Smith And Wesson Forums banner
1 - 7 of 7 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,018 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently saw something about this but I can't remember where/which forum.
Have any of you ever loaded 357 magnum loads in 38 Special brass, as Elmer Keith did? If you have, can you please fill me in on the results. I've been thinking about trying this in limited quantities with sorted brass and seeing if there is any noticible shooting/accuracy differences between the same loads using the 2 brass lengths. Will today's 38 brass handle this without damage? I realize this could be very dangerous, in that it would be so much easier for full magnum loads to be loaded and fired through a 38 Special gun. But I still want to know. I'd be loading and then immediately shooting it, without storing it (which is where the trouble would start probably) Thanks much.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
The answer is conditional and "sort of".You mention Keith.He prefered his bullet (358429)which was designed prior to the 357 magnum.This bullet would protrude from the end of the cylinder if crimped in the crimping groove using 357 mag brass.It had to be crimped over the shoulder of the forward driving band which was not to his liking.He therefore chose to utilize 38 special brass for heavy loads.

A load that he liked was the above named bullet,crimped in the crimp groove with 38 special cases backed by 13.5 gr of 2400.Skeeter Skelton popularized a version of this by substituting the Ray Thompson designed 358156 bullet crimped in the bottom crimp groove(that bullet has two crimp grooves.)while using 38 special brass.

What one has to remember is that 357 magnum brass was expensive and harder to come by then.Skelton received bushels of 38 special brass free.It's obvious why he wanted a general purpose load using special brass rather than the magnum.

Today,magnum brass is easy to come by and relatively inexpensive.38 special brass is generally less able to stand full power magnum pressure(even though one may get away with it)due to it's thinner case walls,especially closer to the head.

Also,the above mentioned load is not equal to a full power 357 magnum.The 357 has been watered down over the years but that is another story.All in all,I don't see much logic for attempting to turn the 38 special into a magnum.Some do it for nostalgic reasons I suppose but generally it's wiser just to use the magnum brass when wanting magnum ballistics.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
I just remembered something else you said.You talked about using the SAME LOAD BUT IN BOTH CASES.It depends on what load you're referring to.The shorter case has less space and when "all else is equal",the shorter case will create a higher pressure for the identical reason that seating a bullet deeper results in increased pressure.

If you were to use a top end,high pressure 357 magnum load while using the special case,the pressure would skyrocket.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
273 Posts
It's not a good idea for all the reasons mentioned above. Keith was experementing and we are glad he did, fine cartridges were the result. But don't forget he had some problems along the way.

Boats
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,683 Posts
I've shot lots of .38 Special +P++ level loads in heavy-frame .357s - and actually prefer them to the full magnum loads because I can use the 358429 crimped in the proper groove. My loads are pretty hot, but below the Keith/Skelton load mentioned above. I've used BlueDot, W-296, and 2400 for loads in the 1100-1200fps range in a revolver. They are plenty powerful for anything I need, and are much easier to handle on follow-up shots. I also make sure to load them up in cases headstamped +P+.

Dave Scovill, Editor of Handloader, has written extensively about using these sub-magnum .38 Specials in his heavy .357 revolvers. His research on the subject indicated that much of the early long-range experimentation with the then-new S&W .357 Magnum revolvers was done with heavy loads in the .38 Special case - mainly because of the long-range superiority of the 358429 bullet. Most of the vintage writing on the long-range capability of the .357 Magnum by McGivern and Keith was based on heavy loads in the .38 Special case - not the .357 case.

xtm
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
668 Posts
I've happened across a load that works very well in both 38/357 cases, with cast 125 FRN and 158 SWC, using Tite Group.

It's on the factory web site.

It is very pleasant to use, and very accurate in my guns.

I haven't put them to the final "benchrest" accuracy test, but I'm getting great groups in the 1-2" range at 25-50', rather than 'patterns' I've been so used to.....

Of course the POI changes a little in elevation. From the paper at 25' to falling plates at 50' though, that doesn't matter much in my use.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
97 Posts
I have done this many times. The trick is to make sure these magnum loads never find their way into something like an alloy J frame :eek: I always marked the primers on these loads with a permanent marker, to tell me it wasn't a regular 38 spl load.

It is also possible to cut 357 magnum brass down to 38 spl length so you have the headstamp to help distinguish this brass from 38 spl brass. This also gives you much stronger brass. The downside of course is that it basically defeats the purpose of using (cheap) 38 spl. brass. I have ONLY cut down the brass to use in 38-44 guns and a .38 spl caliber Colt New Service, when using .38-44 type loads. Either factory duplication or Elmer or Skeeter loads.

If one wishes to do this you must keep in mind that you can't load the loads to the same level as .357 Magnum, without having greatly increased pressure. Also you must remember that the brass will not last near as long when loading these high end loads in 38 spl. brass. I have had case separations after as few as three firings. The case would look like it was cut into with a tubing cutter. As bad as this sounds it is a nuisance, not a danger. This separation will be much worse when using some sizing dies than with others. I went from an average of 3 firings per case to 12 firings just by changing sizing dies when shooting these heavy loads.

Overall I would have to say that the practice of assembling this type load in a 38 Spl case, is not something I can recommend. If you choose to do it make SURE to have a system of identifying these rounds so they wont get in a revolver that can't handle them.
 
1 - 7 of 7 Posts
Top