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Old April 22, 2012, 06:44 PM   #1
Hardcase
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Success with .38-40

For the past few years, I've been agonizing about having to put great-great grandpa's Colt Lightning rifle up on the mantle because it just wouldn't properly eject spent cases. They'd get wedged in the receiver about halfway out and usually needed such serious prying that the delicate neck would be ruined.

As it turns out, the fix was so doggone simple, I feel like a big ol' dummy for not trying it out a long time ago. I got a clue from a Chuck Hawks article about the .38-40. One of his comments was about the overly generous chamber dimensions of most firearms. Now, I'd tried shooting with a light load of Trail Boss and also with about 6.5 grains of Unique. So it made me wonder - what if the chamber on the rifle was not only a little big, but maybe also a little eroded from nearly 130 years of use.

What if I loaded up a few rounds with black powder? After all, that's what the old gun was designed to shoot. Well, son of a gun, it worked! With 40 grains of Scheutzen 2F and a 180 grain cast, flat nosed bullet, not only did every round eject properly, but I hit a string of 10 clay pigeons at 30 yards with ten shots.

I guess that it goes to show you, sometimes the old ways are the best.

Now the only hitch is that the ejection port treats the case mouths pretty harshly - it's a pre-dustcover model, so it kind of squishes the cases. But I can live with losing a couple of cases out of 50...it's better than the better than the 60% loss that I had before!
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Old April 22, 2012, 07:01 PM   #2
Hawg
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Glad you got it figured out.
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Old April 22, 2012, 07:08 PM   #3
Beagle333
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White smoke beats no smoke! Way to go, enjoy that rifle.
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Old April 22, 2012, 07:15 PM   #4
Howard31
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Lightning rifle

Got the same problem with mine. I have a 50 cal Browning dummy I use to round out bent cases.
My biggest problem the the 38/40 is lube dents. I actually think trapped air is causing the dents.
I shoot 21-23 grains of 4227 behind a Hndy 180 grain FMJ FP and it raises a serious welt on my steel targets.
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Old April 22, 2012, 07:39 PM   #5
Hawg
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Too much lube is causing them. I barely dampen my finger with ATF to lube my 44-40 cases.
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Old April 22, 2012, 09:32 PM   #6
Hardcase
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I'm with Hawg. I just ever so lightly lube the cases and they don't dent. I just have to be really careful because the case mouth really gets worked because of what the receiver does to them when they're ejected.
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Old April 22, 2012, 09:53 PM   #7
Hardcase
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Mangling

This, by the way, is what I'm talking about:

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Old April 22, 2012, 11:08 PM   #8
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Man that sucks but at least resizing will straighten them out.
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Old April 24, 2012, 06:45 AM   #9
Mike Irwin
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There were many complaints about the Colt Lightning and its tiny ejection port.

A man I knew (dated his daughter for some time) collected Lightnings and let me fire several of his user versions, including a .44-40 and a .50-95.

Both abused the case mouths on ejection, and both saw regular jams. He wasn't using black powder, though, just very light charges of smokeless.
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Old April 24, 2012, 07:31 AM   #10
Sure Shot Mc Gee
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Success with .38-40

Quote:
ejection port treats the case mouths pretty harshly
Wow!! That's terrible. I've seen some bad ejections problems. But nothing like this.
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Old April 24, 2012, 09:49 AM   #11
indy1919
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OK OK I am just being really slow to understand

Ok I hate to be so dumb here but try 1 more time with me..

The lightning is pump action, The shooter works the pump to eject the shell casing to load in the new one..

Does the damage happen in the chamber during the firing or does it nick the sides of the ejector port on the top as the case ejects out the opening..

I have a Semi auto 8mm that dings the rim of each shell but thats because the bolt is moving real fast and has no brains or feelings forces that old shell out at all costs..

But on the pump action if you show down the pumping action can you control the rim damage on the ejector slot???

Last edited by indy1919; April 24, 2012 at 09:55 AM.
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Old April 24, 2012, 10:41 AM   #12
Hardcase
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It isn't the ejector port itself that causes the damage, but just forward of it, before the chamber, the receiver is a little narrow. So, when the case comes out, just before the rim hits the ejectors, the case mouth pops up and gets squished. If I pump slow, the damage isn't so bad, but because the case wall is so thin at the mouth, it's going to get damaged.

On the bright side, because the wall is so thin, it's pretty easy to push the dents out. I rounded the end of a wooden dowel and it just takes a second or two to fix the case. Interestingly, if I use the reloading die to push the dents out, more than likely it will crush the case mouth.
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Old April 24, 2012, 11:42 AM   #13
indy1919
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Mucho Mucho thanks for that.. Now it is clear, Next time I have a lighting in my hand I will study this a little more.. I have been wanting one since that You tube was made for the Uberti Lighting was on here a month or so.. Again thanks
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Old April 24, 2012, 01:16 PM   #14
Hardcase
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Here's what the ejection port on mine looks like:



What you can't see is that just in front of the port, there is some metal on the top of the receiver that makes a sort of channel between the chamber and the port. That's where things get squishy.

This gun is an early first year production rifle - Colt changed some things fairly quickly, including opening up the ejection port and getting rid of the slide lock at the front of the trigger guard. Maybe part of that port change was relieving the metal on the receiver so that the cases didn't get abused.

Here's a fuzzy picture of the whole shebang.

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Old April 25, 2012, 07:45 PM   #15
indy1919
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This would be a perfect time for slow motion photography and a cutaway rifle..Great photos of the action...
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Old April 26, 2012, 05:57 AM   #16
Mike Irwin
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Damn I want a Colt Lightning!

Don't know why, but they have always just called to me...
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