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Thread: Some questions for the technical ones on hollow base 38 cal boolits

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Some questions for the technical ones on hollow base 38 cal boolits

    O.K. This may seem a little off the wall for many of you but I am looking for some info on hollow base boolits in 38 caliber. I like to "play" and along with that, goes many things.

    I load both BP and smokeless in 38 Colt Short, Long and Special. I was looking for a hollow base 38 mold and was about to try to have one custom made when I picked up a nice Rapine HB 145 gr. RN mold from a member here. So bear with me please.

    The handgun I will be using is a Ubeerti 1851 "Richards & Mason" conversion with 7 1/2 inch barrel - chambered in 38 Special - bore size .357.

    I haven't cast any out of the Rapine mold yet but I know they will be just fin in loading BP cartridges. A compressed load of 3F, a tight cardboard "wafer wad" cut out of thin waxed card stock over the powder, my BP lube smear in the hollow base and I will have an internal lubed cartridge very similar to the original 38 Colt Long. I see no issues so far with that load - the card over powder will prevent lube migration and upon firing, will pretty much burn and allow the gases to expand the skirt of the HB boolit.

    The question I have pertains to using the same HB boolit in a smokeless load. I plan on tumble lubing them in paste wax/alox for lube and loading with the empty hollow base. I will also mention that I will be using 38 special brass so there won't be the bullet jump that there would be in the 38 Colt Short or Long.

    I am not "high tech" like a lot of you fellows and I say that with admiration for those that are in to the alloys, chronos, etc. I've been casting for over 50 years with the dipper. I have two Lee electric pots now - one for soft lead and one for "range lead" that I have purchased form a variety of folks on here. I've never owned a chronograph nor fiddled with mixing up different alloys, etc. as for the shooting I do, I don't really find it necessary - I don't shoot competition or hunt and just mainly send lead down range.

    So . . on to my questions.

    I was going to cast them out of soft lead for both BP and smokeless loads.

    Looking at our friend, Mr. Wikipedia - the original internal lubed slug used in the 38 Colt Long was of two weights - 125 grain which with BP traveled at 772 FPS and the second was the 150 grain which with BP traveled at 777 FPS.

    I have read of those who use hollow base wadcutters (38s) and that you have to keep the load down or you can blow the skirt. The skirt thickness on what the Rapine mold casts is heavier that what is on the HB wadcutters I've seen.

    I usually use either Bulls Eye or Red Dot for most of my straight wall pistol cartridges and will be loading samples for both for this little project. Looking at my Lyman Cast Boolit Handbook - 3rd edition, they show that for the 142 grain RN Lyman/Ideal 358-212, the follow "beginning loads" give the following FPS

    Bulls Eye 2.7 grains 612 FPS

    Red Dot 2.8 grains 650 FPS

    So, if I load the beginning loads above, which is below FPS that is given for the original BP 38 Colt Long cartridge, and use the HB boolit from the Rapine mold (with nothing in the HB), will I be O.K. and not blow he skirt and the boolit travel like it should? I would of course load single rounds when testing and check for squib and leading between each fired cartridge.

    AND

    If I try the HB Rapine over smokeless . . which would be better to use? Pure lead or range lead. My guess is that the smokeless is going to expand the skirt of either of them just fine and if I load low, it won't blow the skirt. But then again . . . that's supposition on my part. I'm thinking that if the boolit is traveling at around the same rate as the original Colt Longs did, then pure lead would work O.K.?

    Yea . . . I could just use a plain base boolit and I have plenty of different molds to use but I'd like to see how the HB would work. I don't plan on using heavy loads out of the '51 "open top" - just experimenting and see what I can end up with for an accurate plinking and paper load of rout to 25 yards. With the .357 bore on the Uberti, it does't require a heeled boolit like the originals die but I'd still like to see what the results would be. My thinking is that the HB will expand with the gases behind it but it can't expand any further than what the throats are and once in the barrel and on the way out, it can't expand any further than the bore allows.

    Your thoughts, comments, etc. would be greatly appreciated and if I'm missing something here, I'd like to know about it.

    Many thanks.

    Jim

  2. #2
    Boolit Master tazman's Avatar
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    The "standard" target load for 148 grain wadcutters was 2.8-3.1 grains of Bullseye for a long time. This gave around 750-800fps in most 38 Special handguns.
    This is with the boolit seated flush with the case mouth and roll crimped over the forward drive band. OAL approximately 1.155-1.160
    Alliant still shows the 3.1 grain load for Speer hollow based wadcutters and lists it as 799 fps.
    You would need to push them much harder than this to blow the skirt.
    I didn't achieve that until I approached 357 magnum loads.

    Either soft lead or range scrap should work since these are pretty low pressure loads. The vast majority of hollow based wadcutters from the factory are swaged soft lead.
    Personally, I would use the range scrap for the 38 special.

  3. #3
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    I would not recommend putting ANYTHING between the powder and the hollow-base. Not a card and not filling the hollow-base with BP lube. I have shot many thousand hollow-base bullets in my 41 Long Colts and tried both early on. They made accuracy worse.

    I now use SPG lube on the bullets (side only), 40:1 lead:tin mix for the bullets, and compressed Swiss 3F Black Powder. That works.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    I load for several old .38 S&W (not Special) revolvers, using the soft-swaged, 148-grain HBWC bullets, seated out in .38 S&W brass, crimping in the top lube groove to an OAL of 1.16" in the .775" .38 S&W case, using .38 Special wadcutter data. A charge of 2.5 grains of Bullseye or TiteGroup is a good starting load, not to exceed 3 grains maximum. I would surmise these loads would work well in your Richards conversion. Velocity is 650-700 fps, depending upon barrel length and cylinder gap.
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  5. #5
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    The original groove diameter of .38 Short and Long Colt guns was 0.375". The original bullet diameter at the front was the same (0.375") with a heel-base bullet of 0.357"-0.358" diameter at the back end to fit inside the brass case. Later, the entire bullet was made 0.358" and the brass case was lengthened to fully encase the bullet and its lube. So, a 0.358" diameter bullet was shot down a 0.375" barrel. That is why a hollow-base is absolutely necessary with those dimensions. I owned and shot one for a while. My understanding is that in later years the groove diameter was decreased to 0.358" to increase accuracy. I have never owned one of them, so I don't know if that is true. If you own one with a .358" groove diameter, you really don't need a hollow-base. Note that the history of the 41 Long Colt is identical, except the diameters are a little larger.

    I machined a brass piece with the shape of a hollow base for compressing powder and tried it for a while. I found that it was not really necessary. Swiss BP does not need nearly as much compression as GOEX. I now have a wooden dowel that is marked with the depth of powder needed so that the BP will be compressed properly to fill the base when the bullet is seated. In other words, I use the base of the bullet to SLIGHTLY compress the powder even though I use 40:1 lead:tin mixes. The powder does not have to be HARD, unless you are using GOEX powder. I have dismantled several of the cartridges after different lengths of time. There are some marks on the base due to the powder (it looks a little like sandpaper), but evidently, it does not affect the accuracy. It does fill the base, or at least enough that it does not harm the gun. I have shot at least 15,000 rounds of 41LC in the last 20 to 25 years. It is my CAS handgun caliber. I use a modified Rapine hollow-base bullet in it.

    I know nothing about Crisco. I have never used it. Maybe it is soft enough to work in hollow-bases. You can test to find that out. I used SPG lube and it did not work for that. It works great for external lube, though. Minie balls in musket/rifles are not a fair test. The difference between the diameter of the bore and the bullet in them is not as great as in .38 and .41 Long Colts.

    Here is my article on the 41 Long Colt: http://harryo.sixshootercommunity.org/

  6. #6
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    Over the years, I have shot thousands of swaged HB wadcutters. The hollow base in them is very deep and any hot rodding of the loads asked for "blow through" although I have never seen one. I have even loaded some backwards with standard loads for shooting old watermelons (a lot of fun).

    In the last ten years or so I have shot loads of Lyman 358395, 358431 and 429422 HB bullets. In my moulds, the HB cavity is only about .225" deep so this is not a problem.

    Be ruthless when inspecting the skirts for any wrinkles or voids and discard these. Probably won't hurt anything but will not be good for accuracy.

    I tried higher velocity loads in the .357 Mag and also the .44 Mag with the 358431 and 429422. I eventually discovered that lower velocity loads gave better accuracy than did the high velocity loads.

    I also used bullets with cavities that were not completely round for one reason or another and found after recovering bullets that the cavities had blown out to a completely round configuration./beagle
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master Forrest r's Avatar
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    Sounds like you have the rapine 358149 hb mold. I have a rapine 358158 hb mold. I've shot 1000's of the hb cast bullets in the 9mm's, 38spl's , 44spl's & 45acp's.

    I use range scrap and water drop them to keep the hb from de-forming. The hb pins in the rapine molds are long & cone shaped compared to the small round lyman pins. The bottom right bullet that never expanded is a rapine bullet. I was casting rifle bullets out of lyman #2 alloy from a single cavity mold and cast some rapine 44casl hb bullets with the same alloy. Wanted to test them in the 44mag/hot loads. Well I pc'd the hard bullets and got them mixed up with the range scrap bullets and accidentally used them in the 44spl snubnosed revolver tests. I shot those rapine bullets into 12" of wetpack, the bullet went thru all 12" and never deformed.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    The rapine pins are shaped different then the round lymans.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    The rapine 35cal hb bullets that I cast/shoot


    A cramer hb mold for the 45cal's
    [IMG][/IMG]

    Re-designed the hb pin on a lyman 35870 hb mold (130gr bullet now) and use them in the 9mm.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    I have rapine hb molds for the 35cal/44cal/45cal's.
    I also have all 5 of the Mihec hb bullets, 32cal/35cal/41cal/44cal/45cal I cast them with range scrap. Loading them traditionally with the hb in the case I've had no problem running them with 20,000+ psi loads.

    So far I've only ran the hb bullet with loads up to +/- 25,000psi (rapine 430211). Used to traditional lube & size them in a lyman 450. Now I just pc them and run them thru a lee sizing die. There's a huge difference between a soft lead swaged bullet and a cast bullet. I have no idea why people keep getting the 2 different bullets confused. They tend to do the same thing when reading a reloading manual. A soft alloyed long bodied swaged bullets is nothing like a hard alloyed cast bullet either pb or hb.

    What I do:
    Cast the hb bullets out of range scrap and water drop them. PC them, load them & enjoy them.

    When you make the hb bullets out of soft lead/pure lead you are doing nothing more than creating problems. Namely the skirts have issues & the bullets skid/lead the bbl's when driven too hard. Cast them out of range scrap and use standard loads and enjoy the accuracy. You can't push that bullet hard enough in the 38spl when cast with wd/range scrap. Not enough pressure, even with fullhouse 38spl +P+ loads. I've shot the rapine 358158 & the lyman 358431 hb bullets cast with range scrap/wd'd/pc'd with 6.3gr of power pistol in 38spl cases. The rapine bullet out performed the lyman, better hb design.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    I have never understood why people use hollow-base bullets in guns with correctly sized groove diameters, cylinder throat sizes, and chamber diameter. I have used hollow-base in some guns like that, but did not see any increase in accuracy with correctly sized guns. MAYBE, just maybe, there is a reason for hollow-base in low power target loads when striving for that last fraction of an inch in group size. Maybe.

    When you have a .358" bullet in a 0.375" barrel or a 0.386" bullet in a 0.401" barrel, there are very large differences in accuracy between flat-base and hollow-base bullets. In musket/rifles that have the OD of the bullet roughly the same size as the bore (not groove), there is a large difference in accuracy, too. Otherwise, no.

    Casting hollow-base bullets is a lot more work than flat base bullets. If you don't need to do that, why do it? BTW, 40:1 lead:tin casts in hollow-base very easily. Filled out skirts are easy to accomplish. The only problem is that they are single cavity moulds. Slow. I have cast wheelweights in hollow-base moulds and they are much more difficult to get the skirt to fill out. It can be done, but a lot of tin needs to be added to make it fill out the skirt. Otherwise, you get one or two "hairlips" in the skirt. Not worth the trouble for me.

    Also, BTW, if your .38 Long Colt has a .375" bore, you don't need to reload. When I had mine, I decided not to get a hollow-base mould and correct reloading dies because of the cost. Besides, I was working with the 41LC at the time. The gun was a Colt 1892 series side-swing cylinder DA manufactured in 1902. I used Federal hollow-base target .38 Specials. No problems in many hundreds of rounds. The hollow-base expanded to grip the rifling. The pressure was low enough to NOT break the old gun. Accuracy was acceptable. The long case easily fit in the chamber because there are no reduced diameter throats in the cylinder. The chamber is straight from front to rear.

    If you have one that has a 0.358" groove diameter, why mess with the hollow-base?

  9. #9
    Boolit Master tazman's Avatar
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    I bought an NOE 4 cavity hollow based wadcutter mold and did fairly extensive testing with it.
    Light loads, different diameters, and different power charges in several handguns.
    My results showed there is a slight difference in accuracy(1/4 inch at 20 yards benched) using the hollow based boolit. I also found that I am not a good enough shot to take advantage of that small difference.
    A really good target shooter would be the only one that would benefit in my opinion.
    Someone will probably say,"Why not use the best, most accurate ammunition you can?" My response is, "If I can't tell the difference when I shoot the gun,why bother".
    Even with a great mold, hollow base boolits can be a pain to cast and require more care to get right. It just isn't worth it to me.
    Using 38 special wadcutter brass does make a difference for me even using solid boolits, so I do use that with my wadcutter loads.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Harry-O is spot-on.. I've seen numerous British rook rifles in both the .380 Rook and. 360 No.5 cals. which were simply rechambered to .38 Special, using factory target wadcutter ammunition in the tiny, black powder action rifles with HUGE groove diameters from .366-.380" and they all shot accurately, under 3 inches at 50 yards with simple open sights. Those with bright, shiny bores not over .370" groove diameter did the best, about 2 to 2-1/2" for 5-shot groups.
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  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Well, I guess my answer to the question as to "why use a hollow base boolit in a pistol that a regular plain base boolit will work in" would be . . . "because I want to try it and see how it performs. In reply, I would ask . . when we buy a new handgun - say a 9mm . . why do we waste money on buying a half a dozen molds to try the boolits in the gun when all that is needed is one mold that will cycle and make it out of the barrel?

    I'm well aware of the "reason" for a hollow base or heeled boolit being use when the bore size requires it. And yes, the reproduction Uberti '51 Richards & Mason conversion, as well as their other open-tops chambered in 38, all have .357 bores so a "standard" .358 flat base boolit will work. And yes, it would be "easier". Let's face it, loading cartridges with "smokeless powder" is "easier" and much cleaner, so why do we load BP cartridges? In fact, why load and shoot a 41 Colt when it would be much easier to load and shoot a different caliber - less money for molds, less money for dies, etc. and it would sure b "easier" to load a straight walled cartridge over a 32-20, 38-40 or 44-40. We do it because we like "challenges" which keep things interesting.

    I'm not too concerned about the "difficulty" of casting with a hollow base mold - I've been doing it for just about 55 years now and have cast literally tens of thousands of hollow based minies and boolits for use in muzzleloaders. Just because the conceptual use of a mine ball or hollow base boolit being used in a muzzleloading rifle is different than a hollow base boolit to be used in a cartridge differs because the differences in application, doesn't make one harder to cast than the other. You run your lead hot, you mold hot and keep your base pin hot and the mold will do the rest. And while it takes loner to produce boolits in a single cavity over a multiple cavity, the satisfaction of dropping good boolits makes up for that . . . at least it does for me. But, why cast in a hollow base mold when a flat base would work? I could ask the same question of why cast a hollow point boolit when a flat nose will put meat on the table? Because we all like different challenges and different things.

    Years ago, I used to shoot competition with rifled musket. On our team, we had a couple of guys who were so competitive that they would spend the night before weighing each of their powder loads and each of their minie balls out - while th rest of us went out to dinner and relaxed and had fun. They would get so worked up about how well they would shoot that it would actually make them physically sick at times. After a while, the team slowly changed because of their attitude and their constant griping at us that we didn't take things serious enough no would we listen to the only advice that was correct - theirs. They lost sight of the fact that it was supposed to be fun and they not only began to compete in the competition in the hopes of being the "best", bu with each other.

    I have been shooting '51 Navies for 55 years. I have probably owned at least a half dozen different ones. I still shoot my Uberti '51 Navy and I didn't want to put a conversion cylinder in it. I had seen several of the R & M conversions and want to try one to see what I could do with it. I doubt I will ever sell it but if the hollow base doesn't work in it . . it doesn't work. But I won't know until I try it.In the end, I may very well buy a new Uberti '51 of possibly a '61 Navy and put a conversion cylinder in it. With the bore in one of those, I know the hollow base boolit will work and take care of the larger bore.

    In the end, will the HB boolit give me and accurate load? Maybe yes, maybe no. As I said, my "competition shooting days" are over and if I can make it work to take a can off the top of a wood fencepost or kill a popcorn at respectable distances, then I'll be happy. We all have things that we like to do in the reloading and shooting hobby. For myself, I enjoy "experimenting" with different loads as well as casting with different molds. And sometimes the "easiest way" isn't always the most rewarding road to travel . . .

    I thank all for your kind responses . . . it's greatly appreciated.

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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