copper-plated hollow-base wadcutters

  • Last Post 10 July 2018
  • Topic Is Solved
stevebarrett posted this 07 July 2018

I just tried out my first batch of .38 Special copper-plated hollow-base wadcutters. The groups were measurably worse than with my home-cast flat-base WCs coated with Alox.  I tried both Bullseye and n340. Maybe I just bought a bad batch, or is there something fancy about reloading with these bullets that I don’t know? 



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Bud Hyett posted this 07 July 2018

My experience is the same as your experience, the copper-plated bullets do not shoot as well as cast and lubricated bullets. This is even with moderate target loads. My thought is the copper plate is not even and the stress of the firing causes the copper plate to crumble in the barrel. As the bullet exits the barrel, the copper plate sloughs off and unbalances the bullet. I was never able to recover these bullets as the bullets crumbled when impacting the backstop. 

When I expressed this opinion on anther forum, I was almost instantly flamed by someone. The quickness of this action caused me to think the manufacturers keep someone on the payroll to monitor the web and defend their product.

For target shooting with a .38 Special, I shoot the RCBS 148 grain wadcutter with 2.7 grains of Bullseye and this works well. The load outperforms my ability to hold. It will shoot well to 50 yards, but not to 100 yards.

For .45 ACP and .45 Colt, I shoot the SAECO #954, 235 grain round-nose flat-point. I also shoot the H&G 200 grain semi-wadcutter with the above calibers.

Farm boy from Illinois, living in the magical Pacific Northwest

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Notlwonk posted this 07 July 2018

I've seen range pick up 9s and 45s where the rifling cut through the plating exposing lead, but not on all the grooves. Don't know if it affected accuracy.

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David Reiss CBA Membership Director posted this 07 July 2018

In my experience they have to be shot at really low velocities for decent accuracy. My belief is that the plating is deep enough that the riffling only grabs hold of it and at higher velocities it is not strong enough to hold up. However this experience has been with mainly semi-autos where the riffling is normally more shallow. 

Of course this will vary between manufacturers, some with thicker & stronger plating and some with not. If had the choice, which I do, I would avoid them and stick with cast bullets. 

David Reiss - NRA Life Member & PSC Range Member Retired Police Firearms Instructor/Armorer
-Services: Wars Fought, Uprisings Quelled, Bars Emptied, Revolutions Started, Tigers Tamed, Assassinations Plotted, Women Seduced, Governments Run, Gun Appraisals, Lost Treasure Found.
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JeffinNZ posted this 07 July 2018

The rimfire manufacturers most have it sorted as .22RF copper washed/plated is time proven.  I wonder what the difference is.  Maybe as David says, thicker and stronger plating? 

Cheers from New Zealand

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RicinYakima posted this 07 July 2018

Plated bullets are now mandatory in the state I live in, no exposed lead is legal to fire on an indoor range. While I was fighting the enactment of that regulation, I tested many brands of lead coated bullets. The plating broke, crack, pealed or exposed lead in almost every case. The only exception was 38's loaded over 2.5 grains of bullseye. None of that made a difference, since the regulation was not about lead exposure after you pull the trigger.  

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R. Dupraz posted this 07 July 2018

Have never heard of a copper plated HB wadcutter. What's the purpose? Sounds like trying to introduce a solution/problem to a non existent problem.

Having shot literally thousands of plain lead HB wadcutters during my army pistol team bullseye days in the sixties and then again for practice through revolvers as a LEO, don't know why there would be a need for copper plating. Certainly not to improve the accuracy. If it's velocity, then there are better ways to achieve that.  


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stevebarrett posted this 08 July 2018

Thanks All.

Likewise, with 148gr WCs I’ve never found anything give better groups than 2.7gr of Bullseye in .38 Special, which is probably about as low a velocity gets recommended. If manufacturers had preliminary workup data showing the benefits of a new idea, you’d expect they would be available when it’s marketed, but shooting doesn’t seem to work that way. So I guess copper-plated bullets are produced in the hope of success rather than in the expectation. Maybe the same went for the now defunct Silverlube bullets that you can still sometimes find among old stock – I always got lousy results with them too.


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RicinYakima posted this 08 July 2018

The shooters are "required" to shoot plated bullets, there can be no lead metal exposed. They, the makers, are trying to get a product on the market that shooters have to use.

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BigMan54 posted this 09 July 2018

I've had the same problem. I tried some plated HBWC I was given from an aquintenece's estate. What a waste of powder. 3" group's at 7yds.

Before "plated" came out there was a brief period when "Copper-washed" were available.  About 30+yrs ago. These worked just like lead, but left a small residue of copper in the bore of my COLT SAA & WINCHESTER 94. They worked great for CAS. Then they changed to "plated" , and those were illegal. 

I used to buy HORNADY HBWC's to load over 2.8grs BULLSEYE.  Because I couldn't cast a WC that was more accurate than the factory swaged. 

These day's between arthritis & failing eyesight, I can't shoot well enough to justify the cost.  I just shoot cast SWC. Why waste the money on factory swaged bullets .

But I don't see how the standard BULLSEYE   .38SPL can generate enough pressure to expand the skirt on a HBWC plated with hard copper.

Long time Caster/Reloader, Getting back into it after almost 10yrs. Life Member NRA 40+yrs, Life S.A.S.S. #375. Does this mean a description of me as a fumble-fingered knuckle-draggin' baboon. I also drool in my sleep. I firmly believe that true happiness is a warm gun. Did I mention how much I HATE auto-correct on this blasted tablet.

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SRCustom posted this 09 July 2018

In every application I have tried them in, plated bullets have turned in inferior accuracy when compared to equivalent cast bullets.

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GP Idaho posted this 09 July 2018

Ric: I'll join in here and state that I've never had much luck with any of the copper plated bullets with the exception of the 22rf  mentioned by Jeff.  I know from previous posts that you do have experience with powder coated bullets. That, to me, would be the answer to the indoor range regulations against the use of exposed lead. Also, they really cut down on the smoke from bullet lube when shooting indoors. Gp

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RicinYakima posted this 09 July 2018

Yes, PC would seem to answer. But just have not seen any for sale here for the non-caster to buy.

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GP Idaho posted this 10 July 2018

For anyone here that needs or just wants to buy Hi-Tec coated bullets a Vendor Sponsor (I have no financial connection) @ Boolits, "Casting Machine" sells a variety of beautifully cast and coated bullets. Also bullets as cast, sized or lubed and sized . Quality products at a reasonable price. Gp

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