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38-40 reload help needed
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April 20, 2024 - 1:07 am
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I took my “new” Model 1892 (1898 DOM) out for some shooting today. I was testing several different loads targeting 1150-1250 FPS. Out of 60 rounds fired, 14 split like shown in the attached pictures. I have loaded hundreds of 44-40 loads without ever losing brass. 

I am wondering what I might be doing wrong. Bullets are all the same, .401 diameter coated lead RNFP with a hardness of 12 BHN. Measured velocity was between 1125 and 1325 depending on the loads. I am wondering if I got a bunch of bad brass (new Starline) or if I just screwed up somewhere?

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April 20, 2024 - 2:15 am
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How long did you Anneal the brass for? And at what temp?

Maverick

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April 20, 2024 - 2:16 am
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Mark,

Mic. an unfired casing and then check the difference with a fired one to see how much case expansion you are getting. Those casings at first glance appear to be fired in a chamber that is too large. (44/40?)

Erin

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April 20, 2024 - 2:28 am
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I’ll add that the 38-40 in my opinion has enough of a bottleneck that you might should be annealing the brass on occassion.

I’m also fairly certain Starline doesn’t do a good job annealing, that is if they do it at all.

The 44-40 being a straight wall case, this less of an issue.

Sincerely,

Maverick

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April 20, 2024 - 3:11 am
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My vote is for a grossly oversized chamber.  Brand new brass should not split on the first firing.

Bert

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April 20, 2024 - 9:42 am
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What powder are you using and how much?

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April 20, 2024 - 10:15 am
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A third vote for oversize chamber.  A pin gauge set or better yet- cerrosafe chamber cast would confirm or deny that hypothesis. Of course, annealing always is a good idea.

Technically, the glass is always full; half liquid, half air....

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April 20, 2024 - 6:21 pm
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[email protected] said
I took my “new” Model 1892 (1898 DOM) out for some shooting today. I was testing several different loads targeting 1150-1250 FPS. Out of 60 rounds fired, 14 split like shown in the attached pictures. I have loaded hundreds of 44-40 loads without ever losing brass. 

I am wondering what I might be doing wrong. Bullets are all the same, .401 diameter coated lead RNFP with a hardness of 12 BHN. Measured velocity was between 1125 and 1325 depending on the loads. I am wondering if I got a bunch of bad brass (new Starline) or if I just screwed up somewhere?

IMG_20240419_173627656.jpgImage EnlargerIMG_20240419_173516676.jpgImage Enlarger

  

The rifle is apparently new to you.  Could these be the reason the previous owner put it up for sale?  I should add that in situations like this, it is often a previous owner, a few owners back, who put it up for sale because of a problem like this.  Subsequent owners could be a series of dealers or others who never fired the rifle.  This is a circa 1898 rifle.  I’ve purchased many antique and vintage rifles from people (e.g. dealers) who never fired it.  

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April 20, 2024 - 7:10 pm
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Thanks for all of your input. Looks like I have some digging to do, starting with the easiest first.

The case on the right was the worst and also the load I lost the most of, 4 of 10 rounds had a split case. The load was 6 grains of Bullseye. Velocity averaged 1214 FPS with a std deviation of just 12.

I carefully measured unfired rounds and find that they are on the low side of the SAAMI cartridge spec on the rim end and about .001 undersized on the neck end. I am using a set of RCBS dies I picked up second hand at a swap meet.

When I compared my .44-40 hand loads also made using RCBS dies I see they measure towards the middle of the SAMMI cartridge spec. 

I am starting to think I have a set of undersize dies. I read on the RBCS Web site that this is sometimes done for faster feeding in lever action guns.

Once I get the gun cleaned I’ll measure the chamber with pin gauges. I don’t suspect the gun since the chamber and bore look really bright and crisp. Accuracy was very good. The gun has had little use in its 126 years. But you never know…

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April 20, 2024 - 7:19 pm
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Mark-

As stated above you apparently have a chamber issue, I’ve generally experienced split case mouths when the brass gets hard.
Case body failure is generally bad brass or a chamber too large to support the brass case. Split cases will be hard to measure, try measuring some that did not fail. I think you’ll find them significantly oversize. I’ve had good luck with Starline brass but most of mine is several years old. I suppose anyone can have a bad batch now and then. You didn’t mention your exact load but your experience with the 44WCF should serve you well with the 38WCF. 

 

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April 21, 2024 - 2:12 pm
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It would be interesting to fire some factory ammunition and see how the cases come out.  

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April 21, 2024 - 3:36 pm
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steve004 said
It would be interesting to fire some factory ammunition and see how the cases come out.  

  

  I like that idea, you either eliminate the case or prove it’s the case or load. If you find they work ok then it’s not the chamber.

  I have had cases that look like yours and it was always a chamber bulge and ejection was hard. If that’s not the problem then the chamber is reamed oversize. T/R

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April 21, 2024 - 9:45 pm
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I have had cases that look like yours and it was always a chamber bulge and ejection was hard.

 

I think this, too.  When I see cases split in this manner, in any caliber or case shape, I first suspect a chamber which is too large.

NP

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April 22, 2024 - 4:06 pm
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Well, I’ve measured everything and the only thing out of SAAMI spec is the shoulder end diameter which is .001-.002 inch undersize on unfired rounds. Fired but unsplit brass all measure under the max chamber dimensions and extraction was not a problem.

While measuring I noticed that some cases had a distinct bulge in the case’s neck at the bottom of the bullet. This leads me to believe that I missed running a tray of brass through the expander die, creating both a high neck tension and a stress riser at the bulge. The location of the split seems to confirm this.

So, I am going to disassemble the 40 or so rounds I have that are unfired and run them back through the expansion die and reassemble with the same powder charge and bullets.

I have a good method to reduce the chance of a double charge of powder but need to look at how I can reduce the chance of missing the neck expansion step. I often load over several days due to work, kids, etc.

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April 22, 2024 - 4:24 pm
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[email protected] said
Well, I’ve measured everything and the only thing out of SAAMI spec is the shoulder end diameter which is .001-.002 inch undersize on unfired rounds. Fired but unsplit brass all measure under the max chamber dimensions and extraction was not a problem.

While measuring I noticed that some cases had a distinct bulge in the case’s neck at the bottom of the bullet. This leads me to believe that I missed running a tray of brass through the expander die, creating both a high neck tension and a stress riser at the bulge. The location of the split seems to confirm this.

So, I am going to disassemble the 40 or so rounds I have that are unfired and run them back through the expansion die and reassemble with the same powder charge and bullets.

I have a good method to reduce the chance of a double charge of powder but need to look at how I can reduce the chance of missing the neck expansion step. I often load over several days due to work, kids, etc.

  

The plot thickens! Which RCBS dies are you using? I like the Cowboy dies because they expand the neck in a separate step. My Starline 38-40 brass pretty thin but if you haven’t done so you may want to measure it and your expander. I think you’re closing in on your answer, at this point it’s looking like a bad batch of brass. At todays prices that’s a bit disappointing…but better than an oversize chamber!

 

Mike

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April 22, 2024 - 5:12 pm
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[email protected] said
Well, I’ve measured everything and the only thing out of SAAMI spec is the shoulder end diameter which is .001-.002 inch undersize on unfired rounds. Fired but unsplit brass all measure under the max chamber dimensions and extraction was not a problem.

While measuring I noticed that some cases had a distinct bulge in the case’s neck at the bottom of the bullet. This leads me to believe that I missed running a tray of brass through the expander die, creating both a high neck tension and a stress riser at the bulge. The location of the split seems to confirm this.

So, I am going to disassemble the 40 or so rounds I have that are unfired and run them back through the expansion die and reassemble with the same powder charge and bullets.

I have a good method to reduce the chance of a double charge of powder but need to look at how I can reduce the chance of missing the neck expansion step. I often load over several days due to work, kids, etc.

  

I load a lot and many times more than one caliber at a time.  I put a Post-It note in each box so I know where I am in the process.  Make sure your expander is going all the way through the neck area of the brass.

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April 22, 2024 - 7:01 pm
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I am using RCBS group E dies. I use a Lee die to flare the neck, same as with .44-40. I’ll redo the unfired rounds and report back in a few weeks when I go back to the range to test for accuracy. I’ll need another 50 rounds on top of the 40 or so I have to rework.

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May 8, 2024 - 2:05 pm
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I actually purchased a set of Lee dies to compare to the RCBS dies and measured full length sized cases from each. I found that both were very close on the rim end with the Lee being about .002 inch larger. Both were within the SAAMI spec. The big difference was at the neck end of the case which showed the Lee case was .009 inch larger and near the top end of the SAAMI spec. The RCBS case was actually .001 inch under the SAAMI spec. Something isn’t right with the RCBS dies… custom made, maybe?

My plan now is to create 10 rounds each for cases made from both the RCBS and Lee dies using the load which had the highest failure rate. I am betting I’ll have about 50% failure rate on cases made with the RCBS dies and no problems with the cases made from Lee dies.38-40_case_measure.jpgImage Enlarger

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May 8, 2024 - 6:24 pm
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Mark-

Shoulder dimensions certainly could affect case life, results should be interesting. I’m generally more interested in case mouth and neck dimensions when it comes to concerns of case life but the area where your variance seems to be is also the apparent failure point. You may be onto something!

 

Mike

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May 9, 2024 - 10:58 pm
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One thing I noticed when forming once (truly only once) fired cases is the the RCBS dies take a lot more effort to form than does the Lee dies. Also when looking at my last picture it looks like the RCBS dies move the shoulder back as compared to the Lee. Could it be that a previous owner of the RCBS dies shot in cowboy action competition and wanted something that cycled faster. 

The RCBS Web site says it makes small base sizer dies for lever actions, even though their currently cataloged calibers do not include calibers I associate with lever action rifles.

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