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Thread: Questions on 180gr 40 S&W OAL and over-pressure dangers...

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    Questions on 180gr 40 S&W OAL and over-pressure dangers...

    I'm new to reloading and just did my first batch of .40 a month ago. I bought an upper, quick change kit, and dies to use on a friend's Dillon 550B lower. On that first batch of 1k, I let my friend do all the setup and I just lent the elbow grease.

    155gr Berry's flat nose
    CCI 500 small primers
    9gr Power Pistol powder
    collected range brass

    Needless to say, those rounds were more than a little hot and flashy. In fact, the first two rounds gave me a decent scare thinking I had overcharged them. But, the spent casing showed no signs of cracking, overpressure, etc. Although, at 2 different ranges, I've had the range officer come over and check to see what I was shooting. At the indoor one, I'm guessing it must have been abusive to everyone around me. Shooting outdoor steel plates last weekend, the RO actually limited me to the 50 yd plates. Anyway, those are used up except for a few to chrono.

    I was doing some research on the next batch of .40 reloads I want to do and came across this webpage - Why the 180gr Bullet is a Bad Choice for .40 S&W. The author makes the case that 180gr loads can easily exceed maximum pressure tolerances of brass with just the slightest variance in OAL(which happens). The danger can become critical with used brass from guns that don't have fully supported chambers, like Glock.

    The official industry pressure specification for .40S&W is 35,000 pounds per square inch (for those who don't already know)

    Here is a chart he provides on OAL and pressure:



    I have no idea if this is factually correct, an old issue no longer relevant, or complete BS. So, I thought I'd run this by some experienced reloaders before attempting.

    I suppose that's the reason people chrono test rounds and work the way up in small increments. Then, allow enough headroom for the unavoidable small variance in OAL?

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    This might shock you, but I actually load .40S&W 200 grain bullets every now and then for knocking over steel. I have loaded 180gr hardcast, copper plated, and jacketed bullets for years with no problems. Pretty much all of them I use a COAL of 1.120" and load it to my desired velocities.

    The .40 does generate more pressure than most other cartridges, and bullet seating depth does effect that. However, the .40 is not that prone to bullet setback since it uses a straight walled case with good case body support.

    Follow reloading data as closely as possible. One thing to remember is that copper plated bullets such as Berry's Preferred Bullets or Rainier Bullets are softer than standard jacketed bullets. They generate more pressure than hardcast lead bullets, but less than jacketed bullets. Therefore, you need to use reloading data that is right in between hardcast lead and jacketed bullets. The 155gr load that you were using at 9.0gr of Power Pistol is too hot, and you were overcharging. The starting charge for a 155gr jacketed bullet is about 8.0gr of Power Pistol with a COAL of 1.120", and max charge is about 9.0gr. 8.0gr of Power Pistol for a 155gr copper plated bullet will be at a mid level charge. I wouldn't go any higher than 8.5gr at a COAL of 1.120". I usually only load about 50-100rds at a time until I find a load that I really like. Then I will start churning out cartridges in higher quantities.
    Last edited by S. Galbraith; 10-31-12 at 19:34.
    Insert impressive resume here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by S. Galbraith View Post
    Follow reloading data as closely as possible. One thing to remember is that copper plated bullets such as Berry's Preferred Bullets or Rainier Bullets are softer than standard jacketed bullets. They generate more pressure than hardcast lead bullets, but less than jacketed bullets. Therefore, you need to use reloading data that is right in between hardcast lead and jacketed bullets. The 155gr load that you were using at 9.0gr of Power Pistol is too hot, and you were overcharging. The starting charge for a 155gr jacketed bullet is about 8.0gr of Power Pistol with a COAL of 1.120", and max charge is about 9.0gr. 8.0gr of Power Pistol for a 155gr copper plated bullet will be at a mid level charge. I wouldn't go any higher than 8.5gr at a COAL of 1.120".
    Thank you for this info. I feel kinda lucky nothing bad happened. This is just for fun and no need to risk life or limb.

    Surprisingly, while it was abusively loud for anyone around me(learned flash and bang is a Power Point trait), recoil wasn't that different than what I had been shooting and accuracy was excellent out to 50 yds.
    I usually only load about 50-100rds at a time until I find a load that I really like. Then I will start churning out cartridges in higher quantities.
    Lesson learned. Since I am only going to be shooting paper and steel for fun - I buy commercial SD ammo - no need to push the envelope and waste powder. Next batch, we'll do some test rounds at different loads to see what's best before doing 1k.

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    We all had to learn sometime. It's just good not to have to learn things the hard way.

    Power Pistol is a good plinking powder, but usually the medium burning powders such as RamShot True Blue, Alliant Blue Dot, or Vihtavuori N350 deliever better accuracy in the .40S&W depending on the bullet type. For instance, hardcast lead bullets work better with powders like True Blue that don't burn as hot. Copper Plated bullets work better with bulky powders like Blue Dot that don't generate real high pressures. Jacketed bullets aren't as picky, but they do like to be thrown at at least 75% of a max charge. If you want to get into shooting hardcast, ask us before you start buying bullets and powders.

    Lots of little things you will learn along the way from just using the equipment too. For instance my 550b is in my garage, so as the temperature changes so to does my die adjusments. The powder bar will fluctuate with the temperature, along with my seating die. So, always check at least those two adjustments before you start production. Another thing to keep in mind is the powder bar. The powder bar slides back and forth to accept a charge from the hopper, or to drop a charge into a casing. If there is a case in position at the powder dye, the bar will slide all the way to the right to drop a charge into the casing. If there is no casing in position, then the powder bar will not slide all the way over the right, and it will slide back over to the powder hopper to receive more powder. When the bar slides back and forth like that without dropping powder into a casing, then it starts to settle in the powder bar and get compacted. So, you end up with a larger charge than normal. This "settling" effect can add at least several tenths of a grain of charge to your .40S&W load which could be bad. To avoid it, always ensure that powder is being released into an empty casing every time you cycle the machine. So, before I start production I will put an empty case in both station one and station two. As I cycle the machine, powder will drop into the empty case in station 2 to empty the powder bar, and then I will take that casing and dump the powder back into the hopper. I take that casing out of the production line after that, and rotate the case from station 1 to station 2 and keep the production going. Also consider this when ever you are making ajustments to your powder measure to find the right charge before you start production.
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    Quote Originally Posted by S. Galbraith View Post
    If there is no casing in position, then the powder bar will not slide all the way over the right, and it will slide back over to the powder hopper to receive more powder. When the bar slides back and forth like that without dropping powder into a casing, then it starts to settle in the powder bar and get compacted. So, you end up with a larger charge than normal. This "settling" effect can add at least several tenths of a grain of charge to your .40S&W load which could be bad.
    Yikes, I had that happen at least 10 times in the last batch when I just plain forgot to put a casing in.

    Seeing how we were already walking the fine line of disaster at 9gr, it wouldn't have taken much to cross it. I feel extremely lucky to not have had a Kaboom!

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    Tolerances stack quickly in 40SW. Use an abundance of caution. I have watched those handguns catastrophically fail, inspected others, and experienced case failures. Far, far more frequently than any other caliber.

    Ensure that your brass is of known origin and GTG. Reloaders I trust load 40SW cases only twice (1-new, 1 once fired). I would never use range pick-ups unless I watched the shooters open new cases of ammo.

    On the 180gr... It's the mainstay bullet, loaded at ratios far exceeding 1000:1 by manufacturers. There's a reason for that. Cartridges loaded with bullets of that weight also are the most consistently reliable in function than any other.
    2012 National Zumba Endurance Champion
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    That load is very hot for a plated bullet. That is the max most of my books have listed for a jacketed bullet, and 2 grains over max according to lymans for a jacketed bullet.

    Did you work that load up or just load it? If you are just starting like it sounds you need to read some books like the abcs of Reloading. If you did read it read it again, and slow down and work on the fundamentals like load work up and die setup. If you can't even take the time to setup your own dies Reloading might not be for you.

    Im not saying it to be a dick, but your post indicates you did no load work up, loaded a 1000 rounds of a dangerous load, you did not even research your load, and the components involved. Pressures in 40 can spike quick. Like others have said you probably want to stay around 8.5 grains max for that combo. You got lucky that you were not loading lead. Berrys have a pretty thick plating, and can be loaded pretty hot.

    Power pistol is a great powder for full power loads, but not the best for middle of the road plinking charges. If you want to load full power loads to mimic your defense load use jacketed bullets. For plinking and just shooting dirt clods plated are great, and win 231 is a great powder for plinking. It works for lots of pistol cartridges. I use it in 9mm, 45acp, 38spl, and 40 s&w for plinking, and power pistol for full power loads.

    If your loading the plated bullets, because of price you can get jacketed by the thousand for just a little more. Plated usually cost me .08 per bullet, and i get jacketed for .10-.12 a piece by the thousand. If you order more they get cheaper. Check out precision bullets, and zero bullets. There bullets are great. Very consistent in weight, length, and diameter.

    Sorry for the long post, and if i came off as an asshole. I just can not stress enough if your just getting started take it slow, and take it all in speed will come with experience. Be careful your using controlled explosions to propel a projectile at high velocity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skintop911 View Post
    Ensure that your brass is of known origin and GTG. Reloaders I trust load 40SW cases only twice (1-new, 1 once fired). I would never use range pick-ups unless I watched the shooters open new cases of ammo.
    I generally throw my .40S&W brass away after 5-times reloaded. The only reason I don't keep it longer is because there isn't much point when I get a steady supply of agency training brass off the range every few months. Once fired brass gets my hotter loads, and I progressively reduce power with my practice loads with each reload on the casing. By the time I get to the 5th reloading on the brass, I'm shooting hardcast 180gr loads at around 915fps. I've never had any pressure problems with my .40 brass, and I could likely extend my brass life even longer. I suppose if you were reloading for Glocks, then the rule of throwing away your .40 brass after only 2 reloads would apply since you can't use the lower pressure hardcast bullets and you have less chamber support.
    Last edited by S. Galbraith; 11-01-12 at 10:17.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jstone View Post
    Im not saying it to be a dick, but your post indicates you did no load work up, loaded a 1000 rounds of a dangerous load, you did not even research your load, and the components involved...Sorry for the long post, and if i came off as an asshole.
    No offense taken at all. I should have been more descriptive in how I ended up with reloads at this weight, but didn't want to waste people's time with an overly long post.

    I would have never attempted this on my own. As I mentioned in my first post, I used a friend's reloading setup. He is a lifetime hunter and competitive shooter(both rifle and pistol). He has decades of reloading experience under his belt. Everything I have ever seen him do related to firearms has been nothing short of meticulous with regard to safety and operation. He keeps a journal of every test load and batch he has ever done gong back decades. I have been to the range with him when he was firing his test loads and watched him take notes. "Meticulous" is the perfect word to describe his firearm and ammunition procedures.

    He encouraged me to buy the Dillon quick change kit, dies, etc and use his 550B lower. He would do the load workup and setup, I would simply supply the elbow grease until he was certain I knew what I was doing way down the line.

    Although, I kind of sensed something was wrong the very first round I shot at an indoor range(can't say I miss the obvious). I warmed up with some leftover commercial 180gr, then switched to our handloads and had one of those "Holy sh*t!" moments. There was a decent muzzle flash and serious roar. I thought maybe that was a fluke, but after another round dropped the mag, cleared the pistol, and inspected the spent brass for signs of over-pressure. All looked good. Although, after a mag or two, the guy next to me leaned over and said "Those are some pretty hot rounds you're shooting".

    Anyway, last week I was shooting steel for the first time at a range and the RO came over to ask what I was shooting. I told him, and he requested that I only shoot the 50 yard targets and nothing closer. Afterwards a few people asked what I was shooting. That took my growing concern to a new level and why I posted here and Calguns.

    So, if my buddy was so safety orientated, how the hell then, did we end up with 1,000 dangerously loaded rounds?

    Oddly, I can say for a fact that the 9gr loading was not a mis-set. We actually calibrated his RCBS Chargemaster 1500 digital scale and verified that multiple rounds were within a tenth of 9gr.

    But, I now realize that a couple of things conspired to throw him off his normal highly regimented process. First off, he was rushing to pack for a 1-2 month hunting trip to the Dakotas that he was leaving on the next day. Second, he and his wife had an ongoing falling out for the few days prior. And third, I was pushing him to have some ammo while he was gone. Looking back, it was the first time I had ever seen him not do test loads.

    My guess is that he looked up the Alliant recipe, saw the 9gr max, decided on the logical 8gr, got distracted by (?), and ended up remembering 9gr. I showed up and we went from there. He's way to safety-minded to have intended 9gr judging from everything everyone here has pointed out.

    Anyway, he gets back in town in a couple of weeks and we'll sort it all out and do things properly for my next batch. In the meantime, I'll pick up some reloading books to make sure we have 2 sets of eyes and brains checking every step of the process.

    I'm just glad nothing catastrophic happened and am seriously thankful that I could come here an get set straight on things. On top of that, I'm also glad my PPQ stood up to that 650 rounds of abuse.
    Last edited by DrMoebius; 11-01-12 at 12:58.

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    Shit happens! Now you know your ppq can handle some abuse. Its never a good idea to load when your mind is elsewhere. At least there was no catastrophic failure, and you learned the importance of double checking everything. Good luck with your new hobby.

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