BP .38 Spl Loads in Colt 1851 Cartridge Conversion

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by SPJackson, Jul 8, 2020.

  1. SPJackson

    SPJackson Member

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    Hello all,

    I am looking into getting a cartridge conversion of a Uberti Colt 1851, and I have been wondering how powerful of a black powder cartridge I could use in the gun, and what I could feasibly make for it. I am hoping that maybe some of you others have already tried this out on your own and that I can learn from you.

    From what I've read in this previous post(https://www.thehighroad.org/index.ph...or-357.795086/) you can get 30 grains in 38 special brass with compression, and specifically 25 grains into Starline brass. Based on this post form castboolits when using Goex ( http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...BP-Ballistics ) and this old issue of Shields Magazine ( https://www.google.com/ books / edition ... sec = frontcover) it seems that the most powerful load for a 38 in blackpowder is with 23 grains of powder and a 160 grain bullet. The thing is though that no one says what the OAL of the cartridge is with that load. The sight for the Kirst Konverter of the Colt Navy ( https://www.kirstkonverter.com/1851-61-colt-navy.html ) says that their cylinders are not for cartridges "exceeding 1.425" overall length ". So can a load of 23 grains of powder and a 160 grain bullet be compressed to 1.425 inches? If not then what other bullet types could be used? I'm not sure if other conversion cylinders like the Howell Old West have that same length limitation, and if anyone can clear that up for me to then I would appreciate it.

    I would definitely want to use a hollow base bullet in order to engage the .375 rifling of the Colt Navy barrel, but I cannot find molds for HB bullets meant for a Colt. The best that I could find may be the Rapine .358149, but they are no longer made. The next best thing I can think of is taking out and using the HBFP used in these 38 Long Colts ( https://www.midwayusa.com/product/1000515467 ). If anyone knows how I could find a mold for bullets like those please let me know. Other than that I may also try these 9mm 135 grain (HBFP https://shopwilsoncombat.com/BULLET-...o/B9-135-HBFP/ )

    I also know that I will most likely use Goex fffg since that should give me the most powder per volume, at least according to this reference (https://www.curtrich.com/BPConversionSheet.htm)

    To sum things up again, before I go investing a lot of money into this, what would be the most powerful BP load I can make for a conversion revolver? Is it feasable to compress a 158 - 160 grn bullet to 1.425 inches with 23 grains of powder in a 38 special case? If not then what ratio of bullet weight to powder charge should I go for? I also know that I may have an easier time with the flat end of a wad-cutter, but I want to go with a RNFP because of improved aerodynamics, and simply for the challenge.

    Thank you
     
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  2. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    This thread may be helpful. --->>> https://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php?topic=60431.0

    Also, THR member Hoof Hearted will reline an 1851 Navy barrel to .357 for $150 [listed under conversion services]. --->>> http://cartridgeconversion.com
    I'm sure that he could answer any questions that don't get answered here.
    He has a phone number listed in his contacted info., just give him a call.
     
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  3. Mike 56

    Mike 56 Member

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    Bear creek sells swaged moly coated heeled 38 Colt bullets that might work. https://www.bearcreeksupplybullets.com/38colt He also sells two different hollow base 38 bullets. If you call him and tell him what you need he might be already making bullets for guys with Colt conversions. 209-874-4322
     
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  4. SPJackson

    SPJackson Member

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    I took a look and the only hollow bases he has listed right now is a wadcutter and a 105 FP. I'm not an expert but I'm not sure if a bullet that small will expand within the barrel enough to catch the riffling. Or how accurate it may be. Could you or anyone give me some insight into that?
     
  5. Loyalist Dave

    Loyalist Dave Member

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    Here are some hollow base wadcutters
    https://www.mattsbullets.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=65&products_id=297&zenid=t8jmegj7op72urjoq9f0k7gre1

    Here are some copper plated ones to reduce leading in your barrel
    https://www.midwayusa.com/product/1018181886

    Hornady lead, hollow base wadcutters
    https://www.ableammo.com/catalog/hornady-lead-pistol-bullets-caliber-148-grain-hollow-base-wadcutter-250box-10208-not-loaded-p-93534.html

    Remington Hollow base wadcutters...
    https://www.precisionreloading.com/cart.php#!l=RM&i=B23562

    IIRC you need to have a pretty stout load to get the base to flare as it moves from the cartridge mouth into the chamber and across the gap into the forcing cone of the barrel when using any of these bullets.

    LD
     
  6. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    The Bear Creek 140 grain heeled bullet that Mike 56 linked to has a middle driving band diameter of .375, and a base diameter of .353. --->>> https://www.bearcreeksupplybullets.com/38colt
    Since the online store is under construction, a person must call to order.
    That bullet is listed on their pricing chart.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2020
  7. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    Coffinmaker posted:

    "I personally had terrible experience with .38 conversion cylinders in my .36 Navy Pietta's.
    With BP and Subs, the guns would foul out in about 4 rounds.
    Since I don't shoot Smokeless, I sold the cylinders off. I wish you good luck with yours."

    I wonder which model and conversion that he was shooting with that led to that statement. --->>> [See Post #2] https://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php?topic=60431.0
     
  8. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Question: Is this a cartridge conversion cylinder in a cap and ball revolver or is it a Uberti factory "conversion" actually made as a breechloader? If the latter, it will have a standard .358" barrel, no problems with common bullets.

    If the former, you will need a heel bullet. Historians correct me, but I do not think the inside lubricated hollow base bullets came along until .38 Colt was being loaded with smokeless.

    Original conversions were in .38 Centerfire, later known as .38 Long Colt. It is convenient to chamber reproductions for .38 Special but the longer case puts limits on bullet choice and seating.

    The 1907 Shield magazine article describing a .38 Special load for Colt and Smith and Wesson revolvers recommends a particular bullet, actually meant for the Maynard rifle, sized down for the revolver and loaded long to make room for a whole two grains more powder. It will be tough to replicate in the short cylinder of a converter.
     
  9. Mike 56

    Mike 56 Member

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    I did some reading last night https://books.google.com/books?id=UeBDCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA128&lpg=PA128&dq=38sp+loads+for+a+36cal+cap+and+ball+revolver&source=bl&ots=T66lJjR0gJ&sig=ACfU3U07Q9rLdzra7MujyX3cJn0n96Gnpg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiQj6Cp3r_qAhXbVs0KHSbZBOsQ6AEwDHoECAsQAQ#v=onepage&q=38sp loads for a 36cal cap and ball revolver&f=false It seems 38 Colt and 38 Long Colt were made for 36 cal cartage conversions you can shoot 38 LC in a 38sp and a 38sp in a 36 cal as long as they are loaded down to cowboy loads. I checked out Howell converters https://www.midwayusa.com/product/1973413031 Howells converts to 38LC and 38sp HBWC. The reviews are positive for 38LC and 38sp HBWC. I shoot Bear Creek bullets in 1911, Uburti Walker, and 357 GP100. I don't get any leading with BC moly coated bullets. Last month I bought 400 357SWC for 29.00 cash and carry. I would call bear creek and Hoof Hearted for more insight. Bear Creek does custom sizing so he might have something already worked up.
     
  10. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    I have a Uberti with 'Legal Defender' conversion to .38 S&W, not LC or Special.
    In the 1970s it was marketed to let you mail order a weapon into a repressive jurisdiction. A cap and ball revolver could be ordered from Dixie, and a .38 S&W cylinder from Legal Defender, both sent directly to you anyplace in the country. Assembled into a cartridge firearm, it was probably illegal in that jurisdiction, but who's telling?

    I got the old stock cylinder and put it in the Uberti for CAS.
    The most W231 I cared to put in a .38 S&W would not reliably expand a Speer HBWC into the rifling.
    I caught FLG in an experimental mood and he lined the barrel to .357 and made it a good little shooter with roundnose bullets.
     
  11. Navy Six 2

    Navy Six 2 Member

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    I have two of the Rapine 358149 molds but the bullet was so long I could only get about 14/15 grs of 3F Goex in a 38 LC case if you wanted it to fit in a Kirst cylinder. They were accurate however. I even used the trick of filling the hollow cavity with two extra grs and partially seating the bullet into the case while it(the filled case) was upside down. A thin wad held the powder in the case. Then turned the case right side up and finished the bullet seating process. It was tedious. I tried shooting factory swaged hollow base wadcutters which allowed a little more powder and they worked. However, the Hornady ones were coated with some sticky substance that left a nasty residue in the barrel. I finally went to a heeled bullet from Accurate Molds but that requires a crimping die from Old West Bullet Molds. With that bullet I can get about 19 grs of 3F Swiss in the 38LC case with compression. The restricting factor is the cartridge OAL that can fit in the Kirst cylinder.
    I don't know how anyone crammed 25/30 grs of powder in a modern 38 Spl. case and still seated a bullet. I have used blackpowder 38 Spl loads at Cowboy matches for many years and can usually coax 20 grs of 3F with any 158 gr bullet, but that's about it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2020
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  12. SPJackson

    SPJackson Member

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    I wanted to convert a cap and ball, for the fun of the challenge. Since you suggest heeled bullets I also have a question about them. Can you safely use a heeled bullet in a barrel meant for a .358 diameter? I'm asking because I was also hoping to make a load that would work in a Winchester 1866 chambered for 38 special too.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2020
  13. SPJackson

    SPJackson Member

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    Thank you, that is very informative. I figured you could get extra powder in a case by taking advantage of the extra space in a hollow base bullet. I'm confused why some like you say they can only get 20 grs in a 38 spl case when the original load for that cartridge was 21.5 grs. Is that all due to different brands differing in cartridge walls thickness, or having ballooned cartridge heads? If that is the case then I wonder which brand of 38 brass has the greatest volume.

    I also found this cool video by Mike Belivue about his own cartridge conversions. After 8 minutes into the video he says that you can take one of the current Howell gated conversion cylinders and fit a cartridge using a 125 gr bullet. That makes me wonder if I can find HB 125 grain bullets. Or bullets of the same length as a 125 grn .358s minus whatever number of grains are lost in hollowing the base.



    Mike even says that Kenny Howell used to make conversions that allowed full length 38 specials. I imagine he achieved the longer cylinder length needed for that with a shorter conversion ring, or removing metal from the forcing cone of the barrel, or both. I looked at other old Howell conversion that took full 38 spl and they have a hammer mounted firing pin instead of a rebounding one in the conversion ring. I wounder if that is related to the use of 38 spcl cartridges too. Can anyone tell me about those old Kenny Howell conversions?
     
  14. Darto

    Darto Member

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    check the reviews in that link on midway, someone named David wrote: "I have a Pietta 1858 Remington replica in .36 caliber with a .38 special conversion cylinder. I've used lead HBWC bullets with great success. When I saw these plated HBWC bullets I thought about trying them too. The Berry's bullets work just as well with comparable accuracy in the slightly oversized barrel of this handgun."

    ------------------
    here's load data for .38 Long Colt using black powder and pyrodex etc.
    150 grain bullets , I can't find any data for 160, all of these loads are by MikeVenturino book Shooting Sixguns in the Old West.

    ppea1fZ.png
     
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  15. Navy Six 2

    Navy Six 2 Member

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    I seriously(definately) don't think so. The standard diameter of the heeled bullet of the era was at least .375+, which is how I ordered mine. The heel is .358. Since the groove diameter you mention is .358, that is at least .018 over, which no would recommend.
    The Howell cylinders have a different set-up that allows for a longer cartridge OAL. The seperate and thinner cap that contains the firing pins allows for this. The Kirst uses a plate that is thicker and uses a single firing pin, thus limiting the cartridge OAL.
    Another thing to consider is the chamber mouth dimension. Kirst sells two different cylinders for the 38 conversion. One has chamber mouths cut for .358 bullets and the other one has larger dimension for the .375 heel bullets. I'm not sure about the Howell. So, if you order the .358 cylinder and later decide to try the larger heel bullets, they may(probably) won't chamber. My cylinders have the larger dimension as I planned to keep things traditional. When I did use the smaller .358 bullets, I got a lot more blow by which fouled the gun faster. That's just my two cents worth after using these Navy conversions for 20 years. The 44 conversions are more straight forward as you just have to make sure the finished cartridge isn't too long to fit your choice of cylinders.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2020
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  16. SPJackson

    SPJackson Member

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    You mean the drop in Howell, or the gated Howell? How much longer of a cartridge can it take?
     
  17. Navy Six 2

    Navy Six 2 Member

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    I was referring to the drop in Howell. I believe Taylor's Firearms are handling the sale of them now. It would be best to contact Taylor's with specific questions regarding exactly what that particular cylinder can accommodate.
     
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