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Thread: 38-55 - need load data

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Question 38-55 - need load data

    I have a vintage Winchester 94 in 38-55. I have a box of 255 grain hard lead RNFP boolits, sized .379 (the bore slugged .378). I have a variety of powders in my magazine to choose from - IMR mostly, and a couple of others (Varget for one) so would like any info/experience with this cartridge - I intend to use it for deer hunting, so plinker loads are out, but would also like to stay away from full throttle loads to be nice to this gun. The boolits are PB (no GC), so I am thinking loads in the 1200-1500 fps range perhaps? I hav an abundance of 3031, 4350, 4895, 4064, 748, 4227, 231 (and a couple of others that escape my brain at the moment)...
    Any help/advice appreciated!!

  2. #2
    Boolit Master BABore's Avatar
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    Reloder 7 is one of the go-to powders for the 38-55. 3031 and 4895 will work ok, but they're a bit on the slow side. IMR's SR4759 is also not a bad powder for it.

  3. #3
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    4227 should work for moderate loads, but I suspect that even 3031 will be on the slow side for plain base, commercially cast bullets.

    Powders to try would be AA5744, 4198, AA2015 with the nod towards AA5744.

    If you were GCed, I would say Reloader 7 or AA2015 with my preference to the latter. 3031 and 4895 would be as slow burning as I would go, and velocity potential would be 1800fps without worry. This assumes a rifle capable of 40K pressure.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by excess650 View Post
    4227 should work for moderate loads, but I suspect that even 3031 will be on the slow side for plain base, commercially cast bullets.

    Powders to try would be AA5744, 4198, AA2015 with the nod towards AA5744.

    If you were GCed, I would say Reloader 7 or AA2015 with my preference to the latter. 3031 and 4895 would be as slow burning as I would go, and velocity potential would be 1800fps without worry. This assumes a rifle capable of 40K pressure.
    I have both 4227 and 4198. Can you recommend a starting load for each? I don't think my Lyman 47 lists these as options for 255 gr boolits.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    You could compare the data on the Hodgdon site here-

    http://data.hodgdon.com/cartridge_load.asp

    W/ the data below that I copied from an article from John Taffin, I haven't used his data yet.



    LEVERGUNS LOADS: 38.55 WINCHESTER

    (For List in Modern Rifles Only In Excellent Condition)

    Marlin 336 COWBOY .38-55 w/ Iron Sights

    3 Shots/
    Bullet Load MV 50 Yards

    Meister 240 gr. FN .378" 20.0 gr. H4198 1,453 1 1/2"
    Meister 240 gr. FN .378" 20.0 gr. XMP5744 1,454 2 1/2"
    Oregon Trail 240 gr. FP .380" 20.0 gr. H4198 1,197 1 3/8"
    Oregon Trail 240 gr. FP .380" 20.0 gr. XMP5744 1,420 1 3/8"
    Oregon Trail 240 gr. FP .380" 26.0 gr. IMR3031 1,529 2 1/4"
    Oregon Trail 240 gr. FP .380" 25.0 gr. Reloder 7 1,501 5/8"
    Oregon Trail 240 gr. FP .379" 27.0 gr. Reloder 7 1,565 2 1/4"
    Oregon Trail 240 gr. FP .379" 22.5 gr. XMP5744 1,656 2 1/4"

    Marlin 336 COWBOY w/ 4x SCOPE

    RCBS #37-250 (.377") FNGC 22.5 gr. XMP5744 1,639 1"
    RCBS #37-250 (.377") FNGC 33.0 gr. H4895 1,708 3/8"
    RCBS #37-250 (.377") FNGC 30.0 gr. Reloder 7 1,729 1 1/4"
    RCBS #37-250 (.377") FNGC 30.0 gr. H322 1,804 7/8"
    RCBS #37-250 (.379") FNGC 22.5 gr. XMP5744 1,635 1"
    RCBS #37-250 (.379") FNGC 33.0 gr. H4895 1,708 1/2"
    RCBS #37-250 (.379") FNGC 30.0 gr. Reloder 7 1,758 1 1/2"
    RCBS #37-250 (.379") FNGC 30.0 gr. H322 1,800 7/8"

    I have settled on a loading for my general use of RCBS's 250 gr. FN gas check design, #37-250FN,
    sized to either .377" or .379" and loaded over 33 gr. of H4895.
    Muzzle velocity is 1,700 fps and both shoot into 1/2" or less at 50 yards.
    I can't ask for anything more than that!

    .38-55 24" OCTAGON BARREL
    Winchester 255 gr. SP (factory) 1,209 fps 5/8"
    RCBS #37-250FNGC Sized .377"/22.5 grs. XMP5744 1,639 fps 1"
    " /33.0 grs. H4895 1,708 fps 3/8"
    " /30.0 grs. Reloader-7 1,729 fps 1 1/4"
    " /30.0 grs. H322 1,804 fps 7/8"
    RCBS #37-250FNGC Sized .379"/22.5 grs. XMP5744 1,635 fps 1"
    " /33.0 grs. H4895 1,708 fps 1/2"
    " /30.0 grs. Reloader-7 1,758 fps 1 1/2"
    " /30.0 grs. H322 1,800 fps 7/8"
    (*.)Accuracy measurements are the result of three five-shot groups fired at
    50 yards.

    **All above info. is from a John Taffin Article**

    http://sixguns.com/range/336cwby.htm
    Last edited by 475BH; 09-15-2010 at 11:12 AM.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by cwskirmisher View Post
    I have both 4227 and 4198. Can you recommend a starting load for each? I don't think my Lyman 47 lists these as options for 255 gr boolits.
    Lyman 46 lists jacketed data for 255gr, and it appears pretty mild. I suspect that the cast bullets may be as much as 100fps faster with the same loads.

    IMR 4227 20.0-22.0 1275fps to 1374fps
    IMR 4198 21.0-23.0 1228fps to 1322fps

    Unique and 2400 will also work. Don't get discouraged if your first attempts with commercially cast bullets aren't accurate and/or lead the barrel. Generally, they're harder than they need to be, and their lube may not be up to snuff. Give it a try. If they fit the throat well enough, they may well be accurate.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    It depends how vintage your 38-55 is some of the early ones used a weaker steel for the 1894 winchesters in 32-40 and 38-55. Look at the barrel markings. If it says its for smokeless powder or nickel steel you are ok with the loads listed in this thread, however, if it does not say that it was made for Black Powder loads and I would stick to loads of 1100 to 1300 fps and by the way not use jacketed bullets in it as it will wear the barrel soft steel quickly.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master



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    Greetings
    I have several "Vintage" winchester 38-55īs. I highly recommend you slug the throat area. My smallest throated one is .381 and another is at .383 and the others fall inbetween. With an undersize lead boolit the only way I found to get deer size accuracy was to use COW on top of the charge when loading smokeless.
    Remember these old rifles were planned on being shot with BP so the throats were left generous so following rounds would chamber with a coating of BP fouling in the throat. Smokeless was around a long time before the older hunters stopped using realiable and proven BP in their hunting rifles. And some not so old hunters still rely on BP to get the job done. A 40-1 255 grainer chugging along at 1200 FPS will still remove any corn cruncher I have ever seen.
    "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
    Home built Matchlock similar to what an early 1600 Colonial soldier might have.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I found a box of 225 grain boolits to test along side the 255 gr. I have loaded up 10 rounds each of 225 and 255 boolits with 3031, 4227, and 2400, so I should be pleanty sore after 60 rounds. I am heading to the range tomorrow and will post results. If I get mediocre results I plan on picking up some RL7 and trying again...
    The gun is vintage, but does say 'smokeless' on the barrel, so I should be ok with moderate loads. I did slug the area 3" in front of the throat - and it came out .378, so my .379's should fare well at least to start with.

    Thanks for all of the inputs!

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    Well, of all the combinations, the 3031 and the 225 boolits did the best. Group size at 100 yards was about 2.5" and about 2" high. I think the gun is capable of better - so I will get some 4198 and RL7 and see what we can do...

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    sights?

    2.5" @100 yards is great for a 94 Winchester. If that is with iron sights and its repeatable, you've found a good load.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by excess650 View Post
    2.5" @100 yards is great for a 94 Winchester. If that is with iron sights and its repeatable, you've found a good load.
    Yes, iron sights. I knew I 'threw' a couple of rounds out - as soon as I pulled the trigger - it was me, and I called it, so it's not the gun... but even so, I can just tell the gun has more in it and will shoot a bit tighter. THe 3031 load was not stout, and the gun (and my shoulder) handled it well. I tried 5 rounds with 4985 also, and it shot fine - but was punishing to my shoulder for the same MV, so I will stay away from that - I am really hoping the 4198 or RL7 load will be the optimum. I had absolutely no signs of leading after 30 rounds, except for a very slightly dirty patch after 15 rounds, next patch came out clean.

  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy
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    I don't understand why people that hand load do by a reloading manual and read it. The Lyman is a pretty good book.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by d garfield View Post
    I don't understand why people that hand load do by a reloading manual and read it. The Lyman is a pretty good book.
    What do you mean? I am using a reloading manual. All the loads I tested were verified safe from my Lyman 49th and the Lee (which compiles multiple bullet maker data). I used nothing that was not published. All of the 3031, 4227, and 4895 data was listed, so I am perplexed by your comment.

  15. #15
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    Another trip to the range yesterday - not a good trip. I shot the 38-55 with some 240 grain boolits, that came presized .376. A disaster - leaded up the bore after 5 shots (lots of shavings/trash in the bore), and only ONE round hit the target at 100 yds, and it was a silhouetted bullet (tumbled and hit the target sideways). Loaded both 3031 and with 4198. Recoil was moderate with the minimum starting loads. PB boolits - maybe I did not get enough pressure to obturate the slug? Too much heat for the base? Need to try GC'd?

    Back to the basics.... the .379 225 grainers did the best with 3031. I really want to get some 250-260 gr boolits to work though, for deer hunting. I am pretty sure the 225's will be ok, but would be more confident of clean and humane kill with the heavier boolit. Opinions on this?

    I think I will try some .380 sized - just to see if they will chamber. If not, it's .379 and try there.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    CW the FIRST thing you need to do is slug the throat. When you slugged 3" in front of it you were doing the barrell. You NEED the throat measurement! And the increase in leading using the smaller diameter boolit proves that out. Once you have the THROAT size fit you boolit to .001 or .002 OVER the throat size. If that doesn't stop the leading then for whatever reason you need to go to a gas checked boolit.

    Boolit weight...either the 255 or the 225 grain boolits will kill deer well. Remember the 30-30 has been doing it with 150 grain boolits for years.

    Tom who has a couple of 38-55s

    Quote Originally Posted by cwskirmisher View Post
    Another trip to the range yesterday - not a good trip. I shot the 38-55 with some 240 grain boolits, that came presized .376. A disaster - leaded up the bore after 5 shots (lots of shavings/trash in the bore), and only ONE round hit the target at 100 yds, and it was a silhouetted bullet (tumbled and hit the target sideways). Loaded both 3031 and with 4198. Recoil was moderate with the minimum starting loads. PB boolits - maybe I did not get enough pressure to obturate the slug? Too much heat for the base? Need to try GC'd?

    Back to the basics.... the .379 225 grainers did the best with 3031. I really want to get some 250-260 gr boolits to work though, for deer hunting. I am pretty sure the 225's will be ok, but would be more confident of clean and humane kill with the heavier boolit. Opinions on this?

    I think I will try some .380 sized - just to see if they will chamber. If not, it's .379 and try there.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    Any help/advice appreciated!!
    Another trip to the range yesterday - not a good trip. I shot the 38-55 with some 240 grain boolits, that came presized .376. A disaster
    Use a heavier bullet that is going to stabilize in a 1:18 barrel:
    Chey-Cast Snover (Postell Design) - 335gr, 380 base
    Lyman 378674 - 330gr, 379 base

    The most accurate bullets that I use with excellent accuracy out to 500 meters are:
    Ideal 375166 - 320gr ... a custom mould that is available from a Group Buy on Cast Boolits
    Ideal 375300 - 315gr ... an out-of-production Ideal mould
    Regards
    John

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Throat - The unrifled forward portion of the chamber, tapered to meet the rifle barrel bore.

    I am having trouble measuring the throat of my 38-55. At the end of the cartridge comes an immediate 6 degree transition into the rifling. What part of a 6 degree angle do I measure, the beginning, the middle or the end? There is no parallel sided ball seat.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    38-55 cases

    There is another thread that you might want to look at. Specifically, it shows the difference in Winchester and Starline cases.

    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/showthread.php?t=94187

    The Starline 2.125" cases are the original length and thinner at the mouth than current Winchester 2.08" cases. The thinner necks will allow larger diameter bullets to be chambered.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Goat Keeper View Post
    CW the FIRST thing you need to do is slug the throat. When you slugged 3" in front of it you were doing the barrell. You NEED the throat measurement! And the increase in leading using the smaller diameter boolit proves that out. Once you have the THROAT size fit you boolit to .001 or .002 OVER the throat size. If that doesn't stop the leading then for whatever reason you need to go to a gas checked boolit.

    Boolit weight...either the 255 or the 225 grain boolits will kill deer well. Remember the 30-30 has been doing it with 150 grain boolits for years.

    Tom who has a couple of 38-55s

    OK, so I slugged 3 " into the breech, and got .378. The gun shoots the lighter bullet, .379, just fine - so I would assume a heavier bullet of .379 should shoot ok too. Even if I go to the trouble of slugging the throat, if I learn that I need a .381 or .382, it won't chamber them anyway. The leading I got I am sure was because the slug was just too small, by .003, and I foolishly hoped they would bump up.

    I do have some 220 grain .375 JFP's, but I am not even sure I should shoot them (or try) in this gun -it was made in 1906. I believe I will stick to the boolits.

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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