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Thread: Need advice ref orignal Ballard in 38-55

  1. #1
    Boolit Mold
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    Need advice ref orignal Ballard in 38-55

    Hi, its been a while since I have been here but I am looking for some guidance. I am still getting into the single shot rifle shooting and recently got an original Ballard in 38-55. It is safe to shoot and has a nice bore but when I swaged it the bore sized out to .386/.387. I thought "oh boy...its shot out!! But in examining it I see it has nice rifling all the way down the bore and in swaging it, the lands printed nicely and neatly.

    Would this mean that I would have to shoot a paper patched bullet seeing as how I cannot find any cast bullets of this size? And how do I get to size my brass to fit this diameter bullet with the dies I have? does anyone know of an outfit that will make me an expander? I bought a Redding in size .379 but that isn't going to be big enough is it...


    Thanks in advance for your time.

    Ben

  2. #2
    Boolit Master bosterr's Avatar
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    Look at the Accurate Molds site. Tom will make anything and any size you want, that means diameter too.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
    bigted's Avatar
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    Yep Tom would help you rite out with any size needed.

    Have you fired it yet? Just curious as to what your chamber is like. That sure seems like a overly big diameter and bettin you will never be able load a boolit that big in a case AND chamber it. May have a muzzle loading rifle that you load the boolit down the barrel and seated on a powdered case with a wad crimped in the mouth. Muzzle loaded boolits like this have been very accurate having been engraved on the trip down the barrel to seat upon the wad and powdered case.
    WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE...MORE WILL BE SAID THEN DONE

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    I may have something that big, I can check over the weekend.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    pm me if interested, I will probably forget where I saw thread

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Soft bullet cast as big as you can get in a case and pray for a big bump up? I bet you can get it to shoot well but it sounds as if it will take some work.
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master
    Chill Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berlin1960 View Post
    got an original Ballard in 38-55. It is safe to shoot and has a nice bore but when I swaged it the bore sized out to .386/.387. I thought "oh boy...its shot out!!

    Ben
    No offense meant, zero. But that is a very unlikely bore and groove. Are you sure?
    BTW, I assume you intend to mean 0.387" GROOVE diameter??? ...not bore diameter. Correct?

    My questions would be:

    Are you sure of the measurement?
    How did you measure? with a Micrometer?
    Did you just measure at the muzzle?
    Did you push a soft round ball all the way through from the chamber?
    Maybe did you take an undersized soft slug and somehow Swage or bump it up in the barrel and then push it out?

    It is an internet myth that the state of manufacturing, post civil war was that poor. Especially Ballard, they were very good at getting it right.

    I am not saying you are wrong, but from my own experience, I have had to go back and redo things that don't seem right.
    Like the carpenter; measure twice, cut once.
    Last edited by Chill Wills; 10-24-2018 at 10:14 AM.
    Chill Wills

  8. #8
    Boolit Mold
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    With all the research I have done on the 38-55, I have never heard of or have seen one with such a large groove measurement. It is not uncommon to see a .381. My 336 slugs at .379. I agree with Chill Wills to do another slug the bore thing. SAAMI specs show a .379 groove and that specs was good as of 1926. My C Sharps Hi Wall came with a .375 groove and a .368 bore; however I was told it was made to SAAMI specs.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    If your bore/groove dia. is right, your probably going to have to breech-seat a bullet that is either tapered or a cylindrical sided bullet that is at most .002" over bore dia. in throat & seat primed & charged case behind...as in Schuetzen type shooting. I myself have used a .002" over bore dia..(NOT groove dia!) 30-1 lead-tin alloy bullet in an original Ballard 4 1/2 Mid-range .40-63 and a case full of Swiss 1 1/2 black powder...was getting 1" groups at 100yds.

  10. #10
    Boolit Mold
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    Found a beautiful Ballard No.8 at the Denver show in May, with a Rigby barrel in 38-55. Long chamber, groove diameter slugged at .384, lands at .374. Bore was very, very nice but after going through more different bullets than I can remember I just sent it off to John Taylor to be lined to .375. At least I will be able to make up a breech seater that the bullet will fit into to ensure a concentric entry to the chamber

    Trying to breech seat a tapered bullet that cannot be slid into a case is not for the faint of heart or the impatient. You may get lucky and have two or three cock sideways exactly the same, then the fourth cocks ever so slightly the other way and you stop shooting groups and start measuring patterns. It drove me nuts.What they were thinking when they made that barrel we will never know, but I have a suspicion that bore had a lot to do with so beautiful a rifle being out on a table at the show.

    Good luck!Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    getting someone with a lathe to make an expander to size isnt difficult.

  12. #12
    Boolit Grand Master

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    The chamber will make a difference in what you can do also. If it is cut for the .386-.387 barrel you may just need an expander and reworked mould. If not then things get harder. If the fired cases accept the bigger bullets then your fine, and can load accordingly. If the chamber was cut for .379-.380 bullets then it wont allow for the bigger bullets to chamber. Here it gets harder to make useable.
    I would recommend a chamber cast to see what neck dia is and what size bullet it will accept safely. Neck Diameter - (neck wall thickness X2) - .001 will tell you the largest bullet the chamber should accept loaded. If it is smaller than barrel dimensions then breech seating may be required. Even this will be tricky to do easily.. Even the paper patched bore rider sized to bore dia may be large for the fired case

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
    Chill Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluesman View Post
    Found a beautiful Ballard No.8 at the Denver show in May, with a Rigby barrel in 38-55. Long chamber, groove diameter slugged at .384, lands at .374. Bore was very, very nice but after going through more different bullets than I can remember I just sent it off to John Taylor to be lined to .375. At least I will be able to make up a breech seater that the bullet will fit into to ensure a concentric entry to the chamber

    Trying to breech seat a tapered bullet that cannot be slid into a case is not for the faint of heart or the impatient. You may get lucky and have two or three cock sideways exactly the same, then the fourth cocks ever so slightly the other way and you stop shooting groups and start measuring patterns. It drove me nuts.What they were thinking when they made that barrel we will never know, but I have a suspicion that bore had a lot to do with so beautiful a rifle being out on a table at the show.
    Good luck!Click image for larger version. 

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    Based on the report Bluesman made the rifle has been sent out for lining.
    Berlin1960 (the OP) has a 2 post count from over a year ago. He may still be following this

    I still question a Ballard with a 0.386 or 0.387" barrel. Could be, but........
    Chill Wills

  14. #14
    Boolit Master

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    Maybe some unknown gunsmith freshed the bore out to .39 caliber. I understand Schoyen didn’t sign his work; nor did Zischang very often. Whether the chamber was recut to handle fixed ammunition in this size is something that needs to be checked by the owner.

    Who, from available evidence, is long gone.

  15. #15
    Boolit Mold
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    Sorry to restart this old thread but I have just acquired Marlin made Ballard No 2 in 38-55 and it has similar bore/land dimensions as Berlin1960 & Bluesmans, that is .385 bore & groove .374. This is measured from a chamber cast and bore slug. My rifle is marked on the rib with J. Rigby & Co, London & Dublin which I assume is the retailer but you state yours has a Rigby barrel and I wondered if this is the same Rigby.
    I was wondering if you have been able to get your rifle shooting and how you achieved it.
    I din't have the rifle yet as waiting for my certificate to be updated but I have attached (I hope) a couple of the auction house photos.
    ThanksClick image for larger version. 

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  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Ted, I don't have a Ballard, but I can say that should you find that bullets of the desired diameter won't fit into the case then I'd advise looking into breech seating your bullets. Many people these days can't be bothered to shoot that way, but it is quite traditional and will almost certainly give you the best results.

    For more information check out the American Single Shot Rifle Association web forum.

    Very nice rifle by the way!

    Chris.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    I have a Stevens 52 in 38-55 (.378), it came with a few boxes of bullets. They were paper patched, hollow base, 330 grain bullets. Powder coating might get you closer.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by arlon; 01-28-2020 at 11:34 PM.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master

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    It’s likely, if the pictured rifle is the one you bought, that Rigby was only the retailer of your Ballard rifle.

    Typically, “Rigby” refers to three or four raised flat sections on the top and sides (covered by the forend on bottom) of an otherwise round barrel. They are narrow rectangles, abutting the action at the breech, maybe 1-1/2” long, with semicircular ends.

    If there is only one at the top, shorter and wider, it was once called the “Nock’s Form,” after the gunsmith of that name, but in modern times, it’s been corrupted into “Knox Form.”

    They have no function, other as branding elements, or, as the old Pennsylvania Dutch gunsmiths used to say, “Chust for nice.”

  19. #19
    Boolit Mold
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    Bent Ramrod, my rifle doesn't have a Rigby barrel as you describe, in fact it is a full length hexagonal one. So J Rigby is the retailer who, i assume, bought the rifle direct from Marlin for the British market. Still can't explain why the bore, which is in very good condition, is oversize.
    Thanks for the reply
    Ted

  20. #20
    Boolit Mold
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    Chris, thanks for the info and link on breech seating. I am hoping that I can get a large enough bullet to chamber that will set up on firing to provide some accuracy.
    I wonder how it was got to shoot in the past? The retailer J. Rigby was a very well known and respected gunsmith making contest winning target rifles in the mid to late 1800s so it is unlikely he would retail something that didn't shoot very well as it wouldn't do his reputation much good!
    Cheers
    Ted

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