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HP-38, .40 S&W and cold weather

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by liquidsys, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. liquidsys

    liquidsys North Bend, WA Disciple of the Gun

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    I've recently switched powders, from AA#5 (which I liked quite well) to HP-38 as I was able to buy an 8 lbs jug on quite a deal. I worked up a load near the tail end of summer that shot well. Seemed to be about mid-power levels and cycled everything I had reliably.

    I then started building an AR and hadn't shot the .40's in a little while. Cut to this weekend. Ammo is stored in the garage and it's roughly 36 degrees outside. Take ammo to outdoor range, and suddenly 80% of my shots result in a stove pipe of the ejected brass, or failure to eject at all. Recoil and the report is also noticeably less than before.

    I loaded about 400 rounds with 5.5 grains of HP-38. Shooting 165gr Berry's Plated. Starting loads according to my manual should be 5 grains - 5.8 grains max. At 5.5 grains in the summer it was shooting great. Is this the cold weather performance I should really expect? I'd rather not pull 400 rounds and move up to 5.8 grains. Should I increase my crimp to help build more pressure? I'll verify how deep they're seated right now, but I'm on a Dillon 550b and haven't had to modify that since I initially set it. It's been rock solid whenever I verify OAL randomly. Any tips would be appreciated.
     
  2. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    Summer's not that far away.
     
  3. Benchrest

    Benchrest The Desert Planet Well-Known Member

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    I would expect any round I load to function at 20deg, or 120deg.
     
    BAMCIS and (deleted member) like this.
  4. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Well now, that's pretty interesting. It sounds like you've likely identified the problem. I have no experience with HP38 so I couldn't tell you if it's that temperature sensitive, but it sure sounds like it. Also, the gun's cold. Did it get any better once the gun warmed up?
    What I would probably do is one of two things, or both, if you really feel like investigating this issue.
    First, knock a round apart and double check the powder charge. If it really is what you believe it to be, load up some rounds a little hotter. Check them out and see how they work. If they work fine, make a few more to check out when the weather's much warmer. If those hotter rounds are ok when it's hot out, just load at the charge weight.
    The other idea is just save what you have for summer.:D

    Another option would be to try some magnum primers with the same weight charge. Also, you'll want to test them when the weather is warmer before assuming they are fine.

    Since you have 8 lbs I'm sure you want to find a load that you can use year round.
     
  5. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    I have been shooting the exact same load in both my .40 SWs all winter with no problem. I shoot a Hi-power and a S&W M&P in that caliber. I have been told that HP-38 and W231 (my old fav) are the same powder and it looks to me to be true. I probably got the same deal on HP-38 that you did.

    I can tell you that I used to get some stovepipes in the Hi-power if I did not make doubly sure that my extractor was well lubed. Some other friends who shoot various .40 SWs have mentioned that they needed to clean and lube more carefully than with other guns. I have not noticed that, but then I clean every gun after every session under bright lights and use a lot of Q-tips and generally get obssessed with the process.......blame Pendelton.......... anyway, you might want to look into better cleaning and/or how temperature sensitive your lube is---for what it's worth.......I have shot as light a load as 5 grains this winter using the Berry plated bullets--again no problems---recently took delivery on some of their new hollow base extra thick plated bullets for the .40 that they say you can load hotter--I did not think I really needed those but I like to experiment.....
     
  6. BAMCIS

    BAMCIS Eugene Well-Known Member

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    Bad batch of primers?? :confused:
     
  7. MarkAd

    MarkAd Port Orchard Well-Known Member

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    I am like sinister when i clean my weapons and firearms. Hp-38 is not really very temp sensitive. I have shot it in winter at those temps with no problem.
     
  8. liquidsys

    liquidsys North Bend, WA Disciple of the Gun

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    Very interesting.

    I do plan to crack a round open and verify the load, but I typically do this every 100 rounds and almost never have even a .1 grain deviation.

    I'm starting to think that maybe my primers were weak / are the temperature sensitive culprit.

    I'm going to go shooting this weekend, and will be doing a test:

    Heat up 1-2 mags to room temperature for several hours before shooting.
    Leave 1-2 mags at garage temp and just shoot like I did last weekend. Temperature will be around 15 degrees warmer than last weekends issues.
    Take 1-2 mags and increase the crimp slightly to help build a little more pressure.


    If I still have issues, I'm going to ditch this primer brand and go back to CCI. I wouldn't doubt it's a primer issue.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2014
  9. liquidsys

    liquidsys North Bend, WA Disciple of the Gun

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    I am too. This isn't a firearm issue. Both were clean as a whistle and the issue was identical across multiple firearms.
     
  10. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    What primer are you using now?
     
  11. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    If I may add a couple of other observations:

    1--weak primers are virtually never a cause of this type of malfunction. It is a lot more typical of a primer failure to be a total failure, This is not to say that a primer or two could have shed some stryphate or not gotten the entire load, but I would not expect this to occur more often than one in several thousand primers unless it was a problem in the factory and then there would have been a BIG FUSS and possibly a recall. We would have heard about it you can be sure. Still, you may be the guy who starts the next big fuss.............

    2-if you just stick a mag or two in your inside jacket pocket before leaving home that should warm things up as much as needed, which is also to say that I have not found any warming whatever to be required with this powder.

    3-looking inside the cases to see just how much powder is in there would indicate that you are not confident of your powder measure and this can certainly be a cause (bridging in the measure to result in light loading) of the problem you mention. A good way to avoid this exercise is to load all rounds using if not the same lot# at least the same brand of brass and primer, needless to say same exact bullet. If you then come to this point, you need only weigh the rounds to find the extremely light ones. I found this out the hard way after several loads were light to the point of causing squibs.

    4- You might want to ensure that your primers are seated all the way down until they contact the bottom of the primer pocket. Ideally, you will be able to measure a .003" difference between the top of the primer and the head of the case--primer being below flush. Using the butt end of your calipers will give you this measurement.

    5- We'll all be interested to hear what the problem really was, once you fix it..........
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014
  12. liquidsys

    liquidsys North Bend, WA Disciple of the Gun

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    2 - Yeah I'll have various rounds in various states of temperature for testing.
    3. That doesn't indicate my confidence level whatsoever. If you read what I wrote above, it's the opposite. There is a extremely high likelihood that it's exactly 5.5 grains in every single round. I'm only going to do this step because 1. It's free and quick and 2. Due diligence and it takes that 'extremely high likelihood' to '100% proven', which is where I like to operate.
    4. Good tip, I haven't done any monkeying around with seating the primers. I've done around 2,500 rounds of this caliber with no adjustments on this front, so maybe I've moved a little. This is on a Dillon 550b. This is probably a very small chance of being the issue but I'll verify as I do all other suggestions.

    5. Since we're still speculating on causes (as I won't be at the range until this weekend to test things), I recall sitting at my desk while doing these rounds, looking up at the powder hopper and thinking "hmm, it looks like the powder has settled or something"... I said this to myself because it looked like there was two different consistencies in the powder. Since the powder had been in the hopper a couple weeks (which I also must question as maybe this isn't acceptable, even though it's a somewhat sealed system?) I just assumed it was settling.

    Now I question if I made a rare space out move and added HP-38 on top of a small amount of existing AA #5. More testing will identify this to be the case if other other tests prove out fine. Just thinking about this off the top of my head, it's plausible due to AA#5 loads were in the 6-6.5 grains where these ones are loaded in the 5.5 grain realm. If they ended up having AA #5 in them, they would be under powered.


    I hope this isn't the case as I can't see myself doing that, but right now it's just as plausible as the other causes. Another one being that the powder sitting in the hopper has absorbed too much humidity and has changed its effectiveness. Not sure how likely that is.
     
  13. cookie

    cookie THE SOCIALIST STATE OF KALI - FORNIA Well-Known Member

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    I would pull the bullets using the shoot them up method.
     
  14. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    Have we possibly seen in this thread why the smart/experienced handloader cleans up compeletely after EVERY loading session and that includes pouring the powder back into the jug it came from?