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Thread: forming 38-40 from other caliber brass.

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy moptop's Avatar
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    forming 38-40 from other caliber brass.

    I know that 44-40 can be necked down to make 38-40 but I would like to know if there is any other caliber brass that can be used to make 38-40's. I read somewhere that .44mag brass can be used but I have no way to verify this. I've been buying Winchester brass and it's been working great so this isn't a necessity. It's just that the case life is short since the 38-40 walls are so thin and I thought that if I could form them from something with a thicker case wall that they might last a little longer. Not to mention that I have a good supply of .44mag brass. If it turns out to be more complicated and time consuming than it's worth......well I think you get the idea!

    Anyone's reply with experience with this would be appreciated.


    Also, can FFFg be used for holy black loads in 38-40? Am I gonna need a drop tube for this?

    Thanks, Dominick
    Take care, Moptop

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    The other member of the family with .38-40 and .44-40 is .45 Long Colt. Your .44 Magnum has too small a head, despite the rim being almost the same; you'll get bulging and off-center cases when you fire form (or you'll have to put O-rings on them before you fire form and never full length size). If you really want to spend some money on brass to get heavier walls, you could form from .454 Casull or .460 S&W Magnum, but I don't know why you'd bother; modern .45 Colt is heavy enough to do the job if you're finding your .38-40 brass isn't lasting.

  3. #3
    Before you start forming cases with thicker brass you better make sure that the thicker neck has somewhere to expand to when you chamber a round. As your bullet size has to remain the same the outside dimensions of a thicker neck will need more room in the chamber or it won't be able to release the bullet, resulting in a huge pressure increase and bits of your rifle all over the place.
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  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Greetings
    I agree with the "you better check your throat" before trying to stuff thick necked brass from 45 Colt in there. All my old 38's want fat boolits and thick necked brass does not accomidate that.
    3F in my opinion is the best BP to use in these small capacity cases. You will pick up a good 15% velocity and burn much cleaning. Trade off is you will get about 10% more powder in the same usable case area. Make a scoop to fill the case minus 1/8 inch and crunch in the boolit. If using a heavier than 180 grainer drop another 1/8" in powder level. I prefer a 200 grainer with smokeless and a 180 near pure PB with 3F.
    But measure that chamber / throat area meticulously. You will not regret the preperation.
    Mike in ILL
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  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I shoot 38-40's for my rifle caliber at CAS shoots. Occasionally I end up with a 45LC case or two in what is handed back to me. I currently don't have a 45LC firearm. Out of curiosity, I have reformed the cases into 38-40 cases and fired them. It is NOT something that is done accidently like I have done with the few 44-40 cases that sometimes get mixed in.

    You cannot run a 45LC directly into a 38-40 sizing die. You have to run it through a 44-40 die first. Then through the 38-40 die. You will need to use a good lube. There will be a small ledge on the lower part of the case at the bottom of the sizing die when you get done. I have a steel rod I put into the mouth and then put them both into a drill then file it off with the drill running. I have sectioned a completed case and the wall thickness is as thick or thicker than a standard 38-40 case even after filing.

    As has been said, you have to be fairly careful about the thickness of the reformed neck. The Ruger 38-40 (which is very rare) is too tight to use this case without neck turning. The Uberti Model P is snug, but it works. The Uberti Model 1873 Winchester clone is not a problem. Same with a Japanese 1892 clone.

    This was a lot of work. Not something I would do on a regular basis, but it was an interesting experiment.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by moptop View Post
    I know that 44-40 can be necked down to make 38-40 but I would like to know if there is any other caliber brass that can be used to make 38-40's. I read somewhere that .44mag brass can be used but I have no way to verify this. I've been buying Winchester brass and it's been working great so this isn't a necessity. It's just that the case life is short since the 38-40 walls are so thin and I thought that if I could form them from something with a thicker case wall that they might last a little longer. Not to mention that I have a good supply of .44mag brass. If it turns out to be more complicated and time consuming than it's worth......well I think you get the idea!

    Anyone's reply with experience with this would be appreciated.


    Also, can FFFg be used for holy black loads in 38-40? Am I gonna need a drop tube for this?

    Thanks, Dominick
    Well, get a 45 LC case and give it a go or for that matter also get a 44 Mag case and do both so you'll be convinced. I think the 38-40 and 44-40 are the only members of that family. I think you'll find that what Harry O posted to be true and will be what you'll face. After all the hassle of re-forming, resizing and turning, seems like the current price of about $28/100 for 38-40 is kinda cheap.

    Next, what is the groove diameter of your 38-40? You need to shoot a bullet at least that diameter to have good results. With thicker brass you'll end up-- either not being able to chamber the round or your bullet will be way under-sized.

    Last, yes, just fill up a case with BP so the bullet seats with a little compression of the powder and fire as usual.
    Trust but verify the honeyguide

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Moptop, what kind of case life are you getting with your 38-40 Winchester brass. I use Winchester 38-40 brass and although I don't keep track of how often they have been reloaded, I have not had a case fail yet, except for one that developed a small split at the case mouth from too much over crimping. I've adjusted my die to avoid this now.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    I bought a Ruger Vaquero two years ago in 38-40 with the 40 S&W cylinder. I buy a hundred cases from Midway every now and then to build up my stockpile. Although shooting 40 through it isn't much dieffenbachia than firing 38-40 I prefer the 38-40, it's just neat. I haven't loaded and BP rounds but it is on my list of things to do.

    I have run across the occasional 44-40 brass and did convert them to 38-40. From here on, I will just save them and pass them along to a 44-40 shooter. The brass reformed quite well, I just don't need the 38-40 that badly. I have a Vaquero in 45 Colt so I won't be reforming any of those. The Vaquero is a lot of fun with hot glue boolits loaded in 40 S&W cases with enlarged primer flash holes. I have also shot wax boolits through those cases, too much fun!
    Common sense Gun Safety . . .

    Is taught at the Range!

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy moptop's Avatar
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    Thank you all for your great insite & info. I kinda figured that this would turn out to be more hassle than it is worth but I thought I would ask the proverbial "stupid question" first. Although I never thought of .45 colt as a viable sub but since I don't have 44-40 dies (yet) or a neck turning tool I think I'll just stay with what has been working. I did pick up on a tip from your posts about excessive crimp. That could be a reason why my brass is spliting so quickly. hmmm

    Once again you all have guided me down the correct path without even knowing it.
    I hope every one has a great New Year!
    Last edited by moptop; 12-30-2012 at 08:47 PM. Reason: spelling of course!
    Take care, Moptop

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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