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38 Special Taper Crimp

Howard B

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Has anyone tried taper crimping 38 Spl?

Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, it came to me that as I am using plated bullets with no crimp groove, it might cause less damage/deformation to the bullet using a taper crimp as opposed to traditional roll crimp. While the plated cost more than cast, for me the fact that cleanup is easier more than off sets cost.

Thanks in advance, Howard

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Some years back I did some serious experimentation in .38 Spl with roll and taper crimp. The same load (only a 120 pf) was used for both. The taper crimped cases lasted twice as long before the neck split, but averaged 30-40 fps less than the identical bullet/powder combo in a roll crimp. If you are only having to make 115-120 PF, the taper crimp could work, but you'll need more powder than a roll crimp. If you have to make a 125 PF (a heavier load than most commercial .38+P loads) you may have a problem with bullet retention and "prairie dogging" that could tie up the gun. There are some plated bullets (HSN comes to mind) that do have a crimp groove. I have loaded those to 135 PF without problem. The plated bullets without a crimp groove are problimatical. I've never played with any of them because IMHO you need a solid roll crimp to get to 125 PF consistently, and not have bullets "prairie dogging" on you.


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This is strictly my opinion after using about 6 different crimp die.

For .38 Special, you want the Redding Profile Crimp Die and you want to set it to a light crimp.

What good is a bullet for a revolver if it doesn't have a cannelure or crimp groove? Bullets tend to move out of the case and bind the cylinder. Even my very light .38 Special wadcutter loads at 700fps needs a roll crimp over the head of the bullet.

I like to set my crimp using a factory round that I know has enough crimp for my gun.

I really don't understand what the attraction is for a thin plated bullet that costs almost as much as jacketed and has none of the benefits. The plating is easily damaged and I have never read about them being very accurate.

If fact, in general, my best groups are with L-SWC and JHP bullets.

Yes, I use lead bullets in all my guns and I must admit that I too have to clean my guns--after about 2000 rounds or once a year. Of course, I soak my barrels in Hoppe's #9 for a day or so and the barrels generally come out clean. Most of my time is spent cleaning the gun frame and slide and the reason I am forced to clean is not the barrel or leading.

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Thanks to all. I hadn't considered the PF issue. In my M66 Smith, it has been a struggle to make 125pf with a substantial roll crimp. I'll unpack the chrono and see what happen. I think I was considering the extended brass life more than velocity. Oh well, another tool for the "it seemed like a good idea at the time."

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I have been loading Berrys and West Coast(Extreme)for over 12 years-158gr RN with a regular roll crimp and had excellent results on accuracy. The crimp needs to be smooth into the bullet, but not a deep cut. The easiest way is to back the crimp off, then slowly adjust it until you can run your finger over it and have a smooth transistion.

I use a taper crimp on Short Colt, but I find no advantage to using the taper on 38 special.

The roll crimp will also help your velocity be uniform, as it is keeping everything locked down tight.

Good luck,


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I taper crimp everything 38Spl, but roll crimp all 357Magnum Hot loads.

Doug is right about the smooth transition. That is the key more than what crimp style you use. Whatever style (roll or taper) do it properly. More crimp will regulate the velocity better as far as ES is concerned over the chrono. But in the end accuracy at 50Y is all that counts.

Zero JHP with gentle taper crimp, smooth transition as suggested by Doug, gives me about 2" at 50y at minor PF in my 686-3. The load gives about 50fps ES, but is more accurate than the same load with more crimp, 20fps more velocity and 15fps ES. I was in the tight crimp camp for some time, keep the ES low and steady. I now run just enough crimp to keep the bullet in place and go for accuracy.

Some time back a customer was having trouble with accuracy with our 158gr RN coated lead projectiles in an otherwise accurate gun, he found backing the crimp off, against the suggestion of the bullet maker, the accuracy just came back. He had always used gentle but smooth crimp, but tried a little more crimp at the makers suggestion and it all went wrong. This load is used for NRA AP Metallic sight and with this load and his gun this man has cleaned Practical (35+ X count) on more than 10 occaisions.

Now for thumping loads you use plenty of crimp. I will allow the slow burning powders to build pressure and ignite correctly. Fast burners do not need lots of help to get going.

The other thing is to crimp seperately from seating the bullet. Roll Crimp in seat / crimp dies will not help accuracy unless setup is 100% perfect, with lead projectiles and slight inconsistancy of nose profile there will be some subtle differences in the position of the projectile and where the crimp sets on the projectile side. TAper crimp is a little more forgiving in this respect for some reason.

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