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Thread: Fun with a S&W Victory 38 S&W cartridge

  1. #1
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    Fun with a S&W Victory 38 S&W cartridge



    ..........My Dad bought this S&W from a Calif Highway Patrolman in 1964. Didn't have these grips on it, but some plastic Hubley cap pistol type plastic grips. I don't know if the barrel had been shortend at some pointor if the front sight had been silver solder back on. A solder joint is visible.



    At some point (probably before Pop got ahold of it) it had been modified by running a 38 Special reamer into it's chambers. Didn't have any bad effects however.

    I have a RCE "Walnut Hill" swage press, and quite a few years back I'd made myself a set of swage dies to apply HB's to cast lead slugs, as below:



    Even before that a friend (BruceB) had a Lyman 4 cav 35853 mould which dropped 150gr Wadcutters at .363" which was just the ticket for my (Then) one and only 38 S&W pistol. It changed hands with some shekels discarded in his direction.

    It proved to be a decent slug (sized .361") for the above revolver. I forget the order they came but I also acquired a actual unmolested WW2 Victory model Smith in 38 S&W that had gone to Australia. In addition a nice old nickle plated Iver Johnson 5 shot top break came my way.

    So I eventually lube-sized some of the 35853's and then proceeded to swage in a HB on a gaggle of them. On a trip to the range I had a box of these "HB'd) wadcutters loaded up.



    Fired with blued 4" bbl Victory model S&W. This has had a 38 Special reamer run into it's chambers. The slug was the Lyman 35863 150gr WC cast of pure lead. After lube-sizing it had been swaged with a HB after lube-sizing. The velocity of the 2.8gr of Red Dot was 740 fps. All groups were 10 shots at 25 yards, benched. Looks like a 96-1X to me

    .............Buckshot
    Last edited by Buckshot; 09-21-2017 at 03:11 AM.
    Father Grand Caster watches over you my brother. Go now and pour yourself a hot one. May the Sacred Silver Stream be with you always

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  2. #2
    Boolit Master corbinace's Avatar
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    Pretty good performance, especially given the sights on the revolver.

    Thank you for sharing the story. I always enjoy hearing about more than just the statistics.

    Tim

  3. #3
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Many people disregard the .38 S&W cartridge, but in its day it was considered effective for personal defense and was highly popular in small, compact pocket guns, being more effective than a .32...

    In swing-out cylinder, solid-frame guns like the S&W Victory you can modestly exceed factory loads, which are held to black powder pressure because of the great numbers of fragile top-break revolvers out there.

    Cross-posted here by permission is an article from The Fouling Shot on the .38 S&W, which has useful info:

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    Revisiting the .38 S&W in a Classic Colt “Cop Gun”

    C.E. “Ed” Harris,

    Ric Bowman’s experiments in FS236-9 with his British Purchasing Commission S&W 1941 .38 Hand Ejector motivated me to experiment with a classic Colt revolver of the same period. While well known for being chambered in small, break-open pocket revolvers, the .38 S&W reached its Zenith in the 1920s when Colt chambered its six-shot Police Positive and Banker’s Special revolvers for the .38 Colt New Police. The Colt cartridge differs from the S&W version in having a flat-, versus a round-nosed bullet.

    The I-frame S&W Regulation Police of the post WW1-era was a 5-shot, built on the .32 Hand Ejector frame, whereas the Colt Police Positive was dimensioned expressly for the .38 Colt New Police cartridge and featured “six for sure.” The original Police Positive Colt with 4” barrel weighed 20 ozs., empty, 23 ozs. when loaded with the more common 146-grain lead round-nosed ammunition, and 23-1/2 ozs. loaded with later production 200-grain Super Police. The Police Positive Special had a longer frame, cylinder and frame window, being dimensioned to hold six rounds of .38 Special or .32-20 ammunition.

    Of the .38 S&W and Colt New Police, Hatcher wrote in his Textbook of Pistols and Revolvers (1935):

    “ their popularity is deserved, for they are accurate, well designed cartridges, which have much greater stopping power than the .32 caliber…. The standard load for the .38 S&W is a 146-grain bullet with 2.3 grains of Bullseye… giving… about 730 fps with … about 170 foot-pounds….penetrating five 7/8” pine boards….The flat-pointed Colt New Police bullet is superior to the round-nosed S&W in stopping power and should always be used in preference to it.”

    Elmer Keith wrote in Sixguns, (1955) that the .38 S&W was “very accurate but.… not powerful enough for a certain man-stopper…must be placed fairly well….a pip squeak….accuracy was … its only virtue…."

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    The .38 S&W “Super Police,” introduced by Western Cartridge Company in 1929, featured a 200-grain, blunt, hemispherical-nosed, soft lead bullet and 2.5 grains of Hercules Infallible (similar to Unique) producing 610 fps and 166 ft.-lbs., penetrating four 7/8” pine boards. The Super Police round is approximated by Lyman’s #358430 being loaded with 2.5 grains of Alliant’s Unique. For those who are historically inclined, NOE offers molds producing a modern clone of the Mk1 service bullet.

    After WW1 the British sought a lighter revolver than the .455 Webley MkVI. In 1932 they adopted the .380/200 Revolver Mk I cartridge and Webley MkIV revolver, which produced 625 fps +/– 25 fps from a 5-inch barrel at 13,000 psi, max. British Army thinking at the time was that a slow, heavy .38 bullet would give up little in close range stopping power to the .455 and would be easier for troops with minimal training to learn to shoot accurately. In 1937 the lead-bullet MkI cartridge was replaced by the 178-grain FMJ MkII, to comply with the 1899 Hague Declaration. Remaining MkI cartridges were expended for marksmanship training and law enforcement purposes. The Mk2z remains in production where it still sees service with police organizations in India and Pakistan.

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    WW2 combat use proved the FMJ Mk.II bullet’s effectiveness was less than stellar. Combat users preferred the 9mm GP Browning, M1911 pistol or older .455 revolvers if they could get them. While the elongated, 178-grain FMJ Mk2 bullet reliably tumbled in soft targets, its kinetic energy was only about 154 ft. lbs. The increased bore drag of its FMJ bullet severely limited its velocity potential, within its modest pressure limitations, enforced by the many top-break revolvers which still remained in use.

    My experience in testing “India model” Ruger Service Six revolvers in the 1980s proved that using tighter barrels, cylinder throats and controlling cylinder gap gave a useful velocity increase with .38 S&W factory ammunition, compared to typical British service revolvers having a cylinder gap of 0.008” or larger, .360” cylinder throats and .358-.359 groove diameter.

    My Colt Police Positive was made in 1930 and is the exact model brandished by James Cagney in his 1931 gangster flick Public Enemy. It has 0.005” cylinder gap, .359” cylinder throats and a typical tight Colt barrel of .344” bore diameter and .354” groove diameter. These dimensions are very close to those of the French Model 9mm Service Six Rugers, which were rechambered to .380/200 to produce the earliest guns of the India order! So, I simply HAD to test my Colt see what it delivered for velocity, compared to Rick’s S&W Lend-Lease gun.

    Current ammunition catalogs of the US makers cite 685 fps for the .38 S&W 146-grain LRN at 150 ft.-lbs. Previous tests in which I fired .38 S&W factory loads in my Ruger Service Six, 1960s-era Western 146-grain Lubaloy .38 S&W loads gave 727 fps with an extreme spread of only 12 fps and a standard deviation of 5 fps over a 10-shot string. Recent production Winchester 146-grain unplated LRN with W-W head stamp produced velocities gave close to the catalog number, 662 fps with an extreme spread of 75 fps and a standard deviation of 29 fps. Not having any of the Winchester ammo left to try in the Colt, I found recent production Fiocchi 146 LRN on GunBroker. This ammo gave impressive results in my Ruger, producing 809 fps, with a standard deviation of 21 fps, very little different than is expected firing standard pressure 158-grain lead round-nosed .38 Special in a revolver of similar barrel length!

    In working up loads for my Colt I had best results with the Accurate 36-155D, which shoots to the Colt’s fixed sights, approximating the 790 fps velocity of Fiocchi factory ammo with 2.7 grains of Bullseye, firing 155D in its 146-grain hollow-pointed version. My practice load uses the same bullet in its original solid configuration, with 2.5 grains of Bullseye giving 720 fps. The 36-155D is based on the 31-114D .32 revolver bullet, simply increasing its diameters for .38 Special. Erik Ohlen converted two cavities of my mold to drop hollow-points weighing 146 grains in 1:40 tin/lead alloy, which expand in water jugs at about 800 fps from my 2-inch Colt Detective Special in .38 Special. My reasoning is that the 4” .38 Colt New Police should approximate 2-inch. .38 Special snubby ballistics, and it does, but it the 4” Colt is more accurate, and easier to shoot well! It’s also 3 ozs. lighter, a sturdy 20-oz. 1930 classic Colt cop gun.

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    Tom Ellis at Accurate cuts several appropriate mold designs for heavier bullets of proper diameter being dimensioned properly for the .380/200 British, to shoot to point of aim in Webley or S&W Victory revolvers regulated for Mk.1 or Mk2z ammunition. These shoot quite high in my Colt, but I worked up loads, so that Ric Bowman, Joe Gifford and Charles Graff, to whom I sent samples, and having British revolvers would have starting data. Accurates 36-178D is the 31-134D profile with diameters increased to suit the .38 S&W cartridge. My intent was that its 178-grain weight should shoot to the sights of revolvers sighted for the British .380 Mk2 service round, but that its flat-nosed shape would eliminate tumbling and produce straight-through penetration with good crush characteristics.

    I benchmarked 146-grain LRN Fiocchi factory loads in the Colt, which gave 785 fps and 200 ft.-lbs. Having established these parameters, as being safely attainable, it is convenient to note that the bullet weight, velocity and overall cartridge length of the .38 NP is very close to the .38 Special wadcutter, so that standard pressure .38 Special load data could be used as a guide to gently go above factory ballistics, while staying within the design limits of the solid-frame Colt.

    My target velocity range to match Fiocchi 146-grain ammunition, with the 146-grain 36-155D-HP is 785-800 fps, which was met precisely with 2.7 grains of Bullseye. It shoots to the sights and is my most accurate load. The same charge with the solid 36-155D gave 789 fps in the Colt, and also reaches the desired 200-ft.-lbs. threshold, but for practice I am reducing the charge to 2.5 grains, to agree with published load data, giving 720 fps with a velocity standard deviation of only 6 fps over 12 rounds!

    Because inquiring minds would want to know, I compared cylinder and barrel dimensions of a postwar Webley & Scott Mark IV Israeli contract revolver with my 1930 date of manufacture Colt Police Positive in .38 Colt New Police. Both guns being virtually new had identical cylinder gaps of 0.005” “Pass” and 0.006” “Hold.” The Colt has a tighter barrel and cylinder throats than the Webley and produced about 50 fps higher velocity with Fiocchi ammo. Accuracy of the two guns was comparable and the velocity differences observed with my handloads was insignificant. I fired a brief “George Gently vs. Jimmy Cagney” shoot-off. Frank Marshall would have approved. Of course, I prefer the Colt, but once I tweaked the fixed rear notch on the Webley, widening the rear notch to see the sights better, and centering point of impact for windage, it is a serviceable piece.

    Comparison of weight and dimensions Colt vs. Webley
    ___________________Webley Mark IV .380 (1950)_____Colt Police Positive .38 Colt NP (1930)
    Barrel length:_________________4”_________________4”
    Overall Length:_______________10.1”_______________9.5”
    Height:______________________5.1”________________4 .5”
    Weight:____________________26.5 ozs._____________20 ozs.
    Cylinder Diameter:___________1.45”________________1.40”
    Cylinder Length:_____________1.30”________________1.30”
    Cylinder Throats:____________.362_________________.359
    Cylinder Gap:_________0.005PASS/0.006HOLD_____0.005PASS/0.006HOLD
    Barrel bore/groove:__________.355/.362_____________.344/.354

    Velocity Comparisons Webley & Scott .380 Mark IV vs. .38 Colt New Police Positive

    Ammunition:___________________Webley Mark IV_______Colt Police Positive
    Fiocchi 146-grain LRN factory load___750 fps, 19 Sd_______794 fps, 14 Sd
    Accurate *36-125T, 2.7 grs. Bullseye__761 fps, 10 Sd_______803 fps, 10 Sd
    “ “ “, 3.0 grs. Alliant Bullseye__837 fps, 16 Sd______883 fps, 9 Sd
    Accurate 155D-146-gr.HP 3.0 Bullseye__794 fps, 15 Sd_____852 fps, 12 Sd
    Accurate 36-155D, 2.1 grs. Bullseye____640 fps, 8 Sd______671 fps, 11 Sd
    “ “ “, 2.5 grs. Alliant Bullseye__710 fps, 16 Sd_____756 fps, 11 Sd
    Accurate 36-178D, 2.1 grs. Bullseye____595 fps, 10 Sd_____601 fps, 18 Sd
    Ideal 195-grain #358430 1.7 Bullseye__513 fps, 11 Sd_____.360 front driving band would not chamber in Colt
    Accurate 36-201D, 2.1 grs. Bullseye____601 fps, 12 Sd_____612 fps, 20 Sd
    NOE 201-grain Mk2, 2.1 grs. Bullseye___609 fps, 12 Sd_____629, fps 15 Sd

    *36-125T is the 37-125T bullet for 9x19 Makarov, which I ordered in a smaller .360 diameter for the .38 S&W, that is how the mold is marked, but it is not catalogued. The 35-122T which is catalogued is a .357" diameter for the .380 ACP, which can be ordered larger, if desired for .38 S&W or .38 Colt Auto.

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    Last edited by Outpost75; 09-29-2017 at 10:54 AM.
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    never could find a really nice one for myself, and cant find a gunsmith who can convert a ruger gp100 cheaply

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    These are most of the loads I've used in my 2 Victory model smiths. From the left is the Lyman 358430, Lyman 35853 loaded to the same OAL as flush seated in the 38 Special, Lee GB (6 cav) 100 gr DEWC, Lee GB (6 cav) for the S&W 146gr RN and a loaded round with same, Original Colt New Police, 38 Special case.



    The Iver Johnson.



    The Victory model that went to Australia and returned.



    Iver Johnson 5 shot 38 SW @ 25 yards benched. Lyman 35863 pure lead 152gr, TL, 1.6gr Red Dot 510 fps. Matching the tiny 'V' above the latch, and a razor blade thin front sight was a real torment for the old Mk1 Mod 1 eyball!

    ..............Buckshot
    Father Grand Caster watches over you my brother. Go now and pour yourself a hot one. May the Sacred Silver Stream be with you always

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    "The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president."

    Shrink the State End the Fed Balance the budget Make a profit Leave an inheritance

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    Boolit Master
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    This is another chambering in my Weird Caliber Cavalcade that has taken up serial residence in the gun safe. To date, I have accumulated a Webley-Enfield (DAO), a S&W M&P Lend-Lease "come back", a Colt Police Positive x 4" in PRISTINE shape from 1920, and an Iver Johnson "Owl Head" x 3". Waiting in the wings is a paid-for S&W Regulation Police x 4". So, YEAH--I like the caliber, for some odd reason.

    Comments--the W-E and the M&P both shoot NEI #169A (a weird 200 grain RN) right to the sights at 25 yards. Throats in both are in the .362"-363" ballpark. Load is 3.0 grains of Unique or 3.3 grains of Herco for about 650-675 FPS. Not exactly Magnum velocities, but I won't be standing downrange to field them with a baseball glove either. Accuracy of the W-E is bad-guy-capable at 25 yards, 3.5"-4.0" groups. The M&P is A LOT more accurate, on the order of 2.0"-2.5". This surprised me, as it has surprised a number of small varmints from time to time.

    The little Colt P/P is a JEWEL. .359" throats and .358" grooves, it shoots Lyman #358477 atop 3.0 grains of Unique VERY accurately. Velocity is in the 725 FPS ZIP Code. It too has prompted the early demise of small varmints in some numbers.

    The Owl Head gets very soft loadings. 1.0 grain of WW-231 (yes, the RCBS Competition Powder Measure I use will dispense them consistently & accurately) under a .375" roundball sized in a .363" H&I die until the ball radius is just under the case mouth, then a drop of LLA on the ball. Fun little bangers. These same loads work well in the M&P, also--though they hit low at 25 yards, hold about 4" high at that distance and they whack ground squirrels pretty well. We all know what "Kentucky windage means.......call this "Nevada Hayfield Elevation".
    I don't paint bullets. I like Black Rifle Coffee. Sacred cows are always fair game. California is to the United States what Syria is to Russia and North Korea is to China/South Korea/Japan--a Hermit Kingdom detached from the real world and led by delusional maniacs, an economic and social basket case sustained by "foreign" aid so as to not lose military bases.

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    Quite a few years ago there was a local boy working "narcotics detail" for the police department. He had been efficient in making "buys" but someone figured out what he was doing, and who for. That caused trouble. One night this boy and his girlfriend were parked on a isolated dirt road star gazing when a car pulled up to pass by them slowly. As this second car passed by a shotgun barrel appeared out its window and a shot was fired. The shot went just over our boy's head and took off most of his car's vinyl roof-top. The boy was carrying a S&W Terrier in 38 S&W and returned fire toward the shotgun. One person was killed outright, a second was permanently disabled, the the third (driver) was not hit but was emotionally scarred for life. The Grand Jury found no fault with the boy. That puny, overlooked 38 S&W cartridge probably saved the lives of the boy and his girlfriend.

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    Boolit Master
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    Those Terriers can bite. Being a crook is such a tough job.
    I don't paint bullets. I like Black Rifle Coffee. Sacred cows are always fair game. California is to the United States what Syria is to Russia and North Korea is to China/South Korea/Japan--a Hermit Kingdom detached from the real world and led by delusional maniacs, an economic and social basket case sustained by "foreign" aid so as to not lose military bases.

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    A single round from a 38 S&W killed William Desmond Taylor back in 1922. His murder was never solved though several theories have popped up over the years.
    My father-in law has an elderly Iver Johnson solid frame which I have loaded a few boxes of ammo over the years. I have a 358-63 that casts large and when loaded out out to 1.20 inches over 2.5 grains of Bullseye it makes for a decent practice load that could do serious injury if needed. though to be fair, while he has used several of the snake loads I brewed up for him to kill rattle snakes, he has never had the need to arm himself against criminal intrusion.
    _________________________________________________It's not that I can't spell: it is that I can't type.

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    Boolit Master
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    I keep thinking it was a 38 smith and Wesson that killed the archduke and caused that world war 1 thingy ma jig to happen.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minuteshaver View Post
    I keep thinking it was a 38 smith and Wesson that killed the archduke and caused that world war 1 thingy ma jig to happen.
    I think Gavrilo Princip used a 380 ACP to assassinate the Archduke and Duchess. Some confusion over "M-1900/32 ACP" vs. M-1910/380 ACP" has cropped up, but that's what I looked up & found.
    I don't paint bullets. I like Black Rifle Coffee. Sacred cows are always fair game. California is to the United States what Syria is to Russia and North Korea is to China/South Korea/Japan--a Hermit Kingdom detached from the real world and led by delusional maniacs, an economic and social basket case sustained by "foreign" aid so as to not lose military bases.

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    ...............The fact of the matter remains that guns ........... most any gun(s) are simply fascinating artifacts. To simplify things, males enjoy mechanical objects and girls enjoy, whatever girls enjoy. You can hand a guy (well, a guy like me or most here on the board) a gun of some description, be it an old pistol or an old rifle it will generate a certain amount of interest. Possibly some of it is that, "You do something here (work the action/pull the trigger) and something happens over there (the slug hits someplace).

    No doubt there are female machinists, as my old gunsmiths' daughter is a California certified Machinist. However like me, being born in the early 50's I think males are borne with a certain amount of metal chips and cutting oil in their blood. First married I had to work on both of our cars to keep them running for the following week so we could get to work. Things aren't like that now, and haven't been for at least the past generation. My dad tells me of growing up in rural Arkansas that going any distance at all usually required a tire change or 2 with those old fabric cored tires on those crushed rock roads. I was born after that, thank God.

    But the thing is that these days kids weren't raised as those of my age with toys by Kenner, Gilbert, Marx, Hubley, American Flyer, Lincoln Logs, or any number of outfits that made toys for boys. Nowadays it seems it's all action figures or computer games or AR type rifles. Nothing hands on. Nothing you built yourself, or anything you had a part of yourself in it.

    For me there is a certain amount of fun, and interest in mechanical objects. I don't care if it's an old refrigerator compressor, or an old cast iron 1.5 hp reel lawnmower engine. Or an old Iver Johnson revolver. I can respect it for what it is, and not try to make it something it isn't. It is what it is, and it did what it was asked to well enough.

    I don't know how the ammo was loaded in those days, but I can't go out to buy a new top break 38 S&W revolver so I treat it with a bit of respect. I suspect that back in those days a soft lead slug at 600 fps had the respect of bad guys 'cause if you caught a couple you were probably in a bad way. It is what it is, and don't try to make something else out of it.

    Buckshot
    Father Grand Caster watches over you my brother. Go now and pour yourself a hot one. May the Sacred Silver Stream be with you always

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    Shrink the State End the Fed Balance the budget Make a profit Leave an inheritance

  13. #13
    Boolit Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    The .38 S&W was my first handgun (Enfield DA only) and the first cartridge I reloaded for(Lee Loader). I have a fondness and respect for both to this day.

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    Boolit Master
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    smith and Wesson top breaks are a favorite place to go to, sadly they are very old and replacement parts normally mean taking 3 years to find an identical model and model year to get that replacement screw or spring or whatnot.

    The good old days, when stupid crooks knew that you were gonna keep shooting till the gun went "click" then a quick reload followed by a few more boom boom.

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    Boolit Master
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    The dynamics of gunfighting conduct and aftermath have shifted a bit over the past 125 years or so. In times past, a lot of citizen/crook and police/crook shooting took place as the crook was fleeing the scene of his act that summoned attention. The bullet's role was more as a "marking pellet" than that of a decisive flight-stopper or fight-stopper. Now, if the crook happened to collapse or expire, OK then--less follow-up investigation to do. If the crook kept going, the thought was that sooner or later the bullet's recipient would show up for medical care--because it was common knowledge that bullet wounds were ANYTHING BUT "clean entries". They hauled in all manner of dirt, junk, and mangy critters right along with the lead projectile, almost guaranteeing infection and an agonizing & lingering death in the days before antibiotics. This is the genesis of statutes requiring hospital staff to notify local law enforcement when a gunshot victim arrived at a hospital for treatment.

    The firing of guns at fleeing suspected felons fell from favor c. 1950s to 1960s. It is VERY MUCH frowned upon among law agencies unless said felon is pointing or shooting a gun at the involved officer or citizen. And shooting felons over property isn't kosher these days, either. An imminent lethal/great bodily harm threat gesture is the threshold nowadays. God help you if the incident isn't on video, or independent non-delusional witnesses aren't on hand. Gotta keep those lawyers well-fed and their sailboats well-equipped.

    But I digress. These days any exchanges of finality will be done with your assailant coming at you or at very close quarters. Such events develop quickly and are unspeakably savage. For such purposes, a 32 S&W Long or 38 S&W could be termed a mite light in authority. Having been shot once and shot at a number of times during my time in Mayberry, my tastes in armament run to higher velocities--larger diameters--and greater weights. I'm funny that way. The 32 SWL and 38 S&W are fine varmint (with 4 legs) calibers.
    I don't paint bullets. I like Black Rifle Coffee. Sacred cows are always fair game. California is to the United States what Syria is to Russia and North Korea is to China/South Korea/Japan--a Hermit Kingdom detached from the real world and led by delusional maniacs, an economic and social basket case sustained by "foreign" aid so as to not lose military bases.

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    Boolit Master Thumbcocker's Avatar
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    Having been shot once and shot at a number of times during my time in Mayberry, my tastes in armament run to higher velocities--larger diameters--and greater weights

    Always good to hear from them that has been there and done that.
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  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    The .38 S&W is a fun cartridge to play with.
    I have two of the S&W Aussie Victory models in .38/200 and a .38 Special cylinder fitted to one of them.( a Real .38 SPL not the Bored thru conversions )
    I also have several of the old Top Breaks of different Manufactures, dating back to 1907.
    I too started off with the Lee Wack a Mole since I didn't shoot any of these very much.
    But I now have the dies and a 158 gr .358 Mold lapped out to .362.
    The .38 cylinder shooting the .358 bullets in the one Victory is still pretty good accuracy.
    But the Top Breaks, are loaded way down or with BP just for fun.
    And I call those my Suicide Specials

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    What a great informative thread. I just bought a H&R 925 with a 2 1/2" barrel in 38 S+W. What a fun pistol. Been wanting one since I was young'un in 76!.. Getting ready to make up some round ball and 100'ish boolit loads for it. Todd/3leg

  19. #19
    Boolit Master


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    38 S&W Pressure Tests

    Earlier in this thread I offered to test some of the loads mentioned for pressure to determine what level of safety there was for the different strength of revolvers made for the 38 S&W cartridge. Ed Harris graciously sent me some bullets and the data for several test loads. I also had on hand three 38 S&W factory loads plus my own 38 S&W load I use in my Harrington & Richardson revolver.

    The test handgun is a TC Contender with a 7.94” long 357 magnum barrel. The bore is .347 and the groove is .357. A strain gauge is attached over the center of the chamber (as per SAAMI specifications). With a 38 S&W cartridge chambered the gauge is over the case just below the base of a factory seated bullet. The strain gauge is attached to an Oehler M43 PBL that is interfaced with a laptop computer which has the software. As you will note on the Oehler data sheets there is considerable data input on the conditions, test firearm and load information prior to testing. Each strain gauge is calibrated by the manufacturer and that is also input. I also use factory ammunition as a “reference”. Before each test the M43 runs a check on the gauge to ensure all is correct. A test cannot be done if that test is not correct.

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    The Contender has a 2.5X scope mounted and with quality 357 cast loads will put 10 shots into one raged hole less than 1” ctc at 25 yards. However, with the shorter 38 S&W cartridge the bullet exits the case it is not supported as it is in a revolver by the cylinder throats before entering the barrel. In the Contender chamber there would be considerable space around the bullet in the longer chamber for probable misalignment before the bullet enters the leade. Previous testing showed accuracy could be quite good and very poor. Since I’m probably the only one shooting any 38 S&W out of a Contender that isn’t a problem those of you with bullets that properly fit your revolvers cylinder throats have. The test groups were cut out and pasted to the Oehler data sheets.

    With low pressure loads the M43 PBL will not provide any measurements unless sufficient data is measured. This means any data from such shots will be “lost” including the velocity. To alleviate that problem I also set up a M35P Oehler in tandem with the M43 PBL screens to at least capture the velocity. It also is interesting to compare the measured velocity data. If the M43 PBL doesn’t measure all the shots in a test string the M35P still provides velocity information (generally a lower velocity shot wasn’t measured) for study. An example of that will be shown. The M35P print out is pasted on the Oehler M43 data sheet left of the “shot Data” and “Summary” data.

    The start screen for the M43 PBL was at 15’ and at 12.5’ for the M35P. Shooting was done from the bench with a Hoppe’s pistol rest.

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    The chamber on the Contender is to minimum specifications for the 357 magnum and most 38 S&W cartridges will not chamber. However, the R-P factory 38 S&W cartridges would chamber,,,,very tightly. I had on hand 50 new Starline 38 S&W cases and W-W and R-P 38 S&W fired cases. All of the Starline and most of the fired R-P cases would chamber when FL sized in a steel RCBS 357 FL die. With bullets larger than .358 seated they would not chamber. Thus all the test bullets other than the R-P factory that would chamber were sized .358 or .357. The R-P factory bullets measured .362 in front of the crimp and .354 on the seated bullet diameter. The W-W factory bullets were .350 - .352 on the seated portion. It is no wonder, as you will see, that accuracy was less than stellar out of my H&R with its .362 cylinder throats, .351 bore and .360 groove diameter.

    In the following picture we see the bullets used: left to right; R-P factory, W-W factory, Western Lubaloy factory, Ed Harris provided the 36-125T, the 36-155D and the 36-151H and I provided the Lee 356-105-SWC. Also is a picture of the 3 bullets Ed provided loaded and another of the three factory loads.

    CC! 500 primers were used. A roll crimp was used in the crimp groove of each bullet. All powder charges were weighed individually on a Redding scale.

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    Larry Gibson

    “Deficient observation is merely a form of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas prevailing.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

  20. #20
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    The following are the test results.

    The R-P factory load was tested first as the rounds would chamber so it would give a “reference”. Previous chronograph results out of the H&R revolver showed the R-P to give 60 – 100+ fps greater velocity than other factory loads. It also had more powder; 2.2 gr vs 1.7 and 2 gr, than the W-W and Western factory loads. The MAP (Maximum Average Pressure) measured was 16,300 psi. SAAMI MAP for the 38 S&W is 14,500 psi. The SAAMI MAP for the 38 SPL is 17,000 psi and all 38 SPL factory ammunition I have tested (numerous actually) in this barrel fall below that MAP so the psi measurement is correct.

    I also pullet bullets of the W-W and Western factory and loaded them and the factory powder charges into sized W-W 38 S&W cases that would chamber. Neither of those two factory loads produced enough psi for a measurement. It takes 5 – 7,000 psi to expand the case to put pressure on the barrel and another few thousand psi for a “strain” on the barrel to be measured. I have measured as low as 9,000 psi with this test barrel with target 38 SPL loads. However, given the expansion ratio and loose fitting bullet in the longer chamber the lowest psi measured during this test was 11,700 psi. Thus the W-W and Western factory loads were all less than 11,700 psi as were any other load that did not measure.

    Looking at the time/pressure traces to the uninitiated they can be of concern. Those are quite normal for low psi loads where the powder is not burning that efficiently. A comparison of the average velocities between the M35P and the M43 demonstrate very good consistency. The accuracy of the R-P load was extremely good.

    Ed Harris 1 test is the 36-125T bullet over 3 gr Bullseye (Alliant). That is a short stubby bullet that was presized at .357 and lubed with LLA(?). I feared accuracy would not be that good given the loose fit in the 357 length chamber and was correct. Nine shots went into 2.137” but a flyer (note the oval bullet hole) enlarged the group to 3.2”. The MAP measured 15,300 psi.

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    Ed Harris 2 test is the 36-125T bullet over 7.0 gr 2400 (Alliant). It proved to be a very erratic load and the 3.86” group demonstrates that. Obviously there is not enough bullet mass for 2400 to burn efficiently at this low of a load

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    Ed Harris 3 test is the 36-155D over 2.5 gr Bullseye (Alliant). The 36-155D is a very efficient looking bullet. It was presized at .357 and lubed with LLA. This is a very good load demonstrating excellent accuracy potential and a MAP of 16,600 psi which is very close to the R-P factory load. Note the 1st shot was out of the previously 2400 fouled barrel and was out of the remaining 9 shot group. Those 9 shots went into 1.32” which is very good.

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    Ed Harris 4 test is the 36-155D over 6.2 gr 2400 (Alliant). Here we see while we may assume accuracy to be good based on 8 shots the 2 high flyers tell us something is amiss. The internal ballistics identify that something; again 2400 at this low of a load is not burning efficiently as indicated by the very large ES figures for velocity and pressure measurements along with the erratic time/pressure curves

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    Ed Harris test 5 is the 36-151H over 2.8 gr Bullseye (Alliant). This is a very consistent load and note that by seeing how the time/pressure traces are smoothing out. Also note the low psi ES’s across the board. Hey, accuracy was pretty good too! The one high shot was the high velocity. The bad news here for the 38 S&W is this load is pushing into 38 SPL+P psi range.

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    Ed Harris 6 test is the 36-151H over 6.5 gr 2400 (Alliant). Here again we see the powder beginning to burn efficiently with low psi ES’s and much smoother time/pressure traces. Accuracy was excellent with 9 shots in 1.4:. The lone flyer, shot #9, was an abnormally low velocity. This load had the highest velocity and test MAP at 19,600 psi….definitely into 38 SPL+P range

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    Last edited by Larry Gibson; 10-02-2017 at 07:34 PM.
    Larry Gibson

    “Deficient observation is merely a form of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas prevailing.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

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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