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Old 10-12-2021, 03:31 PM
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Default Elmer Keithís .38 special load data

Does anyone have Elmer Keithís .38 special load data?

For background, and since itís been awhile, I have a 4 inch 10-6, I love it, Itís not my primary carry (although itís filling that role at the moment due to a variety of circumstances), but I love it for pocket carry (yes I have deep cargo pockets, for context, a full size 1911A1 also fits), it just sits right without moving around and doesnít feel like I have a brick in my pocket like some of my other options, and Iím just fond of it. However I lack confidence in .38 special, especially given that I have only 6 shots, I would feel much more confident with .357 magnum and previous researched the possibility of doing a conversion as their WAS a .357 version of the 10-6 and the model 13 used the same frame but I ruled that out due to a lack of drop in conversion cylinders and an inability to find a gunsmith willing to modify a .38 special cylinder. My next thought was to develop a hand load but due to only finding SAAMI load data I eventually gave up on that as my ability to properly test is limited testing ability (all I have is a chronograph) and continued difficulty scrounging reloading components in this never ending shortage. It took me 6 months just to find a single box of primers, (I flatly refuse to pay a scalper a single penny) prior to that I was having to cannibalize other .38 special rounds for components.

So now I have a new idea, history. I know the .357 magnum came from Elmer Keith hot loading .38 special and that most of his loads were indeed what we would call .357 magnum loads today, only in a .38 special case, what I donít know is his load data and Iím not sure where to find it.

I do know the 10-6 can handle the pressure though, given that Smith and Wesson did it themselves, and I also have heard from any sources that the .38 special and .357 magnum cylinders used a common blank and were simply cut differently, and that gunsmiths decades ago did conversions fairly regularly with good results so I do not doubt that the cylinder can handle .357 magnum pressure levels but I do NOT know how to avoid exceeding them, thatís where old Elmer Keith comes in. Does anyone have his load data or can point me to where I can find it?

My gun, my hands, if nothing else it will be an interesting history project, recreating Elmerís old loads that spawned the .357 Magnum.
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Old 10-12-2021, 03:39 PM
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If you have ever EVER read Keith's writings you would know that he did not give a damn about pressure. He'd load up a cartridge until the gun blew up then get another gun and shoot some more.
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Old 10-12-2021, 04:09 PM
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If you have ever EVER read Keith's writings you would know that he did not give a damn about pressure. He'd load up a cartridge until the gun blew up then get another gun and shoot some more.
Prove it!

I have been reading Elmer's writings since the late '60s and have only found 2 blow-ups.
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Old 10-12-2021, 04:11 PM
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Consider purchasing a Model 13.
At the present I am CCW a Ruger SP-101 .357 with 2 3/4" barrel. I am really impressed with this revolver

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Old 10-12-2021, 04:27 PM
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Elmer Keith’s heavy .38 Special load — his #358429 Keith bullet of around 170 grs. over 13.5 grains of #2400
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Old 10-12-2021, 06:29 PM
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Elmer Keithís heavy .38 Special load ó his #358429 Keith bullet of around 170 grs. over 13.5 grains of #2400
Yep. I have that mold, and have used that same load in a 357 Ruger Blackhawk, just to see if Elmer was sane. Never have chronographed it, probably should have, but it's definitely in the 357 realm based on recoil.
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Old 10-12-2021, 07:00 PM
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Elmer Keithís heavy .38 Special load ó his #358429 Keith bullet of around 170 grs. over 13.5 grains of #2400
I've been loading 2400 for about 10 years in 357 cases. I'll guarantee you, you do not want to use that load in a K frame. But if you do we want to see pictures of the wreckage.
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Old 10-12-2021, 07:05 PM
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I've been loading 2400 for about 10 years in 357 cases. I'll guarantee you, you do not want to use that load in a K frame. But if you do we want to see pictures of the wreckage.

He asked. It's not like its a secret what the load is. I'm not doing it.



38/44 Elmer Keith loads

American Handguner .38 Special - American Handgunner

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Old 10-12-2021, 07:07 PM
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If you have ever EVER read Keith's writings you would know that he did not give a damn about pressure. He'd load up a cartridge until the gun blew up then get another gun and shoot some more.
Elmer Keith invented destructive testing. In engineering that's a test to find the point of failure.
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Old 10-12-2021, 07:13 PM
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He asked. It's not like its a secret what the load is. I'm not doing it.



38/44 Elmer Keith loads

American Handguner .38 Special - American Handgunner
You, as in anyone.
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Old 10-12-2021, 07:24 PM
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My little M49 snub nose with a 158 lead and 10 grs of 2400 said.... "enough already" at 986fps !!

Now in my 686 6" revolver 15 grs is a magnum load.

I never pushed the envelope with a 158 lead in my K19...........

I would make sure that I had good insurance before going crazy, though.
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Old 10-12-2021, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Muley Gil View Post
Prove it!

I have been reading Elmer's writings since the late '60s and have only found 2 blow-ups.
Oh well. Only 2 blow-ups. Guess that's nothing to get in a twist about.
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Old 10-12-2021, 07:30 PM
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Elmer Keithís heavy .38 Special load ó his #358429 Keith bullet of around 170 grs. over 13.5 grains of #2400
Many moons ago I tried this in my Model 15. I wouldn't do it again.
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Old 10-12-2021, 07:41 PM
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Oh well. Only 2 blow-ups. Guess that's nothing to get in a twist about.
Maybe after the 2nd blow up, he thougt that moving up one size in frame size might be a good idea, if he wanted all 5 fingers on his hand ?
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Old 10-12-2021, 08:04 PM
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OP, there are plenty of lines of .38+P defensive ammo that have proven effective in police service over decades. Like components, there are shortages, but it's not impossible to find a box or two here and there. Then the challenge would be to work up a reload that shoots similarly for range practice. Why risk a classic revolver and maybe even your eyesight just to find the red line?
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Old 10-12-2021, 08:51 PM
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OP, there are plenty of lines of .38+P defensive ammo that have proven effective in police service over decades. Like components, there are shortages, but it's not impossible to find a box or two here and there. Then the challenge would be to work up a reload that shoots similarly for range practice. Why risk a classic revolver and maybe even your eyesight just to find the red line?
There are a few issues as I see them:

I want more than a few boxes, Iíd like to function test with several hundred rounds ideally, or at least a few cylinders worth, but even getting that much ammo anymore is an issue.

I refuse to pay scalpers, flat out, if an ******* scalper owned the last box of ammunition in the world I would sooner improvise my own using range scrap, repurposed chemicals for primers, home made black powder, and melted fishing weights before I paid the *** a penny over retail. Scalpers are why the rest of us canít find ammo and components.

It may not be the most practical concern, but Iím concerned about body armor, itís more readily available and cheaper than itís ever been before and itís showing up worn by criminals in an increasing rate, see the rioting last year for plenty of visual examples, and while I DO have some decent JHP rounds currently (Federal 130 grain HST Micro) Iím skeptical how well it would perform against barriers (being a full wadcutter) let alone armor of any kind. Also, being a wadcutter it causes issues with speed loaders.

No modern bullet designs, I have recently changed all my other carry ammo to FTM bullets from JHP due to better performance in gel tests as well as better barrier (and armor) penetrating abilities but I have yet to find any in .38 special that is actually in stock, Underwood makes some but it has been out of stock for over a year now and does not appear likely to restock anytime soon. I attempted to make my own, but see my comment about components and testing. I hope to adapt one of Elmerís loads to use an FTM bullet.

I have a similar issue with 9mm, but at least those components are occasionally available and there is lots of modern +p load data, but the .38 special load data seams to assume anyone shooting .38 special has something from 1898 or a modern cheap import from the Philippines or Turkey, or wherever those $400~ 5 shot .38 special snub noses are coming from and are all very conservative as a result.

Itís a risk, but I wouldnít consider it if I didnít think the 10-6 could take it.

Sure, Iíd love a model 13, have one with a 4 inch barrel to trade 1 for 1? If not the 10-6 is all I have. But yes, one is on my wish list, I just LIKE these old K frames. Were I to get a modern revolver it would either be an 8 shot .357 magnum or a 6 shot .454 Casul or .460 S&W (if a 6 shot in the latter exists), both for different purposes though.
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Old 10-12-2021, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Muley Gil View Post
Prove it!

I have been reading Elmer's writings since the late '60s and have only found 2 blow-ups.
Neither was with smokeless powder. One was with Black Powder and one was with King's semi smokeless. They were both in the 1920s. The BP blew a balloon case head and blew the loading gate off, nearly severing EMKs trigger finger. The other was a chain fire from loose primer pockets fired the top three chambers all at once and blew the top 3 chambers and the top strap off another Black Powder SAA...

He read that blew up a bunch o guns stuff on the interweb............

To the OP. I use 11grs 2400 under 160gr swc and 10.5grs 2400 under a 170gr in special cases in my K-frames. 5 to 5.3gr of Unique will work too. You should try something like that before you use 13gr of 2400. That is excessive in a K-frame................
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Old 10-12-2021, 09:29 PM
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FWIW, suggest one finds copies of Elmers books, buy and Read them, easy for well under $100..
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Old 10-12-2021, 09:51 PM
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If I remember correctly, EK loaded the 38/44, for use in the Outdoorsman or Heavy Duty, not for use in the K frame.

That makes a big difference.

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Old 10-12-2021, 10:15 PM
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You can load a heavy for caliber SWC at a moderate velocity and really improve performance. Most of us would not get a real benefit out of a real hot load - as long as placement is good and penetration adequate, you should be good to go.
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Old 10-12-2021, 10:51 PM
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This is crazy talk! A Model 10-6 ! Maybe an old Ruger RedHawk .357, those were tanks. I would Never risk something like that. Weave all seen pictures of a gun going catastrophic, Ummmm Yikes! My neighbor accidently double charged a Ruger .45 Colt BH with Bullseye; Wow I want no part of that ! That Big Ol' BH was shredded. He was hurt pretty bad, no bystanders were thank god.
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Old 10-13-2021, 01:14 AM
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I would never run a hot rod load in a J or K frame gun. An L or N frame I would go for it.
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Old 10-13-2021, 03:33 AM
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Default 13 grains of 2400 with a 170 grain bullet?

That is a decent .357 loading. If your idea of success is that the gun doesn't blow up that's probably as fer as anybody need go.
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Old 10-13-2021, 07:40 AM
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I had a model 19-4 that I shot thousands of Elmer’s load of 13.5 grains of 2400 over his cast bullet! No ill effects as far as I could tell when I traded it on a S & W 1911 about 5 years ago!
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Old 10-13-2021, 09:25 AM
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This is crazy talk! A Model 10-6 ! Maybe an old Ruger RedHawk .357, those were tanks. I would Never risk something like that. Weave all seen pictures of a gun going catastrophic, Ummmm Yikes! My neighbor accidently double charged a Ruger .45 Colt BH with Bullseye; Wow I want no part of that ! That Big Ol' BH was shredded. He was hurt pretty bad, no bystanders were thank god.
back in 1974 , when model 29s were selling for double the list price, I saw a once beautiful nickeled 6 1/2 incher with the top half blown away by an over charge of Bullseye
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Old 10-13-2021, 09:43 AM
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I saw a Super Blackhawk that had a cylinder so bulged it couldnít rotate past the Frame.
Elmerís 38 Loads look like 357 Loads to me.
When I was heavy into reloading , I had 150, 160, and 174 molds , all Elmerís Pattern.
Used the 150s in 38s, 160 and 174 in 357s.
Never tried to heavy load the 38s.
Did try some in the 357s.
I say get a current reliable loading Manual and follow the recommendations.
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Old 10-13-2021, 10:36 AM
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Purchase some .38sp 135 gr. Gold Dots for short barrels and call it good rather than risk harming a nice old 10-6.
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Old 10-13-2021, 10:48 AM
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I donít think Elmer was doing his testing with the K frame. He was using the larger N frame 38/44 Outdoorsman and the like. If you need to hotrod the .38, my suggestion would be to load to +p pressures, and use them sparingly.

Last edited by scattershot; 10-13-2021 at 11:09 AM. Reason: Correction
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Old 10-13-2021, 11:06 AM
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@9245 Hmm… how come most of your posts you seem very intent on NOT using published safe data for handloading and also are very interested in magnum loads in an old Model 10 revolver. Getting a few books of knowledge is very cheap and accessible. Elmer Keith was using large-frame revolvers (SAA, 38/44 etc.) and not using medium-frame hand-ejectors (M&P, Model 10 etc.)
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Old 10-13-2021, 11:11 AM
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...It may not be the most practical concern, but Iím concerned about body armor, itís more readily available and cheaper than itís ever been before and itís showing up worn by criminals in an increasing rate, see the rioting last year for plenty of visual examples, and while I DO have some decent JHP rounds currently (Federal 130 grain HST Micro) Iím skeptical how well it would perform against barriers (being a full wadcutter) let alone armor of any kind. Also, being a wadcutter it causes issues with speed loaders....

You can buy lvl IV ceramic plates from LAPG for $115/ea. You aren't going to shoot through that with a 38 Spcl even if you had solid tungsten bullets. The solution here isn't equipment, it's training. Guys like us generally train to shoot center mass. That's the only place those 10x12" plates cover. Do what LE/MIL does and train to shoot the pelvis or head when the attacker is wearing armor.
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Old 10-13-2021, 12:12 PM
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Lightbulb My mantra...

38 Special loads in 38 Special brass for 38 Special firearms...

+P loads for +P applications in APPROPRIATE firearms...

357 Magnum loads in 357 Magnum brass for...? You KNOW the rest!

Cheers!
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Old 10-13-2021, 12:56 PM
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Purchase some .38sp 135 gr. Gold Dots for short barrels and call it good rather than risk harming a nice old 10-6.
Or his self , or others!
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Old 10-13-2021, 01:01 PM
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Purchase some .38sp 135 gr. Gold Dots for short barrels and call it good rather than risk harming a nice old 10-6.
Or himself, or others!
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Old 10-13-2021, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by eb07 View Post
Elmer Keithís heavy .38 Special load ó his #358429 Keith bullet of around 170 grs. over 13.5 grains of #2400
This is the load Elmer Keith lists in his book "Sixgun Cartridges& Loads" (1936) . It is listed under/as : .38/44 Special and was to be loaded in Remington .38/44 Cases and fired in the S&W .38/44 HD Outdoorsman revolver .

He didn't say it ...but the 38/44 was not to be fired in lighter 38 special revolvers like the Colt Police Positive Special .

I would only fire this load in 357 magnum revolvers !

Interestingly ... Elmer's 357 Magnum load , same bullet w/ maximum charge of 15 grains 2400 ...
... but he reccomends loading 14.5 grs. 2400 !!!

Reading EK's Book on reloading is quite interesting ... you hear a lot about what he said but much is out of context or misquoted ... the book is reprinted at Amazon for about $10.00 and hearing the words straight from his pen is eye opening ... he knew a lot and I would tell anyone interested in reloading to spend the $10, everything he sys about bullet casting , lead/tin mixes , hollow/solid points and a few other things are still relevant ...
Nice read to boot ,
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Old 10-13-2021, 01:25 PM
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I am not against "Hot Roding" a load in a weapon................

as long as the pressure of the load is ment for the size frame used.

There is a large difference between a j, K & L frame revolver, in the amount of pressure that they will take.

I might have been on the ragged edge with my testing but with the use of my chrony...........
only 1, 2 or just 3 loads were fired before I unloaded the weapon and logged
these loads as unfit, for use.

Most of us TRUST the newer loading manuals available to us but................
there are a few loads in some manuals that I will not go near
after working up, so far and thinking....... no way !!

Later.
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Old 10-13-2021, 02:02 PM
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I am not against "Hot Roding" a load in a weapon................

as long as the pressure of the load is ment for the size frame used.

There is a large difference between a j, K & L frame revolver, in the amount of pressure that they will take.

I might have been on the ragged edge with my testing but with the use of my chrony...........
only 1, 2 or just 3 loads were fired before I unloaded the weapon and logged
these loads as unfit, for use.

Most of us TRUST the newer loading manuals available to us but................
there are a few loads in some manuals that I will not go near
after working up, so far and thinking....... no way !!

Later.
I was told that S&W heat treated there cylinders different from 38's to .357's on the K frame.
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Old 10-13-2021, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul in Nevada View Post
You can buy lvl IV ceramic plates from LAPG for $115/ea. You aren't going to shoot through that with a 38 Spcl even if you had solid tungsten bullets. The solution here isn't equipment, it's training. Guys like us generally train to shoot center mass. That's the only place those 10x12" plates cover. Do what LE/MIL does and train to shoot the pelvis or head when the attacker is wearing armor.
Valid pointís, no handgun round is going to touch level 4 plates (maybe .460 S&W or 45/70?), for those, short of carrying something ridiculous you really just have to shoot around the plate, my concern is more the concealable level 3A armor, if they have plates it will be fairly obvious and so I can act accordingly, but not so much with 3A. 3A can be pierced with a hot 9mm copper solid (like an FTM), and certainly .357 magnum (again assuming a light solid copper bullet), maybe even .45 ACP, maybe, (FTM again) but .38 special?

I know, still not the most likely thing, but itís already unlikely that I will have to fire in anger at all, so if Iím at that point Iím already loosing the odds game so why not for planning purposes assume 3A armor and a bad guy on PCP?
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Old 10-13-2021, 02:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nevada Ed View Post
I am not against "Hot Roding" a load in a weapon................

as long as the pressure of the load is ment for the size frame used.

There is a large difference between a j, K & L frame revolver, in the amount of pressure that they will take.

I might have been on the ragged edge with my testing but with the use of my chrony...........
only 1, 2 or just 3 loads were fired before I unloaded the weapon and logged
these loads as unfit, for use.

Most of us TRUST the newer loading manuals available to us but................
there are a few loads in some manuals that I will not go near
after working up, so far and thinking....... no way !!

Later.
I agree, but my confusion is that there WERE K frame .357 magnums, of which one was a 10-6.

Iíll clarify though, 99.9% of the time I would still be using standard .38 special, the same goes for if I had an actual .357 magnum, IF I develop a hot load to get .357 magnum performance, beyond a few cylinders to verify function and extraction and zero the only time they would be used would be in an actual defensive shoot, or on rare occasions a cylinder or 2 to reacquaint myself with it, this would not be something for normal range use. Ditto if I had a .357 magnum, I would fire a few cylinders to verify function, extraction, and zero, and once in a blue moon just to reacquaint myself with them, and I would have them loaded for carry, but otherwise I would be shooting standard .38 special.
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  #39  
Old 10-13-2021, 02:25 PM
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Scharfschuetzer Scharfschuetzer is offline
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The 49th Edition of Lyman's loading manual does not list 2400 for use with the 358429 cast bullet in the 38 Special. I've never considered 2400 a good powder in the old 38 Special as it is best loaded with mid speed powders for good performance. As noted by many above, he probably used an N Frame for his loads which would have given him some margin of safety over a K Frame.

In the 357 Magnum with the 170 grain 358429 bullet and 13.5 grains (Elmer's suggested Load) is a Maximum load with a pressure of 41,000 CUP in the same manual. Keep in mind that the pressure of this load in a 38 Special case will be much higher than in the .357 case. If you want to try that in a 38 Special revolver... well let us know how long your revolver lasts.

Even in my youth, during EK's heyday of writing, I considered his advice and writing as suspicious at best.
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Old 10-13-2021, 04:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gwpercle View Post
This is the load Elmer Keith lists in his book "Sixgun Cartridges& Loads" (1936) . It is listed under/as : .38/44 Special and was to be loaded in Remington .38/44 Cases and fired in the S&W .38/44 HD Outdoorsman revolver .

He didn't say it ...but the 38/44 was not to be fired in lighter 38 special revolvers like the Colt Police Positive Special .

I would only fire this load in 357 magnum revolvers !

Interestingly ... Elmer's 357 Magnum load , same bullet w/ maximum charge of 15 grains 2400 ...
... but he reccomends loading 14.5 grs. 2400 !!!

Reading EK's Book on reloading is quite interesting ... you hear a lot about what he said but much is out of context or misquoted ... the book is reprinted at Amazon for about $10.00 and hearing the words straight from his pen is eye opening ... he knew a lot and I would tell anyone interested in reloading to spend the $10, everything he sys about bullet casting , lead/tin mixes , hollow/solid points and a few other things are still relevant ...
Nice read to boot ,
Gary
What is a Remington 38/44 case? Never heard of it. Just asking, not trying to start a fight.
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Old 10-13-2021, 04:10 PM
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Wouldn’t the chamber pressure be less if I substituted a lighter bullet? Say 100 grains instead of 160?
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Old 10-13-2021, 04:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LostintheOzone View Post
What is a Remington 38/44 case? Never heard of it. Just asking, not trying to start a fight.
As I understand it the 38/44 was the model number for the revolver, which was later renamed the model 20. So I would assume he was referring to the case manufacturer?
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Old 10-13-2021, 04:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LostintheOzone View Post
What is a Remington 38/44 case? Never heard of it. Just asking, not trying to start a fight.
The 38/44 refers to the frame size. It was a .38 special on a .44 frame.
As far as I know, the cases were marked .38 Special.
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Old 10-13-2021, 05:17 PM
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In the late 1950's and through the early 1960's I loaded a lot of Elmer's loads and they were very stout. Having written a bunch of letters back and forth,(which got destroyed in our basement flood), I wound up getting his advice on how to actually do the loading which was to start with a mild load and then add 1/2 grain repeatedly until the cases either are hard to eject or the primers get flat and/or do a hang fire. When you start to get these then back off 1/2 grain and you have your best load for that specific gun with those specific cases and those specific components.
He was always very much exacting and the biggest differences in components I found was the use of 2400 in 44 Special with the standard new style versus balloon head cases. As many stated here, however, his loads were fairly hot.
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Old 10-13-2021, 05:58 PM
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As I have posted, once had a partial box of 38-44.
Fired them in 357s.
Don’t recall what was head-stamped on the case.
Wish now I hadn’t , but you know.
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Old 10-13-2021, 08:27 PM
Mike, SC Hunter Mike, SC Hunter is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by max503 View Post
Oh well. Only 2 blow-ups. Guess that's nothing to get in a twist about.
Unless you lost an eye or fingers............

FWIW..........Thank Phil Sharpe for the 357......Not Elmer.
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Old 10-13-2021, 08:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nevada Ed View Post
I am not against "Hot Roding" a load in a weapon................

as long as the pressure of the load is ment for the size frame used.

There is a large difference between a j, K & L frame revolver, in the amount of pressure that they will take.

I might have been on the ragged edge with my testing but with the use of my chrony...........
only 1, 2 or just 3 loads were fired before I unloaded the weapon and logged
these loads as unfit, for use.

Most of us TRUST the newer loading manuals available to us but................
there are a few loads in some manuals that I will not go near
after working up, so far and thinking....... no way !!

Later.
Like the famous Speer #8.........BTW That was NEW manual when I started loading back in the prehistoric era. I still have mine.
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Old 10-13-2021, 08:38 PM
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I just got an email response from Smith and Wesson, I asked them about heat treatment and wall thickness between the .38 special and .357 magnum K frames, specifically the model 10, and this is what they said:

The heat treat specs are the same on the model 10. The wall thickness between the 38 and 357 is the same, what is different is the depth of the bullet seat. We do not support changing the caliber from the caliber that it originally left the factory as.

Thank you for choosing Smith & Wesson.
Have a great day!
Regards,
Carolyn
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Old 10-13-2021, 08:40 PM
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Here are all of the standard "Keith" loads in one easy to reference document.



Yes, there are nits to pick if you are so inclined (we all know to size to cylinder throats) but these are the "Keith" loads we all talk about.
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Old 10-13-2021, 09:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike, SC Hunter View Post
Unless you lost an eye or fingers............

FWIW..........Thank Phil Sharpe for the 357......Not Elmer.
I think they were both involved as was Wesson, but Sharpe is seldom mentioned as one of the .357 Magnum developers for some reason. Many are unaware of this. Sharpe also designed the original and perhaps the best .357 Magnum bullet, the Hensley & Gibbs #51, a 160 grain plain base cast SWC.
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