View Full Version : Ballard 38 Long conversion?

August 12, 2007, 05:34 AM
I have a Ballard falling block in 38 long rimfire. It's not in very good shape so I think it has no real value as a collectors piece.

What I was wondering is if it could be converted to fire a modern 38 of some sort? Maybe a 38 spcl?

The action looks very stout and the barrel still has fairly good rifling.

If this is a VERY bad idea?

Be gentile with me as I'm just thinking out loud and looking for ideas/thoughts from the more enlightened.

August 12, 2007, 07:26 AM
We need some comments from some gunsmiths on this. I will say that the rifle you have is chambered for a low pressure round, and may not be up to the task of higher pressure 38 caliber cartridges.


paul salchow
August 12, 2007, 10:41 PM
Hi, i think you should call this number and check with someone i know who would be able to answer your questions.
Tony Maddox, collectable american single shots. 919-837-2362. he will know something, hopefully it's what you want to know.
The only work i have done to these is restoration work.

August 13, 2007, 10:24 AM
A gun built on an original Ballard action would likely be worth enough to buy a small collection of modern guns of your choice. It has too much collector's value to convert, IMHO. I used to see the original Ballard Schutzen rifles in good condition running in the $5000+ range at the OGCA shows back in the 1980's. Lord knows what they would fetch now?

August 13, 2007, 03:01 PM
I thought about the fact that it may be of some colector value but it just is not in that good a shape. And it's not one of the fancy models.

That said, the action seems very tight and with the exception of some surface rust it is solid. Of course I have not taken it apart and looked at the guts of the thing so there may be problems there.

Jim Watson
August 13, 2007, 04:59 PM
The good news is that Frank DeHaas describes a system for bushing the firing pin hole and replacing the firing pin that makes it as easy to change from rim to center fire (or the other way) as easy as staying with the original.

The bad news is that .38 rimfire is a real .38 with a .375"+ bullet and barrel and would not likely shoot a .357" .38 Special well at all. It might could be made a .38-55, which was originally a Ballard caliber any way, but that is not a common or cheap round.

Maybe unclenick will tell you where to get $5000 for it. I consider no evaluation valid unless backed up with a cash offer.

August 13, 2007, 05:53 PM
Thank you for the insight.

It did seem to easy to just rechamber to .38 spl.

If I may ask a question.

How strong is this sort of action? Like a Trapdoor, or stronger?

Of course it's not like I need to be able to shoot it but it would be interesting to do..................

Jim Watson
August 13, 2007, 10:09 PM
It is in the same ballpark as a Trapdoor, not a strong action at all.

It's biggest attraction is that its stock is mounted with a throughbolt instead of tang screws and it cams closed against the head of the cartridge for close headspace control. That makes it an accurate rifle for black powder or very mild smokeless calibers. That was why many were converted to .22 target rifles, the BP cartridges were not of much interest until fairly recently and the action was not strong enough for a hot varmint rifle.

August 14, 2007, 09:06 AM
Maybe unclenick will tell you where to get $5000 for it. I consider no evaluation valid unless backed up with a cash offer.

Yes. Poor condition or lower grade spoils all that potential rather quickly. Nonetheless, I would research the gun auction sites and see whether any other Ballards have sold recently, and if so, for how much? I would not just assume it has no collector value, regardless of its condition, if it is an original. What I saw at Ohio Gun Collector's Association shows were asking prices and were on fancy grades in really good condition. You are correct that I don't know what they might have actually sold for? I just assumed, that having been 20 years ago, they would likely have inflated enough to actually sell for that old asking price by now. I don't really know.


Check the member forums on the American Single Shot Rifle Association web site. It should get some interest from ASSRA members if it will from anybody. Check their For Sale/Trade forum (http://www.assra.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=fs). A quick glance showed a couple of Ballards on the first page there. Even in low grade and poor condition, you may well get enough for it to buy what you really want in something modern.

Jim Watson
August 14, 2007, 11:14 AM
Agreed, if in nice condition, a Ballard will sell for a ton of money.

Even one rough in appearance but mechanically complete and functional will bring a good price from somebody doing a serious restoration. Probably in this case with a truly obsolete caliber in a beat up or worn plain hunting rifle, the interest would be in recreating a higher grade gun with a lot of new parts on an original action. The trick is finding him.

August 14, 2007, 03:06 PM
Thanks for the ideas......

Now the question I have is, should I have a smith look it over, maybe clean it properly, inside the action which is rather sloppy looking and where I have no business messing about and then try and sell it or should I just go with it as is?

To my untrained eye it looks more dirty than unsound but without being opened up how do I know? And I do know that my taking it apart, or trying to take it apart, poses a serious risk of me messing something up.


August 15, 2007, 11:59 AM
No point in you paying for the inspection unless it becomes a bargaining point with a serious buyer. A restorer will know how to do that for himself.