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40 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Have any of you done any work trying to get 357 power out
of a 38 special case. I have heard of this being done, and
have heard that as long as you are using the ammo in nice
strong 357 gun, that you can load them up to 357 pressures
and velocities. I have, so far loaded some up to pretty
near 357 velocities, actually as high as some 357 factory
loads and there doesn't seem to be any signs of excessive
pressure from the looks of the primer or with extraction.
Also the case design might be a factor here. In older
cases years ago they used a weaker head design in the
38 case than in the 357, I'm told, but of the current ones
I have inspected it appears that the 38 cases have as
much metal in the base as the 357 ones.

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606 Posts
.38 +P loads in a .38 Spl that's up to the task.....but nothing more. In a .357, use .357 brass so you don't get a ridge built up at the mouth of the shorter .38 brass. Heck, I even do "plinker" loads in the full-length brass to avoid "ring around the chamber". Trying to get .357 performance ot of a .38 could result in unexpectedly high pressures because of the reduced case volume.

I would recommend you familiarize yourself with SAAMI standards, and then adhere to them. If you want to find out what the limit is, at least have the courtesy to do it when nobody else is at the range to catch the shrapnel.

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40 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Can you tell me more about this ridge that builds up
in the chamber? Is it a build up of lead? Is it a gas
cut into the chamber? Do you get this anytime you
use 38 special ammo in a 357 chamber?

I don't believe there is any problem in using
357 pressures in a 38 case as long as it has
the solid base on the case similiar to the 357 case.
Some earlier 38 cases did not have this solid base
and they were weaker and could not take the pressures
of the 357.

Of course you can't use these loads in a gun
that is not built to take 357 pressures.

I have heard from several credible sources that
you can use 357 pressures in a 38 case if your
gun is made for it. Here is one well known
individual that gives a 357 size load for 38 gave
this paragraph which definitely contains a 357 size
pressure: Here is the paragraph:
My friend presented him with a double handful of
my favorite handloads, made from a recipe of the
358156 hollowpoint bullet held in its lower crimping
groove by a Remington .38 Special case. The powder
charge was 13.5 grains of 2400 fused with CCI Small
Pistol primers. A few hours after loading up with
these homebrews, the cowboy tumbled a running buck
with a single shot through the spine at 50 yards.
The above is definitely a 357 size load, with 357 pressures.

The full article can be seen at this link:


Now as to the question, why would I want to do this?
I have a very large supply of free 38 sp cases. Free
cases are cheaper than store bought cases. Also
as you shoot and reload the case stretches. Pretty
soon you have to trim cases and check for length.
With 38 cases being about 1/10 inch shorter, they can
stretch through several reloadings without ever
having to check them because of shorter starting length.
After about 5 loadings I can just pitch them out
and never have to bother checking length. Also
If I use 38 sp cases only, I can load light and
heavy loads without constant readjustment of the
dies for cartrigde length.

The question is why would I want to use 357 cases
if the 38 case will do everything just as well. Afterall
they only made the 357 case slightly longer so
that you could not put one of these rounds in
an old gun only made to take pressures up to about
18,000 psi of the original 38 spec. They could get
the powder into the 38 spec case to get the higher
power of the 357 and the added length was only
done to keep the rounds out of weak guns. Of course
that ridge thing may be a good reason, so can you tell
me more about the ridge?

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606 Posts
The ridge is a conglomeration of lead, priming compound residue, soot, and powder residue. No big deal, but if it's not scrubbed out regularly, it "sets up" and gets to be a real pain to remove. You'll know it's there when a .357 cartridge won't quite go all the way home.

Regarding your supply of .38 Spl brass.... if you want to put these full-house loads in it, you'd better section a sample of each brand; some have a heavy base and some don't. If it were me, I'd load something more like a .38 or a .38 +P for the high-volume shooting, and get .357 brass for the boomers, since I wouldn't expect to shoot them all the time.... but that's me.

One thing you'd better watch, if you load those full-house loads in .38 brass, is that NOBODY puts 'em in a .38 and touches one off; as you noted in your last post, that's why the .357 is longer.

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40 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I'm not a physics professor, but I was a physics major
in college. It doesn't take a genius to understand the
basic physics problem that goes on in the combustion
chamber called a 38 special cartridge case. It is identical
to that which goes on in 357 cartridge case. Velocity is
a function of pressure and time during the firing. Powder
speed has a great bearing on the pressure and time.
A powder that burns in a 357 case that uses say, 14 grains
and gives a peak pressure of 40,000 psi is only slightly
changed by seating the bullet 1/10 inch deeper. If seated
1/10 of an inch deeper, the pressure and resulting velocity
will be slightly higher, because of having slightly less space
for the expanding gases to fill. It would take pressure
measurements to determine just how much less powder
it would take to achieve the same pressure and velocity.
In actual fact the difference probably works out to be
something in the neighborhood of about 3 tenths grain.
So for sake of arguement, say that you get the same
pressure and velocity when the bullet is seated 1/10
inch deeper if you decrease powder to 13.7 grains.

Now if you want to find out how much you have to decrease
the powder you do the following:
(1) chronograph the standard 14.0 grain load at proper
seating depth. Lets pretend we get 1400 fps for now.
(2) Now load some up with about 13.0 grain and seat
them 1/10 deeper and chronograph. You will notice
that the velocity dropped below 1400 fps showing
the lower pressure developed by the reduce powder
(3) Now increase powder charge gradually until you
get the same 1400 fps. When you achieve that you
will see that you are using slight less powder than
orginally with the normal seating depth. With this
load the pressure will be identical to the original load.
(5) Next you could switch to 38 special cases, so long
as they have just as much brass in the base thickness
as the 357s and you will have very close to the same
load. It will be slightly milder because of not using up
all the chamber area, and this 1/10 inch extra space
in the chamber area will reduce pressure slightly from
what you developed with the 357 case seated 1/10 deeper.

For anyone not being able to understand the logic
of the above, then I guess I can understand them
not wanting to do this. On the other hand, some
people are just too frugal with their brain power and
refuse to try to understand anything. If you are
not too frugal with your brain power or actually
can't understand what I just explained then it
makes sense to use 357 cases. If you don't
fully understand everything I have covered you
are probably better off using factory ammo. Reloading
requires a certain amount of thought and understanding
in order to stay out of trouble. In any event I really
don't recommend anyone do this. This is something
each individual has to decide, and not do anything
that they cannot understand.

· Registered
606 Posts
There's a couple flaws in your argument.....

One of the factors affecting the burning rate of a smokeless propellant is pressure (remember reaction rates in chemistry?). The same charge of the same propellant in a smaller case will give an increased pressure... this causes a further increase in the burn rate, resulting in an overall higher pressure than would be expected from the reduced case volume alone.

Starting with a very conservative load and chronographing the loads as you increase the charge is, normally, the way to go. HOWEVER - - - some powders, H110 for one, will give greatly increased pressures at reduced charges. In these cases, you have to know where you're gonna end up before you can begin; check the Hodgdon website, and they'll tell you in no uncertain terms, "NEVER reduce H110 loads more than 3% below maximum".

You don't really know as much about reloading as you seem to think you do, and I'll stand by all of my previous recommendations.... including not firing any of this stuff when anyone else in within shrapnel range.

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17 Posts
That's all fine and dandy until someone loses an eye.

Your just waiting for an accident. Someone, sometime, I'll almost guarentee it, will shoot one of your hot loads in a .38 not designed for the pressure of a .357

Arguing the point is moot. You should only load .38 pressures in .38 casings. That is what they were designed for...nothing else.


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944 Posts
If frugality is the issue then won't you save money by using less powder as well? Personally, I like my guns too much to risk having extremely hot loads damage them. I don't know enough about reloading to comment on whether this will work or not but as for me, if I want to shoot .357 then I'll use .357 brass. I know that magnum loads are more fun to shoot but safety should always be the first concern.

How did you manage to get free .38 cases?

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40 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·

If you are going to correct me, you might try to get
the facts straight.

To start with look at what you said:

The same charge of the same propellant in a smaller case
will give an increased pressure...

Now look at what I said:

If seated 1/10 of an inch deeper, the pressure and resulting
velocity will be slightly higher, because of having slightly
less space for the expanding gases to fill.

If you compare these two statements they are almost
identical. So where was my misconception that you were
pointing out.


I am also aware of the fact that gunpowder is progressive
burning (burns faster under higher pressure). I don't
really know why you assume I had to have been told that.
Nothing I said would have indicated I didn't know that.


Next, you say: check the Hodgdon website, and
they'll tell you in no uncertain terms, "NEVER reduce
H110 loads more than 3% below maximum".

You seem to be trying to get across the point that
I might be getting overpressure loads, although
I'm not sure that is your point. Since you presumed
to educate me on H110 in spite of the fact that I
have loaded with it as far back as 40 years ago,
you might also have noted that the problem here
when reducing loads in H110 is that of exceedingly
low pressures with reduced loads. Pressures so low
that the bullet might not be pushed out of the barrel.
The danger is not from the gun blowing up with a
reduced load, but of getting a barrel obstruction
which could blow it up with a subsequent fired shot.
So if you were going to educate me, then including
the above might have been more descriptive of the
problem with H110 instead of just giving a caution
with no explanation.

There is the problem called "detonation" that sometimes
occurs with reduced loads that end up giving higher
pressures and I'm not sure but you might have been
referring to that being a danger. In any event,
if you going to educate me about detonation, an
explanation of the facts would have been in order
instead of just telling me I don't know as much
about reloading as I think.

If you did have this fear that I might get
detonation on reduced loads, then I believe
your fears are unfounded. Detonation results
from under loading a large capacity case (rifle)
with a very slow burning powder. I remember when
this phenomenon was first brought public about
40 or 50 years ago. It was puzzling
for quite awhile of how reduced loads could
be blowing guns up, but finally someone figured
it out. I had a friend blow up his 30-06
Springfield back in this era. He was using
H5010 powder as I recall. It was a very slow
powder that you could actually fill up the case
of 30-06 with even a heavy bullet like 180 grain
and it still gave low pressures. When he dropped
to the load to some very low amount, though, it
blew up his gun. There were also some other cases
documented. Usually it was someone shooting a
powerful case like a 300 magnum and loading it
very light with something like 4831. The reason
finally attributed to this condition after it was
denied for a quite a period was that the powder amount
was so low that as the powder laid in the case with
the cartridge horizontal, in normal firing position,
the powder level was below the primer, and this
allowed primer to flash over the entire upper surface
of the powder, igniting much more of the powder
at initial ignition than what is ordinarily ignited
in a small area next to the primer hole. With
this extra amount of powder being ignited in the
first part of the burn cycle it sped up the burn
rate and thus created abnormally high pressure.
It is possible, I suppose, but I have not heard
of this in small cases like the 38 special with relatively
fast powders like most pistol powders. Regardless
of this, reducing a load from 14 to 13 grains is
not going to materially allow this situation to
arise even if it could occur in a 38 case which
as far as I know has not happened.

Also note, that I am not using H110 for my present
loads and so your information is a bit superflous.

Your statement that I don't really know as much about
reloading as I think I do probably says a lot more about
just how much you think you know about me. Do you really
have any idea what my knowledge base is?



The only way you can guarantee that my loads are going to go
in someones 38 is to come and steal some and put them there? This
will probably be hard to do since you don't know where I live
or where I store my ammo.



I think you missed the point. I'm not trying to shoot
extremely hot loads. I'm trying to get hot loads
that are within acceptable pressure limits. They
would really be extremely hot by 38 standards but not so
hot by 357 standards. I think I will end up
with something in the 30,000 psi range, which
is found in some of todays factory 357s but
which is below the 40,000 listed in some loading
tables, but not all.

I got my cases from a firing range where high
volume firing was done with new cases (police/military).

· Registered
944 Posts
JoePistol said:

I think you missed the point. I'm not trying to shoot
extremely hot loads. I'm trying to get hot loads
that are within acceptable pressure limits. They
would really be extremely hot by 38 standards but not so
hot by 357 standards. I think I will end up
with something in the 30,000 psi range, which
is found in some of todays factory 357s but
which is below the 40,000 listed in some loading
tables, but not all.
I obviously did miss the point, my mistake. :oops: If this is the case then I don't see any reason not to try it in a .357 gun. Let us know if it works and what load you finally used.

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640 Posts
This is a case where theory can possibly get you into trouble in practice. The problem with using a load in the .38 Spl at .357 mag pressures is at least threefold. First, and it is the easiest for me to explain, is even though the .38 Spl case may have a similar thickness in the case head the alloy and annealing may not be the same as on the .357 mag. This can cause problems with gas escaping where it is not wanted. This can vary by brand and even lots within the same brand so one has to be careful in what cases they use.
The second is much harder for me to explain but the problem has been around since the 1920s and is the reason the .357 was developed in the first place. When the .38 Spl was "hotrodded" to the .38/44 to meet the demands of law enforcement (which Colt was meeting with the .38 Super) a couple of problems cropped up. It was discovered that when the .38 Spl cartridge was fired, the pressures quickly dropped to very low levels while the bullet travelled down the cylinder, across the gap, into the forcing cone, until it finally contacted the rifling in the barrel. These pressures dropped enough that the bullet actually became a bore obstruction behind which pressures built up until the bullet began to move again. This pressure drop was caused by the tremendous "freebore" (for lack of better term) mentioned above. At normal .38 Spl pressures this wasn't a problem but when pressures were pushed somewhat above 20,000 psi, cylinders began let go. I haven't seen any current studies but I would guess that the effect out of a .357 chamber rather than the .38 Spl chamber would exacerbate the effect. That is why current .38 Spl +P ammo is less than this pressure. To push pressures higher, the case needed to be lengthened to hold more powder and increase the case volume which also changed the rate of combustion, hence the birth of the .357 mag.
Lastly, that Skeeter (and others) did this without obvious problem in his (their) guns doesn't mean this is a safe load. The newest of Skeeter's writings are currently 20 years old (he died in 1986 or there abouts) and I believe the article linked to is at least a decade older.The ability to fully measurement pressures has increased immensely in the last 15 years and many formerly "safe" loads have been downgraded considerably as a result. Changes in powder formulation are also a part in this change, though mostly only slight, it can be significant at the upper levels which are what are being discussed here.
the above may be a bit difficult to understand as I am only a lay person in this field but hopefully enough info has been transferred to broaden one's view of this subject and do further research from current laboratory tests to allow for much better informed decisions.

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40 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I finally tested some of my hotter loads today.

For comparison I loaded a 357 case with 14 gr of a
certain surplus powder and it gave a velocity to a
158 gr jhp by Remingon of 1325 in a 4 5/8 inch Ruger Blackhawk

I used 13 gr of the same powder in a 38 spl case and in the
same gun I got 158 gr jhp by Remingon velocity of 1152fps

So dropping 1 gr of powder my velocity dropped about 175 fps.
The pressure in the both cases (357 and 38 ) appeared to be safe.
The one in the 38 case did not show any excessive pressure from
my reading of the primer, and there were no extraction problems.
It looks to me to be safe. It still was short of the velocity
of the 357 by 175 fps, but it was pretty hot for a 38 special,
actually off the charts for a 38 spec. I suspect that I could go
ahead and take it up to 357 velocities, but I don't believe I
will. I think I will just abritrarily call that my top load
for a 38 fired in a good 357 gun.

I also tested some loads with Winchester 231 ball powder with
that bullet. I believe the charts showed 6.9 gr max for
a 357 and it showed about 4.4 gr for a +p 38. I loaded
some 38 cases to 6 grains and tried them. They chronographed
at 989 fps average. I did not like what I read in the primers
though. The pressure variation seemed to be high. Most primers
showed low pressure but some, maybe about 1 out of 7 showed
high pressure, and these also needed a shove to push the case
out of my Blackhawk. I don't believe I would be comfortable
shooting these as a normal course of things, especially if
the gun was not something really strong like my Blackhawk.
I think I will cut back that load if I load that powder again.

I don't recommend any of this to you guys, its just what I
did and for general information.

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9 Posts
Re: Really hot 38 special loadS: Skeeter's Day


Five things overlooked:

Skeeter had almost unlimited access to .38 special brass as a LEO in the 60's - 80's. With that situation and the lack of decent factory .357's it was only natural to develop a heavy load in .38 cases.

Second, the Thompson designed bullets he primarily relied on had two crimping grooves. The rearmost crimp groove was set to duplicate the case capacity of the .357 when seated in .38 Spl. cases. This allowed visual identification of heavy loads and would do the same today.

Third, the loads he used in his heavy .38spl were considered medium loads in the 60's. Today we would consider such loads to be full power .357 loads.

Skeeter's heavy .38's were lead bullet loads. These loads reach the 1200 fps range with less pressure than jacketed bullets.

Last, consider that today's 2400 pistol powder is faster burning and develops higher pressure for the same charges than the same powder marketed in the middle decades of the 20th century.

Here are Skeeter's favorite loads as he loaded them in .38Spl. cases:

Bullet (Grs.) (Type) Velocity(fps)
Lyman 158-gr 358156 13.5 2400 1200
Lyman 150-gr. 358156 HP 13.5 2400 1250

Should you choose to load these I suspect a one grain reduction with todays 2400 powder and a chronograph check of the velocities attained would be prudent.

Perhaps the moderator, James Gates, could provide information on firms that can provide definitive industry standard testing for pressure and velocity for individuals.


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112 Posts
Joe Pistol, I know we are supposed to be polite on this site BUT
people like you scare the hell of of me. It's plain to see you missed the first semester of Reloading 101. Instead you must have spent all of your time learning to type,You pretty good at that.
Have you ever heard of safety ? Have you ever thought of what could happen if someone else were to get a hold of some of you so called HOT 38 sp. loads? They try them out in their old 38 Sp. or some cheap knock off gun. Gun blows up , eye put out or worse. Lawyers, law suits etc. All just because you got some really FREE cases.
Personally I think you should not be reloading any thing that goes bang.Take it any way you want but your attitude is just plain stupid. Of course that just my opinion.!

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9 Posts

Let me list for you the calibers that come to mind for which many handloaders exceed SAMMI pressures. Virtually all of these have tested loading data in the major handloading manuals. Indeed several have small loading companies marketing such loads for use only in strong guns.

.45 Colt
.44 special
8x57S (aka 8mm Mauser)
.35 Remington

This attenuated list shows the practice is not uncommon - but it does require common sense. The same level of common sense needed to avoid firing steel or other hard no-toxic shot from a 1920's vintage LC Smith. Think about it.


· Registered
40 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I have not been on the site for awhile, so this
might not be too timely. However, I notice this
thread has been given some new life, so here goes.

Quite frankly I am curious to know how it is plain
to see that I missed Reloading 101. Can you explain
what it was that made it so plain? Enquiring minds
want to know. I am wondering what bit of information
I gave that was in error. I would not want to keep
making that mistake, if I have overlooked something.

To answer your question "Have you ever thought of what
could happen if someone else were to get a hold of
some of you so called HOT 38 sp."
The answer, yes I have thought of it. I keep those
loads locked in a safe in a container that has the
note: "Danger these loads are not to be used in
38 special guns, use only in 357 guns"

Your comment: "Personally I think you should not be
reloading any thing that goes bang"
Well my thoughts on this are that I personally think
you are a presumptous overbearing individual that
tends to act before you know what you are talking


I found your comments on Skeeters loads very well
said and informative, and also thanks for
pointing out the facts on commonly exceeded
pressures. These are all pretty similar to my loading
situation with the 38. The 45 Colt and 44 spec
in particular are analgous. I wonder if these loads
also scare hell out of anyone. The thing that is similar
in all these, is that these loads were all originally
used in guns that were not made to take high pressures.
In time though some much stronger guns were made to
the calibers and people have opted at times to load
these rounds more to their potential when fired in
the stronger guns. In my case the stronger gun is
a 357 magnum. Many of these loads you listed have
long been overloaded by individuals. Many of these
hotter loads have even got listed in loading manuals,
with the comments added that they are to be used only
in guns strong enough to take them. I guess folks
like claybird might also like to have these dangerous
manuals prohibited, since he probably feels that it is
apparent that Hornady and others who put out the manuals
have not had reloading 101, and they don't have brains
enough to know that someone might use their loads
in the wrong gun, get blown up, and sued.
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