Brass And Bullets

In the past most .38-40 brass had very thin case mouths. No matter how I tried I would always lose brass in both the sizing and bullet seating operation, even more so than with the equally thin .44-40 brass. If the bullet was slightly tilted or the case mouth hit the bottom of the sizing die, no matter how lightly, the case would be ruined.

This situation changed with the introduction of Starline .38-40 brass. It is without the inherent weakness of earlier offerings and works extremely well on the RCBS Model 2000 Progressive. Beware of once-fired Winchester .38-40 brass: all I have encountered recently seem to have crimped in primers.

Bullets for the .38-40 — normally .400-.401 — work very well in current replicas and Colt SAAs. Early Colts made before World War II are often encountered with large chamber mouths and barrel groove diameters requiring larger bullets. If you cast your own, both RCBS and Lyman now offer .38-40 Cowboy Bullet Molds with a proper crimping groove and you can size the bullets accordingly.

Earlier bullets, such as the excellent Lyman #40188 or #401043 (a copy of the original design) do not have a crimping groove and this can be a problem in the heavier loads and/or or levergun loads if the dies don’t provide a tight bullet to case mouth fit. Most of my loads for the .38-40 are assembled with Oregon Trail’s 180-gr. RNFP designed specifically for the .38-40. At everyday working-load levels, they shoot superbly in both sixguns and leverguns.