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Old 11-14-2013, 09:57 PM
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Default Steel J frame FBI loads

I use the Speer 158gr Lhp for my loading and have settled on two loads after testing eight powders and four primers out.

My "Fac Dup" load is at 861 fps but is not as accurate as my slower load that is only at 822 fps.

I just read a gun test on the net where a person stated that a Factory Remington generally gets around 800 fps out of a J frame.

Is 822 to 861 fps in the ball park for a FBI load out of a all steel J frame? These felt +P to me in my M49.

800 fps with Red Dot felt pretty wimpy..........
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Old 11-14-2013, 11:31 PM
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Forget frame size, barrel length is all that matters.

I haven't seen any Remington .38 +P SWCHP, but I have chronographed both Winchester and Federal versions. On two different days, with two different 2" Model 12s, each chronographed at an identical 821 FPS. The 1/8" difference for the J-Frame won't make enough difference to be statistically significant.
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Old 11-14-2013, 11:50 PM
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Elmer Keith said in "Sixguns", you can shoot .38/44 loads out of a Chief's Special. That's true due to the cylinder being full thickness and not having the locking notch cut into the chamber area. Several Speer Manuals have data for 2" barrels. The powder that clocked the fastest out of a 6" barrel was also fastest out of a 2" barrel.
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Old 11-15-2013, 04:32 AM
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I did some extensive testing along with a few other reloaders on several forums and I came up with a very good FBI Load.

We all agree my load is bumping up against the 20,000 PSI limits for a .38 Special +P but don't exceed them. I won't post the exact charge weight because it's above any "current" load manuals but it was in manuals in the past and even higher than my charge weight.
Below is the results:

Winchester .38 Special +P case
158gr Hornady LSWC/HP
CCI 550 Primer (Magnum primer on this load)
x.x gr HS-6
COL 1.475"
4" M686 ---- 2" M640
927.0 -- AV --- 888.9
955.1 --- H --- 897.1
905.4 --- L --- 876.6
49.7 ---- ES --- 20.5
20.7 ---- SD ---- 7.9
17.0 ---- AD ---- 5.9

If you're wondering why such a small difference in velocity between the 4" and 2" barrel, all I can say is I think my M686 has a slow barrel. The velocities are higher than the factory ammo listed @890 fps but I wanted to be sure the bullets would expand from a short barrel and these do! I could probably drop my charge weight .1gr or .2gr to match the factory load but that might sacrifice reliable bullet expansion from the short barrel. HS-6 is a good powder for this application because for some reason, it seems HS-6 develops less pressure while delivering the same velocities as other powders in it's burn rate range.

BTW, like I said, factory duplicate would be 890 fps from a 4" barrel so your load is slightly slower. Also, you can't feel +P and I have found some powders feel differently than others and could fool you into thinking pressures and velocity is higher when it's not.
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Old 11-15-2013, 06:17 AM
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Here are results I have gotten time after time out of my 2" bbl M60-7. They are all averages of many shots Chronographed:

Buffalo Bore HEAVY 158 grain +P LSWCHP-GC = 1035 fps.

Buffalo Bore NON +P 158 grain LSWCHP = 860 fps.

Remington 158 grain +P LSWCHP (FBI load) = 835 fps.

Speer Gold Dot 135 grain +P GDHP = 850 fps.

Winchester 158 grain +P LSWCHP (FBI load) = 760 fps. NOTE:

I sent 3 boxes of this stuff back to Winchester and got a refund because of the dismal performance that I chronograped. They sent me a note back along with a check and said the ammo was indeed "defective" but no specific info was supplied. Not only did the Winchester FBI load Chronograph low, but I could actually feel the enemic performance when shooting it. I am wondering if they put standard 158 grain LSWCHP ammo in a cartridge marked +P but I will never know for sure.

Other than the Winchester, I would and do recommend any of the other 4 loads above for use as self defense ammo in a 2" snubby. They are all accurate enough for defense work, and while the BB +P loading has the most recoil I find it the most consistent and most accurate of them all. It does however take some getting used to.

Last edited by chief38; 11-15-2013 at 06:21 AM.
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Old 11-15-2013, 07:58 AM
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My results with the Remington 158 LHP +P load was a bit disappointing. I found a 50-rd box last summer for a reasonable (!) price.

My chrono showed an average velocity of 763 FPS out of my 637-2 which I thought was a bit slow.

At the other end of the spectrum, Buffalo Bore's 158 gr Heavy +P load clocked 987 FPS from the 637-2 and 1033 FPS from a 2 1/2" 19-3. Those readings are right in line with their published specs.

The next time I have my chrono out, I may try the Remington load again in my 642-1 and 36 to see if the low readings noted above were due to the load or the particular gun.
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Old 11-15-2013, 01:34 PM
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Buffalo Bore is the ONLY Bullet Company's products I've ever tested that came out exactly as they state, and I mean THE ONLY ONE!

As a note here, I have found that the OLDER stock Remington ammo is definitely slower than what has been produced in the last few years and as you have said their older stuff is in the mid 700's. Their new stuff in the mid 800's.
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Old 11-15-2013, 06:14 PM
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Has any of you put your 822 to 835 fps Lhp bullets through a jug, wet newspaper or gel test to see if the bullet will perform ok at these speeds?

The internet states that the 4" barrel is best but when you drop down to a 2" or less the Winchester "Hard" bullet does not expand as well as the soft Remington. There was no Federal FBI bullet in these test but from my reading it seems to be in the middle of the factory loads.

I think the Speer is as soft as I can get, since I can not locate any factory Remington.

If push comes to shove, I guess I could practice with the Lswc bullets............every time I look up bullets the shelves are out of stock in town and on the net.


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Old 11-15-2013, 11:15 PM
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My concern is that my bullets will not expand at the velocity I get out of my 2" guns. I load 4.5gr W231 behind the 158gr Speer SWC-HP, but my old "Shooting Chrony" is out of service so I don't know what velocity I'm getting. The speer book indicates about 900 fps out of their 6" test revolver, so probably only 750-775 out of a 2-incher? If they will not reliably expand in tissue at that speed, IMHO I'd be better off shooting a warmed-up wadcutter.
My old Hornady book shows a charge of 4.2gr W231 behind their 148 gr HBWC giving 950 fps out of the 4" test revolver-- that oughta give close to 850 out of a two-incher whch would make a pretty good defense load with that big flat nose.
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Old 11-16-2013, 12:22 AM
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You might want to think in terms of a 200 gr bullet, so you get as much from its weight as you would from an expanding bullet. I guess that was the logic used by the Brits during WWII?
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Old 11-16-2013, 11:34 AM
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I think that 38-200 load was a LRN, so not much striking power. I don't know who sells a 200 gr 38 caliber bullet anyway. Probably going down that road, you'd be better off going with a 173 gr or so Keith semiwadcutter. Driven very hard, recoil might be a bit grim.
I might try 5.0 W231 behind the Speer SWC-HP, that oughta give 850 or a bit more in a 2" and ought to be plenty safe. Don't think it's even up to +P pressures, but if so just barely.
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Old 11-16-2013, 12:55 PM
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If you want the original "FBI Load," (the one they adopted in 1933), then get Buffalo Bore "Outdoorsman," Catalog Number 20H/20.

That load, made by the various manufacturers back in the day, was safe in the FBI's Colt Police Positives, and S&W said it was approved for the 2 inch M&P revolver, which has a weaker cylinder than the J frame as the locking notches are cut into the thinnest part of the cylinder wall over the charge holes.

Later, Evaluator's Ltd. tested the 38/44 load with the 4 inch Model 15, and found that it was fine for limited use in practice and qualification and for duty or combat use with most practice being done with standard loads.

Buffalo Bore's version will get you an honest 1,150 fps in a 4 inch Model 15 and around 1,000 fps in the 1 7/8 inch J frames. And, it is safe for use in those revolvers.
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Old 11-16-2013, 02:46 PM
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One of the things I like so much about Buffalo Bore ammo is that Tim Sundles gives real world velocities, instead of test barrel velocities.
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Old 11-16-2013, 07:33 PM
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Thanks for all the info .................

Guess the minimum 158 +P is around 800 fps and 835-850 is an average +P loading and if you can get any thing over that it is whip cream on top of the pumpkin pie !!

Thanks all and have a happy Turkey day that is coming up, soon.

( Note: The H20 is not a HP .....just a swc design )

Last edited by Nevada Ed; 11-18-2013 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 11-18-2013, 01:04 PM
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Kind of interesting to see people recommend the Buffalo Bore factory loads...in a handloading forum thread.
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Old 06-29-2020, 06:33 PM
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...800 FPS - 825 FPS is my chronographed experience from a 1 7/8 inch barrel S&W J Frame with Remington’s 38 Special +P 158 gr LHP “FBI” load. I duplicate the velocity of Remington’s using 5.6 grs Power Pistol and 158 gr Speer SWCHP.
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Old 06-29-2020, 07:05 PM
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I shoot J-frames a lot. For me, 800 fps with a 160 grain H&G #51 SWC is moving. I get very close to that with 4.3 grain of 231.
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Old 06-30-2020, 12:37 AM
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Default In my book.....

....precision accuracy isn't required in SD shooting. If they are close in accuracy I'd take the hot load.

I have Pachmeyrs on my J frames to make them easier to hold and shoot and not give as much 'backsmack' with SD loads.
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Old 07-01-2020, 08:54 PM
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If you want to roll your own for SD use, perhaps try ordering from rim rock bullets.

They offer a soft gas checked 38 cal swchp. These are the ones that buffalo bore uses (according to rimrock). While not cheap, if I was worried about expansion out of a J-frame, then these are the ones I would use.

g/ch .38/.357 158 gr. SWC-HP per 100/ in a plastic ammo box

PS: I have used the speer 158 swchp for reloads and I have had a lot of trouble getting them to expand under 1000fps.
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