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38-55 mold
February 22, 2021
7:07 pm
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 Does anyone know if the Winchester 38-55 steel mold is the same as a 38-56. Any change in weight and diameter of bullet cast? T/R

February 23, 2021
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I have not actually taken the time to cast one of each and weight them out and measure them using the same alloy. But my hunch is that the bullet profile must be slightly different or the cherry for the mold or something of that nature. As they did make / sell molds that are marked differently for each perspective caliber. They also sold molds marked “38-255” for use in the 38-55 with a 255 grain bullet as well.

If I get some free time I’ll have to pull them out and tinker with them.

Sincerely,

Maverick

   

February 23, 2021
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 Thanks Maverick, I have a 38-56 mold and it cast 255gr at .377 before sizing. I don’t know the mix of the lead, dug the lead out of the berm. I never owned a 38-55 mold but the 38-56 is the same as a 38-70. I’m trying to load for a 38-55 and a larger diameter would be nice, .379. T/R

February 24, 2021
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My old Winchester 38-255 mold cast bullets (20:1 Lead) at an average of 247.3 grains at .377 diameter, 0.950″ in lenght.  Wouldnt be surprised if they arent basically the same bullet.  Maybe the bullet shape (ogive) may be a little different, or the bullet will be a little longer, or shorter.  Ive read of folks using 35-55 bullets in the 38-56, it would depend likely on the diameter of the 38-55 bore and 38-56 bullet diameter.   Was thinking of doing the same, casting some of my 38-55 bullets to use in my 38-56 but have not gotten around to slugging the 38-56 bore to see what cast bullet diameter would worked best. 

DSC_0245-Copy-3.JPG1892takedown @sbcglobal.net ......NRA Endowment Life Member.....WACA Member

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February 24, 2021
2:38 am
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If you have a copy of Venturino’s Shooting Leverguns of the Old West he has an interesting article on the 38-56. I’m thinking if you use an old Winchester mould you may want to use a very soft (20-1 or 16-1) alloy if it drops a .377 slug like Chris’ mould does. MLV wrote that the bullets were the same but he wasn’t using old Winchester moulds.

 

Mike

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February 25, 2021
5:33 am
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1892takedown said
Wouldnt be surprised if they arent basically the same bullet.  Maybe the bullet shape (ogive) may be a little different, or the bullet will be a little longer, or shorter.    

I believe that is the skinny of it. I’ve never thoroughly examined each caliber Winchester Mold that closely. I have one of each of these caliber molds, but we are currently remodeling our house and I can’t easily get to each of them to look at. The reference photos I have of the molds aren’t the best and I don’t even have any reference photos for the 38-56 WCF, as I haven’t gotten around to taking photos of all my molds. But that said, I can tell you that I believe that there was slight differences between the Cherries used to make the mold cavities or bullet design as it were. 

I haven’t come across the actual drawings as of yet, but have found information on some numbers for the drawings of the cherries to be used by the factory for making the mold cavity. The drawing number list for some of the referred calibers are as follows:

38-55 Short Range —– Drawing #20625-31

38-55———————- Drawing #20625-32

38-70 Winchester ——- Drawing #20625-34

38-70 ——————— Drawing #20625-152

38-56 Winchester ——- Drawing #20625-37

38-56 ——————— Drawing #20625-47

38-56 Bullard————- Drawing #20625-154 (And yes the spelling is noted as “Bullard” not “Ballard”)

Interestingly there are two drawings for the 38-56 and 38-70. So apparently they changed the cherry at least once or had more than one cherry for them. I don’t have any info of a drawing for the 38-255 Mold, but it undoubtedly existed. As it has become my opinion that Winchester didn’t do anything without practically having a factory drawing or memorandum of a operation they did or how to do something.

Below is attached a side by side comparison photos of the 38-55 & 38-70 Winchester mold cavities.

38-5538-70.jpgImage EnlargerIt appears the 38-70 has flat grease grooves, were the 38-55 is rounded. If I ever get my molds pulled out I’ll re-examine them.

Such slight changes may have simply been done for proprietary reasons or to simply sell more guns, tools, molds, and/or cartridges.

Hope that tidbit sheds some light of the subject for now and hopefully any final version of a book I write will help address these varying topics.  I’m glad you asked, as it helps me to think more broadly and to be more thorough on a specific sub-topic.

Sincerely,

Maverick

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February 25, 2021
3:06 pm
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  Maverick, I have collected and used Winchester tools for my black powder Winchesters. If the caliber, diameter, weight, and design was the same, I would interchange molds. 40-82 with 40-65; 38-56 with 38-70; 45-60 with 45-90; That way I wasn’t using a mint mold to cast bullets, down grading it’s condition.

 Your information on drawing numbers of the cherries is very interesting! Your knowledge and research is greatly appreciated.

 Is it possible that Winchester would make a mold that was best suited for the caliber marked on the tool, perhaps a slight difference in rifling, diameter, or speed. On the early black powder tools did Winchester make the molds to be used un-sized, cast it and shoot it? Perhaps Winchester produced the mold calibers based on factory research shooting bullets from their mold un-sized, that is in fact how they were used in the day. All questions no answers. T/R

February 25, 2021
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TR said
  Maverick, I have collected and used Winchester tools for my black powder Winchesters. If the caliber, diameter, weight, and design was the same, I would interchange molds. 40-82 with 40-65; 38-56 with 38-70; 45-60 with 45-90; That way I wasn’t using a mint mold to cast bullets, down grading it’s condition.

Hey if it works, it works! There is a rare 1894 Tool that is marked on its die with both “40-65” and “40-60 MARLIN”. So those two cartridges are bascially the exact same. But I have yet to find a Mold marked as such with both calibers and If I recall correctly have both individually marked molds in my collection. I’ll have to look if I have any drawing info on them. 

 Your information on drawing numbers of the cherries is very interesting! Your knowledge and research is greatly appreciated.

 Is it possible that Winchester would make a mold that was best suited for the caliber marked on the tool, perhaps a slight difference in rifling, diameter, or speed.

I do believe so, and also believe they did continually experiment with things. I’ve been blown away with Dan Shuey’s research regarding the experimentation in factory ammunition the factory was constantly doing. We have to remember they made these tools and molds over a 40+ year period, and it was in the heyday of the technological development. Experimenting wise the .32 Winchester Special is a good example, as they did change the cherry / grains of the bullet to a lower grain and best to my knowledge discontinued the larger grain bullet mold. I don’t remember exact grains and dates, but got it wrote down. 

On the early black powder tools did Winchester make the molds to be used un-sized, cast it and shoot it? Perhaps Winchester produced the mold calibers based on factory research shooting bullets from their mold un-sized, that is in fact how they were used in the day. All questions no answers. T/R  

It is my understanding that ALL Winchester Tools do an overall length cartridge resizing in their operation, which wasn’t as a big deal with black powder as it is today. They have a slight Crimp to them, but not a “Factory Crimp” like most bench loaders today think of.  Specifically towards the bullets themselves, it is likely what most shooters generally did was simply cast a bullet from the mold, reload it with the tool and shoot it. The catalogs always project factory ammo as most accurate. As far as how much Winchester shot ammunition experiments using bullets from their product bullet molds, simple answer is I don’t know, but wouldn’t rule out anything. As far as I know they would have used factory loaded ammo using bullets made from the heavy press machinery. Machinery that would be able to produce thousands of bullets readily. In 1875, Winchester was capable of producing 1.5 Million cartridges a day. Winchester sold factory swaged bullets as well. So some shooters may have used the mold as a last resort. 

But also of interest from day one of them selling Tools they also sold “Swages, for Smooth Bullets” for $3.00. Now what these “Swaging” tools or dies looked like, no one knows of a “Winchester Factory Swage Tool/Die”, but they undoubtedly were made. Just probably were not ever the best sellers. I don’t know of anyone that has ever claimed to of found one. In the 1880 Catalog they also started listing “Shell-reducing Dies” for $2.00. So this was a separate tool for reducing the cartridge, but you wonder why it was offered when the tool does the exact same thing for the most part.

We also have to remember the components were different than that of modern components we use today. The brass was thinner, the heads were formed differently, the primers were different, etc. I don’t know if the cartridge being accurate was of the most concern, as much as the Shooter being accurate. We think we shoot a lot now a days, (some of us more than others) but I would imagine people back then were better shooters or shot more regularly than most people dream of today. I would imagine the poorer you were the better shot you had to be! 

Its hard to imagine today providing three meals a day without being able to go the grocery store. That also lies the problem most people today don’t have a clue about.

Endeavor to Persevere Gentlemen.

Sincerely,

Maverick  

February 26, 2021
1:11 am
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 Maverick, Your answers are in detail and much appreciated. Thank you for your time. T/R

February 26, 2021
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Another thing to consider about moulds and cherries is that cherries are cutting tools and they eventually wear out and must be replaced or repaired. I know with the older Lyman moulds the profile and sometimes the dimensions of the cherry (and in turn the mould and bullet) changed over the years. I’m not aware of this occurring with Winchester moulds but it could certainly account for some of the variations we may see. 

 

Mike

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February 26, 2021
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TR said
 Maverick, Your answers are in detail and much appreciated. Thank you for your time. T/R  

Sometimes I tend to be long winded, but not always. I try to be specific, but only to the point of my current understanding of things. I appreciate the fellowship of our keen interests that we have!

TXGunNut said
Another thing to consider about moulds and cherries is that cherries are cutting tools and they eventually wear out and must be replaced or repaired. I know with the older Lyman moulds the profile and sometimes the dimensions of the cherry (and in turn the mould and bullet) changed over the years. I’m not aware of this occurring with Winchester moulds but it could certainly account for some of the variations we may see. 

 

Mike  

Possibly, but the variations I’m referring to aren’t subtle. I don’t know how often Winchester would’ve changed out their cherries, but imagine it would of been regularly done. At least in my mind through most of production and imagine towards the end of production they could have become more relaxed in such practices. I’ve come across information that indicates Winchester produced bullet molds in more than 180+ different calibers, and I’m still continually trying to compile more information.

Regarding the variations I’m looking for, take example the .30 WCF S.R. (Short Range) molds. The .30wcfS.R. molds can be found cherried with a Round Nose that casts 100grs. Or found cherried with a Flat Nose that casts 117grs bullet. The transition from 100 to 117grs for the cartridge loadings took place in 1904, and I believe the same practice was done for the bullet molds. These two variations can only be determined upon looking at the mold cavity, as the outside of the mold is marked the same. I have one of each variation in my collection.

117grs100grs.jpgImage Enlarger117grs on Left, 100grs on right.

And that is why I’m continuingly trying to find out more. I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and find that I learn more from open minded collectors that are willing to share what they know or believe. I believe we learn more together than separate.

Sincerely,

Maverick

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February 26, 2021
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Yes, I’m interested in those variations as well, Maverick. I was referring to the slight variations in the profile of the nose and the radius of the lube grooves as a result of being hand made tools. I also find it interesting that Winchester marked their moulds with the cartridge name rather than the bullet characteristics although sometimes, as in the case of the 38-55, I believe they did both. The variations in your example appear to be design changes and to my way of thinking should have been marked differently. 

Do you have any production figures for moulds or loading tools? I suspect only a small percentage of shooters reloaded then, as now, but I’m probably wrong about that. Survival rate is food for thought as well. 

 

Mike

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February 26, 2021
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TXGunNut said
Yes, I’m interested in those variations as well, Maverick. I was referring to the slight variations in the profile of the nose and the radius of the lube grooves as a result of being hand made tools.

I think I have a difference of opinion on what constitutes “a result of being hand made tools”. You maybe noticing some differences between things, but that maybe just inherit wear and use of the mold(s). How many 99% condition molds have you compared with each other? These were Machined by skilled labors with the highest degree of tolerances available to them of their day. They may not be made as accurately as a CNC machine can make things today. But they are well made using Winchester’s own standards. They used all manners of jigs, tooling, fixtures, and gauges to accurately produce their products. They also spent months if not years developing their products. Take the 1894 Tool, the patent image for the Tool is drastically different from the actual production Tool.  

I also find it interesting that Winchester marked their moulds with the cartridge name rather than the bullet characteristics although sometimes, as in the case of the 38-55, I believe they did both. The variations in your example appear to be design changes and to my way of thinking should have been marked differently. 

All I know to say is it appears that is just the way things were done. Who are we as the consumer to tell a large corporation how they should do things (even today)?

Do you have any production figures for moulds or loading tools? I suspect only a small percentage of shooters reloaded then, as now, but I’m probably wrong about that. Survival rate is food for thought as well. 

Mike  

I have yet to find any hard production or sales figures, but hope time will tell. There is some interesting factory correspondence regarding scrapping of tools for the early 1875 and possibly 1880 Tools. I think if and when anything were to be found, that the numbers would be higher than most imagine. The survival rate is hard to figure as we don’t know the total production and can only guess. Currently observed condition is not the most reliable source either. Tools & molds run the gambit of condition, Mint in the Box to mere Relics.  

If my fellow researchers out there stumble across anything I’d appreciate knowing about it.

Sincerely,

Maverick

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