The implications of using a .38SPCL bullet in a revolver designed for a .357MAG.

Discussion in 'Centerfire Pistols & Revolvers' started by Remington597, Sep 7, 2004.

  1. Remington597

    Remington597 Former Guest

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    I am told that there are none! ,and that there are absolutely no implications as far as performance and accuracy and overall no adverse affects on the weapon. The goal is to continue to use .38spcl bullets for plinking and for target practice and use .357MAG bullets for home defense and occasional practice for get used to the recoil and become proficient both ways. Obviously , since .38spcl rounds are less costly. Several gun dealers have told me this and several experts as well. Are they correct? I am assuming they are. I would appreciate any feedback specific to long term affects, accuracy, wear, etc. My current .357MAG armory consists of the following.


    Ruger Vaquero
    Rossi 97206
    Rossi 46102
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2004
  2. Smoky14

    Smoky14 Member

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    The only "bad" thing I know about is, if you fail to clean the cylinder after many rounds of .38 you can have a fouling of the chamber just ahead of the 38 casing which can cause the 357 not to chamber. I had it happen after shooting some dirty lead reloads in 38spl. Had to clean with a tornado brush.

    Smoky the wiser
  3. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

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    remington597:

    The only negative to shooting 38spl in a 357 gun is the cylinder as stated above. Since the 38 case is shorter than the 357, the lead 38spl bullet has to jump to the correctly bored end of the cylinder passing over the machined edge that is there to accomodate 357 longer cases. This usually leaves lead (or copper) on that edge which builds up over time. Then when you try to chamber a 357 in won't seat in the cylinder. Regular cleaning of that spot to remove the lead (or copper) keeps that from happening. You probably won't notice it with each shooting session but it builds up over several shooting sessions.

    Another problem with shooting 38 spl is that most loads are lead bullets which will lead up the barrel within one shooting session. Nothing short of lead removing cloth will get it out adding more time to the cleaning of the gun. I have found that using the newer "green-eco friendly" copper coated lead bullets (we're not talking about copper jacketed bullet but lead plated bullets) totally eliminates the leading problem. An alternative is to shoot the last cylinder full at a shooting seesion with 357 Mag jacketed cartridges which chase the lead out, for the most part, leaving the cleaning task of lead removal minimal.

    I used to shoot 38 spl for years then I started with mid level 357 loads and I can not go back to 38spl as it seems hadly more action than 22 LR. I have various calibers of pistol to experience the action (recoil, if that is what you would like to refer to it as) and the 38 spl no longer was exciting enough. But I did learn to shoot better using the 38 spl for that very same reason of minimal recoil.

    LDBennett
  4. inplanotx

    inplanotx New Member

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    LD wrote
    LD, I have never had a problem pushing a lead bullet down a barrel unless they were hot loaded. However, if you have a barrel that that leads easily, get some valve grinding paste and load up some low level loads for your 38 and using a piece of thick glass, put some paste on the glass and roll the lead bullet into the paste so it embeds into the lead sides of the bullet. Fire these at the range and clean after each shot. I usually put two cylinders full through the gun. Afterwards, your barrel will be fire lapped and not prone to easy leading after this. Look at the bore before and after and you will see that you have polished the bore to be bright and shinney! Midway sells a kit to do this, but I go to an automotive store and buy a mild valve grinding paste. Works great and will be infinately easier to clean afterwards. Just MHO! :)
  5. punchie

    punchie Member

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    Other than the above stated problems with cylinder fouling, here are my observations. 38 in a 357 pistol is not quite as accurate. Almost but not quite. This is due to the increased free-bore before the rifling. The possibility of the bullet entering the rifling ever so slightly off center causes slight changes in the accuracy potential.

    Other than that, I do it all the time for plinking but not for serious target work. Have at it and have fun!!!
  6. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

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    Inplanotx:

    I have had several 357's, have known many others who have had 357's or 38spl and lead bullets lead the barrel! Not the entire length but most often it builds up just after the forcing cone or the start of the rifling. Often it takes a pick to get it out. Any lead no matter how small the patch affects accuracy and makes cleaning troublesome. Maybe you were lucky but I find it hard to believe, with all the complaints I have heard over the years, that it is not almost normal for lead bullets to lead the barrel of any gun to one degree or another. I shoot many different caliber guns and years ago I changed to plated bullets for hand guns because every one leaded when using lead bullets.

    I would be reluctant to take a barrel worth several hundred dollars and fire lap it with valve grinding compound! Fire Lapping tests I have seen have varied results: some guns shoot better, others shoot worse. The latter is not what I'm after.

    But everyone can have their own opinion: I have mine and you have yours. I just wanted others to see my experiences.

    LDBennett
  7. Remington597

    Remington597 Former Guest

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    Very valuable info. I learned alot so far. Please keep it coming. I like the detailed responses. I am getting a good education. I did not realize the depth of the implications on this issue. Its fascinating.
  8. Bullseye

    Bullseye New Member

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    At the pedestrian velocities most 38 Spl lead rounds are loaded to - leading should not be a problem in a good bore , at least in my experience with 4 Smith 686s , one Model 66 , a GP100 and even a TC Contender.

    All the revolver shooters who participate in the pistol matches at the indoor range I shoot at , use 38 Spl lead bullet loads for the league matches and I have never heard of anyone complaining of leading problems using 38 Spl lead loads.

    Some of it(the leading) others have seen may pertain to the type of mixture and lube used to produce the lead bullets. As stated ,the bore condition is a factor to consider.
  9. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

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    Remember I said that all guns lead up to one degree or another. I have never had one line the barrel. The worst case is spots of lead in the beginning of the rifling but they have to be remove with lead cloth or a pick. Perhaps no one complains because that little amount of lead is no problem for them. None of that is necessary if you use plated bullets readily available from Midway and many others (Rainier Bullets). Why add work and shoot un-plated bullets?

    Anyway, that is my opinion, based on my experiences.Yours might be different.

    LDBennett
  10. inplanotx

    inplanotx New Member

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    Sorry LD, but I have fire lapped every pistol and rifle I own except "match" barrels which I buy hand lapped. Have always used linotype or wheel weights to cast my own bullets and have NEVER had a leading problem! Then again, when I am confronted with one, I use a Lewis Lead Remover to get it all out PRONTO! Your mileage may vary, but the above takes out lead on a couple of swipes.
  11. Remington597

    Remington597 Former Guest

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    I use Winchester ammo with no problems. Should I switch brands to reduce lead deposits?
  12. CountryGunsmith

    CountryGunsmith New Member

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    Dont worry about it.

    The problems referenced here regarding fouling buildup in the cylinder causing problems when chambering .357 cartridges are old. Updated propellants have all but elimated this as an issue. Closest I've seen lately is an old Colt Trooper that had been left loaded with the same .38 Spl cartridges for 40 years. The corrosion and verdigris had formed a ring in each chamber just ahead of the case mouth. Note that I had to drive the cartridges out of the cylinder with a dowel, then use a .357 chambering reamer to clean up the chambers.

    If you are getting considerable leading, my advice is to go to a harder bullet or a plated lead bullet. Of course, velocity is an issue with lead bullets (gas checks anyone?).

    Fire-lapping, if done correctly, does not hurt the bore. Done it hundreds of times.
  13. Remington597

    Remington597 Former Guest

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    I am getting a real education on this. Thank you. I had no idea the implications were this indepth. I am glad I asked.
  14. Pistolsmith

    Pistolsmith New Member

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    There is another problem not discussed above.
    Before 1935, Elmer Keith designed several superior semi-wadcutter bullets for the .38/44 (N Frame Smith). His velocities were right up there with modern .357 loads and perfectly acceptable because of the heavy frame and large cyliinder. My favorite Keith bullet was the 173 grain swc. I still have the original (made in 1929) mold, but the crimp groove is in the wrong place for a .357. (If the .357 case is crimped into the groove of this .38 special bullet, the round is too long for .357 cylinders.) And, that is a major problem.
    Another problem that I encountered in teaching firearms to LE officers in the past is that if a quantity of .38 special cartridges are fired in a .357 cylinder, the buildup just past the end of the .38 special case has caused several casualties among officers.
    After practicing with .38 special cartridges and not properly cleaning out the ring in the chambers, a .357 "duty load" can sometimes be dropped into the chambers without a problem, but after firing, the .357 cases expamd into the ring, stick to the ring and defy normal extraction. The extractior rod must be slammed into a solid object to jar the cases loose. Thus, an officer in need of a rapid reload may be left in a vulnerable position with an unloaded revolver.
    I always advised my officers to either use full strength "duty" loads or .38 special level loads in .357 cases.
    I have seen armorers work on those chamber rings using an electric drill and a wire brush in the chuck.
    Leading often happens when light loads with hard lead alloy bullets are fired. It is gas blowing past the bullet, plating or "soldering" the bore that csuses buildup. Obviously, bullets with a tapered base to allow easy insertion into cases are the worst offender, since they do not allow complete obturation, or bore sealing. (Try this out yourself, if you don't believe me.) So, as a rule of thumb, the case mouth should be belled and a flat base bullet used for best results with lead bullets. Keith used bullets with a lead/tin composition; antimony was not one of his favorite alloying materials. Tire weights often contain zinc. I used to load unlubed, pure lead bullets with a zinc washer base that did not lead up a barrel.
  15. Bullseye

    Bullseye New Member

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    Why add work and shoot un-plated bullets?

    Because I never experienced added "work" using unplated bullets , only cost savings in reloading expenses- I'll say it again - NEVER had a leading problem shooting 38s with lead bullets in the revolvers I have owned.
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