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Things I need to know about loading 38-40 WCF BP rounds


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Howdy all,

 

 

Getting me a 1920 vintage Marlin in 38-40 WCF. I have never loaded necked cartridges, Have no equipment or supplies on hand. What do I need to know in your opinion before I start buying equipment and supplies? Also can this be turned into a Widdermatic?

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Sam :D

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Furst off Muddy jus send it to me, an Iwl fix up a gud load fer it, then Iwl see tu et thit et gits the widdermajic, thin aftur Imma reelly reelly sure et's gud nuff fer ya Iwl sen et bak.... :rolleyes:

 

That one had me sorely temptet,

 

Cheyenne

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MCS -

 

Bottlenecked cartridges are not tough to load. Most rifle ammo is, after all, bottlenecked. You will not find a carbide sizing die for .38-40, due to the bottleneck shape. Just all-steel dies. These can scratch a little easier than carbide, so tumble your cases clean before reloading.

 

The .38-40 (and .44-40) cases are thin - about 0.007 inch case wall as opposed to almost 0.012 inch case wall in .45 Colt. It is easier to ding up, either when it's fired, stepped on or being reloaded. So, be a little careful. It really likes to catch the bottom edge of a die if you don't have your rotary shell holder indexed right under the die station. It will be badly wrinkled it this happens.

 

Most rifle cartridges need good case lubing before sizing, but the .38-40 will load without lube, if you tumble it clean before sizing. It actually needs a touch of lube inside the case neck sometimes - a q-tip with a little lube on it, on one out of 20 cases would be plenty. A shot of Hornady One-shot spray lube is a great way to prep the cases. After you have sized a few rounds, check that your sizing die actually moves the shoulder down (toward the rim) far enough that the case will chamber easily in the rifle. Some dies in .38-40 and .44-40 have to be trimmed a little to get the shoulder location to come out right for slick chambering.

 

Get your expander plug to match your desired slug diameter, maybe just 0.001 or 0.002 inch under the slug diameter. Since the case neck is thin, it will not hold the bullet well if the mouth is expanded too much, and it will crumple as the bullet is seated if the mouth is not expanded enough.

 

For BP loading in particular:

Don't use any card wads in a bottleneck cartridge. Only use a filler if you fully understand what it is going to do as it fires. A filler that could compact (like most cereals) could be a dangerous plug as it tries to get out the bottleneck, especially if you let the loaded rounds sit for months before using them.

 

Seat bullets so the case mouth is just short of the top of the crimp groove. When you crimp, if you have the bullet deep enough to hit the top edge of the groove, it bulges the case neck and makes it hard to chamber. Some folks are both careful of their seating depth, and also finish up with a Lee Factory Crimp Die or a Redding Profile crimp die. I like the latter of those two to put the final crimp on.

 

Use a bullet with lots of lube if loading rounds for a rifle. Lube starvation is not much fun to fight over. Big lube bullets work well. Cast them soft - no harder than a 1:20 bullet works well.

 

Good luck, GJ

 

 

PS: And, of course, slug your barrel to find out the right diameter slug to start trying. 0.001 over groove diameter is the "conventional wisdom" for the slug diameter.

 

GJ

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Doesn't need to be turned into a Widdermatic because the gun was designed for the length and shape of the cartridge. Not like trying to run .38 Specials through the gun. This is an original gun. Often times modern dies don't set the shoulder back far enough to allow the rounds to chamber easily in SOME old guns. Buy a set of Hornady New Dimension dies. They are the only ones (and I have five sets of .38-40) that seem to have enough adjustment to size the .38-40 to fit pretty much any gun chambered for that round. Thin brass so you can get by without lube, but I give it a shot of Hornady One-Shot. Makes loading just plain easier. The thin brass also requires a little more care than loading thick walled straight cases. If you bump the brass on the end of the sizer die it will bend and you will lose a few cases until you get used to loading the old bottleneck Winchester calibers. (.32-20. .38-40 and .44-40.)

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What Larsen said +1. I'll add, however, that using bullets with a proper crimp groove -- and crimping case necks into that groove -- is very important. There is little tension on the bullet of a 38-40 and it will collapse into the case when used in the magazine of a lever gun if not properly crimped. So, the point is, the bullet you use must have a crimp groove, which eliminates all the 10mm and 40 caliber bullets designed for automatic pistols as choices.

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...There is little tension on the bullet of a 38-40 and it will collapse into the case when used in the magazine of a lever gun if not properly crimped...

 

This is less of a concern when loading BP cartidges, as the full case leaves no space into which the bullet may collapse.

 

I have, however, experienced some smokeless rounds collapsing as described, which has the potential to alter the chamber pressure when fired.

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I load .32WCF and .38WCF. There are three manufacturers of brass: Remington, Winchester and Starline. Winchester seems to be the thinnest of the three. Remington is okay. Starline is the best. If you cannot find empty brass, you can get preloaded ammo from Georgia Arms loaded to cowboy velocities in Starline brass.

I do not download either of these rounds. The bottleneck cartridges are not as tolerant of powder placement as the straigth-wall cartridges, probably due to the larger base diameter. I like APP as a BP-sub since it does not require bullets with special lube. I would load enough FFFg powder for a 1/16" compression, use a 180-grain bullet and get a consistently tight crimp.

I use W-231 (aka HP-38) for my smokeless loads. I tend to use the smokeless loads more to reduce the cleaning wear on my original guns.

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Muddy, dunt listen tu tham,,,,truly Ize gat yur bes entrest et hart....take me up awn my offur,,,puleeezeeeee

 

cudnn't hep misef

 

Cheyenne, who loves hiz 44-40s, Culpepper

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