters stack up to the ones available today? I bought 1500 of them for a very good price last year.

    Don
    NRA Certified Metallic Cartridge Reloading Instructor

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check