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38 spl wad cutters questions

  1. Here is the back story... a reloading friend gave me a bag of at lease 500 148 gn wad cutters. No hollow base just regular flat bottom wad cutters. My friend mentioned that he had these for a long time maybe 2-3 decades. They have a lube ring in the center with a red waxy substance and are very uniform in weight and diameter. I will try to post a picture.

    I have found some recipes for the HBWC but very few to none for the standard WC. I assume seating depth is pretty much flush with the case mouth, but understand there may be issues with compressed powder with some powders.

    So questions are is there a significant difference in powder charge for a hollow base and a flat bottom bullet? Should I use roll crimp or taper crimp? How deep should I seat these? 0A0167A2-3CE3-43BE-B63C-8D3D7345B84C.jpeg Does anyone have experience with a WC Like this or a recipe they would suggest as a starting point?. Powders on hand are 231, longshot, titegroup, clays, HS-6, bullseye, WSF and a few others.
  2. I would use a smallish charge of a faster powder, Titegroup, maybe 231. Case capacity shouldn’t be an issue. It’s also a very low pressure round, 38 spcl +p would be a small step up.


    Check the Hodgkin site for info, then compare it to others. Sierra has a free reloading app available. A small part may depend on what gun you plane to shoot them in, 357, whatever. Seems like a simple load to work with.
  3. Of the powders on hand, Bullseye would be the ticket, and 2.8 grains has been the standard for a long time. Cross check that with your load manual. You won't be compressing powder. 231 would be my second choice.

    Looks like there are crimp grooves. That's where I would seat them if bullets like that dropped in my lap, and then a mild roll crimp.
  4. Yes, 2.8 bullseye is the classic load for 38 special wadcutters. Factory wadcutter ammo is seated flush with a VERY slight roll crimp over the bullet. Load data is not any different between hollow base and plain base but the hollowbase can be more accurate if the bullet is not properly sized to fit the barrel. The hollow base allows for a better fit.

    I've had better luck with both Double end and hollow base wadcutters seated out a 1/16th of an inch past the case mouth and I up the charge of Bullseye from 2.8 to 2.9 grains to make up for the difference in case capacity with the bullet seated further out.

    Since the wadcutters shown in the picture have a crimp groove which allow the bullet to be seated out slightly I would try 10 rounds like that an 10 rounds seated flush behind 2.8 bullseye an dshoot 5 round groups at a target noting which load was which. Do not over-crimp.
  5. I use the same 2.7-2.8 grains of WST for the swaged HBWC as I do for the DEWC.
    I don't crimp my HBWC, just straighten the case. I used to crimp into the groove on the DEWC, but started seating them deeper so I could use them in a Model 52, leaving the bullet out maybe 1/16" or less, but not flush. Linemate felt it helped with lubricity in feeding. Have not had misfeeds, but now I use HBWC in my Python exclusively. Had to stop using DEWC when the supplier QC went away and weights were all over the place.
    I don't see a need for crimp on a target-load deep seated bullet like this, maybe somebody can educate me.
    For a while, IIRC, we used the HBWC at the 25 yard line and the DEWC at the 50 yard line without changing our sight settings. The theory was that the lesser case space under the DEWC caused higher pressure, and an appropriate higher POI at the 50 yard line.
    ETA, amazing that I wrote this without reading the above @Borg Warner post
  6. "ETA, amazing that I wrote this without reading the above @Borg Warner post"

    We could say great minds think alike but knowledge of what works with 38 special wadcutters has been around for a long time. I love shooting them in my 6" S&W model 28 Highway patrolman.
  7. Good advice above about trying seating to the crimp groove and also seating flush. Depending on the brass, flush seating might get the heel down into the transition to thicker brass.

    I cast and coat a HG 50 button-nosed wadcutter. I use wadcutter-spec cases for those since they are thin all along the bearing surface. Easy to identify that type of brass with the telltale cannelure way down on the case.

  8. Good information here and I thank everyone that contributed. to answer a question above, I will be shooting these from a S&W 686 with a 4” and a 686 “Talo” with a 3” barrel. If that goes as expected I have Several revolvers chambered in 38 that might be used at some point.

    As part of my education before loading the first round, would it be correct to say that the wad cutter design was intended to be a lower pressure slower speed projectile for plinking and low recoil target shooting? In other words, would it be best to keep the wad cutter at or below say..700 FPS?
  9. I seat mine flush over top of Accurate #2.
  10. I shoot similar bullets over a little hotter charge of BE and slightly crimped in the top crimping groove with the sprue end down inside the case. It's a good general purpose plinking load, as I'm not really into target shooting any longer.
  11. What Taterhead said, word for word...I wish I still had a CPL thou of those...have fired a million of them in my lifetime.... just a great load
  12. I've always loaded these at 3.0 of bullseye. This is one of my favorite loads for an air weight snub. If you need more juice 3.5 produces what has been termed a full power wadcutter. I would try both as the guns you are using they will both feel light.
  13. I load WC over 3.2g W231 regardless of what kind of projectile I am shooting. That charge has worked well with several different WC projectiles I have tried over the years.

    The Hornady HBWC’s I have loaded a lot of seat flush with no problems.

    The MBC DEWC’s will not seat flush in about half of the cases that I have. If you seat them flush it willl bulge the cases at the base of the bullet and they won’t chamber. Gave me fits trying to figure that out when I first started loading them. I load them about 1/8” above flush and they work well. They have a crimp groove at that height on both ends and I give them a very slight roll crimp into the groove. They shoot very well out of all of my revolvers.
  14. Seat to the crimp groove. I don't baby cast dewc's, usually 5 grains of Unique. I have data for Linotype alloy dewc that goes to 1250 fps.
    Since you don't know the alloy, keep them below 1000 fps.
  15. Well as a first step I loaded 10 rounds with 3.5gn of 231 seated flush and 10 more with the same powder charge seated to the first crimp groove.

    As a second step I loaded 10 with 3.7gn of 231 seated Flush and same powder charge seated to the first crimp groove.

    I think I can get to the range where I can set up my chronograph and get some data on Wednesday.
    Next test will be with bullseye.
  16. These look like Red Line Bullets out of San Diego.
  17. Range report. Looks like both powder charges worked well. Seating flush seems to have added about 80fps to both loads. The 3.7 gn of 231 seated to the crimp groove generated an average of 766 FPS and same charge seated flush developed 834 FPS.
    Going to try some Bullseye next. Any thought on a max FPS on 148 gn DEWC.?
  18. I wouldn’t run them fast. That’s not what they’re intended for. I would stay below 850 FPS for sure.

    I get my best accuracy with WC’s at ~700 FPS.

    I run 3.2g of W231 with my WC loads and get very good accuracy with them. Any less and I don’t get a complete burn. Very dirty and leaves flakes of unburnt powder everywhere.

    I have used Bullseye as well. I prefer 231, but Bullseye is very popular for a reason. It may work better for you, but I am confident you can work up a load with 231 that will equal anything Bullseye can do.
  19. HBWCs should not exceed 800fps, and 625-725fps is near perfect. Faster speeds, higher pressures, skirt is pushed hard against chamber and it separates from the front of the bullet. The skirt will then either put a second hole in the target or it will lodge in the barrel as an obstruction.
    Manuals in the days of the dinosaurs used to actually print HBWC loads separate from DEWC loads.
    PS: Slight roll crimp where the case mouth just flows around the top edge of the bullet. Use a Redding Profile Crimp die.