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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Anyone up on the original loading for an 1881 in 38-55 with factory Marlin ammo? What weight bullets and configurations? Paper patch? How much powder and what granulation? If anyone has a couple of originals to spare I will buy them and break them down. I have a 249 gr, 235 gr, and 265 gr molds and have had no luck getting it to shoot. Bore is .382 and I have had two molds made so far. Bore is strong but dark and no reason it won't shoot good. It has a Lyman 21 peep and a Lyman ivory bead front sight. Any info will be greatly appreciated. moodyholler
 

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The original load was a 255 grain bullet, with 55 grains of blackpowder. Most likely something close to ffg. Original loads were around 1350 fps.
Smokeless loads equaling this fps should work fine if the bullet is sized to the bore, and of close weight. I've shot a lot of 245 gr. bullets in mine, with smokeless, at around 1300-1400 fps. Don't push them any faster, or accuracy will fall off with cast plain base bullets.
 

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cowboykell said:
Wrong again - original load was 48.0 grs of black powder, you can't fit 55.0 grs even by compressing.
Did you bother to read what he typed? He stated the ORIGINAL loading was 55 grs. The word ORIGINAL means the first, and the FIRST loading of the 38-55 cartridge was with 55 grs of black powder......where do you think the 55 in 38-55 came from??? Had you done a little research before shooting your mouth off (again), you would have realized (maybe) that the original (first) cases for the 38-55 were of the thinner, folded head design. After the cases were changed to a solid head design with thicker walls, the case capacity (volume - how much powder it could hold) was reduced and would only hold 48 grs or so.

Ya know, this reminds me of a famous quote (something someone said)

'Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.'

Abraham Lincoln
 

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and that is the truth Shum,I use smokless now with my 255 gr Winnie
 

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Hey moody....the early 38-55's with the balloon or folded head cases would hold 55 grains of black powder, but the solid head case came along not too long afterwards and it would only hold 48 grains of powder. The early Winchester loading tools were marked 38-55 Ballard and still only had a 48 grain powder measure. The Ballard marking is not very common and was changed to just 38-55, probably when Winchester began chambering their Model 1885 single shot in the caliber. And of course now, it is known as the 38-55 WCF. Hmmmmmm.....



The molds for Marlin, Ideal and Winchester were mainly 255 grain grooved molds, but there are some paper patch versions also. I think these were mainly for the single shots though as the patch would probably get ripped going through the loading gate and mechanism. I have an old Ideal mold marked 38-55 M P 255 that I am cleaning up to use in a 38-50 Ballard.

max
 

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Shum8 is correct, the 38-55 superceded the 38-50 Ballard because of the increase in powder capacity by 5 grains. I have original 38-50 Ballard folded head cases and they will hold 50 grains. Only when the solid head case design came along did the case capacity of the 38-55 reduce to 48 grains. By that time, it was well established as a fine target round and the reduced case capacity didn't matter as it was mostly used in the 200 yard Schutzen matches.

max
 

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Thanks, but it was Marlinman93 who was correct - I just imbellished his post to counter an accusation. I was just trying to get a gnat to go away.............

Shum8
 

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ho ho ho ha ha hehe......kowhell is a busy bee....

:p
heh, then that means my 45-70 had 68grs of powder too! :p


lets see......i think my 25-20 has 18grs in it~ :roll:
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
In my trapdoor I have chambered in 38-55 I am shooting 50 grains of 2f Swiss, compressed .400, .030 wad, and a 335 grain bullet. I can get 55 grains of cartridge goex under the 235 grain bullets for the Marlin. I have tried from 40 - 55 grains with poor results. No keyholing, just 6" groups at 50 yards and I think it can be better. Thanks for the info, moodyholler
 

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Indeed, my 1890 Winchester catalog indicates a charge of 48 grains of powder with the 255 grain bullet. The bullet was composed of a 40 to 1 ratio of lead to tin.

Max, the original 38-50 Ballard is listed as being 2.00" as compared to the 38-55 at 2.05". Also, "Everlasting" cases were common for the 38-50 and were listed in my 1893 Ideal catalog for the 38-55. I would imagine that the inherent qualities of their construction reduced powder capacity. Have you run across any 38-50/55 Everlasting cases? I have one in 40-63. They appear to be turned out of solid stock. Cheers!
 

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The old powders were of a much finer grain than any available powders we have today. I can't get that 2f Swiss to 55 grains, even with a drop tube, and compression. As Shum8 stated, the original cases were "balloon head" or "folded head" and the powders were finer, so 55 grains would go.
 

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I have seen a baloon head case sectioned, and it is a wonder to me that they did not regularly fail. SW
 

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Max,
You never cease to amaze me with your neat old loading tools! Thanks for the great pictures!
 

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This is all very interesting to me. I often wonder how we got along without scales, progressive presses, and case tumblers.

Wonder how many of those old loading tools and moulds were carried in the classic "mountain man" sense- replacing minie balls and powder flask in the old possibles bag.... how many of the early black powder cartridge loads had their bullets cast over a campfire along the trail?

Regards,

Doc Sharptail
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I stand corrected. Measure is set at 50 grains by volume. I am using Swiss Sheutzen 2ff and 235 grain bullets. I also loaded some 335 grain bullets for the trapdoor and am going to the range tomorrow to see performance at 200 meters. moodyholler
 

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marlinman93 said:
The old powders were of a much finer grain than any available powders we have today. I can't get that 2f Swiss to 55 grains, even with a drop tube, and compression.
Hey - wonder if you could crush a batch of today's black powder and get it to fit? Hey Cowboy - Gather up a pound of your favorite black powder, crush it real fine with a hammer, and see if you can get 55 grains in a 38-55 case after that :D :D. If that doesn't work, stick some in a food processor (small, fast blender) and see if that helps. And take a steel rod and tamp it down real well after the shell is full....I bet if you work REAL hard, you can actually fit 55 grains in a 38-55 shell. If you do, let us know........

Shum8
 

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Doc....I believe these old tools were used extensively as you suggest. If you head back to the days of the buffalo hunters, they really had no choice since they were out months at a time. Others who didn't shoot quite so much would buy the loading tool, but use "store bought" bullets instead of casting. That and some powder and primers and they were set.

Roundsworth....I have 3 of the 38-50 Ballard cases and none have a headstamp. I believe the original 38-50 Ballard cases were 1.96" long and the original 38-55 cases were 2.12". This from John Dutcher and he certainly knows more than I do. I believe Winchester shortened the case length after they made it their own. Maybe to be able to use the same case in both. All of the Everlasting cases I have are thicker walled, but the 40-65 Ballard Everlasting is the heaviest. Looks almost 3 times as thick. My 38-50 case OAL measure is 1.982, 1.900 and 1.992, so a bit random, but they are all used. I doubt they worried too much about trimming in those days.

Vall...old loading tools and single shots.....kind of like bacon and eggs, you know?

moody....on the 38 and 40 calibers with black powder, I sometimes have trouble getting enough lube in those small grooves to make it to the end of a 30" barrel. Wonder if that might be part of the problem. I can feel it when I run a patch down the barrel from the breech end. Goes smooth most of the way, but the last 3 or 4 inches feels like I hit "sand". 2nd or 3rd pass with a patch and it's not there.

kaintuck....don't know about the 68 grains, :roll: but the Winchester loading set in 25-20R had a 17 grain measure. So you're not far off there.

max
 

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So was the old black powder finer because it wasn't dusted in graphite after being run through the 'sizing' sieve while still damp? I thought I read somewhere the new BP was treated with graphite to keep it from being so hygroscopic. SW
 

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i was..........

:wink: i was just being snooty to kowhell, he is such a cluck.......

i use 2400 in my little 25-20, 8grs? i think..... can't remember just sitting here, and i'm too lazy to go look it up....anyway, she is a shooter!....and the neat thing is when you stand behind the shooter....the bullet leaves a 'vapor trail' to the target......lead or jacketed bullets....
i haven't gotten her out in ages to shoot~ i have been on the '22' kick lately :p and have 'forgotten' about my centerfire babies!!!!!!
 
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