I have been giving cotton filler a try in various calibers but the main problem is to seat the bullet without some of the cotton getting caught between the base of the bullet and the case, causing a slight bulge at that point. I a little nervous about that, as the bulge plus the filler getting jammed forward during firing might cause a stress concentration at that point. Maybe it wouldn’t be a problem, given Sherman Bell’s tests, but with vintage Winchesters and non-nickel steel, I don’t want to take a chance. I would carefully push the cotton down in the case so that it was just about where the base of the bullet would be, but in spite of my pains, it would still get caught on a regular basis. So having played around with cotton filler for about half a year, I’m finished with it and would not recommend it anymore.
I really want to get my hands on some Swiss black powder, but I also wanted to develop a no-filler, smokeless load that would give original black powder ballistics and be accurate.
My first load was 17 grains of 5744 with a standard Winchester rifle primer. The results were five-shot groups at 100 yards that were about an inch wide but 2 & ½” tall. With no filler, even 5744 has a certain amount of position sensitivity, and the difference in extreme spread in velocity results in a bit of a vertical spread at the target. Here’s a photo of one of the targets with this load ….
Standard Winchester Rifle primer:
Winchester Magnum Rifle Primer:
I had some standard Remington primers for large rifle so tried them as well with the same load (17 grains of 5744). The groups were slightly tighter than with the Winchester standard rifle primers, but still had greater vertical spread than with the Winchester Magnum Primers. Here’s a photo of one of the groups using the Remington primers, five shots at 2 & 3/16” at 100 yards …
Remington Rifle Primers:
My 38-55 is a Winchester Model 1894 and it was shipped in 1897. It still has its original tang sight, which is what I’ve been using for all this shooting. Here’s a photo of the tang sight.
For those who might want a faster load, I tried 19 grains of 5744 with a standard Winchester rifle primer which chronographed at 1,452 fps. This load seemed to give more consistent burning without having to resort to the Magnum primer, although there is still some slight vertical spread. Here’s a photo of one of the targets, a five-shot group of 1 & 9/16” at 100 yards.
19 grains of 5744 with standard Winchester rifle primer for 1,452 fps:
Conclusion: My new load is 17 grains of 5744 with a Winchester Magnum Rifle primer for 1,307 fps with a 262 grain gas checked Accurate cast bullet sized to .380. No more filler in my 38-55 loads.
Bert, I like IMR 4198 and have had a good experience with it in various 45-70’s. I’ve actually been thinking of trying it out to see if it would make a good alternative load. I’m also thinking of giving IMR 3031 a whirl. That should fill up the case much better than 5744 for the same velocity, although I suspect that lower pressure will leave me with sooty cases. I’m already getting a bit of soot around the case mouths with 5744. We shall see.
Thanks for great range report and info about cotton .( I have been thinking of trying it ) I have been loading without filler the last couple years, but am starting to use dacron again in 45-70 and 40-82 with IMR 4227 with improvement results . , And think I will experiment with this combo in 38-55, a Rem Hepburn and a 94 RBR nickel steel barrel.
38-55 has been frustrating beating the Win factory loading that is tackdriving in all 38-55’s I have tried it in.
I have mostly used H4198 and 5744( filler free )in 38-55 with various cast bullets
I know Dacron is controversial . Have you ever tried it? I know you had good results with T.P. what turned you off it ?
Phil, I think toilet paper filler is still a good option. It does not have the bulk like cotton or dacron has for slamming up against the base of the bullet and possibly ringing the chamber (although Bell’s test indicate this generates only a small increase in pressure at the neck). The downside of toilet paper is that to avoid catching between the bullet base and the case, the butt ends should be inserted first, but then powder can migrate a bit up inside the toilet paper. However, after a thousand rounds or so using toilet paper, this does not seem to be a problem.
Still, 17 grains of 5744 with a Winchester Magnum primer gives me groups that are just over 1" at 100 yards, so it is pretty hard to justify filler with something like that.
"Still, 17 grains of 5744 with a Winchester Magnum primer gives me groups that are just over 1" at 100 yards, so it is pretty hard to justify filler with something like that."
Yes very true, that is the bottom line of it all . didnt really register with me , as I am not there yet, I am using more 5744 (not sure of the exact figure as I dont have my loading data sheet here I should really enter it on computer) but I will try reducing to 17, and I am mostly using Mag primers lately I started last winter and think it is of benefit in Winter , larger cases , and harder to ignite powders
As I may try the T.P in different cals,( that I am less than satisfied with ) what do you mean by insert butt ends first? push down on center with small rod first?
I also want to try PSB ( shotshell buffer) with 44, after reading that people are really shrinking groups with it , and my 44’s need all the help they can get
For toilet paper filler, I would take a single sheet of single ply, fold it loosely in half, then loosely roll it up, then loosely fold the roll in half. You would wind up with a ‘head’ (the center of the fold) and the butt (the edges of the roll). I insert the butt first which flares out inside the case and gently push down on the head until the butt contacts the powder. The head should contact the base of the bullet.
December 22, 2012
All that TLC should produce good results.
Back in 1952-56, I shot a lot with my grandfather. We shot a Navy rolling block in 50-70 and a Ballard in 38-55. Grandpa used BP, light loads because I was a skinny kid just learning. He used el cheapo TP as a filler, one square per load. With his method, I just rolled the square into a tight round ball and pushed it on top of the powder with the eraser end of a pencil. The push converted the ball into a cylinder. The bullet went on top of all that.
More often than not, the TP was on fire when it left the barrel. Does that happen with smokeless & magnum primers?
December 30, 2011
I’d be more happy with any of those targets at my skill/experience level. I’m still learning how to hand load cartridges consistently. I’ve been known to string shots vertically while shooting with the rifle benched. I’ve always thought it was either caused in the act of shooting or perhaps inconsistency in measuring my charges. I suppose if slightly more or less powder is being burnt when firing that would cause a similar result. Would any of you guys know if there is a place for a magnum rifle primers in .30-30 class loads or perhaps .33 WCF?
I do know I’ve been using BL-C(2) a lot because it seems to burn completely in my loads, while with the same bullet loads I find IMR 4895 or WIN 748 kernels in the bore after firing, not to mention finding some of the same with factory loads in the same rifles.
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Can can you share your 38-55 load. I have a 94 made in 1899 and have lots of IMR 4198. I’ve been unsuccessful finding a load for a 38-55.
My load is for a Model 1885 high-wall single shot rifle, and it may be a bit stout for a lever-action Model 1894 rifle. There is a significant difference in what loads are safe in a high-wall action versus a lever-action. If you want to try using the IMR 4198 in your Model 1894 38-55, start with 22 grains, and make sure to check the velocity with a chronograph. You are looking for a load in the 1300 – 1600 fps range that provides consistent velocity and good accuracy. IMR 4198 is not position sensitive, so fillers are not necessary.
WACA 6571L, Historian & Board of Director Member