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  #1  
Old 02-23-2012, 02:13 PM
Old Grumpy Old Grumpy is online now
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.38 s&w




I just picked up a set of dies from the .38 S&W and want to reload for my Iver Johnson Trailsman 66. I have read where the old(er) top-break revolvers need to have light loads and soft bullets. My pistol was made sometime between 1961 and 1964 and is in perfect shape. My father purchased it new and I doubt it has had 100 rounds shot through it.

What I have been able to gather is a .360" LRN (BUN 12) atop 2.0gr of W231 should work fairly nice. I've found two or three bullet companies that offer these bullets so projectiles should not be a problem.

I'm just looking for some mild range rounds for the Iver Johnson. Does anyone have any experience with the .38 S&W? If you do would you care to pass along your suggestions?
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Old 02-23-2012, 03:57 PM
mbopp mbopp is offline
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My Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook #3 lists 38 S&W loads as does my Speer #9. What bullet weight are you looking at?
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Old 02-23-2012, 04:22 PM
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I loaded a couple of boxes quite a few years ago....I don't remember the load but I used 148 gr hollow base wadcutters (swaged). They seemed to bump-up to fill the bore nicely. Accuracy was every bit as good as factory ammo.
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  #4  
Old 02-23-2012, 04:55 PM
old cop old cop is offline
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I'm doing exactly the same thing now and the HBWC bullets are easy to find. The rounds look a bit funny but shoot great.

I've used 2.0-2.5 gr. Titegroup
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  #5  
Old 02-23-2012, 05:23 PM
Old Grumpy Old Grumpy is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbopp View Post
My Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook #3 lists 38 S&W loads as does my Speer #9. What bullet weight are you looking at?
The bullets I've been finding are 145gr (give or take a grain or two) and all seemed to be lead round nose style. I also load .38spl and .357mag using the 148gr LWC but I've also read where the .358 bullets tended to lead the barrel quite a bit. All I have to go by is what I've read.
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Old 02-23-2012, 05:34 PM
mbopp mbopp is offline
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For a 141gr wadcutter Lyman lists:

1.7 to 2.3 gr W231
1.6 to 2.4 gr Bullseye
3.0 to 3.7 gr Unique

Speer lists the 148gr wadcutter:

2.5 to 2.7 gr Bullseye
3.1 to.3.4 gr Unique
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  #7  
Old 02-24-2012, 09:29 AM
Old Grumpy Old Grumpy is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by old cop View Post
I'm doing exactly the same thing now and the HBWC bullets are easy to find. The rounds look a bit funny but shoot great.

I've used 2.0-2.5 gr. Titegroup
I use Titegroup quite a bit and have had great results with it. Could you post some photos of your loaded rounds and give me some more details such as OAL? Any indications of leading? Have you run them over a chrono?
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  #8  
Old 02-24-2012, 10:38 AM
Boxer1 Boxer1 is offline
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Magtech offers a .360 Lead RN if I remeber correctly.
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Old 02-24-2012, 05:44 PM
Old Grumpy Old Grumpy is online now
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Originally Posted by Boxer1 View Post
Magtech offers a .360 Lead RN if I remeber correctly.
I've checked out Magtech and all I could find was loaded ammunition (I may have missed something). Missouri Bullets has some .360" LRN and I've sent them a message, waiting on the reply.

Still I have not found a whole lot more information regarding charges and powders.
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  #10  
Old 03-24-2012, 10:10 AM
Old Grumpy Old Grumpy is online now
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I loaded up a few test rounds the other day. 150gr LRN, 0.361"; using 1.8gr W231, 1.9gr W231, and 2.0gr W231. Now I just have to get to the range and run them over my chronograph.

Here are a couple photos that show my reloads (Starline brass) and some Winchester silver box (Nickel cases).
Attached Thumbnails
3-23-2012 (03).jpg   3-23-2012 (05).jpg  
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  #11  
Old 03-24-2012, 10:23 AM
deadarrow deadarrow is offline
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Do yourself a favor and go buy some Trail Boss powder. I use it in all my .38 loads. It meters very good and burns alot cleaner than I expected. Makes a nice soft shooting round. As long as you don't compress it in the case you can't over load it. It's bulky which makes it easy to see in those tall .38 cases.
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  #12  
Old 03-24-2012, 10:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Grumpy View Post
I just picked up a set of dies from the .38 S&W and want to reload for my Iver Johnson Trailsman 66. I have read where the old(er) top-break revolvers need to have light loads and soft bullets. My pistol was made sometime between 1961 and 1964 and is in perfect shape. My father purchased it new and I doubt it has had 100 rounds shot through it.

What I have been able to gather is a .360" LRN (BUN 12) atop 2.0gr of W231 should work fairly nice. I've found two or three bullet companies that offer these bullets so projectiles should not be a problem.

I'm just looking for some mild range rounds for the Iver Johnson. Does anyone have any experience with the .38 S&W? If you do would you care to pass along your suggestions?

If you want that old .38 to sit up and bark and give some good accuracy, try this (worked for me in a couple of old S&W topbreaks and a Webley topbreak): slug the bore and size the bullets to .001-.002 over groove diameters, use a 200 gr. lrn cast and load it over enough Bullseye or Unique to give you about 600-625 fps. That duplicates the old British military load used in the Webley topbreaks. It is pleasant to shoot but has enough weight that it can be used for SD in a pinch. The Brits accounted for a lot of bad guys with them.
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Old 03-24-2012, 01:25 PM
Capt. Methane Capt. Methane is offline
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This is great cause I'm looking for a good load...
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Old 03-24-2012, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Capt. Methane View Post
This is great cause I'm looking for a good load...
Capt. As soon as I can hit the range I'll run them over the chrono and post the numbers. Just to make sure (since these are test rounds) I ran each charge on my scale (RCBS 505). Threw them a bit light and brought them up to spec with my trickler. Makes for slow loading but I know each round is charged identical.
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  #15  
Old 03-26-2012, 08:04 PM
Old Grumpy Old Grumpy is online now
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Hit the range today and here is the data from my test loads:

1.8gr W231
Lo: 380.5 fps
Hi: 467.1 fps
Avg: 422.94 fps
XS: 86.6 fps
SD: 21.25 fps

1.9gr W231
Lo: 363.9 fps
Hi: 447.8 fps
Avg: 410.37 fps
XS: 83.9 fps
SD: 26.05 fps

2.0gr W231
Lo: 422.6 fps
Hi: 482.9 fps
Avg: 447.34 fps
XS: 60.3 fps
SD: 21.11 fps

All three load shot well and were VERY comfortable loads in my old top-break. I had wondered what the reloading guides used to determine the starting load and I can see by these numbers (since the first two loads were below starting charge weights) the extreme spread was huge. Each charge was weighed so they were as close as possible and all were loaded in unfired Starline cases. The 2.0gr charge is the starting load in the book and the extreme spread did start to drop. The standard deviation for all three were close but I'd like it a little smaller.
I also noted the velocities of the 1.9gr loads were slightly lower than those of the 1.8gr loads. Magic?
The energies developed were minimal. 56 to 66 ft/lb. However I was just looking for a light target load for my old Iver Johnson so these will do. I'm sure the pressures were low enough to not harm the weapon and I don't know if I'd ever get pin-point accuracy from a pistol with fixes sights and a 2" barrel.
I hope this information helps fill in the gray areas found in most reloading guides for the old .38 S&W.

If you have an old top-break please take extreme caution attempting to use reloads. My pistol was manufactured in the early 1960s not the early 1900s. It was purchased by my father so I knew it's history (less than 100 rounds).

I used W231 because I did find some data and I was familiar with it. The charge weights were extremely small so I took great care to measure each one. I don't know if other powders might do better (more consistent pressures) with such low charge weights. If anyone has an opinion on that I'd love to here it.

As always, if you are unsure about your weapon have it checked out by an experienced gunsmith, slug the bore, and work up.

Stay safe,
Grumpy
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Last edited by Old Grumpy; 03-26-2012 at 08:27 PM.
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  #16  
Old 04-27-2012, 08:48 PM
Old Grumpy Old Grumpy is online now
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Well gang I made it to the range this week and tried out another test batch for the old .38 S&W. Here is the information on this load and some photos. I have found some interesting "quirks" the old Iver Johnson has. First and foremost is the firing pin mark. The pistol's firing pin is milled out of the hammer blank. Therefore it is fixed and inflexable. When the firing pin strikes the primer and ignites the powder the pistol "flexes" (it is a top-break). While the movement is extremely small it does cause the firing pin to pull a small section of the primer cup. The marks appear a lot like a Glock's firing pin strikes. At first it had me worried, was I over pressured and the primer was starting to cup. All of my loads were either below or at starting charge weights. The cases ejected easily and nothing appeared wrong. Then I looked closely at the marks and the "light came on".

My S&W model 64 has a hammer mounted firing pin but it is "pinned" to the hammer and has a little bit of flex to it. Has anyone out there noticed similar marks on the primers of their top-breaks?

Here is the load data:
Brass: RP-UMC
Primers: WSP
Powder: Titegroup
Charge: 2.0gr
OAL: 1.154"
Lo: 552.6 fps
Hi: 625.9 fps
Avg: 593.39
XS: 73.3 fps
SD: 25.95
Ergy: 117.3 ft-lb

The loads were somewhat dirty but with such small charge weights and low pressures I think almost any powder will be somewhat dirty.
Attached Thumbnails
Iver Johnson 66S 4-27-2012 (05).jpg   .38 S&W 4-26-2012 (11).jpg  
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Old 04-30-2012, 04:48 PM
Old Grumpy Old Grumpy is online now
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Another Test Lot

I made up yet another test load for the old .38 S&W. These rounds use 2.2gr of N320. A fellow reloader uses a 4.7gr load and suggested starting at 2.4gr but I went another 0.2gr lower. His loads (4.7gr) ran right at 690 fps from a 5" barrel. I'd like to see these around 580 fps but we'll see what they run. Stay tuned.
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.38 S&W 4-30-2012 (01).jpg  
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  #18  
Old 04-30-2012, 09:42 PM
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I have a couple of these old top breaks,I've converted a few into .22's.I don't trust them at all,the only thing I use in them is Pyrodex or black powder,but only in like new ones..Especially if the lockup is loose enough to mess up the primer strike..It's your hands/eyeballs.I've seen a few blow up.
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Old 05-04-2012, 06:57 PM
Capt. Methane Capt. Methane is offline
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Mine isn't a top break but it's a WWII vintage like my dad carried in his FM-2...and yeah, I'll be very careful with the old S&W!

He turned in his 1911 in favor of the revolver because he hit coconuts bouncing around in the surf better with the revolver and figured that if he ever really needed his sidearm it would be better to have something he could shoot accurately...

Thanks for the info!
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Last edited by Capt. Methane; 05-04-2012 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:18 PM
Old Grumpy Old Grumpy is online now
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Originally Posted by LOU D View Post
I have a couple of these old top breaks,I've converted a few into .22's.I don't trust them at all,the only thing I use in them is Pyrodex or black powder,but only in like new ones..Especially if the lockup is loose enough to mess up the primer strike..It's your hands/eyeballs.I've seen a few blow up.

Thanks for the warning Lou. I'm keeping the loads as light as I can and still put the lead down range with a little accuracy. Since this pistol was made in the early 1960's I know it was not designed for black powder rounds. the latch is still tight and I feel the primer marks are caused by the type of firing pin/hammer the weapon has not as a result of loose lock-up.

Grumpy
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:22 PM
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I'll be very careful with the old S&W!
Thanks for the info!
Don't worry Capt. I not going to try anything close to mid-range charges let alone maximum charges. One I want to be able to count to ten without removing my shoes, while not 20/20 anymore I want to keep my eyesight where it is, and I really don't want to screw up my fathers pistol. He may be gone but if I kaboomed his pistol he'd come back and kick my butt!
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Old 05-05-2012, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Old Grumpy View Post
Don't worry Capt. I not going to try anything close to mid-range charges let alone maximum charges. One I want to be able to count to ten without removing my shoes, while not 20/20 anymore I want to keep my eyesight where it is, and I really don't want to screw up my fathers pistol. He may be gone but if I kaboomed his pistol he'd come back and kick my butt!

If that pistol still has a tight lockup, and no excess wobble in the cylinder or the hinge, and was built in the 1960's, you are not going to hurt it firing factory loads or equivalent handloads. In fact, if you expect it to shoot to the sights, you need to load to factory levels anyway. I've owned a number of the far older Enfield top breaks as well as even older single action S&W pistols, and as long as they got checked out by a competent smith, shoot full loads just fine. Don't be over cautious. They make great camp guns if you get your ammo and sights working together.
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Old 05-05-2012, 09:21 AM
Old Grumpy Old Grumpy is online now
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They make great camp guns if you get your ammo and sights working together.
That's kind of where I'm trying to go with these loads.
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  #24  
Old 05-06-2012, 08:51 AM
wera32 wera32 is offline
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I had a friend load some cartridges for this conversion I did. I don't know the recipe but they chrono'd at @450fps. My factory Lapua ammunition clocks around 740fps. I'm about out of ammo and need to start reloading. I'll have to try paper patching because my barrel is .36 caliber and I get lots of key holes. That will be a first for me!
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Old 05-06-2012, 10:57 AM
LOU D LOU D is offline
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Originally Posted by Old Grumpy View Post
Thanks for the warning Lou. I'm keeping the loads as light as I can and still put the lead down range with a little accuracy. Since this pistol was made in the early 1960's I know it was not designed for black powder rounds. the latch is still tight and I feel the primer marks are caused by the type of firing pin/hammer the weapon has not as a result of loose lock-up.

Grumpy
Grumpy,just because the gun was made for smokeless powder,doesn't mean you have to use smokeless powder in it.Lets face it,it certainly ain't a target gun,you'e really only playing with it,you'd be lucky to hit a paper plate at 25 yards,you only really want it to go BANG.My friends and I have a lot of these,we'll have little contests where we draw something stupid like a fly on a piece of paper,and shoot one hand weak hand at 25 yards with them,closest wins.If one of my pals is being annoying,I have a .455 Garate,I use that,it blows the target to pieces,LOL!!
Reduced loads with smokeless powder can do wierd things,black powder is really consistant.Load it up with 2f,enough that it's compressed when you put the bullet in,it will be safer,make some nice smoke,and shoot just as well.I use Pyrodex in old clunkers like that,lotsa fun,and still got ten fingers.Just make sure you clean it like you should clean a BP gun.
By the way,how's the timing on it? Put light pressure on the side of the cylinder with your thumb with it cocked,then pull the trigger.[while empty,of course..] Hold the trigger back,then rotate the cylinder toward the direction of rotation.If it moves,and you hear a click,it's out of time,and not really safe to shoot,put it back in the drawer,it's been fun..
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Last edited by LOU D; 05-06-2012 at 11:03 AM.
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