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  1. #1
    Steelbanger
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    38-55 Bore diameter

    Well folks, I've been reading for a long time how Marlin should get their act together and give the 38-55 a proper bore size. Digging out my original copy (1979) of Ken Waters “Pet Loads” to read what this well respected researcher had to say on the subject, I wasn't surprised to find the following.

    When he wrote the original article for the May 1976 issue of “Handloader” Mr. Waters used three rifles, a Ballard No. 9 to represent weaker actions, a Winchester High Wall representing moderate strength actions, and a Winchester M 94 representing the stronger actions. Point is, he had two more 38-55 rifles than most of us have to work with.

    Now, on to bullet diameter. Mr. Waters wrote “A most important consideration is bullet diameter, this being quite a variable factor among the different .38-55 caliber rifles. An oft-committed error in some of the older publications was the listing of .38-55's as taking bullets of only .375 diameter. I have yet to see a .38-55 with a barrel groove diameter that small, or even close to it! Both of our Winchester test rifles have .3785-.379 inch groove diameters, and the Ballard “Union Hill” slugs-and-mikes at a whopping .383 inch. Obviously, if cast bullets are to be spun for proper stability, especially with smokeless powder, they must be of a size to fill the bore to the bottoms of the grooves.”

    From reading this, I believe we can assume that Marlin is indeed using the proper specs and holding them pretty close too, judging from what I've seen written about .378-.379 bores on almost all 336 CB's.

    I'm going to post this on a few other forums too and would be interested to see your responses to the above.

  2. #2
    Tenderfoot
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    38-55 Bore diameter

    Steelbanger: Thanks for the research, which comes at a good time for me, considering I about to plunk down some hard earned cash on 366 Cowboy. After reading over your post, it looks like my favorite bullet company, Oregon Trail, makes just about the perfect size bullet for the 38-55, coming in at .380. Thanks!
    ykal

  3. #3
    Super Moderator
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    38-55 Bore diameter

    Nothing at all wrong with marlins specks on the 38-55, Winchester is the one that didn't follow the specks for the 38-55 and then add in the 375Winnie, no wonder people are confused.
    .................................................. ..........................................Marko
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  4. #4
    Tinhorn
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    38-55 Bore diameter

    I've been around the shooting world a looong time. The problem is not in people becoming confused over which lead bullet to load, as a simple slugging of your barrel is all it takes to figure that out. Mine slugs at .381+. The problem is many Cb 38-55s will and do see double usage. Range guns and hunting arms. Marlin built it with the CB shooter in mind, hence the 336CB label. Hunters whom wish to load jacketed bullets for it have a very limited selection to choose from, All I've seen in massed produced JRN are either a .375 or a .377 Barnes. I myself have loaded .375 bullets into winchester brass and had poor results, then bought .377 Barnes and loaded them into Starline brass. The accuracy of the second load was fair enough. But like a prior poster mentioned they are expensive to shoot. and hardly worth the effort if you own a .35 Rem loaded with 220 or 220 gr bullets.
    Yes, it is possible to kill game animals with lower velocity casts in CB speed ranges. But IMHO why bother? Most everyone that owns a $500 lever gun also owns a few other guns that are much better suited for hunting with. WAK
    5 Colt & 45-70 all other calibers are just marketing hype!

  5. #5
    Tenderfoot
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    38-55 Bore diameter

    I have an old NRA reloading manual which contains SAMMI specs for the 38-55 cartridge. The grove dia is .379". The dia of the throat at the end of the case is .395", if I remember corectly--just about what I've got in my marlin.

    The problem with these specs, and with my rifle, is that a .380 bullet loaded in a necksized WW case won't chamber, as I'm sure you all know.

    I've tried a taper crimp, which gives me a finished round about .392" at the end of the case. Chambers fine, just don't keep 5 rounds in a pie plate at 50 yds with any powder I've tried.

    I really don't expect real accuracy with this load because the neck tension is excessive and not uniform, the bullet actually is being resized in the case, and there is not enough room for the case to expand properly and release the bullet when the powder ignites.

    Has anyone found a way to make theseguns shoot? I know about the theory that a soft lead bullet smaller than groove dia will be "kicked in the butt" hard enough by a black powder charge to expand to fill the bore.

    I don't have any confidence in that idea--I want bullets .001 to .003 over groove dia. I'm willing to experament, but I have no idea where to start.

    Any ideas would be appreciated.
    f at first you don't secede, try, try again.

  6. #6
    Sidewinder
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    38-55 Bore diameter

    they will shoot factory loaded Winchester ammo good enough, and the .377 BarnesJRN in Starline brass is fair too. But as far as hunting velocities out of a cast GC or not don't expect much.
    I took one and had a 35 Rem barrel rebored to 375 and load .375 bullets now. It is a shooter. But was an expensive 375.
    ll these fine arms and only 24 hours in a day!

  7. #7
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    38-55 Bore diameter

    I've used my .38-55 for hunting, with cast bullets, and it does the job adequately. But as Wak said, most of us don't own just one gun, so why take it out, unless like myself, you want the challenge?
    I have also worked up gas checked loads for my .38-55, and they can be pushed to even higher velocities, with excellent accuracy. Mine will shoot 1" groups at 100 yards, at 1550 fps. It brings down deer sized game easily at 100 yds. If I need something more I'll shoot my old .30-06, not the .38-55.
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  8. #8
    Steelbanger
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    38-55 Bore diameter

    PA Ridge Runner

    You'd be surprised at the velocities you can get from the old 38-55 using cast bullets, and top accuracy too. Mine, with an aperture rear will shoot under 2" at 100 yds from a rest, this with 260 gr. cast GC @ almost 1700 fps.

    When I bought my rifle, the dealer threw in one box of WW factory loads. This load, although recoiling like a 38 special, is very accurate and represents the only jacketed bullets fired in my rifle.

    When I decided to try for a deer with the 38-55, I used the WW factory load. I used 10 factory cartridges trying out the new rifle last year, 5 more getting sight settings this past fall and # 16 from that box to kill a nice PA doe last December and still have 4 remaining cartridges which I intend to scarifice to the chronograph this summer. I'm one of the fence-sitters when it comes to hunting with cast bullets. I'd love to try it but always hesitate and decide against their use by picturing a shot between ribs, in & out, with little damage and a long follow up tracking job.

    What PA ridges do you run anyway? Maybe we've run past each other somewhere. I'd be the older, slow guy.

  9. #9
    Sidewinder
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    38-55 Bore diameter

    the "running" is more of a slow walk these days. I hunt NE Potter Co near Harrison Valley on Rt 49
    when I say accurate I am talking <1" at 100 yds from a bench, this is my preference. I'll admit there is a difference between hunting accuracy and target accuracy.
    I had a Lyman rear sight and also the Lyman front sight with the inserts on my 38-55s. With the factory and some jfn reloads I would have and did hunt deer with it. But I'm not a cast lover of any sort, way too much mess after a few 1000 rounds for me. And I shoot several 100 per week. IMHO casts have a place in SASS and some pistol of low velocity. But if you want a thumper go with jacketed bullets. And the problem with the Marlin CB 38-55 is there just is not the selection of jacketed bullets to use to find the correct one for it.
    ll these fine arms and only 24 hours in a day!


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