My first .38 Special reloads

I don’t have scads of .38 Special ammo, but I do have a fair lot of .38 Special brass. In my push to get myself into reloading, I’m trying to avoid buying factory ammo and instead putting that money towards reloading components (bullets, primers, powder, etc.) and reloading equipment. Now that I have my S&W 442 back from the gunsmith and with the snub-nose revolver class coming up, I figure it’s time to start working up a .38 Special load to use for target/practice shooting.

There are lots of .38 Special data out there, but I’ve noticed it tends to have a bias towards lead bullets like semi-wadcutters, or towards hollow-points like the Hornady XTP. This is generally all good, but I had picked up 500 rounds of Berry’s .38 Special 158 grain plated round nose bullets because they were the most inexpensive bullets I could find locally. This posed two issues for me: 1. plated bullets reload a bit differently, 2. finding a cartridge overall length for a 158 grain round nose bullet was next to impossible. Making it a bit more difficult, I was limiting my powder to Titegroup. Again, when I bought all of exodus’ reloading equipment the two pistol powders I obtained were Titegroup and Power Pistol. Being as I don’t know one powder from another, my current approach is to use the powders I have and get a good feel for them; after that, I can explore other powders. I was told Titegroup and Trail Boss were good for large volume cases, like in .38 Special. Furthermore, Titegroup is fairly fast burning, which would be preferred for a snub. So having Titegroup I figured that’d be the place to start. So if it wasn’t hard enough to find something based upon the particular style of bullet I was using, throw in wanting to use Titegroup, and throw in a desire to get data that provides a COL and well…. I failed in finding any sort of existing recipes.

Consequently, I had to come up with my own load. I looked at all the data I could find and tried to come up with something that was workable yet conservative. Here’s what I have:

Bullet: Berry’s .38 Special 158 grain plated round nose double struck

Powder: 3.5 grains, Titegroup

Primer: Remington 1.5 small pistol primers

Cases: used, headstamp “CBC – 38 SPL”

C.O.L.: 1.510″

Also note the dies I used were RCBS carbide 3-die set #18212. This doesn’t have a taper-crimp die. As well, the bullets don’t have any sort of cannelure, so there’s really no crimp here.

As of this writing I have not tried this out. I just loaded 20 rounds and will try them out next time I get to the gun range. There won’t be any chronographing, just seeing if it goes bang, puts the bullet where I wanted it to go, and any other data that I can obtain (e.g. muzzle flash, how sooty things get, felt recoil, etc.).

Hopefully I can get to the range soon. I’ve still got my other set of 9mm experiments to try too.

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