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Old 06-10-2014, 03:55 AM
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Default Newbie Questions/Pistol Reloading

I've been reloading for rifles for a year or two: .303 Brit; 8mm Mauser, .30-40 Krag, and 6.5 Swede.

Now I'm going to start reloading for pistols. Specifically, .38 Specials for S&W 10-6 and 15-3, as well as 9mm for 459, 5904 and 3904 S&W's.

I plan on using 115 gr. FMJ's for my nines (target loads) but don't know what to use for my .38's. My reading indicates both guns shoot to point of aim with 158 gr. RNL, so that's what I thought I'd get. (I'll figure out the powder charge from that). Am I going in the right direction or are there better bullet choices, i.e., SWC or something else?

Also, my rifle brass comes out pretty clean, so I don't tumble; but my pistol brass is dirtier and sometimes gets swept up off the floor. How important is it that I tumble it, or somehow clean it before reloading?

Anything else I should be aware of? (I'll be using Lee carbide dies for both calibers.)
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Old 06-10-2014, 04:13 AM
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I've used swc in my 38s for years,never tried rnl.They both should be accurate.You can clean your brass by washing it with a water and barkeepers friend mix if you don't want to fool with a tumbler.It works quite well.Its just about the looks IMHO.
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Old 06-10-2014, 04:40 AM
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Besides looking bad, dirty brass sometimes can actually scratch a sizing die, even a carbide one. The scratches will then be transferred to every case that passes thru the die thereafter. I recommend cleaning all brass between loadings. Not usually necessary to trim handgun brass or scrape primer pockets unless they get truly crusty.
Most .38s are regulated for 158 gr. bullets and I like to use 125-130gr RNL in my 9mm, because my pistol feeds them well and shoots them to POA.

YMMV
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Old 06-10-2014, 05:41 AM
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i really like the the extreme bullets swc copper plated in my 38s
my models 19-5,36,60,638 shoot them well

Last edited by tim c; 06-10-2014 at 05:43 AM. Reason: misspelling
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Old 06-10-2014, 05:42 AM
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Welcome Redcoat 3340!

As far as cleaning without a tumbler, I've been using a mixture that many use to clean brass: 4 parts (cups) hot tap water, 1 part (cup) vinegar, 1 Tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon dawn soap (any liquid soap will do, I use dawn). You'll be surprised how clean & shiny your brass will be. For once fired, I allow about 30 minutes, for dirtier maybe 45 mins. Rinse very well in warm water and then let dry on a towel. You can also place in low level heat in oven, but I don't do that. Using a fan also helps speed drying time, or outside in sunlight.

I use a Lee universal de-capping die and de-prime my cases before cleaning, this helps with the primer pockets getting cleaned. Once dry, you're ready to load! Hope this helps, and this can be found on YouTube also.
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Old 06-10-2014, 07:18 AM
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About these brass cleaning recipes, add salt to vinegar (a weak acid) and you get Hydrochloric Acid (a stronger acid). Any acid will leach the zinc out of the brass and weaken it. As a result you will shorten the life of your brass by cleaning it in these solutions. BTW, I don't think that you'll have to worry about handgun cases blowing apart, what normally happens is you'll find the case splits when you press in a bullet and you'll feel that distinct lack of resistance in doing it. Tip here is anytime you feel a bullet went in way too easy look very closely at the finished cartridge.

As for whether handgun brass needs cleaning, to be honest it really doesn't. However most of us like to take pride in what we produce so nice shiny cases are part of that. How you get there can take several paths but most solutions used in ultrasonic cleaners are acid based, so I don't recommend ultrasonic cleaning unless it's done with nothing but soap and water. What I use is a Thumlers Tumbler with soap and water with stainless steel pins, they aren't cheap but they do a great job with deep revolver cases and rifle cases.

Bullets, my revolvers have adjustable sights so I like to load with 125 grain bullets from Extreme because they cost less than 158 grain bullets. For my 357 Magnum loads I'll either load with a 125 grain XTP or a 140 grain XTP because either shoot close to the same POA as my 125 grain 38 special loads. BTW, the 125 grain Magnums print slightly low and the 140 grain loads are a very near match for the 38 specials.

I like plated bullets because they are cleaner to handle and cleaner to shoot. In addition one range I shoot at only allows lead bullets in rimfire ammo because the smoke produced by the lubricant used with lead bullets clogs up their very expensive HEPA filters too quickly. BTW, those filters cost the range owner 10K per month before he banned lead, now the bill is only 5K per month.
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Old 06-10-2014, 08:52 AM
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You have got some good advice. I would recommend swc's over rn in the 38's. One reason is that the hole in the target is easier to see.
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Old 06-10-2014, 09:18 AM
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There are lots of good reasons to clean the brass, but the best one is it is preferable to run clean ammo in your firearms. Seems self-evident to me, but different strokes for different folks.
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Old 06-10-2014, 10:03 AM
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from the days I started reloading, I never really cleaned any brass at all.
its not really a mandatory step in the process.
I suppose, in some cases, that it may improve function in autos, which gives the practice a little more priority.
to be honest ... Ive loaded for over 20 years, and only in the past few years, bothered to get a tumbler.
As a matter of course, due to 3 address changes in the past 6 years, I have reloads rolling around in various forms of storage with a born on date somewhere in the end of the 1900's
some look kinda gross, but from time to time I'll expend some in the interest of trying to get more organized.
they cause no trouble.

that said, I now tumble everything.
not for any mechanical reason, but rather, to avoid the **** colored ammo.
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Old 06-10-2014, 10:27 AM
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You can just wash it in soap and water. Rinse

Use the vinegar and salt solution but only let it sit for 20 min or so, Rinse 3 times, it will not effect the brass. (used to clean pennies like that) some use citric acid (more expensive) If you leave it to long the brass will discolor (no real harm)

Dirty brass works as well as clean

The main thing other than aesthetics, is to be sure there is no real dirt or sand to get in the dies and mess things up.
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Old 06-10-2014, 12:54 PM
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Default I never liked RNs at all....

For General Purpose shooting I'm liking the SWC more than ever. For targets, full wadcutters or HBWC are hard to beat, the HBWCs are limited to lower velocties. My next stop will be plated SWCs., good for indoor ranges.

I like JHPs for hot loads but they are expensive. Hard cast will have to do for a while, which can be pushed to high velocities. The soft lead swaged SWCs are limited to under 1100 fps.
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Old 06-10-2014, 05:43 PM
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I load 38spl and 357mag with the same hard cast lead 158gr. SWC's. Cheap, accurate..hard to beat! I'm running out of 45acp bullets and about to order coated bullets. If they work like advised I'll be ordering coated for all my handgun loads.
As for cleaning brass most manuals say to clean before sizing as burnt carbon will scratch and eventually wear out the die. Just recently I started reloading 308 with a old die set I thought NIB. Had sizing problems and found the inside of the sizing die looked like it had been honed. Replaced the dies and problems went away. Not saying it was from dirty brass but it has me thinking.
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Old 06-11-2014, 03:25 AM
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I think your choice of a cast 158 gr RN for 38 spl is a good one. I get
better accuracy in my 38 spl plinking loads with RNs rather than SWCs.
You're using Lee dies, don't know much about them but I suggest you
use a roll crimp in the crimping groove for revolver cast bullet loads. I
have cleaned some range pick-up brass I bought at a garage sale just
to get the dirt off by soaking in a soap and water mix but normally I
just wipe off firing residue with a paper towel.
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Old 06-11-2014, 10:32 AM
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I tumble to get sand and grit off (a lot of that here in FL), but pre-tumbler days it was wipe with a soft cloth. My brass only get "shiny" when I forget the tumbler's running for hours. Then ,a couple of weeks later, it's tarnished again regardless.

How you clean and what device you use is all relevant to how clean and shiny you want your brass to be, and how much effort you wish to expend doing so. Each method has its own merits and disadvantages. Choose what suits you best.

For range work with a .38, I'd use wadcutters, but any other lead bullets available would be considered.
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Old 06-11-2014, 11:34 AM
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While we all use different approaches to resizing dirty, clean, or shiny cases, Lee dies come with instructions that indicate little to no cleaning is required before sizing . . .

"Discard cases with defects such as split necks indications of head separation or anything that would make them unsuitable for reloading. If you don’t have the carbide sizer this is a good time to lube your cases. Use your fingers to wipe it on and wipe off any grit which may be on the case."
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Old 06-11-2014, 11:41 AM
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Mr Lee was one of the first to recognize the hazards of tumbling brass due to lead exposure. He preferred washing.

I never did really get the part on their FAQ about using dirty brass as it sizes better due to the carbon on it. ? My brass is clean but does not need to be blinding "surgical" clean.
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Old 06-11-2014, 12:08 PM
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Way back when I was young, I would put brass inside of a pillow case, zip tie the neck shut and run through the washer with a load of towels. it worked well for me.

After trying RNL, SWC and others I have settled on the DEWC for 99% of my .38 special loads these days. Mild recoil, accurate and cheap to load.

When loading for your 9mm you may want to start with a 124 grain bullet. These are easy to get to shoot well. There is lots of debate on jacketed,vs plated, vs coated vs lead. For target practice I have settled on the bayou bullets as the best bang for my buck. If you start using coated bullets you notice they are clean to load, clean to shoot, and leave your gun cleaner.

Bayou will sell you 100 round sample packs to try.
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Old 06-11-2014, 12:26 PM
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Lots of good recipes for cleaning you brass, but IMHO tumbling is 99% cosmetic. Not essential for reloading.

I reloaded for 12 years before I got a tumbler (I started reloading "pre-web" so I didn't know shiny clean brass was "necessary"). I insect all cases before I start reloading and I just used a mineral spirits dampened rag to wipe each case when I looked at it. I got off all dirt, grit, and gunk, and nope, I didn't scratch or wear out any dies and yep, I could spot any defects. For me shooting is a solo sport and I have no one to impress with virgin looking brass. I tumble most of my brass mainly to get uniform looking ammo and be able to read the headstamp and the only shiny ones are my 30-06 brass 'cause they are easier to find when flung outta my M1. My pride in workmanship comes from safe, accurate ammo, not shine...
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Old 06-11-2014, 02:20 PM
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It doesn't really matter about the shine. What matters is that the brass and the finished round is free of dirt, grit, and deposits from the previous firing for the sake of your dies and firearm. Being shiny is just a nice byproduct. It is easier to spot defects in clean brass, as well.
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Old 06-11-2014, 04:06 PM
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call me weird. I like to tumble my brass and get it shiny. Probably doesn't affect the way it performs once loaded. But I have the time and I get a feeling of satisfaction to make dirty dingy brass shiny again.
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Old 06-11-2014, 04:20 PM
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Bought my first tumbler in '83(?) and it's still going strong.All these methods will clean the brass and make it pretty,but I wouldn't put it in the washing machine or the dishwasher Newbie Questions/Pistol Reloading
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Old 06-11-2014, 04:26 PM
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Clean brass isn't necessary.

Whatever 38 bullets you find a good price on will be fine.

I shoot 148 grain hollow base wadcutters, 158 grain wadcutters, and 158 grain lead round nose. They all pretty much shoot to the point of aim. Bullseye is a great powder for these.

My Rossi rifle won't reliably chamber wadcutters, so I mainly shoot the round nose in it.

3.6 grains of Bullseye topped with a 158 grain LRN is an accurate plinking load in my revolvers and rifle.

Loading handgun rounds is easier than rifle rounds because you rarely need to trim the brass, and with carbide dies, you don't need case lube. Just size/deprime, flare the case mouth, reprime, add powder and a bullet. I set my bullet seating die to crimp in the same operation as bullet seating. Some will tell you this isn't a good idea, but it works for me.

Last edited by gregintenn; 06-11-2014 at 04:30 PM.
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Old 06-11-2014, 06:18 PM
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I clean my brass by tumbling using "lizard Litter" bought at the local pet shop. About $10 for a very large bag.
Couple of used dryer sheets absorbs most of the dirt and dust.

No scoring in any of my cylinders from crud on the brass.
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Old 06-11-2014, 06:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonF View Post
I clean my brass by tumbling using "lizard Litter" bought at the local pet shop. About $10 for a very large bag.
Couple of used dryer sheets absorbs most of the dirt and dust.

No scoring in any of my cylinders from crud on the brass.
Me too. A dash of NuFinish car polish really shines them up.
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Old 06-11-2014, 08:12 PM
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I like to load clean brass. I think this makes the final product look better , may not help it to shoot better. I do not think it is hard to dump a couple hundred cases in the tumbler for a few hours. I then take it out side to empty and sort and check, leaving the dust out there too. When I shoot I leave the lead out there so I don't think the dust will matter
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:35 AM
David Milisock David Milisock is offline
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Default reloading and clean brass

Loads here work for my revolver ONLY test your revolver first!!

I've been reloading for 30 years and tumble everything as a matter of practice, I then inspect all cases for damage, some of my brass has been shot many times. For the 38 (I have a model 10-5) I bought a couple thousand Winchester 125 grain JSP many years ago and use 3.5 grain of American Select for plinking. For field work I use the Hornady 125 grain XTP with 5 grain of American Select. I love my 38.
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