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.38 or .45 for blackpowder revolver


dutch bear

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Howdy

I have a question, probably it has been asked a couple of times but a search of the “Wire” didn’t find me the answer.

 

My wife has been shooting my guns up till now(2 .45lc revolvers and a 1873 in 44-40) she shoots Lady frontier cartridge.

 

Now she wants to buy 2 new revolvers,(probably 2 “thunderers” with 5.5inch barrels) but we have doubts to what caliber she should buy

On one side there are the arguments for .45lc: authentic, her tough image as a lady frontier cartridge shooter, shooting 45’s (with the same loads I do), same ammo for Her and me

On the other side the arguments for .38: Cheaper ammo(or ammo components), les recoil when training with smokeless ammo, competitive advantage

 

Now I have been shooting BP for a long time now, but I don’t know how it will work with .38’s. i have heard stories of .38’s clogging up faster then 44-40 or .45LC if you shoot BP with them

 

So I’m looking for all ideas on the subject but I’m especially looking for people that shoot BP in their .38 revolvers and their experiences.

 

best regards

Dutch Bear

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I have so much invested in 44-40 and 45 guns and brass that a change would cost me a fortune. Several of my fellow BP shotters use 38s with no problems. Many of them shoot loads that sound like big bore stuff (Sgt Smoke Pole comes to mind).

 

For the same reasons you stated, I like the larger calibers, but 38s are sure cheaper to shoot. What you'll probably find is that you don't really save money, you just shoot more :lol:

 

CR

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One of the fastest frontier cartridge guys in the Northwest uses either .38's or .357's, I don't remember which, and doesn't seem to have any problem at all. I'd say go for it.

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Howdy

 

It sounds like you are talking only about pistols, not rifles. In a revolver it really does not matter what caliber you shoot with Black Powder. As long as you use a bullet that carries plenty of soft Black Powder lube, you will not get binding. The superior chamber sealing ability of 44-40 is mostly not an issue in a revolver, since it is at the barrel/cylinder gap where most of the binding occurs. Blowback around the case towards the rear of the cylinder is not much of an issue. I have been shooting 45 Colt in my revolvers since day one in CAS, and nothing but Black Powder for quite a few years now. With the proper bullet and lube I can shoot all day with no binding at all, despite getting plenty of blow back in the chambers.

 

Rifles are a different story. The superior sealing ability of the thin case mouth of 44-40 makes all the difference in a rifle. A rifle is basically a closed system. Nothing more than a pipe when you think about it. If you can seal the case in the chamber, then all the soot stays in the barrel and none gets into the action of the gun. It is the thin brass at the neck of 44-40 and 38-40 for that matter that make the difference in a rifle, expanding to completely fill the chamber. The relatively thicker case of 45 Colt, or 38 Special will not tend to expand and fill the chamber as well in a rifle, and can allow some soot to blow back into the mechanism. Not the end of the world, there are workarounds.

 

As far as cost, 38 Special is always going to be cheaper to shoot than either 44-40 or 45 Colt. Brass is cheaper and more easily available, bullets weigh less so they cost less, and you use less powder in a 38 than either a 44-40 or a 45 Colt.

 

Put in enough powder in a 38 so that when you seat the bullet it compresses the powder by about 1/16" - 1/8". Use a bullet that carries plenty of soft BP lube, like the Big Lube Snakebite bullet. You will get lots of smoke and boom. Just not quite as much as with a 44 or a 45.

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38 Special came out in 1899 as a BP cartridge and was converted to smokeless a year later. I don't know that I'd load .357 in BP. Why not .38 special for pistols. I'm about to start shooting BP in my 44-40s and I'm preparing myself for lots of smoke and recoil. I don understand the comments about the rifle. I guess it it's a 73 you can clean it more easily than a Marlin or other rifle, but the blowback is a concern.

 

-Pico

blog.picopistolero.com

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Howdy Dutch bear!

Ask your wife what is more important to her: "authentic, her tough image as a lady frontier cartridge shooter, shooting 45’s" OR "competitive advantage". That will determine what route to go.

Many years ago, I had the same choice; my 44mag Vaqueros had problems and I needed to get new guns. I could either go to 45 colt or 357 vaqueros (I already had one of each). Decided I wanted the boom and authenticity of 45 colt so sold the 357 and bought a second 45 colt vaquero.

(I suspect you'll pick up the cost regardless of what she chooses!)

 

Sacramento Johnson, Lady Frontier Cartridge Duelist (and now Lady Frontiersman!)

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just to clear it up a bit

 

my question is for the 2 revolvers only, for the rifle she will use my rifle for a while longer

 

for the rest thanks for the info so far

 

Dutch Bear

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I shoot .38 Special in 1851 Richard/Mason open top conversion with Navy grips--works great; also shoot .38 Special in '94 Marlin--works great.

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Just to throw a little more in the mix to think about, She can still shoot .45s, and be quite competitive by switching to the Cowboy 45 Special case and "Barnstormer" bullets. The C45S case has the same capacity as a 45 ACP case and the Barnstormer bullet weighs about 130 grains. It makes a dandy BP round. Lots of BOOM and smoke with much reduced recoil.

For shooting BP in the rifle, stick with the 44-40. The .45 Colt case is "dirty" no matter what powder you use and fouling can be a real problem. The 44-40 seals the chamber quite well with minimal blow-by and fouling.

 

Coffinmaker

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First off - Ask the boss

 

I shoot 2F Schuetzen or 3F APP in my 45s - I have gone to 200 grain bullets in my pistols and 230 grain bullets in the Rifle.

 

I load 3F APP in 38 caliber for both of my daughters - Tamale and Black Chip Mary

I have been loading 125 grain Bear Creek bullets in their pistols, and I was using their 147 grain bullets in their rifles, I will be going to their new 158 grain bullet - Both rifles a 66 and a 73 show very little fouling in the breach.

 

The 38 with 3F makes a fine Black Powder cartridge - I found that 2F was a little too course to get consistent charges.

 

Best to you

 

Coffee

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Here is another 2 cents worth.........I have been shooting .357 with real bp and my wife has now began shooting but she is using .38 spl pistols and a Marlin in .357. We only shoot real BP and there is plenty of smoke and flames.I cast our bullets using a big lube mold from Dick Dastardly.But I was using regular smokeless bullets with a overshot card and a grase cookie and that worked real well. I shoot 44-40 for my rifle and shudder to think of how much it would cost to have to buy those bullets.If you are going to be buying .38 is the most reasonable way to go.

 

 

 

Sgt H :FlagAm:

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All of these opinions are "interesting," but only one opinion matters. Let your wife choose her own guns.

 

If she wants to shoot .38's, then that's what she should shoot. And, yes, it was originally a black powder cartridge, so authenticity is no issue. If she wants .45's or .44-40's, then get those for her.

 

If you push one or the other, and she doesn't like it....... Well, no need to say more. :o

 

Buena suerte,

eGG

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I've been shooting BP in .38 Special SAA clones for years, and nobody's ever complained that it wasn't loud enough, :) or didn't produce enough smoke. :ph34r: With a full case of BP, there's plenty of what you shoot BP for. One time, the concussion actually caused a shotgun knockdown to fall as I was shooting the revolver targets. B)

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I shoot BP exclusively and use the .45 Cowboy Special in my revs. I use a .160 gr bullet, nothing special in the way of lube (whatever comes on the one I'm using) and a full case of Goex. The felt recoil is similiar to a .38. I also don't have any problem with lead fouling or residue buildup using just normal bullet lube.

 

Just my experience.

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38 Special came out in 1899 as a BP cartridge and was converted to smokeless a year later. I don't know that I'd load .357 in BP. Why not .38 special for pistols. I'm about to start shooting BP in my 44-40s and I'm preparing myself for lots of smoke and recoil. I don understand the comments about the rifle. I guess it it's a 73 you can clean it more easily than a Marlin or other rifle, but the blowback is a concern.

 

-Pico

blog.picopistolero.com

 

With the 38-40 or 44-40 blowback is not a concern. The thin case mouth seals and prevent the blowback from happening.

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All of these opinions are "interesting," but only one opinion matters.

Let your wife choose her own guns.If you push one or the other, and she doesn't like it....... Well, no need to say more. :o

Buena suerte,

eGG

+1

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Buy .38's and call 'em .38 Long Colts instead. :) The 38 spl and .38 Long Colt are so close that authenticity becomes a moot point. Shoot, you can even buy properly headstamped .38 Long Colt brass if you want. The .38 LC came out in 1875, so it's certainly an authentic "old west" cartridge, and is virtually identical dimensionally to the .38 spl, other than being .013" shorter, about the thickness of three $1 bills.

 

I've shot a lot of BP .38's through my original model Vaqueros and they work fine.

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BOOM!

That's all I'm sayin. :lol:

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All of these opinions are "interesting," but only one opinion matters. Let your wife choose her own guns.

 

If she wants to shoot .38's, then that's what she should shoot. And, yes, it was originally a black powder cartridge, so authenticity is no issue. If she wants .45's or .44-40's, then get those for her.

 

If you push one or the other, and she doesn't like it....... Well, no need to say more. :o

 

Buena suerte,

eGG

 

i know should be here choice, and don’t worry it will be here choice

 

problem is she doesn't know what she wants,

she has decided that it will be 2 thunderers but as to caliber she doubts between 38/.357 or .45lc

 

so i'm trying to get the info for here to make the choice easy for here, and because I don’t have any experience with 38/.357 cowboy revolvers I wanted to ask others for their experiences.(I had a .38/357 S&W 686, but never shot blackpowder with it, I still regret that I had to sell that gun but as we are only allowed 5 guns here in Holland I had to sell it when I bought my USFA Rodeo, )

 

Dutch Bear

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Some differences:

 

A revolver chambered in .357 Mag will be a bit heavier than the same model chambered in .45 Colt. This is because, while the external dimensions are the same, less steel is bored out of the barrel & cylinder.

 

Recoil will be milder in .38 or .357 than it will in .45 -- but, with BP, the recoil is more of a shove than a slap, so even in .45 it's managable.

 

The difference between an actual BP load in .38 vs. .357 is minimal; there is only 1/8 more capacity in a .357 shell case, which isn't enough to increase velocity significantly. The sole reason for the extra length is to prevent a factory .357 cartridge from being chambered in a .38 Special revolver, as this could result in severe damage to the gun and injury to the shooter.

 

As has been said, there is plenty of oomph in a .38 special BP load, but there'll be even more in a .45 Colt. Since you're already loading .45, sticking with it will simplify your reloading procedures; but loading .38 special will save money.

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If you are BUYING the cartridges, 38 will save you a bit of money. If you are loading your own, I don't think it will make much difference at all. The brass can be loaded at least 15 times. The primers cost about the same. The bullet prices shouldn't be all that much different, and if you are casting your own it will really not be that much different. The main difference is you will use abut twice as much Blackpowder in a 45 compared to a 38, unless you go to the Schofield or especially the 45 Cowboy special, then it won't be too much more. I shoot 44-40 with BP in my rifles and 45 Colt in the pistols, and my wife shoots smokeless 45 Colts in both. I hate it when we practice with some 38 specials as the shells get all clogged up inside the 45 shells in the tumbler, something to consider. And if you cast your own there is no reason you can't use the BP bullets in the smokeless guns, I do it all the time.

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I shoot APP in .38 Special and .45 Cowboy Special. I use APP FFFg in both which does not require bullets with special BP lube. Both cartridges hold the same Lee spoon of powder for 1/6" of compression. I use 200 grain bullets in the .45 and 125 in the .38 though I am planning on trying 140 grains to help with the small amount of blowback. Groups are much tighter than needed for SASS. Cleanup is moosemilk (Balistol and water) then vinegar-based Windex and a light oiling. I can shoot ten stages with a simple brushing of the chambers after five.

Have fun.

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Simple! Shoot 44-40 for pistols and rifle! Great cartridge and you can buy in bulk to save money. You said only 5 guns? What NO shotgun?

Mad Dog McGee

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As someone who loads for two, I'd vote for everybody shooting the same cartridge if at all possible. It sure makes things easier. As it is for me, I have three different Lee loaders on a bench, one for my wife's pistols, one for her rifle, and one for my pistols plus rifle.

 

That said, the correct answer you have already gotten is to let her choose!

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In my unabashedly honest opinion, when yer discussing BP, the question should have been, ".36 or .44 for black powder revolver?" Anything else is just derned laziness! :ph34r: :ph34r:

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I use a Snakebite Greasewagon bullet cast soft with SPG lube over GOEX FFFg. My recipe makes it a .38/22/158. No grease cookie.... No wads..... No filler..... Just FFFg...... And 1/4 inch of compression....

 

850 FPS from a 4 3/4 inch revolver and 1130 from my 24 inch Marlin.

 

Figure out the foot pounds of energy and compare it to some of the favored .45 loadings... Some .45 shooters might look down on this loading because it's "Only a .38" but it is an accurate, hard hitting load that will take out shotgun knock downs and is a real full powered loading, comparable to a real defensive round that I prefer to shoot.

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Pard,

 

From what it sounds like, she gots a good rep as a Lady gunfighter, ifn she is gonna come to the DARK SIDE(please come on ahead, we welcome you) she needs to keep up that image with the 45's loaded real nice with the Holy Black. Or even put her in a nice set of 44-40's to match her rifle. 44-40 or 45colt is the way to go, stay away from them lil poodle shooters. JMHO.........Big Smoke, Big Flame and no doubt when you hit the target

 

Load em HOT and HEAVY

The Ornery Oaf

Pale Rider Gunfighter

(and soon to be Pale Rider Frontiersman(lol) when i gets the dragoon and walker runin right)

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When I shoot FCGF it is usually with .38's in '51 conversions. Not exactly warthog but not wimpy by any means:

Video from an Iphone doesn't capture the BP boom but you get the idea. (rifle is 44-40)

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