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Old 08-06-2017, 02:21 PM
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Default Pondering the .38 Long Colt round

I was discussing this on another forum, and I'd like input from some of you guys; since a lot of you deal with loading .38 caliber rounds.

When I have a .38 Special case that has been trimmed too much or has a slightly damaged case mouth, but is otherwise good shape, I trim it down to .38 Long Colt length and use it for a plinking round out of my Model 19 or Taurus Model 85.

Since most data for the .38 LC are rather anemic, and completely omits the pressures produced, while the max pressure of the .38 LC is approx 12,000 CUP, I was wondering whether I could use .38 Special 148 gr wadcutter data for the .38 LC. They have similar available case size, and since I'd be shooting them out of a +P rated .38 Special or a .357 Magnum it seems possible. Here's the part I'd like some input on.

I measured the cases of some factory once-fired .38 special, and my trimmed .38 LC and got the following:

.38 Special Case Length 1.145" and Inside Depth 0.98"
.38 Long Colt Case Length 1.015" and Inside Depth 0.85"

From what I found on the Internet (I don't have any on hand), a 148 gr DEWC has a length of 0.575" and a crimp groove at 0.475" to 0.483" depending on brand. I also measured the seating depth of a 125 gr lead TC bullet and a 140 gr TC bullet and got seating depths of 0.265" and 0.300" respectively.

Using the crimp groove of the wadcutter, I get a remaining case depth of 0.505" in the .38 Special. Using the 125 gr and 140 gr TC bullets in the Long Colt case, I get 0.585" and 0.550" respectively; which means that there is more available case volume in the Long Colt loads than the .38 Special wadcutter load. Even more so if the wadcutter is seated all the way flush.

Since there is equal or more case volume in the LC load, and a lighter bullet, shouldn't I get slightly less case pressure from loading a 125 or 140 gr lead bullet in a LC case than from a 148 gr wadcutter in a .38 special case using the same load data? If so, I could use a full wadcutter load in a .38 LC case with a 125 gr lead bullet and get close to 900 fps out of a 4" barrel and close to 850 fps with a 140 gr bullet with less than 12000 CUP pressure.
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Old 08-06-2017, 03:38 PM
38SPL HV 38SPL HV is offline
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If you have a passion for the 38 LC, go for it. I really can't help you regarding your psi concerns and bullet weight. There is not much loading data for the 38LC out there - I even checked old Lyman data from the 1950s and 1960s and none was found.

When my 38 Spl cases split or get damaged, I toss them. But all the power to you to adapt your cases to 38 LC length.

Bet someone out there could answer your questions and concerns.
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Old 08-06-2017, 06:32 PM
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I just cut mine to .38 Mid. .900" long, same as 38 Super.
Lots of data developed by competitors on a forum I dare not mention.
Mine, loaded with 160 grain Bayou:

LRN 160 N310 GRN 3.0 LO 710 HI 746 AVG 721 ES 36 SD 9.28 FED MAG SPP

Very nice accurate speed steel load in my TRR8.
Also plinks quite nicely PF=115.36
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Old 08-06-2017, 07:12 PM
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I charge my 38spl loads with 2.2 gr of Winchester 231 pushing a 148 gr wadcutter. I would have no problem firing these in any 38 revolver either in Long Colt or 38spl. It's a very mild load and pleasant to shoot.
Jim
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Old 08-06-2017, 07:19 PM
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If you're concerned by the possibility of excessive pressures in .38 LC cases by using traditional .38 Special 148 grain FWC loading data (typically 2.8 to 3.0 grains of Bullseye), just load the bullets out a little instead of seating them flush with the case mouth (to about 1.15" COAL). That keeps the case volume below the bullet the same as the .38 Special with the same bullet loaded flush with the case mouth. I do sort of the same thing when I load .38 S&W brass with that bullet, with about half of it inside the case.

There is not much .38 LC reloading data out there. I don't show any in my collection of 1950s/60s-era reloading manuals. There may be some Cowboy loading data somewhere for the .38 LC, as CAS shooters are probably the major users today of the .38 LC case.

Last edited by DWalt; 08-06-2017 at 07:23 PM.
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:00 PM
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So far I've loaded mine with 2.3-2.7 gr Titegroup (because data is available at hodgdonreloading.com) under a 125 gr LRNFP, but that only pushes the bullet to a max of about 680 fps from my Model 19. If I use the 148 gr wadcutter data of 2.7-3.3 gr Titegroup, I can push a 125 gr lead bullet to about 900 fps and a 140 gr lead bullet to about 850 fps from my Model 19, and about 750 fps/125 gr and 700fps/140 gr out of a Taurus 85 with a 2-inch barrel. If my calculations are correct, they should also create less than 11,800 CUP pressure, which is way under the max for a standard 38 special revolver; and should be really safe in a 38 +P or .357 mag.

What do you guys think? Am I good to make some of these, or are there some unknown dangers?
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:34 PM
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To me I would think the pressure could develop a problem if you were shooting these out of an actual gun designed for 38lc which would definately be a much older gun. If your using these in a 357 or 38 spl rated gun, I say go for it. Now if you were trying to develop a 38 lc +p+ round that might be different but it does not sound like that's what you are attempting. 2nd edition Lee manual lists 150 grain lead 2.3 to 2.8 min oal 1.390 at 755 fps or 2.6 to 3.3 HP38 at 777 150 grain lrn same min. Oal highest fps with universal 3.0 to 3.5.
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:37 PM
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I am sorry I misread and thought your using a heavier bullet. I have your same titegroup weights listed looks like universal 3.2 to 3.7 gives the highest fps at 772 (supposedly?)
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daddio202 View Post
I am sorry I misread and thought your using a heavier bullet. I have your same titegroup weights listed looks like universal 3.2 to 3.7 gives the highest fps at 772 (supposedly?)
Yeah. I saw that too. There are several good options, but right now, I only have Titegroup, Trail Boss, and IMR 4227, so I figured Titegroup was the best option for what I have.
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daddio202 View Post
To me I would think the pressure could develop a problem if you were shooting these out of an actual gun designed for 38lc which would definately be a much older gun. If your using these in a 357 or 38 spl rated gun, I say go for it. Now if you were trying to develop a 38 lc +p+ round that might be different but it does not sound like that's what you are attempting. 2nd edition Lee manual lists 150 grain lead 2.3 to 2.8 min oal 1.390 at 755 fps or 2.6 to 3.3 HP38 at 777 150 grain lrn same min. Oal highest fps with universal 3.0 to 3.5.
I believe that's the same data that Hodgdon has. I think it's from a 7.5 inch barrel, but it's good for comparing relative speeds between powders. If I have good luck with Titegroup, I may have to purchase another powder or two.
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Old 08-06-2017, 09:22 PM
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Mr Flintstone:

If you come up with an old time load: This is the only gun that I own that I haven't shot yet:



I have a couple of boxes of .38 Long Colt empty brass, but have just never got around to working up a load for it. Some folks say I should only shoot black powder loads, others say if I use smokeless and keep the pressures down to BP levels it would be all right.

The gun is in perfect mechanical order, I'm a little leery of jeopardizing it by shooting it at all. Gun is really in better looking shape than the photo indicates.

Best Regards, Les
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Old 08-06-2017, 09:44 PM
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Phil Sharpe's eighty-year-old classic work on handloading shows a "148 gr. Factory Lead" bullet loaded to a seating depth of .350" (so probably not a wadcutter) and 3 grs. Bullseye for a muzzle velocity of 810 fps. A corrosive primer was used with this load. What effect that has in comparison with modern primers, I don't know. "Breech pressure" is listed at 12,000. Load was recommended by Hercules. I would certainly start below three grains.

Twenty or so loads are listed with bullet weights between 125 and 160 grains, but all powders except for Bullseye are long obsolete.
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Old 08-06-2017, 10:17 PM
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Lyman mould 358070 make a 150 grain round nose hollow base bullet well suited to the .38 Long Colt. I load them over 17 grains Goex FFFg black powder and a card wad. They shoot well in my Colt M1901 (.361 bore) and M1903 (.357 bore) Army revolvers. A friend tried them in his Model 1877 but they were not as accurate as his black power loads using the 150 grain round nose, heeled bullet he casts from a Lyman 358160. Both of those moulds are long out of production, but I think at couple of commercial casters are making a suitable heeled bullet.
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Old 08-06-2017, 11:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by les.b View Post
Mr Flintstone:

If you come up with an old time load: This is the only gun that I own that I haven't shot yet:



I have a couple of boxes of .38 Long Colt empty brass, but have just never got around to working up a load for it. Some folks say I should only shoot black powder loads, others say if I use smokeless and keep the pressures down to BP levels it would be all right.

The gun is in perfect mechanical order, I'm a little leery of jeopardizing it by shooting it at all. Gun is really in better looking shape than the photo indicates.

Best Regards, Les
Look at the Hodgdon Cowboy Action data for FFg Triple Seven. It lists a 125 gr load at 5500 CUP and a 150 gr load at 6000 CUP. That seems pretty light to me. Sorry about the low res. It was on my old iPad. Let me know if you can't read it. It says use grains by volume rather than weight.
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:29 AM
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SAAMI lists the 38 Long Colt at 12,000 psi Mean Average Pressure.

Stu
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Old 08-07-2017, 09:39 AM
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I used to load 38sp w/ 148gr wc,,2.+gr BE for use in a 1877 Colt lightning. This was many years ago. No problems.
IIRC the Colt cylinders (pre WW2) were bored thru in 38Colt so they'd take a 38sp w/no problem.

The O/A cylinder length on the Lightning made use of common bulleted 38sp rds a problem as the rds were longer than the cyl.
I wanted powder puff rds anyway for the old timer and these filled the bill.

I did use some cut down 38SP to 38Colt length cases. Then just seated the WC bullet to the same OA length as the 38SP W/C leaving them looking more like a real cartridge. Of course it didn't prove anything,,seemed to shoot the same.
Maybe the pressure was a bit less with these shorter versions with less grip on the same bullet but that's just a guess on my part.

I never tried to make 38Sp's out of 38Colt's as far as reloading them to higher velocitys and such.
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Old 08-07-2017, 10:09 AM
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For what it's worth, the original .38 LC military load was 17.8 grains of Black Powder, a 150 grain lead bullet, having a 10 shot average velocity 723 ft/sec (@25') from a 6" barrel.

For most of its earlier service life, the .38 LC was loaded with black powder, but in 1900, it was switched to smokeless. Woodin, et al, give the standard smokeless charge as being 3 grains of Bullseye and a 148 grain lead bullet.

For use in any .38 Special revolver (but not the earlier Colt .38 LC revolvers), there should be very little concern about just using normal .38 Special reloading data. I load .38 Short Colt (even shorter cases than .38 LC) with essentially .38 Special load data (using lead bullets), without problems when used in .38 Special revolvers.

Last edited by DWalt; 08-07-2017 at 10:21 AM.
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