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How slow can you shoot bare lead bullets?

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 3:43 pm
by Morne
Awhile ago I bought a bunch of bare lead wadcutters (148-gr for .38 Special). Finally got around to loading some up. Followed a book recipe for Trail Boss (2.1-gr min, 2.3-gr max, velocity range 625-675 fps for 7.7" test barrel). Started at the minimum.

But when shooting these from a 6" revolver I got the VERY SEDATE average velocity of 508 fps!!! :shock: Over five (5) rounds the ES was 30.9.

Now I get it, this is nice soft bare lead. It isn't jacketed or plated. But still, at SOME POINT you gotta worry about a bullet getting stuck, right? This just seems ludicrously slow.

And yes, they were super easy to shoot.

Re: How slow can you shoot bare lead bullets?

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:49 pm
by JustaShooter
Yes, at some point you are in danger of having one get stuck in the barrel. Now, your current load is in no danger of that happening so unless you are interested in finding the lowest velocity you can push one and not have any get stuck I wouldn't worry about it.

BTW, *great* example of why as a handloader you really need to know your equipment and be very cautious even with book loads, and not just at the top end of the powder charge range.

Re: How slow can you shoot bare lead bullets?

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 7:53 pm
by Brian D.
Saw a funny example of this several years ago. Guy bought a S&W L frame in .32 magnum, 6" barrel. Figured that with his light hand loads, a breeze to shoot. We had falling plate matches, timed, strings of fire at distances from 10-25 yards.

He was below recommended book minimum powder charge. At ten yards he hit most plates. They were made to react to rimfire and center fire, so they fell. As we backed up, he was missing...a lot.

At 25 yards, his bullets hit the floor before getting to the plate rack, then rolled lazily into the backstop.

It amazed me that none stuck in the barrel.

Re: How slow can you shoot bare lead bullets?

PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:22 pm
by Sevens
S&W never made a .32cal L-frame but what you likely saw was the Model 16-4 with a full lug barrel in .32 H&R Magnum. While in production, they couldn't give these away... as sales go, they were DOGS. And they cleared them out at deep discount a few years later. Now they go for big bucks. A worn one is an $800-$900 item. Dead mint with box and $1200 to $1500 is the price.

The 16-4 is a K-frame but the full lug barrel makes ya think L-frame.

As for lead bullets going slow... I have said it in these pages countless times. This ballgame is far more treacherous when using a revolver because the flash gap bleeds much needed, critical pressure and it does not tend to bleed off that pressure in an always consistent manner. If you play this "slow bullet" game, proceed with absolute caution to ensure you don't stick, bulge and/or burst. No fast shooting with mouse fart loads.

Re: How slow can you shoot bare lead bullets?

PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:08 pm
by Brian D.
Sevens wrote:S&W never made a .32cal L-frame but what you likely saw was the Model 16-4 with a full lug barrel in .32 H&R Magnum. While in production, they couldn't give these away... as sales go, they were DOGS. And they cleared them out at deep discount a few years later. Now they go for big bucks. A worn one is an $800-$900 item. Dead mint with box and $1200 to $1500 is the price.

The 16-4 is a K-frame but the full lug barrel makes ya think L-frame.


You're correct, it was a 16-4. Been a long time ago.

Re: How slow can you shoot bare lead bullets?

PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:16 am
by Morne
Sevens, I wasn’t trying to go THIS SLOW. Just used the published min (which is only 0.2-grains below published max) and that’s what I got.

I will try some other loads to up this into the 600+ FPS regime. THAT should be safe for bare lead, right?

Re: How slow can you shoot bare lead bullets?

PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2018 2:20 pm
by Sevens
Any speed is "safe" with lead bullets as long as you never fire the next one if you have stuck the LAST one. Lead bullets are the best choice for the "how slow can ya go" game as they offer the least friction and because they are soooooo much easier to remove when you get 'em stuck.

The best way to play the slow bullet game is a sealed bore/chamber. The flash gap makes this game a losing game, in my experience. My guess is that you could shoot a hundred of these and return similar low velocities for every shot but then drop the hammer on shot #101 and find it made it 2 inches from exiting the barrel. Why? Pfffft, beats me. Black magic. Low powder charge laying in the case differently than the others. It's not that this particular round was radically different than the others, it's simply that it did not make the jump across the flash gap fast enough and the MUCH NEEDED pressure leaked out behind the bullet.

Hardcore CAS guys and life long boolit casters and single action wheelgun guys have the most experience in this arena. All I know about it is that I want to avoid a stuck bullet and I want others to beware of them.

All of the bullets I have stuck have been in double action S&W revolvers and also have been plated bullets. And no, I've been aware enough that I have never made the catastrophic error of sending a follow-up shot.

Re: How slow can you shoot bare lead bullets?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:42 am
by Morne
OK, so I loaded up a couple different recipes with these same lead wadcutters and decided to try them in my Colt Cobra 2" revolver:

***CHRONY DATA***

74 F, 30.17" Hg, 63%RH

.38 Spl 148-gr LWC 1.263-1.298" COAL CCI-500SPP
Colt Cobra with 2" barrel

0.3cc (3.1-gr) W-231 powder - AVERAGE = 627 fps - ES = 50.0

0.5cc (2.1-gr) Trail Boss powder - AVERAGE = 483 fps - ES = 60.8

0.5cc (3.5-gr) Promo powder - AVERAGE = 783 fps - ES = 58.5

That W-231 load is just about perfect. Still slow enough to not bark a lot and yet north of 600 fps with a reasonable ES. The Promo load is also good and it will be interesting to see what velocity it gets out of a longer barrel. I still intend to up the Trail Boss load to 0.7cc (roughly 3.0-gr) and see how that runs.

After I got done with the chrono I did a BUNCH of weakhand draw-and-shoot drills. Man did I ever need some practice!