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I have a question about reloading .38-.357 and 44Spl-44Mag that some of you more experienced reloaders might be able to answer. Is there any danger in loading .38 Spl brass with the same powder charge as I would load in a .357 case, if both are to be fired in the same .357 Mag handgun. Also, the same set of facts for .44 Spl loaded to .44 Mag specs. if both are fired in a .44 Mag revolver. I realize the danger if these are fired in either a .38 Spl. or a .44 Spl. revolver, or inadvertently used by someone who doesn't know how the cartridges have been loaded. I would be using the reloads myself, and there is no chance of this happening to me since I have only the magnum revolvers. I suspect my question revolves around the pressures developed in loading the Spl. cartirdges up to magnum velocities. Any help and information will be appreciated. Thanks, DGR
 

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Hi, DGR:
No. The problem is that you don't have the same powder space with the shorter Special cases and pressure will be excessive. Elmer Keith and others developed high pressure loads for the large frame Smith & Wessons before the Magnums were available, but I don't have that data on hand and the powders they used, excepting 2400, aren't available now. +P loads for the .38 Special are in some reloading manuals, but they don't equal Elmer's loads.

Bye
Jack
 

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I believe that the special cases are as strong as magnum cases, so they can handle the same pressure. If you loaded to the same overall length as magnums, it would give you the same load density, and theoretically, the same pressure as loading in a magnum case. Also, that way they couldn't fit in a special revolver. The drawbacks would be chamber erosion, as the shorter special cases don't fill the chamber, and the possibility of bullets jumping the crimp, as the shorter cases would have less bullet pull. The big question, is why? Do you have a bunch of special cases to use up? You should get consent from a senior forum member before you proceed.

Darrel
 

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Hi, Gents:
The crimp groove won't be in the right place if you seat the bullets out to .357 length. Marshall has a few bullets with dual crimp grooves and you could turn another groove, but the Corbin tool is over $60. I don't know if the Lee Factory crimp die would work. Anybody?

Bye
Jack
 

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Tio is correct to say that the major downside to using hot loaded Specials in Magnum chambers would be erosion. This can also add to leading problems as there is more time and space for flame to envelop the bullet as it makes it's way to the cylinder throat.

I will doubly stress the comment of Jack, if you load magnum level powder charges in a 38 Special case with the same bullet crimped into the crimp groove in the shorter case, you'll likely blow up your gun.

If you are going to load the specials in magnum chambers your best bet is to use reduced loads that are withing the pressure level for the original cartridge in order to prevent cylinder damage and excess chamber fouling.

I have at one time used 38 special cases with very heavy bullets for the 357 in order to have a crimp groove to use. These loads where developed for the purpose of not having to trim back 357's to near 38 length or to have to heavily crimp the case OVER the drivng band of the bullet because that is detrimental to case life.
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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I can't see any good reason to do it, with .357 brass being widely available. Lots of good reasons not to.

Save those .38 cases for practice, which should be the great majority of your shooting anyway.

Frankly I load even my light practice rounds in .357 mag brass, to avoid a build-up of gunk at the front of the chamber.
 

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DGR160,

As above, generally loads for the .357 Magnum must be reduced at least 20% to load in the .38 Spl. case. That is about the reduction in case capacity. Doing this will result in the same aproximate pressure level, but with a loss of 20-25% velocity.

Everyone above have missed the one bullet which was designed with the specific intent of doing this and it has two crimp grooves to accomplish this. The bullet is Lyman #358156 which was designed by Ray Thompson to allow loading .357 loads in the .38 Spl. case. By crimping .357 brass in the upper groove (nearest the point) and .38 Spl. in the lower groove both cases have the same effective capacity.

To the best of my knowledge, no commercial casting company sells this bullet, so it will be a matter of casting your ownor finding someone in your area with a mould who is willing to sell you some.

The bottom line, as mentioned above, that .357 brass is readily available. There really isn't any reason to use the .38 cases, and it is really risky to have loaded ammunition in cases marked for a cartridge of much lower pressure in the event you get them confused, or if some are lost or misplaced and someone not knowing were to shoot them in one of the older weak import guns.
 

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I've seen that mould that Alk is talking about, but I don't have one myself. The practical matter of this, in my opinion, is that if you want to shoot mags, use the mag brass. All the stuff you read about hot .44 Specials and Elmer Keith is a result of him NOT HAVING a magnum case to load with, or a gun for that matter. I know that Skeeter wrote about using the hot loaded .38's in .357s because of the brass he had to do it with. I'm sure you can make your own decision on this since you've heard most of the pitfalls, and lack of real benefits. If you want to use .38's because you can get them cheap once-fired, I'd just get the .357's. They cost about $45/500 and $76/1000 from Starline. I've never had any problem getting 10 pops out of a case unless the loads where brutal, which are not neccesarily safe anyway.

If you do decide to do it, make sure you work up from known safe loads at the .38+P level and go from there, but be very careful. It's not worth the minimum price paid for an accident., which is the gun, let alone your body parts. I'm not sure how the best slow burning powders will work in this scenario.
 

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Just because it can be done doesn't mean it should be done.

Look: the headstamp will be wrong. The case says 38SPL, right? Why try to squeeze a mag in there? Why try to squeeze a +P+ in there? Do you really want to be one of those handloaders who says, "Make sure you don't put one of my 38SPL cartridges in your 38SPL revolver - they're special loads and might blow you up." [*Special* 38SPL loads? How much confusion do we need?]

The reason they went with the longer case for 357 and 44 Mag was to kep those cartridges out of 38 and 44 SPL. Why screw up a good idea?
 

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I don't think it is universally safe for two reasons: 1) in some powder/bullet combinations the greatly reduced free volume may cause a pressure spike well beyond normal levels (this would be seen on modern pressure transducers to oscilloscope outputs, not likely seen on old-fashioned crushers). Your .357 might be ok for 1 - 10 - maybe even a thousand rounds but eventually it could fail. My .357 of a different make & history might fail at once. 2) mix your rounds up just once and fire it from a light .38 spl (like my old Colt detective special) and I am sure you will wish you didn't. Brass is so cheap why take the chance?
 

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There is a Lyman #358156, dual cavity, on Ebay right now if you still want to do this. The item # is 2718080900 if you're interested.
 

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The late, great gun writer Skeeter Skelton wrote quite a bit about using the Lyman 358156 cast bullet in .38 Special cases, but for use only in .357 Magnum revolvers.
You will find it in Handloader's Digest, 8th edition, copyright 1978.
AGAIN, this load should only be used in .357 Magnum revolvers. It is DANGEROUS to use it in any .38 Special revolver or rifle.
Skelton noted that his calculations showed that a standard .357 Magnum case with the 358156 crimped in the upper crimping groove created a case volume of about .0725 inch.
With the same bullet crimped in its lower groove in a .38 Special case, the case volume was about .069 inch.
"This means that the .38 Special version only about 5 percent less capacity than the .357 Magnum," he wrote.
Skelton also warned against using brass that had been fired more than a couple of times. He once used much-fired brass with two cannelures, formerly wadcutter ammo, and reported that the case separated at the canellure, leaving the forward part of the case in the chamber.
"As new a lot of brass as you have available is best -- preferably uncannelured. After two or three firings of these heavy loads, reserve the used brass for standard or light .38 Special loads," Skelton noted.

THE RECIPE
Lyman 358156 bullet, cast about 1 part tin to 15 parts lead. Skelton used a hollowpoint mould, which threw bullets close to 150 grains. He later acquired a mould for a solid bullet, which weighs slightly more.
Lyman 35-caliber gas check on bullet's base.
New or once-fired .38 Special brass.
CCI standard small pistol primer.
Hercules 2400 powder --- 13.5 grs. Readers are warned that this was the OLD Hercules-made 2400. The newer 2400 made by Alliant is said to be slightly more powerful. Reduce your load to 13.0 grs. for the newer 2400.
Velocity from 6-inch barrel is about 1,200 feet per second.

Note: Seat the bullet to the second crimping groove. That is, crimp in the lower groove. Use a heavy crimp.

HOW ACCURATE?
Skelton praised the accuracy of this load:
"A 10-shot group of solids measured 1-3/8 inches at 20 yards. The hollowpoints went into a single 7/8 inch hole -- that is, seven of them did. Three flyers opened the group to 1-7/8 inches. I believe that this was because I had cast the bullets rather hurriedly."

"I've never hit on a load so utterly versatile and reliable," Skelton wrote. "While I prefer a larger-bore magnum for big game, I know this handload will do the job if I do my part. It has no superior on small and medium game taken with a revolver, and it is an outstanding cartridge for personal defense."

GATOFEO NOTES
Based on this article, back in 1978, I bought a Lyman 358156 bullet mould, of solid design. I use this bullet almost exclusively in my .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolvers.
I haven't found a need to purchase another mould of similar weight.
Interestingly, in a later article Skelton reported that this heavy load printed nearly to the same point of aim as the 148 gr. wadcutter load; close enough to not bother adjusting the sights.
My own experience bears this out. It's handy never having to change the sights, when switching between heavy-duty and light, plinking loads.
Ray Thompson designed the Lyman 358156 bullet back in the 1950s, when .357 Magnum brass was sometimes difficult to find. Its ability to deliver Magnum velocities with readily available .38 Special cases was, at the time, a boon to shooters.
Today there is little reason or need to load this bullet in .38 Special cases, as Skelton once did, because .357 Magnum brass is plentiful. In fact, I don't suggest you load it in .38 Special cases, as one may find its way into a .38 Special and strain or damage the gun.
However, the 358156 a very useful bullet in a .357 Magnum case too.
The Lyman Reloading Handbook No. 47 (1998) shows a maximum load with the 358156 that averages better than 1,350 feet per second from a 4-inch pressure barrel. This is a maximum load, producing 40,300 copper units of pressure.
The Lyman 358156 is old but hardly feeble. It's one of the most useful and accurate bullet designs out there.
 

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Gatofeo,
I have read the same info that you have regarding this, without the personal experience. I still think, as Skeeter suggests, that the .357 cases are the better way to go.

Now, lets explore the benefits of this bullet that MAY be possible for those who want to really hot-rod the .357. If the cylinder on the revolver, which I know some are, the bullet could be crimped into the lower crimp groove to increase powder capacity. The fact that the bullet is gas checked and strong revolvers are available, I'd bet you could really make this thing smoke.

As a side not, I love Skeeter's work, but I acknowledge that one should carefully work up to some of the loads that he advocated. There are some instances where loads that he advocated in various cartridges that, in the age of relative ease in getting ACTUAL pressure figures, have been determined to be above specs. Not a bash on Skeet, but just a note to keep in mind using older data. Powders can change over time also.
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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Gatofeo, thanks for sharing, this is great information. Just goes to show that there is very little new in the world, but we do re-invent the wheel quite a bit.
 

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Keith's and Skelton's loads are too hot

If you try to use Keith's and Skelton's old 13 gr. load of #2400 in .38 cases with 158-gr. bullets, they are still too hot with today's powders, even for rifle use.

I do not recommend the practice for others, but for use in my own Ruger revolvers and Marlin rifles I've had satisfactory results with 11 grs. of Alliant #2400 in Federal cases with the Federal 200 primer using the Saeco #358 160-gr. FN bullet cast of wheel weights. This gives about 1080 f.p.s. in a 4-5/8 revolver, about 1200 f.p.s. in a 6" and 1330 f.p.s. in an 18" carbine, and is right at the limit for good acuracy with a plainbased bullet. I DO NOT recommend any component substitutions, or using the load in any other firearms.
 

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When I wrote the first response I was overlooking the second bullet which is particularly good for the proposed project. This is Lyman 358429. When loaded in .38 Spl. cases you crimp in the crimp groove. In .357 Mag. you seat so the shoulder is even with the case mouth. Either way gives a cartridge of about the same LOA and loading density.

This is the original, the absolute first bullet designed by Elmer Keith which would come to represent what is now referred to as "Keith Type".

This bullet was designed before the .357 Mag. It was incidental that it worked well in the .357.

And to Tio, your observation is incorrect. If you will compare both K and N frame S&W revolvers, regardless of caliber, you will find that they all have 1 3/4" long cylinders! (When measured from the case head) Strangely, the exception s are the Model 12 Airweight .38, and Model 19 which have cylinders about .025 longer than all the others.

In a Model 19 the 358429 can be loaded out to the crimp groove where it cannot for an N frame gun. Loaded this way the bullet will stick out of the cylinder on most revolvers.
 

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THE RECIPE
Lyman 358156 bullet, cast about 1 part tin to 15 parts lead. Skelton used a hollowpoint mould, which threw bullets close to 150 grains. He later acquired a mould for a solid bullet, which weighs slightly more.
Lyman 35-caliber gas check on bullet's base.
New or once-fired .38 Special brass.
CCI standard small pistol primer.
Hercules 2400 powder --- 13.5 grs. Readers are warned that this was the OLD Hercules-made 2400. The newer 2400 made by Alliant is said to be slightly more powerful. Reduce your load to 13.0 grs. for the newer 2400.
Velocity from 6-inch barrel is about 1,200 feet per second.
With todays 2400 and a typical 158gr LSWC or 173gr Keith the 13.5gr load does right around 1,325 fps from my 4" GP100, a good bit more than most factory 357 Mag ammo today.

It's fun to load up and shoot the old loads and think about what Skeeter and Keith may have been thinking when they first did them, but I'm going to go along with the rest and say that today there isn't any other reason to load magnum loads in special cases.
 

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I was just going through some of the moulds that I acquired over the winter, and one of them is a 358156. It looks like maybe I'll try this bullet, the gas check shank looks very short though.
 

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Please be safe...

When I worked at Ruger ca. 1984-1987 I had access to a Universal Receiver, test barrels, coppers and SAAMI reference ammunition for equipment calbration, so that I could pressure test loads to then-industry standards.

Using 13 grs. of late Hercules production #2400 powder and the #358156 Thompson gaschecked bullet cast of Taracorp Magnum alloy, sized .358", with Hornady gaschecks, lubricated with Tamarak 50-50 Alox-beeswax, in Federal .38 Special cases with Federal 200 primers, seating the bullet out and crimping in the rear crimp groove, the pressures exceeded SAAMI maximum product average allowed for .357 Magnum. A charge reduction of 1.0 grain was needed with the powder produced at that time, to bring pressures into normal parameters for .357 Magnum ammunition. However, this still far exceeds the pressure allowed for any .38 Special ammunition, even proof loads. Reduction of the powder charge to 11 grs. was necessary with these components to approximate the pressure of +P+ law enforcement loads, which are about 20% above industry +P standard, about 22,000 c.u.p.

I have not seen pressure tests conducted with current production Alliant product #2400 which have been done with test equipment maintained to current industy standards and producing piezoelectric (psia) measurements. However, based upon my past experience in pressure testing and observations of the radial copper pressure / velocity relationship of #2400 powder in .357 Magnum loads, I expect that 11 grs. of current Allliant #2400 powder with these components would generate pressures in the region of 26,000-30,000 c.u.p.

While this load probably would not be dangerous in a Ruger GP100 or Blackhawk, S&W "N" frame or a Marlin rifle, no responsible industry source recommends that anyone attempt to load .38 Special cases to this pressure level. While I do so in my own firearms, I am very fussy about which cartridge cases I use and their condition. I am aware of the risks and accept them for my own use.

However, I DO NOT RECOMMEND that anyone else attempt to assemble similar loads, and anyone who tries to further increase this charge to the levels once recommended by Keith or Skelton years ago with older Hercules product, is foolhardy. I would fully expect that the pressures generated by such loads would equal or exceed .357 magnum proof levels of 50,000 c.u.p. or over.

Anyone reading this should consider themselves forewarned and proceed further along this path at their own peril.
 
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