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Thread: 1891 small frame 38

  1. #1
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    1891 small frame 38

    Hi folks,
    I have acquired an old Forehand Arms 1891 Double Action S&W 38. I want to be able to shoot with it. After doing quite a bit of research there are still many unanswered questions.
    I intend to make all my own dies to reload for this. I would like to know what would be the best size and weight and style bullet to make (I swage lead bullets...making all the molds etc.,) My initial ideas are to make a simple round nose PC'd hollow based boolit of about 80 grains. But not sure what diameter to make it. (bore has yet to be slugged) ...any suggestions would be appreciated.
    The cylinder front to back play is excessive. Someone filed or stoned the cog thingy when bubba-ing it. I measured the gap at the forcing cone at .018" with a feeler gauge. I figure I will have to make some type of spacer or way to reduce that gap. Again suggestions appreciated.
    I got the action to run smooth EXCEPT for the trigger return spring. I believe the spring in it when I got it was way out of spec. It took two hands to pull it in double action and both hands to cock the hammer for single action. With the return spring out it is slick. The spring was so tight that it had forced a bend into the trigger guard. It was either installed wrong. (I tried to install it several different ways to no avail) Or the spring was way to heavy and big. I broke the spring trying to compress it. (a simple "v" shaped spring). Now I am in need of a spring AND the knowhow to modify it and install it properly. THIS is perhaps my greatest need, since the gun cannot be finished until this is corrected. i have ordered a "set" of springs from Wolf to try and get the right one to use...but they are on back order. I would like to cancel that order since I will never use the rest of the springs in the purchase.
    Last but not least. What would be a recommended load for this old gun. I only have experience in reloading 22lr.
    And Thanks Very kindly to "Bullet Maker 57" for sending me a bag full of good usable brass for this gun.
    This video was made before I broke the trigger return spring that was in there.
    https://www.amazon.com/photos/shared...USe_NMTylhxQI5
    Last edited by Traffer; 01-13-2019 at 02:11 AM. Reason: Add video
    AKA hans.pcguy

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    the fact that there is so much SAFETY issues with the cylinder,,,, lets just leave it as a nice paper weight you can use to scare the next boy your daughters bring home.

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    Quote Originally Posted by crankycalico View Post
    the fact that there is so much SAFETY issues with the cylinder,,,, lets just leave it as a nice paper weight you can use to scare the next boy your daughters bring home.
    The only issue with the cylinder is .018" end shake. Otherwise the cylinder is in perfect shape. Where did you read "so much SAFETY issues with the cylinder..."? I don't recall writing that anywhere.
    AKA hans.pcguy

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    broken springs are pretty common on this type of gun, I've fiddled with old Iver Johnsons and H&Rs a bit, and they are similar. As far as the barrel cylinder gap, it was likely produced when black powder was the common propellant, and they left gaps on the large side to deal with fouling.

    I would slug the throats before picking a boolit, if its in .38 S&W, I am betting the throats are in the .362"+ range.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dubber123 View Post
    broken springs are pretty common on this type of gun, I've fiddled with old Iver Johnsons and H&Rs a bit, and they are similar. As far as the barrel cylinder gap, it was likely produced when black powder was the common propellant, and they left gaps on the large side to deal with fouling.

    I would slug the throats before picking a boolit, if its in .38 S&W, I am betting the throats are in the .362"+ range.
    If the throats slug at .362" what size bullet would be good. Wouldn't the normal .002" over size create a lot of pressure for this old gun? I am planning to be shooting at about 500fps to 600fps with an 80grain slug.
    AKA hans.pcguy

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    My experience in the 38 S&W is limited to 358-477 150 grain SWC's, sized .360, over 2,4 grains of Bullseye. That goes bang in my grandfather's old Forehand and Wadsworth and actually shoots reasonably well considering the heavy trigger pull. I got parts years ago from Numrich, so you might want to check E-Gunparts, the on line successor of Numrich.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rintinglen View Post
    My experience in the 38 S&W is limited to 358-477 150 grain SWC's, sized .360, over 2,4 grains of Bullseye. That goes bang in my grandfather's old Forehand and Wadsworth and actually shoots reasonably well considering the heavy trigger pull. I got parts years ago from Numrich, so you might want to check E-Gunparts, the on line successor of Numrich.
    Thank you very much. Yes Forehand & Wadsworth is actually the same gun. As I understand the company changed names during the time of this design. I had not looked to Numerich under the name Forehand & Wadsworth...will do that.
    I was wondering if it would sling those heavier slugs well. Now I know. I'm looking forward to shooting this.
    AKA hans.pcguy

  8. #8
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    The standard bullet weight in the 38 S&W was 146 grains for many years, with the occasional 200 grain bullet to make the Brits happy. Your projected 80 grain ball would seem to be pretty light, and will likely shoot pretty far from POA. I think I'd plan on a 125-147 grain boolit , sized .360-.362, but understanding that your gun will tell you what it needs.
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    As the fellows noted, 146 grains was pretty standard for .38 S&W. Occasionally an original mold shows up, or you get lucky and find an old Lyman or Ideal that will cast that fat, but most will be a bit on the small side. I have a custom cut LEE that makes the right diameter and weight boolit. I'll send you some if you would like.

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    well considering that over the history of the 38 Smith and Wesson, that only Smith and Wesson used the genuine .361 diameter for the barrel..... your gun has seen a lot of factory ammo loaded with a .358 slug

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    Quote Originally Posted by dubber123 View Post
    As the fellows noted, 146 grains was pretty standard for .38 S&W. Occasionally an original mold shows up, or you get lucky and find an old Lyman or Ideal that will cast that fat, but most will be a bit on the small side. I have a custom cut LEE that makes the right diameter and weight boolit. I'll send you some if you would like.
    Thank you very kindly for that offer. Hopefully I am going to make a core mold and swage to .361". That way I can powder coat them before swaging and end up with a precise concentric powder coated .361" boolit. But in the case that it takes a long time to develop the swaging setup, I will contact you to test some of your nice custom bullets.
    I still want to slug the bore first...is it standard to go with .002" over groove diameter?
    Another question: was this cartridge ever sold with a rebated bullet? Like when it was first developed? I know that the rimfire versions were probably rebated but don't know about the center fire. I ask because I also have the capability of creating a heeled bullet for this caliber.

    A BIG THANKS to "rintinglen"...I ended up finding a trigger spring from Numrich after looking it up under Forehand and Wadsworth instead of just Forehand Arms. Now I can get the proper spring in there... Any input on the "cylinder shake" of .018"? It appears that it would be difficult to use a spacer or washer or shim on this little gun because of the small contact surface between the cog for turning the cylinder and the frame. I haven't figured out how to do that yet.
    AKA hans.pcguy

  12. #12
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    I can't say I ever slugged any of my .38 S&W's, I just always sized to cylinder throat dimensions. I have shot .006" over bore in other guns with no ill effects, I personally don't get too wound up over it, especially with the soft alloys I usually cast for this caliber. Slugging yours certainly won't hurt though, and more information beats less.

    I have checked S&W's, both old break tops and newer solid frame guns, and quite a few old Iver Johnsons, all were .361"+. The only gun I ever saw tighter than that was a Colt. Yours may be different.

    As an aside, do you have the right dies and brass? It is NOT just a short 38 Spl case. Measuring a factory case tells me it is meant for a larger diameter boolit too, as the OD of the case is a good bit bigger than the Spl.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by dubber123 View Post
    I can't say I ever slugged any of my .38 S&W's, I just always sized to cylinder throat dimensions. I have shot .006" over bore in other guns with no ill effects, I personally don't get too wound up over it, especially with the soft alloys I usually cast for this caliber. Slugging yours certainly won't hurt though, and more information beats less.

    I have checked S&W's, both old break tops and newer solid frame guns, and quite a few old Iver Johnsons, all were .361"+. The only gun I ever saw tighter than that was a Colt. Yours may be different.

    As an aside, do you have the right dies and brass? It is NOT just a short 38 Spl case. Measuring a factory case tells me it is meant for a larger diameter boolit too, as the OD of the case is a good bit bigger than the Spl.
    I'm going to make my own dies for reloading it.
    I have a bunch of used cases and I will find the perfect sized ones and make the dies accordingly. Everything is going to be custom tailored to the cylinder bore.
    I also find it interesting that 9mm cartridges fit perfectly into this gun.
    AKA hans.pcguy

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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