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Thread: 38-55 rounds

  1. #1
    Boolit Master


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    38-55 rounds

    Why do so many people like the .38-55 for lever guns? What makes it so interesting?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Boolit Master Shawlerbrook's Avatar
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    A great mid range levergun round that shoots cast bullets well . Personally, I find all levergun rounds interesting.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregLaROCHE View Post
    Why do so many people like the .38-55 for lever guns? What makes it so interesting?

    Thanks
    Its a proper blackpowder round
    a bit more interesting than a 30/30 - more olde style?
    Easy to load
    works good with cast boolit.
    Mine was accurate from the get go - really accurate! - accurate is interesting.

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    F-U-N is why I like mine. Handy and powerful and accurate and inexpensive to shoot.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    Boolit Mold Ajohns's Avatar
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    I'm not sure if this counts because I don't own one. But, as with anything, some believe bigger is best. This was the biggest chamber offering in the 1894 Winchester and other rifles of comparative size till more recent years. Some just go to the top? From everything I've read about it is a great round, plenty powerful, and in a lot of cases very accurate.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    You know I asked that same question to myself. My answer was because
    I don't have one in that caliber - yet.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Why do people like black powder, archery, varmint rifles, etc. .....just because it might be fun. Nothing special or "better" about the cartridge, but there is a nostalgia factor, and it works. To each their own.

  8. #8
    Had to fill in a number that is in between my 35 Rem and 444 Marlin

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy

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    Click image for larger version. 

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    This is why! Plus you got to add the wiggle factor of an old bastage shaking !
    Semper Fidelis, to God, Country and Corps!

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy


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    It's a gun!!

  11. #11
    I love Marlins and it was originally designed by Marlin, and was called the 38-55 Ballard. How Winchester got their name on it I don't know. I also like how old it is and the fact that you can buy new brass for it.
    NRA Life Member

  12. #12
    Boolit Master northmn's Avatar
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    For a while I was into the 45-70 mystique and got pounded. The 38-55 will handle game up to elk and black bear with the same uses and is a lot less punishing in lighter rifles. More fun for casual shooting. Thanks to JES re-boring and now Henry it will get more popular again. It is one of the best cartridges for states that require straight cases for deer hunting and has a lot of potential in that area. Surprising how many like it at the old BP levels. It can be loaded up for serious work. I have a load for my newer Marlin that chronographs at around 1650 with a bullet that drop at 287 grains complete with GC. While some like pistol calibers like the 44 mag, the 38-55 is a superior cartridge as even with the 255 grain bullet it has very good down range velocity performance, where the pistol calibers tend to fall off quickly.

    The Ballard cartridge started out as a single shot cartridge and was popular in Schuetzen before adaption to lever actions. There was a Ballard 38-50 "Everlasting" which was used by target shooters. They would fill the case with powder and put a wad on top, then either muzzle load the bullet or breech seat it. That use is where the 38-55 got its name as the case does hold about 55 grains of black powder. with the bullet seated in the case its generally closer to 45 grains. The same case was often used for the whole match when used in that manner. Winchester based a whole family of cartridges on this case, including the 30-30. I guess its only fair that Winchester could use its name on a Marlin cartridge as Marlin had a series of cartridges like the 32-20 that were named Marlin because they were loaded differently than the Winchester loading. I believe the 44-40 got its name from Marlin as Winchester called it the 44 Winchester Center Fire.

    DEP

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    Not as hard on the shoulder as a 45-70 , larger bore than a 30-30 and originally it was a black powder round , a bit historical , good selection of boolit moulds , still a great hunting round , deer and hogs look out .
    New shooters are rediscovering another classic . I believe a maker or two are chambering new rifles in the old classic now.
    Gary
    Certified Cajun
    Proud Member of The Basket of Deplorables

  14. #14
    Boolit Buddy
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    It's an easy straight case to load that's cheaper on powder and lead than other nostalgic calibers like .45-70. It has a reputation for accuracy and was very popular in the 19th century as a target round out to about 300 yards or so and IIRC, I read something about it being preferred for black bear back then. It's accurate, the recoil isn't excessive and I'm using half the resources with all the power I need for hunting in the Midwest. There aren't many deer that go far when perforated by a 250gr .378 dia. boolit. In fact. I'm thinking of getting a lighter mold, say 190 to 220 grains. If a 180gr RNFP in .357 or .35 Rem is decisive enough for deer, a similar boolit in .38-55 surely will.

  15. #15
    Boolit Buddy Jedman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregLaROCHE View Post
    Why do so many people like the .38-55 for lever guns? What makes it so interesting?

    Thanks
    About 5 years ago I would have asked the same question. Now I have 2 leverguns and a single shot in 38-55. It's just a fun cartridge that can be loaded light or heavy and do whatever you want.

    Jedman

  16. #16
    Boolit Master

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    I got bitten by the 38-55 bug a while back and while researching it I discovered it is known to be a very finicky cartridge and is known to be one of those that some people seem to have good luck while others get dismal accuracy at best. First there is the barrel thing where some manufacturers use a .375 bore (mostly the modern guns) while others use .379 to .380 and sometimes even larger, at first I thought maybe it was just barrel confusion that was causing the problem but then another shooter I ran into at a gun shop put me onto this,

    https://www.starlinebrass.com/articl...--38-55-Rifle/

    It's a long read but if seriously contemplating a 38-55 then do yourself a favor and take the time to read the whole article, there is way more to it than just different brass lengths and it's the most informative info I have come across and finally explains why some folks could get them to shoot and others can not no matter what they try! This article is a must read for anyone considering the 38-55, it's unlike ANY other round and can be especially frustrating to load for. In some cases, mostly the older original larger bores, it must be loaded with Black powder and soft cast bullets to bump up the bullet, using smokeless and/or hard cast or jacketed bullets it becomes impossible to chamber a bullet large enough to shoot accurately in a standard chamber. That link to Starline brass explains in simple terms why this caliber suffers from a flaw in most guns and has for over a hundred years, fortunately it also explains how to fix it!
    Statistics show that criminals commit fewer crimes after they have been shot

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    My experience with the 38/55 has been pretty much the polar opposite of that stated by oldred and in the Starline article (yes I did read it!)

    We had previously owned a 375 Big Bore carbine and about the time I moved it along I bought a bunch of 38/55w brass cheap off a trade blanket, maybe 200 - lots unfired and the balance once fired stuff.

    It worked! An Oliver F Winchester comemmorative came along supposedly unfired NIB - also aquired about the same time a box of Nickle commemmorative ammo for the Legendary Lawman - and bought a couple boxes of winchester SP ammo.

    I did good, for a year that pimp gun decorated my rack unfired, then one lunch time I walked in there and was like it leered at me - and I remember thinking what a waste of a space in my gunroom, grabbed it down, ran a patch down bore and took five factory loads out with me, tacked up a target and let three of em go into a thumbnail size group at 50 yards (20 odd years ago I was doin pretty good with open sights) - but holy cow would ya lookit that!

    So it went back in the rack until the weekend - I made some reloads using 220grain gascheck boolits leftover from the 375BB and fired ten shots slow and easy at 100yards - very impressed with that too - but when I went to clean the gun -ooops - I fired off a sandbag rest on the roof of my Subaru station wagon - the bag was an old plastic fertiliser bag and I had stripped all the gold plating off of the sharp edges on the bottom of the action body - ok we dont have a collector anymore, she aint NIB - but this is a good shooter.

    I bought a LEE 250 grain mold and cooked up a blackpowder load - just FFFg powder with about an eigth inch compression and a juice box wad.
    This rifle has digested anything I ever fed it and given good accuracy - as far as trouble free and easy goes - its about as good as it gets - I am left wondering what all the fuss is about? This is the only full magazine Lever gun I have owned (out of many) that will shoot a group from cold to hot without stringing shots vertical

    The LEE boolit mikes at .378 just ahead of the crimped case - the boolit body is .379 - loaded case about eigth inch below the crimp is 397 - chambers easy - shoots good - not fussy with loads - whats not to like

    If I was in the market for a 38/55 and one of those commemoratives showed up in decent condition (they are easy to pick because the fancy finish will tell about use much sooner than a blued gun) - pay the price! the build quality was way superior to the standard Winchester carbine of the same era.

    ps forgot to mention - mine wears a Pedersoli tang sight but it came D&T for a Williams or Lyman reciever peep - which would be a better deal for most shooters.
    Last edited by indian joe; 05-08-2019 at 08:55 PM.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master

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    Like I said some folks have good results and others have less than what one might call good, I am not saying to avoid the 38-55 or that it can't be made to shoot because obviously it can be quite accurate. That Starline piece agreed exactly with the other things I had heard and until I read that I thought it was simply the bore size differences, most modern rifles have that .375 bore and they seem to do all right with the standard chamber but not all have that bore, the Lyman Ideal little Sharps for instance along with a LOT of the older rifles have bores that range from .379 to .380 and even bigger. If you have a .381 bore and a .379 or .380 bullet is the biggest that will fit into a standard chamber the problem should be apparent (unless using BP and soft cast lead). This is exactly the problem that Starline article is addressing and I thought it to be good info to pass along, that little Lyman is a good example of a newer rifle that can be finicky to get to shoot right because of the bore,

    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...harps-in-38-55

    I hunted for a long time trying to find a "real" 38-55 barrel for my project and I have several threads on this subject here, I wanted a High Wall with the "correct" .379 to .380 bore that a 38-55 traditionally had instead of a modern .375 Winchester barrel with a 38-55 chamber, or so I thought! After talking with the guy I mentioned above and reading that Starline piece I see it in a better light now and apparently it's not always as simple as choosing a bigger bullet when other than a .375 bore is used, I had reluctantly settled on the .375 bore (Green Mountain barrel) and while at the time I grumbled about it now I'm quite happy that I did have to settle for it! It seems, just as in your case, if you get a good one it is usually very good but others can be frustrating to get to shoot and that article would seem to explain why. My 38-55 should be finished soon (.375 bore) but if I were out shopping for a 38-55 I would definitely want to consider what that piece has to say and now instead of insisting on a traditional 38-55 bore I would avoid them!
    Statistics show that criminals commit fewer crimes after they have been shot

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    I would add that Kens Waters wrote years ago that the 38-55 had more energy left at 200 yds than the 30-30, or something similar. And it was a fa better brush cartridge. It is also the minimum for reliable ram knock down at 500 meters.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    [QUOTE]Why do so many people like the .38-55 for lever guns? What makes it so interesting? [QUOTE]

    Just a different opinion.
    38-55. Its a Winchester original hunters cartridge and chambered in a dandy quick shooting lever rifle. In its time.

    Marlin_Savage_ lever original cartridges never garnered the popularity {all} Winchester brand captured from the shooting sports. Most original Marlin & Savage cartridges actually fell into obsolescence long before the rifles that chambered such were discontinued.
    Given some second thought. The cartridges that actually saved both competitors of Winchester {above} from shutting? Those popular cartridges are the 30-30 & 32 Special.

    No respect. The 35 Rem was thought to be a flash in the pan cartridge up to the early 50s. In recent times the 35 Rem has gained some popularity but no where's near the figures the 30-30 Winchester maintains year after year.
    "JUST A OLD DEPLORABLE THAT'S IRREDEEMABLE."

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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