Every shooter needs practice ammunition! Today we took a look at Berry’s 158 grain Flat Point TP 38/357 Cal bullets.
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About Berry’s Bullets
This American company was founded in 1961 and is still a family-owned business! Berry’s may be best known for their plated rifle and handgun bullets, but they also manufacture a variety of other reloading products.
Berry’s bullets offer an interesting alternative to lead or jacketed bullets and I’ve shot them for years, mostly from my .38, .357, .44, .45 and .500 handguns.
From Berry’s Bullets:
Shooters around the world trust Berry’s for all of their pistol bullet needs, and it’s no secret why. We manufacture the finest copper bonded bullets on the market. We begin with a swaged lead core, then electroplate with copper to reach the final weight, leaving zero lead exposure. We carry a variety of handgun calibers including .32 to .500 caliber. In addition, we have any handgun bullet profile you are looking for like flat point, round nose, hollow point, wad-cutter, and round shoulder. No matter what you need your pistol bullets for, be it reloading, target shooting, or hunting, Berry’s will set you up for success.
Berry’s Plated Bullets Considerations
Berry’s plated bullets offer an alternative to either lead or jacketed bullets and have several advantages. All lead is contained within the plating so lead exposure for the shooter and others in the area is greatly reduced. They’re also considerably less expensive than jacketed bullets and readily available.
It’s worth noting that Berry’s does a good job of publishing the velocity limits of their various bullets. Their Superior plated bullets are typically limited to a maximum velocity of 1,250 fps. Their “TP” or Thick Plated bullets are rated for a maximum velocity of 1,500 fps.
Load data can be derived from any reputable source for either lead or jacketed bullets. Remember to start low and work up carefully. Limit powder charges to safe levels and keep the velocity below Berry’s maximum.
Crimping can be done with a taper crimp. This is quite useful with semi-automatic cartridges like the 9mm Luger or the 45 ACP. A roll crimp can also be used, which is appropriate for typical revolver cartridges such as the 38 Special and 357 Magnum. Be cautious not to crimp too tightly as you can damage the copper plating and expose the lead beneath. This can result in excessive bore fouling and inaccuracy.
Advantages of the Berry’s 158 grain FP-TP Plated Bullet
Berry’s bullets have several advantages. They’re typically less expensive than conventional jacketed bullets of the same weight and diameter. In example, Berry’s 38/.357 158 gr. FP-TP bullet costs $0.15 each compared to $0.26 each! This can really add up!
Fouling can be reduced, but it depends on what we’re comparing. I’ve seen instances where a poorly-sized lead bullet, or one that was driven too fast, badly leaded the bore. I haven’t seen any unusual amount of bore fouling with Berry’s bullets.
Lead exposure is a real thing and can lead to health issues. With the lead completely encapsulated by copper plating, shooters and bystanders are subjected to less lead exposure.
This particular bullet features what Berry’s calls “Thick Plate” copper. Many Berry’s bullets are limited to 1,250 fps but this one is rated for 1,500 fps. This makes it useful as a practice bullet and well-suited for use in 357 magnum revolvers.
Berry’s 158 grain FP-TP Quick Facts
This copper plated bullet has a standard weight and shape for both the 38 Special and the 357 magnum cartridge. It’s a flat nose bullet with a crimp groove and a flat base. This type of bullet is typically easy to handload and generally shoots well from either cartridge. I’ve shot bullets as light as 110 grains and as heavy as 180 grains in the 357. I’ll commonly use 148 grain, 150 grain, or 158 grain bullets in the 38. The Berry’s 158 grain FP-TP has a .357” diameter. Some lead bullets for the .357 will have a .358” diameter. These bullets will work out of any .357 rifle or handgun with twist rates ranging from approximately 1:14 to 1:17.
Loading Setup on the Lyman All American 8 Turret Press
The cartridges for this video were loaded on my home reloading bench, using the Lyman All American 8 Turret Press and RCBS Carbide dies. The dies included the sizing and de-capping die, a die to expand the mouth, and the seating die. I used a fourth seating die to apply a roll crimp.
Priming was done with the Lyman handheld priming tool. There were no surprises — it worked smoothly and efficiently.
The expander die helped ensure nothing was shaved off the bullets as I seated them. The seating process of these bullets was very easy because of the crimping groove.
Crimping with a fourth die after seating the bullet makes it easier to get the crimp perfectly placed in the bullet’s crimp groove. Be cautious of how hard the case is crimped. Too firm a crimp can break the copper plating and expose the underlying soft lead. This in turn can produce lead fouling in the bore and cause decreased accuracy.
Lyman’s large 8-station turret press is sturdy, and more press than is needed for loading 38 and 357 revolver ammunition. The turret head clicks firmly into place when moving from one die to the next. The lever is comfortable to use and produces excellent leverage. I was also pleased the spent primers dropped obediently into the primer catch tray mounted on the press.
About the Loads
I loaded both 38 and 357 full power practice ammunition. Each was chosen for a purpose. Many 38 and 357 revolvers are used for concealed carry and self-defense. These loads are towards the upper end of currently published data. Berry’s states that load data for jacketed or lead bullets can be used with their plated bullets, but you should keep maximum velocity for each bullet in mind. These thick-plated bullets are rated for 1,500 fps maximum velocity.
Known as the “FBI Load,” a soft lead 158 grain bullet with a gaping hollow point at about 850 – 900 fps has long been a popular self-defense choice. I loaded the Berry’s 158 grain flat point, thick-plated bullet over 5.4 grains of CFE Pistol, a maximum level +P charge according to Hodgdon, with a standard Winchester small pistol primer.
The 357 Magnum is capable of excellent velocity from either a handgun or a carbine/rifle. Our H110 load, 15.5 grains, was near max according to Hornady’s data, but not up to Hodgdon’s maximum for 158 grain bullets. We used Federal small pistol magnum primers in this load. I was particularly curious about the velocity this load would generate from the 20” barreled Henry rifle, remembering that Berry’s shows a limit of 1,500 fps for their thick-plated bullet.
We shot some steel in the snow over a chronograph and achieved the following results.
While I enjoyed all of the shooting, the .38 rounds were especially fun to shoot out of the Henry as they had no recoil! There was a greater extreme spread than I would have liked to see from the rifle. The 357 rounds were more powerful in both the revolver and rifle. There was a greater extreme spread from the 357 revolver than I wanted — there is room for improvement.
Our load developed 1120 fps from a 6” S&W 586 revolver and exceeded Berry’s limit with 1,622 fps from the rifle. The point is — be careful about the velocity generated when firing 357 magnum from a rifle.
It’s worth noting that several of the nickel plated 38 and 357 cases split at the case mouth upon firing. I’ve seen this before with nickel-plated brass, because it is more brittle.
These are both powerful loads. Keep in mind these loads should only be used in revolvers rated for +P or magnum ammunition. Berry’s plated bullets offer several advantages, but are especially suited for economical practice loads and have been known to produce less barrel fouling than some lead bullets. Be certain to pay attention to Berry’s maximum velocity specs while loading!
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