What's new
  • Guest
    As per our long standing policy of not permitting medical advice on the forum - all threads concerning the Coronavirus will be locked.
    For more info on the coronavirus please see the link below:
    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html

Short barrel .357 mag.

jar_

Contributor
I don't credit myself with that level of dexterity under pressure.

I don't credit myself with a bunch under no stress, lol.

Sent from my LM-G850 using Tapatalk
It's just like practicing blind reloads where you keep your eyes down range while you reload your revolver. Surprisingly even with just a few nights practice you can get quite good at it.
 
I don't know.

I think my chronograph is prejudiced. The 9mm simply doesn't spank the .38 Special.

Only with contrived tests that limit the .38 Special loads tested to deliberately chosen weak and watery while allowing the 9mm to bask in full-power or even so-called +P loads. Head's up, best versus best, the .38 Special beats the 9mm, even from snub barrels.
 

Ad Astra

The Instigator
Ambassador
I don't know.

I think my chronograph is prejudiced. The 9mm simply doesn't spank the .38 Special.

Only with contrived tests that limit the .38 Special loads tested to deliberately chosen weak and watery while allowing the 9mm to bask in full-power or even so-called +P loads. Head's up, best versus best, the .38 Special beats the 9mm, even from snub barrels.
I'm believing this!

Especially with handloads.

AA
 
Wrote this up some years ago for another forum. Tested .38 Special ammunition kept on hand at the time. I mostly hand load so don't keep all that much factory .38 Special loads on hand. See narrative beginning below.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Years ago I conducted a fairly extensive "chronographic survey" of the .38 Special, testing both a selection of handloads and factory loads. The results were recorded in a personal handloading manual. In referring back to the notes I found that the testing began on July 1, 1980.

I was recently digging through my stuff and found a couple of boxes of factory +P ammo from the era along with a box of heavy bullet handloads from the actual tests. I have additional boxes of my favorite .38 Special self defense loads on hand, along with a couple of boxes of the potent Buffalo Bore +P 158 grain SWC-HP load that I've been threatening to test, so determined to revisit the .38 Special. Here's the portion of the test that primarily involved the factory loads. It may take some time to test some additional handloads that are rolling around in my head and all might not find them interesting.

Have I mentioned that the Buffalo Bore +P 158 grain load is potent? Whoa! No need to ever attempt to build nuclear powered handloads with Buffalo Bore available.

This test is conducted in a very "scientific" manner. Since I'm not interested in incrementally sawing off my longest .38 Special revolver's barrel inch by inch, different revolvers were used for each barrel length recorded. This introduces a large variable. Also, since I didn't want to broil in the sun all afternoon, I appropriated the club's rifle range so as to sit in the shade and use a bench rest as a table. The rifle range faces west so has a long awning projection to help keep the sun out of shooters' eyes in the afternoon. This awning is of limited benefit but required that the screens to be set up 9 feet from the muzzles of the revolvers (well 8 feet, 3 5/8 inches from that long-snouted Model 14). We had a "cool spell" last week when the test was conducted and the afternoon high was 96F.

The chronograph used is the same Oehler Model 12 used 30 years ago.

List of Smith & Wesson revolvers used for these tests. All were chambered for the .38 Special except for the 6-inch gun which is a .357 Magnum.

Model 10: 2-inch
Model 10: Heavy Barrel: 4-inch
Military & Police: 5-inch
Model 27: .357 Magnum: 6-inch
Model 14: 8 3/8-inch

Except as noted, 10-shot strings were recorded. In some cases there was not enough ammo to provide for 50 rounds for each of the five revolvers. Muzzle velocity, muzzle energy, extreme spread, and standard deviation were examined (well, muzzle less 9 feet). Revolvers were used with barrel lengths of: 2, 4, 5, 6, and 8 3/8 inches.

Smith & Wesson officially proscribes using any of their revolvers made prior to 1958 with +P ammunition. The 5-inch gun was a real oldie so was not used with some of the ammunition on hand however it was tested with some of the +P ammunition. It handled 30 rounds of Remington and Winchester +P 158 grain ammunition with aplomb.

I still have 2 of the revolvers (the 4-inch and the 8 3/8-inch) which were used in July 1980 test and pressed them into service again. I also retested the boxes of factory loads and the handload which were tested at that time. These were: Winchester +P 158 grain SWC-HP, Super Vel 110 grain JHC, and a handload consisting of 9.5 grains of 2400 topped by a 200 grain Remington lead round nose bullet. The Super Vel is a partial box left from the last test 30 years ago. The Winchester +P is of that era. The handload with the 200 grain bullet was a part of the batch I loaded at the time of the first test in 1980.

Each barrel length will be featured in a separate post

Factory ammunition tested:
Independence 130 grain FMJ round nose
PMC El Dorado Starfire +P 125 grain JHP (apparently discontinued?)
Remington target 148 grain lead hollow based wadcutter
Winchester +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP (two different boxes)
Remington +P 158 grain lead SWC
Buffalo Bore +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP
Super Vel +P 110 grain JHP
Sellier & Bellot 158 grain FMJ flat point

Handloads:
158 grain lead round nose, 3.8 grains of Bullseye
200 grain Remington lead round nose, 9.5 grains 2400*

*Maximum load as published in older Lyman manual. Don't try it without working up carefully.



The +P line-up. Especially note the two different Winchester Western boxes of ammo tested. How old do y'all think that white box is? I just uncovered it in some stuff I was going through while getting the chronograph screens. It was a full unopened box. I'm remembering it as being from the late 1970s/early 1980s. It is marked $12.00.


Did I mention that Buffalo Bore .38 Special +P ammunition is red hot?

From their site:
S&W mod. 60, 2 inch- 1040 fps (379 ft. lbs.)
S&W mod. 66, 2.5 inch- 1059 fps (393 ft. lbs.)
Ruger SP101, 3 inch- 1143 fps (458 ft. lbs.)
S&W Mt. Gun, 4 inch- 1162 fps (474 ft. lbs.)
 
Last edited:
2-inch barrel

Handload: 158 grain round nose lead /3.8 grains Bullseye

MV 718 fps
ME 181 ft./lbs.
ES 32
SD 12

Independence 130 grain FMJ round nose

MV 803 fps
ME 186 ft./lbs.
ES 34
SD 14

PMC Eldorado Starfire +P 125 gr. JHP (now discontinued) 5 rounds tested

MV 871 fps
ME 210 ft./lbs
ES 28
SD 14

Remington 148 grain hollow based wadcutter

MV 707 fps
ME 164 ft./lbs.
ES 14
SD 6

Winchester +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP (in gray box)

MV 808 fps
ME 229 ft./lbs.
ES 28
SD 8

Winchester +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP (in older white box)

MV 843 fps
ME 249 ft./lbs
ES 67
SD 24

Remington +P 158 grain lead SWC

MV 875 FPS
ME 273 ft./lbs.
ES 61
SD 23

Buffalo Bore +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP

MV 1063 fps
ME 397 ft./lbs.
ES 56
SD 24

SuperVel +P 110 grain JHP

MV 981 fps
ME 216 ft./lbs.
ES 48
SD 28

Sellier & Bellot 158 grain FMJ flat point

MV 747 fps
ME 195 ft./lbs.
ES 25
SD 11
 
4-inch barrel

Handload: 158 grain round nose lead /3.8 grains Bullseye

MV 771 fps
ME 209 ft./lbs.
ES 59
SD 24

Independence 130 grain FMJ round nose

MV 850 fps
ME 208 ft./lbs.
ES 62
SD 24

PMC Eldorado Starfire +P 125 gr. JHP (now discontinued) 5 rounds tested

MV 935 fps
ME 243 ft./lbs
ES 142
SD 35

Remington 148 grain hollow based wadcutter

MV 729 fps
ME 175 ft./lbs.
ES 35
SD 12

Winchester +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP (in gray box)

MV 905 fps
ME 287 ft./lbs.
ES 92
SD 37

Winchester +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP (in older white box)

MV 943 fps
ME 312 ft./lbs
ES 20
SD 8

Remington +P 158 grain lead SWC

MV 942 FPS
ME 311 ft./lbs.
ES 66
SD 30

Buffalo Bore +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP

MV 1145 fps
ME 460 ft./lbs.
ES 36
SD 14

SuperVel +P 110 grain JHP

MV 1195 fps
ME 349 ft./lbs.
ES 55
SD 22

Sellier & Bellot 158 grain FMJ flat point

MV 785 fps
ME 216 ft./lbs.
ES 44
SD 16
 
5-inch barrel

Handload: 158 grain round nose lead /3.8 grains Bullseye

MV 804 fps
ME 227 ft./lbs.
ES 51
SD 20

Independence 130 grain FMJ round nose

MV 888 fps
ME 228 ft./lbs.
ES 32
SD 9

Remington 148 grain hollow based wadcutter

MV 727 fps
ME 174 ft./lbs.
ES 20
SD 7

Winchester +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP (in gray box)

MV 922 fps
ME 298 ft./lbs.
ES 69
SC 26

Winchester +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP (in older white box)

MV 949 fps
ME 316 ft./lbs
ES 72
SD 32

Remington +P 158 grain lead SWC

MV 964 FPS
ME 326 ft./lbs.
ES 72
SD 32

Sellier & Bellot 158 grain FMJ flat point

MV 778 fps
ME 212 ft./lbs.
ES 36
SD 13
 
8 3/8-inch barrel

Handload: 158 grain round nose lead /3.8 grains Bullseye

MV 884 fps
ME 274 ft./lbs.
ES 31
SD 15

Independence 130 grain FMJ round nose

MV 1039 fps
ME 311 ft./lbs.
ES 115
SD 54

PMC Eldorado Starfire +P 125 gr. JHP (now discontinued) 5 rounds tested

MV 1065 fps
ME 315 ft./lbs
ES 65
SD 47

Remington 148 grain hollow based wadcutter

MV 814 fps
ME 218 ft./lbs.
ES 33
SD 14

Winchester +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP (in gray box)

MV 1027 fps
ME 370 ft./lbs.
ES 54
SD 24

Winchester +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP (in older white box)

MV 1037 fps
ME 388 ft./lbs
ES 42
SD 17

Remington +P 158 grain lead SWC

MV 1099 FPS
ME 424 ft./lbs.
ES 57
SD 24

Buffalo Bore +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP

MV 1286 fps
ME 580 ft./lbs.
ES 28
SD 13

SuperVel +P 110 grain JHP

MV 1301 fps
ME 414 ft./lbs.
ES 89
SD 37

Sellier & Bellot 158 grain FMJ flat point

MV 747 fps
ME 195 ft./lbs.
ES 25
SD 11
 
There you have it. My "learned paper" on the results of the tests conducted on Tuesday of last week. My elbows have almost healed over. Some observations:

Lots of eye-opening stuff here. First up for consideration is the "magic ammo," Buffalo Bore's +P 158 load. I cannot see how they do it! Empty cases just dribble out of cylinders. Primers don't look like they've had a bad case of the gas. Handily beats any wild handloading creation I've ever concocted. Probably exceeds the old .38-44 high-velocity load. Recoil is heavy but not really as bad as one would expect. Buffalo Bore caused even the long 8 3/8-inch Model 14 to torque a bit when fired. I used a J-Frame Smith & Wesson Model 36 Chief's Special for the 2-inch portion of the test 30 years ago and it was a bear to shoot with various heavy loads. The 2-inch Model 10 I used Tuesday was much more manageable; an old softy by comparison. I was glad to have it along to use for testing this stuff. It is unimaginable that a 2-inch .38 snub can yield 400 ft. /lbs of energy with any load and it just gets better and better with longer barrels: 460 ft/lbs. from a 4-inch, 500 ft/lbs. from a 6-inch, and fully 580 ft/lbs. from an 8 3/8-inch! Velocities stayed pretty tight and didn't go all over the place.

SuperVel is still hot stuff. It also exhibited the flattest primers of the day. Velocity performance wasn't very tight overall and there was a lot of partially burnt powder crumbs getting all over everything each time I extracted a cylinder-full of cases and put them back in the box. Recoil paled in comparison with both the Buffalo Bore and the 200 grain handload that immediately preceded it on each revolver test.

I don't take light 110-125 grain bullets seriously enough in the .38 Special. I've not done a lot of testing with them. The PMC Starfire stuff was several years old and is now discontinued I believe. To be labeled +P it is feeble in teh extreme. This performed about typical for the breed in my view. It offers neither the bullet weight nor the velocity to become a meaningful choice for the .38 Special. I ought to obtain some of the latest and greatest ammo offerings in the 110-125 grain weight category of +P to test. I hate to invest the money in the ammo just to burn it up and figure the newer offerings still won't exactly "set the woods on fire." I'm sure expansion characteristics are improved but I'll still take my chances with old technology of heavy, sharp shouldered lead semi-wadcutter bullets.

I had picked up a fresh box of Remington 148 grain target ammunition from the local Higginbotham's a few weeks ago just for this test. It turned in a nice performance. It seemed consistent through each revolver used.

Look at the interplay between the 4, 5, and 6 inch barrels. The Remington 148 grain load and the Sellier & Bellot 158 grain FMJ load gave more velocity from the 4-inch than the 5-inch. The 5-inch beat the 6-inch with the Bullseye fueled handload and came close to catching the 6-inch with the 2 different Winchester +P 158 grain loads and the Remington +P 158 grain load.

The .38 Special "walks and talks" when fired through the long-nosed 8 3/8-inch barrel. Now if only there was some way to conceal all that length of artillery.

SuperVel, Starfire, and the cheapo Independence brands all seemed more prone to wild velocity swings. For that matter the Winchester +P 158 grain loads threw a bullet that was "out there" on occasion, especially the ammunition in the gray box. Remington +P 158 grain was only fair. Perhaps these performance loads can't be expected to shoot like target ammo. Perhaps the guy running this test doesn't know what he's talking about. I've always considered any load that stayed under 50 fps spread to be good.
 
Whoops, forgot the data for the 200 grain Remington lead round nose load.


In July of 1980 this load produced the following performance.

4-inch barrel

MV 842 fps
ME 313 ft./lbs.
ES 38

8 3/8-inch barrel

MV 922 fps
ME 382 ft./lbs.

Some of these same loads fired on Tuesday. Only 6 rounds were fired in each barrel length.

2-inch barrel

MV 835
ME 309
ES 48
SD 18

4-inch barrel

MV 860 fps
ME 328 ft./lbs.
ES 59
SD 19

6-inch barrel

MV 888
ME 350
ES 41
SD 14

8 3/8-inch barrel

MV 953 fps
ME 403
ES 37
SD 10

They were a little faster than before but weren't much different really. Recoil was more noticeable than I remembered. I fired them after the Buffalo Bore and before the SuperVel and they felt a lot like the Buffalo Bore.
 
In the 1980 test the Winchester +P 158 grain lead SWC-HP gave this performance.

2 inch barrel:

MV 830fps
ME 242 ft./lbs.

4-inch barrel:

MV 962 fps
ME 325 ft./lbs.

8 3/8-inch barrel

MV 1051 fps
ME 388 ft./lbs.


The 1980 test of the Super Vel.

4-inch barrel:

MV 1237 fps
ME 376 ft./lbs.

8 3/8-inch barrel:

MV 1319 fps
ME 425 ft./lbs.
 
.367 mag in a snubnose is kind of a waste for several reasons. For one, the recoil makes it difficult to manage and for two, due to the super short barrel, you dont really get much of a ballistic advantage becomes the bullet leaves the barrel before all of the powder can fully burn, so you dont get the full advantage of the bigge round.
IMO, if you have the choice of shooting .38 or .357 out of it, theres really no advantage to choosing .357, other than it making you feel like a big man.
 
Three .38 Special Handloads



We chronographed and accuracy tested 3 different concoctions last week over a 3 day period in which we had glorious weather for excursions to the range. This week's weather is wretched by comparison.

Last summer I had posted some chronograph tests of both factory loads along with a couple of handloads. Revolvers used were the same as before:

Smith & Wesson Model 10 2-inch
Smith & Wesson Model 10 HB 4-inch
Smith & Wesson Military & Police 5-inch
Smith & Wesson Model 27 .357 Magnum 6-inch
Smith & Wesson Model 14 .38 Special 8 3/8-inch


Two loads performed pretty well as expected. One of them was new and one was a more thorough retest of an old favorite load. A third load was a puzzler that yielded velocities far higher than expected.

A new load for me made use of Green Dot. I think it has been both recommended and reviled on a private forum I frequent. I think I remember trying a can of Green Dot back in the late 1970s but made no notes about it. This load uses TVB's 148 grain double-ended wadcutter.

148 grain TVB DEWC/3.7 grains Green Dot

2-Inch Barrel

Muzzle Velocity: 669 fps
Muzzle Energy: 147 ft./lbs
Extreme Spread: 45
Standard Deviation: 23

4-Inch Barrel
MV: 706 fps
ME: 164 ft./lbs.
ES: 43 fps
SD: 14 fps

5-Inch Barrel
MV: 735 fps
ME: 179 ft./lbs.
ES: 17 fps
SD: 7 fps

6-Inch Barrel
MV: 690 fps
ME: 156 ft./lbs.
ES: 31 fps
SD: 13 fps

8 3/8-Inch Barrel
MV: 775 fps
ME: 197 ft./lbs.
ES: 73 fps
SD: 33 fps


Next up is an old standard and one of my favorite target loads, the 148 grain hollow-base wadcutter backed by 2.8 grains of Bulls-Eye. It performed last week much the same as it did 30 years ago. The good Hornady 148 grain HBWC bullet was used.

148 grain HBWC/2.8 grains Bulls-Eye

2-Inch Barrel

MV: 643 fps
ME: 136 ft./lbs.
ES: 29 fps
ES: 12 fps

4-Inch Barrel
MV: 689 fps
MV: 156 ft./lbs.
ES: 42 fps
SD: 17 fps

5-Inch Barrel
MV: 712 fps
ME: 167 ft./lbs.
ES: 20 fps
SD: 9

6-Inch Barrel
MV: 693 fps
ME: 158 ft./lbs.
ES: 37 fps
SD: 16 fps

8 3/8-Inch Barrel
MV: 765 fps
ME: 192 ft./lbs.
ES: 33 fps
SD: 12 fps

This last load tested didn't behave as expected. Using a 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter I've previously tested 4.8 grains of Unique and 5.4 grains of Unique on a few occasions so thought to split the difference and test 5.1 grains of Unique. I wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary but it gave considerably higher velocities in all barrel lengths than 5.4 grains of Unique did in previous tests. I re-checked the distance between the sky-screens to find it correct. I weighed the bullets and they checked out 158-159 grains and were .358" in diameter. I broke down a handloaded cartridge to re-weigh the powder charge and it checked out correctly. It felt quite lively after shooting a lot of the light 148 grain loads.
 
I ran the .38 Special revolvers through the wringer a few weeks ago, working up and testing some performance handloads. The tests concentrated on four different loads, all using 158 grain lead SWC bullets. As always, the same four revolvers were used, 2 of which have been used for many years for all .38 Special chronograph testing.



Smith & Wesson Model 10 2-inch



Smith & Wesson Model 10 Heavy Barrel 4-inch



Smith & Wesson Model 27 .357 Magnum 6-inch (since no 6-inch Smith & Wesson 38 Special revolver was on hand)



Smith & Wesson Model 14 8 3/8-inch


The bullets tested a couple of weeks ago were from a batch I cast perhaps 20-25 years ago using the Lyman No. 358156 mould. They actually weighed 159-160 grains. They were well-formed with nice sharp shoulders and bases. They were made from straight wheel weights with some range lead thrown in as I recall (not very scientific I'll admit). They were lubed with stick Alox. I was a bit concerned that the lube would be dried out but the bullets didn't seem to lead too badly despite being abused with heavy handloads. At the conclusion of the tests the revolvers scrubbed up easily with no sterner measures required to "get the lead out."

Loads tested

The loads tested were published loads from "back in the day." Loading manuals are more mild mannered these days.

5.4 grains of Unique
This was published as maximum by Lyman for many years. A friend has nicknamed it the "Texas FBI Load" and it does make a good substitute for the factory +P 158 grain lead SWC load. The latest formulation of Unique was used for the tests. Unique seems to be "jazzed up" a bit from that used in tests 30 years ago. I first noticed this when testing Unique earlier this year. (1980 velocity tests using 5.4 grains of Unique with the lead 158 grain bullet: 2-inch-847 fps, 4-inch-935 fps, 6-inch 1021 fps, 8 3/8-inch 1007 fps).

5.0 grains of Herco
This was prepared on a whim, just to see what it could do. 5.0 grains seems to be around maximum in most data sources though the infamous Speer No. 8 shows a maximum of 6.5 grains of Herco. It was decided not to take Herco that high.

11.5 grains of 2400
This also was a published maximum by Lyman for many years. Some folks considered this to be a .38-44 equivalent handload for the .38 Special. The latest formulation of 2400 was used. I'd tested this load many years ago but the data didn't get recorded for some reason so a retest was needed. I was curious about the performance level of 2400 with the 158 grain lead SWC in the .38 Special.

8.0 grains of SR 4756
"The Load" It's bigger! it's better! It'll give all the performance one can squeeze out of the .38 Special. This is the starting load for this powder as published in the Speer No. 8 guide. I'd hate to try to work this one up to the maximum listed charge weight which is only one grain higher. Whether it is advisable to use even the listed starting load is subject to debate. Probably not. The Speer No. 8 was compiled in the late 1960s. Maybe they were smoking "cigarettes and all kinds of things" while working up loads in their lab back then.

Since we'd already tested 5.1 grains of Unique earlier this year we didn't bother to work up to maximum with it. With the other loads the effort was made to work from arbitrary lower levels in .2 grain increments toward the goal charge weights. Herco was worked up from 4.6 grains. 2400 was worked up from 10.5 grains and SR 4756 was worked up from 7.5 grains.

Working up the three loads in three different .38 Special revolvers was a bit tedious and, frankly I'm not certain that much may be determined by doing this in the .38 Special given its normal operating pressure levels. I wonder if any of the assumed pressure "signs" can be reached until one is operating fully within .357 Magnum territory which is far beyond .38 Special levels. Only the SR 4756 load showed a dab of cratering and that was in my old favorite 4-inch Model 10. Cases for all 4 loads gave normal ejection in all revolvers. Of course both "The Load" and the max. 2400 load could be straying closer to .357 Magnum pressure levels.

Some limited range time was spent shooting these loads at paper to see what sort of accuracy may be expected of them. I'm thinking that the .38 Special revolvers were grateful to see the backside of these tests.

158 Grain Lead SWC/5.4 Grains of Unique

2-inch Barrel
MV 964 fps
ME 326 ft./lbs
ES 75 fps
SD 33 fps

4-inch Barrel
MV 1026 fps
ME 369 ft/lbs.
ES 31 fps
SD 13.4 fps

6-inch Barrel
MV 1047 fps
ME 385 ft./lbs.
ES 43 fps
SD 16.6 fps

8 3/8-inch Barrel
MV 1149 fps
ME 463 ft./lbs.
ES 56 fps
SD 23.3 fps


158 Grain Lead SWC/5.0 Grains Herco

2-inch Barrel
MV 912 fps
ME 292 ft./lbs.
ES 38 fps
SD 14.3 fps

4-inch Barrel
MV 964 fps
ME 326 ft./lbs.
ES 34 fps
SD 14.5 fps

6-inch Barrel
MV 976 fps
ME 334 ft./lbs.
ES 64 fps
SD 23.7 fps

8 3/8-inch Barrel
MV 1069 fps
ME 401 ft./lbs.
ES 83 fps
SD 33.1 fps


158 Grain Lead SWC/11.5 Grains 2400

2-inch Barrel
MV 1037 fps
ME 377 ft./lbs.
ES 71 fps
SD 30.2 fps

4-inch Barrel
MV 1150 fps
ME 464 ft./lbs.
ES 50 fps
SD 26.8

6-inch Barrel
MV 1162 fps
ME 474 ft./lbs.
ES 58 fps
SD 22.2 fps

8 3/8-inch Barrel
MV 1102 fps
ME 426 ft./lbs.
ES 67 fps
SD 24.0 fps


158 Grain Lead SWC/8.0 Grains SR 4756

2-inch Barrel
MV 1150 fps
ME 464 ft./lbs.
ES 51 fps
SD 26.5 fps

4-inch Barrel
MV 1234 fps
ME 534 ft./lbs.
ES 23 fps
SD 12.3

6-inch Barrel
MV 1251 fps
ME 549 ft./lbs.
ES 23 fps
SD 8.9 fps

8 3/8-inch Barrel
MV 1173 fps
ME 483 ft./lbs.
ES 18 fps
SD 7.7 fps


It will be noted that the slower powders still register the highest velocities in the short barrel.

During this test it was surprising to find that both 2400 and SR 4756 gave higher velocities when fired out of the 4-inch and the 6-inch barrels rather than when fired out of the 8 3/8-inch barrel. This has never occurred before and I can't explain it.

It appears that the 2400 load can duplicate the performance of the Buffalo Bore +P 158 grain lead SWC factory load and that "The Load" can whip the Buffalo Bore factory load except in the 8 3/8-inch barrel of the Model 14. Buffalo Bore was the velocity champion in that barrel with the 158 grain bullet weight, strange as it may seem.

How stressful these handloads are compared to the Buffalo Bore load is hard to say. All are probably high pressure with "The Load" likely winning the prize. No primers pierced or flowed and a hint of cratering was only observed on a few, but not all of the primers in the Model 10 Heavy Barrel when used with "The Load." All cases dribbled out of cylinders when started with the ejector rod.

Recoil was brisk but very manageable in the two Model 10s. In the Model 27 and the long-barreled Model 14 recoil doesn't amount to much. All gave a snappy report and "The Load" seemed to give a particularly evil crack. Perhaps it's all in my head though.

"The Load" damaged one my spinning quail discs. I was using the top of a disc for an aiming reference for chronographing and a round fired from the 6-inch Model 27 went high, smacking a quail right on it's narrow welded base, nearly tearing it off the target frame. It has already been mended.

So ends the .38 Special test epic. It only lacked two days taking a year to accomplish the handload testing goals. There are always more factory loads to try and I still have to get some of that pesky W231 so I'll be testing .38 Special some more in future. I don't see any other interesting propellent powders to try when testing really heavy handloads in the .38 Special so will probably not venture into that phase again.

I was hoping to shoot off a couple of the F A '26 .45 ACP cartridges I recently picked up, being able to say that they still gave a good performance over the chronograph screens after all these years, but several tries on two of the three were a bust. They were duds. I saved the best looking one for the collection.


This particular effort centered around handloading the .38 Special for performance using older yet recognized published data. Do not anticipate the same results by using the same loads in your own revolvers. Carefully work up to any load. Take any handloading information found on internet forums with a grain of salt.

This means you!
 

Ad Astra

The Instigator
Ambassador
Actually I am loading .38 Special tomorrow!

Slugs will be some Lyman 158 grain RN I already cast. Load, uncertain. Have Unique and Red Dot. Trail Boss; never blow up a gun with that.

AA
 
I ran the .38 Special revolvers through the wringer a few weeks ago, working up and testing some performance handloads. The tests concentrated on four different loads, all using 158 grain lead SWC bullets. As always, the same four revolvers were used, 2 of which have been used for many years for all .38 Special chronograph testing.



Smith & Wesson Model 10 2-inch



Smith & Wesson Model 10 Heavy Barrel 4-inch



Smith & Wesson Model 27 .357 Magnum 6-inch (since no 6-inch Smith & Wesson 38 Special revolver was on hand)



Smith & Wesson Model 14 8 3/8-inch


The bullets tested a couple of weeks ago were from a batch I cast perhaps 20-25 years ago using the Lyman No. 358156 mould. They actually weighed 159-160 grains. They were well-formed with nice sharp shoulders and bases. They were made from straight wheel weights with some range lead thrown in as I recall (not very scientific I'll admit). They were lubed with stick Alox. I was a bit concerned that the lube would be dried out but the bullets didn't seem to lead too badly despite being abused with heavy handloads. At the conclusion of the tests the revolvers scrubbed up easily with no sterner measures required to "get the lead out."

Loads tested

The loads tested were published loads from "back in the day." Loading manuals are more mild mannered these days.

5.4 grains of Unique
This was published as maximum by Lyman for many years. A friend has nicknamed it the "Texas FBI Load" and it does make a good substitute for the factory +P 158 grain lead SWC load. The latest formulation of Unique was used for the tests. Unique seems to be "jazzed up" a bit from that used in tests 30 years ago. I first noticed this when testing Unique earlier this year. (1980 velocity tests using 5.4 grains of Unique with the lead 158 grain bullet: 2-inch-847 fps, 4-inch-935 fps, 6-inch 1021 fps, 8 3/8-inch 1007 fps).

5.0 grains of Herco
This was prepared on a whim, just to see what it could do. 5.0 grains seems to be around maximum in most data sources though the infamous Speer No. 8 shows a maximum of 6.5 grains of Herco. It was decided not to take Herco that high.

11.5 grains of 2400
This also was a published maximum by Lyman for many years. Some folks considered this to be a .38-44 equivalent handload for the .38 Special. The latest formulation of 2400 was used. I'd tested this load many years ago but the data didn't get recorded for some reason so a retest was needed. I was curious about the performance level of 2400 with the 158 grain lead SWC in the .38 Special.

8.0 grains of SR 4756
"The Load" It's bigger! it's better! It'll give all the performance one can squeeze out of the .38 Special. This is the starting load for this powder as published in the Speer No. 8 guide. I'd hate to try to work this one up to the maximum listed charge weight which is only one grain higher. Whether it is advisable to use even the listed starting load is subject to debate. Probably not. The Speer No. 8 was compiled in the late 1960s. Maybe they were smoking "cigarettes and all kinds of things" while working up loads in their lab back then.

Since we'd already tested 5.1 grains of Unique earlier this year we didn't bother to work up to maximum with it. With the other loads the effort was made to work from arbitrary lower levels in .2 grain increments toward the goal charge weights. Herco was worked up from 4.6 grains. 2400 was worked up from 10.5 grains and SR 4756 was worked up from 7.5 grains.

Working up the three loads in three different .38 Special revolvers was a bit tedious and, frankly I'm not certain that much may be determined by doing this in the .38 Special given its normal operating pressure levels. I wonder if any of the assumed pressure "signs" can be reached until one is operating fully within .357 Magnum territory which is far beyond .38 Special levels. Only the SR 4756 load showed a dab of cratering and that was in my old favorite 4-inch Model 10. Cases for all 4 loads gave normal ejection in all revolvers. Of course both "The Load" and the max. 2400 load could be straying closer to .357 Magnum pressure levels.

Some limited range time was spent shooting these loads at paper to see what sort of accuracy may be expected of them. I'm thinking that the .38 Special revolvers were grateful to see the backside of these tests.

158 Grain Lead SWC/5.4 Grains of Unique

2-inch Barrel
MV 964 fps
ME 326 ft./lbs
ES 75 fps
SD 33 fps

4-inch Barrel
MV 1026 fps
ME 369 ft/lbs.
ES 31 fps
SD 13.4 fps

6-inch Barrel
MV 1047 fps
ME 385 ft./lbs.
ES 43 fps
SD 16.6 fps

8 3/8-inch Barrel
MV 1149 fps
ME 463 ft./lbs.
ES 56 fps
SD 23.3 fps


158 Grain Lead SWC/5.0 Grains Herco

2-inch Barrel
MV 912 fps
ME 292 ft./lbs.
ES 38 fps
SD 14.3 fps

4-inch Barrel
MV 964 fps
ME 326 ft./lbs.
ES 34 fps
SD 14.5 fps

6-inch Barrel
MV 976 fps
ME 334 ft./lbs.
ES 64 fps
SD 23.7 fps

8 3/8-inch Barrel
MV 1069 fps
ME 401 ft./lbs.
ES 83 fps
SD 33.1 fps


158 Grain Lead SWC/11.5 Grains 2400

2-inch Barrel
MV 1037 fps
ME 377 ft./lbs.
ES 71 fps
SD 30.2 fps

4-inch Barrel
MV 1150 fps
ME 464 ft./lbs.
ES 50 fps
SD 26.8

6-inch Barrel
MV 1162 fps
ME 474 ft./lbs.
ES 58 fps
SD 22.2 fps

8 3/8-inch Barrel
MV 1102 fps
ME 426 ft./lbs.
ES 67 fps
SD 24.0 fps


158 Grain Lead SWC/8.0 Grains SR 4756

2-inch Barrel
MV 1150 fps
ME 464 ft./lbs.
ES 51 fps
SD 26.5 fps

4-inch Barrel
MV 1234 fps
ME 534 ft./lbs.
ES 23 fps
SD 12.3

6-inch Barrel
MV 1251 fps
ME 549 ft./lbs.
ES 23 fps
SD 8.9 fps

8 3/8-inch Barrel
MV 1173 fps
ME 483 ft./lbs.
ES 18 fps
SD 7.7 fps


It will be noted that the slower powders still register the highest velocities in the short barrel.

During this test it was surprising to find that both 2400 and SR 4756 gave higher velocities when fired out of the 4-inch and the 6-inch barrels rather than when fired out of the 8 3/8-inch barrel. This has never occurred before and I can't explain it.

It appears that the 2400 load can duplicate the performance of the Buffalo Bore +P 158 grain lead SWC factory load and that "The Load" can whip the Buffalo Bore factory load except in the 8 3/8-inch barrel of the Model 14. Buffalo Bore was the velocity champion in that barrel with the 158 grain bullet weight, strange as it may seem.

How stressful these handloads are compared to the Buffalo Bore load is hard to say. All are probably high pressure with "The Load" likely winning the prize. No primers pierced or flowed and a hint of cratering was only observed on a few, but not all of the primers in the Model 10 Heavy Barrel when used with "The Load." All cases dribbled out of cylinders when started with the ejector rod.

Recoil was brisk but very manageable in the two Model 10s. In the Model 27 and the long-barreled Model 14 recoil doesn't amount to much. All gave a snappy report and "The Load" seemed to give a particularly evil crack. Perhaps it's all in my head though.

"The Load" damaged one my spinning quail discs. I was using the top of a disc for an aiming reference for chronographing and a round fired from the 6-inch Model 27 went high, smacking a quail right on it's narrow welded base, nearly tearing it off the target frame. It has already been mended.

So ends the .38 Special test epic. It only lacked two days taking a year to accomplish the handload testing goals. There are always more factory loads to try and I still have to get some of that pesky W231 so I'll be testing .38 Special some more in future. I don't see any other interesting propellent powders to try when testing really heavy handloads in the .38 Special so will probably not venture into that phase again.

I was hoping to shoot off a couple of the F A '26 .45 ACP cartridges I recently picked up, being able to say that they still gave a good performance over the chronograph screens after all these years, but several tries on two of the three were a bust. They were duds. I saved the best looking one for the collection.


This particular effort centered around handloading the .38 Special for performance using older yet recognized published data. Do not anticipate the same results by using the same loads in your own revolvers. Carefully work up to any load. Take any handloading information found on internet forums with a grain of salt.

This means you!
Great [email protected]! That's alot of good info. I took a screenshot and saved it. :)
 

nortac

"Can't Raise an Eyebrow"
Contributor
Well I can now testify that a Federal HST 110 gr. +P .38 Spl. will produce a through and through wound on a possum at about 20 feet from a 2 1/2 in. J frame. Possum was DRT in my chicken coop under the feeder! Brazen bastard was there in daylight!
 
Top Bottom