173 Keith bullet with Unique in 38 Spec

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happyhunter

Bearcat
Joined
Jul 21, 2004
Messages
7
I want to try the Keith bullet out in my airweight J frame just to see what it can do for accuracy. So I was looking for starting and max loads for it. Since it is an aluminum frame I wanted to stay away from +P loads.

Elmer said to use 5.0 gr of Unique. My Alliant Reloaders' Guide says 4.3 gr is Max for a 158 LSWC for standard pressure and to use a max of 4.5 gr for +P pressure levels.

So, Alliant says less powder for a lighter bullet. I am concerned that 5.0 under a 173 could really be over pressure. If I back Elmers load down 10% I am still above what Alliant says for a lighter bullet.

I guess this prompts that age old question of is modern Unique different from old Unique. Maybe we have better measuring systems now than back then. Whatever. Does anyone have modern load data for this bullet?

Happy New Year!!
Thanks,
Happy Hunter
 

DuaneH

Bearcat
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
22
Location
Central Illinois
HH, I have an Alliant Reloaders Guide that I picked up at their display at the NRA convention last April. It isn't dated, but I presume it is the latest one. It lists 4.7 gr. Unique at standard pressure with a Speer 158 LSWC and 5.2 at +P.
 

Sharp Shooter

Single-Sixer
Joined
Nov 24, 2005
Messages
110
Location
MCCammon,Idaho,USA
I'm putting 4.6 grs. of Unique and using standard small pistol primers behind Lyman's 358429 - 168 grain "Keith" style SWCs. It averages 823fps from my 4" Smith 38 Special. It's accurate and a pretty good all-around 38 Special load IMO.
I don't have anything written down where I tested that load in either my wife's or my 2" snubbies, so I must not have. What I do have written down is that I tested 4.7 grs. of Unique behind that bullet in my 4" Smith and was seeing a few sticky cases when I went to extract them, even though as others have said, Lyman lists 5.0 grs. of Unique as maximum. That's why I settled on the 4.6 grs. of Unique load - I figure that's hot enough in MY revolver.
 

happyhunter

Bearcat
Joined
Jul 21, 2004
Messages
7
My Alliant booklet is dated 2004. My Hornady book from the 1980s says numbers closer to what you guys are saying. I am beginning to think my Alliant book is a typo.

What bullet is listed in the Lyman book? Is it a jacketed or lead?

Thanks for the input.
 

Sharp Shooter

Single-Sixer
Joined
Nov 24, 2005
Messages
110
Location
MCCammon,Idaho,USA
The Lyman 358429 bullet listed in my Lyman manuals is a Keith style, cast lead-alloy, SWC. I used to cast my own out of Linotype metal before I became a lazy old man. Now I just buy 357-168 cast bullets from Leadheads Bullets out of St. John, Kansas. Leadheads 357-168 bullets aren't exactly the same as my own cast Lyman 358429s, but they're close, and they come already sized and lubed - another plus for a lazy old man. They're pretty hard too. I haven't had any leading problems with the Leadheads 357-168 bullets, but as I said in my previous post, I'm pushing them close to maximum in my revolver. For lighter, lower pressure plinking loads I use those swaged lead SWCs from Speer. The Speer swaged lead bullets are easier to come by around these parts and they cost about the same when you add in the shipping for bullets coming clear from Kansas.
 

COFFEE POT

Bearcat
Joined
Mar 16, 2003
Messages
54
Location
Prescott, Arizona
SAAMI spec for the standard load in .38 Spl is 17,000 psi, +P is 18,500 psi. Most ammo manufacurers load to about 15,000 psi because of powder and other variables so they stay under 17,000 worst case. Don't push those 'airweights' or beautiful old Smiths. 100 fps isn't worth ruining a gun over. You won't blow it up, but you will shoot it loose very quickly. The Brits used the .380/200 as a std military cartridge until they went to 9mm NATO. It was a .38 S&W case with a 200 gr bullet at about 750 fps. It was more than sufficient as a combat round and it operated at about 12,000 psi. Unique is great powder for what you want, just keep it down. You might consider giving Lyman a call and asking them about it.
 

txpete

Bearcat
Joined
Jan 3, 2003
Messages
36
Location
ft hood TX
I just casted up a batch today good info guys thanks as I am going to try them out in a 14-4 next.
pete

173swc001-1.jpg
 

dg101win

Single-Sixer
Joined
May 27, 2005
Messages
111
Location
Kokomo,In. USA
The Lyman 44th Edition Loading Manual dated 1967 shows Unique 3.0 as a start load 585fps and 5.0 as a MAX @913 fps. This is out of a Mdl 14 6" bbl.

As stated above this is from 1967.
 

DGW1949

Hunter
Joined
Apr 10, 2005
Messages
3,638
Location
Texas
From the FWIW Dept.....

Ole Elmer was probably shooting his pet 38 loads out of a big Colt SA or a big-framed Smith 38-44. He also struck me as being a bit on the crazy-side....meaning that as far as I could tell, his method of finding a "max" load sometimes meant that he kept going untill the gun blew up, then backed off a hair....or not. Sometimes he would blame the gun instead.

Some older 38-SPL guns were NOT proofed for +P loads, and most manuals "allow" for that.

Some "max" loads are designated as such on account of the soft, swaged-lead bullet which is being used....not nessesarily for for pressure concerns.

Older Lyman manuals tend to list lower charges for a given bullet weight than some "other" manuals....and might still do...dunno.

Some manuals show higher charges than others which over time, can damage a small frame gun.

Powders, primers, case deminisions etc tend to change over time.

All powders can/will vary a bit from lot to lot.

My personal safety rule is....When in doubt, don't.
In other words, if I couldn't find data for that particular bullet, I'd use 200 Grn data instead. At one time, a 200 Grn 38Spl was not uncommon, so it should be fairly-easy to find.
I certainly wouldn't be doing any guessing based on 158 data.....if you get my drift.

Hope this helps.
DGW
 

Enigma

Hunter
Joined
Apr 17, 2002
Messages
2,051
Location
Houston metro area, TX
Alliant's website lists 4.7 grains of Unique as MAX for a 158 LSWC, the heaviest bullet they show data for. They also show 5.2 grains as MAX for .38 Special +P with the 158 LSWC.

That tells me not to even consider using 5.0 grains of Unique with a 173 grain bullet for a standard pressure .38 load! The current lot of Unique is 'hotter' than the older lots were, and load data has been adjusted to reflect that.

I used a 158 LSWC and 5.0 grains of Unique as my 'standard' .38 load for decades. Then one day I checked a new reloading manual, and found my load listed as the recommended starting load for .357 Magnum! I now shoot 4.5 grains of Unique.

I trust pressure-tested data from the powder companies more than the seat-of-the-pants loads touted by some of the old-time gun writers like Elmer, personally. But that's just me.
 

David LaPell

Blackhawk
Joined
Sep 14, 2008
Messages
979
Location
Upstate NY
I'm assuming your 173 grain bullet is the old Lyman # 358429. (some manuals give the weight at 168, 170, and 173 grains) I load this one quite a bit in my .357's and use it as a +P 38 Special. The one thing I will tell you is to make sure that you measure the length of your cylinder to make sure your load fits without coming out the front. In my .357 I have to keep all my brass right at trim length, and the same with my .38's. Lyman's cast bullet manual gives a starting load of 3.8 grains of Unique for #358429 and a max of 5.0 grains.
 

txpete

Bearcat
Joined
Jan 3, 2003
Messages
36
Location
ft hood TX
yup it is the old mold and yup they weigh in a 173 grs with my alloy.I gave a batch of them to gramps to try and he liked them :D .
pete
 
Joined
Oct 26, 2006
Messages
9,349
Location
Woodbury, Tn
Hi,
Txpete's got a sweet lookin and sweet shootin 173 gr bullet, which weighs out 173 right on the money with my digital scale(Thanks again Pete). Be careful. The heavier the bullet LESS powder is needed to generate the same pressure. The lighter the bullet more powder is needed to generate the same pressure. Don't use data for a 10 gr lighter bullet without substanially decreasing the powder weight.
Good Luck,
Gramps
 

txpete

Bearcat
Joined
Jan 3, 2003
Messages
36
Location
ft hood TX
:D thanks gramps.I just finished loading up some to try in the marlin 1894C in 38+p brass.I am using unique and SR 7625.
pete
 

Forty-Four Fan

Bearcat
Joined
Aug 20, 2005
Messages
16
Location
Long Island, NY, USA
Enigma":22b3vbka said:
I used a 158 LSWC and 5.0 grains of Unique as my 'standard' .38 load for decades. Then one day I checked a new reloading manual, and found my load listed as the recommended starting load for .357 Magnum! I now shoot 4.5 grains of Unique.

I think you took the wrong meaning from that observation. Since you used that load for "decades" without a problem, that load was not a problem. The current loading manuals are the problem.

The ammo companies, SAAMI and the loading manuals have all considerably watered down the loading recommendations AND the ammunition. This is a well-known fact. It's all about liability - they would prefer you to load so that if you accidently double-charged the case the gun would not let go. They have no control over your technique, or lack thereof, or your quality control, or lack thereof. For their own liability, their loads are extremely conservative.

The traditional powders for the most part have not changed (certainly not Unique) - to change them and keep the same name would be foolhardy. Do you believe the line that "the old loads were not pressure tested"? Then I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. It's all hogwash. Take a look at some of the older manuals, there are photos in there of the pressure testing equipment being used.

They have even reduced the pressure standards as part of their hokum. Do they really expect the knowledgeable shooter to believe that the same design firearms produced with the steels and technology and precision of 2010 is a weaker product than the firearm produced in 1950? If so, perhaps I have a monument to in Washington for sale as well.

I recommend using the published loading manuals. The ones I have dated from the 1970s, 80s and early 90s are as valid now as they were then. They are a useful and knowledgeable guide and reference. As usual, be a careful reloader. And as always, YMMV.
 

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