I’ve been reloading for years but yesterday I reloaded .38-55 for the first time. I did some research and I read in a number of forums that this round can be finicky. I’m using Starline bass (2.125″) and cast bullets. The bullets are 280gn, sized .379, brinell 11, with gas checks. I’m using RCBS cowboy dies. Everything went well until I tried to chamber a round. It would not chamber and there was about 1/8″ of the round sticky out. I only loaded 3 rounds and all 3 did the same. I put a heavy crimp on one of them and it chambered easily and smoothly. I don’t want to crimp as these are going into my Winchester High Wall circa 1891. Next I googled and found that this is common. One solution was to run the loaded round through the full length sizer. I tried that and that too worked. I now have a solution but would like to understand why this is happening? My guess is that the cast bullet diameter is too large and I need to go down in diameter size? Any help would be very appreciated.
Secondly, how does this load sound… I have an abundance of IMR-4895 that I would like to use. My reloading manual only has data for a 249gn cast bullet. The starting load is 31.0gn and max load is 35.0+. I loaded 32.0gns. I don’t want a squib yet I don’t want to stress the old rifle.
Thank you in advanced,
April 15, 2005
You did not mention what your cartridge OAL is with the 280-gr bullet. I suspect that it is a bit too long, and that the bullet is bumping into the lands before the cartridge is fully seated in the chamber. The .379 bullet diameter is very unlikely to be the issue. I can understand not wanting to put a “heavy” crimp on your loads, but I will recommend that you adjust your crimp just enough to allow it to cleanly chamber.
Last comment… you are not going to stress your high-wall with any listed load you find in your reloading manuals. The listed loads were developed to be safe in all actions (Ballard, Stevens, etc.), none of which are anywhere near as robust (strong) as your high-wall.
WACA 6571L, Historian & Board of Director Member
The OAL of the 3 rounds was 2.505″. The one round I put through the full length sizing die actually became longer 2.512″ (must have slightly pulled the bullet out?). But that one will chamber smoothly. It almost feels like the case mouth is getting hung up? I think crimping or sizing is pushing the case into the cast bullet allowing it to chamber. I’m going to try your suggestion of just lightly crimping until it chambers. I’ve never used gas checks. Could that have something to do with it?
That’s good news on the load. Thank you.
March 31, 2009
When you full length size brass it often causes the brass to get longer. When you squeeze the brass the metal has to go somewhere. When I reload my target ammo I measure the brass (headspace) before and after sizing. When you full length sized the brass you may have changed the profile of the brass enough to be able to push forward. These cases are not straight. With new brass you need to FL size, trim to length, chamfer and de burr. This assures there are no sharp edges or burrs to hang up the brass or bullet seating. At least FL size and chamfer and de burr. I am not a big fan of crimping especially in a single shot. Are you roll crimping or taper? Do your bullets have a cannelure? Measure the neck diameter of a sized case before and after seating the bullet. This will give you the neck tension. .001″ to .003″ is all you need. Some target shooters all the way back to the 1800’s use no crimp and no neck tension. Max OAL of a round is 2.49″. Seat the bullet to this length. I don’t understand what you mean about sizing causing the “bullet to pull out”?
Try full length sizing with no crimp and see what happens. Make sure you are not going over max loading length.
January 1, 2021
I have run into the problem you are having when loading .45-70’s for my Sharps. I have found that Starline brass can be thicker that other brands. That being said, if you are not sizing your bullets when applying the gas checks they could possibly be expanding the case just enough to oversize the case mouth due to the thicker brass. Keep in mind that the checks are much harder than the lead bullet and they are being pushed through first when seating the bullet. If COAL is your problem you should see marks left by the lands on the tip of the lead bullets, in view of the fact that resizing the completed cartridge solves the problem, COAL doesn’t seem to be the cause of not chambering. Bert’s idea of lightly crimping may be your best bet here but I would try running the bullets through the correct sizing die after applying the gas checks to avoid the crimping measure.
U.S. Army combat vet, 32 years CCFD Lt. (retired), NRA Benefactor member, Marlin Firearms Collector Asso., Cody Firearms Museum member - 89213093, WACA member - 11928, Griffin Gun Club board member, Hunter, BPCR shooter, Hand loader, Bullet Caster