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Old 01-01-2011, 11:13 AM
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Default What makes 38 Special +P?

I got sort of interested in just what constitutes 38 P+. Is this a somewhat watered down 357 load that can be duplicated within 357 Magnum reloading data? Is it some specific velocity that hand loading can accomplish, in other words?

I've seen several M66 pistols that looked appealing but figured they couldn't take a lot of full bore 357 loads due in part to their frame size and probably chamber dimensions and perhaps forcing cone thickness. I haven't been fortunate enough to actually see one to check-just speculations.

I know you can buy commercial ammo for the +P variety but if you want to "roll your own" I wasn't sure about what powders/bullet combos would be good in that the manuals I have (Speer and Hornady) don't indicate a section for the 38 Special +P. Hornady does indicate some of the loads for the 38 Special does approximate a "+P" velocity. That range seems to run from 950-1050 fps with the 125 gr bullet and is indicated with an asterisk. The data was taken using a 4 inch barrel.

Data for the 357 Magnum shows a starting velocity higher than that range with a minimum charge of several powders showing 1250 fps. So, you can't really use a magnum case and load it (using this bullet)to 38+P velocity. Hope I'm making sense here. This data was taken using an 8 inch barrel and that would probably account for the velocity increase.

In short, would it be best just to use 38 Special loads between 900-1000 fps in the model 66 S&W most of the time? To me, you may as well just buy a 38 Special if that's the case. We're not allowed to use lead bullets at the range I go to so jacketed bullets would have to be the order of the day.
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Old 01-01-2011, 11:39 AM
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What makes 38 Special +P?"

The extra ink it takes to print "+P" on the box.

Just kidding. It is certain that +P has been built up into a much more worrisome product than is necessary through speculation alone. Seems that SAAMI has redefined .38 Special and +P .38 Special standards several times in the past few years. I'm not sure what the SAAMI standards currently are but +P was once set at 1500 psi above standard .38 Special which was pegged at 17,000 psi. Both levels are pretty mild.

Don't sell the K-Frame Model 66 short. It may be used with .357 Magnum ammunition. The Model 66 features chambers properly designed for .357 Magnum ammunition and of standard dimensions. A Model 66 might not be a choice for long term, high volume applications using .357 Magnum ammunition but will serve well for self-defense and associated practice.


"I know you can buy commercial ammo for the +P variety but if you want to "roll your own" I wasn't sure about what powders/bullet combos would be good..."


For some time .38 Special performance has mostly been redefined downward in published loading manuals. Some got downright silly in their attempts to ere on the side of caution. Some older manuals do have some published loads that wouldn't be prudent to use in just any .38 Special revolver that may be scrounged up.

It's difficult to peg exactly what a +P .38 Special handload is and the more manuals one has on hand that publish so called "+P" data the more confusing it becomes. Some of the manuals 30 years old or older that list powders that are still current can still be a good source of information for those who are willing to carefully make use of their information.

Good discussion of "+P" handloads for .38 Special crops up here with regularity. These are occasionally sprinkled with differences of opinion which make for enjoyable reading. No matter which side one adheres to, the differences in opinion could be a good cautionary sign that the loads discussed are in the upper reaches of .38 Special capabilities and prudence is dictated.
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Old 01-01-2011, 11:52 AM
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38 Special 17,000 PSI
38 Special +P 20,000 PSI (Peak pressure)

For +P, the allowable PEAK pressure is 3,000 PSI higher.
Since the speed is determined by the total force for the time the bullet is in the barrel, you can't predict MV with peak pressure alone.

I can load a +P with very fast powder that has LESS MV than a standard load with a medium powder.
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Old 01-01-2011, 12:02 PM
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For years I would load target .38s' in .357 brass, usually needed to bump up the charge about 10% to match the same velocity. Theory being less bullet jump would be more accuate, well after a time I found the gun was just as accurate in my hands using the 38 cases and I just did a better job cleaning the cylinders after shooting and saving the powder. The problem with downloading .357s' with jacketed bullets too much would be having one without enough power lodge in the barrel. As long as you stayed above the 38+P loadings in the 357 cases you should be alright.
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Old 01-01-2011, 12:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmcgilvray View Post
What makes 38 Special +P?"


Don't sell the K-Frame Model 66 short. It may be used with .357 Magnum ammunition. The Model 66 features chambers properly designed for .357 Magnum ammunition and of standard dimensions. A Model 66 might not be a choice for long term, high volume applications using .357 Magnum ammunition but will serve well for self-defense and associated practice.
So, in essence if one was to just use, say, a box of 50 once a month for familiarization, there shouldn't be a problem? I'm not familiar with the K-frame and hence, my question. I've had N-frames before without any hesitation on firing mostly 357 loads but, I like the smaller sized K-frame better these days and was curious about the ability of that frame to handle an ongoing amount of full bore 357 loads. Funny how when you get older you don't want large pistols anymore.

Quote:
As long as you stayed above the 38+P loadings in the 357 cases you should be alright.
Looking at Hornady's manual for the 125 gr bullet, a load of 17.4 gr of H 110 is a starting load and 19.9 gr a max. The velocities run from 1250-1500 but, this is taken from an 8 inch Python. So, If I used 18.5(according to the manual) that would give 1350 fps. However, that figure being taken from the longer barrel, I can only surmise from a 3-4 inch barrel it would be maybe 1250 fps which is the minimum load velocity. That's fast enough for practice and should be enough power to not get into trouble pressure wise.
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Old 01-01-2011, 12:47 PM
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Quote:
Looking at Hornady's manual for the 125 gr bullet, a load of 17.4 gr of H 110 is a starting load and 19.9 gr a max
If case you haven't read the manufacturer's caution notes, H110/Win 296 are NOT suitable for experimenting and should be used strictly per instructions. These powders produce the maximum power, but can wear the gun faster..

The discussions above were with the assumption you were going to use powders more amenable to adjustment over a wide range. I load H110/296 loads for my 686, but I consider them hotter than what I want for my Model 66. Many medium powders produce mid-range .357 loads around 1000 to 1100 fps that are adequate for most purposes. Titegroup with 125gr jacketed bullet is less abusive than the H110.
The peak pressure is what blows up a gun, but a hot load also can accelerate wear without blowing it up.
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Old 01-01-2011, 01:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OKFC05 View Post
If case you haven't read the manufacturer's caution notes, H110/Win 296 are NOT suitable for experimenting and should be used strictly per instructions. These powders produce the maximum power, but can wear the gun faster..

The discussions above were with the assumption you were going to use powders more amenable to adjustment over a wide range. I load H110/296 loads for my 686, but I consider them hotter than what I want for my Model 66. Many medium powders produce mid-range .357 loads around 1000 to 1100 fps that are adequate for most purposes. Titegroup with 125gr jacketed bullet is less abusive than the H110.
The peak pressure is what blows up a gun, but a hot load also can accelerate wear without blowing it up.
I just pulled that particular powder out of the air, so to speak, as an example. At any rate,what manufacturer's caution notes are you referring to? I don't have any data in the Speer/Hornady manual for this powder and bullet weight using Titegroup. Most likely, I would be using Universal Clays, Unique or AA#5-powders I have available and I consider these to be a medium rate as opposed to faster powders.

Minimum loads with these powders are still going to give you a velocity of around 1200-1250 fps, depending on barrel length. I don't care for fast powders like Bullseye and Titegroup. fast powders make me a bit nervous. I've seen blowups with double charges of Bullseye and wouldn't have it on my work bench.
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Old 01-01-2011, 02:20 PM
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Default 38 Special Service Type Loadings

If you check out Hodgdon - The Gun Powder People you willfind a number of standard pressure 38 Special loadings, particularly Titegroup, that push a 158 grain cast bullet at 920 fps or better. If you check out the +P 38 Special data you will find a number of loadings of jacketed bullets that exceed 1000 fps. At one time, I found +P 38 Special data for cast 158 grain bullets with Titegroup at nearly 1000 fps, but I can no longer find that data.

My K-guns consistently like 357 cases loaded with 140 or 158 grain jacketed and Unique powder to about 1050 to 1100 fps. If I can accurately push a 158 grain cast bullet at 920 fps or better, then why waste the jackdeted bullets? I am so pleased with the accuracy and velocity that I get with 158 grain cast with Titegroup in 38 Special cases, that it has become one of my standard loadings.
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Old 01-01-2011, 02:43 PM
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Since one of your stated goals is to comply with your range's jacketed bullet requirement, and you say you want a load of around 1000 fps, I would suggest you consider plated bullets. They are economical compared to jacketed, are as clean to shoot and do fine at about 1000 fps.

Just a suggestion for your consideration,
Dave
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Old 01-01-2011, 02:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColColt View Post
I just pulled that particular powder out of the air, so to speak, as an example. At any rate,what manufacturer's caution notes are you referring to?

FROM THE HODGDON MANUAL:
Quote:
Reduce H110 and Winchester 296 loads 3% and work up from there. H110 and Winchester 296 if reduced too much will cause inconsistent ignition. In some cases it will lodge a bullet in the barrel, causing a hazardous situation (Barrel Obstruction). This may cause severe personal injury or death to users or bystanders. DO NOT REDUCE H110 LOADS BY MORE THAN 3%.
http://data.hodgdon.com/main_menu.asp


Cartridge: 357 Magnum
Load Type: Pistol
Starting Loads

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Maximum Loads

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bullet Weight (Gr.) Manufacturer Powder Bullet Diam. C.O.L. Grs. Vel. (ft/s) Pressure Grs. Vel. (ft/s) Pressure

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

125 GR. CAST LRNFP Hodgdon Titegroup .358" 1.580" 4.0 1055 13,800 CUP 5.4 1274 22,800 CUP
125 GR. HDY XTP Hodgdon Titegroup .357" 1.590" 6.8 1425 36,500 CUP 7.5 1497 41,200 CUP
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Old 01-01-2011, 02:53 PM
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When starting reloading, I purchased many different load manuals at low cost. Shopping at gunshows and ebay, I was able to get many manuals from the 1970's to 1990's. About half of them have loads listed for 38 Special +P. This offers a depth of of published information that is just not otherwise available. This also comes in very handy when I get some powder that has not been made for a few years.

Last edited by ballistic; 01-02-2011 at 03:59 AM.
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Old 01-01-2011, 03:25 PM
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I've about settled on 2400 for full-powered .357 Magnum loads. I have loaded quite a few batches of 158 grain bullets over a healthy charge of H110 and it gives good performance. These would mostly be used in N-Frame guns.

When I had a 4-inch K-Frame Model 19 I liked the 2400 load in it and also had a respectable .357 Magnum load built around Unique.

I've tried a couple of boxes of lighter bullets for handloading .357 Magnum but never really used them much. I like heavier bullets better and never completely bought into the notion of the wonders of the 125 grain load.
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Old 01-01-2011, 04:24 PM
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This is the problem in working with a powder manufacturer vs a bullet maker. the data will be different as it always has. Hodgon's website indicated this for the 125 gr Hornady bullet...

125 GR. HDY XTP Hodgdon H110

21.0 MIN 38,400 CUP

22.0 MAX 41,400 CUP

The Hornady manual shows 17.4 as a minimum start and 19.9 as max. So, Hodgdon is recommending a start charge greater than Hornady's max charge with the same bullet. If I used the hypothetical bullet/powder I stated earlier with 18.5 gr with this bullet, that is a bit under minimum, according to Hodgdon.

I think you should use the bullet manufacture's suggestion over the powder manufacturer's call. Nevertheless, I won't be using H110 anyway(or W-296) if and when I can find a 66-2 or -3.
I have several older manuals and none of them, including Speer's #9, have any reloading data for the 38 Special +P. Their latest#14 does and I overlooked that. Hornady's #7 doesn't have any data.

It would be great to be able to shoot lead bullets but unfortunately, such is not the case. I use to shoot them in an old M28 back in the '70's and I feel sure I used H 110 and probably 296 and 2400. However, that was in an N-frame.

I think the model 66 would be better for me in that I now find the larger frames just too big for some reason. Maybe the difference in being 35 vs 65. There is quite a difference.

DaveT-Never used the plated versions and all I understand about them is that some are not consistent in weight/diameter and can only be driven just so fast. I have to plead ignorance with these bullets.

Last edited by ColColt; 01-01-2011 at 04:27 PM.
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Old 01-03-2011, 12:31 PM
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As said above, the difference between a .38 Special and .38 Special +P is pressure. That said most (but not all) .38 Special +P factory ammo is barely at the standard .38 Special pressure limits and for the most part is an excuse to charge you more.

Ad for the M66 and Magnum ammo, you can shoot all the 158gr full power .357 Magnum ammo you wish to in your M66 as long as you stay away from ammo loaded with a 125gr bullet. The additional velocity generated with a 125gr bullet can cause forcing cone damage but the 158gr bullet won't.
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Old 01-03-2011, 01:42 PM
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I would not use Lil Gun powder in a K frame gun. According to Hodgdons data, it can drive a 158 grain bullet faster than published data on some 125 grain loadings. If a 125 grain bullet at 1400 fps doesnt split the weak spot on a Ks forcing cone, then a 158 at 1400 fps ought to do the trick. Lil Gun is fantastic with an L-frame or GP100, but I wouldnt let it anywhere near a K.

I have had excellent luck with 140 and 158 grain jacketed bullets in 357 cases at 1050 to 1100 fps, using Unique powder. If you want full power 158 357s in a K, I would simply buy a box. They seem to do extremely well at less than full power 357.
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Old 01-03-2011, 01:59 PM
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I'll go a little further, I wouldn't go near any revolver right now with Lil'Gun until the rumor of it wearing out forcing cones and possible barrels gets cleared up. For now Lil'Gun only get used for ammo fired in my Carbine.
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Old 01-04-2011, 10:26 AM
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Where did you hear this one? Can you verify or elaborate? Here I come up with a new favorite powder and its going to wear out my barrel?

I am no fan of Accurate #7 & 9 powders. Some years ago I tried them when other powders were in shortage. The inside of 200 first fired 41 Magnum cases looked mottled, like they had been momentarily molten, and were so rough that they would hang up in resizing and belling dies.

Neither am I a fan of Blue Dot. I found out the reason for the warning against the combination of Blue Dot with 125 grain 357 Magnums, about 20 years before the warning came out. I lost a good S&W 19 in less than 50 rounds of a starter load taken from Speer #9, circa 1975.
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Old 01-05-2011, 03:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by surveyor47 View Post
Where did you hear this one? Can you verify or elaborate? Here I come up with a new favorite powder and its going to wear out my barrel?
This information came directly from Freedom Arms about their revolvers. I don't remember the link that's why in my post I said it was a rumor even though I did see it in print. It was from Bob Baker who is the owner of Freedom Arms.

As for Lil'Gun being your new favorite powder, if you are using it and you are seeing no damage to your revolvers I see no reason to stop using it in your case. I'm the cautious type...
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357 magnum, 686, bullseye, carbine, commercial, hornady, k frame, k-frame, m28, m66, model 19, model 28, model 66, n-frame, universal, winchester

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