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Thread: .38/.357 Magnum brass differences, et cetera ?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Smile .38/.357 Magnum brass differences, et cetera ?

    Given: You can fire .38 Special ammunition in a 357 Magnum, but not the reverse.

    Many of the "old timey" gun writers, notably a fellow by the name of Skeeter Skelton, who was a Border Patrol Officer, back when they weren't paid much. He was on the pistol team, and could get all the fired .38 Special brass he wanted....free! That's why he used it, but for his Heavy Loads, he recommended and used "expen$ive" 357 Magnum brass. I even loaded up a few of his "Medium" load...13.5 gr. 2400/158 gr. swc...One range session was enough, thank you very much! I was younger then.

    I use 357 brass exclusively, but am now trying to load .38 Spl +P level "FBI equivalent" rounds in my 357 revolvers, with velocity from 900-1,000 fps. That's lively enough for me, as I age towards 80. I have heard the old saw;" For 357, take the top load from a .38 special manual., add 5-10%", and FEAR NOT!

    My once standard IPSC and everything load was 357 brass, CCI standard Pistol primer, home cast 150gr SWC (RCBS mold) sized .357, 5.5 gr. Unique, chrono'd 860 fps. Nice to shoot, accurate.

    In my research, I have found opinions from "shoot 'em like it says in the manual", to "add .01-.03 grain to compensate for the extra space",going from .38 Spl. to Magnum brass.(?)

    At present, I have Unique, Universal, Trail Boss and a little 2400, which I won't replace when it is gone. I'm looking for a powder of the same or greater case-filling bulk as Unique and Universal, and I am thinking about Herco, AA#5, HS-6 or maybe Blue dot, using 125-135 gr cast, plated and JHP, 148-150 gr Wadcutters, and 158-165 gr. cast and "J Word" boolits. Low flash would be good. Buy one of each? Not possible on a fixed income, and, at ~ $30 a can, If I buy mistakenly, it will get expen$ive!

    O.K., so now, to the questions...
    1. I'm not worried about overpressure in my 357, sooo...6gr. Unique being below the start load for .357, that should be a safe and reasonable load for 150-160 gr. lead boolits, do you think? Personal experiences with any of the above powders, or maybe something I haven't considered?

    2. I read once that ball powder, as in HS-6, will erode a forcing cone faster than flake....true?

    3. If I use Small Pistol Magnum primers, or Winchester SP, which are said to be sufficient for hard-to-ignite powders, too, how will it change the dynamics of the load, if at all? Will a change of primers increase/decrease accuracy or pressures?

    Thanks for letting me ramble!
    Last edited by sniper; 07-04-2018 at 01:36 PM.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    I think you answered your own question with the 5.5 gr of unique load. I have shot 6.0 gr of unique in .357 brass and 158 gr swc and like it a lot. As for your other questions , a mag primer is not needed with unique, and I have not used HS6 in the .357, so I don't know anything about it. However I agree with you about Skeeters load, I made it to 12.5 gr of 2400 with the Thomson boolit and threw in the towel. FWIW

  3. #3
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    LUCKYDAWG13's Avatar
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    I have used starting loads of Unique 6.3 gr under 158gr swc in my 3" Ruger sp101 and 6" 686 shoots well but a lot of Flash out of the
    3" barrel
    kids that hunt and fish dont mug old ladies

  4. #4
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    6.0 grains of Unique or 6.5 grains of Herco under a cast #358429 give about 975-1000 FPS in my S&W 686 x 4". 357 Magnum cases are used. These make up about 90% of my 357 Magnum shooting these days. Tractable recoil, reasonable bark, and a bit more OOMPH downrange when a surly badger or sneaky coyote needs processing.
    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.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I am or was a big Skeeter fan and don't remember a 13.5 load for .357 brass but do know the classic Skeeter load of 13.5 2400 a 358156 in .38 cases. I recently bought some .357 cases for the first time in 40 years for a Miroku 92 although .38 cases work fine. So I still use a modified Skeeter load and a modified Keith load for my heavy cartridges. Everything else also goes into .38 cases with BE and and 148gr wadcutters. I Don't see a reason for .357 brass.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Red face

    salvadore;
    Skeeter's recommendation for 357 brass was published in an article in Shooting Times in 1988. http://www.darkcanyon.net/MyFriend_The357.htm It's just a short sentencepart of a paragraph preceeding the load tables.

    When I started reloading in the '70s, I had the choice of really cheap .38 or the more expen$ive 357 brass, and I decided to go with the longer stuff. Haven't had reason to question the decision, although once I did have some Sellier and Bellot .38 brass that I got from somewhere, that I tried to shoot to failure, rather than throw it away. I gave up!

    LUCKYDAWG13, johniv and 9.3X62AL; Thanx for the suggestions! That is what makes this forum so interesting and valuable!
    Last edited by sniper; 07-24-2018 at 11:42 AM.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Sniper
    Thanks for the article, I blame Skeeter for my major interest during my adult life, shooting.

    I noticed Skeeter didn't want anyone casting aspersions (sp) whatever that is, concerning his .357 sixgun, not the cartridge and later tells us his favorite reload is the .38 cased 358156/2400 load.

    I know I am picking nits and a personal choice is a personal choice. While I am pushing seventy, I aspire to someday be pushing eighty and still putting rounds down range like you.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    I think you've already answered your own question.

    As for: "......I use 357 brass exclusively, but am now trying to load .38 Spl +P level "FBI equivalent" rounds in my 357 revolvers, with velocity from 900-1,000 fps......"

    I'm assuming you are looking for a 900-1000 fps load in a .357 mag casing with a soft lead, SWC HP ? That would be a little hotter than the "FBI Load" with is a 158 gr LSWCHP +P 38 Special but it's not significantly hotter given the .357 magnum chambering. You should have NO problems getting a 160ish grain LSWC to 1000 fps in a .357 mag. and stay well within pressure limits.
    6.0 grains of Unique will easily get you in that range with a 160 grain LSWC.
    I use Unique in some loads but I don't care for the way it meters in an automated powder measure on a progressive press, so I use other powders on a progressive press.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master tazman's Avatar
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    In my 357 cases, I have been using 14 grains of IMR 4227 with the Lyman 358156 with gas check or the 358429 plain. The load gives me right at 1200 fps with either boolit and is very accurate in my revolvers.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master popper's Avatar
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    OK, question - 38 sp in 357 mag snuby. Does the longer cylinder give any 'barrel length ' advantage over a 38 sp, same length barrel? I can't handle 357 snubby but 38 is OK - is there an advantage to the 38/357 setup? Just factory ammo.
    Whatever!

  11. #11
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    Bubba w/a 45/70's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by popper View Post
    OK, question - 38 sp in 357 mag snuby. Does the longer cylinder give any 'barrel length ' advantage over a 38 sp, same length barrel? I can't handle 357 snubby but 38 is OK - is there an advantage to the 38/357 setup? Just factory ammo.
    No, is the short answer.
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  12. #12
    Boolit Master tazman's Avatar
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    Bubba is correct. The extra length of chamber allows the gasses to expand a bit and lose pressure thereby removing any extra zip you would get from an extra 1/8 inch of barrel.
    The gap variations between the cylinder and the barrel will have a greater effect than the cylinder length would.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master popper's Avatar
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    Thanks. Saves me $100.
    Whatever!

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Have any of you substituted an equal amount of Universal Clays for the Unique? If so, how did it shoot? GF

  15. #15
    Boolit Master





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    That to me may make the cylinder bulge. USE published data not off the net , not I do this load.

    Wonder why manufactures warranty goes away with reloads?

  16. #16
    Boolit Master maglvr's Avatar
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    From that Skeeter article..........
    "My favorite handloads, made from a recipe of the 358156 hollowpoint bullet held in its lower crimping groove by a Remington .38 Special case."
    The .357 Magnum......
    1935
    Major Douglas Wesson, using factory loads, which were a 158 gr. soft lead bullet, traveling 1515 fps, from an 8 3/4" barreled S&W, producing 812 ft. lbs of muzzle energy.
    Antelope - 200 yards (2 shots)
    Elk - 130 yards (1 shot)
    Moose - 100 yards (1 shot)
    Grizzly Bear - 135 yards (1 shot).

    It kind of makes one wonder, why today, it will bounce off anything bigger than a rabbit

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Low Budget Shooter's Avatar
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    Here's one data point that might help: In many chrony readings from 6" barrel Model 19-3, I learned that with a 158-ish grain bullet, it takes .5 grain more Red Dot powder for a round in a .357 Magnum case to have the same velocity as a round in a .38 Special case. The velocities in the .38 Special case will be more consistent. As Skeeter observed, 5.0 grains Red Dot in a .357 case, or 4.5 grains in a .38 Special case, is a great load.
    A box of premium carry ammo is too expensive at about $30, so I've spent $1,000 on molds, lead, lube, primers, and powder over the past 10 years to make some that's cheaper!

  18. #18
    Boolit Master Walks's Avatar
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    I grew up in a time when a much heavier charge of 2400 was used in a .357MAG case under a Thompson Gas Check bullet.
    My DAD wouldn't load the "SKEETER LOAD". He considered it a dangerous practice. With so many of us in the Hardcore Family group & his LODGE Brothers and others joining us.
    There was too much danger of some uninformed individual slipping one of those "SKEETER LOADS" into a small frame S&W or COLT.
    Of course that didn't stop me from doing it on my own, once I got out of the Service and started building my own Reloading Setup. I shot enough of the "SKEETER LOAD" in my NM BLACKHAWK & S&W 19 to fill a 55 gal drum.
    These days the hottest .357MAG Load I shoot is the #358429 over 6.0grs UNIQUE.
    If I feel the need for the #358156, I load only 14grs of 2400 in a magnum case.
    Once in a while I'll load 4.5grs UNIQUE under #358429 for a Post-War OFFICIAL POLICE.
    That's all the hot I need anymore.
    .38SPL brass for .38SPL Loads.
    .357MAG brass for .357MAG Loads.
    It's just easier, and there's no cost difference anymore.
    Happiness is a Warm GUN & more ammo to shoot in it.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Most of the time I shoot downloaded .357 loads in my revolver. Yep, max loads can be fun and they are what I keep loaded in it next to the bed. When it comes to range time I use a .38 Spl +P loading in .357 cases.

    How can I tell the difference between my max loads and range loads? Easy. The max loads are all factory loads, either Silvertips or Hornady Critical Defense. My reloads are all reduced.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    I have moderated my .45, .44 loads but am not having any trouble with Skeeters load even out of my model 60-10. I'm even getting decent accuracy with the Miroku 92 even with my pathetic eye sight. I may not bother with the other 50 pieces of .357 brass if 92 accuracy is sustained. that means l will have half a box of jacketed bullets laying around also. For the safety first peeps, I Don't load anything but Skeeter and Elmer loads with those bullets. If someone helps themselves to one of those loads and puts it in their .38, sinloi.

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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