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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello folks,

I would like to know what kind of bullets those of you experienced reloaders of antique lever action type rifles use. I’m making reference to such calibers as 32-20, Winchester 32 Special, 38-55, 44-40, Winchester 30 WCF (30-30), etc.

Factory ammunition in these calibers is very pricey to say the least!

Choices for reloading are JHPs, lead, and maybe even powder coated bullets. It seems cast bullets might be the most popular.

I would appreciate your comments.

Thanks,
Steve
 

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Definitely cast bullets, coated cast if you like.
 
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Wood butcher
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I can't answer all of them, but having two 44-40s, I use .428. If it was a 44/44 Mag, I'd use .430. If your 38-55 is a Marlin, the bore is a bit bigger and mine used .381. However, my 375 Winchester uses .379. The 38 Special would be .359.

As to 30-30, I have used .309-.310 but a friend uses .311 and gets great accuracy out of both his Rossi Rig Grande and his Marlin.

Edit: Sorry, I was seeing things in that I thought you were asking for diameters, which you were not. Getting too late I guess.
 
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I load 38-40 (38wcf), 38-55, 45-70, 45 Colt & 38 Special. I use cast Bullets in all of them. The 38-55 is the tricky one with some bores needing a .378 or .379 and some bores needing a .380.
You can get decent cast Bullets from any number of sources. The cowboy action shooting has really helped with the availability of cast Bullets for these calibers.

Most lever guns in the rifle calibers 38-55 & 45-70 like the lighter Bullets for caliber.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I should have added that I don’t have much experience with cast bullets and have a concern about fouling barrels. Also, I’ve read somewhere that cast bullets should be a softer lead, and others write it should be the harder lead. I’ve loaded a bunch of coated cast bullets and have liked those. I fall back to what I’m most familiar with, jacketed bullets!

As for diameter, that’s great you added that Don. I should have included it.

So, I’m good with shooting cast if that’s the best.

Steve
 

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Afraid I might start something, but you are right about softer lead. The majority of leading comes from gasses escaping around the base of the bullet and the base itself. Lead actually has a higher melt temp than linotype (hardener). That said, it is necessary to use it for balance and handgun lead generally is cast a bit harder. Wheel weights are common which is a balance as well.

Myself, I use alox to prevent leading of which it's very successful. The downside is that it is "smokey" when fired. Much of that however is because most people use way too much.

It's not rocket science, and once you pick up on just a few nuances, you can definitely reduce your costs, especially for those bullets that are so expensive if you buy them (.379 and 45-70 for me)
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Afraid I might start something, but you are right about softer lead. The majority of leading comes from gasses escaping around the base of the bullet and the base itself. Lead actually has a higher melt temp than linotype (hardener). That said, it is necessary to use it for balance and handgun lead generally is cast a bit harder. Wheel weights are common which is a balance as well.

Myself, I use alox to prevent leading of which it's very successful. The downside is that it is "smokey" when fired. Much of that however is because most people use way too much.

It's not rocket science, and once you pick up on just a few nuances, you can definitely reduce your costs, especially for those bullets that are so expensive if you buy them (.379 and 45-70 for me)
Since at this point I haven't planned on casting bullets myself, is there certain companies that you would buy from that have the proper balance?

As for this thread going in another direction, I want to hear everyone's opinion about what makes the best cartridges for shooting these calibers in older guns.

Thanks,
Steve
 

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I should have added that I don’t have much experience with cast bullets and have a concern about fouling barrels. Also, I’ve read somewhere that cast bullets should be a softer lead, and others write it should be the harder lead. I’ve loaded a bunch of coated cast bullets and have liked those. I fall back to what I’m most familiar with, jacketed bullets!

As for diameter, that’s great you added that Don. I should have included it.

So, I’m good with shooting cast if that’s the best.

Steve
Problem with jacketed in older guns is fit, my buddy onherited a really nice 1st gen colt saa in 38-40. He shot some jacketed thru ot, like 8" groups at 30ft! The bore slugge 0.403". So I cast him some 175gr & left them unsized, right at that dia. Not ideal, but cast soft. They bump up & he was shooting 2" groups at 30ft.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I can't answer all of them, but having two 44-40s, I use .428. If it was a 44/44 Mag, I'd use .430. If your 38-55 is a Marlin, the bore is a bit bigger and mine used .381. However, my 375 Winchester uses .379. The 38 Special would be .359.

As to 30-30, I have used .309-.310 but a friend uses .311 and gets great accuracy out of both his Rossi Rig Grande and his Marlin.

Edit: Sorry, I was seeing things in that I thought you were asking for diameters, which you were not. Getting too late I guess.
Uncle Don,

This is exactly the kind of information I’m looking for.

I’m a follower of Hickok45 on You Tube. He’s got the perfect setting for going out and shooting at various targets. He truly enjoys guns and is a wealth of information. Weeks ago I became very interested in lever action Winchester rifles, specifically the 1892’s, and 1894’s. It’s amazing that these guns were made with such quality and workmanship that they have survived for so long and are still functional. A friend of mine is a gunsmith and has worked on guns for almost fifty years. He has told me that the original Winchester and Marlin repeating rifles had very simple mechanisms that have proven to be very durable. He has often complained of people coming to him with different types of guns that they have abused and altered, wanting him to repair them. He tells them that the time and money to repair them far exceed their value. He tells them the only thing they are good for is being used as a wall hanger.

I’ve recently purchased a 32-20 Winchester ‘92, and a Winchester 32 Special ‘94 that are both in very good condition. I’m planning on giving the 32-20 to my oldest daughter in hopes she’ll take an interest in reloading and shooting. She’s 33 and is very athletic. She and her husband are constantly hiking and bike riding. I’ve taught her trap shooting and pistol/rifle shooting that she had fun doing.

We’ll see how it goes!

Steve
 

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Wood butcher
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Good choices for calibers in my opinion and really hope that your daughter and Son in Law bite on such fine bait. It also sounds like you, as always, do your homework.
 
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