Jump to content
SASS Wire Forum
Sign in to follow this  
Warden Callaway

38WCF - a case study

Recommended Posts

We've went over this a number of times here on the Wire.  Loading the old "dash" calibers and encountering problems chambering them in some guns. A common combination is the Dillon press and Lee dies, although not exclusively. 

 

Loading for one gun is usually no problem.  But when more than one gun comes into play,  problems often arise.  I now have four guns in 38WCF - Original Winchester 1873,  a Marlin 94 that I rebuilt,  a Cimarron Uberti Model P and now a Colt SAA. 

 

I didn't have a problem loading for any one gun and reloading for same gun using my small Lee C press.  The loads even worked when loaded on 550b. But I ran into problems when I tried to load the Model P with ammo made from cases fired in the Colt. 

 

1943193774_38WCFcasesincylinder1May2020.jpg.12a980ae108f3f281c3c53c131b26bd1.jpg

 

Left is new Starline case. It falls in and falls out.  Center,  loaded round made from cases fired in old Colt and crimped using Lee FCD.  Right is case fired in old Colt and not sized.

 

I cut a bunch off the bottom of the Lee sizing die. Maybe 1/10".  I didn't mess with taking a few thousands off at a time. 

 

2083808599_38WCFcasesincylinder2May2020.jpg.172af338d7b769860895e6f2948f9a1d.jpg

 

I set the cylinder from my Model P next to the press and adjusted the die down until the cases would drop in and fall out. I loaded the 10 case sample and now they drip in and fall out of the tightest chamber of the four guns I have. 

 

Now I have a management problem.  I have 300 rounds loaded that will load ok in 3 of my guns but not the Model P.  But as I shoot them out,  I'll load one load for all.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

The facts that this cartridge has both a bottleneck (which makes shoulder position critical, as you see) and old chamber dimensions that have not always been held to modern tolerances in either firearms or loading dies made for the cartridge, have accumulated into a failure to chamber for that Uberti revolver.   

 

Careful load management (what you mentioned) will let you work your way out of this situation.   If it were not Lee dies you were using(which I have come to NEVER trust), I'd probably take a different route, and have the chamber re-reamed with a finishing chamber reamer known to be fully correct for the shoulder dimensions.   Then that gun would not be a thorn in the side for you or the next owner.

 

But since they are Lee dies, that is probably the source of the error in either .38-40  or .44-40.   They just don't get the shoulder right, I've found.

 

I know Alan Harton in Houston does chamber touch-up work.   Several other smiths would have an accurate reamer as well, I would suppose.

 

Good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

I'd probably take a different route, and have the chamber re-reamed with a finishing chamber reamer known to be fully correct for the shoulder dimensions.  

 

That may be an option I'll entertain.  We have a cowboy gunsmith in our area that does a lot of work for club members.  He has a 38WCF chamber reamer.   

 

But it well not be that the Model P has overly tight chambers,  more likely the 115 year old Colt has larger chambers. So reaming the Model P chambers may not solve the problems.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Warden,

 

I had that same problem with my Uberti Cattleman's.  Rowdy Yates made me a die to set the shoulder back since the rifle has a larger chamber.  With the die, I can change the shoulder set back as needed.  No problems since.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting.  I have only 1 38/40 , an original 73 and so far have only shot factory in it..    not sure im interested in all that hassle . Maybe I'll move it on and pick up a 45 instead for classic cowboy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Warden Callaway said:

But it well not be that the Model P has overly tight chambers,  more likely the 115 year old Colt has larger chambers.

 

I would certainly test that assumption by taking Colt cases just fired, and sliding them into all your .38-40 chambers.   If you find a failure to fit on all guns, then it's the Colt chamber too big.   THAT will be a real expensive repair, if you fit a new cylinder.

Or, decide that you can live with the Colt large chambers because you now have a sizer die that can be adjusted to set the shoulders back properly.

 

If you have a failure to fit of those Colt-fired cases only on the Uberti, likely the Uberti is made with a short shoulder. 

 

You would probably have luck fixing your won't-chamber ammo by running the loaded rounds, lubed, into a .44-40 sizer die with the decapping rod removed.  That won't touch the bullet in the neck, but should let you push the shoulder back down to fit the Uberti.  Again, you may have to trim bottom of THAT die to push the shoulder down far enough, which would be a second data point suggesting that the Uberti shoulder is out of spec.

 

Good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have 5 .38-40 Guns , a First gen SAA , a pair of Uberti Cattlemen, 66 Uberti Sporting rifle and a Low-wall all Five will chamber the same loads ...

None Would Chamber a Round loaded with "LEE" dies ,,,,  My RCBS Cowboy Dies work like a charm ....

I also had a Set of "LEE " dies in .40-65 that wouldn't size brass correctly ,,, LEE dies are straight tapper from Base to Mouth ,,, NOT as they should be ...

The case was designed as Tapered from base to a point 1.5 inches then straight sided from there to the mouth ....this .6 of an inch is meant to hold the bullet firmly ...

Lyman Dies Fixed the problem and even my Tight chambered High-wall works with them .... Mine is Cut to SAMMI minimum specs....

They have also loaded for a dozen other .40-65s with complete satisfaction ...

 

Jabez Cowboy 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was loading for 38-40 I adjusted the die so it would fit all three guns. just had to push the taper back a little. Two Uberti's and an 1889 Marlin:blush:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Had that problem with a 38-40 pistol.

Changed to Lee factory dies.

Problem fixed.

  • Confused 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a problem years ago when I first started shooting 38-40 in that after a while the shoulders moved out slightly due to the die and would not seat properly in my revolver. Got a lee deprime resizing die and ground a small amount off the bottom of the die so that it set the shoulder back ever so slightly more. Have not ever had that problem again and that's been at least 15 years now. I now am down to 3 pair revolvers and 5 rifles in 38-40 with no issues with rounds not seating properly.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel your pain with the 38-40. With 8 pistols, Colts , Rugers and one Uberti. 5 rifles 2 originals. When I started, b/p only, RCBS dies, Dillon 650. I had pistol and rifle ammo, and I kept it separate, that got old. I spoke to someone about it ,said to try Hornaday dies. Tried them ,, helped a little bit, not much. I'm not a fan of Lee dies, that's just me.  Meanwhile, I bulged the barrel on my Uberti '73 rifle, shot it for a couple of month then ordered another bbl. Meanwhile another guy says ,"maybe all my cylinders aren't reamed the same. Oook,, got a finishing reamer, went through all my cylinders,,, very little there. Still had pistol/rifle ammo,, not quite as bad though. Talked to another guy, he asks how much powder are you putting in ? Ans. ,I don't know ,,,powder up to here, put bullet in ,, compress and crimp all within OAL for 38-40 I measured one and it was 32 grs. I think. Anyway, says I could be pushing the shoulder out just enough to keep everything from just sliding in. Just run them all back through a resizing/depriming die and it might work. I bought a die, took the deprime pin out , Put it in the next space after the crimp die (Dillon 650) took the cartridge that stuck up the most and turned the die down 1/4 turn and kept trying it until it just dropped in and locked it down,, pistol problem solved !! Not so rifles, still have to squeeze just a tad to get it all the way in. Barrel finally came in ,,,,,, everything took about 7-8 mos. Went to my gunsmith with stripped rifles and reamer, pulled barrels off,, both had short chambers, Ran the reamer through both old rifles and the new bbl I just got ( it was short also). I think Uberti must have been short chambering their 38-40 bbls. The rifles were bought new about 04-06. Gunsmith said I had enough bbl left behind the bulge for a carbine/short rifle. So I bought a 44-40 short rifle , swapped bbls and 2 dovetails later I've got another rifle. All that time ,,,, all I needed to do was get another die or back of the powder. Warthogs don't back off on powder :D Now when I load my 38-40's , they'll shoot in any and everything. Never had a problem with 44-40 or 32-20's.

YMMV,

Isom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey there Warden,

 

Get yourself a nice bright sharpie marker and either put a nice large line across the head of those 300 rounds, or color the primer.  That will give you a quick visual check at the loading table to ensure you dont put a gun specific load into the wrong gun.

 

YMMV.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, Crazy Gun Barney, SASS #2428 said:

Hey there Warden,

 

Get yourself a nice bright sharpie marker and either put a nice large line across the head of those 300 rounds, or color the primer.  That will give you a quick visual check at the loading table to ensure you dont put a gun specific load into the wrong gun.

 

YMMV.

 

That's going to be my approach to the phase out of the old inventory.  

 

I know where there is a Redding profile crimp die in stock.  But if my latest changes work,  I don't see that I'll need to spend $44.99 and then tax for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Isom Dart, SASS#8096 said:

Just run them all back through a resizing/depriming die and it might work.

 

This will undersize the bullet and neck about 0.005" or 6, ruining most rifle accuracy and not helpful to revolver accuracy, but you might not notice with big and close targets.

Good luck, GJ

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I shoot 34.3 Grains of Goex 3F under 181 gr. RNFPs with Zero issues in Starline Cases , I drop-tube all loads into the cases  ...

With Winchester Brass I load 34.7 Grains for the same amount of conpression ....

Some loads my Grandpa left with corroded cases were pulled apart to check Bullet & Powder weight , this is Ammo from 1882, 1888 & and 1902 all is loaded with Black Powder ... 

The lightest Bullets came out of the 1902 rounds and weighed 180.3 grains with 38.2 grains by weight and looked and screened out very similar to Goex 3F , my lot from 2018 ...

Both the other years weighed out very close to alike containing Bullets weighing 181 gr. to 181.2 gr. with charges of  38 to 38.1 grains , again the powder screens out much like Goex 3F ,,,, but in this case it is darker in color looking like Curtis & Harvey from a lot made 1976 ...

This Lot of C&H is superb and I am hoarding my last 12 pounds, for use in very special cases ...

 

Jabez Cowboy 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I think about it the .38-40 makes perfect Sense ,,, 38 Grains of powder seems to be What was put in the Old Style Balloon head cases and a .40 caliber Bullet ...

 

Jabez Cowboy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Get a reading profile die. You have 13 chamber to size for. Move the die down 1/4 turn at a time till all the rounds fit I have don this on my 38-40 and 44-40 never had any more problems with amo

  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
30 minutes ago, Jabez Cowboy,SASS # 50129 said:

When I think about it the .38-40 makes perfect Sense ,,, 38 Grains of powder seems to be What was put in the Old Style Balloon head cases and a .40 caliber Bullet ...

 

Jabez Cowboy

 The story that I heard was Colt did not name it the 40-40 because they were afraid it might be mixed up with the  44-40 when buying new ammo etc.  Hence the change in the standard of the day for naming cartridges.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The .38 WCF ( .38-40 ) is a Winchester Cartridge , And Colt Marked their guns so chambered 38-40...

Not wanting to put WCF  Winchester Center Fire  on their Guns ...

While the .44 - 40 is not a 44 caliber at all, as it used bullets of less than .43 caliber most being .425-.427 in Diameter ...

It was Marked as .44 WCF ....

 

Jabez Cowboy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was Marlin working with Union Metallic Cartridge co. that started the -40 Saga, not Colt

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

 

This will undersize the bullet and neck about 0.005" or 6, ruining most rifle accuracy and not helpful to revolver accuracy, but you might not notice with big and close targets.

Good luck, GJ

 

You're taking it back down to normal size/original specs, it's not being taken down smaller. If it didn't take it down "smaller" when you originally ran it through a resizer/deprime die, it shouldn't when you run it back again. My thoughts.

Isom 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Isom Dart, SASS#8096 said:

If it didn't take it down "smaller" when you originally ran it through a resizer/deprime die, it shouldn't when you run it back again. My thoughts.

 

Those thoughts are an incomplete understanding of what reloading dies do!   The sizer die runs the neck down about 5 or 7 thousands smaller than chamber.   THEN the expander die opens the neck up to about 2 thousandths under expected bullet diameter, to provide a little neck tension on the slug when it is seated.  The top of the expander button puts a bell on the mouth (about 1 or 2 thousandths larger than bullet diameter to let the bullet start without scraping lead or collapsing the neck if an edge of bullet catches on the neck).

 

If you do just a "resize" on a loaded round, you smash the snot out of the bullet, and risk collapsing the shoulder of a .38-40 case because the brass is so thin

 

Good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.