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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  CAS TOPICS  |  The Powder Room - CAS reloading (Moderator: Professor Marvel)  |  Topic: Help with .38 ammo for Conversion Cylinders 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Help with .38 ammo for Conversion Cylinders  (Read 236 times)
ByMySword
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« on: December 06, 2017, 12:24:49 pm »


Good morning everyone!

Not sure this is the right place to put this, so if I need to move it I will. I have a few questions concerning how to find the correct ammo to shoot.

I have a Piietta 1851 Navy with a conversion cylinder for .38 LC. I know you're supposed to shoot heeled or hollow based bullets to match the diameter of the barrel.

1) My first question is that is this necessary for safety reasons or specifically for accuracy? If I did shoot a non-heeled or hollow-based bullet, would it hurt the gun or myself? Just curious.


2) Am I correct in that I can shoot .38 Short Colt but not .38 S&W? I've read different things concerning this.


3) In my research so far, .38 Short Colt is identified as a heeled bullet by definition. .38 Long Colt is also by definition identified as a hollow-based bullet. So does this mean that all .38 LC and SC made today are going to be heeled/hollow-based or do they specifically have to be labeled as such? That would make my options a lot easier to choose from.

4) If its the latter, are we limited to Buffalo Arms or reloading or are there are providers of the correct ammo. I'm not yet ready to start reloading these cartridges so having options currently would be preferable. I'm new to reloading and as of right now I'm still mastering reloading .44 WCF so I don't want to take on another cartridge until I'm comfortable with that first.


So far, I've only shot .38 LC with hollow based and .38 special wadcutters, both black powder and cowboy loads respectively. Both of these came from Buffalo Arms and I made sure they specifically said they were appropriate for the conversion cylinders, but these are becoming incredibly rare and expensive, so I'm just trying to find out all my options for appropriate ammo.

Thanks in advance for any and all advice!


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Coffinmaker
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« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2017, 08:15:39 pm »

First of all.  This is a perfectly good place to ask your questions.  You could also as on "The Dark Siders Den."  There are actually several places here on the CAS City forums that are also just fine.  Most of us really like trying to provide help for New Folks.  Or even Old Folks as it twer.

For Myself, I don't know if I can be of real current help as I retired from being an active Gunsmith 7+ years ago, so some of my information may nit be strictly ..... current.  But here goes anyway.

Most if not all conversion cylinders made for a .36 Cal Percussion gun were bored for a 38 Special or shorter (Kirst) cartridge.  The Kirst was intended to limit cartridge over all length (OAL) to require the use of 38 (358) Hollow Base Wadcutters or similar Hollow Base projectiles that would expand to work in a .36 Bore of .375.  I am not currently familiar with anyone loading Heal Base ammo commercially.  Don't quite me on that.  I haven't spent any time chasing that.  The Kirst cylinder is actually too short to load standard 38 Special ammo.  it's deliberate.

R&D or Howell conversion cylinders are long enough and chambered for 38 Special.  Shoot (almost) any commercially loaded 38 Special ammo.  The problem is most commercially loaded ammunition is loaded with 358 diameter bullets which exhibit spotty accuracy and leading in a .375 barrel.  358 bullets just kind of rattle through the bore.  However, usually you can still hit cowboy targets a 7 yards.  All you need is Minute of Buick at 7 yards.  Any better accuracy will REQUIRE Hollow Base Wadcutters or other similar Hollow Base bullets.

Shooting other than Hollow Base or Heal Base bullets will not harm you or your gun.  You may find however, you can't hit anything smaller than a Buick.  For heal based bullets of the correct diameter, you will need to check and see if your cylinder is through bored.  If the cylinder has "throats" to align 358 bullets, 375 - 380 bullets will avail you naught.  The throat will swage the bullet down to .358.  Your only financially viable route is to reload.  Finding commercial Hollow Base Wadcutters is a real groan.  A real expensive groan.  You may also find a severe fouling problem with a Conversion Cylinder.

I personally had terrible experience with .38 conversion cylinders in my .36 Navy Pietta's.  With BP and Subs, the guns would foul out in about 4 rounds.  Since I don't shoot Smokeless, I sold the cylinders off.  I wish you good luck with yours.

Oh, almost forgot.  Short answers:

Yes.  Your suppose to shoot Heeled or Hollow base bullets to match up with the bore.

Not for safety reasons.  It's so you can hit something.  Accuracy.

Yes.  If commercial ammunition is not specifically labeled as Hollow Base or Heeled, it isn't.

Buffalo Arms is it.  Far as I know. (Don't quote me).

Reload.   Roll Eyes 
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Abilene
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« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2017, 11:58:03 pm »

what coffinmaker said.

And the specs you looked up on .38 Short and Long Colt are for old-style (original) cartridges.  Modern .38LC is just a short .38 special with inside lubed bullet.  Similar deal as modern .44 Colt versus original.   Can get confusing.

At Commancheria Days (Texas state championship this year) there were some freebie sample bullets from a company making polymer coated bullets (I think that's what they were).  I grabbed a bag of .38 bullets that were hollow based.  Not wadcutters, though.  They were fairly light, maybe 105 grain?  Anyways, I thought hey these might be a cost effective bullet if one had a conversion cylinder in the .36.

I'm not at home to be able to look at the bag of bullets to verify right now.
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Professor Marvel
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« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2017, 01:40:39 am »

At Commancheria Days (Texas state championship this year) there were some freebie sample bullets from a company making polymer coated bullets (I think that's what they were).  I grabbed a bag of .38 bullets that were hollow based.  Not wadcutters, though.  They were fairly light, maybe 105 grain?  Anyways, I thought hey these might be a cost effective bullet if one had a conversion cylinder in the .36.

I'm not at home to be able to look at the bag of bullets to verify right now.

Lawsy Lawsy, My Dear Abilene !
Please by all means see if you can find that bag and postthe vendor info!

My Good Sword -
If you could tell us which conversion cylinder you have ( maker, year, etc) it will be easier to suggest what might work.

My two .38 conversion cylinders are both "bored thru" so I can use fat healed bullets .

yhs
prof marvel
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« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2017, 06:40:14 am »

Or....if you don't care to convert back to C&B , you can have the barrel relined
Here is my Pietta , Kirst Gated cyl. a lined  barrel .

and when it is in it Snubbie mode I use my OEM 61 barrel with these  soft lead heel based sized to .380 & case full of B&P

I'm not saying it is the most cost effective option ....it's not.

in this guns case...it was new in box Pietta Heritage model , (steel back strap) 61 Navy ( acquired in trade )
fitted & bobbed by Gary Barnes
the new 51 barrel also acquired in a trade was lined by Mr. Barnes  thus a 38 conversion London model with .357 bore.

I was in for the penny , went for the pound ....



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ByMySword
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« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2017, 01:02:11 pm »

Lawsy Lawsy, My Dear Abilene !
Please by all means see if you can find that bag and postthe vendor info!

My Good Sword -
If you could tell us which conversion cylinder you have ( maker, year, etc) it will be easier to suggest what might work.

My two .38 conversion cylinders are both "bored thru" so I can use fat healed bullets .

yhs
prof marvel


Thank you to everyone for all the info! That helps me quite a bit

Abilene, I would also be interested in having the information for those .38 bullets. Especially since I'm in Texas too and it looks like reloading will be my only option if I want to viably shoot this cartridges in this pistol more than just every once in awhile

In answer to your question my good Professor Marvel, I have the R&D cylinder. It is bored through with the firing plate and was purchased it new from Buffalo Arms back in 2012, but haven't used it at a shoot yet. Just for plinking so far.

So from what Coffinmaker has said, this should give me more options, I believe.

Or....if you don't care to convert back to C&B , you can have the barrel relined
Here is my Pietta , Kirst Gated cyl. a lined  barrel .

That looks great, actually. But I'm not to the point where I would want to give up the option to go back to C&B, yet.
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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  CAS TOPICS  |  The Powder Room - CAS reloading (Moderator: Professor Marvel)  |  Topic: Help with .38 ammo for Conversion Cylinders « previous next »
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