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Thread: 38 special and 38+p powder selection and velocity

  1. #21
    Boolit Man R-71's Avatar
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    I'm using a MP mold 158 grain HP Keith bullet with a +p charge of HS 6, I get 985 FPS out of a 4" model 15.

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magnum0710 View Post
    The only reason I'm looking for speed is to increase penetration
    With expanding bullets, as you increase velocity the penetration goes down. This is because the extra velocity makes the bullet mushroom wider. There are some controlled expansion JHP designs that allow you to keep the same penetration as you increase velocity (usually because the jacket supports most of the mushroom, but allows the edges of the mushroom to break off as the mushroom gets too wide) but there are no HP bullets that I have seen were more velocity gets you more penetration. Hell, even non-expanding solids go down in penetration after 1600 fps.

    I have seen HP failures where added velocity causes the mushroom to completely break off, leaving a half weight wadcutter. But if you mushroom is staying together then more speed means less penetration.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by 20:1 View Post
    Since the manufacturer doesn't recommend a steady diet of +P, and intentionally didn't mark the gun "+P", I'd stay out of it myself. I'd suggest std pressure wadcutters for the snubby. Please notice that I said "std pressure", and not "target" loads. Most 2 inch 38 Special +P loads don't generate enough velocity to facilitate bullet expansion, some 4 inchers don't either. Even factory loads. Personally, I'm a bit leery of subjecting imported guns to pressures they're obviously not designed to withstand anyway. This is where the lowly wadcutter shines, since it is not designed to expand anyway. It is designed to cut a clean hole in its target for the full length of its travel. Many LEOs carry wadcutters in their backup revolvers. Skip the +P stuff entirely and load the 357 as a 357, and the 38 as a standard pressure 38 Spl. Here's a bit of reading material for you to ponder. Yes, I am aware that they are using clear ballistics blocks, which aren't the same as the FBI organic gelatin but everything here is done consistently the same way with the same materials for the sake of comparison.

    Ed Harris: https://www.hensleygibbs.com/edharri...FBI%20Load.htm

    Lucky Gunner gel tests. Note how hamstrung the 38 Spl is with a two inch barrel. Lots of pics!: https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/rev...llistics-test/
    The loads I've worked up are +p according to Speer for their swaged bullets but according to the Lyman cast book they're all standard pressure loads. I am using cast, not sure if it makes a difference or not. From my experience loading 357 mag the Lyman book seems to be about right I usually top out a couple tenths below their max. For 357 I started off using their 158 data, the 158s in the Lyman book are actually RNFP not SWCs, the swc data are the 155 grain. The 158 rnfp data for 357 goes to 10.2 grains HS6, I never made it past 9.8 but the 155 grain SWC max is 9.7 HS6, once I realized this it made sense why I topped out where I did. My 357 load is now 9.5 grains HS6. With that being said my 38 loads aren't smoking hot, especially using HS6. If I am in the +p range I'm barely there but according to Lyman it's a standard pressure load.
    I'm very familiar with the Lucky Gunner tests and I refer to them often when I need to pick out defense ammo, I read the Ed Harris article and while he makes some great points I guess I'm just not a fan of the full wadcutter. I can get the same or better results with a SWC and I can use them in 38 and 357.
    I get what you're saying about the 206 but S&W, Taurus, pretty much anyone making a 38+p stamped revolver says the same exact thing. They're more durable than one would think, we're not talking about some pot metal Rohm. I don't plan to put some 38/44 Keith loads through it I just want to maximize performance. I plan to do some testing of my loads soon, if 6.2 grains gets the performance I'm looking for I'll probably stick with it.but if I see better results with 6.5 I don't think it's going to hurt anything. Here's a couple videos on the durability of the 206.
    https://youtu.be/oEgA32A_NAk?si=zu-6jlfC_L_O07l1
    https://youtu.be/q7YUbDpdJNQ?si=NyQ4T-x3vAZFzsls

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdgabbard View Post
    If you're looking for a "woods" load, there are options. But if you're concerned about the wear and tear on the M206, you probably just want to shoot standard loads for practice, and the heavy loads for actually "work". There are factory loads that exceed the FBI test very well. Here is my favorite. That load reportedly achieves 1050fps out of a 2" barrel with a 158gr SWC. You won't get much expansion. But you will get penetration. The whole idea behind using SWC as service loads was that the 38spl just didn't have enough energy back in the day to be able to reliably expand and penetrate. That is not the case today, with some of the newer loadings. But a SWC with effectively cut a full diameter hole through whatever you shoot it at. Hornady also has a pretty hot 125gr XTP loading at 1050fps out of a 4" barrel. But you're still not going to get the velocity or penetration you'll get with the previous load I linked to. Though, this is a store bought option. That might not be something you're interested in, but it will take the work out of the equation for you.

    If you decide to go that route, I would suggest practice loads consisting of the tried and true 158gr SWC and 5.0gr of Unique. That is a great load no matter what gun you shoot it in, at least in my experience. If you want to use 231 instead, 4.0grs of 231 should give you similar results. I don't use store bought cast, so I can't say how this will perform for you, but assuming you've got quality bullets that are appropriately size it should not be an issue. Ultimately, I think you should probably have a "practice load" regardless of if you decide to work up a woods load, or buy one. A steady diet of heavy loads can shake any revolver apart...
    I'm a big fan of the Buffalo Bore load, the Underwood version is good too but they're basically 38/44 loads. A member here on CB did some pressure testing and both Underwood and Buffalo Bore "38+p" tested at 28,000 PSI!!! They're not 357 pressure but that's like 38 special proof loads. I'd use em if I had to but I think those are better saved for 357 revolvers.
    I have a few practice loads, 3.2 grains 231 under a 158 and 3.6 under a 105 are my mouse loads. I use the 4 grain 231 as a normal practice load. I don't plan to shoot a ton of my HS6 loads but I usually blow off any ammo I carry around every 6 months.

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Bibliotecario View Post
    I've no idea if this will be of any use but I've found 173 grain Keith SWCs penetrate relatively deeper in dirt than 158 grain SWCs cast from similar or harder metal.
    I was going to try the 173s a while back but they're expensive! Rim rock is the only supplier I know of that sells them, I get my 158s much cheaper. I'd love to start casting my own but I barely have room for reloading right now.

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by P Flados View Post
    Darn that pesky little "goofy load manual barrel length" thing pops back up.

    I found the 5.6 gr Silhouette and 158 SWC load in a Western data book. The 1050 fps is the tested speed from a "7.75" barrel", and I did not see any indication as to this being an actual gun, a vented test barrel or an unvented test barrel. None of these make much sense for a 38 Sp load, but it does make for some impressive looking results.

    Running QL for the above came in very close to the test results with parameters for a 7.75 "unvented" barrel. Running the load as a revolver, adds ~1.7" for cylinder and then subtracts 50 fps for cylinder gap. Again the results matched reasonably well.

    Changing parameters for a 2" revolver gives an estimated 800 fps for the load. This is real close to the 792 fps prediction from 5.2 gr HS-6 reported earlier in this thread. When set up for a snubby and SAAMI max normal pressure of 17,000 psi, QL say HS-6 wins by a whopping 6 fps (i.e. not enough to spit at).
    That's exactly why I asked what others have gotten with these powders! Hodgdon and their 7 and 10 inch test barrels really skew the results. I probably should have stated this in my original post but according to Lyman all of my loads are standard pressure. Not sure if it has to do cast vs swaged bullets, bullet profile or seating depth or what. I'm using a PC'd swc which has no lube groove so it does take up less space inside the case. Perhaps that's why I always top out just below the Lyman max for their SWC data?

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by R-71 View Post
    I'm using a MP mold 158 grain HP Keith bullet with a +p charge of HS 6, I get 985 FPS out of a 4" model 15.
    HS6 is great, alot of people build FBI replica loads with it. I think I may have saw one of your posts about it befote.

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by mnewcomb59 View Post
    With expanding bullets, as you increase velocity the penetration goes down. This is because the extra velocity makes the bullet mushroom wider. There are some controlled expansion JHP designs that allow you to keep the same penetration as you increase velocity (usually because the jacket supports most of the mushroom, but allows the edges of the mushroom to break off as the mushroom gets too wide) but there are no HP bullets that I have seen were more velocity gets you more penetration. Hell, even non-expanding solids go down in penetration after 1600 fps.

    I have seen HP failures where added velocity causes the mushroom to completely break off, leaving a half weight wadcutter. But if you mushroom is staying together then more speed means less penetration.
    I'm not using a hollowpoint, I'm using a full SWC. I was only stating that in my opinion the factory FBI loads don't get the penetration I'd like to see even when they don't expand probably because they're going too slow from a 2 inch barrel. If they don't expand they're basically a normal SWC, this had me thinking I needed to get my loads running faster to get more penetration.

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kosh75287 View Post
    There's a load using RedDot and 158 gr. LSWCs that will give 1000 f/s from a 2" vented revolver barrel. I won't repeat it here, but it made me appreciate Alliant RedDot (or PROMO) for use in .38 Special. Alliant Unique is also a stellar propellant for 38 Spl., as well as about 95% of all other pistol/revolver rounds in common use, today.
    Red Dot is slightly slower burning than Bullseye, which is the gold-standard for reduced velocity .38 Spl. loads. Red Dot will do anything that Bullseye will do, plus a few things that BE will not. For higher-performance loads in .38 Spl., Unique is an excellent propellant.
    1000fps out of a 2” 38 with 158g and Red Dot is going to be way over 38+p pressures. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a 30,000 psi load. Maybe P Flados would be willing to run it through Quick Load.

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magnum0710 View Post
    I'm a big fan of the Buffalo Bore load, the Underwood version is good too but they're basically 38/44 loads. A member here on CB did some pressure testing and both Underwood and Buffalo Bore "38+p" tested at 28,000 PSI!!! They're not 357 pressure but that's like 38 special proof loads. I'd use em if I had to but I think those are better saved for 357 revolvers.
    I have a few practice loads, 3.2 grains 231 under a 158 and 3.6 under a 105 are my mouse loads. I use the 4 grain 231 as a normal practice load. I don't plan to shoot a ton of my HS6 loads but I usually blow off any ammo I carry around every 6 months.
    I'm guessing it was probably Larry who did the pressure testing... I haven't seen that thread, but I'd be interested in reading through it. As for the pressure, in reality, most decently built revolvers should be capable of hanlding 28,000psi, that's really not that much pressure. Heck, 9mm Luger is 36k PSI. Granted there are older guns that probably can't handle this. But I suspect that most can. Especially my SP-101 in 38spl. That gun is offered in 357mag with no changes but a slightly larger cylinder and cylinder cutout in the frame. I completely trust it with 38-44 loads, though I do not shoot them through it. A bit heavier of a gun than, for example, my Taurus 85. That gun would at best be very painful to shoot those loads with. I guess like everything else, it all comes down to how much you're willing to push the envelope....
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  11. #31
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silvercreek Farmer View Post
    1000fps out of a 2” 38 with 158g and Red Dot is going to be way over 38+p pressures. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a 30,000 psi load. Maybe P Flados would be willing to run it through Quick Load.
    1000 fps with Red Dot under a 158 in a snubby is getting into 357 magnum proof pressures, see below. Remember to subtract 50 fps for cylinder gap.

    Code:
    Cartridge          : .38 Special (SAAMI)
    Bullet             : .358, 158, LEE TL358-158-SWC
    Cartridge O.A.L. L6: 1.450 inch = 36.83 mm
    Barrel Length      : 3.7 inch = 94.0 mm
    Powder             : Alliant RED DOT
    
    CAUTION: Figures exceed maximum recommended loads !
    
    Step    Fill. Charge   Vel.  Energy   Pmax   Pmuz  Prop.Burnt B_Time
     %       %    Grains   fps   ft.lbs    psi    psi      %        ms
    
    -40.0   47     3.00    710     177   13448   3694    100.0    0.709
    -36.0   50     3.20    741     192   15018   3910    100.0    0.669  ! Near Maximum !
    -32.0   53     3.40    770     208   16668   4127    100.0    0.633  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -28.0   56     3.60    799     224   18395   4342    100.0    0.602  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -24.0   59     3.80    826     240   20200   4558    100.0    0.574  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -20.0   62     4.00    853     255   22082   4772    100.0    0.548  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -16.0   65     4.20    879     271   24042   4986    100.0    0.525  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -12.0   69     4.40    905     287   26080   5200    100.0    0.504  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -08.0   72     4.60    930     303   28195   5412    100.0    0.485  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -04.0   75     4.80    954     320   30389   5624    100.0    0.468  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    +00.0   78     5.00    978     336   32662   5835    100.0    0.452  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    +04.0   81     5.20   1002     352   35016   6046    100.0    0.437  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    +08.0   84     5.40   1025     369   37451   6255    100.0    0.423  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    +12.0   87     5.60   1048     385   39968   6464    100.0    0.410  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!

  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magnum0710 View Post
    I'm a big fan of the Buffalo Bore load, the Underwood version is good too but they're basically 38/44 loads. A member here on CB did some pressure testing and both Underwood and Buffalo Bore "38+p" tested at 28,000 PSI!!! They're not 357 pressure but that's like 38 special proof loads. I'd use em if I had to but I think those are better saved for 357 revolvers.
    The 1000 fps from a 2" revolver makes more sense at 28,000 psi than it does at normal +P.

    And just in case someone has any doubts, DO NOT USE THESE LOADS. They are being posted only to show why not to use them. Note also that I removed the slowest burning powders (such as H110) from the list.

    Code:
    Cartridge          : .38 Special (SAAMI)
    Bullet             : .358, 158, LEE TL358-158-SWC
    Cartridge O.A.L. L6: 1.450 inch = 36.83 mm
    Barrel Length      : 3.7 inch = 94.0 mm
    
    C A U T I O N : any load listed can result in a powder charge that falls below minimum suggested
    loads or exceeds maximum suggested loads as presented in current handloading manuals. Understand
    that all of the listed powders can be unsuitable for the given combination of cartridge, bullet
    and gun. Actual load order can vary, depending upon lot-to-lot powder and component variations.
    USE ONLY FOR COMPARISON !
    
    Powder type          Filling/Loading Ratio  Charge    Charge   Vel. Prop.Burnt P max  P muzz  B_Time
                                          %     Grains    Gramm   fps     %       psi     psi    ms
    ---------------------------------  -----------------------------------------------------------------
    Alliant 2400                        92.2     11.3     0.73    1078    71.1    28000   10385   0.470  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    Accurate No.7                       72.6     10.1     0.65    1077    81.4    28000   10187   0.470  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    Shooters World Major Pistol         72.6     10.1     0.65    1077    81.4    28000   10187   0.470  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    Alliant POWER PISTOL                74.7      7.6     0.50    1071    91.1    28000    9738   0.467  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    Accurate 4100                       95.9     12.8     0.83    1068    66.9    28000    9986   0.464  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    Alliant BLUE DOT                    93.2      9.8     0.63    1066    80.3    28000    9865   0.470  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    Shooters World Heavy Pistol         80.1     11.1     0.72    1066    74.6    28000    9870   0.467  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    Accurate No.9                       80.9     11.1     0.72    1066    74.6    28000    9870   0.467  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    Accurate TCM                        80.6     10.7     0.70    1064    76.3    28000    9768   0.467  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    Last edited by P Flados; 02-14-2024 at 12:15 PM.

  13. #33
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    Ok, sorry for the tangent, but this thread reminds me of the reasons why I like my Ruger 3" LCRx 38 SP +P so much.

    I get ~75 fps from that extra inch.

    I do not carry, but if I did, it would work. The gun is only 15.7 ounces (the RI M206 is 25.4 ounces). The LCRx is only 5 shots, but this helps make for a "slim" package.

    The adjustable sights and the extra inch also make target shooting and/or plinking "more fun" IMO. I love the DA trigger pull. I like the SA option.

    The gun price was very attractive when I bought it. I have fired bucket loads of ammo from it and it looks about like it did after the first 100. I have never needed to disassemble it for cleaning.

  14. #34
    Boolit Master
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    I think the simple solution would be to sell the 38 snubby and get a 2" 357 and shoot +p+ rounds through both of your 357s.

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by P Flados View Post
    1000 fps with Red Dot under a 158 in a snubby is getting into 357 magnum proof pressures, see below. Remember to subtract 50 fps for cylinder gap.

    Code:
    Cartridge          : .38 Special (SAAMI)
    Bullet             : .358, 158, LEE TL358-158-SWC
    Cartridge O.A.L. L6: 1.450 inch = 36.83 mm
    Barrel Length      : 3.7 inch = 94.0 mm
    Powder             : Alliant RED DOT
    
    CAUTION: Figures exceed maximum recommended loads !
    
    Step    Fill. Charge   Vel.  Energy   Pmax   Pmuz  Prop.Burnt B_Time
     %       %    Grains   fps   ft.lbs    psi    psi      %        ms
    
    -40.0   47     3.00    710     177   13448   3694    100.0    0.709
    -36.0   50     3.20    741     192   15018   3910    100.0    0.669  ! Near Maximum !
    -32.0   53     3.40    770     208   16668   4127    100.0    0.633  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -28.0   56     3.60    799     224   18395   4342    100.0    0.602  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -24.0   59     3.80    826     240   20200   4558    100.0    0.574  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -20.0   62     4.00    853     255   22082   4772    100.0    0.548  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -16.0   65     4.20    879     271   24042   4986    100.0    0.525  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -12.0   69     4.40    905     287   26080   5200    100.0    0.504  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -08.0   72     4.60    930     303   28195   5412    100.0    0.485  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    -04.0   75     4.80    954     320   30389   5624    100.0    0.468  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    +00.0   78     5.00    978     336   32662   5835    100.0    0.452  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    +04.0   81     5.20   1002     352   35016   6046    100.0    0.437  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    +08.0   84     5.40   1025     369   37451   6255    100.0    0.423  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    +12.0   87     5.60   1048     385   39968   6464    100.0    0.410  !DANGEROUS LOAD-DO NOT USE!
    Thank you, sir!

  16. #36
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    I've recently started loading the Lee TL358-148WC with 3.6 grains Red Dot in 38 Special and crimping in the 1st groove - i.e. leaving only one driving band exposed. Firing it in my Uberti Stallion single action with 5' barrel, I get 880 ft/sec. I'm thinking more and more that it's probably one of the best defensive loads in the 38 Special since that flat nose gives predictable performance whereas a Hollow Point at those velocities may or may not expand. Would probably be under 800 in a snub nose but you still get the benefit of that meplate.

  17. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdgabbard View Post
    I'm guessing it was probably Larry who did the pressure testing... I haven't seen that thread, but I'd be interested in reading through it. As for the pressure, in reality, most decently built revolvers should be capable of hanlding 28,000psi, that's really not that much pressure. Heck, 9mm Luger is 36k PSI. Granted there are older guns that probably can't handle this. But I suspect that most can. Especially my SP-101 in 38spl. That gun is offered in 357mag with no changes but a slightly larger cylinder and cylinder cutout in the frame. I completely trust it with 38-44 loads, though I do not shoot them through it. A bit heavier of a gun than, for example, my Taurus 85. That gun would at best be very painful to shoot those loads with. I guess like everything else, it all comes down to how much you're willing to push the envelope....
    My Youngest claims that my Taurus Model 85, 3" ported, is "Mean". He feels attacked every time he shoots it... Depending on the load...Exceptions are, the typical 2.8 gr Bullseye under a Wadcutter, 3.0gr Red Dot under 158SWC, and the lightest of all..3.4gr Nitro100NF, under a 125 RN, or RF... Mildest of all!!!!

  18. #38
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    gas check groove tool

    Quote Originally Posted by Magnum0710 View Post
    I'm not using a hollowpoint, I'm using a full SWC. I was only stating that in my opinion the factory FBI loads don't get the penetration I'd like to see even when they don't expand probably because they're going too slow from a 2 inch barrel. If they don't expand they're basically a normal SWC, this had me thinking I needed to get my loads running faster to get more penetration.
    Someone needs to market a pencil sharpener type tool to shave off the base of cast bullet so it'll take a gas check.

  19. #39
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    I've read good reports about HS6 but use AA5 for my .38SP loads instead and have decent accuracy using it. I've reloaded an accurate .38 special load with 135gr Gold Dot and shot it through my 6" S&W Mod 66. It expanded well through 2- 1 gallon jugs of water. I cast, so my future bullet test will be cast 125 and 150gr LHP bullets into a drum of water. Reverse 38-148 HBWC test bullets shattered. Maybe a plastic bag with wet newspaper or magazines suspended in the drum of water and shot through would be a good medium to compare bullet performance to a Buffalo Bore, Gold Dot, or whatever you want to compare your load to..

  20. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by racepres View Post
    My Youngest claims that my Taurus Model 85, 3" ported, is "Mean". He feels attacked every time he shoots it... Depending on the load...Exceptions are, the typical 2.8 gr Bullseye under a Wadcutter, 3.0gr Red Dot under 158SWC, and the lightest of all..3.4gr Nitro100NF, under a 125 RN, or RF... Mildest of all!!!!
    That LCRx I mentioned previously has one downside. The light weight (less than a pound empty) does make for painful recoil at lower performance than for a typical small steel 38.

    It was purchased to be available for my wife to shoot. Turns out she is more sensitive to recoil than I expected. As such, recoil even with normal mild 120 gr target ammo was too much for her.

    After scrounging around my stuff I came up with a 102 gr Lee RN mold (108 gr as cast). I made up a bunch and "worked down" with both Titegroup and Promo (bulk version of Red Dot). For Promo, 2.8 gr was "low enough" to not bother her. Chrono out of a 3" gun was pretty close to 600 fps (more when "tipped back", less when "tipped forward" just prior to firing). I found that I enjoy shooting this gun with either these or the 120 gr target load.

    A full power 158 crosses into "no fun" territory for the LCRx. I have some and would use them for SD, but shooting them at the range gets old fast.
    Last edited by P Flados; 02-14-2024 at 08:20 PM.

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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