Quantcast

Unique for 38 Special?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Zack Q, Apr 1, 2019.

  1. Zack Q

    Zack Q Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2019
    Messages:
    4
    I'm working on my first 38 special handloads and have some questions that I'm hoping someone can shed some light on.

    I've been reloading for about 5 years now and i finally got a chronograph last week to start recording velocities of my handloads and I noticed something unusual when metering my 38 special handloads. I'm getting very inconsistent velocities while using the chronograph. Some shots record around 750 fps which seems normal but then I'll get the odd 625 or 550 fps readings. Now this was my first time using the chronograph so there may be some user error with that but the other calibers i recorded (44 magnum, 22 LR, 7.62x39) all seemed to be way more consistent. The recipe I'm using for the 38 special is:

    4.6 grains Alliant Unique
    158 grain Berry's plated target hollow point bullets
    Remington 1 1/2 small pistol primers
    Mixed cases (Perfecta, Winchester, Federal, Remington)
    1.445" COAL
    Moderate crimp with a Lee carbide factory crimp die

    I've used Unique in all of my 9mm and 45 ACP reloads before with plated bullets and never had any problems cycling actions or leaving a lot of unburnt powder so I'm a bit confused on whats going on. Maybe low case fill / load density is to blame here? I did notice that there is a lot of space in the casing after charging it with powder so maybe poor ignition could be a factor. Maybe a different powder would yield better results? Also chronograph errors may be to blame but my 44 mag loads measured just fine from the same 7-10 feet away from the meter. All 38 special loads were fired from a 4" Smith and Wesson model 10-6.

    Let me know what everyone thinks and if there is something that I can change to get some better results

    Thanks everyone!
    -Zack
     
    1KPerDay likes this.
  2. Rod47

    Rod47 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2017
    Messages:
    16
    Sort cases by headstamp. Try again.
     
  3. joneb

    joneb Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2005
    Messages:
    4,411
    Location:
    Oregon
    welcome aboard,
    I agree with post #2.
    There will likely be more inconsistent case tension on the bullet using mixed head stamps.
    I would check for bullet jump, fire four or five rounds and then measure the last one or two in the cylinder and see if the COL has increased.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
    Bfh_auto likes this.
  4. rg1

    rg1 Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2006
    Messages:
    1,320
    Location:
    Kentucky
    My guess would be bullet tension in the case from some of your various headstamps. Too little tension will start the bullet moving before the powder is fully ignited. This makes a large volume for the powder reducing pressure and velocity. A firm "roll" crimp may help a little but you have to have good bullet tension. Switching to AA#2 powder helped my .38 Special have more consistent velocities. Some .38 brass case walls are thinner than others, Remington being one. If your expander die is doing nothing and you feel no resistance your sizing die may not be sizing enough on thin brass. Thin brass, take a 9MM sizing die and size down to where the bullet would stop, then expand, and load normally. 9MM sizer is for .355" versus .357". I have in the past seen a few of my .38 loads with Unique down in the 300's to 400's fps and I have seen blooper loads in others .38 pistols and even bullets stuck in barrels with slow burning powders in .38 special and all from loose bullet tension.
     
    rfwobbly likes this.
  5. mdi

    mdi Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Messages:
    2,659
    Location:
    Orygun!
    In 38, Unique is more consistent burning/velocities in upper loads. Just my experience...
     
  6. thomas15

    thomas15 Member

    Joined:
    May 27, 2005
    Messages:
    1,917
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    A lot of fans of Unique here bit it isn't an easy powder to meter. I would throw a bunch of powder loads and measure each one to see if there is variation.

    Post #2 is good advice you want to have everything as consistent as possible to find out what is wrong. Make sure all of your dies are clean and tight, especially your seating die. Just for S&Gs try shooting some factory ammo through your chronograph.
     
    rfwobbly, lordpaxman and Bfh_auto like this.
  7. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2010
    Messages:
    6,554
    Location:
    Florida
    My guess would be just that, a guess?

    What chronograph are you using? Could IT be in error?
    How far is the chro away from the muzzle? At least 10 feet?

    I think you are using to low of a powder charge. The Alliant max for a LEAD bullet is 4.7 grains. For plated I would use a tad more than your 4.6gr
    Is each powder charge verified by weight?

    How are you determining "moderate crimp" Have you pulled a test round. Is there a slight indent in the plating?

    But that is me
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
  8. Galil5.56

    Galil5.56 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2007
    Messages:
    1,403
    Location:
    NW PA
    Hey Zack. To give a bit of perspective, here are my results from a 3" S&W M60 using thrown charges of Unique and a firm roll crimp. Not plated, just the same if your chronograph is working well/set up well, something here seems amiss, and I hope everyone here can help.

    5 grains Unique - CCI SPP - 158 Hornady LSWC - WW Match cases
    814, 809, 800, 792, 793, AV 801 ES 22 SD 9

    Even when dropped down to a very mild loading with 148 gr WC not seated flush, results are pretty good:

    3.2 grains Unique - CCI SPP - 148 Master Cast WC - WW Match cases
    649, 649, 645, 622, 603, AV 633, ES 46 SD 20

    I have read/tried coloring the bullets black, can help with chronograph errors by virtue of adding more contrast to super shiny plated bullets. I have used a sharpie/similar to do this.

    Hoping you get to the bottom of this. Good luck.
     
  9. Muddydogs

    Muddydogs Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Easiest thing to do would be to hand weight 10 powder charges if you are throwing charges with a thrower usually and shoot them over the chrony. If the velocity's are all similar then its probably varying charge weights if not then its something else.
     
    Arkansas Paul, Bfh_auto and 1KPerDay like this.
  10. lordpaxman

    lordpaxman Member

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2011
    Messages:
    204
    During load workup, I record every round's genetics - powder, COL, etc. That way if the chrono is "way off", at least I can look back at the round's loaded stats and know it's something other than the amount of powder or COL that's causing it.

    I purchase some generic factory ammo and use it as a calibration string to help verify the chrono is reading consistently. If you're using a shoot through chrono, I'd advise using the sky screens and insure each bullet is traveling in the same orientation. Just a small angular difference can amount to an errant reading. I always put a paper target 1 foot behind the screens so I knew bullets were impacting close together. Use a rest to help eliminate errors. And, if you can find someone with a Labradar it may help having both to compare with.

    The mixed HS and neck tension comments are definitely in line accounting for larger errors. Powder position is another big one though. If the range rules permit it, elevate the muzzle before every shot. This will give you a "Powder Back" (PB) reading, and of course there's a forward and a level reading as well.
     
    Toprudder and J-Bar like this.
  11. Zack Q

    Zack Q Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2019
    Messages:
    4
    Thanks for the input everyone!

    I'm going to sort my brass by head stamp and measure the as-sized case necks for consistency. I'll also probably try a firmer crimp to see if that helps. As far as powder weigh goes, I'm using a Lee auto disk powder measure and it threw a pretty consistent ±0.1 grain charge from the 4.6 grain nominal charge weight. I could throw some test loads with my rcbs chargemaster to make sure but I'd like to use the lee down the road for the increased speed of weighing out charges on my 4 hole lee turret press.

    As far as the chronograph is concerned, I'm going to make sure its at least 10 feet away next time just to eliminate any chance it was too close initially. I did fire some Winchester white box 130 grain factory loads over it and they seemed to be way more consistent.

    Does anyone know where to find good load data for plated bullets? It seems like using lead bullet data for plated bullets might be on the low end for charge weights. Using my Lee book max charge weight is 4.7 grains of Unique for 158 grain lead bullets and the same bullet in my Lyman book says max charge is 4.5 grains. Also, does anyone have experience using Hodgdon CFE Pistol for 38 special? I've got 4 pounds of that I could try out to see if i get any better results with that. I’d like to stay short of +P territory since I am shooting them out of s 50 year old Smith
     
  12. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2006
    Messages:
    25,426
    Location:
    Northeast PA, USA
    If other ammo you sent over your chrono was consistent then you weren't too close.

    Try what you said, sort the brass, increase the crimp a bit and be sure the powder weight is the sample in each round. I'm thinking you will see the numbers even out.
     
  13. joneb

    joneb Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2005
    Messages:
    4,411
    Location:
    Oregon
    I find that I often settle on a load for plated bullets that is around the middle load range for jacketed data. Lead bullet data is based on the type of bullet tested, some are soft lead that are swaged and some are hard cast that can be pushed to higher pressures.
    Western powders gives some data for plated bullets Accurate #2 would be a good choice, Accurate #5 for max loads would be another.
     
  14. Random 8

    Random 8 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2018
    Messages:
    594
    Location:
    Central MN
    I tried Unique in .38 and .357 loads as I had a small quantity to use up and wanted to see what it would do. Tried both 125 and 158 cast, as well as a 158 jacketed. I noticed partially burned powder wafers on the lower speed loads sticking to my hands and brass, as well as increased soot on cases and revolver vs HP 38 or Titegroup. Accuracy held up well in my informal tests though.

    Then I noticed something interesting. I ramped the charges up into the .38 +P range and used a SP magnum primer. THIS WAS IN A .357 MAGNUM REVOLVER. Burning got very clean and accuracy went from good to exceptional. Parallels results I've had with this powder at the top end of .357 magnum charges and in my .41 magnum, it seems to like higher pressures to perform at it's best. In the .41, accuracy gets best as fast as I can push it with this powder.

    I was so impressed with the +P 125 hardcast, I will be using it for IHMSA field pistol this year, albeit with weighed charges as Unique meters like cornflakes in my measure and I don't trust it metered for max charges.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019
    Zack Q, Livin_Cincy and 1KPerDay like this.
  15. lordpaxman

    lordpaxman Member

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2011
    Messages:
    204
    It depends on the manufacturer. Check their websites for any hints, IIR, Rainier says to use jacketed data, Berrys says to use any as long as it's the same weight projectile. There is some data from the powder manufacturers websites as well. I'm with @joneb though, in general I'll stick to mid range jacketed data. Sometimes there are sales of pulled plated bullets so you don't know where they come from and you don't want a squib load.
    When plated bullets first came out there was a lack of data and a common thinking to use lead data - that lead (sic) to a stuck .38 for me.
    I believe the .38 FCD does a roll crimp, make sure it doesn't cut the plating. And, before you do change your crimp, test some of your existing loads for setback - pushing hard on them or even lightly tapping them on the bench. If you've got proper neck tension, chances are they'll hold fine.
    I too do my load workup on my progressive, BUT, I intercept the sized primed case before powder, place it on a digital scale and tare it, then back in the press for the powder charge, then back on the scale to weigh and record the weight. Otherwise, you don't know what's in your test load. Then you're trying to figure out is the reload or chrono or just a bad day. For unique, if the throws are +-.1, I doubt you'll see that reflected in a chrono string.
    Yes, but your thread says "Unique", am I allowed to answer? CFE pistol work really well, I used Rainier HPs, but it's a slower powder and like Unique works better at the higher end of the load data. What's your objectives with these loads? If it's target/competition/plinking, you way want to check the burn rate chart and select a powder faster than Unique.
     
  16. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    58,132
    Location:
    Alabama
    Maybe you held the revolver barrel down and brought it up level to shoot for those shots? That puts the powder away from the primer which will easily lose 150/200 FPS or even more, especially with light loads of Unique in .38 Spl.

    If there is room in the data, a little more powder will help, a better crimp will help, but next time start every shot with the barrel up and bring it down level so the powder is back against the primer and see if those random slow shots go away.

    A particularly bad example.

    Silhouette and a 125 Gr bullet. Very position sensitive. (PB=Powder Back - PF=Powder Forward)
    Dropped 400+ FPS

    4" Model 10 HB
    6 shots PB PF
    HI 1028 610
    LO 848 418
    AVG 947 521
    ES 180 192
    SD 69 86

    That is an extreme example, but losing 100 to 200 FPS is very common, even with some good 158 Gr combinations.

    WST or Competition is about as good as it gets for not losing much velocity powder forward with light 158 Gr loads in .38 Spl.

    An example.

    WST and an X-Treme 158 gr plated SWC bullet.

    4" Model 10 HB
    6 shots Powder Back Powder Forward Powder Level
    HI 749 680 689
    LO 688 562 605
    AVG 736 642 669
    ES 61 118 84
    SD 24 41 32

    Only lost 94 FPS Powder Forward, and 67 FPS powder level.

    Low recoil, very accurate, lots of fun.

    I use a light taper crimp with them. Lee has them for abour $12.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019
    Legionnaire and 1KPerDay like this.
  17. forrest r

    forrest r Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2016
    Messages:
    293
    Do yourself a huge favor and buy bullets that have crimp grooves & use a roll crimp for revolvers. For semi-auto's use taper crimps/lee fcd's or whatever you want.

    For cartridges like the 38spl you're going to find that a medium yo heavy roll crimp will help any powder burn more consistently. As others have stated unique does better in higher pressure loads. I don't use a lot of unique but I still burn a little of it 38spl p+ loads, 9mm loads, hot 45acp loads.

    You really want to find out how good/bad a powder bullet combo load is, Shoot 2 strings over your chronograph. 1 string with the muzzle pointed up and then brought down and shot, do this for every round. The 2nd string with the pointed down and then brought up and shot, do this for every round.

    It's not uncommon to see 100fps+ difference in the strings when using lite loads of unique in the 38spl's.

    FWIW:
    90321 TL358-158-SWC .650 .275 DR
    90322 C358-158-SWC .665 .250 CG
    90388 TL358-158-2R .710 .245 DR
    90303 358-158-RF .630 .360 CG
    CG = Distance from crimp groove to the nose of the bullet
    DR = Distance from bullet nose to the top edge of the first
    driving ring

    Lee data/lee book doesn't mean much. It's all about the case volume. 4 different 150gr to 158gr lee bullets.
    90321 ='s .357" of bullet in case
    90322 ='s .415" of bullet in case
    90388 ='s .465" of bullet in case
    90303 ='s .270" of bullet in case
    It's all about the case volume
    uIUZpPE.jpg

    You should be asking yourself:
    How much of the bullet I'm using is in the case?
    How does that case volume compare to known bullets/seating depths/unique loads/pressure?

    If I was a gambling man I'd bet your 4.6gr load is in the +/- 13,000psi range. Way too low for unique.
     
    Prowler53 and murf like this.
  18. Toprudder

    Toprudder Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2014
    Messages:
    2,616
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    I occasionally noticed large differences in velocities when I first started loading for my 357. After a while, I noticed that the slowest round was almost always the first one shot out of the cylinder. I suspected it had to do with powder position, due to the gun being loaded while pointing down, then I read about "powder forward effect" here on THR. I now test all my revolver loads for that when I am working up new loads.

    Some powders are definitely better than others when it comes to position sensitivity. Titegroup, BE86, and Clays are a few that come to mind. I don't like loading Titegroup in 38/357 due to the very low case fill, but BE86 is one of my favorites.

    As far as plated bullets and load data, two source I would suggest are Speer and Western/Accurate. The Speer TMJ bullets are thick plated, and I have found their data to correlate well with the results I get. Also, Western/Accurate have data for various plated bullets, mostly Berrys.

    http://www.accuratepowder.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/WPHandloading-Guide-7.0-Web-REV.pdf

    https://www.speer-ammo.com/reloading/handgun
     
    tightgroup tiger likes this.
  19. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Member

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2008
    Messages:
    4,396
    Location:
    Cornelia, GA
    Several reasons could be at work, either individually or in unison...
    ► Mixed brass with varying internal volumes and/or alloys
    ► Inconsistent metering of Unique; a known issue. Try AA #2 or W231/HP-38.
    ► Chrono too close to the muzzle
    ► Inconsistent bullet diameters

    Hope this helps.
     
  20. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2002
    Messages:
    21,273
    Location:
    northern california
    When testing .38Spl loads, powder position can make a large difference in recorder velocities.

    I also sort by headstamp for more consistent neck tension
     
  21. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    58,132
    Location:
    Alabama
    Same here, that is what started me testing it.
     
    Toprudder likes this.
  22. mdi

    mdi Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Messages:
    2,659
    Location:
    Orygun!
    FWIW, when trouble shooting, change one item/procedure at a time and test. You will find some things have no bearing on velocity, but that's up to you and your research to find because opinions on a forum vary greatly (and some are just WAGs).

    I'd say start with your powder charge; weigh each charge and keep them as consistent as possible, with zero variation as possible (when working up a load I often weigh each load and try to keep the charge to less than .1 variation. Some will scoff at this, but it's easy for me to do and when I reach "The Load" I relax my tolerances). Give each change a good test, more than 3 or 5 rounds, and knowing the ammo is safe, go with 15-20 rounds. And keep good notes of every charge, case, primer, crimp, time of day, position of yer tongue and phase of the moon...:p

    Crimp may be a factor, but in my 35+ years of reloading 38 Special, it's not a great deal of impact on accuracy/velocity, but that's my experience and you should check for yourself (I started stuffing 38 Specials in '69 and can't remember ever measuring a case and I never trimmed one).

    Reloading is fun and experimenting, researching, differing methods, components, etc., to find "The Load" is just part of the fun...
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2019
    Toprudder likes this.
  23. Zack Q

    Zack Q Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2019
    Messages:
    4
    Thanks for all the great info guys!

    I was able to work up some more test loads last week and had a chance to get them over the chrono last weekend.
    Test loads were sorted by headstamp (Winchester, Remington, and Perfecta)
    Crimp was increased (tapping bullet forward firmly on the bench created no noticeable setback on the calipers)
    Powder charge was weighed individually on my Chargemaster Lite at 4.6 grains of Unique

    10 loads of each were loaded with the intent to shoot 5 in the powder forward condition and 5 in the powder back condition.
    Each shot was oriented in either muzzle up or down and given a little shake before leveling the sights and taking a shot over the chrono

    Chrono data is listed below:

    upload_2019-4-11_10-15-41.png

    I did notice one round that only hit 250 fps and it felt really light when it went off (practically like an airgun :eek:). I did notice unburnt powder so I think i didn't get complete ignition on that one.

    It looks like maybe I'm not building enough pressure for Unique to burn completely. I've had good results in 9mm and 45 ACP but both of those create much higher chamber pressure when fired

    I think my next step is to use some Hodgdon CFE Pistol and see if I can get more consistent results with this bullet combo. Hodgdon's data suggests that starting loads somewhere in the 900 fps range (on a 7.7" barrel) with chamber pressure in the sub 14,000 psi range. I'll perform the same test as last weekend and see if changing powder gives me better results. I'm not looking for match quality ammo here, just something that is fun to plink with that gives me consistent results.

    upload_2019-4-11_10-32-7.png

    I could also step up my charge weight with Unique but the next Lee auto disk metering slot drops an average charge weight of 4.9 grains of Unique which is getting close to what my Lyman books says is max charge for jacketed data (5.0 grains). With the tendency of Unique to vary ±0.1 grains that makes me a little nervous and I don't want to over stress my old Smith too much. The last thing I need is to blow myself up when trying to make plinking rounds lol!
     

    Attached Files:

  24. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2010
    Messages:
    6,554
    Location:
    Florida
    As I mentioned before you are loading a "mouse fart" load for a "plated" bullet. But to each their own.
     
  25. lordpaxman

    lordpaxman Member

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2011
    Messages:
    204
    Welcome to *** reloading... that's Wanting To Find a better load... c'mon you guys...
    Chasing statistics will keep you testing for a long time, trust me. One thing to keep track of is the grouping of these loads in addition to the data produced via the chrono. I'll bet beers group size doesn't correlate with better ES or SD numbers (for pistol).
    Regarding CFE Pistol, again, it'll work, but if your intention is a plinking load, grab a faster powder. Clays, IMR Target (really good for .38 and plinking), BE, WST, N320, AA2, 231/244, will all do really well in .38 and a light plinking load. You don't have to load the faster powders at the top end of their load data and still have very well rounded loads.
     
    Bfh_auto, Toprudder and Rule3 like this.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice