38 Special wadcutter brass

  • Last Post 16 December 2015
Eutectic posted this 17 November 2015

Does anyone know of a source of virgin or once fired 38 wadcutter brass? Wadcutter brass is almost extinct at the public ranges I frequent. Some of the current commercial wadcutter loads are in regular brass which is poor for loading 38 target ammunition. Steve Hurst

Attached Files

Order By: Standard | Newest | Votes
Ed Harris posted this 17 November 2015

Buy a Sinclair “large caliber” neck turning tool with .358 mandrel then take modern .38 Special brass and outside neck turn to 0.010” mouth wall thickness down to the bullet base to crimp distance. After fire forming you will have an internal step for the bullet base to rest.

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

Attached Files

noylj posted this 22 November 2015

I use R.P. brass--thin walls are perfect. Oh, never ever heard of wadcutter brass before--sounds like something home-made.

Attached Files

358156hp posted this 22 November 2015

Not at all, wadcutter brass is a holdover from the golden days of Bullseye shooting. It's thinner in the bullet seating area than “service” brass is. I think Winchester is the only maker still offering it any longer, and in top end match wadcutter loadings only, like the 38 Spl Super Match load (X38SMRP)

Attached Files

noylj posted this 03 December 2015

I never heard of it when I was into Bullseye. Then, order from Winchester, I guess. Still, recommend R.P. for reloaders--works best for me.

Attached Files

Eutectic posted this 10 December 2015

I looked into turning the 38 cases like I do rifle brass. This requires special equipment, as the short revolver case must be held by the base, and a special turning mandrill is required. The cost gets daunting and then there is the hand work, I really needed a power driven turner for the number of cases I planned to do. It was looking like north of $400 to do it right.

I wondered, how much IS the difference between regular cases and wadcutter cases? Are all non-wadcutter cases thicker? Is current wadcutter brass thicker walled than older brass? Is there a difference in the internal taper? Perhaps there is commercial brass I can purchase and avoid turning cases.

I used an RCBS 38 rifle expander plug, which is long enough to expand down to where the base of my solid base wadcutter sits in the case. The expander plug is 0.35770. 38 Special cases were sized in a carbide sizer, lubed with graphite and expanded on the expander plug. The cases were measured while on the plug with a Mitutoyo electronic micrometer to the nearest 0.00005. Five cases were measured, diameters around the case were measured to check variation, and the maximum diameter was recorded. The diameter minus the plug diameter divided by two gives the wall thickness. Wadcutter Brass Average Wall

FEDERAL (new) 0.00977

FEDERAL (80's) 0.00947

FEDERAL (60's) 0.00903*


WW (Winchester Western) 0.00933

R-P (Remington Peters) 0.00901

S & B (Sellier and Bellot) 0.00990

REM - UMC (Remington Union Metallic Cartridge) 0.00909

PETERS 0.00887

WW nickel 0.00907

WESTERN nickel 0.00894

Regular Brass

NORMA 0.00991

REM - UMC 0.00965* A - MERC 0.01059**

FEDERAL (new) 0.00964

PMC 0.00990

      • (Starline) 0.00984

S & B 0.01002


WCC 1980'S (MIL) 0.01018*

R - P nickel 0.00911

WESTERN nickel 0.00989

WW nickel 0.00944

REM - UMC nickel 0.00926

PETERS nickel 0.00891

R - P nickel 0.00908

WW SUPER +P nickel 0.00962

WINCHESTER +P nickel 0.00982

FEDERAL +P nickel 0.00952

Group variation over 0.001 *Group variation over 0.002 Variation may not be important as none of these cases are single lot. Some are original box, but this may not be one lot. Wall variation around individual cases was small, usually under ±0.0002.

The A-MERC cases were an exception, variation between cases was large. Diameters around an individual case could go from larger than any other commercial case to much thinner. It was hard to get a good reading on individual cases because variation around the case was so extreme. A-MERC case heads were thin and also variable, this is the headspace dimension and indicates lack of quality control.

I was not surprised to find the military brass was thicker, I have experienced problems reloading it and generally throw it away. It and the +P brass are harder, pushing them onto the plug required noticeably more force.

Except for the military cases, I did not see a significant difference in the wall thickness of any cases at the tip of the expander plug compared to the middle or top of the plug. Differences were of the same order as differences in different diameters around the case. Therefore no internal taper interferes with loading solid base wadcutters in any of the commercial brass tested.

I expected nickel plated brass to be thicker, but the difference was not great compared to same headstamp regular cases. In some, the nickel plated cases were thinner walled.

Of the older wadcutter cases, Peters had the thinnest walls, however the Peters nickel plated cases were also the thinnest of the regular cases. Older cases do tend to have thinner walls, however there is variation. It appears from this small sample manufacturers do not make special thin wall cases for wadcutter loads. Wadcutter loads appear to be loaded in standard cases with a special cannelure.

I was pleased to find Remington, Winchester and Federal standard cases are the same wall thickness as their wadcutter cases. The only difference is some of the regular cases have a heavy cannelure where it would interfere with a wadcutter, these are not useful hand loading wadcutters. A single lot purchase of new commercial brass should work well for producing match quality 38 Special loads.

Is the generally slightly thicker walls on new brass a problem with large diameter cast bullets? I notice the nickel plating on some of my much fired cases is wearing off. Case cleaning in dry media does wear the case. What if I used a more aggressive media, like used in a rock tumbler? Would the wear be even enough to make thin walled cases from new commercial brass? Hmmmmm. Steve Hurst  

Attached Files

RicinYakima posted this 11 December 2015

Nice to have recent data, as I haven't look at this issue since the 1970's! That seems like a long time ago now.

Attached Files

Wineman posted this 11 December 2015

It was a long time ago!


Attached Files

Ed Harris posted this 11 December 2015

How far down from the case mouth did you take your mouth wall thickness measurement? Unless you go as deep as bullet base, about 10mm with DEWC or 12mm with HBWC, doesn't help much.

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

Attached Files

Eutectic posted this 11 December 2015

Ed, I was curious so I spent the evening with a mini pipe cutter and trimmed 38 cases so I could find the start of the internal taper using my 0.358 rifle expander which only expands the case 0.420 deep. This is good enough for my H&G #50 BB (0.417) and commercial DEWC which requires the same to the crimp groove. It is not enough to seat the DEWC full depth (0.550) and way short for a HBWC (0.630) Head Stamp Type of case Depth to internal taper R-P Standard 0.491 R-P Wadcutter 0.510 Western Standard 0.765 Western Wadcutter 0.768 WW Standard 0.780 WW Wadcutter 0.625 FEDERAL Standard 0.741 (Average) FEDERAL Wadcutter 0.781 S&B Standard 0.650 S&B Wadcutter 0.655 Starline 0.601 Various Military 0.777 Average These were mostly single cases. I did 8 FEDERAL standard cases to check on variation, the results were from 0.663 to 0.786 the average was 0.741. This is too small a sample for a meaningful average, but my fingers were pretty worn out. These cases are different lots, collected over many years, so the average has little meaning. There is difficulty getting a precise measurement, determining the point of increase on the outside of the case and then measuring the distance. Not repeatable to the third decimal place, only dependable to the second (hundredths). There is enough variation to prevent any conclusion about WC brass being special. Surprise, some of the wadcutter brass gets thicker to soon (R-P, WW). The military cases are hard brass and thick walled, but the wall does not taper quickly. I was wrong, I always thought it did. Maybe some do but the ones I sampled did not. Any of the cases tested would work with a solid base wadcutter. The thick wall cases may reduce the bullet diameter excessively. My take for wadcutter loads: Single lot commercial brass should be used for match grade ammunition. Single head stamp commercial cases are good enough for general use, as long as there is no cannelure over the bullet. Pull a bullet after loading and sizing in LEE factory crimper to be sure diameter is not reduced below throat diameter. Steve

Attached Files

Eutectic posted this 16 December 2015

I have 3 types of factory HBWC loads, Federal, Sellier and Bellot, and Remington. The federal top cannelure is very light, on the others the top cannelure is heavy. The top cannelure is in the bottom lube groove on the bullet in the S&B and R-P loads. I noticed on pulled bullets the cannelure heavily grooves the base band and reduces it from 0.356-0.357 to 0.353 -0.354. I wondered, was the bullet seated in a cannelured case? I split a case, there were no marks on the bottom band and it was full diameter, the cannelure was rolled on AFTER the bullet was seated I fired the loads into soft recovery medium and on close examination the grooving by the cannelure can be seen, but it is mostly obscured as the skirt has expanded into the rifling. You can purchase factory HBWC bullets, but you cannot easily cannelure the case and seating a HBWC in a cannelured case will damage the base on seating. Is this why it is difficult to equal the accuracy of factory HBWC loads even loading factory bullets in factory WC cases? The cannelure increases bullet pull, is this the main function? The bottom cannelure is very light, some WC cases do not have it. It is below the bullet base and I cannot imagine it could have an effect on accuracy, it may be decoration. Steve Hurst

Attached Files