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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I need some advice on bullets for my newly acquired Marlin 336 chambered for 38-55 Winchester / Ballard. My bore mikes out as having .3795 grooves. Using 31.5 grains of Reloader 7 powder, Win LR primers and 240 grain RNFP (.380”) True Shot (Laser Cast) bullets I get a velocity of 1,972fps (avg. for 10 shots). My rifle has a 24” barrel and does not show any sign of leading with this load

I will be casting my own bullets using Lyman’s 375248 mould (no gas check) which makes a 249 grain pill with #2 alloy. The mould drops bullets measuring .379” in diameter which I size down to .378” and lube using an RCBS LAM2. I assume that with powder charges in the same range as used with the True Shot bullets, my velocities will also be in the near 2,000 fps bracket.

Now for my questions.

Should I be using #2 alloy or something harder / softer? I want to hunt blacktail deer and maybe black bear. With my 45-70 on elk, I am told I should go harder (405 grains at 2,000 fps) as I want penetration and don’t need expansion as a .458” hole is ample. Is a .378” hole good enough, assuming great penetration, for deer/black bear, or do I need expansion too? Would linotype be too hard and risk shattering the bullet if bone is hit? Will # 2 alloy lead my barrel at this velocity? I hate scrubbing lead out!!!

Also, I want to shoot some jacketed bullets too. However, as far as I can tell, Barnes is the only maker that produces a flat point bullet with a diameter of .378”. Hornady and Sierra both make FP bullets but they have diameters of .375” and are really meant for the 375 Win or H&H Mag. Oddly, Hornady provides data for loading the 38-55 with their 220 grain FP but it seems like it would be very inaccurate with such an undersize diameter if used in a 38-55. Winchester still makes the classic 255 grain soft point in their loaded ammo and I would dearly love to get my hands on the bullets but can’t seem to find them for sale anywhere – except as loaded ammo! Barnes bullets are fine but I like to shoot just for fun too, and these little gems at about 50 cents each are not real economical. What to do? Does anyone know if Winchester even offers their bullets for sale as components in this caliber?

One last concern is that when loaded into complete rounds, these sausages are hard to chamber. I suspect I have a tight chamber because the bullets are sized to match the bore – they could actually even be a little bigger. Do I need to send this rifle back to Marlin to have the chamber redone to max SAAMI specs?

Thanks for any help.


Creedmoor
 

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lead alloy

I've had no experience with the 38-55 but I have with molding bullets.

Everyone has a differing approach and know plenty more than I about this subject but,,,,,,

I've been molding bullets for the .35 and other calibers for years. I've used all types of recipes for the perfect lead. My 206 grain Lyman mold produces bullets that may be similar in performance, with my reloads, to your 38-55 on deer. I've had very good results with wheelweight lead with the inpurities fluxed out as much as possible. These bullets usually weigh in at around 212 to 214 grains in actuality. I can just get a thumbnail scratch in the surface with a good amount of pressure applied. These bullets have performed very well for me on deer when fired at about 2100 fps. I have no leading problem and the bullets I've recovered from wet newspaper and the like shows good rifling contact. These bullets are very accurate with my load in my rifle.

As for performance on deer, they have always shot all the way thru and I've never recovered a bullet from a kill. They leave an exit wound slightly larger than a golfball but not quite the size of a tennis ball when no big bones are hit. About tennisball or slightly larger if bones are hit. I suspect these bullets are mushrooming to some degree. Wish I could recover one just once to see. I've even shot end thru end on some deer and still they exit. They do show some mushrooming when fired into newspapers stacked up deep.

I abandoned the trouble of mixing all types of concoctions in my lead when I found out thru experience how well this wheelweight deal performs for me. It may not work the same for others with differing loads and guns. Looking back on 30 plus years of reloading, casting, and shooting game animals, I can't beleive that I waited so long to use my cast bullets for hunting. I used to use them only for target practice. The last ten years or so I've used them exclusively in my .35. I've killed probably about 15 or more deer with this bullet. The results are always the same. I let one of my close friends use this rifle last weekend and he killed a 166 pound doe.

You are right though, I beleive that even with the .35 caliber and going up, expansion is not necessarily needed. A big bullet leaves a big hole and a dead animal close by.

good luck finding your favorite bullet recipe.........
 

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Creedmoor said:
I need some advice on bullets for my newly acquired Marlin 336 chambered for 38-55 Winchester / Ballard. My bore mikes out as having .3795 grooves. Using 31.5 grains of Reloader 7 powder, Win LR primers and 240 grain RNFP (.380”) True Shot (Laser Cast) bullets I get a velocity of 1,972fps (avg. for 10 shots). My rifle has a 24” barrel and does not show any sign of leading with this load
This sounds very good. How is your accuracy with this set up? I've never had good luck with PB bullets at this velocity IN THE .38-55.

I will be casting my own bullets using Lyman’s 375248 mould (no gas check) which makes a 249 grain pill with #2 alloy. The mould drops bullets measuring .379” in diameter which I size down to .378” and lube using an RCBS LAM2. I assume that with powder charges in the same range as used with the True Shot bullets, my velocities will also be in the near 2,000 fps bracket.
I would not expect good performance from a bullet of this alloy that is a full .0015" under bore diameter. It being a PB that you are pushing to 2000 fps will only exacerbate problems you are likely to have. I would expect leading and poor accuracy.

Now for my questions.

Should I be using #2 alloy or something harder / softer? I want to hunt blacktail deer and maybe black bear. With my 45-70 on elk, I am told I should go harder (405 grains at 2,000 fps) as I want penetration and don’t need expansion as a .458” hole is ample. Is a .378” hole good enough, assuming great penetration, for deer/black bear, or do I need expansion too? Would linotype be too hard and risk shattering the bullet if bone is hit? Will # 2 alloy lead my barrel at this velocity? I hate scrubbing lead out!!!
A bullet with a proper, read "large", meplat will do well. With hard cast bullets you are effectively using a solid. You will get deformation on bone with the #2 alloy, but I don't know if the linotype will shatter. I think that is unlikely at .38-55 velocities.

Also, I want to shoot some jacketed bullets too. However, as far as I can tell, Barnes is the only maker that produces a flat point bullet with a diameter of .378”.
So far as I know this is correct. However, Stone Fence (who posts here) might make you some of his bullets and they are EXCELLENT. His price is very competitive with the Barnes.

Hornady and Sierra both make FP bullets but they have diameters of .375” and are really meant for the 375 Win or H&H Mag.
Correct. I should add that some people cut off the point on the 235 gr. Speer (?) and use those in the .38-55 and .375 Winchester. I would think that they would do better in those bores with more minimal dimensions. I've not tried them in my .375" bore.

Oddly, Hornady provides data for loading the 38-55 with their 220 grain FP but it seems like it would be very inaccurate with such an undersize diameter if used in a 38-55.
I've not been able to use the Hornady 220 in either leverguns or singleshots without seating it very deeply in the case. So deeply, in fact, that the cannelure is unusable. This makes it unsuitable for leverguns. My most recent .38-55 is a Contender carbine custom barrel with a .375" bore. I don't find these bullet accurate even in the .375" bore. I think that the nose is just too long for this weight in the caliber.

Winchester still makes the classic 255 grain soft point in their loaded ammo and I would dearly love to get my hands on the bullets but can’t seem to find them for sale anywhere – except as loaded ammo! Barnes bullets are fine but I like to shoot just for fun too, and these little gems at about 50 cents each are not real economical. What to do? Does anyone know if Winchester even offers their bullets for sale as components in this caliber?
They don't. Sam Fadala wrote in Shooting Illustrated that he pulls the factory bullets and replaces the charge to create hunting ammo he wants. His charge was 31 gr. of H4198 which gives 1999 fps in my rifle. He uses this same charge with the Barnes .377" bullets.

One last concern is that when loaded into complete rounds, these sausages are hard to chamber. I suspect I have a tight chamber because the bullets are sized to match the bore – they could actually even be a little bigger. Do I need to send this rifle back to Marlin to have the chamber redone to max SAAMI specs?
I've read that some Marlin shooters having bores on the large size can't chamber cartridges loaded with bullets sized to fit their bores. Marlin has modified the chamber to accept these cartridges.

My loads in the .38-55 cover a pretty wide range of performance. I use 18 gr. of H4227 under the 249 gr. PB cast bullet for about 1200 fps. This load duplicates original BP ballistics (more or less).

I use 28 gr. of IMR 3031 under a 265 gr. cast GC (gas check) for about 1700 fps. This load is good for deer and cuts cloverleafs at 100 yards. Interestingly, I've used .376", .377", .378" and even .379" sized bullets with the same results in my .375" bore! Bullets from Cast Peformance Bullets sized .376" give the best performance in my rifle.

I also use 32 gr. of RL-7 under any .375" 255 gr. bullet for the .38-55. Stone Fence made me some at .375" and I've used the Barnes. Other loaders such as Ken Waters, Snooky Williamson, and Layne Simpson have used the same load in their guns and gotten different results ranging from 1730 to 1900 fps. I get a very steady (SD of 9) 2001 fps in my rifle.

Thanks for any help.


Creedmoor
I hope I have been of help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Bullet to Bore size match

Thanks for the info guys - very helpful. I'm never afraid to admit that someone elso knows more than I do - and you two sure do! Ok, yes I know that my bullet to bore fit is marginal. But how can I get my mould to make bigger bullets and my sizing die to not sqeeze 'em down so much? I've got the largest diameter sizing die offered by any commercial maker I can find. Do you know what's involved in sending a rifle back to the factory for fixing the chamber? Do I need to send the whole rifle? Go through an FFL holder? Can this be done USPS or must it be FedEX I don't think UPS will do guns anymore?
 

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I would quit sizing them and tumble lube! Its worked in my cowboy for a year and results are fantastic. I use plain wheelweights water quenched in the 45-70 and plain wheel weights for more expansion in the smaller calibers. No leading, and I can shoot a lot for very little money with plain based 45-70 bullets. How do you get the plain base bullet to go that fast accurately?
 
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