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Thread: .38 Special Wadcutter Loads with BE-86?

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    .38 Special Wadcutter Loads with BE-86?

    I just won an S&W M49 on GB. By the serial number, it was produced in '81, so it's probably regulated for 158-grain bullets and should work with 148-grain wadcutters. Right now the only powder I have is BE-86. Has anyone come up with a load that approximates factory wadcutter velocities with this powder? Since it's close to Unique in burning speed I can use that as a starting point, but I was hoping someone has already skinned this cat.

  2. #2
    You would probably be better off holding out for some faster burning powder like Bullseye and etc. I know it is tough to find any components right now. If you have to use the BE-86 I think you are on the right track. Start low work your way up. Here is some interesting 38 special data I found on line. Lots of loads listed for 148 gr wadcutters with a wide variety of powders but nothing for BE-86.
    The lack of data indicates that the BE-86 is less than ideal perhaps. Maybe a buddy would trade you out some powder?

    https://www.shootersreference.com/re...ta/38-special/

  3. #3
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    I think BE 86 is just to new.

    There just isn't that much data out for it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by revchuck38 View Post
    I just won an S&W M49 on GB. By the serial number, it was produced in '81, so it's probably regulated for 158-grain bullets and should work with 148-grain wadcutters. Right now the only powder I have is BE-86. Has anyone come up with a load that approximates factory wadcutter velocities with this powder? Since it's close to Unique in burning speed I can use that as a starting point, but I was hoping someone has already skinned this cat.
    I haven’t loaded wadcutters since the early ‘80s but BE-86 is a fine powder for standard pressure 158 grain lead loads.
    4.6 grains, which is the maximum standard pressure charge listed on the Alliant webpage, yields an average of 770 FPS from my early ‘70s M60.
    My 4” .38 GP-100 yields 880 FPS average.

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    I found a bottle of 700-X at another LGS I usually don't go to, so the powder problem is solved. It's not ideal - it meters like chunks of concrete - but it'll work for practice ammo, and it looks like 2.5 grains is about a factory-equivalent wadcutter load. Now I just need to order the bullets (from Brazos)...and find some factory wadcutters to use for carry ammo.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by deputyG23 View Post
    I haven’t loaded wadcutters since the early ‘80s but BE-86 is a fine powder for standard pressure 158 grain lead loads.
    4.6 grains, which is the maximum standard pressure charge listed on the Alliant webpage, yields an average of 770 FPS from my early ‘70s M60.
    My 4” .38 GP-100 yields 880 FPS average.
    I've got some coated 158-grain LSWCs, and I'll load some of those to about 750 fps from a 4" to approximate standard velocity factory ammo to use in the M49 until the wadcutters come in. I'm guessing that about 4.0 grains of BE-86 should do it. I'll post it when I get a chance to load and chrono it.

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    See http://www.alliantpowders.com

    It looks like burning rate is like Unique. Look at the data for 158 grain cast bulletes which is 4.6 gr.

    This is what I would do and remember that this published data is conservative pressure wise. If I seated a 148 gr wadcutter flush, I would use 3.7 grains. If I seated the bullet farther out, I would use 4.5 grs.
    Last edited by willie; 03-24-2021 at 09:33 PM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by willie View Post
    See http://www.alliantpowders.com

    It looks like burning rate is like Unique. Look at the data for 158 grain cast bulletes which is 4.6 gr. I

    This is what I would do and remember that this published data is conservative pressure wise. If I seated a 148 gr wadcutter flush, I would use 3.7 grains. If I seated the bullet farther out, I would use 4.5 grs.
    Yup. I'm most of the way through my first eight-pound keg of BE-86, and several of us here have adopted it as our "one powder to rule them all" handgun propellant. I wasn't planning on ever loading wadcutters again until I won that M49. I'm going to use wadcutters for carry ammo and so wanted to load factory-equivalent ammo for practice. Volume II of Ken Waters' Pet Loads has a whole section on .38 Special wadcutter loads and has Unique data in it that would work for BE-86, but I'd rather use a fast powder in this case.

  9. #9
    I use WST for WCs because I have about 10 lbs of it. I wouldn't hesitate to use BE86 if that's all I had. It sure "feels" like an updated version of Unique but in actuality it's an updated version of Power Pistol and shares the base chemistry of Bullseye.

    3.3-3.5 grains sounds about right for fully seated 148 WCs (but work it up).

  10. #10
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    Waters’ data shows 3.2 grains of Unique as about factory equivalent, so that’s a good SWAG.

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