38-55 Handloading

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by mohican, Jun 1, 2005.

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  1. mohican

    mohican Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    somewhere in the buckeye state
    I aquired a H&R/NEF Buffalo 38-55.

    First step - slugged the barrel - .380

    Bought 38-55 dies from Lee-no other brands in stock for 38-55 the first time around

    WW brass
    NBT 249 grain RNFP bullets
    Federal Primers

    Ok, I am usually satisfied with Lee products. I really like their crimping dies

    :fire: :fire: :banghead: :banghead: :barf: :barf:

    WARNING - don't expect Lee dies for 38-55 to actually work. Two of three dies in the set were actually for 375 Winchester :mad: :fire: I tried them and crushed several cases, and the Lee expanding dies were meant for 375 bullets, not .380 bullets. [Edited to add - I looked at the parts list, and yes, the .375 winchester dies were meant to be in the 38-55 die set]

    The next day, I ordered a set of lyman dies for 38-55, with the two step expanding die. Much better. I also picked up the Lee Factory crimp die. The Lyman expander is still not big enough for .380 bullets, and seating the bullets "swelled" the cases. about 1/2 of them would chamber in my 38-55. After a little thought, I came across a "hillbilly" solution. I resized the loaded round in the sizer die, after removing the decapping pin, of course. Anyone ever done this?

    I separated the "resized" ammo, and gave the fired empties a good visual. Ejection/extraction was flawless, no primer dings. Out of the box, getting used to the rifle, I switched from front aperture/rear aperture to front post/rear aperture. just getting used to the gun, got 2-3" groups at 50 yards. I expect that with familiarity it will get better. Recoil is fairly mild.
    At 50 yards off hand was able to hit the spinning 4"/5" spinning plate combo offhand with regularity. Same with kneeling and prone. The trigger could be a little better, but some use may help that. If not, I know a competent smith who can take the trigger down to 3 lbs for me. (I know the factory likes 5 lb triggers, way too much for this setup)

    My next step - ordered RCBS "Cowboy" seating die, which is a two step die similar to the Lyman M die. I will be getting the expander plug for .380 bullets, which should cure my seating woes.
  2. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Florence, Alabama
    There is a thriving cottage industry for opening up the chambers in .38-55 Marlin 336 Cowboy lever actions to where they will chamber ammo with the .380" bullets their traditionally large barrels need. Sounds like your H&R might need the same treatment.

    Oh, well, back to the shop to load some more .38-55 for my Winchester Highwall. Got a BPCR match this weekend. I use Lyman dies but as you say their M expander was too small and I got a replacement plug from Buffalo Arms. They are the best source for all such stuff.

    Apropo which, you really ought to try some real gunpowder in that single shot. Need bullets with black powder lube like SPG. Blowtube or wipe between shots and clean with Windex on the range and you are all set.
  3. Wil Terry

    Wil Terry Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    Black Hills, South Dakota, USA
    I Have Used A Set Of Rcbs Standard 38-55 Dies From The Gitgo To Load

    For my MARLIN 336 COWBOY rifle in 38-55. I have tested bullets with OD's of .377", .378", and .389" and all of them shot quite well indeed with the appropriate propellent charges. Loading data came right out of the ACCURATE ARMS #2 manual.
    Best group to date: .55" for five shots at 100 yards with the .378" bullets.
    I have had no problems with the dies at all, all of the W-W brass has been very good stuff, and the WLR primers work fine.
    The rifle is set up with LYMAN receiver sights and still uses the factory front bead sight.
  4. JuniorG

    JuniorG Member

    Feb 28, 2004
    Oregon USA
    The 38-55 is just plain fun to shoot. I have a 14" Bbl for my contender that prefers bullets sized to .378-.379

    Use Lyman dies with no problems, best group so far is around 1 1/2 at 100
  5. palermop

    palermop Member

    Dec 23, 2010
    Can you please tell me what powder and weights you used for best results on 38-55 with a 15 inch barrel. need a quick burning powder i assume? what was the recoil like?
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