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Thread: How hot to load my 38-55

  1. #1
    Boolit Master northmn's Avatar
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    How hot to load my 38-55

    I ahve found a load using 3031 for my 38-55 that hits about 1800 fps using the plain based Lee bullet. Somewhere, probably the Lyman manual, I remember reading that plain based bullets should be kept around 1600 or so or they will lead. My bore miked at 377 and I use a 379 bullet but fairly soft for hunting. I also lube with Lee liquid alox and apply lube in the lube grooves when I size them to 379. Have to size them to chamber them. Just curious if others exceed that 1600 fps with their plain based bullets in whatever they shoot. I ahve used the same alloy with good effect at 2000 with gas checks.

    DP

  2. #2
    Boolit Master


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    The only way to know if a given boolit at a given speed in a given rifle (enough 'givens' for ya?) will lead is to try it. Each bore is a rule unto itself.

    Case in point, my first .38-55's bore and the as cast diameter of my first mould for it were the same diameter. Exactly the same. Not good, say most. But I tried it anyway and after some 500 rounds it still hadn't leaded at all. Zero.

    So try it, it might just work.


    Cat
    Cogito, ergo armatum sum.

    (I think, therefore I'm armed.)

  3. #3
    Boolit Man
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    I shoot my Lee 250s as cast at .381 in my Marlin 38-55 factory conversion. I have used Unique (slow), 2400 (faster) and Re7 (I have no idea, assume faster). None of these have left lead in the barrel(LLA lubed). Accuracy is great with 2400, but I too would like a flatter path, am content with this performance for now.

    To load the Winchester brass, I deprime with a Lee universal decapper, bell the mouth, prime, powder, seat the bullet to crimp groove and then give a light, gentle nudge in an empty sizer die. Works great for me!!

    1Papalote

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    Bret4207's Avatar
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    It's like Cat says, try it and see.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master northmn's Avatar
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    I knew I needed to try it and have. There is not any serious leading, and I have cleaned the gun to make sure. It seems to group at a level where I wonder if its me or the load. I am trying 4198 as I have not had as good of luck getting good groups with slower powders, although 3031 has worked for me. I was curious about other experiences with plain based bullets at higher velocity, not necessarily in a 38-55. Kind of like the issue of microgroove rifling.

    DP

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    Please be careful with your reloads on the 38-55. I just did a rebarrel on a 94 that had the barrel split just in front of the action for about 3 " do to someones hand loads being a little hot. The primer showed a little pressure sign by starting to flatten. Shooter was very lucky that it went up instead of down.
    John Taylor, Taylor Machine, gunsmith

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    northmn, The .38-55 never was and shouldn't be a +P round. You would just be wasting brass. If you don't use 3031, then how about H-322. I have read some good reviews about that powder in the 38-55.
    BTW I shot a nice 7 pt.WT a few years back w/ my M-CB in .38-55 at a lil over 150 yds. thru the pines, north of Hibbing. He didn't know what hit him.

    http://data.hodgdon.com/cartridge_load.asp

    BTW2 Check out the data on the Hodgdon site above for the .38-55, they cover cast as well as those wonderful Barnes bullets. On the deer above, I was using a Barnes bullet and it zipped right on thru, you can't ask anything more than that. W/ standard pressures btw.
    Last edited by 475BH; 04-20-2011 at 01:11 PM.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master McLintock's Avatar
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    If you're trying to get 1800 fps, I'd definitely go with a gas check bullet, both due to the possible leading issue and accuracy. I use a load of 31 grs of 3031 in my Browning 1885, with the Lyman 378449 and it shoots exceptional, with positively no leading. With a plain base bullet, 4227 does well with a 250 gr'er, at about 1450 fps. I came up with both these loads after reading John Waters Pet Loads article on the 38-55. I had tried a bunch of powders and these two loads outshot anything I tried up to that point. RL7 did pretty good for a hot load, but again with a gas check bullet. I think Winchester had some "Express" loads for the 38-55 years ago that were up there so 1800 fps ought to be OK in either a lever gun or single shot.
    McLintock

  9. #9
    Boolit Master northmn's Avatar
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    I backed down to 1650 fps more or less and started getting groups more like I expected. I never exceeded the recommended manual loads for 3031 and was surprised when I got the 1800+ with the load I was using. I really was not going for that hot a load it happend. The primers show no flatening. I tried Winchester cases and a 377 bullet and they were really wild so I am back to fire formed Remington and 379's. (My ususal suppliers are out of Starline until July) The 1450 would be OK for my uses if I can get the alloy to agree for expansion. I personally think we get into a kind of circle where we harden the alloy to get more velocity and then eed the velocity for it to maybe expand. I shot a couple with a Barnes bullet at about 1600 over the chronograph and they performed well. Looking at the 1650 group I may back off a bit more yet. I am not seeing leading as much as it just don't seem to shoot that well. The 3031 may not be the problem as much as the alloy. I use about an equivalent of 1/2 to 1/3 lead to WW.

    DP

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    I didn't know what type of gun you were shooting (thought maybe it was a modern, strong SS) but in a 94 that 1800 fps do seem to hot. I shoot a couple of pre-1900 94s in 38-55 and won't go anywhere near those velocities (pressures). Cast 255 gr GC loads around 1400-1450 fps (chronographed) have a certain sound and recoil I don't like even though I know that is within the gun's capability. My best (full power) load in the 94 38-55 is a 255 gr GC over 16-17 gr 5744 with dacron filler at 1300+/- fps.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master northmn's Avatar
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    Its a Marlin Cowboy model. The manual stated 35 grains was max I tried 32. I did not think it would kick out like that but the cases are a little shorter and the bullets are a little bigger. When I used Winchester cases and a 377 bullet it was closer to the manual listing. The primers showed no flating and the cases resized easier. I plan on cutting back a little more. See how it does at about 1500 more or less. It is within listing for a 94 Winchestr.

    DP

  12. #12
    Boolit Master JesterGrin_1's Avatar
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    If you have the Marlin 336 Cowboy in 38-55. Then this is the max load by Ranch Dog outdoors for his TLC379-235-RF which is a Gas Check Design.

    Powder , Max Grains , Case Density % , FPS , Pressure K

    H-322 36.0 105% 2112 39.5

    http://www.ranchdogoutdoors.com/bin/...oadnotes02.pdf
    If one sits in thundering quiet the soul dies slow instead of yell to the heavens for all to hear and behold the righteous and upstanding and ones of which should be held with tales of woe. By C.A.S. <--- Thats Me lol.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    Marlin lever... got it. The Lyman manual lists the 249 gr plain base over 35 gr 3031 as their max at 25.6KCUP and 1812 fps. SAAMI lists 30KCUP as max so you are right on the top line. I know that Winchester and maybe others used to load up some hotter loads for the 38-55. I think the operative word is USED TO. The standard factory load now is about 1300 fps. The cartridge and guns so chambered and factory loadings spanned the BP to smokeless era. In 38-55 I still like the cast GC bullet loaded to about 1300 fps. I have other guns/calibers that will cleanly kill big game at 200+ yards if that is what is called for.

    I tried early on with the older Win 94s to use the standard plain base bullet. Two things I found: leading and instability. Cure: .379-.380 GC bullet. Didn't even mess with plain base leading experimentation at a certain velocity when leading and instability were part and parcel of the load combo from the start.
    Last edited by 405; 04-20-2011 at 10:16 PM.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master

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    When I shot my Marlin CB 38-55 I ran it up to 1850 with no leadin using Carnuba Red lube. I was casting from wheel weight and lino alloy. Shoot about 15 without cleaning and if it isn't leading don't worry, that 1600 isn't carved in stone it's just a guideline.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master northmn's Avatar
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    At 1600 with my alloy it is starting to behave using my alloy. I want a load that will give hits out to about 150 yards max with a high hold on the deer and will likely be using the rifle in wooded stands where 50 to 75 yards will be the norm. The max range is maybe a little optimistic as my ability to shoot with receiver sights has been going downhill. I do not shoot the gun a lot as compared to my 32-20 and 357. The Lyman #48 manual starting loads are at about 1500+ for their 248 grain lead bullet, but that is with #2 alloy. My fire formed cases are miked at 1.996 as compared to the 2.085 standard. That and the use of a 379 bullet may be making them step out a bit with the same powder charge over the manual's lists. If Lyman mikes a bore at 377, they use a 377 bullet. 3031 fills the case up to the base of the bullet. When I used the Barnes bullet I did not have 3031 and tried 748. It gave about 1600 with a compressed charge. Looks like I am going to be shooting at about 1550 which should permit expansion. Too bad they do not make a Gould bullet for the 38-55.

    DP

  16. #16
    Boolit Master


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    I use the Lyman 375449 (284 grains checked and lubed) over AA 2230 in my 94. Twenty six inch barrel and I get just a bit over 1750 fps using .30-30 brass. A three inch group at 150 yards that was an inch and a half low (100 yard zero) and quite round.

    These throw the steel chickens five or six feet and knock the Rams down solidly too.


    Cat
    Cogito, ergo armatum sum.

    (I think, therefore I'm armed.)

  17. #17
    Boolit Master

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    Just got these in, 38-55 hand loads in a model 94 Winchester.


    John Taylor, Taylor Machine, gunsmith

  18. #18
    Boolit Master doubs43's Avatar
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    ^ OUCH!! John, do you have any idea what went wrong? A double charge of fast powder maybe? Or just pushed the load too far trying for more velocity?

    I hope the shooter is OK.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    catshooter: How much of that 2230 are you using behind the 375449?

  20. #20
    Boolit Master

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    I've used Reloader 7, AA2015, and AA2200 in my 1899 Savage 38-55. H322 would be another powder with similar burn rate. I'm not shooting plainbase, but rather the 280gr GC 375449. 26gr Reloader 7, 28-30gr AA2015, and 30-32gr AA2200. These aren't piker loads, but aren't hard on brass in my largish chamber. Reloader 7 seemed less linear in case expansion the these other powders, so don't use it for hotrod loads.

    With the 1-18" twist you might be able to get accuracy at higher velocity than normally assumed(1600fps) for quicker twists.

    It sounds like you're loading to shorter OAL due to short brass, so be cautious. I use the short 2.08" WW cases and load to 2.55" OAL or close to it. BTW, I don't bother crimping and the long bearing surface boolits don't move when cycled through the action.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check