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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
back ground : one of our son's recently loaded some 38 special practice rounds .... I don't know the power charge but they were light loads with lead wadcutters .... it was only after he had a bunch loaded that he realized they were over crimped .... since the wadcutters couldn't be pulled, he took them to the range where he said that he couldn't any difference in sound, recoil or feel fired .... he did immediately notice that that they broke up as could be seen with pieces hit the target .... he fired them all and found that his GP100's barrel was heavily leaded .... he has been reloading shells for over 25 years and has never had anything like this happen .... I've never heard of lead bullets breaking up due to the amount of crimp so the question is, can that be the case .... additional question, if not, could it be caused by him using a bad batch of bullets
 

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I can't even set my dies to crimp so much that bullets are seriously deformed. I would be surprised that the crimping is the cause.

Why do you say that the wad cutters couldn't be pulled? A kinetic hammer should do the job. In my view, deciding to shoot loads that you suspect to be bad reloads isn't particularly a smart thing to do (no offense).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I can't even set my dies to crimp so much that bullets are seriously deformed. I would be surprised that the crimping is the cause.

Why do you say that the wad cutters couldn't be pulled? A kinetic hammer should do the job. In my view, deciding to shoot loads that you suspect to be bad reloads isn't particularly a smart thing to do (no offense).
no offense taken .... he has a bullet puller that can be used with his RCBS single stage of Hornady Lock-n-Load but it can't get a grip on a flush loaded wadcutter .... he was fully aware of the powder charges and had no doubt that when fired in a 357 it was highly unlikely that there would be any pressure issues .... what if'n goes out the window when facts are on hand and the fact all rounds fired without any issues .... the more I think about it, the more I believe he bought a bad batch of bullets
 

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Sounds to me like poorly cast bullets as the crimp would only affect initial pressure and not the relatively soft lead. I've never head of this before and have shot some wad cutters and cast bullets.
 

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In my experience, soft lead wadcutters can be deformed by a heavy crimp and the rolled edge on a case can swage down the OD when fired, making the bullet too small and causes leading. I used swaged HBWC many years go and experience this at low velocities, but when I went to "normal" cast DEWCs no noticeable swaging...
 

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Some pictures would help a lot!
 

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Because of all the leading, GONRA bets he purchased
soft lead bullets with crummy bullet lube.
Still difficult to figgout how they disintegrated....
 

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I have heard of ... but never personally experienced lead bullets that were hard cast and water quenched .... making them crystalize enough where they would fly apart when fired from a handgun. Could be? I have witnessed a phenomenon with lead rifle bullets when driven to high velocities. Seems the centrifugal force generated by the rifling would cause bullets to literally disintegrate on their way to the target. Very unlikely for handgun bullets because velocity is way lower and twist rates in handguns are very slow .... 38/357 typically being 1:18.75.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I have heard of ... but never personally experienced lead bullets that were hard cast and water quenched .... making them crystalize enough where they would fly apart when fired from a handgun. Could be? I have witnessed a phenomenon with lead rifle bullets when driven to high velocities.

info appreciated, seems to be a possibility .... I do know they were light loads with powder charges he has been using for years with no problems
 

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A few points:
A kinetic bullet puller would have "easily" pulled those bullets.
What made you conclude they were over-crimped? If the cases weren't crushed from the crimp and the rounds dropped in the chamber, they are good to go. May not be optimum, but they would fire safely. I have NEVER seen any difference in POI from light crimp to heavy crimp and really doubt that crimp plays much more than a tertiary role in pressure. It helps with a very slow burning powder to ensure a microsecond or so of time for the powder to fully ignite.
If you were using a HBWC, then any velocity over about 800fps may/can/will cause the skirt of the bullet to separate from the front of the bullet--and you will either get a bore obstruction from the skirt stuck in the barrel or two holes in the target. DO NOT over load HBWCs.
Finally, the last thing any .38 Spl needs or wants is a hard cast bullet. 10BHN is more than enough.
Water quenching: from work back in the '70s and '80s, unless lead chemistry has changed, water quenching only works for as-cast lead bullets. If you water-quench a lead bullet and size it, you lose the additional hardening from the water quench on the sized bearing surface. Even at that, water quenching doesn't increase hardness that much. Going from 10 to 13 BHN is not a big difference. Going from 10-12 BHN to a type-metal alloy at 20-22 BHN is a difference.
Even at that, being sure the bullet is large enough is even more important with a HARD alloy than a soft alloy, as the soft alloy can obturate to fill the bore.
Foe leading in revolvers, see:
Chapter 7 - The Cast Bullet Nemesis - Cast Bullet Guide for Handgunners - Glen E. Fryxell

In particular:
"Location of the leading

Location, location, location! Perhaps the single most telling piece of evidence is the location of the leading in the gun. Are the dark gray, firmly adherent metal deposits in the forcing cone of the revolver, a patch just forward of the forcing cone, random splotches over the central portion of the bore, do they form a light general gray haze of the entire bore, do they specifically "follow the rifling", or are they concentrated near the muzzle? Clues, my dear Watson. The answer is written in the clues.

Throats. Starting from the rear of the revolver and working forward: the first place that leading can appear is in the cylinder throats. This is rare, but it does occasionally happen when the throats are rough or undersized. For example, I have a Ruger SP-101 .22 revolver that used to build up long streaks of lead in the cylinder throats every time I shot it. Turns out the throats were undersized and rough, and a quick regimen of fire-lapping with 600 grit silicon carbide cured the problem nicely. That gun is a nice little shooter now, and no longer leads at all. Another potential cause of leading in the throats is severely oversized throats or undersized bullets, but these extreme dimensional mismatches are rarely encountered today.

Cylinder gap/barrel face. Leading can also be found on the face of the cylinder or the rear face of the barrel. In this case there are multiple possible causes. Most often this is seen in revolvers with an oversized cylinder gap. Ideally a cylinder gap should be between .003" and .006", and most quality production revolvers fall in this range, but every so often one happens across a gun with a gap of as much as .020", and these invariably plate the forcing cone area when shooting lead bullets. Bevel-based bullets are significantly more prone to this kind of leading than are plain-based, for the simple reason that the cylinder seal is broken while there is still a large amount of ablatable lead exposed in the gap, allowing gas-cutting of the beveled face. Seriously oversized throats also can contribute to this form of leading as well.

Forcing cone. Leading found in the forcing cone proper can be the result of the cast bullet being significantly over-sized relative to groove diameter and being swaged down as it enters the forcing cone. It can also be due to the forcing cone being poorly or roughly cut, or cut off-center (it does happen...). Or it can be due to poor cylinder timing leaving the chamber(s) in poor alignment with the barrel at ignition. This last case will generally have an asymmetric build up on one side or the other, and the revolver will commonly "spit lead".

Immediately in front of the forcing cone. If the leading is observed immediately in front of the forcing cone, then it's almost always due to a constriction in the barrel caused by an overly tight barrel/frame thread. This is most readily diagnosed by slugging the bore, and feeling for added resistance as the slug passes through this portion of the bore. Fire-lapping will usually clean this up pretty quickly and effectively. Hand-lapping requires more knowledge and experience, but allows the shooter to feel when the job is done and results in a more uniform bore surface throughout the length of the barrel.

Random splotches in the bore. Perhaps the most commonly observed form of leading is that composed of random splotches of metal throughout the bore. This can be caused by the bullet being too soft for the velocity/pressure (e.g. a bullet with a BHN of 6 being fired at 1100 fps) and it is this single case that has spawned the widespread knee-jerk reaction among the uninformed that all leading is caused the bullet being too soft. Historically, "soft" bullets were cast with 40-to-1 lead to tin (BHN of about 6.5) and "hard" bullets were cast from 10-to-1 (BHN of 11), and if velocities crept much over 1000 fps, it was necessary to be closer to the harder end of the spectrum. Hence, the Oldtimers spoke of the need for "hard" bullets with rounds like the .357 Magnum. They were speaking of bullets with roughly the same hardness as everyday WW alloy (BHN of 10-12), which seems to be considered moderately soft these days. With commercial hard-cast bullets having a BHN of 22 or more and virtually all home-cast bullets falling in the range of BHN 12-18, overly soft bullets are rarely the cause of leading in handguns today (rifles can be a different story).

Random splotches of leading in the bore can also be due to rough or pitted bores. Diagnosis of this problem should be obvious.

These days, random splotches of leading are most commonly due to poor lube flow. This has become a much more common problem over the course of the last decade or so, due to the popularity of the various hard lubes, both on commercial hard-cast and bullets cast at home. Before anyone gets "their tail tied in a knot" over that statement, let me emphasize that this is not meant as a condemnation of commercial hard lubes. A bullet lube must be delivered to the bullet/bore interface for it to do any good. For low pressure loads (e.g. mid-range target loads), hard lube works just fine since the lube displaced by the engraving process of the lands is sufficient to provide for the modest lubrication needs of the bullet in these mild loads. For high-pressure loads (e.g. .44 Magnum), hard lubes also work just fine since the heat and friction of these loads is enough to melt a portion of the lube, and the melted portion of the lube flows extremely well and lubricates the bullet's passage very nicely. Where I have encountered leading with commercial hard lubes is in the intermediate pressure regime, a little over 1000 fps and 20,000 psi. In this regime the lubrication needs of the bullet are not met by the small amount of lube displaced by the lands, and at these more moderate pressures and velocities, little if any of the hard lube melts. A lube that does not flow cannot do its job. In the past, poor lube flow was not an issue because virtually all bullet lubes were soft lubes (e.g. the NRA's Alox formula), and they flowed just fine (in fact, some involving motor oil flowed too well and would leak down and contaminate the powder charge of the round; recall the value of "moderation in all things"). If a shooter is encountering this problem, a quality soft lube is called for.

Streaks, following the rifling. If the leading is seen to "follow the rifling" (i.e. streaks that twist down the barrel in close association with the rifling grooves), then this is a tell-tale sign that the bullet is cast too hard and failing to obturate. Obturation is usually thought of as a plastic deformation that swells the bullet's diameter, but it also leads to a back-filling of engraving defects along the trailing edge of the land. If the bullet is cast too hard to obturate, these defects will not be back-filled and gas-cutting will take place through these voids, following the trailing edge of that particular land. This effect can be mitigated somewhat through judicious choice of lube, but lube by itself can only do so much. The real solution here is to go with a softer bullet and a better lube.

Splotches near the muzzle. If the first half of the revolver barrel is shiny and clean and the lead deposits are only found near the muzzle, then that's a clear indication that the lubrication capacity of the lube/bullet system is being overwhelmed. The shooter has several options to fix this: if the bullet has multiple lube grooves and not all of them were filled, then fill more lube grooves (I know shooters who refuse to fill more than one lube groove on bullets with multiple grease grooves, "Don't wanna waste lube!", I guess they prefer cleaning guns to shooting...). If the bullet has no other lube grooves to fill, then a shooter can move to a more efficient lube, or one with better viscous flow properties. If all else fails, the shooter can go to another bullet design capable of carrying more lube. The problem of muzzle leading is more commonly encountered in rifles than it is in handguns.

General haze over the entire bore. If the lead deposits show up as a gray haze over the entire bore it may not be an indication of a leading problem. Sometimes this is just an indication that a barrel still needs to be broken in. The way some barrel steels behave when cut, there can be microscopic surface roughness that accumulates a fine-grained film of lead over the surface for the first few hundred rounds or so (this used to be particularly common with stainless revolvers, especially Rugers, but the situation has improved in recent years). If this haze bothers you and you want it to go away, just go out and shoot then gun, alot! If you're impatient, then fire-lap it.

If the haze is more than just a fine-grained, light gray haze, and amounts to more serious leading over the entire bore, it is most likely due to the cast bullets being undersized relative to groove diameter. Slug the barrel and throats and make sure that the throats are indeed larger than groove diameter, and that the bullets are sized at least as large as groove diameter."
 

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No one has mentioned this, and you didn't either, so I'll ask. Were they hollow base wadcutters? What was the powder charge? Maybe it was heavier than he thought it was, and he was blowing the skirts of the bullets.

Just a thought.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
No one has mentioned this, and you didn't either, so I'll ask. Were they hollow base wadcutters? What was the powder charge? Maybe it was heavier than he thought it was, and he was blowing the skirts of the bullets.

Just a thought.
I know they weren't hollow base but I don't know the charge .... anything is possible but the more he looks into it, the more he believes that he had a bunch of bad bullets
 
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