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I have a friend who's asked if I can load him some period-accurate .38 LC for an old revolver he inherited. His dad had been shooting .38spl with it, which I told him is probably not good for the rifling or cylinder, but which tells me that .38spc cases load and fire without any problems, so the chamber is bored straight through, and it will accept .38spl cases no problem.

I've done some reading on it and think I have a good approach, but wanted to get some advice before I started on it.

I measured the barrel with calipers and found the bore to be .375". If need be I can push a lead ball through the bore to be sure, but the markings seem to have it manufactured in 1899, which puts it right in the conversion period before the barrels went to .357.

Lee has a .38 short and long set of dies that has the sizer/deprimer, case mouth, and bullet seating die, but I'll still need to find an appropriate crimp die that will fit my Lee single stage press. I'll likely trim down some .38spl cases to .38 LC length differentiate them, so he doesn't mix up the ammo.

For powder, a small charge of bullseye, something in the 2-3 grain range, should work nicely.

For slugs, I'm not sure where to go. He cares more about them looking period appropriate than using BP, so I don't really want to use the standby 148gn HBWC, I'd rather use something that looks like what you'd expect.

I've found both cast slugs and a mold at Old West Bullet Molds for the .375" heeled bullets, but since I've never cast my own bullets I'm not terribly confident in using my first casts in such an old revolver, so I'll likely just get the slugs from them.

They also have a crimp die that looks like it may fit my Lee press to match the other .38 Colt dies.

I guess my questions are, do I need to push a ball through the barrel to verify the bore? Are there issues with the heeled slugs I'm not aware of? Is the .375" heeled a better choice than the .358" hollow base? Basically, am I on the right path?

I'm comfortable loading all kinds of modern cartridges, but this is my first period reload, and the last thing I want to do is damage a 120 year old family heirloom.
 

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Does your friend have a broken arm?

Is there a reason they want you do do all this fairly involved work for them, instead of doing it themselves?

Inquiring minds always want to know!

Lol...


Otherwise, just get the .375 Heeled Bullets ( or the Mold, and cast them yourself...it is easy to cast, and it is fun and satisfying and there is nothing daunting or mysterious about it, and if you have not cast before, this will be a good time to learn, and you will enjoy it and it will in itself lead to more fun things, since many very good and special Hand Gun Bullets can only be had by casting them one's self, once one has the Molds, since many of the coolest ones ever, no one sells or offers today, one has to cast them one's self, ) and forget using .357 / .358 Hollow Base Wad Cutters...use the .375 Heeled Bullets, get the right Crimper for them, and do it right.

If it was me I would just use 'Swiss' 3 F or 'Old Eynsford' 3 F Black Powder, and right Beeswax Lube, ( smear some on the base of the Bullet, also ) and be 'Perfecto Mundo' all the way around..!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
He doesn't load or know anything about it. And it's a new challenge for me, since loading the usual stuff for my own guns isn't challenging anymore. Plus, it's an excuse to buy new tools...


These are the slugs I was looking at (they have them in 125gn and 150gn): https://oldwestbulletmoulds.com/shop?olsPage=products/38-caliber-150-grain-heel-bullets

They also have a mold and crimp die set: https://oldwestbulletmoulds.com/shop?olsPage=products/38-colt-mould-and-crimp-dieset&page=1

But I think I'll buy the slugs and the crimp die this time and maybe look at getting a melting pot and some molds later. I have a .45LC revolver I could cast for as well.
 

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He doesn't load or know anything about it. And it's a new challenge for me, since loading the usual stuff for my own guns isn't challenging anymore. Plus, it's an excuse to buy new tools...


These are the slugs I was looking at (they have them in 125gn and 150gn): https://oldwestbulletmoulds.com/shop?olsPage=products/38-caliber-150-grain-heel-bullets

They also have a mold and crimp die set: https://oldwestbulletmoulds.com/shop?olsPage=products/38-colt-mould-and-crimp-dieset&page=1

But I think I'll buy the slugs and the crimp die this time and maybe look at getting a melting pot and some molds later. I have a .45LC revolver I could cast for as well.
I took the Crash Course a while back for .38 LC when I got a Colt "New Line" in .38 Long Colt, and I was all excited about loading for it.

Upon closer examination and dismantle and cleaning of the tiny little Revolver, I realized the Hand in mine is some piece of junk someone tried to make out or a scrap of sheet metal, so, I set it aside, pending to find out what the Hand is supposed to look like, so I can make one, and in doing so, kind of set aside my 38 LC Loading aspirations for the time being, also.

Casting wise, after occasional sessions of Melting Lead on a little Butane Hot Plate, I decided to try a small model "Lee" Electric Melter, the kind one uses a Dipper for.

I have a nice old 'Ideal' Dipper, and the basic low price model Lee Melter has been just a joy! It melts the Ingots very fast, has a nice Temperature Setting Switch, it is great!!

Some Saw Dust sprinkled on the Melt to gather oxidized dross, spoon that off, Dip, Pour...

My Molds rest on the the Melting Pot top rim to keep them appropriately heated.

I have been very happy with this set up and it did not cost much.

Pure Lead to which one may add 1 or 2 percent Tin, is the way to go for all the oldies.

Black Powder Loads for the old Colt "New Army" would be more fun than you'd ever guess, unless you have shot BP .38 Special or other BP Metallic Cartridge Revolver.

It will put a huge smile on anyone's face instantly.

Smokeless is so dull and wan compared to BP.

For Black Powder Lube, just dip some 1 inch wide torn strips of ordinary White Paper Towel in Molten Beeswax, let cool on some Aluminum Foil.

Once cool cut out little Discs with an ordinary Gasket Hole Punch of a diameter which is a little larger than the Cartridge ID...cut out over smooth end grain Pine or ordinary 2 x 4 chunk.

One puts in a Bees Wax impregnated Disc between Powder and Bullet then, when Loading one's Cartridges.

This prevents hard fouling, it lubes the Bullet, Hands stay clean, and makes later clean up a breeze...you can shoot the next 10 thousand rounds with no cleaning, and never have any Cylinder binding.

Easy, fun, simple, and works perfect.

.45 Colt also is at it's best, with BP..!

The report, the recoil, the entire 'feel' is right, and so much nicer than 'Smokeless'.
 

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You can buy loaded 'cowboy' ammunition from Black Hills, or you can load Trail Boss to give you an original load.
 

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As it appears you have figured out, the easy thing to do is load is simply load 38 hollowbase wadcutters in 38 special cases with 2.8 grains bullseye and it simply works pretty good, which is what I am doing for model 1901 colt army 38. Heel base bullets work great with black powder and I don’t believe one needs to crimp the case when using black powder. The neck of the case just needs enough tension to hold the bullet. If you use heeled bullets with smokeless powder, then strong tension or a crimp is needed.
 
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