38 s&w
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38 s&w


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Old 07-29-2014, 12:41 AM   #1
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Default 38 s&w

I had an unusual request a month or so ago. A friend of mine has a top break, 5 shot revolver chambered in 38 S&W. Not 38 special, not 357. This cartridges is sometimes called 38 short, or 38 police special. The revolver is in fine shape and has sentimental value, so it gets fired several times a year. The problem is, in one word, ammo.....

Lots of ammo is still hard to find. Some of the rare stuff like this is impossible or priced sky high. My buddy knows I wildcat and form all kinds of different brass, so he came to me for a solution. Could I make him this ammo.

I looked into it and found that it could be done fairly simply. I'm going to go through the process with pics. Hopefully this will get someone else to bring one of these fine guns out of retirement ....
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Old 07-29-2014, 12:51 AM   #2
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First step was reloading data. My old NRA Reloading manual has 18 loads for this cartridge from 124 to 160 grains. All are moderate velocity, 650-725 fps and are very low pressure loads. A quick look at the cartridge diagram shows that it is 0.770 long and can be cut down from 38 special/357 mag brass trimmed short. A very simple wildcat....
38 s&w - Revolver Handguns
A bullet was chosen in the 124 grain weight to get the most velocity possible without hotrodding the powder charges. I decided on a 38 Cal Winchester bullet with a large hollowpoint to gain maximum terminal effect. This bullet is half jacketed and designed to expand reliably in the 38 special at 800-950 fps. It turned out to be a pretty good choice for this gun. 3.0 grains of Red Dot is the powder charge, mainly because I already have it sitting on the shelf. Standard CCI. small pistol primers were used...
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Old 07-29-2014, 01:35 AM   #3
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I have loaded 38 S&W with cut down 38 Specials and soft lead bullets. I used black powder in mine. You cant really get enough black powder in the cartridge to have a pressure problem.
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Old 07-29-2014, 03:13 AM   #4
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While that will work (for some guns) there is an issue- the .38 S&W is not the same diameter as the .38 Special case- it is fatter- .386 instead of .379. Expect to see bulged or split cases. It also uses a larger diameter bullet. There IS 38 S&W ammo (and brass) out there. I shoot it, along with .32 S&W Long.

38 S&W cartridge.gif
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Old 07-29-2014, 05:57 AM   #5
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.38 S&W is still manufactured and can be found/ordered online.
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Old 07-29-2014, 08:03 AM   #6
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Casting bullets can go a long way in the reloading process.

Dies are available with the correct diameter.
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Old 07-29-2014, 11:46 AM   #7
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You can still buy the brass brand new...when it's in stock from Starline brass. I would think 500 new brass cases loaded with low pressure charges would last a few years. good luck
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Old 07-29-2014, 12:20 PM   #8
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Answerers to questions/statements:

Yes, I know about the diameter differences in the cases/bullets. I got around this by cutting down 357 mag cases that had been shot once in a rather generous chambered 357 revolver. The mic at 0.382 with no sizing. They are then fireformed in the revolver to an exact fit with the red dot charge and a plug of hard soap. Ending up at 0.384 at a perfect fit with no splitting They cc test against a fired 38 S&W almost identical. I have 4 unfired rounds, 22 original empties to work against. Nice fit.

The bullets used are upset and sized in my lubrisizer to correct diameter. Along with reshaping the nose to the Lyman devestator hollowpoint profile. This is a 38 cal top punch i already have. Correct diameter die, I have. I hadn't gotten to how this was done yet. Bullet problem solved. ..

I looked at cast bullets. I really like casting my own and would have preferred them. But the molds for 38 S&W diameter 124 grain are all out of stock when I went looking. All my molds are standard, modern 38, and 145 grain and higher. Hence the off the shelf bullets and resizing/reahaping process. Easy/fast because of the timeline involved.

I spent almost a month looking for 38 S&W cases before going this route. They are out of stock or indefinite backorder everywhere I looked. There is a time frame on this project for my friend. Hence moving forward with the wildcatted 38 S&W. The only avalible ammo was +$100 a box of 50, after shipping. No way!

The main purpose of this thread is to show simple cartridge wildcatting for a hard to find caliber. The idea is to trade some ideas on how to work around common reloading problems on obsolete calibers.
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-- Thomas Jefferson, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334

"MOLON LABE" - Come and get them, can't be any plainer than that!

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Old 07-29-2014, 02:30 PM   #9
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A friend of mine recently purchased a 70s vintage H&R break open in .38 S&W.
Initially he was using a few boxes of factory ammo to build up a supply of brass. It's out there. (check Ammoseek or the next gun show.) It's not all that rare, it's just not likely to be seen often on Wal-Mart shelves. And while not 9mm Luger cheap, it's cheaper than a lot of other stuff out there.
He later ordered some cast bullets from Missouri Bullet Co.
I believe he uses a light charge of Bullseye with those bullets.
Empty brass? Midwayusa has some in stock.

The stuff is out there, no need to reinvent the wheel.
File Type: jpg 38SandW.jpg (33.1 KB, 71 views)
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Old 07-29-2014, 03:28 PM   #10
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DW- you are obviously an experienced handloader, and have done an excellent job of making the conversion from one to another. My concern was expressed due to the large number of new folks that try to make the conversion in one step, with poor results.

You done good. And $100 a BOX ??? (Heh Heh Heh!) I can help you out with that! (I shoot a couple of I-Frame S&Ws)
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