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Old 07-29-2020, 01:11 PM
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Default Wadcutter accuracy

I am reloading a 15-6. In the past I have not used a lot of full wadcutters. I am wondering if there are any general rules of thumb about the different types.
I am guessing full wadcutters are more accurate at short range?
At what range do semi wadcutters become more accurate?
What are button nose wadcutters for?
Hollow base wadcutters are more accurate at low velocity?
Double ended wadcutters are more convenient when loading cases?
In the past I have just used semi wadcutters at about 850 FPS as a general purpose load. I want to try to find a more accurate load At about that velocity for 25 yards and under. I concentrated on Production quality and now I am hoping that you guys who have concentrated More on quality accuracy Can help me out.
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Old 07-29-2020, 03:09 PM
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The advantages of full wadcutter loads are

1) 100% bullet bearing surface

2) deep seated bullets use less powder

3) since they are slower velocity, the bullets are usually softer and take the rifling very well!

4) Large quantities of ammo take less storage space.

Ivan

Softer regular bullets at target velocities can be super accurate too.
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Old 07-29-2020, 03:14 PM
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I have been told the HBWC act sort of like a dart and the skirt expands to grip the rifling. A friend of mine (an excellent shot BTW) had a K-38 and access to a Ransom rest. The results at 50 yards with his Bullseye/HBWC loads were pretty amazing.
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Old 07-29-2020, 03:16 PM
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I don't know about full WCs being more accurate at short range. They were designed to cut full caliber holes in paper targets and the NRA bullseye matches and the police PPC matches which all used/use them through 50 yards on paper.

The HB WCs are extremely accurate, but in the slow S&W rifling, they will start to give slightly out of round holes on paper at 50 yards. The Colt's faster rifling twist has them fully stabilized at 50 yards. Either design will clean the course of fire at 50 yards if you hold your revolver well.
I load both HB and full WCs and to be honest, both are easy to load. I guess if you had an auto bullet feed on a Dillon press, you'd want the double ended WC.

The button nose WCs do nothing special for you.

2.7 to 3.0 grains of Bullseye is about as good as it gets with them, although Tightgroup is also a very good powder for their lower velocity and pressure.

If you're shooting at beyond 70 yards or so, I'd go with the SWCs at 850 fps v. the WCs at 700 to 750 fps.
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Old 07-29-2020, 03:18 PM
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BTW, you'll want 650 fps +/- for true target ammo. If you are using a "hot" or magnum primer, it will add as much as 50 fps to your base velocity. My F-I-L won 2 national championships with 38 special using Alcan primers (made by Fiocchi) and backed the normal Bullseye load off by 2 tenths of a grain! And the same for 45 ACP (he went "Distinguished" in both!)

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Old 07-29-2020, 03:52 PM
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I shoot about 99% WCs in all my S&Ws. I am using button nose in 38 and 45 cal. I have DEWC and HBWC in 38. 45 I have DEWC too. In 44 I have DEWC and just got HBWC/ 4 cav. The button nose I like because you can cast it hard and run it fast as a SWC. You can also crimp it on grease grooves instead of flush. HBWC has been most accurate but until I got this 44 HBWC mold all mine were single cavity.
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Old 07-29-2020, 06:51 PM
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Most of us shoot a WC design, since it cuts a nice round hole in a paper target that is easy to see and score, if needed.

I also shoot a 158gr LRN bullet in my little J frame 2" snub nose loaded with Trail Boss powder that only does 570fps............
but from a rest, all the bullets will be touching one another at 15 yards !!

A JHP can give good accuracy, it just depends on the weapon and shooter.
Just load up what bullets you have and try out a few different loads to see what your weapon likes and have fun.
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Old 07-29-2020, 07:51 PM
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RN .38 bullets don't cut pretty round holes in paper but they can be very accurate.
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Old 07-29-2020, 08:54 PM
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Loaded 148gr HBWC thirty+ years ago for my M10, 60, and a Rossi 357, with 231. Very accuratate in all. Now a lifetime later, a new 60, plus other J's, and a couple of Rugers, and Hornady 148gr HBWC's, with the same load of 231. All shoot to where I aim.
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Old 07-29-2020, 08:55 PM
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A lot of good information, I have some cast 148g dewc and some Bullseye. I will pick a load out of Lymans and try them against the 158g swc I have been using. I shoot indoors at 15 and 25 yards. I have been loading the 200g 45s and 44s with 5.6 grains of Bullseye or 6.5 grains of Unique. I am using 3.4g Bulldeye with my 158g 38.

Last edited by Wgf; 07-30-2020 at 12:15 PM. Reason: I said 158s, I meant to say my 200g 45s and 44s.
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Old 07-29-2020, 10:25 PM
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There is a LOT involved in getting the most out of wadcutters.
They may or may not be the best choice for your revolver.
Very best results are usually obtained by casting your own if (and only if) you are willing to experiment with alloys, lubes, and sizing. The hollow base swaged commercial wadcutters are a better choice if you can't be bothered.
But, it's not all that uncommon to find that a RN or SWC will give you better results. Again, this will depend on the amount of work you're willing to do. Also, there is a certain amount of luck in getting a real "winner" of a mold (assuming we're talking cast bullets).
Al Miller wrote a series of articles for Handloader Magazine in the 70s that specifically addressed issues for assembling target grade 38 Special handloads. One was entitled "Wadcutters or?" That dispelled a lot of rumors.

Recently, I posted an entry concerned with accuracy in the M52. As this is a "wadcutter only" pistol, the accompanying data in the attachment might be of interest. See post #7:

So, What's Up With Clark's Replacement Barrel for the Model 52-2?

Look carefully at the test results. Out of a Ransom Rest and using four different M52s and three matched lots of match ammo, groups could still vary wildly. The same gun that shot a 1" group (10 shots @ 50 yds) also shot a 3" group....with the same ammo.
What does that say?
Does it have to do with the infamous wadcutter "keyhole"?
Was it just wind drift?

The lesson is, don't be premature about jumping to conclusions. Set your test standards high. Shoot 10 shot groups, or 20 shot groups. Shoot at 50 yds. 25 yds is a serious compromise, anything less is a waste of ammo (test purpose judgement only, no offense intended). If you don't have a Ransom Rest (i.e: shooting from sandbags or a rest) practice the technique involved. Be sure you can shoot a target 22 into 1"-1.5" at 50 yds using your rest before trusting your results with a centerfire revolver.

Oh yeah, Have Fun!

Jim

Last edited by 6string; 07-29-2020 at 11:11 PM.
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Old 07-29-2020, 11:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wgf View Post
A lot of good information, I have some cast 148g dewc and some Bullseye. I will pick a load out of Lymans and try them against the 158g swc I have been using. I shoot indoors at 15 and 25 yards. I have been loading the 158s with 5.6 grains of Bullseye or 6.5 grains of Unique.
Typically, the standard load for a 148gr wadcutter using Bullseye is 2.7-2.8gr. Your 158gr load using 5.6gr of Bullseye is "HOT"! My RCBS Cast Bullet Manual (No1) shows 4.0gr Bullseye as maximum and producing 902 fps out of a 6" Model 14. My Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook (5th edition) shows a maximum of 3.8gr Bullseye for 860 fps (standard 38 Special), and 4.1gr for a +P load!
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Old 07-29-2020, 11:33 PM
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“ shoot a 22lr into a 1.5” group @ 50 yards” ; I am in over my head! I liked the article. Those Bullseye guys are amazing. I will have fun making noise and nice round holes.
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Old 07-29-2020, 11:38 PM
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Quote:
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“ shoot a 22lr into a 1.5” group @ 50 yards” ; I am in over my head! I liked the article. Those Bullseye guys are amazing. I will have fun making noise and nice round holes.
If nothing else, following good general reloading advice will give you pleasant shooting and affordable ammo!
Always room to grow and learn, while having fun!



Jim
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Old 07-30-2020, 06:45 AM
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I shot 3 different loads out of a M586 with 8-3/8" barrel and a dot sight. Two loads were X-ring at 25 yards [25 yard bullseye center], 3rd load was 10 ring.

At 50 yards [50 yard bullseye center], two loads were 9 / 10 ring accuracy. The 3rd load had several hits outside the black, but it was the lightest load and was HBWC.

My suggestion would be to load 40 rounds each using 3 different powder weights, increasing the charge by 0.3 grain each time, for example 2.5, 2.8, 3.1 grains. Fire 20 rounds at 25 yards, fire 20 rounds at 50 yards to get a comparison at each yardage. I would suggest a quick cleaning of the revolver barrel after the 60 rounds at 25 yards -- a couple of strokes with a bore brush / solvent followed by 2 dry patches.

The faithful proclaim Bullseye powder. I have shot up 1# of Bullseye dirt, but used many pounds of Winchester 231, Accurate Arms #2, and Winchester 452 (obsolete about 1990). Ball powder meters very accurately.
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Old 07-30-2020, 08:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wgf View Post
A lot of good information, I have some cast 148g dewc and some Bullseye. I will pick a load out of Lymans and try them against the 158g swc I have been using. I shoot indoors at 15 and 25 yards. I have been loading the 158s with 5.6 grains of Bullseye or 6.5 grains of Unique.
Safety warning: Your loads are WAY TOO HOT for HBWC and could cause damage to the gun and injury to shooter BECAUSE the HBWC could blow apart, leaving the skirt in the barrel as an obstruction for the next shot.

The DEWC will stand up to heavier loads, but that misses the whole point of using WC for precise target shooting, which calls for fast powder and LIGHT LOADS.

Learning bullseye shooting with a .22 is lots cheaper, and gets you away from the idea that changing .38 loads is going to automatically make you shoot smaller groups. I have introduced many shooters to bullseye shooting, and usually the first thing everyone has to learn is trigger control, which benefits all shooting.
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Old 07-30-2020, 11:50 AM
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A wonderfully accurate wadcutter that few people are even aware of .

Lyman # 358432 - 160 gr. version ( a 148 gr. mould was also available)
Both of the Lyman moulds have been discontinued .

But ...NOE Moulds makes them , listed as : NOE 360 - 160 - WC - PB
This is the most accurate bullet I have ever tested in all my 38 Special revolvers . For testing I have a model 64 set up for Bullseye shooting , heavy match barrel and red dot sight ... This bullet wins every time.
And I grew up reading Elmer Keith so saying it shoots more accurately than the SWC design hurts my very soul.

I don't have photo posting ability at the moment , check out NOE site for design or possibly a kind member could post drawing or photo for old dude who's computer handicapped .
Thanks
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Old 07-30-2020, 12:21 PM
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Safety warning: Your loads are WAY TOO HOT for HBWC and could cause damage to the gun and injury to shooter BECAUSE the HBWC could blow apart, leaving the skirt in the barrel as an obstruction for the next shot.

The DEWC will stand up to heavier loads, but that misses the whole point of using WC for precise target shooting, which calls for fast powder and LIGHT LOADS.

Learning bullseye shooting with a .22 is lots cheaper, and gets you away from the idea that changing .38 loads is going to automatically make you shoot smaller groups. I have introduced many shooters to bullseye shooting, and usually the first thing everyone has to learn is trigger control, which benefits all shooting.
I edited my post. I meant to compare my 38s with my other calibers. Thank you for catch my error.
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Old 07-30-2020, 12:35 PM
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Sorta on topic about wadcutters; I started reloading my 38 Specials with cast round nose bullets then discovered wadcutters. I did the hollow based wadcutters with 2.9 gr Bullseye for quite a while then went online looking at reloading forums (2005) and saw a bunch of "Self Defense and Home Defense" topics, and drifted away from accuracy shooting for a while, then bought a mold for DEWC. The DEWCs were as accurate in my guns as the HBWC and I cast and shot a lot, and then thought of a "house gun" load and came up with my load of 150 gr cast DEWC over a max load of W231 (not +P). Accurate out to 25 yds and I think the flat face will impart a lot of tissue damage when running just under 900 fps at across the room distances...
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Old 07-30-2020, 12:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gwpercle View Post
A wonderfully accurate wadcutter that few people are even aware of .

Lyman # 358432 - 160 gr. version ( a 148 gr. mould was also available)
Both of the Lyman moulds have been discontinued .

But ...NOE Moulds makes them , listed as : NOE 360 - 160 - WC - PB
This is the most accurate bullet I have ever tested in all my 38 Special revolvers . For testing I have a model 64 set up for Bullseye shooting , heavy match barrel and red dot sight ... This bullet wins every time.
And I grew up reading Elmer Keith so saying it shoots more accurately than the SWC design hurts my very soul.

I don't have photo posting ability at the moment , check out NOE site for design or possibly a kind member could post drawing or photo for old dude who's computer handicapped .
Thanks
Gary
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Old 07-30-2020, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by lrrifleman View Post
Typically, the standard load for a 148gr wadcutter using Bullseye is 2.7-2.8gr. Your 158gr load using 5.6gr of Bullseye is "HOT"! My RCBS Cast Bullet Manual (No1) shows 4.0gr Bullseye as maximum and producing 902 fps out of a 6" Model 14. My Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook (5th edition) shows a maximum of 3.8gr Bullseye for 860 fps (standard 38 Special), and 4.1gr for a +P load!
Thank you. My brain got ahead of my typing.
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Old 07-31-2020, 12:56 AM
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I have been told the HBWC act sort of like a dart and the skirt expands to grip the rifling. A friend of mine (an excellent shot BTW) had a K-38 and access to a Ransom rest. The results at 50 yards with his Bullseye/HBWC loads were pretty amazing.
This has probably been covered elsewhere in Reloading. Hope no one minds the repeat.

Obturate is the technical term for the base of the bullet widening up to fill the full diameter of the tube that it is in, and you want this to happen.

HB lead WC bullets do this very well at low pressures/velocity. This can be especially helpful in cases where the size of the guns cylinder does not match the size of the barrel. Barrels can be tight & loose. Cylinders can be tight & loose. HB lead WC bullets tend to handle mismatched sizes well because even if the barrel is larger than the cylinders there still is enough pressure in the barrel to expand the bullet to grab the rifling.

The other advantage of HB bullets is that they have a long bearing surface for a given bullet weight. This is true for *all* HB bullets.
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Old 07-31-2020, 01:00 AM
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Quote:
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Sorta on topic about wadcutters;
(2005) and saw a bunch of "Self Defense and Home Defense" topics, and drifted away from accuracy shooting for a while, then bought a mold for DEWC. The DEWCs were as accurate in my guns as the HBWC and I cast and shot a lot, and then thought of a "house gun" load and came up with my load of 150 gr cast DEWC over a max load of W231 (not +P). Accurate out to 25 yds and I think the flat face will impart a lot of tissue damage when running just under 900 fps at across the room distances...
Full wadcutters have fallen in and out of favor. I think the Brits first did it pre-WWI with their "man stopper" bullets. This may also be tied to revolver vs semi-auto popularity.

In recent memory, it seems that Buffalo Bore re-ignited interest in the wad cutter use on non-paper targets about 10 years ago.
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4barrel View Post
Just for you. You can turn it around with good results.
AWESOME !!! Thank's ... that's the one .
See photo's in post #20 .
If you look at the design , it's not designed to be loaded flush , a fair amount of the nose projects above the crimp groove , the 160 grain weight is close to the old standard 158 gr weight ... my fixed sighted J & K framed revolvers shoot it to the fixed sights and I also believe the first driving band , above the crimp groove, keep it centered in the cylinder / throat .
It is more accurate than double ended cast wadcutters and only the 148gr. swaged lead HBWC / 2.7 grains Bullseye target load can meet or beat it ...but those bullets I can't cast and have to buy .
Being cast you can drive it as fast as you like .
In a 357 Magnum load , this bullet over 6.8 grains of Unique steps along at about 1050 fps (6 1/2" bbl. Ruger Blackhawk) the flat faced bullet hits hard .... I love this bullet!
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:34 AM
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Pretty Round Holes are easier to scope and score in competition. Next topic, Hollow Based Wadcutters or solid double ended? Hard cast etc. ......... Then when you get into many target guns like the S&W Model 52, Sig Hammerli P240, Benelli MP3S etc. what barrel, barrel twist and bore size. For the competitive shooters, these are all parameters to consider.
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Old 07-31-2020, 10:34 AM
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Since you're shooting @ 25yds or less I wouldn't get too far out there . S&W with stock 1 in 18.75 twist won't hurt you @ 25yds . I'd check cyl throats for size / uniformity first correct as needed . Size bullets to a snug push thru but not tight . Cast HBWC are for me a royal PITA . Commercial swaged HBWC are more uniform ( I vastly prefer the Remington ones , Zero also makes a good one ) . Cast go with a flat base , many proven designs & the cheap Lee tumble lube 148 also shoots quite well . Standard small pistol primers & an one of the faster pistol / shotgun powders will produce usable loads . Old favorites are Bullseye , Win 231 & WST , 700X , Acc #2 .
158 loads most of the time a RN will outshoot a SWC . Harder to find a good load with than the 148's for some reason . Like 45acp hardball , if a load will hold 3" consistently from your gun @ 50yds it's a keeper .
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Old 07-31-2020, 11:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pasound View Post
Loaded 148gr HBWC thirty+ years ago for my M10, 60, and a Rossi 357, with 231. Very accuratate in all. Now a lifetime later, a new 60, plus other J's, and a couple of Rugers, and Hornady 148gr HBWC's, with the same load of 231. All shoot to where I aim.
Which Rossi are you talking about? I've got a lever action Rossi 357 rifle. Someone said wadcutters jammed his up. Guess I could single-load them.

My Dillon progressive press is set-up for DEWC's. Four grains of Unique gives real good accuracy in my 38's. If I increase that to 4.5 grains then groups start to open up. I always seat the bullets sprue up because the other end is more consistent. I use Unique because that's what I'm invested in.
If I was buying them my first choice would be HBWC's , but I cast my own.
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Old 07-31-2020, 02:41 PM
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In an NRA handloading book from the 60's Col. E H Harrison wrote 4 articles on wadcutters. His conclusions were that button nose wc outperformed flat wc by a very slight percentage. They were very slight differences in alloys from dead soft to bhn 15 at a 50 yard target. Over lubing was the biggest detriment to accuracy with one groove holding a good lube deemed the best performer.
I find that since my late 50's I can no longer shoot well enough to maintain much of any difference between hb and standard wc.
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Old 07-31-2020, 02:47 PM
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One reason that I shoot lead bullets in my 38 specials, is that they can be......
down loaded and have a lot LESS recoil than JHP or JSP bullet that need higher fps, in order not to present the chance of a Squib in the barrel.

My light J frame snub nose would be a Bear to shoot all day if I had to use full 38 special loads, or a box of +P ammo.

A lead 125gr at 566fps to 690fps is not that bad, recoil wise.
The 148 WC in my 2" barrel can start out around 580fps with Trail Boss
and have the light target loads doing 630fps with Bullseye that match factory speeds.
A big 158gr lead bullet RN can start off with just 570fps for a light target load or you can push a Lswc 158gr design up to 740fps for a full load in the snub nose.

Some like the thrill of hanging on for dear life with a 158 lead bullet doing from 800 to 851fps out of a J frame snub nose but most of us only do this now and then, and then remember why we load light target loads.

Stay safe.

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Old 07-31-2020, 06:51 PM
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After 15 or 20 full power loads out of my Airweight 38 my hand will shake too much for me to aim properly. Takes a little while to recover.
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Old 08-04-2020, 10:23 PM
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My 14-4 performs best with Zero 148 gr. WCHB’s. Delivered a 96-4x in the slow fire portion of my club’s monthly Harry Reeves bullseye match a few years back. Got me a 284 overall. I use Win brass, Fed primers, and Titegroup. I also have a custom seating stem that does not contact the outside edge of the bullet.......only the dome on the nose..........tdan
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Old 08-05-2020, 04:55 PM
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I have also had amazing accuracy with wc in 32 long and H&R. I enjoy plinking with 32 wc and a 14" contender bbl in 30-30. A long bearing surface just works well for short range targets.
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Old 08-10-2020, 08:38 AM
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It’s not so much a question of at what range do SWCs become more accurate, but where does the full WCs accuracy drop off.

The generally-accepted rule of thumb is the full wadcutter is good out to 50 yards, after which it loses stability. But that depends a great deal on the barrels twist rate. The full WC likes a faster twist rate.

I believe one of the reasons Colts were so popular among the Bullseye competitors of yore was their faster 1-in-14 rifling twist, pretty quick for a .38 Special and probably more accurate with full WCs.
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Old 08-10-2020, 11:00 AM
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I remember one time being out on a snow covered frozen lake and shooting full wadcutters out of my 36. The conditions were just right and I could see them going through the air. At some point they would fall off from a straight trajectory into a corkscrew. It was quite interesting.
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Old 08-10-2020, 12:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pistolpete10 View Post
RN .38 bullets don't cut pretty round holes in paper but they can be very accurate.
How about a hollow base RN? They'd have a little better BC for longer ranges?
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