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Came across a fair amount of 38 special brass with wad cutter head stamp. Anything I should be aware of for reloading? What’s different? Brass is fiocci brand. Thanks in advance.
 

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Came across a fair amount of 38 special brass with wad cutter head stamp. Anything I should be aware of for reloading? What’s different? Brass is fiocci brand. Thanks in advance.
Wadcutter specific brass is made with the wall thickness the same for the length of the bullet (that goes deeper into the case), so as not to deform the bullet, primarily designed for (because of?) the longer hollow base wadcutter bullet, see here:
Wadcutter brass (38 spl)

 

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made for wadcutters but can be reloaded with other profile (round nose, semi-wadcutter) bullets, correct?
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Yes, indeed. May not be an issue, but if it were me, just to play it safe, I think I would stick with 'normal' (traditional?) pressure 38 Special loading data, and shy away from Plus P pressures with the thinner brass back farther on the case. But, I may be 'overly cautious' here, maybe some other more 'pressure savvy' members than I will weigh in. Keep in mind there are some tradeoffs, thinner brass equals greater internal capacity, which can translate to lower pressures for any given load, but the thinner brass back towards the head is also weaker overall. So, ??
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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Just load them with normal .38 Special loads. .38 Special, whether 'regular' or '+p', is a pretty low pressure round in the grand scheme of things. If there is a cannelure on the case body, might check for case growth as that eventully flattens out with repeated firing. Or it might not, depending on how much pressure they are loaded to.

Revolvers, in general, support cartridge brass better than anything else. No deep extractor cuts, cone breeches, feed ramps, or anything else that leaves the case body unsupported. Absent a greatly oversized or bulged chamber, there's little that can go wrong. The brass simply doesn't have anywhere to go at normal operating pressures of the given revolver.

So this one is a pretty easy answer.
 

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I collected, polished, sold and reloaded 100's of thousands of 38 special cases in the day. Probably 1/2 were wadcutter factory rounds. My biggest buyer NEVER asked me to separate them. He loaded upwards of 1 million rounds per year.
 

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Just load them with normal .38 Special loads. .38 Special, whether 'regular' or '+p', is a pretty low pressure round in the grand scheme of things. If there is a cannelure on the case body, might check for case growth as that eventully flattens out with repeated firing. Or it might not, depending on how much pressure they are loaded to.
You may well be right. Over the years, some people (Skeeter Skelton for one) cautioned against using 'wadcutter cases' when developing and using 'high pressure' loads in the S & W 38-44 platform. Now, the question is what was his (and others) definition of 'high pressure' loads? They may well have been more in the 357 Mag. range, far exceeding 38 Special Plus P pressures. Some have experienced case separation at the cannelure after many firing of standard 38 loads, most likely due to case weakening (hardening) at the cannelure, rather than the brass thickness at that point, but I don't know. I tend to err on the conservative side.

 

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Back in the day when our pistol team used Western match full wadcutter ammo for competition, we used the fired resized brass when reloading cast lead bullet practice rounds using every kind of scrap brass we could find on top of Bullseye pistol powder. Can't say whether the brass has changed in design or composition since those days but we never had a problem.
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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I think it was fashionable once, if not the greatest idea, to use .38 Special brass for loads approaching .357 Mag territory.... which, after all, is where the notion of a .357 got started.

"38-44 high pressure loads" is a fairly nebulous definition. The "+p" of the .38 Special, by contrast, is well-defined, and but a tad over 20,000psi, I believe. Far cry from what .357s are loaded to right now, much less what they were loaded to back in the day (before reliable/consistent pressure testing equipment came along).

Yes, if someone is going off the beaten path... please do exercise all possible caution. Note, however, that having a .38 special case separate at the cannelure and leave half of it in the chamber, is more of a nuisance than safety risk. There could be a wee bit of blow-back around the base of the case, but with the recoil shield of the revolver, and being held at arm's length, even that would be but an annoyance.

Hot rod them? On your own.
 

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I think it was fashionable once, if not the greatest idea, to use .38 Special brass for loads approaching .357 Mag territory.... which, after all, is where the notion of a .357 got started.
The Lyman 358156 bullet was designed specifically for that purpose, heavy 38/44 loads. Having two crimp grooves (see image below), the lower (most rearward) could be used in 38 Special cases to increase case capacity, mimicking a 357 Mag. capacity. You might say, "Why not just use 357 Mag. Cases?". When the mold was conceived/designed by Ray Thompson in the early 1950's, 357 Mag. cases were quite scarce, while 38 Special cases were abundant, pretty good reason.
For the purpose of this discussion, let's forget about (and agree on) any negative consequence to the case that could (or won't) occur as a result of loading Plus P pressures in wadcutter specific or any other 38 Special case not head stamped Plus P.
Of more concern, to my cautious side, is the potential for Plus P pressure loaded ammo that is not in cases marked (preferably by permanent head stamp) as being Plus P, mistakenly (memory error or whatever) getting into a firearm not rated for Plus P by some shooter down the line. It seems that is the primary reason most manufacturers make such a distinction in their head stampings, not because of different case specs. or attributes.

Some reference reading:

Here, read post #9: Lyman 358-156 GC Best S&W Bullet

And: What about the Lyman 358156??



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The double-crimp groove bullets (and there have been double-cannelured jacketed bullets, too) are not about achieving extra case capacity. They are about achieving normal case capacity. They adjust for the difference in 357 and 38 Special case lengths such that the same bullet can be seated to the SAAMI maximum COL for either cartridge in their respective different length cases. The same has been done with 44 caliber bullets to produce SAAMI max COL in both the 44 Magnum and the 44 Special.

The 357 Magnum has a SAAMI maximum COL of 1.590" and a maximum case length of 1.290" for a difference of 0.300" maximum bullet protrusion from the case mouth. Thus, the 357 Magnum crimp groove will be located 0.300" below the meplat of the bullet.

The 38 Special has a SAAMI maximum COL of 1.550" and a maximum case length of 1.155" for a difference of 0.395" maximum bullet protrusion from the case mouth. Thus, the 38 Special crimp groove will be located 0.395" below the tip of the bullet or 0.095" below the 357 Magnum crimp.
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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.38 Special "+p" loads, in a non-"+p" gun, tend to shoot the gun loose a bit sooner than otherwise. They don't catastrophically dis-assemble it, leaving painful marks on the shooter.....

That would be in contrast to folks loading .38 special cases, to vague and ill-defined "38-44 loads" from 50-100 years ago, which were the fore-runner of the .357 Mag. THOSE in a light-framed .38 special gun, could get ugly.

Stick to the published "+p" loads, if you want to go that route, and life will be good.
 
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