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Hot Topic (More than 10 Replies) 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do? (Read 1774 times)
bluesman
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38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
May 26th, 2019 at 11:51am
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I found a dreamboat Ballard at the Denver show last weekend, looks to be a No.8 , but at some point it got a Rigby barrel in 38-55 screwed onto it.Obviously not original, but the rifle is so nice I just had to take it home.

I spent yesterday afternoon with Chuckster, who generously donated his time to slugging the barrel and doing a chamber cast in hopes of getting me on the road to shooting my prize.We found the groove diameter to be .383" and the lands .374" with just a tiny bit of choke at the muzzle end. Twist is the early 1 in 20, which means heavy bullets are not an option.

The chamber is the original long one, and Starline brass fits perfectly with no headspace problems.The bore itself is flawless but I can't quite figure out how a bullet of that diameter is going to fit into the casemouth. Chuckster suggested having a mold made to cast a bullet .385 in diameter for starters.

Breech seating is obviously one way to skin this cat, but I would like to be able to shoot fixed ammo too.

Anybody here dealt with this issue ? All advice and any ideas are welcome, the rifle is a stunner and I really want to get back to shooting!As soon as I can size down the pics for the forum I will post some.

Many thanks,

Paul
  
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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #1 - May 26th, 2019 at 12:17pm
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A quick way to see if fixed ammo will work is fire a high pressure round and measure the inside diameter of the brass. That measurement will be the maximim diameter of bullet's base.
  
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Reverend Al
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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #2 - May 26th, 2019 at 1:07pm
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Sounds like it was built to use a very soft paper patched bullet that would slug up to that big bore.  You might have try that yourself, and it might give the best results.
If you want to stay with traditional grease groove bullets then you might have to neck turn your brass to get enough chamber clearance to seat and fire bullets in the .384/.385 diameter range?
These old rifles can certainly be a challenge sometimes!
Good luck with it ...
  

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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #3 - May 26th, 2019 at 2:12pm
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I don't know the particulars of your rifle, but I think of all classic/antiques as wildcats. I generally try not to worry that ammo has to fit different rifles, preferring to just designate some brass and keep notes of load quirks if needed. Somehow or another you'll get that bullet into the mouth of the case, it just may take adjusting the process.

I'm not recommending to do it, but I do suspect an undersize bullet can shoot okay in a pinch. I'd think you're headed in a good direction because of slugging the bore, maybe add a chamber cast and some measuring. Best of luck with it.
  
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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #4 - May 26th, 2019 at 2:32pm
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I WOULD NOT FIRE A HIGH PRESSURE ROUND IN YOUR BARREL! Granted, high pressure is a relative term, but it might be more prudent to measure the neck thickness of your Starline brass and add that to .384. .001 over groove diameter should be sufficient to seal the bore and Starline brass has a thinner neck than other 38-55 brass, and was designed that way to help with a fairly common problem, so you might be pleasantly surprised. I do believe you will have to order a special mould in that diameter and length to work in your twist. It would be best to outside neck turn if deemed necessary. Again, best of luck.
  

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bluesman
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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #5 - May 26th, 2019 at 3:24pm
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Indeed...there will be no high pressure anything in this beauty, it's forged, but it's still a Ballard.

So far I've found one mold online that would likely work, but it's out of stock. .385 dia., 260 grains. Sounds like a great place to start  if I can find one.Buffalo Arms website.

Thanks for all the replies so far!

Paul
  
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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #6 - May 26th, 2019 at 3:33pm
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Check with Tom at Accurate Molds. Look at his website and design what you want.
  
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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #7 - May 26th, 2019 at 4:25pm
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Your chamber cast should have told you the diameter of the front of the chamber behind the transition or leade. Subtract .001" or .002" from that diameter and you have the maximum diameter of the neck of a loaded round.

You could load an undersized (for the groove dia.) soft bullet that keeps the cartridge neck at the above determined diameter and shoot with black powder and hope for the bullet to slug up to fill the groove diameter.

Another possible solution is to have Tom at Accurate Bullet Molds make you a mold that has a heel of appropriate diameter to keep the neck at the above determined diameter and a driving band just in front of the case that fills the chamber throat, and forward driving bands that are bore diameter or just barely engraved by the lands so that you can chamber the loaded round with reasonable finger pressure.

I recently lucked into a Ballard #8 Union Hill that is in great shape internally, but quite rusty on the exterior. The neck area of the chamber is .344" in diameter, the throat and groove .331" in diameter, and bore diameter .321". 

I had Tom make me a tapered bullet mold that casts a base band of .331", and forward bands (from base band) of .329, .327, .325, .322 and .321 inch. I will breech seat this bullet with a stirrip-style breech seater.

I'm also considering having Tom make a heeled bullet mold so that I can shoot fixed ammunition in the Union Hill.
  
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calledflyer
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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #8 - May 26th, 2019 at 5:00pm
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That bullet will be a variation of the European stop ring bullets. So.... maybe a quick looksee at the offerings that are out there already? Internet searches are cheap Roll Eyes
  

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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #9 - May 26th, 2019 at 5:42pm
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I've got the same issue on a couple guns and the easiest way around it is to simply breech seat. I resisted going this route myself for a very long time as I considered it too "fiddly" when in truth I knew zip about breech seating. My worries were unsupported, and silly. Once I was forced to begin breech seating by a large groove diameter, I soon realized it was easier than sitting at the bench making up cased ammo. And of course usually more accurate too.|
I wouldn't hesitate to breech seat for it, but if you still want to use fixed ammo I'd have Tom at Accurate make up a "heeled" bullet as mentioned previously. A heeled bullet design would allow it to seal, and still keep the neck size down where it would readily chamber without issues.
Accurate's molds can be changed however you prefer at no extra cost. Just go to his web site and pick a bullet weight and design there. Then reduce or enlarge whatever bands you want during the ordering process. Pretty easy, and very reasonably priced.
  

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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #10 - May 28th, 2019 at 10:06am
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I had a both a Union Hill and still have a Hepburn 38-55  with the exact same dimensions as yours , never got a custom mold though. I bought the latest version Lyman mold the 380445  that drops 245 grainers  about .381++--(the lee 38-55 mold also worked) with 20:1 alloy and the holy black alone or duplexed that bumped  the bullets up well enough to hit 500 and 600 gongs at will.
  
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bluesman
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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #11 - May 28th, 2019 at 10:29am
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That's great info...I wondered about the Lyman mold, have heard bad things about the current Lee molds but everyone has an opinion I guess.
Chuckster was pretty sure I'd be able to shoot at distance if I found a mold that throws a well fitted bullet.I sure hope so, although my primary interest is 200 yard Schuetzen and as V all says above, breech seating is the way to go in that game.

The Hepburn I lost in the fire was also 38-55, that's next on my list to find once I recover from bringing this Ballard home.
  
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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #12 - May 28th, 2019 at 10:58am
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Beautiful Ballard. Get a mold from Accurate. You can get an exact fit and the price will be close to what a Lyman will cost. I'm shooting two 38-55's with large bores. My mold from Tom is excellent. I'd post pictures of groups, but I have trouble doing that on this site.
  
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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #13 - May 28th, 2019 at 12:51pm
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Yes, get a mold from Accurate. You can order just what you need to your specs. I have a bunch of them. Just for the record, though, the latest Lees (with the caliber and weight marking on the top of the mold) are very nice molds.
  
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bluesman
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Re: 38-55 with .383" groove diameter....What to do?
Reply #14 - May 28th, 2019 at 1:03pm
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Thanks to all of you for the replies, Never in my life did I think I would own a rifle as nice as this, I am still amazed, walked by the table three time before I saw it hidden behind a couple other guns!

Accurate sounds like the way to go for a custom fitted mold, the one I found that I will be trying in the meantime is a Saeco tapered mold that almost looks as if it was designed for us old school 38-55 owners, and it should breech seat nicely. Any thoughts on who to go to for a breech seater?
  
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