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Old February 1, 2020, 12:05 PM   #1
Head Tomcat
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Loading for 38 Long Colt...With Heeled Bullets

Guys,

Now that Mike and I have talked several times and he is well on the way to making my Uberti 1851 Colt Navy London – with the Kirst gated converter assembly for 38LC – what it should be, it is time for me to sort out reloading the cartridges for it.

I already have 500 lead 155gr RN heeled bullets from AlphaBravo which are unsized, as I will do that myself in the loading process and fit them to the bore of the pistol. The bore is unlined and is why I am using heeled bullets…plus, that is how it was done when these conversions first came out. I really want to get the “full effect” of what it was like when C&B pistols were first converted to metallic cartridges while still using black powder!

Here are my planned specs for the 38LC cartridges:

• 155gr RN heeled bullet sized to bore
• 38LC brass cases from Buffalo Arms….trimmed to 0.88” long for heeled bullets
• 20gr Swiss 3Fg powder
• Winchester SP primer
• COL is optimum combination of what fits the cylinder and allows rotation, while giving moderate compression on the 20gr of powder
• Crimp will be done by the modified Lee collet die and adjustable case holder from Old West Bullet Mold

Now, the questions I have are with regard to the dies themselves….I do not have 38LC or 38 Special dies….but have a number of RCBS and Redding carbide 9mm dies. Can these be used?

I have read that sizing of the 38LC case can be done by a carbide 9mm die as their dimensions are so close. Also, case mouth belling to accept the lead bullet and then seating can also be done by 9mm die. The final steps of crimping and lube/sizing would then be done.

Is this a reasonable/safe way to go?

Thanks!

Head Tomcat getting ready for Goon’s wonderous work

Last edited by Head Tomcat; February 1, 2020 at 03:51 PM.
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Old February 1, 2020, 04:25 PM   #2
Hawg
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You an use 9MM to size .38 Short Colt. If you're going to crimp the heeled bullets you will need a special crimp die. Maybe this will help answer some of your questions. https://www.cascity.com/forumhall/in...c,24196.0.html
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Old February 2, 2020, 03:33 AM   #3
rodwhaincamo
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My father will be bringing me down some .384” (he thinks) bullets of unknown use he acquired. We got to talking about this and my understanding was the original .36 cal conversions used an actual .38-something bullet to fill the grooves. Looking around we couldn’t find anything. Initially I thought it was the .38 Long Colt or S&W, but it doesn’t seem so. But is that due to modern stuff these days? I question how a bullet at .358”, or worse, .356”, will fill the .37-something grooves on a .36 cal revolver.
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Old February 2, 2020, 04:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
I question how a bullet at .358”, or worse, .356”, will fill the .37-something grooves on a .36 cal revolver.
The .38 LC originally used an inside the case bullet at .357 but there's no reason he can't use a heeled bullet in a .38 LC case. A .38 heeled bullet measures .375.
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Old February 4, 2020, 10:20 AM   #5
Head Tomcat
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Am Using Heeled Bullets

Guys,

I am using heeled bullets from AlphaBravo and they arrived several days ago....500 of them - and were very nice indeed! They are unsized and the ones I measured came in at .376-.377" in diameter, so they should size fine for the standard unlined Uberti 1851 Colt Navy barrel.

For dies I plan on using Redding .38 Special to size and seat the bullet to the wanted length and then the Old West Molds special collet-type sizing die with extended shell holder for the crimp. it arrived on Saturday and looks like it is exactly what is needed.

Final sizing and lubing will be done on a Meacham assembly as I have a spare RCBS Rockchucker single-stage press available.

Hawg….I saw that link and is what gave me the idea for the Old West Mold collect-type sizing die. Now that I have taken it apart and seen how it operates, the concept is simple but seems to be pretty darn effective.

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Old February 4, 2020, 10:51 AM   #6
rodwhaincamo
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What cartridge(s) were these original outside lubricated ~.375” bullets used in?
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Old February 4, 2020, 01:57 PM   #7
Head Tomcat
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Rod,

The original conversions from Colt of their C&B pistols to metallic cartridge were designed to be convenient "drop in" for their customers who already had .375 diameter barrels.

So, the factory chose to go with heeled bullets and outside lubrication in their metallic cartridge to account for this larger bore and black powder. This was called the ".38 Long Colt" cartridge as there was also a .38 Short Colt, too.

I believe that later Colt went to lubed bullets where the groove was inside the case as the external lube tended to pick up debris, abrade away, etc. during use.

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Old February 4, 2020, 11:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Head Tomcat
Hawg….I saw that link and is what gave me the idea for the Old West Mold collect-type sizing die. Now that I have taken it apart and seen how it operates, the concept is simple but seems to be pretty darn effective.
You're on the right track. Crimping heeled bullets requires a collet-type crimping die. I do the same thing when loading heeled bullets (also from Alpha Bravo) for .44 Colt Original.
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