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Thread: H&R 38-55 target rifle

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Nobade's Avatar
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    H&R 38-55 target rifle

    I just picked up one of these rifles at a good price, to play with. After hearing how much trouble people have with them and their tight chambers I thought it would be a good challenge. I can see what they are talking about - a fired case is .375" inside, and the barrel measures .373"x.380". It can't work with conventional boolit ammo. But that tight chamber and lack of any real throat is just perfect for shooting with black powder and boolits patched to bore diameter! Sooo... I have a box of long Starline brass on the way, and several moulds that make slick sided boolits from .360" to .367" so we shall see what happens soon. I think I may have found a really fun to shoot rifle if it works like I think it will. And not having to resize the brass is really a plus, I could even shoot it schutzen style and just use one case. Or muzzle load it if I felt the need for more powder than will fit in the case. Lots of possibilities here!

  2. #2
    Boolit Master


    Shooter's Avatar
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    Sounds like a great candidate for breech seating.
    Best,
    Mike

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  3. #3
    Boolit Master Don McDowell's Avatar
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    It will be interesting to see what you can make that rifle do.
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  4. #4
    Boolit Master Nobade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shooter View Post
    Sounds like a great candidate for breech seating.
    There is no throat in it, so normal breech seating using grease groove boolits is out. I am going to try bore diameter paper patched boolits first, need to make up a .367" sizer so my patched boolits will be .373" with 9# paper. Starline shipped my brass so I should have that next week waiting for me when I get home from the SHOT show. Once the weather warms up I'll start making up ammo to play with...

  5. #5
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    GOPHER SLAYER's Avatar
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    Nobade, forget the breach seating. It is a pain In the butt. I have two 38-55s and I had the same problems you mentioned. The cause of the problem is the fact that the 38.55 is not and never was a 375 calibre. It is a 38 , and yet the companys making reloading gear want to treat it as a 375 cal. There isn't enough room in the chamber for a modern case plus a 38 cal bullet. When I explained my problem to Buckshot and Jon K. they both gave me the same advice, get some Starline brass. Other brands of brass are too thick. The brass on Starline is about six thou thinner. This will allow you to load bullets of 380 or 381. What you also need is an "m" die of about 383 diameter. There is nothing more frustrating than to drive fifty miles to the range only to find the ammo you have carefully handcrafted will not chamber in your gun. Been there done that
    A GUN THAT'S COCKED AND UNLOADED AIN'T GOOD FOR NUTHIN'........... ROOSTER COGBURN

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    i only made a wasted trip one time with ammo that didnt chamber...now i ensure that the ammo chambers BEFORE i finish the loading procedure...now no surprises at the range except the normal...too much coffee...eye that wont focus...pissy folks tryin to remove my joy...on n on.
    WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE...MORE WILL BE SAID THEN DONE

  7. #7
    Boolit Master Nobade's Avatar
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    Yes, especially those of us who work with boolits - our ammo is normally tailored to closely fit the firearm, and must be checked all along the way to make sure everything fits like it should.

    As for this chamber being a problem, I don't see it that way. More like it is telling me what it needs to be fed and that ain't groove diameter boolits seated into the cases. But I do have a box coming from Starline, should be here today in fact. I have a bunch of their short brass but the chamber in this new rifle takes the long ones so I had to order more. I am hoping I won't have to resize the cases at all to use them, but I might have to obtain a taper crimp die for 38-55 to snug up the case mouths so the boolits don't fall out.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Skipper's Avatar
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    It also helps a lot to rent a .400 mouth reamer to slightly open the chamber mouth. This makes the use of bullets that actually fit the bore possible.

    http://4-dproducts.com/displayitem.p...1&tname=rental

  9. #9
    Boolit Master


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    I reamed out the chamber on my 38-55 BC and it took all of 5 minutes and 25.00 rental. Before that i was using the thinner Winchester brass and had to check every cartridge to make sure it fit. No way am I going to start paper patching, I have too many hobbies already!

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    paperpatch is a very fun and satasfying project and it sounds like the chamber is talor made for them. the bore diameter will punch up with blackpowder in fine shape. do share your progress as im tempted on another 38 to add to my playthings.
    WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE...MORE WILL BE SAID THEN DONE

  11. #11
    Boolit Master Nobade's Avatar
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    Brass came in today, so I'll start working with it after we get back from SHOT next weekend. Looks like it'll work well.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Trust me, ream the chamber, you can do it by hand, I have a lathe, but did not use it, It barely removes any metal at all. all you need is a tap wrench.
    I fought it at first, using starline brass, barely resizing it, and loading a .381 boolit. It worked, however one day I went hunting and the shell would not come out of the chamber at days end. Dont know if it swelled in the chamber or I messed up that round, but I had to fire it to drive home.

    After that I rented the 4d reamer above and reamed both my rifles. Now I can use whatever brass I find, including winchester or converted 30-30 brass, no problem, Also the rifles shoot better as well, which I believe has to do with more room for the case to expand and release the bullet.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master gandydancer's Avatar
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    please keep us posted on this 38/55 adventure you are about to embark on. I have the same rifle and a marlin 336 38/55 I am going to start to play with very soon. good shooting. Tom



    Quote Originally Posted by Nobade View Post
    I just picked up one of these rifles at a good price, to play with. After hearing how much trouble people have with them and their tight chambers I thought it would be a good challenge. I can see what they are talking about - a fired case is .375" inside, and the barrel measures .373"x.380". It can't work with conventional boolit ammo. But that tight chamber and lack of any real throat is just perfect for shooting with black powder and boolits patched to bore diameter! Sooo... I have a box of long Starline brass on the way, and several moulds that make slick sided boolits from .360" to .367" so we shall see what happens soon. I think I may have found a really fun to shoot rifle if it works like I think it will. And not having to resize the brass is really a plus, I could even shoot it schutzen style and just use one case. Or muzzle load it if I felt the need for more powder than will fit in the case. Lots of possibilities here!
    "The good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army.They may be led astray for a moment,but will soon correct themselves" - Thomas Jefferson

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  14. #14
    Boolit Master Nobade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by akajun View Post
    Trust me, ream the chamber, you can do it by hand, I have a lathe, but did not use it, It barely removes any metal at all. all you need is a tap wrench.
    I fought it at first, using starline brass, barely resizing it, and loading a .381 boolit. It worked, however one day I went hunting and the shell would not come out of the chamber at days end. Dont know if it swelled in the chamber or I messed up that round, but I had to fire it to drive home.

    After that I rented the 4d reamer above and reamed both my rifles. Now I can use whatever brass I find, including winchester or converted 30-30 brass, no problem, Also the rifles shoot better as well, which I believe has to do with more room for the case to expand and release the bullet.
    But I am going to be shooting boolits that are patched up to .373" - plenty of room for them in the original chamber. Just like my 45-70 rifle that I recently built, it will chamber a .451" boolit and no bigger. The chamber in this H&R is perfectly dimensioned for shooting bore diameter paper patched boolits, but not groove diameter greasers.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master Don McDowell's Avatar
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    Nobade, it sort of makes a fella wonder if they didn't use the original Ballard chambers on those rifles, and that's why they called it a Target rifle. Most folks just don't understand the ways of the original cartridges and how to patch for them..but it must a been good for reamer sales and rentals...
    GUSA #6
    People will forget what you said...
    People will forget what you did...
    But People will NEVER forget how you made them feel

    Want to join in adult conversation about shooting the old ways without the hysterics associated with other places?http://historicshooting.com/mybb/index.php

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    The chamber in this H&R is perfectly dimensioned for shooting bore diameter paper patched boolits, but not groove diameter greasers.
    ... That limits you shooting PP in the rifle the rest of your life. Rent the reamer and have the best of both worlds. I did. Then you'll be able to shoot breech and fixed cartridge GG's and PP's. For 30 bucks - Such a Deal!
    Last edited by John Boy; 01-12-2013 at 04:49 PM.
    Regards
    John

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Nobade's Avatar
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    Now that SHOT is over I am back home and finally got to try the new H&R at the range today. I only loaded 10 rounds, limited by time. Boolit is the Lee 379-250-RF with the grease grooves reamed out. Cast from pure lead, sized to .366" and patched to .373". Powder was homemade, I didn't weigh it but thrown from the measure it just overflowed the case. Poured through a drop tube it was just below the case mouth so I could compress it .300" with a thin card wad. A lubed 1/8" felt wad and another card took it to just less than .100" from the mouth. Boolit hand seated, a nice snug slip fit. Fired three at paper at 50 yards to see where the sights were pointing, first shot was an inch away from the next two which were cutting each other. Moved to 100M on steel, three more to get everything centered and the last four went into right at 1 1/2 inches. Good confetti, no large chunks of patches left. Wiped with patches wet with moose milk, one on wet side and one on dry(er) side between shots. Cases are just slightly larger than before, I may have to just kiss them with the size die but it will be very minimal. Looks like it is off to a good start, I will play around with loads and eventually get a nicer boolit mould that doesn't have to be sized down so much. This is going to be a very fun rifle to work with! It is kind of funny that H&R saw fit to sell rifles almost perfectly dimensioned for shooting paper patched boolits and black powder.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Everything I've read about the h&r 38-55 suggests they copied an original paper patch chamber. I need to get around to working with mine someday.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Everything I've read about the h&r 38-55 suggests they copied an original paper patch chamber.
    Actually, H&R cut the barrels and chambers for the 375 Winchester ...
    • Factory Specification - Bore – 0.373 and 0.379 grooves
    • Actual: 0.374 and 0.378
    The 375 Winchester is/was the proof round used for testing.
    To shoot 380 Pb rounds, recommended to ream the chamber to 401
    Last edited by John Boy; 01-27-2013 at 10:45 PM.
    Regards
    John

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    I have the last year barrel production that was made my H@R or Marlin I don't have the rifle with me but I use starline brass and a .379 sarco#738 lead bullet 255 RNFP and 34.0 grains of IMR3031 the gun will tack drive groups.
    I did a few at .380 @ .381 and had no problems closing up the rifle with starline brass now it was another story using winchester brass I think .379 was a max: diameter the action would lock up on.

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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
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LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check