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Old 01-29-2012, 09:51 AM
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Default 125 grn loads for the 38 Special

I had all but given up on 125 grain bullets for my 38 Spl revolvers. I never could get any accuracy with them....and POI was too far away from POA for my tastes (fixed sighted guns). So, I've been shooting only 158 grain LSWC's. I had some left- over 125 grain, Remington SP- HP's (jacketed, not lead of course) sitting around though....and I wanted to give it one more try. I intended to give the remainder of the bullets to a friend, for use in his .357 Mag (GP 100).

So, I thought perhaps a hotter load might help (just a stab in the dark). I loaded 10 each of 4.2, 4.4, 4.6 and 4.8 grains of HP 38, under the 125's. Next time at the range, I gave them a go.

Well, well, well. How interesting. ALL of them.....ALL 40 rounds, went into an area of about 3 1/2" x 2 1/2"....starting at the right/ lower quadrant of the bull....and stretching at a about a 45 deg angle toward the right lower corner of the target paper. A nice, compact mass of hits, with 5 of the 40 in (the right lower portion of) the bull itself.

These were fired from my S&W 3" HB Mod 10....standing/ offhand at 10 yards. I should explain that this gun seems to group just a bit to the right and a bit low with all loads, even the 158's....so this grouping (with the 125's) is right where I would've liked it to be. I'm not concerned about my loads (with fixed sights) not shooting right to the centre of the bull, as long as the hits are fairly close to that....and CONSISTENT. Then, I could easily compensate, if necessary, for centre-mass hits.

This may all sound stupid to you guys, but I am new to handguns. Rifles I have been shooting (and loading for) for a long time.....but handguns only recently. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that handguns truly ARE a different animal.

I am confused about two things. One, if the 125's (I've tried both lead and jacketed) wouldn't shoot with softer target loads.....then why will they shoot with hotter loads (same gun) ? Two, why the heck would ALL 40 rounds, from 4 different loads, group so tightly together ? Makes me think that this Smith is not at all finicky about loads.....that it will throw anything (it likes) well. (Which I am not complaining about, you understand.) This just runs counter to my rifle experience.

Anybody got any ideas ? I'm sure that the experienced pistoleros/ handloaders in the group can explain this....
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Old 01-29-2012, 10:19 AM
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That's the reason to start low and work up till you find the sweet spot for a round when reloading. Once you find the sweet spot for a round go with the lightest charge because more powder isn't going to improve accuracy .

You say it shot the same with 4.2 4.4 4.6 4.8, I'd go with the 4.2 for range use, lower recoil and to save on powder. If I was using them for self defense maybe 4.8 for added velocity.

My favorite load for the 38 is with a 158 gr. LSWC . I just think the 158 gr. bullet is a great match for the 38 spl.
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Old 01-29-2012, 10:31 AM
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One difference with a handgun over a rifle,is the faster the load ( either more powder or a lighter bullet) the lower it will hit on the target.
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Old 01-29-2012, 10:35 AM
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Just be careful with loading jacketed bullets to low. As Skip says in another post today you can easily stick a (jacketed) bullet that way. Don't mix lead and jacketed loading data, bad things can happen.
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Old 01-29-2012, 11:48 AM
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I used to load a 130 gr. FMJ with 4.5 gr. Titegroup and FSP - the load produced slightly less than 1 inch groups at 50 ft from a S&W627.
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:48 AM
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All I can tell you is that the .38 Special Revolver was originally designed around the 158 grain lead bullet. In my personal experience, I have always had the best accuracy with 158 grain lead. The lighter bullets tend to shoot low, and are less consistent out of my revolvers. Jacketed bullets have more resistance in the barrel, and that may be part of the reason you loose accuracy - until you hit the sweet spot in terms of velocity.

There are plenty of guns that I load jacketed and semi jacketed bullets in, but the 38 Special is not one of them.

Chief38
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Old 01-30-2012, 05:50 PM
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I find that the lowest 38 +P loads work well with 125gr JSP bullets. I just put together 200 +P's using said bullet over 4.5gr Bullseye, in +P brass, of course. Very accurate! And some of the older data lists this charge right at the top end of 38 SPL. Which kind of goes along with it being the lowest +P load listed in today's books. COL=1.440".
I also have had similar results with Berry's 125gr plated HP's and the same charge. COL=1.445"-1.450"
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Old 01-30-2012, 10:17 PM
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I have that same 125gr SJHP bullet loaded in front of 5.1 and 5.4 of W-231 running 880fps and 965fps respectively thru a 3" M-65
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