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Dougbert66
12-11-2016, 5:04 PM
Just got into reloading recently and am still trying to find a good load for .38sp using 125g Berry's plated FN bullets. Back in April I did a ladder with AutoComp, but resulted in low pressure and a lot of fouling on cases and the gun. In May I got some Titegroup and did another ladder. Found a load that was OK, but still pretty weak compared to some 130g Federal FMJ which I'm trying to approximate.

Anyway, after changing jobs and losing a lot of free time I finally got back to it and with some additional powder types I acquired I loaded two more ladders--one with Unique and one with Win231. I shot them last weekend in ~50 degree temps. The upper end of the Unique ladder was pretty good, but still seemed a bit weak compared to the Federal stuff. Up to now, I had no operating problems with any of these powders. So I started shooting the Win213 ladder next.

Specs: Federal brass, S&B SP primers, Berry's 125g plated FN, 1.451" COAL

This is the same (except for slight COAL diff) as my other tests with Autocomp and Titegroup.

I threw each charge low using my Lee imperfect powder measure and trickled up carefully on my my Redding No.2 scale. I was careful to check each case before seating a bullet. I checked at least every other round for OAL.

I had five rounds at each rung with 3.8g, 4.0, 4.3, 4.6, and 4.8 based on Lee data for 125g lead bullet. For a Hornady XTP and Win231 I have data showing 4.3-4.9g, so I figured my ladder was safe for copper plated. Wrong.

I started with the 3.8g rounds which were true bunny fart loads. I don't have a chrony, but these things out of my 4" GP100 kicked less than HV 22LR out of a 4" S&W 617 which weighs about the same. Really weak. Even the paper didn't puncture cleanly at 7 yards. But all went pop the same way. So I loaded the 4.0g rounds and the first one went poof with virtually no recoil and little noise. No hole in the paper. So I held it there for 30 seconds then unloaded the cylinder. The fired case had carbon smudges down one side like the weak loads I'd seen before. But the tip of the bullet was sticking out of the muzzle about 1/16". Oops!

I decided that was it for the day and packed it in. Kind of made me nervous, which is a good thing, I suppose. I mentally reviewed what I had done and decided to check the other 4.0g rounds. I used my newly acquired collet bullet puller die and unloaded the other four 4.0g rounds and carefully re-measured the powder loads. All were dead nuts on 4.0g as I had loaded them.

I'm almost certain that I did not have an empty case. An SP primer couldn't push a round almost 4" down the barrel, could it? Would the case have carbon on it from such a situation? I did some googling and found others had had squibs using lower charges of Win231, so maybe the bottom of my ladder was just well below usable (even though the five 3.8g rounds fired with no squibs).

I'm not sure what to do next. I thought Win231 was a decent powder choice for 38sp. Should I continue with the 4.3g and up loads and just avoid loads less than that with this bullet? Or is Win231 sensitive to position in the case? These loads are all about half a case below the bullet. Could temp have anything to do with it? 50F doesn't seem like it should cause a problem, but what do I know?

I pushed the squib out from the rear using two 2" lengths of 1/4" aluminum rod, a delrin block, a wood block drilled with a 3/8" forstner bit to allow the round to exit the muzzle, and a 6" C-clamp to provide the force. Seemed to make more sense than trying to push it 3.75" backwards. It came out easily with no damage to the gun. The bullet looked normal. No peeled plating or anything like that. Clear rifling marks and some carbon on the rear end.

Any advice or info would be appreciated. Maybe this will help some other newbies avoid this problem load.

Kokopelli
12-11-2016, 5:20 PM
Back in April I did a ladder with AutoComp, but resulted in low pressure and a lot of fouling on cases and the gun.

Low pressure and lots of fouling might indicate an insufficient crimp. But it does sound like you are doing everything correctly, especially inspecting the charge before seating bullets.

tmorse
12-11-2016, 5:23 PM
I had some problems loading light 38 loads. it might have been w231. it was low volume in a large case and pretty position sensitive. If the powder was near the primer it went off fine and light. If the power wasn't, sometimes got a squib. Fortunate that I notice the couple of times it happened. Using a more voluminous power worked. Using 700x now and it works well. Want to try Trailboss but cant find any.

Kokopelli
12-11-2016, 5:35 PM
PS - Are you seating your primers slightly below flush?

Dougbert66
12-11-2016, 5:50 PM
Low pressure and lots of fouling might indicate an insufficient crimp. But it does sound like you are doing everything correctly, especially inspecting the charge before seating bullets.

I forgot to mention that I'm using the Lee 4-die set including the factory crimp die. I set it for a light crimp (1/2 turn in after case contact) so as not to damage the thin bullet plating. I did notice that the "feel" of this operation was not that consistent, so maybe I'm not getting enough crimp action.

I sorted my brass by headstamp and with the exception of one batch of cowboy reloads with random headstamps (maybe 2-300) that I got with the gun the rest (300+) is all from factory new stuff that I've fired, so I expected it to be relatively consistent. I've got mostly Federal, CBC, GFL (Fiocchi), and some Blazer brass.

Thanks for the input.

Dougbert66
12-11-2016, 5:59 PM
I had some problems loading light 38 loads. it might have been w231. it was low volume in a large case and pretty position sensitive. If the powder was near the primer it went off fine and light. If the power wasn't, sometimes got a squib. Fortunate that I notice the couple of times it happened. Using a more voluminous power worked. Using 700x now and it works well. Want to try Trailboss but cant find any.

I hear you on finding powder. I've got a random collection of stuff I could find the past few months. I was hoping W231 would work because it meters much better than Unique which is my other contender, but maybe the position issue is a killer.


PS - Are you seating your primers slightly below flush?

I used a Lee Ergo Prime hand priming tool. They aren't protruding. Flush to slightly below flush. I squeeze until it stops, but don't try to crush them into the pocket.

wbunning
12-11-2016, 6:22 PM
It could still have been a bench top FU. We all think we are perfect in our process and timing, but in the end we are all fallible. Once, while engaged in a similar trickle up process as you, I "mismanaged" the orientation of the cases on my bench top. I pulled a primed case from the bin, put it next to the scale, dumped the properly weighed Titegroup in and set the case into the loading tray. Somehow, I must have set up another case, got distracted, and moved it to the tray wothout charging it. Anyway, I always run a small flashlight beam over the case mouths in the loading tray before seating bullets and I caught it.
Another time, I missed a squib entirely and the bullet stopped halfway across the flash gap between the cylinder and forcing cone on one of my GP100's. I had to tap it all the way back into the case.

Those were my only two "my bads" in reloading. We have to pay attention.

My "go -to" load for my 6" GP100’s is 3.8g Titegroup under Xtreme 158g RNFP plateds for plinking. They come out at about 800FPS with minimal recoil, goid accuracy and full case obturation in the cylinders.

Win231
12-11-2016, 7:33 PM
The squib was caused by an insufficient powder charge for plated/jacketed bullets.

There is more resistance in the barrel with plated or jacketed bullets; that's why most loading manuals have a warning: "Never use light loads for jacketed bullets; only for cast lead bullets.

Dougbert66
12-11-2016, 7:59 PM
wbunning--yeah, I know it could have been user error. I'm curious how far an SP primer can drive a bullet in a revolver. Having zero experience with it, I AssUMed it would stick the bullet near the forcing cone or just barely into the barrel, not almost all the way through 4" of barrel. Nothing like failure to get your attention re:double checking and following a consistent process every time. With my earlier test using Titegroup I found 3.8 & 3.9g gave the best results with the 125g plated FN bullet. But it seemed weaker than the Federal factory load I'm trying to approximate for practice.

Win231--I think maybe this was my problem, coupled with powder position, perhaps (since all five of the 3.8g loads "worked"). Berry's says to start near the middle of the lead bullet load data, so I shouldn't have started at the low end of it. Lesson learned, but I see no such warning in my Lee or Hornady manuals.

rg1
12-11-2016, 8:30 PM
.38 Special is the squib-iest pistol caliber of all. More issues with squibs in .38 Special due to several things.
1. It's a long case and small charges of powder can either be all next to the primer, all up front against the bullet, or all lying in the bottom of the case.
2. 38 Special brass cases vary in case wall thickness from brand to brand. Some .38 brass has much thinner case walls and some sizing dies do not size the brass enough for good bullet tension. If your expander is doing nothing then your sizing die isn't sizing some cases enough to get good bullet tension.
3. Some bullets especially lead may not be the right diameter.
IF you do not have adequate bullet tension in the case then the primer CAN start the bullet moving before the powder completely lights. When this happens the powder is burning in a much larger area and does not create high enough pressure and bullets can hang in the barrel or create blooper loads where the bullet makes it out of the barrel but at a speed you can see the bullet and it falls to the ground in a short distance. I've seen both happen more than once at the range in .38 Special. Double check your bullet tension in all different brand cases. If you can push the bullet deeper in the case with your thumb or by pushing the round against your bench and the bullet moves you are going to have wild velocity variations and possibly a bullet stuck in the barrel. You do need a good firm roll crimp but a crimp won't fix the poor bullet tension in the case mouth. Light charges of slower .38 powder makes it worse. You might find one particular case brand not useable with your dies and bullets?

hambam105
12-12-2016, 1:17 AM
I've only shot & reloaded about 20,000 rounds of .38 Special since 1978. I've never had a 38 squib yet.

Maybe if I start loading non-standard bullet weights with fubar plating and get rid of all my W231 and Bullseye powder then I can become normal and start experiencing squib load too.

mikeyr
12-12-2016, 10:09 AM
Last summer, primer only pushed a Berry's plated bullet down about 3 1/2" or 4" in a 6" barrel in my S&W 66...luckily like you I didn't pull the trigger again and checked my gun.

My first squib in close to 40 years of reloading, so I am not complaining.

wbunning
12-12-2016, 5:51 PM
On a related note..
I've been futzin around with .38 short colt and .38 long colt rounds just for nostalgia's sake. If you like to shoot mild rather than wild ( like me, due to some arthritis issues), you might consider this. I load some cast lead 110gr swc's (I powder coat them) over 4.0gr of Universal in a .38 Short Colt case for example. The little dudes sail out of my GP100 at 1100fps with decent accuracy and minimal recoil. That round has a very high charge to case volume density. There is a little more cleaning to do in the cylinders, but not bad at all. Really a fun round to shoot. It's not likely that one could double charge that case, and it can develop enough pressure with lighter loads in the dinky little case to drive the bullet out.

I have a ton of Titegroup and am going to work with that powder in the .38 Long Colt case.

:-)

Win231
12-12-2016, 6:02 PM
wbunning--yeah, I know it could have been user error. I'm curious how far an SP primer can drive a bullet in a revolver. Having zero experience with it, I AssUMed it would stick the bullet near the forcing cone or just barely into the barrel, not almost all the way through 4" of barrel. Nothing like failure to get your attention re:double checking and following a consistent process every time. With my earlier test using Titegroup I found 3.8 & 3.9g gave the best results with the 125g plated FN bullet. But it seemed weaker than the Federal factory load I'm trying to approximate for practice.

Win231--I think maybe this was my problem, coupled with powder position, perhaps (since all five of the 3.8g loads "worked"). Berry's says to start near the middle of the lead bullet load data, so I shouldn't have started at the low end of it. Lesson learned, but I see no such warning in my Lee or Hornady manuals.

I'd like to mention another safety issue for light loads: Loading handgun calibers for carbine-length barrels (16 - 20 inches). Similar issue. The bullet has to clear a much-longer barrel, so light loads are dangerous. When I handload for my Uzi, I load near max for jacketed bullets. When I handload for my Marlin 44 Mag carbine, nothing under 1,100 fps with jacketed/plated, nothing under 950 with cast lead.

croue
12-12-2016, 9:45 PM
With all this squib knowledge- I thought I'd ask a question. I had a squib load last week in my xd40. 6.3 Greene UniQ behind a 180 grain Barry's flat nose bullet. It wasn't the "pop" sound I expect from squibs. It had a long fizzle sound with it. Does this make sense? Powder burning really slow? Maybe a bad charge either too low or contaminated?

croue
12-12-2016, 9:45 PM
Grains not green. Doh.

hambam105
12-12-2016, 11:07 PM
Why does it seem that plated bullets are frequently mentioned when talking about squib loads?

pacrat
12-13-2016, 1:28 AM
Why does it seem that plated bullets are frequently mentioned when talking about squib loads?

Because they are the most popular. Cheaper then FMJ and cleaner than lubed cast. More being loaded, ups the odds of a booboo exponentially.

JM2c

Fishslayer
12-14-2016, 12:57 AM
I'm curious how far an SP primer can drive a bullet in a revolver.

I had a CCI SPP drive a 158 gr Redline Ballistics LSWC far enough into the forcing cone to lock up the cylinder and require driving the bullet back into the cylinder.

RogerOrange
12-14-2016, 1:43 AM
I am a beginner myself but have a similar problem with factory loads where the bullets jumped from the casings in my revolver.

Next time you go out, shoot a couple of rounds and then open the cylinder and pull the unfired bullets. Inspect of the COAL is still the same.
I even had a couple of times where the powder came pooring out of the cylinder :surrender:

Dougbert66
12-14-2016, 9:27 PM
Thanks to all who responded. I plan to shoot the upper half of my ladder when free time and clear weather coincide. Will keep to the hotter end of the load tables with plated bullets from now on.

For the record--all brass was Federal headstamp, both expander and bullet seating had good resistance when working. When I pulled down the four other 4g loaded rounds there was a decent amount of resistance, so I don't think I had bullets too loose or bad cases.

Have been thinking about a lever-action in 357 (or even a Ruger M77-357), but for now only loading for handgun. If I had some .38 short or long colt brass I might try that out, but I've got a mess of .38sp and .357 magnum cases so that's what I'll load.

p.s. Since when is 125g a weird weight for .38sp or .357 magnum? Lee and Lyman make molds for 120 and 125g bullets. Hornady sells several 125g bullets. PMC, Magtech, Hornady, Winchester, Cor-Bon, etc. all sell factory loads with 125g projectiles of various kinds. And I have a bunch of Federal 130g FMJ--that's only 4% heavier. I have some other bullets to try, including 158g plated, but I was planning to save those for .357 due to the 1250fps limit on Berry's. 158g @1200 is a decent load target for .357.

al123
12-16-2016, 11:08 AM
Dougbert66 wrote: I had five rounds at each rung with 3.8g, 4.0, 4.3, 4.6, and 4.8 based on Lee data for 125g lead bullet. For a Hornady XTP and Win231 I have data showing 4.3-4.9g, so I figured my ladder was safe for copper plated. Wrong. <snip>

IME with plated bullets you can't use the lower end of lead data. It has much more resistance than lead. Plated bullets can squib like jacketed if you use low-end lead data, but cannot handle high velocities (>1200 or1500 fps depending on the mfg) either.

The main reason I use plated is minimizing lead exposure and if you get the right recipe, you can dial in a custom load for your taste.

<snip> I set it for a light crimp (1/2 turn in after case contact) so as not to damage the thin bullet plating. I did notice that the "feel" of this operation was not that consistent, so maybe I'm not getting enough crimp action. <snip>

Plated bullets don't like a lot of crimp. The 1/2 turn is considered a light crimp and maybe OK, but I had to pull test bullets to be sure and I ended with a crimp somewhat less than that. My understanding is W231 is a relatively fast powder, and since the need for a heavier crimp is a more complete burn, IME, it was not really helpful and per the bullet mfg, it can be problematic.

For my use (X-treme) this what they recommend for their product:

Our Copper Plated Bullets can be run at mid-range jacketed velocities or higher end lead velocities. We recommend keeping velocities to less than 1500 FPS (Feet Per Second) and using only a light taper crimp

I've found a light taper crimp pinches into plating less than a light (1/2 turn) roll crimp.

Caveat: This is from my own narrow experience, so you have to use your own judgment, research, and testing on your own.

Dougbert66
12-16-2016, 9:54 PM
The pulled bullets I have show only a slight indentation where the light crimp occurred. The plating is not cut. From Berry's site:

You can use published load data for lead/cast bullets or low to mid-range FMJ data, as long as it is the same weight bullet. Berry's offers our standard plate bullets which can handle velocities up to 1,250 fps and 1,500 fps for our Thick Plate (TP) versions.

These are the "standard plate" type. I'll stay toward the mid and upper end (but below 1250fps based on the data I have).