Reloading to Make
Training… Harder?


LWC bullets are perfect for speedloader training, because they are hard to
align into the cylinders. Only a good loading technique will work.

I am twice as likely to carry a lightweight .38 Special revolver as any other firearm. When I reload for my revolvers, I deliberately make the cartridges challenging to use.

I carry an old S&W Model .38 — not one of the current “Bodyguard” series, but an old “Humpback” .38. I do a lot of reloading for my various revolvers, and my approach is a bit unorthodox. I reload for practice only. I carry only factory-manufactured rounds for defense. My reloads are designed to make my training challenging.

Here are two training methods I use to regularly increase my survivability.

Make Speedloader Use Challenging

I train with speedloaders using wadcutters. They’re hard to align into the cylinder. I have to train my brain to achieve a good “feel” for speedloader practice. While I’m not Miculek fast, I am confident I can win a gunfight, even if the gunfight includes re-stoking my wheelgun.

I use an MP Molds 8-cavity, 148-grain wadcutter mold for my load. I use Eastman powder coat paint and often mix colors. Yeah, I like colorful bullets and punching clean holes.

I have found Accurate No. 5 works for my 148-grain wadcutter loads. I load right off the Western Powders Handloading Guide Edition 8.0, which recommends 3.7 grains. I have used a similar load for about 40 years.

I don’t load my wadcutters all the way flush to the case because I prefer crimping on a bullet rather than over a bullet. It’s not significantly different, but it is a variation of the load. Handloaders who vary the size of the burning chamber in a cartridge have the responsibility to ensure they are doing this safely.

Accurate No. 5 burns cleaner as it approaches moderate loads, rather than light ones like I’m using. These are mild loads, averaging 674 fps. This gives me a moderate amount of residue.

Why, then, would I use Accurate #5 for this load? Simple. When I stood back at 7 yards with my K6S and fired headshots on the target, 25 of them were touching. Across the screens of my chronograph, the standard deviation is 8.39. They are accurate, reliable and easy to shoot.

Hunters Specialties makes a series of Pentagon Hollow Point bullets with
a five-sided hollow point for hunting. On the left is the 115-grain PHP. On the
right is the 158-grain PHP.

Train For Heavy Recoil

Besides learning to stuff bullets into cylinders quicker, the other skill one needs to acquire is to resist the recoil of a heavy bullet in a lighter gun. I use a 158-grain LSWC (lead semi wadcutter). This load is right out of the Hodgdon 2020 Annual Reloading Manual. The 158-grain cast LSWC starting at 3.1 grains of HP-38 runs well in most snubbies.

Lightweight revolvers throwing out 158-grain bullets give the shooter stout recoil, and that’s great training. Hornady lists this load from 3.1–3.7 grains. For shooters working this load up, I’ve found accuracy is best on the lower end of this scale, from 3.1–3.3 grains. I have not had a problem with leading, provided the bullets are sized properly for the barrel.

I generally size a .38 bullet at .358 for my .38 special revolvers. I ordered some Hunters Supply cast 158-grain SWC to test. These have a Pentagon Hollow Point, which can be used for harvesting game. Not only do they work in lever guns, but my S&W Mod 38 also likes them for target shooting. Use the same loads as standard 158-SWC bullets.

The 148-grain wadcutter used in the testing came from an MP 8-cavity aluminum mold.

Putting It Together

I use a lot of shooting drills, but I always go back to the el Presidente. The el Presidente consists of three torso-shaped targets placed a yard apart. The shooter stands facing 180 degrees away from the targets. On the threat command, the shooter spins and engages each target, center mass, with two rounds. The shooter reloads and engages each target with two rounds again. It’s great training with five-shot snubbies as it forces two reloads.

I’m a firm believer in pushing oneself in training, just to be ready for the real thing. Reloading is one instrument getting us there.

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