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Rancho Roy

Two Problems with 38-40 resolved!

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Yesterday at the Ledyard CT CAS shoot I had issues with the first two stages. In my 1866 in 38-40, the bullets were being pushed into the case and jamming the gun. This was all new brass that I had recently loaded.


The second issue was once fired brass being tight in the chambers of my Uberti revolvers in 38-40. Sometimes they would not seat all the way in and drag on the recoil shield. New , unfired brass worked perfectly.


Last night I sat down and did some pondering.


Seems this last load of Starline brass is just a smidge shorter than the other brass I've been using. This caused the RCBS Cowboy seating / crimp die to not give the mouth of the case a good crimp on the bullet. I put the die in the lathe and with a carbide cutter I removed .050" from the bottom of the die...PERFECTO! Now the case goes deeper into the die and forms an excellent crimp.


To figure out what was happening with the once fired brass, I smoked a few cases and inserted them into the chamber of the revolver and I could see that the shoulder of the once fired cases was too far forward. The die was hitting the shell plate so I couldn't push the shoulder back any further.

Back to the lathe and I cut .050" off the bottom of the sizing die. I adjusted it to move the shoulder pack just a few thou and now the cases fit perfectly.


The 38-40 has been quite a row to hoe.....I have two revolvers and 6 rifles in this caliber and all the chambers are slightly different. Thank God it head-spaces on the rim and I can size the cases once and they will fit all my firearms.


I love the 38-40 for CAS because at the pressure we shoot, the 45LC and other cartridges the bras in the neck is to thick and the cases can't seal the chamber well. With the 38-40 (and the 44-40), being black powder cases, they have extremely thin necks and seal the chamber very tight. My guns are clean as can be after a match. In fact, I rarely clean my guns during the season. I might swab the bore here and there. But there is no need to disassemble and clean like I used to do with 45LC.


Hope this helps someone that might be having the same issues.

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This comes up quite a bit. A lot of .32-20, .38-40 and .44-40 dies won't push the shoulder back far enough. Shortening them usually solves the problem as you have found.

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Thanks Larsen...Had me stumped there for a little bit.

 

A variation in the thickness of the shell holder or shell plate could have the same effect.

 

Redding sells various thickness shell holders but I don't know if they have one for 38-40 / 44-40. These would resolve this problem on a single stage press.

 

In my case, I'm using a LEE 1000 progressive with a hard as glass shell plate. The only way I could reduce the thickness of this shell plate would be with a surface grinder and one of those hasn't found its way into my shop.............Yet!

 

BTW, a by-product of setting the shoulder back just a smidge has made my rifles much smoother and easier to operate (Both my 1866, 1873 and my two lightnings) as I'm not using the rifles action to size the brass!

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I purchased a die from RCBS. It is a special order and they call it the Schoville Die, after the gent who I guess perfected it. I have been using it for years and I can not say how many thousands of rounds I have loaded!! It works fine and the ammo shoots well out of several different handguns and long guns.

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Your rifle is much easier to operate because you are no longer using the bolt to resize every round chambered.

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The best way that I have found to keep the bullet from pushing back into the brass is to seta it over a compressed load of BP or sub-BP. It then has no where to go. I shot BP loads in .38-40 in this weekends state match. The brass looked nearly new when it came out of the gun. No blowblack or accumulation.

My Lee dies put the shoulder right at .980" which seems to be very close to factory specs for most .38-40s. I have had the same good fortune with the .32-20.

Those original WCF rounds are great fun.

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Yes I shoot lots of black powder in the 38 40. And you are right it is painless.

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I'm just getting my 38-40s together. Are any die sets better than others. Any to stay away from?

 

Barry Sloe

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I have Lee, Lyman and RCBS Cowboy Dies and the RCBS load the nicest cartridges by far. The Lee sizes the necks to much. And all this brass moving hardens it and neck splits happen sooner than with the other dies. The Lyman dies require that I lube the cases (the 34-40 is a bottle neck and it probably should be lubed), but the RCBS dies work great without lubrication.

 

(And the Cowboy Dies look "period correct" with their case hardening.... :-)

 

More important than dies for the 38-40 is bullet selection. I went through three or four molds before I smartened up and read what folks were saying......RCBS 180g mold and be done with it! But for Black Powder I use a 180g Big Lube die. Not extremely accurate as the RCBS but with BP there is near no hard fouling after 60 rounds through the barrel.

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I went through three or four molds before I smartened up and read what folks were saying......RCBS 180g mold and be done with it! But for Black Powder I use a 180g Big Lube die. Not extremely accurate as the RCBS but with BP there is near no hard fouling after 60 rounds through the barrel.

I have one 1873 that is too short throated for the shoulder on the RCBS bullet. It WILL chamber if you force it in, but it doesn't just fall in like it should. I went to the NEI 401-195-WCF mold which works well in all my .38-40's. (11, I think...) I had to trim my sizing die to set the shoulder back too, and had to rent a reamer to open the chamber throats up on my 3 Vaqueros. As I recall, Ruger only made them .396" for some reason.

 

When I worked as Gun Room Manager for Sportsman's Warehouse here, they decided to close out WW .38-40 brass about five years back and it was marked down to $9.20 a bag. I called the warehouse, asked how much was left, and told them I'd take it all. IIRC, it was about 70 bags, so I don't mind losing a few here and there to the brass gods as much as most folks would. :lol:

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Are any die sets better than others. Any to stay away from?

 

RCBS Cowboy dies (because the expander button is sized for lead bullets). And a Redding Profile Crimp Die.

 

This combination makes the best WCF cartridges that I have seen. The Redding is almost a requirement when loading smokeless for rifle loads, as most other crimp dies put NO WHERE NEAR AS FIRM a crimp on as the Profile Crimp die does.

 

And, yes, it puts on a firmer crimp than the Lee Factory Crimp Die. I have measured finished OD's and bullet pull force and the Redding just flat out wins.

 

Good luck, GJ

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Great! Now I need to add a Redding die to the barn! Thank a bunch....... :D

 

But if it crimps that good, it will be worth it!

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And just a note on these old WCF cases, if you take the time to trim all your cases, both new and old, to the same length (usually the shortest one in the batch) your loads will take on a perfection unknown in the modern world.... Duck

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I own one 38-40 and load for it on a single stage RCBS Rock Chucker press. The problems I have are related to the thin shell casing. One smidge over when crimping and the case bulges or otherwise deforms. Fun to shoot but a pain to load for. I will take into consideration all the suggestions posted in this thread and see if changing to the RCBS Cowboy dies and the Redding crimper will help. Joe's advice is usually right on the mark.

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Stony maybe you hsve the wrong shell holder?

There are 2 different RCBS die sets for 38/40. One for rifle, jacketed and another for use with lead bullets, the SIZE of the dies are different. I have the lead die set almost 14 years, with a Lee Factory Crimp die, never had a problem over 100K + loadings, the dies had to be adjusted Colt pistols, Uberti 73, Ruger pistols, Win 92 orig, AWA Lightining, Win 92 miroku all different chambers never a problem, I learned to read.

Every case has been trimmed to same length so crimp is always perfect.

Crimp is the control of the bullet.

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Definitely disappointed with the Lee 38-40 dies I had. The Hornady's were excellent

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The Schofield die is the only sure fix for 38-40's. It puts the shoulder back to original factory specs (I have been told). The chambers are different between older guns and newer guns. Sometimes in guns of different manufacturers, too.

When I was shooting a Marlin 1889, a first Gen Colt, and a Uberti I would get three different dimensions for the shoulder location. Needless to say all reloads would not fit in all guns.

After I got the Schofield die all shells worked in all guns.

You can even tell while reloading which shells were fired from which guns. The effort varies depending on the chamber dimensions of the gun.

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Had to have my 1873 Uberti Rifle chamber lengthened . The bullet was engaging the rifling when chambered; and I had to increase the distance between the barrel face and my cylinders to .007. Both shoot like a dream with BP and the rifle stays clean because of the bottleneck design.

The big Lube mold is the only way to go . I clean all my guns after shooting with just baby wipes.

Ballistol in the barrels and Eezox on the outside . Works fantastic!

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I use a lee factory crimp die with my 44/40's to solve this problem.

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