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Thread: .38 Super and Lil'Gun

  1. #1
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    .38 Super and Lil'Gun

    So, I've been working on a .38 Super Auto load that projects the bullet at somewhere around 1300 fps. The typical velocities for reloads run say 1000 to 1200 fps. typical commercial are also loaded to 1100 - 1200 fps.

    Noting that Buffalo Bore has a load that is 1450, I have been wondering what they are doing.

    I found some interesting data at the Hodgdon website under a powder called Lil'Gun that is much slower burning than your pistol powder. Using 13.0 grains Lil'Gun behind a .356 in diam, 124 grain bullet in a .38 Super case, Hodgdon's data indicate a muzzle velocity of 1310 fps at a pressure of only 26,600 CUP. As before, I don't have a chronograph, but I did try the Lil'Gun, and the recoil was decided greater than with the loads I had been using. Otherwise there was no indication of excess pressure, which I did not expect but one always checks with a new load.

    Interestingly, with Lil'Gun giving higher velocities with less pressure, I was anxious to see what Lil'Gun could do for the .45 Auto round. Interestingly, aside from the 410 bore shot gun, for which Lil'Gun was designed, there is no other handgun loading for this powder.

    Has anyone else tried this loading?

    Wade

  2. #2
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    Hello Wade, I'v been chronographing and loading for the 38 Super for a very long time. I've used several powders, but haven't used Lil'Gun yet. I've achieved excellent results in the Super with a slightly faster powder, Accurate Arms #9. Safe and consistent velocities of 1430+ FPS with 124/125 grain bullets, and 1250+ FPS with 147 grain, in a 5" barrel.

    Lil'Gun is a very slow powder for a cartridge as small as the Super. I was unaware Hodgdon even had a recommended load for this powder in the Super. But, as your Hodgdon data indicates, pressures should be low. I've tried a bunch of powders in the .45 ACP too, and IMHO Lil'Gun would be way too slow....

    BTW, It has been my experience that actual velocities from my guns may differ substantially from reloading manual velocities. This is not unexpected, but is sometimes interesting, if not downright surprising. I'd sure suggest acquiring a chronograph so you'll know exactly what your reloads do in your gun, as opposed to results from a commercial test barrel somewhere. Anyway, the Super is a very versatile and fun cartridge to reload. Good luck in your efforts.
    Likes (1) :
    PolyKahr (29th April 2018)


  3. #3
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    Rock, thanks for the reply. I wouldn't mind having a chronograph, but I don't thing such a thing is in the cards, budget wise. I can "justify" most of my spending as something that helps with self and family defense, but faster bullets? My hand loads are strictly used at the range. For carry I use commercial rounds, I don't know that a prosecutor would take my making up cartridges as somehow indicative of my being some sort of homicidal maniac, but why give them the ammunition? In any case, I know that Lil'Gun is a slow powder. I will have to look up AA#9.

    Interestingly, Hodgdon doesn't recommend Lil'Gun for anything but the .38 Super. I have been using W231 and recently CFEPistol for .45 Auto. CFEPistol seems to be an economical powder, and is very consistent. I have also used titegroup and AA #5 with good results, though of course I don't know how fast these bullets are going. Mostly I have used 230 grain bullets in .45 Auto loads, though I am thinking of trying i85 or 200gn bullets.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by rock185 View Post
    BTW, It has been my experience that actual velocities from my guns may differ substantially from reloading manual velocities. This is not unexpected, but is sometimes interesting, if not downright surprising. I'd sure suggest acquiring a chronograph so you'll know exactly what your reloads do in your gun, as opposed to results from a commercial test barrel somewhere. Anyway, the Super is a very versatile and fun cartridge to reload. Good luck in your efforts.
    But are the velocities really different from the reloading manual ... or is there a variable you haven't accounted for? Example:

    I mostly reload for .45 ACP, using 230-grain plated bullets from Berry's Manufacturing. I started with Winchester 231 (Hodgdon HP-38). Data on the Hodgdon/Winchester web site gives a starting load of 4.3 grains and a maximum load of 5.3 grain. The maximum velocity is 834 fps, and the velocity for the starting load is only 699 fps. I wanted something close to the original .45 ACP loading of 830 fps, so I started somewhere in the middle of the range, like around 4.8 grains.

    And the velocity of my early rounds was slow enough I could almost throw the bullets faster. I was getting around 650 fps over a chronograph. I ratcheted up the charge until I was at 5.4 grains (1/10th over the maximum, which was supposed to generate more than 834 fps) and my velocity was something like 750 fps. So what was going on? I subsequently found an article on reloading and power factor from Shooting Times magazine that conveniently used Winchester 231 and the same Berry's bullets that I use. The had results for 5.3 grains of Win 231, and their velocity for that load was 724 fps. This was consistent with my results, but not at all consistent with the Hodgdon/Winchester data.

    So I dug deeper. When I started reloading, I established the cartridge overall length by measuring ten rounds of factory Winchester ammo, and averaging the results. I came out with 1.250 inches. The author of the Shooting Times article used a COAL of 1.240 inches. The Hodgdon/Winchester data is based on a COAL of 1.200 inches. So there's one variable. By seating to a shorter COAL, the Hodgdon data will produce a faster load because with the same bullet their recipe has less case volume.

    But it goes beyond that. Nobody publishes data for Berry's bullets. Not even Berry's -- if you ask, they just tell you to use "mid-range" data for FMJ bullets. But that was where I had started, and my results were nowhere close to what the Hodgdon data indicated I should be getting. The COAL affected that, but I had a feeling there was something else. After some exchanges of ideas with our forum member niemi24s, I measured the bullet length of the Berry's bullets, and I pulled a bullet from a factory Winchester cartridge and measured that. And the results were interesting. The Berry's bullet is significantly shorter than a Winchester bullet.

    This was what gave rise to the bullet data tabulation project that's a sticky in the reloading discussion area on this forum. It's not enough to just know that you're loading a 230-grain bullet. Not all bullets are created equal. If the body of your bullet is longer or shorter than the body of the bullet used by the powder manufacturer in deriving the published data, the velocities and pressures you get will not be the same as the published data, because the effective case volume behind the bullet will be different.

    I have long since gone over to using a Lee AutoDisk powder measure. This has pre-set charge apertures, so it's not infinitely adjustable. The closest I can get to my original load is now 5.3 grains. I'm still using Winchester 231, so that's the maximum recommended by Hodgdon and Winchester, and the same as one of the loads in that Shooting Times article. But I'm not getting anywhere near 834 fps out of it. I haven't run it over the chronograph, so I don't know exactly where I am. Shooting Times reports 724 fps, and my loads with the same bullet are .01" longer, so I expect that I'm right about at 700 fps. I'm happy with that as a plinking load, but it's not what one might expect from a "maximum," do-not-exceed load.

    Capsule summary: Unless everything you are doing is exactly the same as published data, you can't regard the published data as anything more than an approximation. Especially as you move up to approaching a maximum charge, you really have to check what's happening with a chronograph, as well as inspecting carefully for signs of over-pressure. There's more to it than just the charge weight.

    Check out the bullet data sticky. The variation among bullets of the same nominal weight may surprise you.
    Hawkmoon
    On a good day, can hit the broad side of a barn ... from the inside
    Likes (1) :
    DocWyatt (29th April 2018)


  5. #5
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    I have been experiencing the same problems with Berry’s and now you’ve pointed me in the correct direction. Thanks, now I’ll have to read that sticky you were referring to.
    My load was the 200 gr. HBFP bullet over 6.2 grs of Unique and CCI #300 primers. Was getting an average of 759 fps from a Gov’t mdl and 724 fps from a Commander mdl.
    Cartridge OAL was 1.2
    Likes (1) :
    PolyKahr (29th April 2018)


  6. #6
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    Sorry, Wade, but if you haven't got a chronograph, talking about velocity doesn't mean much. You can get a pretty good chronograph for around a hundred dollars. If that is too much, maybe you know somebody who has one, or somebody(s) who would split the cost with you.

    Mass produced guns seldom equal book velocity, even if you use the same components. And using another brand nearly always increases the discrepancy, leading to discussions of bullet length and case working volume.

    Another contributing factor is the barrels used. Chambers are specified at minimum dimensions with a plus tolerance only, ensuring that a minimum chamber will accept a maximum cartridge. Those tolerances are pretty generous, .004" on diameter, .015" on length.
    On the other hand, the pressure - velocity test barrel is to the same nominal dimensions but with only miniscule .0005"/.005" tolerances. So it is going to be "tight" relative to nearly all the guns on the market. This increases pressure and velocity.

    I think bullet construction matters. The plated bullet is soft with a high friction surface. So it "bumps up" to a tighter fit than jacketed and lacks the lubricant of cast.
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    PolyKahr (29th April 2018)


  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by DocWyatt View Post
    I have been experiencing the same problems with Berry’s and now you’ve pointed me in the correct direction. Thanks, now I’ll have to read that sticky you were referring to.
    My load was the 200 gr. HBFP bullet over 6.2 grs of Unique and CCI #300 primers. Was getting an average of 759 fps from a Gov’t mdl and 724 fps from a Commander mdl.
    Cartridge OAL was 1.2
    There's not much of interest to read. The important part is the spreadsheet that niemi24s put together and posted to Google Docs.
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...en&hl=en#gid=0

    Compare, for example, the dimensions of the Berry's 230-grain round nose bullet to the standard Winchester USA 230-grain bullet. Same weight, but very different body length.

    I'm not familiar with the Berry's 200-grain flat-point. I have tried the 185-grain round nose, hollow base. In fact, it was the same article in Shooting Tinmes that turned me on to that bullet. I can use the same powder charge (5.3 grains) that I use for my 230-grain loads, and I get a cartridge that's almost exactly the same power factor (for practical shooting purposes competition) as factory 115-grain 9mm ammo. Recoil compared to the 230-grain loads is significantly less, so it's pleasant to shoot, and I think it will be a nice round for competition (if I ever get back into the game).
    Hawkmoon
    On a good day, can hit the broad side of a barn ... from the inside
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    PolyKahr (29th April 2018)


  8. #8
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    Yes Hawkmoon, with all due respect, velocities really are different. And I fully realize, as Jim Watson indicates, that there are several contributing factors. Bullet construction, diameter, seating depth, primers used, case volume,etc, etc. all matter. Since the OP mentioned velocities, my point in suggesting the OP acquire a chronograph was just due to the fact that no two manufactured items are exactly the same. That would include pistol barrels. Land and groove diameter, bore finish, chamber headspace and diameter,etc vary. I have owned pistols that were nominally the same in 9MM, 10MM, .38 Super and .45 ACP. No two ever gave the same velocities with factory or reloaded ammunition, and those velocities were rarely the same as ammo manufacturer or reloading manual velocities. Dave Andrews authored an excellent article addressing the issue, "Why Ballisticians Get Gray", which appears in a couple of the Speer reloading manuals. He used ammunition lots selected because of their uniformity. Mr. Andrews reports that he made every effort to ensure results were as accurate as possible. He used revolvers, but in my humble experience in chronographing ammunition since 1977, similar variables, and resultant differences in velocity, hold true with semi-auto pistols as well. I realize that most shooters just go by published information regards velocities, and actual velocities in their guns concern them not at all. But if it matters to a shooter, a chronograph is a necessity in determining actual velocities in their particular guns......ymmv
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    PolyKahr (29th April 2018)


  9. #9
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    Another thing that is often not considered is that the hardness of a 230 grain plated round nose bullet is much, much lower than a jacketed one. I've only tested the hardness of a couple of each type, but the plated ones were about HBN13 while the jacketed ones were in the HBN110 to HBN160 range. I think that's why Lyman gives this advice:

    http://
    When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind. [Lord Kelvin]

  10. #10
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    Speer has an article in their reloading manual in which they used several different .357 revolvers some the same model and barrel length and the velocity spread is quite interesting. Some of the results aren't even close.

    I stopped using the plated bullets as the MC aren't that much more imo. For the .45 we were using the Zero FMC, but bought some Armscor. These seem to have the same profile as the GI bullet. for the .38 Super I prefer the Montana Gold 130 MC which from what I can see is the same as the original bullet.

    A chronograph is the only way to measure velocity if you shoot somewhere where you can set it up conveniently. We haven't used ours in awhile because where we shoot it isn't always convenient to set it up especially on weekends. Pressure is a guessing game but if you're getting flattened primers and especially primer flow into the firing pin hole in the breech then things are a bit warm.

    I was going to order some Lil Gun with my next powder order but can't remember if it was for the .38 Super or some other round
    Ken
    "I like Colts and will die that way"
    "It seems to me that I have forgotten more than I remember"

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