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Thread: 38 Special Bear Load

  1. #1

    38 Special Bear Load

    I recently acquired a Ruger SP101 2.25" barrel and S&W 638 1 7/8 barrel. I have an old Lee 358-158-SWC mold number 90324. I am looking to develop a "BEAR" load for when we go hiking in the mountains.

    The boolits are cast from Lyman #2, are .360 diameter and 164gr. If I seat to the crimp groove the OAL is 1.405in. I HiTek Coated them then sized .358.

    According to Hodgon's site the 158gr LSWC with a OAL of 1.475in.

    Powders on hand and listed data are 700-x (3-3.4gr), Titegroup (3.2-3.8gr), Universal (3.5-4.5gr), Clays (2.8-3.1gr), and IMR4227 (9-10gr).

    I use Titegroup in my 9mm cast loads and have had good results.

    I have ladder loads for TG from 2.8gr to 3.8gr in .2gr increments. Hodgdon goes as high as 4.3gr for a 158gr XTP for +P. To me 3.8gr seems like a pretty HOT load. I haven't had a chance to go to the range to test these loads.

    Buffalo Bore lists their 158gr LWSC Hard Cast +P at 1027fps out of a S&W 642 1 7/8 barrel and 1043 out of a 2.5in barrel S&W.

    Here is what the boolit looks like and seated.

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    The SP101 will stand .38-44 Heavy Duty loads which would do better for black bear than what you propose.

    You might try some of these.

    Factory .38 Special +P and .38 Special (.38-44) Handloads
    Ammunition____________________S&W .38-44 HD 4”

    Factory Loads for Reference:

    Old Super-X 158-grain LRN .38-44____994 fps, 23 Sd
    Winchester X38SPD 158-gr. LHP+P___909 fps, 16 Sd

    “.38-44” Handloads in .38 Special brass, W-W cases, WSP primer:

    Saeco #348 146DEWC 8.9 grs.#2400+P__922 fps,12 Sd
    Acc. 36-175H 4.0 grs. Bullseye+P______871 fps, 5 Sd
    Acc. 36-175H 5.5 grs. AutoComp+P____902 fps, 14 Sd
    Acc. 36-175H 11.5 IMR4227+P________914 fps, 22 Sd
    Acc. 36-190T 8.4 #2400+P___________888 fps, 21 Sd
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  3. #3
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    gon2shoot's Avatar
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    I think 38 special bear load is an oxymoron, if you trust your life to it remove the oxy.
    I guess it would be better than nothing, but I sure wouldn't be comfortable with it.
    grit yer teeth an pull the trigger

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    I'm assuming he's talking about black bears, not grizzly. They're more a nuisance than anything else. Any handgun is better than no handgun and I haven't heard about too many cases of black bears going on full on charge and someone having a problem stopping them with any handgun. I see them pretty regularly on my place and I've had them come too close out of either curiosity or wanting a food source. A shot or two from my handgun has sent them running. Yes, in a true life and death situation bigger would be better, but statistically the chances of getting attacked by a black bear are very, very slim. There are much greater chances of being attacked by a dog than a bear, and two footed predators are even a greater threat.

  5. #5
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    Since you will only need one round, any load will do.

    Just shoot yourself when the Bear Charges and you'll be safe.

    I don't see a 38 Special as being suitable for protection from even humans, let alone bears.

    I guess it would be better than nothing however a caliber starting with a .4 would be a better place to start.

    Next guys will be asking what brand of .22 LR is good for Bears.

    Randy
    "It's not how well you do what you know how to do,,,It's how well you do what you DON'T know how to do!"
    www.buchananprecisionmachine.com

  6. #6
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    I'd load for +P & carry both of them while I worked over time, a part time job, saved up, cashed in my scrap metal,
    and sold blood until I was able to get a Smith 629 in .44 Mag. or a Marlin Alaskan in .45-70.
    Last edited by Winger Ed.; 12-26-2019 at 05:53 PM.
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  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy kaiser's Avatar
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    Statistically, there are more attacks caused by Black Bears than caused by Grizzlys. I suppose because there are far more Black Bears in various states and provinces, and people tend to discount them as a threat when encountered because of their "clownish" reputations. The chance of running on to a Black Bear that has no fear of man increases the chances that it will consider you a threat if you get between it and a meal (elk or deer kill) or a threat to its cubs. Considering that a Black Bear is as big and heavy as an NFL lineman, can run 40 yards in less than 3 seconds, has claws (to spike you), and teeth (to chomp you) I would think any person might think about being properly armed in their territory! Black Bears can also climb trees rather well, Grizzly's cannot. Any pistol IMHO is a poor second choice to a rifle, but I prefer something bigger than a .38 Special. I'm not fond of .44 Mags or larger pistols due to their size, weight, balance, and recoil. A late friend of mine, who was an Elk guide in Colorado, was pulled out of a tree and mauled by a black bear and related it was the most terrifying experience he had ever had with a wild animal! He said he had never considered a Black Bear to be remotely scary until that experience and had nightmares of that attack for years. People who live in Bear Country tell of varying recommendations of what firearms to carry, but they all seem to give a healthy respect to the capabilities of any adult bear, regardless of the species where "wild animal" can be on display rather unexpectedly!
    Last edited by kaiser; 12-27-2019 at 12:37 PM. Reason: typo

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winger Ed. View Post
    I'd load for +P & carry both of them while I worked over time, a part time job, saved up, cashed in my scrap metal,
    and sold blood until I was able to get a Smith 629 in .44 Mag. or a Marlin Alaskan in .45-70.
    That's the spirit!

    Randy
    "It's not how well you do what you know how to do,,,It's how well you do what you DON'T know how to do!"
    www.buchananprecisionmachine.com

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    If a bear attacks, it comes quickly. Your shot, one, two maybe, three unlikely, will be head on. A bear has a very thick skull that is sloped a bit upward and to the rear. Lighter bullets can fail to penetrate and skid off the skull. I would want that one shot, maybe two, unlikely to be three, to be something heavier and with more penetration than a .38.

    It seems that since the one or two incidents of a year ago where a bear was killed with a 9mm has caused some to believe that a smaller caliber is adequate for the job. Although it is not likely that the victim will get the opportunity to use them, most 9mms have high capacity mags that carry 15 or more rounds to the .38 revolver's 5 or 6. Better choices would be .44 Mag., .45 Colt, .45 Casull, 10mm. Because one or two shots may have to do.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    If we are done berating the OP, I'd like to add that you can meet your goal of 158 grain at 1000 fps, although it will likely be at or above +p levels. It is completely safe in your SP101. Of what you have, IMR 4227 is going to be the only thing that will get you there. I would start at 11 grains, and work up until you get to 1000 fps.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master Boogieman's Avatar
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    To answer the OP's question. Use the Ruger, It will still be working when the Smith is shot loose Titegroup is too fast for heavy loads, Unique or Power Pistol work well. Lee's 158gr. RNFP is a better bullet ,more of the weight is out of the case, allows for a slightly heaver load. If I were You Id' work up a hot but safe load that I could shoot well and buy a box or two of BB s for woods carry. It's all making the best with what you have to work with
    The 3 people a man must be able to trust completely are his gunsmith his doctor & his preacher ..,his gunsmith for his short term health ,his doctor for long term health ,and his preacher incase one of the others mess up.

  12. #12
    Boolit Grand Master fredj338's Avatar
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    TG is totally the wrong powder for +P 38sp loads. Think slower powders like AA#7, PP or BE86. Higher vel with lower pressures.
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  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy ACC's Avatar
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    You have got to be kidding me! A .38 Special Bear load. Have you ever seen what a small black bear can do to a person. Can you say cat toy? I have seen what a small black bear can do. To a human and to a thick freezer door, to a car to an RV. I would have to be on meth to even take one on with a very hot .357!

    If this is what you really want to do. Please don't take you kids with you.

    All fun aside. Please don't do this. Take it from a professional tracker who has carried a pistol although the Rockies.

    ACC

  14. #14
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Please note that since your Lee bullet has a skinny nose it has more bullet in the case than a standard 158 SWC or RN. Thus equivalent powder charges will yield higher velocities and pressures as compared to more conventional bullets.

    FWIW.

  15. #15
    I knew the harrasment was coming on using a 38sp for bear. I was prepared for it. Most of our hiking/fishing is in black bear country, we've only seen a 5-6 in 20 yrs of hiking/fishing. Most encounters have been while fly fishing in Colorado in very remote areas, they have had cubs with them a time or two. I just move away slowly after checking my six.

    One of these days I'd like to get a Ruger Redhawk 44mag.

    I will give Universal and 4227 a try.

    The 3.8 of TG yielded 850fps out of the Ruger.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master 1bluehorse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by W.R.Buchanan View Post

    Next guys will be asking what brand of .22 LR is good for Bears.

    Randy



    For 22LR I would use CCI 40gr. Stingers.....as for shooting a Black Bear with a 158gr. HARD bullet at 1000fps it will work. Hard for penetration, and a black bears skull is not made of titanium that old "legend" came from shooting them with pure lead round balls from muzzle loaders. Of course someone will come along and say they know a guy that shot one in the head with his 300 Win mag and the bullet bounced off. If someone can kill a grizzly with a 9mm with a FMJ (done) then the 38 at the same speed, same bullet type will certainly dispatch a black bear. Unless someone here can speak of unsuccessfully doing this I will stick by my opinion. It wasn't that many years ago that the 357mag came into being and took pretty much everything that walked.

  17. #17
    Boolit Buddy adcoch1's Avatar
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    If the 38 is what you have, load a few hardcast semi wadcutters. Your bullet has a bit small of a nose for the weight range you want for a bear. I would bet that if its bad breath distance that a 158 grn wadcutter cast out of hard alloy would penetrate the skull of a black bear. But get it moving as fast as the gun can handle. Use the ruger, but look for a hotter handgun in a cal that starts with a 4 if you think bears might give you trouble. If the 38 is gonna be the only gun you use, get some bear spray too. It makes a good deterrent.
    "Give me liberty, or give me death!" Patrick Henry ,March 23, 1775

  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy adcoch1's Avatar
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    "Give me liberty, or give me death!" Patrick Henry ,March 23, 1775

  19. #19
    Boolit Master Handloader109's Avatar
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    I've the same bullet and there is a LOT of difference in a 38spec and a 357 loaded up. Even using Bullseye, in my wife's little taurus, the 357 loaded to a medium load is way hotter than the 38 special. Anything is better than nothing, but I'd figure out a way to upgrade to a 357 min. 850 vs 1500 ft/sec is a LOT of difference.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master bigboredad's Avatar
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    You might check out what Montana bullet works has the cal. I would think they have a bit heavier bullet that would not break the bank. I would also check out accurate powder and ramshot powder reloading they get some pretty good velocity with out the pressure getting out of control

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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