Winchester 94 38-55

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Rube Burrows
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Winchester 94 38-55

#1 Post by Rube Burrows » Sun Feb 03, 2019 8:10 pm

Hey everyone. I have not been on in a while. Been pretty focused lately on my tintype and ambrotype photography. Hope everyone has been good.

That said, I put together this Post 64 Winchester 94 a few years ago. It started out life as a 1979 20" Carbine 30-30.

I had a couple hundred rounds of 38-55 that I got from someone but now that that stuff is almost shot up I have been thinking about reloading for this one. I have reloaded for 45 Colt, 38/.357 and 44mag for a long time now but have not yet done anything for rifle calibers but this being a pretty straight walled I figured it would be pretty straight forward.

I have been seeing some things though that I have questions about though.

1) I am seeing brass that is 2.082" and brass that is 2.125". Is there a reason for the different sizes?
2) I have read that there were different chambers for the 38-55. Is this true and why if so?

My barrel is one of the barrels from Numrich.

3) Any pointers on reloading for this caliber?

4) Is there a preferred bullet for this rifle? I am mostly just target shooting but may like to hunt with it next season.
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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#2 Post by fordwannabe » Sun Feb 03, 2019 8:40 pm

Good to see you again. I use the lee 250 grain bullet. The biggest thing I see is slugging your barrel to see where to start with bullet sizing. Pm on the way.
a Pennsylvanian who has been accused of clinging to my religion and my guns......Good assessment skills.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#3 Post by Rube Burrows » Sun Feb 03, 2019 9:07 pm

Thanks. Checking now.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#4 Post by vancelw » Sun Feb 03, 2019 9:24 pm

For hunting I use Barnes Original 255 gr in .377 caliber.

For cast I have a Lyman .379 bullets but really haven't shot my Chief Crazy Horse rifle in several years....too much work and no play.
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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#5 Post by claybob86 » Sun Feb 03, 2019 9:36 pm

Sure is a pretty rifle! :mrgreen:
Have you hugged your rifle today?

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#6 Post by Rube Burrows » Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:19 pm

claybob86 wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 9:36 pm
Sure is a pretty rifle! :mrgreen:
Thanks.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#7 Post by Bill in Oregon » Mon Feb 04, 2019 10:49 am

Rube, I agree -- really nice "build," and you sure chose a fine caliber.
Back when I was swaging jacketed bullets, I swaged a 220-grain soft point .379 slug specifically for the Marlin Cowboy that was briefly in production, and it was spectacularly accurate.
If that Numrich barrel is .375 in the grooves, whole different story.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#8 Post by daisygordoninc » Mon Feb 04, 2019 11:10 am

Really nice rifle, thanks for showing it to us.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#9 Post by Rube Burrows » Mon Feb 04, 2019 11:40 am

Bill in Oregon wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 10:49 am
Rube, I agree -- really nice "build," and you sure chose a fine caliber.
Back when I was swaging jacketed bullets, I swaged a 220-grain soft point .379 slug specifically for the Marlin Cowboy that was briefly in production, and it was spectacularly accurate.
If that Numrich barrel is .375 in the grooves, whole different story.

I will be slugging the barrel soon to try to find out what it measures.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#10 Post by Rube Burrows » Mon Feb 04, 2019 11:40 am

vancelw wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 9:24 pm
For hunting I use Barnes Original 255 gr in .377 caliber.

For cast I have a Lyman .379 bullets but really haven't shot my Chief Crazy Horse rifle in several years....too much work and no play.

Thanks for the info and I know the feeling of too much work and not enough play.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#11 Post by Rube Burrows » Mon Feb 04, 2019 11:41 am

daisygordoninc wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 11:10 am
Really nice rifle, thanks for showing it to us.

Thanks.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#12 Post by hfcable » Mon Feb 04, 2019 12:20 pm

Bill in Oregon wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 10:49 am
Rube, I agree -- really nice "build," and you sure chose a fine caliber.
Back when I was swaging jacketed bullets, I swaged a 220-grain soft point .379 slug specifically for the Marlin Cowboy that was briefly in production, and it was spectacularly accurate.
If that Numrich barrel is .375 in the grooves, whole different story.

that reminds me ! I still have some of your bullets - they shot very well ! ...and I need to find them now that my reloading room is getting set up again......of course my old Winchester 1894 38/55 is still in the hospital getting its stock repaired.
cable

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#13 Post by Bill in Oregon » Mon Feb 04, 2019 1:09 pm

Harold, do tell! That's been a long time ago.

8)

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#14 Post by hfcable » Mon Feb 04, 2019 1:14 pm

Bill in Oregon wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 1:09 pm
Harold, do tell! That's been a long time ago.

8)
yes, though It doesn't seem that long, in some ways
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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#15 Post by KWK » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:36 pm

Rube Burrows wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 8:10 pm
... brass that is 2.082" and brass that is 2.125"
I've never read why SAAMI standardized on the 2.082". The original spec was for 2-1/8". I imagine Winchester or the like made runs of .38-55 with the brass trimmed back a bit (perhaps to mate up with some bullets they had on hand) and eventually ended up cutting their chambers for that. The necked down variant, the .32-40, never was trimmed back, even for "fixed" ammo (as opposed to breech seated).

I've read the bore diameters are all over the place, with the SAAMI number being an atypical size.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#16 Post by Nicknack » Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:03 pm

I have a Numrich 38-55 barrel, I've yet to fit to a model 94, my groove diameter is .375 with a 1 in 14 twist.
regards Dallas
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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#17 Post by Fisher-Price » Mon Feb 04, 2019 9:25 pm

I will have to check when I get back home this weekend. I bought the starline long brass for whatever reason I decided was
wise 😂 after reading the excellent article on their website. I load for a Marlin Cowboy and a Moroku/Win 1885. I am using The Missouri 245 grain bullet. I found the long starline a little too long if seating in the crimp groove. I have trimmed all of mine to 2.110 and it works in both rifles.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#18 Post by Rube Burrows » Tue Feb 05, 2019 12:07 pm

Nicknack wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:03 pm
I have a Numrich 38-55 barrel, I've yet to fit to a model 94, my groove diameter is .375 with a 1 in 14 twist.
regards Dallas

That is the barrel that I have so it is prob. the same. I plan on slugging it soon just to be sure.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#19 Post by Rube Burrows » Tue Feb 05, 2019 12:08 pm

Fisher-Price wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 9:25 pm
I will have to check when I get back home this weekend. I bought the starline long brass for whatever reason I decided was
wise 😂 after reading the excellent article on their website. I load for a Marlin Cowboy and a Moroku/Win 1885. I am using The Missouri 245 grain bullet. I found the long starline a little too long if seating in the crimp groove. I have trimmed all of mine to 2.110 and it works in both rifles.

Good deal. I think my rifle likes the shorter rounds for sure depending on what bullet I use.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#20 Post by Yodar » Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:43 pm

February 8, 2019

Dear Mr. Burrows,

Welcome to the cult of the .38/55. I am sure you will have a great time handloading and shooting the old “pumpkin roller”.

I have been loading for and shooting a rifle very similar to yours for over fifteen years. Mine started life as .30-30 circa 1940. The previous owner re-barreled it to .38/55 (26 inch, round) , color case hardened the action, lever, crescent butt plate, and fore-end cap and topped it off with nicely figured walnut butt stock and fore-end. I had a gunsmith install a Marbles tang peep sight.

You asked about the differences in case length. According to an article in Precision Shooting magazine (April, 2001) by M.L.McPherson, when the .38/55 was first introduced by Winchester the cartridge length was 2.130 inches but was reduced to 2.075 inches at a later date. Both cartridge lengths are available today. I have been using the shorter of the two which is more readily available currently.

As Levergunner “fordwammabe” has suggested, slug the bore to determine the groove diameter and then select bullets that are 0.001 to 0.002 inches larger in diameter. The barrel on my rifle measured 0.375 inches so I use cast lead bullets sized 0.376 and 0.377 inches in diameter.

I pursued through the more than 450 target I have shot through the years and cherry picked some load that worked well for me that I would like to pass on to you if you don't mind. All my targets were shot a fifty yards from a bench rest at a three inch bullseye that the front sight just covered. Velocities quoted are an average of five shots.

Winchester cases, CCI #200 primers, 21 grains of IMR-4198, SAECO #373 250 grain cast lead bullet with gas check,0.376 inches diameter, OAL=2.50 inches, Lee crimped. Average velocity was 1544 fps and the best group measured 1 5/16 inches.

Winchester cases, CCI #200 primers, 27 grains of IMR-3031, same bullet as above, OAL=2.43 inches, Lee crimped. Average velocity was 1574 fps and the best group measured 13/16th inches (luck).

Same cases, primers, and bullets as above, 23.3 grains of RL-7, OAL=2.49 inches, Lee crimped. Average velocity was 1489 fps and the best group measured 13/16th inches (again,luck).

Winchester cases, WLR primers, 23.3 grains RL-7, 260 grain 0.377 inch diameter cast lead, gas-check RNFP bullets from Bonus Bullets, OAL=2.46 inches, Lee crimped. Average velocity was 1518 fps and the best group measured 1 inch (three shots in ½ inch).

Winchester cases, WLR primers, 23.5 grains of H-322, Bonus Bullets RNFP. 260 grain cast lead, gas check 0.377 inch diameter bullets, OAL=2.46 inches, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1473 fps and the best group measured 1 3/16th inches.

Winchester cases, WLR primers, 23.3 grains of RL-7, Oregon Trail Laser Cast RNFP 240 grain 0.377 inch diameter cast lead bullet without a gas check, OAL=2.51, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1434 fps and the best group measured 7/8th inches. Three shots in 3/8th inch (luck again).
Winchester cases, WLR primers, 20.5 grains of IMR-4198, Oregon Trail Laser Cast RNFP 240 grain 0.377 inch diameter cast lead bullets without a gas check, OAL= 2.51 inches, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1405 fps and the best group measured 1 1/16th inches.

Winchester cases, WLR primers, 27 grains of IMR-3031, Oregon Trail Laser Cast 240 grain 0.377 inch diameter cast lead bullets without a gas check, OAL= 2.52 inches, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1421 fps and the best group measured 1 inch (four shots in 11/16ths inches).

Winchester cases, CCI#200 primers, 20 grains of IMR-4198, Bearthooth LFNGC 250 grain cast lead gas check bullets 0.376 inch diameter. OAL=2.44 inches, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1473 fps and the best group measured 1 ½ inches (four shots in7/16ths inches).

Winchester cases, WLR primers, 23.3 grains RL-7, Bearthooth LFNGC cast lead gas check 0.376 inch diameter bullets, OAL-2.44 inches, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1520 fps and the best group measured 1 1/16ths inches (four shots in ½ inches).

I have tried some loads using JSP bullets from Barnes and Hawk that worked satisfactorily but I stick to cast lead bullets because they are much less expensive, my Model 94 seems to handle them better, and I only use it to shoot holes in paper targets anyway. I am not interested in hunting.

After all the experimenting, I have decided on the load using Winchester cases and large rifle primers, 23.3 grains of RL-7 powder, and Oregon Trail Laser Cast 240 grain bullets without a gas check sized 0.377 inches in diameter. It is a pleasant shooting load and sufficiently accurate for my purposes.

Of course, as an intelligent and careful handloader you will double check all suggested loads you receive from whatever source in at least two current handloading manuals. Resist the temptation to “hot rod” this caliber; muzzle velocities in the range of 1500 to 1600 fps should be sufficient. Good luck, good shooting, and keep us posted as to your results.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#21 Post by Rube Burrows » Tue Feb 12, 2019 10:18 am

Yodar wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:43 pm
February 8, 2019

Dear Mr. Burrows,

Welcome to the cult of the .38/55. I am sure you will have a great time handloading and shooting the old “pumpkin roller”.

I have been loading for and shooting a rifle very similar to yours for over fifteen years. Mine started life as .30-30 circa 1940. The previous owner re-barreled it to .38/55 (26 inch, round) , color case hardened the action, lever, crescent butt plate, and fore-end cap and topped it off with nicely figured walnut butt stock and fore-end. I had a gunsmith install a Marbles tang peep sight.

You asked about the differences in case length. According to an article in Precision Shooting magazine (April, 2001) by M.L.McPherson, when the .38/55 was first introduced by Winchester the cartridge length was 2.130 inches but was reduced to 2.075 inches at a later date. Both cartridge lengths are available today. I have been using the shorter of the two which is more readily available currently.

As Levergunner “fordwammabe” has suggested, slug the bore to determine the groove diameter and then select bullets that are 0.001 to 0.002 inches larger in diameter. The barrel on my rifle measured 0.375 inches so I use cast lead bullets sized 0.376 and 0.377 inches in diameter.

I pursued through the more than 450 target I have shot through the years and cherry picked some load that worked well for me that I would like to pass on to you if you don't mind. All my targets were shot a fifty yards from a bench rest at a three inch bullseye that the front sight just covered. Velocities quoted are an average of five shots.

Winchester cases, CCI #200 primers, 21 grains of IMR-4198, SAECO #373 250 grain cast lead bullet with gas check,0.376 inches diameter, OAL=2.50 inches, Lee crimped. Average velocity was 1544 fps and the best group measured 1 5/16 inches.

Winchester cases, CCI #200 primers, 27 grains of IMR-3031, same bullet as above, OAL=2.43 inches, Lee crimped. Average velocity was 1574 fps and the best group measured 13/16th inches (luck).

Same cases, primers, and bullets as above, 23.3 grains of RL-7, OAL=2.49 inches, Lee crimped. Average velocity was 1489 fps and the best group measured 13/16th inches (again,luck).

Winchester cases, WLR primers, 23.3 grains RL-7, 260 grain 0.377 inch diameter cast lead, gas-check RNFP bullets from Bonus Bullets, OAL=2.46 inches, Lee crimped. Average velocity was 1518 fps and the best group measured 1 inch (three shots in ½ inch).

Winchester cases, WLR primers, 23.5 grains of H-322, Bonus Bullets RNFP. 260 grain cast lead, gas check 0.377 inch diameter bullets, OAL=2.46 inches, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1473 fps and the best group measured 1 3/16th inches.

Winchester cases, WLR primers, 23.3 grains of RL-7, Oregon Trail Laser Cast RNFP 240 grain 0.377 inch diameter cast lead bullet without a gas check, OAL=2.51, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1434 fps and the best group measured 7/8th inches. Three shots in 3/8th inch (luck again).
Winchester cases, WLR primers, 20.5 grains of IMR-4198, Oregon Trail Laser Cast RNFP 240 grain 0.377 inch diameter cast lead bullets without a gas check, OAL= 2.51 inches, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1405 fps and the best group measured 1 1/16th inches.

Winchester cases, WLR primers, 27 grains of IMR-3031, Oregon Trail Laser Cast 240 grain 0.377 inch diameter cast lead bullets without a gas check, OAL= 2.52 inches, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1421 fps and the best group measured 1 inch (four shots in 11/16ths inches).

Winchester cases, CCI#200 primers, 20 grains of IMR-4198, Bearthooth LFNGC 250 grain cast lead gas check bullets 0.376 inch diameter. OAL=2.44 inches, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1473 fps and the best group measured 1 ½ inches (four shots in7/16ths inches).

Winchester cases, WLR primers, 23.3 grains RL-7, Bearthooth LFNGC cast lead gas check 0.376 inch diameter bullets, OAL-2.44 inches, Lee crimped. Average muzzle velocity was 1520 fps and the best group measured 1 1/16ths inches (four shots in ½ inches).

I have tried some loads using JSP bullets from Barnes and Hawk that worked satisfactorily but I stick to cast lead bullets because they are much less expensive, my Model 94 seems to handle them better, and I only use it to shoot holes in paper targets anyway. I am not interested in hunting.

After all the experimenting, I have decided on the load using Winchester cases and large rifle primers, 23.3 grains of RL-7 powder, and Oregon Trail Laser Cast 240 grain bullets without a gas check sized 0.377 inches in diameter. It is a pleasant shooting load and sufficiently accurate for my purposes.

Of course, as an intelligent and careful handloader you will double check all suggested loads you receive from whatever source in at least two current handloading manuals. Resist the temptation to “hot rod” this caliber; muzzle velocities in the range of 1500 to 1600 fps should be sufficient. Good luck, good shooting, and keep us posted as to your results.

Thanks for all of the great information. That will def. give me some good starting points to check for when I start reloading for this rifle. This rifle will mostly be for target shooting also but may end up on a hunting trip or two now and then.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#22 Post by Rusty » Tue Feb 12, 2019 10:37 pm

I don't have a dog in this fight, but thank you Yodar for sharing all this information. That is some fantastic data.
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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#23 Post by Rube Burrows » Tue Feb 12, 2019 10:42 pm

Nicknack wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:03 pm
I have a Numrich 38-55 barrel, I've yet to fit to a model 94, my groove diameter is .375 with a 1 in 14 twist.
regards Dallas
Seems mine keeps measuring out to .376. I measured it a few different ways trying to keep each side of the calipers on a land and my most consistent measurement comes out to 0.376

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#24 Post by Sevastopol » Sun Apr 21, 2019 6:06 pm

Any updates? I'm considering getting a new Miroku in this caliber and intend to load for it. I imagine the new barrels would have a standard measurement I can get from them w/o having to gauge it myself.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#25 Post by Rube Burrows » Sun Apr 21, 2019 8:27 pm

Sevastopol wrote:
Sun Apr 21, 2019 6:06 pm
Any updates? I'm considering getting a new Miroku in this caliber and intend to load for it. I imagine the new barrels would have a standard measurement I can get from them w/o having to gauge it myself.

Rifle has been shooting great. Shot it a few weeks ago. Got some bullets from Tom here and loaded up some rounds. Once I got the tang sight dialed in I was ringing steel pretty nicely.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#26 Post by fordwannabe » Sun Apr 21, 2019 9:34 pm

Which Bullets did ya end up using and what
Load? Glad to be able to help.
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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#27 Post by Sevastopol » Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:28 pm

Rube Burrows wrote:
Sun Apr 21, 2019 8:27 pm
Sevastopol wrote:
Sun Apr 21, 2019 6:06 pm
Any updates? I'm considering getting a new Miroku in this caliber and intend to load for it. I imagine the new barrels would have a standard measurement I can get from them w/o having to gauge it myself.

Rifle has been shooting great. Shot it a few weeks ago. Got some bullets from Tom here and loaded up some rounds. Once I got the tang sight dialed in I was ringing steel pretty nicely.
Good to hear. Would also like to know your load.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#28 Post by marlinman93 » Mon Apr 22, 2019 10:03 am

Yodar wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:43 pm
You asked about the differences in case length. According to an article in Precision Shooting magazine (April, 2001) by M.L.McPherson, when the .38/55 was first introduced by Winchester the cartridge length was 2.130 inches but was reduced to 2.075 inches at a later date. Both cartridge lengths are available today. I have been using the shorter of the two which is more readily available currently.
McPherson is an idiot. When will this BS about Winchester introducing the .38-55 ever stop? Winchester didn't even have a rifle that the .38-55 was chambered in when the .38-55 was introduced!
The .38-55 started life as the .38-50 Ballard Everlasting, introduced by John Marlin. Marlin firearms Co. developed the cartridge for the Ballard rifles, and soon after it's inception they offered a thinner case wall that held 55 grs. of BP, and called it the .38-55 Ballard. It has always been a Marlin cartridge, and Winchester's early ammo for use in both Marlins, and Winchesters were labeled .38-55 Ballard. I've got boxes of original Winchester ammunition labeled this way, so even Winchester credited Marlin with this cartridge.
All .38-55 ammo was the longer version for decades, and guns made by all makers had the longer chambers too. Then Winchester came out with their .375 Winchester, which was simply the shorter length .38-55 brass loaded to pretty hot levels, and using .375" bullets instead of the earlier that ran around .379"-.381" Once Winchester began to produce the .375 ammo, they began to use the same length for all .375 and .38-55 brass. After that it wasn't long until it became tougher to find correct length .38-55 brass. Fortunately some cartridge makers listened to shooters complaints about the short brass, and began making the correct longer brass again.
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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#29 Post by Bill in Oregon » Mon Apr 22, 2019 11:17 am

Vall, thanks for clearing the air and attributing the .38-55 to Marlin, as history affirms is the case.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#30 Post by Rube Burrows » Mon Apr 22, 2019 7:53 pm

fordwannabe wrote:
Sun Apr 21, 2019 9:34 pm
Which Bullets did ya end up using and what
Load? Glad to be able to help.

I'm still going through them. 255 grain Lee .377 is what I loaded up first and it seems to like them pretty good. Next I am going to load up some of the .379s and see if it likes those better.

I am about to order up some new starline brass that way I can load them all up at one time. For now I was using some fired brass that I had.

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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#31 Post by AJMD429 » Mon Apr 22, 2019 8:18 pm

Rusty wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 10:37 pm
I don't have a dog in this fight, but thank you Yodar for sharing all this information. That is some fantastic data.
Yep. Such posts are the real meat of the leverguns forum; the other stuff is fun, but THIS is really cool....(and I don't even have a 38-55... :lol: )
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Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#32 Post by Rube Burrows » Tue Apr 23, 2019 9:03 am

AJMD429 wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 8:18 pm
Rusty wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 10:37 pm
I don't have a dog in this fight, but thank you Yodar for sharing all this information. That is some fantastic data.
Yep. Such posts are the real meat of the leverguns forum; the other stuff is fun, but THIS is really cool....(and I don't even have a 38-55... :lol: )
Very much agree. Now, go and get yourself a 38-55. :D

daisygordoninc
Levergunner 2.0
Posts: 363
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:06 am
Location: Junction City Oregon

Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#33 Post by daisygordoninc » Sat May 25, 2019 8:40 pm

really nice gun, one of a kind, congratulations, great caliber also.

veeman
Levergunner 2.0
Posts: 176
Joined: Wed Apr 25, 2007 8:12 pm

Re: Winchester 94 38-55

#34 Post by veeman » Sun May 26, 2019 7:16 am

Good to see all this wonderful info on the 38-55. I just got a Crazy Horse 94, so I'm going to assume it needs the shorter brass? This CH rifle has a rather thin round barrel. I imagine when sighting in not to shoot more than 5 shot at a time, as the heating barrel will open up the group. Interesting thread.
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