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Hi All,
I live in California where it's nearly impossible to get decent self defense ammo for my S&W 686 with 4" barrel. The pandemic hasn't helped the situation either. So I thought I would reload my own. I decided to go old school and try to duplicate the 1450 fps 125gn semi jacketed hollow point load that was famous back in the day for being a lethal man stopper. I have the bullets and some powders that will get the job done (like H110), but I was hoping for some folks to share their tried and true formulas to get the velocity out of my 4" revolver with a minimum of flash and clean burning. None of the reloading manuals I've checked used a 4" revolver barrel with 1:18 3/4" twist. I think this is important because the cylinder gap in a revolver will bleed of significant pressure unlike the test barrels used my the powder and bullet manufacturers. I know I'll have to fine tune any load for my revolver, which has considerable mileage on it, but I was hoping to start off in the ballpark. I chronographed factory C357B ammo some years back in this revolver and average velocity was about 1430 on average if I recall correctly. I was thinking about using VV N110 because their published speed range is phenomenal and the powder is supposed to be clean burning and low flash, but again the test barrel didn't factor in the correct rate of twist or cylinder gap so I have no idea where to set my initial powder charges. If anyone has a recipe for pushing a 125gn Semi JHP to 1450 out of a 4" revolver I'd appreciate seeing it. Please also include type of primer used and COL. Thanks in advance for any help and stay healthy all.
 

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Back in the day, we carried Remington 158gr SJHPs, before the 125gr SJHPs were commercialized.

Lyman has published data for Remington 125gr SJHP equivilent: 17.7grs 2400...forget about low flash/blast with 2400 or H110. AA #9 will give a relatively low muzzle flash; however, the cylinder gap flash will light up the darkness considerably.

IIRC, the 2400 load gave ~low 1500s from a 686P/4", what I do remember seeing was the air compression wave, muzzle blash, under the Arizona sun.

With H110, 1400s is doable with 158gr JHPs from Sierra, Nosler, Winchest, Remington, Hornady, Speer et al. Enjoy

FWIW, I prefer 140gr JHPs over the 125s, more consistant penetration meeing FBI protocol. Enjoy
 

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so I have no idea where to set my initial powder charges.
You start at the low end and work up your load. You do not know how your revolver will handle it, so safety first. If you still have a chrono see how it goes from a velocity standpoint. However, if the accuracy sucks, all the velocity in the world won't help
 

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So, get the VV load book for the bullet and cartridge you intend to load; start just above the low end of the powder load that they publish and work it up by a half grain. Stop just below the high powder load they have published. Use the exact components that they used in their measured experiments. The books are not recipe books. They are documentation of measured experiments.

Make 5 rounds of each load. Chrono them carefully in your handgun.

In any case, since you're using a revolver with a cylinder gap and different barrel length, you will be carrying out your own experiment, and without the benefit of an instrumented barrel that can show you the pressures you cannot "feel". Understand that there are often multiple pressure peaks experienced as the bullet leaves the case mouth, crosses the air gap to the leade, blocks the cylinder gap, engages in the leade, regains velocity as it cuts into the rifling, travels down the barrel and finally exits the muzzle.

Are they safe? That would be hard to predict. Are they safe in your specific handgun? that would be even harder.
 

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So, get the VV load book for the bullet and cartridge you intend to load; start just above the low end of the powder load that they publish and work it up by a half grain. Stop just below the high powder load they have published. Use the exact components that they used in their measured experiments. The books are not recipe books. They are documentation of measured experiments.

Make 5 rounds of each load. Chrono them carefully in your handgun.

In any case, since you're using a revolver with a cylinder gap and different barrel length, you will be carrying out your own experiment, and without the benefit of an instrumented barrel that can show you the pressures you cannot "feel". Understand that there are often multiple pressure peaks experienced as the bullet leaves the case mouth, crosses the air gap to the leade, blocks the cylinder gap, engages in the leade, regains velocity as it cuts into the rifling, travels down the barrel and finally exits the muzzle.

Are they safe? That would be hard to predict. Are they safe in your specific handgun? that would be even harder.
I'm not sure what your experience is with N110 and 125gr JHPs? VihtaVuori N110 has two different loading windows, one for 125gr Sierra JHPs and the other for 125gr Hornady XTPs. Both Sierra and Hornady data shows their maximum powder loads shy of VihtaVuori's data beginning powder loads. Lyman 49's compressed maximum load for Hornady 125grs is lower than VihtaVuori maximum data; plus Lyman data used different components than VihtaVuori...max Lyman MV from a 4" barrel tested at 1371fps.

The 2400 17.7grs that Lyman 47 manual published as 125gr duplicate factory load, chronographed [email protected] 1544fps MV, 686P/4", ES 38fps, SD 19fps. (Win 125gr JHP, WSPM, Starline V) Since the chronograph test was in the month of March, heat was not a factor. 2400 is a more foregiving powder compared to N110, in some loads I found cases to be stuck in the cylinder, both Colt and Dan Wesson.
 

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Hey P,

Might want to look at HS 6 & HS 7 type powders.

Either one will give an honest 1200fps w/158gr XTP. (8-3/8" M 27)

Much less muzzle/side blast than 2400, H 110/296, or L'il Gun.

The 4" barrel sort of hamstrings a fellow....to the tune of 50fps or so with 2400/H 110/296 type powders.

Keep us posted!

Later, Mark
 
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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks all. My interest in VV N110 is mainly because it's supposed to be low flash and clean burning. I picked up the latest Speer Manual and it lists the 125 gn gold dot at 1443 fps out of a 5.6" vented barrel with the same twist rate as my revolver over a 17.8gn charge of VV N110 so that might be a good place to start my development. I already own a bunch of H110 that I use for 158gn bullets and in my 44 mag loads, but it is dirty and bright so I've been looking for an alternative. This is going to be my pet load and not something I use for monthly target practice so I'm not too worried about gun erosion.
 

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The old Federal/Remington 125 gr. SJHP loading was stout. The only thing I remember shooting that was stouter coming from the factory was the Black Talon which of course is discontinued now. I'd sure worry about overpenetration if you're looking at using these for defensive purposes, especially in an urban environment. I like the idea above of using a regular powder like HS-6 or HP-38 or Universal and loading up on the higher end of that power scale instead of using H-110 or 4327 at a mid-range loading. Those magnum powders tend to shoot dirty when not loaded on the hotter side, from what I've seen.
 

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The old Federal/Remington 125 gr. SJHP loading was stout. The only thing I remember shooting that was stouter coming from the factory was the Black Talon which of course is discontinued now. I'd sure worry about overpenetration if you're looking at using these for defensive purposes, especially in an urban environment. I like the idea above of using a regular powder like HS-6 or HP-38 or Universal and loading up on the higher end of that power scale instead of using H-110 or 4327 at a mid-range loading. Those magnum powders tend to shoot dirty when not loaded on the hotter side, from what I've seen.
Hey Tex,

And............the wonderful world of HANG FIRES if one is out and about in sub zero weather!

Later, Mark
 
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I'm not a fan of 2400, I experimented with it in the past and still have a partial container left. HS-7 was discontinued over 10 years ago IIRC and has been replaced by Longshot, one of the top powders for 10mm, it's one of the powders that Mike McNett (Double Tap in the early days), it should be good to go for the .357mag.

One of the reasons I keep coming back to AA #9, is its low muzzle flash, plus it outperforms N110.

The muzzle flash in the picture is very low from a 686P/6", AA #9, Gold Dot ~1640fps. The bright flash is from gases reacting with air at the cylinder gap, look closely and there's gas that exited at the case rim before the case expanded to the cylinder wall.
466892


On the same day as the 2400 duplication load tested above, a work up load using AA #7/125gr chronoed @1414fps, ES 29fps, SD 11fps, 4200ft, 72F, not bad for March. :) Given the #7 load was about half way to max, the MV is close to the factory MV of 1450fps. Given the versatility of the .357, there are many good choices, not that long ago this was the most handloaded caliber per RCBS

I have N110 and a Speer manual, now I'm curious on its cylinder gap flash, why not.
🦌
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I emailed Vihta Vuori to see if they had any recommendations for hitting 1450 fps out of a 4" revolver and this is what they replied:

"Thank you for contacting us at Capstone PG. We did some preliminary testing with the 4" length barrel and found that regardless of using N110, N105, or N350 with any of the available 125gr JHP bullets that we available to us, those being the Sierra 125gr JHC - 125gr Hornady XTP/HP - and 125gr Speer GD/JHP, there simply is no way to safely attaining 1,450 fps from this barrel length and to stay within the SAAMI Industry Pressure Standard that we must abide by in the interest of shooter safety. About the best that can be expected, depending the individual 4" barrel, is around 1,360 fps average. The shorter barrel combined with the barrel/cylinder gap does take its toll on what even the .357 Magnum will actually give us in real world performance. Please do not hesitate to get back with any of us with the Capstone Tech. Team if we can be of future assistance."

Although disappointing, it was decent of their tech department to get back to me because the website says not to ask for load data that isn't already posted. I think I'll give AA #9 a shot per advice from Bonita Bob. I have several pounds of #5 and #7 but no #9 so I'll need to purchase some. Hopefully one of the retailers will waive hazmat in the near future and have it in stock. Precarious times we live in.

This is Winter in California
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125 gr Remington JHP, 9.0 gr Unique, STANDARD primer, WW case. Very accurate, probably the most accurate handgun load I ever assembled for a S&W 586. 1" at 25 yards shooting seated with forearms resting on knees.

All the usual precautions apply. In my case a magnum primer created sticky extraction. Start at 7.5 grains; work your way up.

Never chronographed them but I doubt they'll make 1400 fps out of a 4" barrel.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
How much roll crimp should I apply when using a hot AA#9 or H110 load with a 125gn JHP (not plated) with a cannelure? I typically apply 3/8 of a turn to make sure the bullet stays in place, but from what I've read these slower powders like strong crimps. Is 3/8 of a turn considered a strong crimp? About how many fractions of a turn can I go before I bulge the case? I use an RCBS roll crimp seating die if that makes any difference. Thanks.
 

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How much roll crimp should I apply when using a hot AA#9 or H110 load with a 125gn JHP (not plated) with a cannelure? I typically apply 3/8 of a turn to make sure the bullet stays in place, but from what I've read these slower powders like strong crimps. Is 3/8 of a turn considered a strong crimp? About how many fractions of a turn can I go before I bulge the case? I use an RCBS roll crimp seating die if that makes any difference. Thanks.
Hey P,

Run the cartridge up into the die. Turn die down until it "just kisses" the case mouth.

In 1/16th turn increments, run die down until desired crimp is achieved.

I had crimp pics on the OLD FORMAT, that were lost when last confuser crashed.

Ideally, on a single stage, there should just be a little bit of resistance to the handle in the last "touch" of travel. About the weight of two fingers should make a perfect crimp on jacketed bullet. The motto here is EZ does "IT". LOL

Other than the 22-250AI & '06, have not loaded a jacketed bullet in years. LOL

Hope this helps.

Later, Mark
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks Mark. I just want to make sure I crimp enough to maximize burn time in the case before the bullet starts moving with the slower powders. My preference would be to load hard cast primarily for the 357, but I can't shoot them indoors around here anymore so I usually use plated bullets, which I taper crimp. In this instance however I want to get the most velocity out of a cannelured 125gn JHP using slow powders so the right amount of roll crimp is more critical. I settled on 3/8 of a turn of the roll crimping die (after kissing the case mouth as you put it) for my target loads because that seemed to be enough to keep the bullet from moving under recoil, but I'm not sure if that constitutes a "strong" roll crimp necessary for maximizing the slower powders? I don't want to apply too much that the case bulges, but how do I know when I've established a strong roll crimp in a cannelured bullet? Should I see brass shavings? I wonder if there's a reliable and repeatable way to measure crimp to remove the guess work?
 

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I never saw one of my 125 gr bullets jump the crimp. With a 125 gr bullet in an L-frame, there just isn't that much recoil.
 
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