In order to participate in the GunBroker Member forums, you must be logged in with your account. Click the sign-in button at the top right of the forums page to get connected.

Info needed for 38 S&W

victorj19victorj19 Member Posts: 3,643 ✭✭✭
I bought an old 38 S&W H&R revolver and would like to reload for it.

From my research (GB threads and a Speer manual) I know this much: -- Bullets are .360 or .361 in dia but some people have used 38 wadcutters.
- Can't trim 38 spl brass and will need to find 38 S&W brass.
- The cartridge was originally loaded with BP an switched to smokeless early 1920s or so.
- The 38 S&W is the same as the 38 Colt New Police, 38 Colt Super police and the 38/200
- I plan on loading with a BP substitute, keeping the pressure on the low side and use the larger diameter bullets & will cast them if needed.
- I know I could just buy a box of old rounds and save money but I I'm not sure about the pressure and I won't get to use my reloading gear.

- Will a set 38 Short & Long Colt dies work for the 38 S&W?
- Does anyone have a BP substitute load they would recommend?
- Does any one know if the H&R was made for smokeless powder? Since the cartridge was introduce about 1880 and the H&R was built some where between 1915 and mid 1930s, it is possible it was made to handle a higher pressure.




  • jonkjonk Member Posts: 10,121
    edited November -1
    If your H&R is a top break action, even if technically made for smokeless I would stick to black powder as it is a fairly weak gun. If it is a model with a pull pin or swing out cylinder, then it is well into the smokeless era and published loads for the 38 smith and wesson are fine.

    I personally would use black powder in the 3FG granulation. Don't forget to lube the bullet with SPG or similar suitable black powder lube.

    If you cast yourself, you can usually use the bullets 'as cast' without sizing. I use a standard 158 gr round nose intended for 38 special; but without sizing the mold drops them at .360". If your mold drops them undersized you can 'beagle' it which involves sticking a fiew thin pieces of aluminum tape on the mold face. Another option is to get a mold for the 9mm Makarov (about .364) and size it down to fit your groove diameter.
  • MIKE WISKEYMIKE WISKEY Member, Moderator Posts: 9,859 ******
    edited November -1
    I'll suggest 'trail boss' powder. you cann't overload and is non-corrosive.
  • Rocky RaabRocky Raab Member Posts: 13,401 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I think the simplest and easiest recipe would be Trail Boss and a soft-cast Makarov bullet. Try one bullet unsized. If it seats in the case and then the round chambers, you're home free. If either is difficult, get a .362" sizer from Lee. They come with liquid lube so you'd have everything you need right there. The Mak bullet is quite light for the 38 S&W, but that will help keep pressures down; you aren't going elk hunting with this thing, anyway. I'm pretty sure you're going to need those specific dies.
    I may be a bit crazy - but I didn't drive myself.
  • victorj19victorj19 Member Posts: 3,643 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Thanks guys. I already have molds for the 38 wadcutter and the 9mm Mak and soft lead. [:D]

    I went to Wikipedia and compared case sizes for the 38 S&W to the 38 Long Colt. While the bullet diameter is the same, there are just too many differences in case dimensions which means the die sets can't be used interchangably. [:(]

    Now I hunt for some trail boss powder and a set of 38 S&W dies.


    PS: The gun is not hinged so I won't have to worry about unsafe pressures if I use BP, BP Substitute or Trail Boss. Still, the gun will be inspected before firing it.
  • 5mmgunguy5mmgunguy Member Posts: 3,853
    edited November -1
    I have a set of Lee Dies for the 38 S&W. It uses a carbide 9MM Luger sizing die to resize the cases, works well and it doesn't need to have the cases lubed. And the price was right, paid 26 dollars.
  • rhoperhope Member Posts: 118 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    You CAN trim 38 Special cases. I know the dimensions are not quite the same and I am NOT RECOMENDING IT.

    That being said, my father had an old Iver Johnson top break revolver in 38 S&W which I though would be fun to shoot. The problem was that ammo was scarce and expensive. At the time I had already started reloading for my 222 Rem. So I had basic reloading equipment. I was also shooting an old muzzle loading rifle. In those days (about 50 years ago) very few people shot muzzle loaders and if you did you couldn't just go to the local store and buy balls. You had to cast them yourself. So I also had casting equipment. So all I needed was a set of 38 S&W dies and some 38 caliber mould blocks. I bought a set of Lyman steel dies (I don't know if carbide dies even existed back then) and a set of Lyman #358480 mould blocks which cast a 135 gr. SWC bullet.

    The next problem was cases. A friend gave me a large quantity of 38 Special "Ramset" cases which he had picked up on a construction site. These cases were headstamped "WRA SPL TOOL" (and I later used many of these cases for reloading 38 Special). For the 38 S&W I trimmed these cases to 38 S&W length and loaded them with the 135 gr. SWCs sized to .358 in a Lyman lubesizer. Because of the thickness of the 38 Special brass the loaded rounds were sometimes difficult or impossible to chamber. An inside neck reamer for my Forster case trimmer fixed that problem.

    For indoor shooting (i.e. my parents basement) I used 1.6 grs. of Bullseye. For outdoor shooting (i.e. my parents back yard) I used 2.0 grs. of Bullseye (max load in my old Lyman manual is 3.0 grs. Bullseye). My friends and I must have put many hundreds of rounds through that old Iver Johnson. I still have it and it doesn't seem to be any worse for the experience.

    I think Trail Boss should work well in this caliber (I have used it in calibers from 38 Special to 458 3.25 " (a modern 45/120 Sharps) with good results) but I do not have any loading data for it in 38 S&W.

    If you do load using Trail Boss please post your load and results for the benefit of me and other people.
  • babunbabun Member Posts: 11,497
    edited November -1
    I have about 200 rounds of commercially reloaded .38sw I could put up for auction if you are interested. Soft swc bullet and a lite load of powder. I would start it at $30.... Bob
  • dtknowlesdtknowles Member Posts: 810 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Post the link and I will help bid them up from $30. I have three 38 S&W pistols, a third model DA double action S&W, a Merwin Hulbert DA and a S&W Baby Russian. If you think they are OK for these guns let me know and post the link.

Sign In or Register to comment.