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Bitterroot Jake, SASS #9532

Need Help Win. HIGHWALL PROBLEM

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About 20 years ago I bought a fairly nice old Winchester Highwall in 38WCF (38-40 Win.).

I shot it some over the next few months, then put in the safe and haven't shot it since till a couple days ago..

 

My first loads were in my old Remington brass with .402 cast bullets, the action was almost impossible to close, after firing rounds it took a lot of force to open but the empty case extracted with no problem, loaded some  more up with .401 bullets with the same results.

 

I had two boxes of new Starline  brass so i opened one up and resized a few round (using Lee dies) , tried clambering the empty cases. It was still very difficult to close and open the action.  I don't remember have this problems when I shot it the first time.

 

I then thoroughly cleaned the chamber  and tried it again.  Better but still very difficult. 

 

Anyone have any ideas? Any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated.  (As a side note, i kept 20 rounds in a two circle at 60 yards with a fairly stiff crosswind)

 

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A Highwall in .38-40 ?

The .38 WCF was usually chambered in the Lowwall ....

I have found that the Lee dies in both .38-40 and .40-65 don't size the cases to proper diamentions , I sent them back and bought RCBS Cowboy Dies in .38-40 and Hornady Dies in .40-65 , end of problems  ....

 

Jabez Cowboy

 

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I know a friend of mine, two actually, who had to take some off the bottom of the sizing die for 38wcf. Don't recall the brand of dies. But in both instances the sizing die was not pushing the shoulder back far enough, causing problems when they tried to chamber in their pistols.

 

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You also might try Winchester brass if you can find some. The necks are usually the thinnest of all, which may help the problem.

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Try trimming the length of the brass. Move down a little at a time and see if it becomes a good fit. If so, you might need to polish the front end of the chamber. The FIRST thing I would do would be to get some good dies. 

 

Snakebite

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I find that brass in .38 WCF. is on the Short side of Spec. as it comes from the factory .... So that is unlikely to be the problem ...

I found the "Lee" dies started the shoulder to close to the base and with the wrong shoulder angle carried the shoulder to far from the base, creating and case the would not chamber because the Front of the neck was stopping it .... But with a shoulder that at the start needed to be blown forward ....

 

The "Lee" .40-65 dies were cut with a straight Taper from Base to Mouth ... Not as it should have been ,,, the case is designed as tapered from the Base forward for 1.5 inches to a neck .6 inches long ..... So while the diameter was right at the case mouth, the start of the neck was too big to chamber ....

 

Both die sets I suggested in my above post are superb ,,, In .38WCF. I can size new cases with-out lube ,,, and only lube every 20th. case while loading fired brass...

I shoot these in both my Uberti 66 and Low-wall ....

 

My high-wall is Chambered in .40-65 and is my go to gun when I need to reach out and Hit something HARD ....

 

Jabez Cowboy

 

 

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I have 20+ 38-40s. The only ones I have had chambering problems have been Ruger's. I wonder if you have something in the rim area of the chamber. Try placing an unfired piece of the Starline brass lightly in the chamber. It should be flush with the back of the barrel.  If not watch the brass as you close the lever. If it moves forward with a lot of effort you have a problem with your rifle. 

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1 hour ago, Indy Kid, SASS #4638 said:

I have 20+ 38-40s. The only ones I have had chambering problems have been Ruger's. I wonder if you have something in the rim area of the chamber. Try placing an unfired piece of the Starline brass lightly in the chamber. It should be flush with the back of the barrel.  If not watch the brass as you close the lever. If it moves forward with a lot of effort you have a problem with your rifle. 

 

This is what I was thinking. It sounds like something is keeping the rim of the case from seating fully into the chamber

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I have to mill the end of the resizing die when use Lee dies for 44-40, 38-40 etc. They worked fine until I started using a 550 to load some 44-40s recently the shellplate for the 550 is thicker and I had to take more off the base of the die.

kR

PS If you want an easy way to find the probable cause just coat the entire loaded cartridge with a magic marker then chamber or try to chamber it. The marks on the case will show you exactly where the problem is.

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What Kid said. I have a bunch of 38-40 rifles and revolvers. Chamber casts show all the Chambers are different. Even among the same brand.

 I had to take a few thousands off the bottom of both RCBS Cowboy dies and LEE dies. 

 There is no SAMMI spec for 38-40. Or for 40-65 and many other 1800 cartridges.

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Just wondering if you have tried any factory ammo? Does it chamber OK?

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2 hours ago, Rancho Roy said:

What Kid said. I have a bunch of 38-40 rifles and revolvers. Chamber casts show all the Chambers are different. Even among the same brand.

 I had to take a few thousands off the bottom of both RCBS Cowboy dies and LEE dies. 

 There is no SAMMI spec for 38-40. Or for 40-65 and many other 1800 cartridges.

 

Sorry Pard , but SAMMI has had Specs. for this cartridge ( .38 WCF ) since 1980 with the latest revision in 2005....

And the .40-65 is under Review at this time ...

Lyman has very good drawings of the Specs. for .40-65 in their Handbook , these match very closely the specs. in the old "Ideal" manual...

And Hornady (.40-65 ) New Diamention Dies,  size cases to these specs...

 

Jabez Cowboy

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Bitterroot,

if you know someone or a gunsmith that has a finishing reamer for 38-40 , have a go at it. With a Highwall you shouldn't have to pull the barrel .

Isom

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I took .0025 off the bottom of the die today. Will try it when i get home.  I have loaded for several other guns with them with no problem. Being i have had them for 20+ year i do t think sending them back is a viable idea.

 

I did trim several cases but the results were the same.

 

My try factory ammo if this fails.  Only problem is its very hard to get around my neck of the woods.

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1 hour ago, Bitterroot Jake, SASS #9532 said:

I took .0025 off the bottom of the die today. Will try it when i get home.  I have loaded for several other guns with them with no problem. Being i have had them for 20+ year i do t think sending them back is a viable idea.

 

I did trim several cases but the results were the same.

 

My try factory ammo if this fails.  Only problem is its very hard to get around my neck of the woods.

 

You would have to sacrifice a case but cut one off so that there is no shoulder remaining. Eaziest way is to use a fill the case with enough grits or other inert filler so that when you seat a bullet the contents are in compression. Then cut the case with a pipe cutter.

 

After the case has been cut run it through your sizing die to ensure it is round and conforming to specifications. Then try closing the action on the case.  If it is easy then the problem is the shoulder or case length if not then the problem is somewhere else. possibly with the rim.

 

Cases are much cheaper than reloading dies and if you shove the shoulder too far back the cases will work harden and separate in the shoulder area when fired in your other firearms. If it is the shoulder I would get a second set of sizing dies just for this rifle.

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Quote

....but the empty case extracted with no problem, loaded some  more up with .401 bullets with the same results.

Jake, all caliber brass are made to SAMMI specifications but not all firearm chambers may not be cut to cartridge case dimensions.

Step 1.  Read the full length die adjustment spec's to insure that any New or Used brass have been resized .... All the Way to the Bottom of the case Web

Step 2. Chamber that resized case in the chamber. If it doesn't slid in the chamber easily, the case Web is still too large in diameter for the chamber.  Re-adjust the FL die and run the case through it multiple times and re-chamber the case again

Step 3. If the case sticks still, take a Magic Marker and  coat it on one side - chamber the case again to see where on the the case the ink is rubbed off.  If it's  at the mouth of the case - your seated bullet is too fat and the bullets used will be needed to be resized smaller

Step 4.  If it isn't a bullet diameter issue ... Call your gunsmith and show him the case.  Probably your chamber needs a ream job

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OP-Do you seat and crimp in one stage?

Not a good idea with that cartridge.

OLG

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Thanks for all the suggestions and info.  I tried everything suggested except trying factory ammo, no one within 50 miles had any 38-40 ammo of any kind in stock.

 

I had the same issue with  Remington,Winchester and Starline brass. Did not matter if was a loaded or a sized empty case.

 

I then took one of each band of case and removed .oo15 off the rim and resized them and they chamber and extract easily .

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Thanks for the update.

 

Before you modify all your cases I would carefully inspect your chamber for dried grease or oil.  If the rifle has been sitting for several years grease and oils tend to dry out and gum up.

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When I first had this problem I took a 45 caliber bore brush and scrubbed the chamber using  a military grade bore cleaner.  Tried it again, it did work better but still was way too hard open and close, I repeated the cleaning several more time with little  or no improvement. 

 

I may plug the barrel just ahead of the chamber and fill it with Butch's Bore Shine and let it soak for about 48 hours and scrub it again and see if there is any improvement. 

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Poorly Made Dies cause 98% of all Chambering problems that I see in my shop on Arms chambered in .38 WCF ( .38-40 )

this holds true in all action types ,,, Slides , levers and single shots of all types .... And Revolvers ....

Every single one has chambered and 98%  functioned great with My Personal loads in new Star-Line Brass...

A couple of guns had too tight Chamber necks to use Star-line brass in ,,, but loading Winchester Brass with my dies and bullets solved the problem ...

 

Jabez Cowboy

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5 hours ago, Bitterroot Jake, SASS #9532 said:

When I first had this problem I took a 45 caliber bore brush and scrubbed the chamber using  a military grade bore cleaner.  Tried it again, it did work better but still was way too hard open and close, I repeated the cleaning several more time with little  or no improvement. 

 

I may plug the barrel just ahead of the chamber and fill it with Butch's Bore Shine and let it soak for about 48 hours and scrub it again and see if there is any improvement. 

 

I suspect the offending material is in the recess for the rim and a bore brush likely is not reaching the bottom of the groove. A quick inspection with a magnifer will likely show that the bottom of the groove has some foreign matter in it.

 

Page 136 shows the SAAMI specs for 38-40

https://saami.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/ANSI-SAAMI-Z299.4-CFR-Approved-2015-12-14-Posting-Copy.pdf

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