Reloading the .380

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  • Last Post 04 October 2017
38splpete posted this 26 September 2017

I recently purchased a like-new Beretta 85 FS (Cheetah)--hate that name.  While the gun was waiting for the mandatory ten days required here in CA I bought Lee dies and 95g lead bullets.  Loading in range pickup brass with 2.5g Bullseye I had 100 rds ready when I picked up the gun.  Couldn't wait to shoot it so I headed right for the range. Well, the results on the target were hardly what I expected--accuracy was dismal.  With the NRA 50 ft. TF/RF target --but firing at 40 ft--the shots pretty much covered the paper, with only one or two shots of a ten shot group in the black.  I was very discouraged and considered returning the gun ( don't know whether the dealer would have taken it back or exchanged it for something else, but I have bought several guns from him, and maybe he would have wanted to satisfy a regular customer.)  Well, it didn't come to that--I figured I'd better shoot some factory ammo through the gun before making a rash decision.  I bought the cheapest that Big 5 had--Winchester 95g FMJ--and was rewarded with a two in. 10 shot group from the bench at 40 ft.  I think the gun will do even better with more shooting, but I'd like to hear some input on load recommendations--esp. whether cast or swaged lead bullets can equal the accuracy of jacketed.  This is my first foray into loading for a pocket pistol.

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Eutectic posted this 26 September 2017

I have owned 4 380's. 3 Colts and a Ruger. Two inches at 40 feet is about what I would expect, these are not target guns. All my 380's have shot best with 0.357 or 0.358 cast bullets. Some commercial cast bullets are sized 0.355 and shoot poorly. Mike your bullets, Oregon Trail can supply bullets the correct diameter. I had good luck with a 0.357 115 grain round nose, it is heavy so the charge has to be light, try 2 grains of Bullseye. The lightest charge which will function is usually best with cast. Slower powders were good in the Ruger, With the 115 gr. bullet 3.0 WW231, or 3.7 Power Pistol both gave 820 fps and 100% function.

You will find single head stamp brass will give better groups.

380's are fun

Steve

 

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Ed Harris posted this 26 September 2017

I say +1 on Steve's advice to try .357 or .358 bullets, somewhat heavier than than standard.

For several years Jeff Houck, Steve Balthrop and I have been fooling with the .380 in a variety of pistols, to include the original model Ruger LCP, Beretta M1934 and SIG P230.

Excellent results have been obtained with Accurate 35-120H and 35-122T bullets, cast from wheelweights, lubricated with Lee Liquid Alox and loaded with 2.5 grains of Bullseye, which with the solid bullet is a FULL CHARGE load. The same bullet hollow-pointed by Erik at www.hollowpointmold.com weighs 114-grains in 10 tin-lead and expands somewhat down to about 720 fps.

Early trials were with a variant of the 37-125T intended for the 9x18 Makarov, my having ordered the bullet with its diameter reduced to .360" for use in the .38 S&W, and I then further sized them to .358 for tests.  The targets pictured are with the sized down .38 S&W bullet and marked 36-125T, but the production mold now catalogued for the .380 ACP is designated 35-122T.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Keith posted this 26 September 2017

Has anyone tried using AutoComp with any of these bullet weights?  I have only used 231 at this time using the Lyman manual load for a 120 grain bullet.  Velocity is a little over 800 fps.

Keith 

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Ed Harris posted this 27 September 2017

Have not yet, but should work with about 3.5 grains

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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38splpete posted this 27 September 2017

I was back at the range today--this time having bumped my Meister .355 bullets to .357-3575.  I started the bumping with my RCBS Lubri-sizer but with these hard bullets it was putting such a strain on the machine that I finished using a vice, squeezing the bullet in a .357 die between the nose punch and the piston.  The bullets all looked good and they shot much better than before too.  But, I had a number of malfunctions--some where the cartridge hung up on the feed ramp and some failures where the cartridges hung up in the single stack magazine--just enough oversize that they wouldn't readily move up.  I should add that as I was using a mixture of cases it may be that only certain--thick walled--cases were at fault.  I did not finish my reloading with the Lee FCD, as I usually do.  My reasoning was that this would negate some of my efforts in bumping the bullets.  I probably will just go ahead and size with the FCD and see what happens.

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M3 Mitch posted this 27 September 2017

I had a PPK/S .380 some years ago, it also shot poorly with 95 grain commercial bullets.  I did not know enough at the time to mike the bullets, but I can say that these 95 grain bullets had very little driving band area, most of the bulk of the bullet was in the hemispherical nose.  So I don't think this particular bullet was going to shoot all that well even if properly sized.

You could "cut to the head of the class" and order that mold that Ed has drawn up, his "beer keg" profile bullets seem to me to be about optimal for small automatics at least. 

FWIW, I have found 32 ACP pistols easier to get good accuracy from than .380 ACP.  But that may just be me using undersized bullets in the 380.

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Ed Harris posted this 28 September 2017

It has been my experience that the .32 ACPs are more accurate than .380s of the same model or type. 

The one exception is the SIG P230 which is the most accurate .380 pistol I have shot, which explains why I now own TWO of them!

 

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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lotech posted this 28 September 2017

I no longer have any .380s, but loaded cast for two PPK/Ss and a Makarov a few years back. I assumed when I began working with the cartridge that it would require .358" or .359" bullets for best accuracy like most 9mms. I found generally, however, that a .356" diameter worked best for me. I used the SAECO 122 gr. FN, the Lyman 104 gr. FN, and the RCBS 93 gr. RN. WW alloy was used and all testing was done at 25 yards. I tried many powders, but Bullseye and 231 were certainly the best. I don't remember for sure, but I think the cast loads may have been considerably more accurate than factory jacketed ammo.

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38splpete posted this 29 September 2017

Anybody have any experience with the Lee 358-105 in the .380?  It looks just like the H & G 68, only smaller.  Ed, I appreciate your recommendations re. the Accurate molds, but if I can turn out a lot of bullets quickly for the .380--and if they function reliably, I may try the Lee six cavity.  

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max503 posted this 30 September 2017

Anybody have any experience with the Lee 358-105 in the .380?  It looks just like the H & G 68, only smaller.  Ed, I appreciate your recommendations re. the Accurate molds, but if I can turn out a lot of bullets quickly for the .380--and if they function reliably, I may try the Lee six cavity.  

 

Yes

That's the first mold I bought for my Colt Pocketlite.  For me, it was too touchy.  By that I mean the window for powder charges was really small.  Too little and it wouldn't function.  A tenth too much and I would get flat primers.

Instead, I got the Lee 6 CAV TL356-95-RF.  It is a 95 grain bullet that mimics the flat point factory bullet.  I've had no problems with this bullet and accuracy is acceptable.  My Colt requires stiff loads in order to function properly and not be a jam-o-matic.

 

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38splpete posted this 30 September 2017

If that bullet drops from the mold at .356 Dia. it definitely won't shoot well in my gun.  I'm about 2/3 of the way through bumping up those .355 bullets to .357+.  It goes faster now--I clamp the nose punch in a vise (in a fixture I made that protects it from damage), start the bullet into the die--base first--, invert the die over the nose punch and give the piston a sharp whack with a hammer. Oh yeah, you need something with a hole in it slightly larger than bullet dia. and about 1/2" thick--so you can eject the bullet, again with a light hammer tap.  Anyway, I can't quite see why a particular bullet would be "touchy" as to a very narrow load window.  If a 95g bullet functions well with 2.5 g Bullseye then a 105g bullet ought to perform about the same--maybe after reducing the charge by a tenth or two. Well, I haven't made up my mind yet--contemplating whether or not to follow Ed's advice re. the Accurate molds--their selection is bewildering--although he has narred it down to two he recommends.

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6thtexas posted this 04 October 2017

I have shot a lot of those on top of 2.9 grains HP-38.  It is a nice light load that feeds well in my LCP.  That powder charge is also what I load under the 35-122T.  As Ed said, that 35-122T is a great bullet for a .380.  That load of HP-38 gives me about 758 fps with the 35-122T and 809 fps with the Lee 105SWC. 

I also have a NOE 100FN Ranch Dog mold that I can run through the  LCP with 3.5 grains of HP-38 for 905 fps.  I like the heavier 122 grain bullet better and that is what I carry in it.

 

I have never had any feeding problems with these three bullet designs.

FWIW I lube all .380 bullets with liquid Alox and then run them through a .358" sizer. 

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