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Thread: Problem: Trail Boss in .38 Special

  1. #41
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    Trail Boss is good gun powder for some applications. I recently loaded some light recoil 30-06 cartridges with Trail Boss for shooting 50 meter offhand vintage rifle matches. I used inexpensive General Dynamics 147g FMJ projectiles, mixed HXP brass and Winchester Large Rifle primers. I used a charge weight that falls in the acceptable range for Trail Boss published on the Hodgdon website. The Springfield 1903 MKI shot 9/16" groups at 50 meters using iron sights, off the bench of course.
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  2. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by T2C View Post
    Trail Boss is good gun powder for some applications. I recently loaded some light recoil 30-06 cartridges...
    This is why I bought >5lbs of it...

    I was thinking of loading down .223 to .22lr levels to introduce my daughter to centerfire rifles, or loading subsonic .308. (Both bolt guns, of course.)

    I won't go through it very fast loading 1.5gr in .38SC or 2.0gr in .38 Special!

  3. #43
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    Before you head too far down that path I would look at reduced power service rifle loadings. ("Universal Service Rifle load")

    The standard is 16 grains of 2400 for 308 to 30/06 size cases.

    Works extremely well. I use it extensively for 7 mm Mauser loadings. Shoots the same point of impact out to 50 yards. You also use it with same to slightly lighter-weight bullets. But nothing super lightweight in terms of bullets. For 7mm mauser I shoot 175 down to 150g. Below that accuracy suffered.

    But you can't just download with any arbitrary powder, 2400 is not position dependent and is about the speed you want. Other powders are dangerous with mostly empty case loadings.

    Trail boss is normally okay because it's so fluffy you can get exact loadings without worrying about position dependency. But for rifles you may not be able to get enough steam. I'd get a box of 148 grain wad-cutters and go to town with trail boss in your 38. You will be amazed.

    I'd have to check but I believe Unique is another one people are using for smaller cases. I'm pretty sure there is a reduced power 223 loading the service rifle guys are using.

  4. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by pinzgauer View Post
    Trail boss is normally okay because it's so fluffy you can get exact loadings without worrying about position dependency. But for rifles you may not be able to get enough steam.
    I'm not making this up... It comes as a downloadable PDF from IMR/Hodgdon's website.

    Just google: "IMR® TRAIL BOSS® REDUCED LOADS FOR RIFLE AND PISTOL"



    Quote Originally Posted by pinzgauer View Post
    I'd get a box of 148 grain wad-cutters and go to town with trail boss in your 38...
    Done. Now I just need a bit of time to load some and chrono them...

    I also ordered 100 .38 Short Colt cases, which I'll try with 125gr bullets (and probably try the 95s again, too).

  5. #45
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    Well at least tells you it's safe. Might even work well.

    Trail boss is widely loved with good reason. In pistols it makes sense. When I looked at it for rifle loading when 2400 was hard to get it did not make sense for me.

    I just pointing out I would research your load first before buying more powder or bullets :-).

    There are a lot of published loadings by the manufacturers that while safe they are far from optimal.

    An example is 6.5 Grendel, the powder Accurate recommends/published does not work very well and yet probably the most widely used loading powder they do not recommend. It's almost a reference loading is that commonly used.

  6. #46
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    I've been using TB in 45 ACP and .44 Specials for years. Works real nice too. Dont load 45 anymore but still load .44 once in a while and 5.3-5.5 gr over a lead 200 gr bullet is very pleasant.

  7. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by pinzgauer View Post
    Before you head too far down that path I would look at reduced power service rifle loadings. ("Universal Service Rifle load")

    The standard is 16 grains of 2400 for 308 to 30/06 size cases.

    Works extremely well. I use it extensively for 7 mm Mauser loadings. Shoots the same point of impact out to 50 yards. You also use it with same to slightly lighter-weight bullets. But nothing super lightweight in terms of bullets. For 7mm mauser I shoot 175 down to 150g. Below that accuracy suffered.

    But you can't just download with any arbitrary powder, 2400 is not position dependent and is about the speed you want. Other powders are dangerous with mostly empty case loadings.

    Trail boss is normally okay because it's so fluffy you can get exact loadings without worrying about position dependency. But for rifles you may not be able to get enough steam. I'd get a box of 148 grain wad-cutters and go to town with trail boss in your 38. You will be amazed.

    I'd have to check but I believe Unique is another one people are using for smaller cases. I'm pretty sure there is a reduced power 223 loading the service rifle guys are using.
    I have been using Unique in charge weights as light as 10.0 grains with 350 grain lead bullets in 45-70 caliber cartridges. It works well and I haven't seen any overpressure issues in several thousand rounds. For ringing steel out to 200 meters, 13.0 grains of Unique will get the job done in my Trapdoors.

    The Hodgdon website lists a load for Trail Boss and .223. I haven't tried it in .223, but for a light recoil round Trail Boss is my go to gun powder with FMJ bullets when loading 8mm Mauser and 30-06 cartridges for target shooting. In a bolt action rifle, I would expect Trail Boss to be suitable for other calibers.
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  8. #48
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    Another update...

    I loaded two batches of 20 rounds each:

    .38 Special brass, 148gr wadcutters, ≈2.0gr of Trail Boss.

    .38 Short Colt brass, 125gr flat-points, ≈1.4gr of Trail Boss.


    The results were what I'd been hoping for all along. From my 3" Ruger LCRx's:

    .38 Special was 514-597fps, avg. 570fps, with SDs of 22 and 25 (across 10-shot strings).

    .38 SC was even better... 450-490fps, avg. 473fps, with SDs of 16 and 23.


    NB: I had a squib load with .38 SC — bullet stuck in the barrel, right at the forcing cone, visible with the cylinder swung out.

    Having loaded for 25+ years, it was my first! I think it was a cartridge with no powder — I had been rushing to adjust dies and get a batch ready the night before — but I'll keep an eye on the .38 SC loads to make sure that every bullet is exiting the barrel.


    In terms of energy, vs. Speer's 135gr +P load (229+ ft-lbs) and PPU's 130gr FMJ (214 ft-lbs), the .38 Specials were barely half (107 ft-lbs) and the .38 SCs were not even a third (62 ft-lbs.)

    Felt recoil with the .38Spl was like shooting a light-recoiling gun.

    Felt recoil with the .38 SC was like shooting a pop gun... It's less energy than standard velocity .22lr!


    I'm now overseas and away from my reloading bench and shooting range for several months, but once I'm back home I'm simply going to crank out more .38 SC...

    Perhaps I'll try slightly less powder in the .38Spl (1.8gr?), and at some point I might play with those 95gr roundnoses in .38SC.

  9. #49
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    Those are some light loads, but if they work, that's all that counts. It looks like the heavier bullets got you where you wanted to be. I'm guessing they are giving you consistent ignition that the 95's just couldnt pull off.

  10. #50
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    ~600fps with the 148g is close to the "standard" load I grew up with. I want to say min was about 650-700.

    I personally consider those to be close to no recoil, in the 22lr range when shot in in a 4"revolver.

    If you go lower you will want to look out for squibs.

    Use a penlight to look down into the cases in the loading block after your powder is loaded. You can visually compare powder levels even if well below the case mouth.

    I also have a small zip tie that I drop into the case mouth. I've made a mark on it with a sharpie level with the case mouth with a correct powder charge. Its light enough it sits on top of the powder. The idea is just to detect zero or double powder charges. I use this for bottleneck case loadings like the 16g of 2400 I mentioned.

    Straight wall revolver cases I can usually check relative levels visually just scanning the block, using a penlight if needed.

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