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Thread: .357 with Keith load?

  1. #1
    Boolit Man
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    .357 with Keith load?

    There's lots of shooters who write about using the highly regarded Keith load of #358429 bullet with 13.5 gr. 2400 powder in .38 Special cases in their .357 Magnum revolvers (in order to allow the long bullet to work in the short cylinders of some of the weapons). Usually such a setup can cause a build-up of crud in the chamber throats because of the shorter case length, but I never hear about this as a problem when the Keith load is used in a .357 Magnum. For those with lots of experience using this load: is it somewhat immune to the crud build-up, or do you just brush it out of your chambers and not talk about it? Thanks, GWW

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Excellent question. Most commercial cast bullets and factory "cowboy" loads are assembled with hard-cast bullets because the 92Pb-6Sb-2Sn, 16 BHN alloy, is readily available in 1-ton heat lots from the lead producers, the material flows well through a Magma casting machine, the bullets look "pretty" and are not damaged in handling or shipping.

    The commercial reloaders also tend to load bullets of a minimum size similar to jacketed, avoid function problems in guns of varing chamber dimensions. But these hard bullets and hard lube commonly used do not coat the bore, the bullets do not upset to fill the cylinder throats or barrel grooves in less than full magnum loads. Therefore you have a textbook formula to produce heavy leading the majority of the time.

    Most leading problems are caused by bullets which are too small in diameter to properly fit the gun, using alloy which is too hard for the particular application, and using a too-hard lube which is unable to flow upon firing to accomplish boundary-layer lubrication in the bore.

    Elmer Keith did all of his load development in the .38-44, .357, .44 Special and .44 Magnum using 1:16 or 1:30 tin-lead alloy of 10-11 BHN. When bullets fit correctly and are properly lubricated, hard alloy is unnecessary for full charge loads in the .357 and .44 Magnums, as well as in lesser revolver calibers. COWW, perhaps with 1-2% tin added to improve fillout is entirely adequate. Avoiding the dreaded crud ring is accomplised by using soft bullets and soft lube which is able to coat the cylinder throats as well as the bore. Then by using a .40 cal. bore brush with Kano Kroil to clean the cylinder charge holes the accumulated residue is effectively removed. But best is to use .357 brass which fills the chamber and avoids the bullet being unsupported in transitioning from the case into the cylinder throats.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Outpost75 View Post
    Most leading problems are caused by bullets which are too small in diameter to properly fit the gun, using alloy which is too hard for the particular application, and using a too-hard lube which is unable to flow upon firing to accomplish boundary-layer lubrication in the bore.
    Worth repeating.

    Don
    NRA Certified Metallic Cartridge Reloading Instructor

  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
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    Also reduce old maximum 2400 data by 10% because 2400 was changed a few years ago. Peak pressure is higher now and the 10% less will produce similar velocities to the old higher powder charges.

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norske View Post
    Also reduce old maximum 2400 data by 10% because 2400 was changed a few years ago. Peak pressure is higher now and the 10% less will produce similar velocities to the old higher powder charges.
    Actually, according to pressure tests which Larry Gibson has done, the powder is not materially different. However most of the old data you read in vintage books and loading manuals published before about 1970 was not pressure tested and was too hot to start with. Then most of the pressure testing that was done for the better loading manuals, starting in about the mid-1970s, was done using the older radial-copper test methods, which give different results than modern piezo-electric transducer and strain gage methods.

    Reducing any old data by 10% is still good advice, but not because today's powder is different. The test methods and SAAMI/ANSI/CIP standards have changed to reflect current technology and recommended engineering practices.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master


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    Thanks for your insights Outpost75. I learn a lot from your posts.
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Outpost75 is correct. After considerable testing of Hercules 2400 and Alliant 2400 (several different lots of each) in the 357 Magnum, the 44 magnum and the 30-30 all with cast bullets I have concluded the only difference falls within lot to lot variation. Some lots of Hercules were "hotter" than some lots of Alliant and visa versa...…. however, not enough hotter to for me to concern myself with.

    I always agree with reducing a load 10% and working back up when a different lot of the same powder is used especially if pushing a maximum pressure level load. That is, with us cast bullet shooters, going to be with powders such as 2400. However, with reduced target loads that have less than maximum pressure the lot to variation of most powders will not significantly raise or lower the pressure and I just use the same weight charge. My target 32 S&WLs, my target 32 H&R, my 38 SPL standard and target along with standard loads in the 44 SPL, 45 ACP and 45 Colt ar loaded with the same load (for each cartridge) of Bullseye regardless of lot to lot variation without worry of over pressure. There just isn't enough lot to lot variation to make any significant difference.
    Last edited by Larry Gibson; 01-24-2020 at 08:25 AM.
    Larry Gibson

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

  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Thanks Larry.

    At "our age" (70s) I am always reluctant to trust memory and the independent validation is always greatly appreciated.
    The ENEMY is listening.
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  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I have shot thousands of the Keith loads over the past 30 years, Elmer was the man, he knew his stuff.

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy
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    Like Koger , I've shot thousands of Elmer's heavy 38 spl loads in my S&W model 19-4 with excellent accuracy and no forcing cone trouble. Also, Elmer is still "The Man"

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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