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Thread: Win 1894 38-55

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Win 1894 38-55

    I had the bore measured and have a .381 barrel. Is this going to get interesting to load/cast bullets for? I have a Ideal 265gr GC mold but haven't had time to see how big it drops.Want to use this on deer,bear + moose.Jacketed will do around 3"-3.5" at 100 yards but at .377 are likely rattling down the pipe.The rifling is in G+-VG shape.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    i have 2 94s in.38-55 a carbine and a rifle. I use the bullets as cast about .380 both shoot well even with b-p.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master northmn's Avatar
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    Look up Vollmer Bullets on the web for jacketed bullets. He makes a variety of sizes for the 38-55. Yours is a common issue with the 94 in that caliber. How old is it and is it a smokeless barrel. The early ones were made for Black powder and are not designed to take heavy loads.
    Also one can run into issues with the chamber being too small to chamber bullets large enough to fit the bore. Use of Starline brass often helps. I have used lead bullets of bore size but prefer to double lube them. First I roll them in Lee Liquid Alox and then apply lube in the grooves. No leading that way. I also got a couple of deer with a 375 Barnes Original jacketed bullet shot out of my 38-55 Marlin CB which has a bore diameter of 377 or 378. A hotter load using a softer alloy can sometimes slug to the barrel as does black powder.

    DEP

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
    Chill Wills's Avatar
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    38-55 Ballard and Marlin chambered Winchester rifles from the early manufacture had 0.380" groove diameter barrels. Always, Some barrels vary, but not much, and the chambers were correct for the barrels. I very much doubt you will have any trouble with current Winchester brass having too thick neck brass. BUT, it will be short at 2.085".

    The suggestion of using the long (correct) length Starline brass, 2.125" is a good one. Old chamber length was really targeted to 2.130" but the Starling is fine. Soft bullets starting at 0.379" have worked well in the many 1894's I have had but 0.380" and 0.381" can be great as well. Old West Bullet molds produce some great molds for the 38-55 lever rifles. I have one three cavity plan base that casts at 0.381" and is good for most anything except hot-rodding and that old rifle should really not be given hot loads.
    Have fun with that great old rifle.
    Chill Wills

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I use the Accurate 38-250D in my 38-55. I had the mold cut at .381 and it works extremely well in my rifle.
    Protecting this country and it's communities isn't just the job of soldiers and police, but of every patriot who is capable.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    The serial # suggests it was made in 1911 and there is no nickel steel marking on the round barrel.The factory jacketed loads ran 1300fps with the Winchester 255gr and 1600 fps with the Dominion load of yore.Killed deer dead.I just want to keep shooting her with cast preferably as I have lots of Win brass and RCBS dies. If bullet size becomes an issue I'll get some Starline.I think mine is chambered for the long brass as that's what Dominion loaded.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pioneer2 View Post
    The serial # suggests it was made in 1911 and there is no nickel steel marking on the round barrel. I just want to keep shooting her with cast preferably as I have lots of Win brass and RCBS dies. If bullet size becomes an issue I'll get some Starline.I think mine is chambered for the long brass as that's what Dominion loaded.
    Yes, you are right, those old Winchesters all had the 2.130" chamber. The modern short brass can work fine if your load is not causing you trouble mostly in the form of lead rings at the chamber mouth.

    The one other item that may improve accuracy with (especially) softer cast bullets would be to replace the case neck expander in your RCBS die set. It is as simple as unscrewing the stock, undersized expander and replace it with an expander one or two thousands smaller then the bullet size. In other words, if you settled on a 0.381" cast bullet, install a 0.379" or 0.381" expander/flare stem. Check Buffalo Arms Co to get any size you want. About $20.

    This will keep the bullet from getting resized back down by the small case neck to something less that the 0.380" bullet you went to all the trouble to obtain.
    Chill Wills

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Dan Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bohica793 View Post
    I use the Accurate 38-250D in my 38-55. I had the mold cut at .381 and it works extremely well in my rifle.
    I have the same mould cut to the same dimensions and it works great as cast in my 1893 Marlin. I started loading for my friend's 94 Win and had to size to .379 to get the rounds to chamber. His shooting smokeless does well and I am using the same .379s in my Marlin; also satisfactory.
    To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, the trouble with many shooting experts is not that they're ignorant; its just that they know so much that isn't so.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master OlDeuce's Avatar
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    My Old 38-55 shoots the .379 cast Great and the OE 38-55 Winchester 255gr mold works the best !!!! Ol Deuce....
    Do the Best with What you have !

  10. #10
    Boolit Master northmn's Avatar
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    The original loads for the Winchester were black powder which would slug to bore diameter and give adequate accuracy out of the rather larger bores. One load that stands out in 38-55 use is the use of Unique powder at about 9 grains or so. Faster smokeless powders may tend to also slug the bore. When I mention adequate accuracy they would be at a bout 4" at 100 yards. Ed Harris did some shooting with some original old rifles and original ammunition and claimed that that was about what they did. Montana bullet works makes bullets designed to work at BP levels.
    I went through a few issues with my Marlin CB but I now have a 377 expander instead of the tighter 375 many die sets come with. My best shooting loads are sized to 379. I slugged it and got 377 or 378 depending as it has 7 groove rifling and odd grooves can be tricky to measure. People keep telling me it is larger but I know what shoots in it anyway and as cast do not shoot as well and the 375 bullets stabilized. My 32-20 shoots well with 311 bullets treated as I mentioned using Lee liquid lube. Too cheap to buy a true 311 mold for it as the as cast shoot very well. The trick about using a gas check seater as mentioned is a good one.
    I have seen some very extreme barrel slugging measurements from the old Winchesters as in 384 or so. You have a workable one.

    DEP

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    I also have a hi-wall in .38-55. I use the same bullet in it too . I have only used the short brass in all my rifles with noproblems at all.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master FergusonTO35's Avatar
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    Is your rifle smokeless powder proofed? Buffalo Bore has some extensive reading on their website about this cartridge. As I remember, they talk about stronger loads helping lead boolits to fit the bore.
    Currently casting and loading: .32 Auto, .380 Auto, .38 Special, 9X19, .357 Magnum, .257 Roberts, .30 WCF, .45-70 Gov't.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    No idea ? How do you tell? Made in 1911 and not marked nickel steel barrel.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
    Chill Wills's Avatar
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    This applies toWinchester 1894, 32-40 and 38-55 only.
    If your Winchester was made in 1911, the SN falls somewhere in the area of 553,xxx and 560,xxx. In this range 38-55 barrels were "Proof Steel" but nickle steel barrels for 32-40 and 38-55 could be special ordered and then so marked.
    So if your firearm is not marked nickle steel especially for smokeless, it is the older type steel.
    Last edited by Chill Wills; 01-27-2018 at 02:33 PM.
    Chill Wills

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Did a little more digging and who knows why but most 32-40's and 38-55's were never marked in plain view on the side of the barrel? One has to remove the magazine tube and forend to see under the flat side of the barrel at the reciever.Nickel steel will be stamped MNS or INS.Two nickel mixtures were made 5% and 10% The 10% was very hard to machine and dropped.I need to take it apart to be sure before getting too hairy reloading it.Records contradict each other as my serial # is in the 573XXX range.

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  17. #17
    Boolit Master northmn's Avatar
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    There's a lot Winchester did in the earlier days that make sense from a manufacturing point of view but might get a bit confusing. They had to do a bit of experimentation before coming out with the smokeless 3030. As I understand it, the 32-40 and 38-55's were made for the 94 until they got the smokeless barrels down. You also run into the issue of whether they wanted to use up what stock they may have had of non- smokeless barrels. One theory about the 32 Special was that it was introduced because they had the 32-40 barrel machining equipment and materials at hand and it was a way to use them. Also a good way to "modernize" the 32-40.
    I would be wary of anything Buffalo Bore had to say for use in these older rifles. I have seen some older literature where they have loaded this cartridge up and Winchester did market some high velocity, as in about 1700 fps loads, until before WWII. I really would not want to use them in an older rifle as there's more than a barrel required to stand up to that use. Take the 73 and its lock up system.

    DEP

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  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    I don't use factory ammo anyways and was not planning on loading my Grandpa's old 38-55 up and possibly wrecking it and or myself.Just trying to ID what type of barrel I have.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    If you are able, please post a few pictures of the under-barrel markings and of the whole rifle. I for one, always enjoy seeing early rifles. Especially one that has been in a family a few generations.
    Chill Wills

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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