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Thread: .38 Long Colt to a .375 Wildcat

  1. #1
    Boolit Bub
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    .38 Long Colt to a .375 Wildcat

    This project is still in the "thinking about it" stage, but... yesterday a lady came in and sold the store I work for an old Colt Bisley revolver in .38 Long Colt. From what I can tell so far, it has the typical oversized bore of around .375" - .380" that was designed for the old heeled bullets of the .38 Short Colt. This weekend I will slug the bore and get the exact bore diameter.

    Now, I understand that I could simply shoot .358" hollow-based wadcutters and hope they expand in the cylinder as was done in days of yore. I could also get some .375 heeled bullets and go that route.

    Did I mention that I will be buying the revolver no matter what?

    An alternative occurred to me that I thought might be feasible. Suppose I was able to obtain an extra cylinder which could have its chambers reamed out a bit, say to .380 or so. I could then potentially fire-form some .38 Special or .38 S&W brass, load 'em up with .375 diameter bullets and head out to slay some empty milk jugs.

    I was thinking of Trail Boss or Triple Seven loads of about 700 FPS with a 225 - 250 grain bullet.

    Any reason that this could not work?

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    If the revolver is a vintage Colt in original condition, I would not destroy its collector value by modifying it in any way. Especially if it is a black powder frame I would keep the loads light, not exceeding about 14,000 psi.

    It is completely feasible and affordable to have a custom, heeled bullet mold cut. It should be of stop-ring design so that its forepart will fit the cylinder throats in front and the driving bands seated insiode the case will be of correct diameter to fit load in unmodified .38 Long Colt cases or .38 Special brass. You could use standard case sizing and expanding dies. You could seat bullets by hand, and crimp with a blasting cap crimper tool, or by using a modified Lee factory crimp die which has the necessary clearance for the .375" stop ring.

    If the gun was originally a .38 Long Colt a 150-grain bullet would shoot close to the fixed sights at a velocity approximating .38 Special wadcutters, about 750 fps. You will not be able to safely reach 700 fps with a 200+ grain bullet at suitable pressures for a black powder frame Bisley. A much heavier 225-250-grain bullet is probably not going to be stable from the slow-twist, Bisley black-powder barrel, nor will it strike anywhere near where the fixed sights are regulated. Velocity would likely be less than 600 fps at safe pressures.

    This mold from Accurate is quite close to what you want. When you order the diameters should be tweaked to fit your gun. I would use soft alloy such as 1:30 tin-lead and about 3 grains of Bullseye, TiteGroup or Trail Boss. Bullet weight could also be adjusted as needed to satisfy point of impact for elevation based on initial firing trials with 148-grain HBWC bullets loaded with the same charge. As you know, a heavier bullet shoots higher, a lighter bullet lower, because heavier bullets producing greater recoil impulse and having a longer bore time, leave the muzzle at a higher angle of departure than lighter bullets being launched at higher velocity.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Outpost75; 12-01-2018 at 03:33 PM.
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  3. #3
    Hello daleraby,

    If you used Black MZ you wouldn't have to worry about lube, the powder does it for you.

    AntiqueSledMan.

  4. #4
    Boolit Mold
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    I initially ordered bullets from GAD. It took forever to receive and there was a lot of junk. I then ordered from Alpha Bravo Bullets, sized at .376 Their product was much better. I needed an extender shell holder for sizing, flaring, and crimping. You'll also need a special crimp die. I bought mine from Old West Bullet Molds.

    My first and only endeavor was about ten years ago. IIRC, it took two or more hours to do 50 rounds. That may have been problem because of my learning curve. Anyway, after that I just bought the hollow base bullets.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by daleraby View Post
    This project is still in the "thinking about it" stage, but... yesterday a lady came in and sold the store I work for an old Colt Bisley revolver in .38 Long Colt. From what I can tell so far, it has the typical oversized bore of around .375" - .380" that was designed for the old heeled bullets of the .38 Short Colt. This weekend I will slug the bore and get the exact bore diameter.

    Now, I understand that I could simply shoot .358" hollow-based wadcutters and hope they expand in the cylinder as was done in days of yore. I could also get some .375 heeled bullets and go that route.

    Did I mention that I will be buying the revolver no matter what?

    An alternative occurred to me that I thought might be feasible. Suppose I was able to obtain an extra cylinder which could have its chambers reamed out a bit, say to .380 or so. I could then potentially fire-form some .38 Special or .38 S&W brass, load 'em up with .375 diameter bullets and head out to slay some empty milk jugs.

    I was thinking of Trail Boss or Triple Seven loads of about 700 FPS with a 225 - 250 grain bullet.

    Any reason that this could not work?
    How's that then?
    You want to expand the brass to take a bullet bigger than it's initial outside diameter?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    That is going to make a funky reverse conical cartridge akin to this i made once:
    The 45/30 Carbine reverse loading
    Click image for larger version. 

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  6. #6
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    What OP is seeking is something akin to the old British .380 Long rook rifle and revolver cartridge:

    https://plimking.com/making-380-revo...ulldog-pistol/
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    you take the lee conical for the .36 colt and crimp it on the heel

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    If I recall, Colt only made about 400 Bisleys in that chambering. You could probably easily sell or trade for a similar gun in a more user friendly chambering. Depending on what the bore measures, if its close to 358, you could get a second generation 38 special cylinder and shoot away.

  9. #9
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Check with Bernie Rowles at Old West Moulds ( Sorry I don't have phone number handy) I believe he catalogs a heeled bullet for the 38 colt. The cost of a mould would be easier than modifying or making make do ammo.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

    Bent Ramrod's Avatar
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    I think that if you really want to shoot 0.379 diameter inside lubricated boolits in that gun, you would need an extra cylinder with chambers reamed out to take a shortened and straightened-out .30-30 case. The internal diameter here would be like that of the longer .38-55, rather than the 0.358 or so out of the .38 Special. You could then shoot something like the Ideal 37582 or 37583, sized to 0.380 or so.

    An extra cylinder in .32-20 or .38 Special would need to be rechambered with a custom reamer and fitted to your Bisley. Then you would need trim, perhaps neck-reaming and loading dies for the wildcat cartridge. And the mould, of course. Would cost a fair amount of money, but it would be the only practical way to shoot a full-diameter inside-lubricated boolit out of your revolver.

    I have a Remington Rolling Block in .38 Rim Fire with a damaged but usable chamber and a decent bore. So far, I endure the DGW rimfire inserts when I shoot it, but sometime in the future I may ream the chamber in this manner and convert it to centerfire. It appears unlikely that Big Ammo is going to neglect its Corporate Interests for the sake of the genuine Needs of the Community and again offer .38 Rim Fire at $5.95 per box of 50.

    I also have a centerfire Rook Rifle in .38 Long, and it shoots the 358160 heeled boolit out of shortened .38 Special cases with surprising accuracy out to 50 yards or so. Much more consistent than the same type combinations out of the .32 Long guns I have. Its extra work, and kind of messy, dipping the business ends of the completed cartridges in melted lube, but they do shoot. A custom mould for such a heeled boolit, with (maybe) a modified Lee Factory Crimp die would be your cheapest alternative.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    I suspect the rims on 30-30 would be large enough to interfere with adjacent cartridges.

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