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American Handgunner March/April 2012 Digital Edition - Page 40
HANDLOADING sage advice from the handloading gurus Jacketed bullets from Hornady, sierra and speer normally used in the 9 mm work just fine in the .38 super. John taffin loading the . 38 super m y experience with the .38 Super goes back more than 40 years. When the ’68 Gun Control Act was announced we really did not know what effect it would have on firearms production, so one of the handguns I bought to get in under the wire was a .38 Super Colt Commander. It turned out to be a disappointment. It simply would not shoot accurately. It’s not that either the cartridge or the Colt were at fault, it was simply the way it was chambered. Most semi-auto cartridges are referred to as rimless. Of course, they do have a rim, however it’s the same diameter as the body of the cartridge. Semi-autos headspace differently as seen by the rimless .45 ACP, which headspaces on the mouth of the cartridge. The .38 Super is neither rimless nor rimmed but actually somewhere in between; call them semi-rimmed. The rim of the .38 Super is .022" larger in diameter than the body of the case, resulting in only .011" of rim on each side for headspacing. Quite often this would not be enough, and often the blow of the firing pin would move the case forward far enough to cause misfires. That was the problem with my old Commander. I finally sent it off to Bill Wilson, who installed a new barrel, cut for headspacing on the mouth of the case and the problem was solved. Groups shrunk from 12" at 25 yards to 2", without even searching for the best load. If you have an older .38 Super with accuracy problems this could be the solution. cast bullets normally used in the .357 Magnum can also be used in the .38 super; they should be sized to .356". eloaders have a wide range of bullets to select from. Any jacketed bullets normally used in the 9mm will also work fine in the .38 Super, as both take bullets of .355" diameter. I routinely use jacketed bullets from Hornady, Sierra and Speer when loading for the .38 Super. As far as I know, no factory loaded .38 Super has ever been offered with cast bullets, however there is absolutely no reason why they can’t be used successfully. I’ve had very good luck with Oregon Trail’s Laser Cast 9mm bullets, as well as their 158-grain SWC .38 bullet. One of my most accurate reloads is the Lyman/Thompson targets shot with the colt series gas-checked bullet over ’80 .38 super shows the 5.7 grains of Unique for super can deliver! 1,150 fps and groups under 1". The RCBS plain-based bullet is not far behind, clocking out at 1,120 over 5.0 grains of Unique and groups just over 1" too. Reloading the Super is pretty straightforward, with one problem to be aware of. My loads are normally assembled on the RCBS Pro 2000 photo grips by www.handmadegrips.com Progressive press using my RCBS dies dating back to the early 1970s. These are steel dies requiring lubing of cases before sizing, however I have recently added a Lee carbide sizer. I long ago learned to check before I load up a big batch of the ammunition to make sure it will fit the chambers, and in the case of semi-autos, make sure it will feed. Using the carbide sizer and cast bullets at .356" diameter worked fine. However, when trying to use the same sizer and .355" jacketed bullets there’s not enough neck tension between the case and the bullet, resulting in bullets being pushed into the cartridge case as it chambered. There is no problem with the use of the same-jacketed bullets when using the standard steel-sizing die. its 10-round capacity and powerful factory loading. In fact, the .38 Super in a Government Model is the equivalent of a short-barreled .357 Magnum, like the 31/2" Model 27, with the added advantage of 10 rounds compared to six rounds, and a fast reload. Jeff Cooper started me on the trail of the .38 Super when he mentioned in one of his early books in the late 1950s the fact the .38 Super was an excellent Trail Gun, capable of taking anything easily up through coyote size. I can’t disagree with him, and the use of hard cast SWC bullets adds to its versatility. Versatile R I 40 nterestingly, the same three powders, Unique, Universal and Power Pistol I normally employ for standard loads in the .44 Special are the same three most often picked for reloading the .38 Super. The most accurate loads I have found with cast bullets use Unique and Universal, while Power Pistol has given me the best results with jacketed bullets. Before the arrival of so many high-cap semi-autos, the .38 Super stood head and shoulders above all others with StIll Super * WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MARCH/APRIL2012