Author Topic: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55  (Read 1413 times)

Offline LonesomePigeon

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Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« on: February 04, 2019, 12:35:03 am »
My Grandpa gave me and original Winchester Model 1894 Sporting Rifle in caliber .38-55 that was made in 1894. It has been refinished but whoever did it did a pretty good job of preserving the markings and it looks like it has a pretty good bore.

I would like to reload real black powder for this rifle. Does anybody have any tips on reloading for a rifle of this vintage?

I will post pics when I get the chance.

Offline FriscoCounty

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2019, 01:09:01 am »
You need to slug the bore and do a chamber cast. 

Modern .33-55 cases are 2.080.  In 1894 they were 2.125.  Starline sells both lengths. 

The original bullet was 255 grains.  Slugging will determine is you are looking for a .377, .379, or .380 mold. 

Use FFg black powder.  Fill case to get some compression.  I doubt it is smokeless proofed, so best to stay away from it.

https://www.starlinebrass.com/articles/Loading-with-Correct-38-55-Cases/
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Offline Dick Dastardly

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2019, 09:19:19 am »
FWIW, Winchester is still makin' 'em.  They are called a "Legendary Frontiersman".  I have one.  It's a Win 94 with too much lipstick on.  Supposed to be a collectable but Winchester made too many of them.  Flooded the market and the price dropped.  I shoot mine at Long Range BP matches at SASS annual matches.

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« Last Edit: February 05, 2019, 01:14:34 pm by Dick Dastardly »
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Offline LonesomePigeon

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2019, 02:23:14 pm »
Frisco, thanks for the advice. I had been hoping I wouldn't have to slug the bore or make a chamber cast but I guess I will have to do it. Yes it does not have any smokeless proof. It has a 4 digit serial number with what I'm told are the large font numbers, as opposed to the later small font numbers.

I didn't mention it in my original post but I also have 1 box of old shells from Western Cartridge Co., 1 box of old Winchester and 2 boxes of old Remington. I think they are all post WWII. Additionally I found an old Ideal hand tool with mold for $65 at a gun shop, relatively cheap so I bought it. It has "38-55 M." stamped on it and I'm told it was originally for a Marlin.


I made a couple round with the Ideal tool using the Western Cartridge Co. shells but they did not cycle well and wanted to jam going into the chamber. As well, I tried to cycle one of the Winchester rounds but did not shoot it. It cycled and chambered but after ejecting the round it looks like the chamber put a sort of crimp or constriction on the bullet end of the round.


I will get some pics up, maybe later today. Going to shoot some cap n' ballers now.

Offline greyhawk

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2019, 04:09:04 pm »
TWIW, Winchester is still makin' 'em.  They are called a "Legendary Frontiersman".  I have one.  It's a Win 94 with too much lipstick on.  Supposed to be a collectable but Winchester made too many of them.  Flooded the market and the price dropped.  I shoot mine at Long Range BP matches at SASS annual matches.

DD-MDA

Dick
I got the one with the yeller lipstick - gold plated? Oliver F Winchester - 1980's vintage?? Despite the lipstick its a well made rifle and a really good shooter - one of the few full magazine guns I had that dont string its shots up the target as it warms up. 
Have often wondered if we could take the lipstick off and blue it but been told dont even try it .
Do you have a problem with BP residue marking your silver gun? 

Offline Blackpowder Burn

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2019, 09:21:26 pm »
I shoot a Marlin 38-55 that really likes 47 grains of FFFg Olde Eynsford or Swiss black powder with the Accurate Molds 38-245D bullet.  Velocity runs around 1300 fps.  It's a really nice cartridge.
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Offline LonesomePigeon

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2019, 02:04:26 am »
Here's some pics.

Offline Dave T

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2019, 09:35:50 am »
I had a short rifle that had been heavily buffed and re-blued. Despite its shiny appearance it shot my BP loads beautifully. Been too many years for me to remember the details of the load now. I loved shooting it so much I used to tell people the 38-55 was what the 30-30 should have been (lol).

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Offline Dick Dastardly

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2019, 01:21:30 pm »
Howdy greyhawk,

No worries here about fouling.  I shoot only Big Lube®LLC bullets in my gaudy Win. 94.  The BL 255g cast bullets haul plenty of lube in the twin lube groves to keep the barrel wet all to the muzzle and leave a nice lube bloom on the muzzle.  The fouling stays wet and the next shot blows it out.  This way your second shot and your last shot encounter only one rounds worth of fouling.  http://www.biglube.com/BulletMolds.aspx?ItemID=3db38e5e-f56e-41dd-9e35-657e0ec19a65.

Hold center!

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Offline greyhawk

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2019, 03:14:53 pm »
Howdy greyhawk,

No worries here about fouling.  I shoot only Big Lube®LLC bullets in my gaudy Win. 94.  The BL 255g cast bullets haul plenty of lube in the twin lube groves to keep the barrel wet all to the muzzle and leave a nice lube bloom on the muzzle.  The fouling stays wet and the next shot blows it out.  This way your second shot and your last shot encounter only one rounds worth of fouling.  http://www.biglube.com/BulletMolds.aspx?ItemID=3db38e5e-f56e-41dd-9e35-657e0ec19a65.

Hold center!

DD-MDA


Dick
I meant external on the finish - been told those silver guns mark very easy if ya get a little BP residue on the paintwork .
Proly a story to stop me from buyin one!! Dont notice it as a problem with my golden one.
I shoot the LEE 250 grain in mine - LEE maks a few proper BP boolits and that is one of em. This rifle was a tack-holer from the start - dont shoot it that often. Too many lever guns round this place!

Offline Sir Charles deMouton-Black

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2019, 06:48:48 pm »
My Grandpa gave me and original Winchester Model 1894 Sporting Rifle in caliber .38-55 that was made in 1894. It has been refinished but whoever did it did a pretty good job of preserving the markings and it looks like it has a pretty good bore.

I would like to reload real black powder for this rifle. Does anybody have any tips on reloading for a rifle of this vintage?

I will post pics when I get the chance.

I like the idea of using the newer guns, likely made of better materials. I have seen some originals that were abused by a too frequent diet of those hot loads that were marketed during the transition to smokeless. I'd take it to a gunsmith to see if it is still "in head space" before shooting. When reloading keep 'er toned down to BP levels. The best is to, as you said you intended, use BP and cast bullets. I load about 49 grains of FFFg in my original Hi-Wall. (re bored from .32-40)

If you find the you have excessive head space, all is not lost as you MIGHT be able to load a cast bullet out enough to be forced against the chamber throat. Doesn't fix the rifle, but at least you will have the case head back against the bolt face upon firing. You might also lower pressures by going to a slower grade of powder.
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Offline LonesomePigeon

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2019, 08:23:31 pm »
Sir Charles, thanks for the advice. I did take it to a local gun shop that specializes in antiques. He did not check headspace but he did say it's fine to shoot it with black powder and strongly recommended I not shoot it with any smokeless rounds. I ordered some Cerrosafe today, I've never made a chamber cast but I'm going to do it before I shoot it. I may take the gun with the chamber cast to a gunsmith as well.

Offline Sir Charles deMouton-Black

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2019, 10:01:31 am »
I just had a peek at the photos. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, but has it been refinished? The bore seems to have seen more use than the gun itself. I have seen barrels like that shoot, but a bugger to clean.
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Offline Coffinmaker

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2019, 11:58:21 am »

Very Nice Rifle.  Very nice indeed.

However .... Did the fired cases on the table with the rifle come out of your Knew Two Ewe rifle??  In the pictures, the fired cases exhibit evidence of backed out primers.  I would be taking a seriously hard look at the Head Space.  At the head space of whatever rifle those cartridges came out of at any rate.

Considered re-lining the bore??

Offline LonesomePigeon

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2019, 09:04:08 pm »
Sir Charles, yes it's definitely been refinished but I am really glad I got it. It is a gift from my Grandpa so I will treasure it. The bore is what it is, there's pitting but the rifling is still there from the breech to the muzzle. The guy I showed it to at the gunshop knows a lot about these types of guns and he said he thinks it will still shoot pretty good.

Coffinmaker, I do believe those shells were fired from this gun. Likely by my Grandpa in the 1960's. I will take your advice and have somebody check the head space. Probably what I will do is make a chamber cast and then take the gun and the cast to a local gunsmith I know.

Offline King Medallion

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2019, 09:25:53 am »
I got the Chief Crazy Horse 38-55, haven't shot it yet, but I will. Also have a SRC 38-55 made in 1897, which I believe has been refinished and rebarreled, as it has nickel steel stamped on it. From what I've read, if a 38-55 has nickel steel stamped on it, it's a special order, and normally the 38-55 and 32-40 were not so stamped.


Offline Colt Fanning

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #16 on: June 06, 2019, 09:44:52 am »
Hi,
Headspace problems in the 94 can be easily fixed by replacing the locking bolt with one that is oversized.  The are made for this
purpose.
Regards
Colt

Offline Colt Fanning

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #17 on: June 06, 2019, 01:40:39 pm »
Howdy again
38-55 brass comes in two lengths.  2.082 In. and 2.125 In.  Starline makes both types. Some think that shooting the longer
cases in the shorter chamber with jacketed bullets can result in excessive pressures.
Regards
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Offline LonesomePigeon

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2019, 11:58:14 pm »
Colt Fanning, thanks for the reply. I have this gun at the gunsmith right now. Just waiting to see what he says.

Offline Don Kenna

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2019, 01:45:45 am »
As I found out the hard way, the Winchester 1894 rifle in .38/55 was chambered for the shorter 2.082-inch case.  The longer 2.125-inch is only applicable to early single-shot rifles chambered for the .38-55 cartridge, being the original case length as designed by Marlin for its Ballard rifles about 1884.  I bought some of the Starline 2.125-inch cases on the assumption that my 1905-vintage Model 1894 rifle would be chambered for the longer case in view of its age.  Cartridges loaded in the longer case will not work though the Model 1894 rifle's feed mechanism.  After I trimmed the longer cases to 2.082-inch, everything worked fine.  Although I didn't do so, if one single-loaded and fired a cartridge having the longer case, it very well might raise chamber pressures to a dangerous level as "Colt Fanning" has suggested, even with a cast bullet.

I got good accuracy with a load of 45 grains of Swiss 1-1/2 powder behind a Buffalo Arms 380261 bullet cast of 1:20 alloy and a CCI BR2 primer.  Like virtually all older .38/55 rifles, my Model 1894 has a groove diameter of .379-inch, so cast bullets of .380-inch were in order.  I suspect, though, that 47 grains of either Olde Eynsford or Swiss FFFG (3F) powder in concert with either the Accurate Moulds' 38-245D or Dick Dastardly's .38/55 255-grain "Big Lube" bullet, as suggested by "Blackpowder Burn," would work better.

I'll just mention that 19 grains of AA 5744 powder behind either the Buffalo Arms bullet or Desperado Cowboy Bullets' 260-grain bullet worked very well and was not position sensitive.  I did chronograph smokeless powder loads, and while I don't recall offhand what the exact velocities were, those of the preceding AA 5744 load were very consistent.  Loads employing the often earlier recommended IMR4198 and IMR3031 powders were very position sensitive and gave wildly varying velocities depending upon how the powder charge was positioned in the case.  But we're really not that interested in that mercurially behaving nitrocellulose stuff anyway, are we?
« Last Edit: June 09, 2019, 01:49:22 am by Don Kenna »

Offline Montana Slim

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Re: Winchester Model 1894 .38-55
« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2019, 01:16:34 pm »
I recommend nothing but cast lead bullets (no jacketed fodder) in an early model 1894 (not marked special nickle steel).
The early barrel steel is not as tough/durable. Give black powder a try, but somewhat rough bores may not shoot well & cleanup of rough bores can be a chore.

Cast bullet smokeless loads (example: Lyman 4th edition cast bullet handbook) will not destroy an 1894.
You might also enjoy reading up Mike Venturino's "Shooting Lever Guns of the old West".
38-55 in the 1894 is mentioned as one of his top favorites.

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