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Went shooting yesterday with my brand new Ruger Vaquero in 38/40.  To put it bluntly, I had a heck of a time.  Been reloading since 1978, but have NEVER had the time I had with this one.  Factory ammo, both current Winchester and 25 year-old Remington chambered fine, so the chambers are okay.  My reloads did not chamber fine, the following is what I learned (I think) from my reloads; please tell me what else I need to know!  Thanks.

Lessons learned from reloading the 38/40 WCF

1.) Dimensionally there are three different variations of the 38/40 brass case: new, unloaded factory brass; new factory loaded ammunition; once fired brass (fire formed) for use in reloading.  Cases sold for reloading come from the brass manufacturer with longer necks than once fired cases.  For a good photo and description see page 394 in the Speer Reloading Manual #13.
2.) The Redding full length sizing die (and possibly others) resize the brass case to the fire-formed dimension (the industry chamber spec), thus the handloader need not worry about excessive working of the brass case.
3.) New brass must be full length sized before loading in order to ensure it will fit in industry standard revolver chambers.  Find the tightest chamber of the six chambers on the revolver cylinder and load for it; the loaded ammo will then be a sure fit in the other five chambers in the cylinder as well.
4.) It is highly likely that new brass cases will be too long.  If the new cases are too long after full-length sizing they should be trimmed to the "maximum case length" (1.305") because the cases will shorten after the initial firing (and the resultant fire forming of the case).  If you trim new brass to the "trim to length" it will be too short after firing.

Odessa
 

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Good, and helpful observations!  Too, also remember that case capacity will be somewhat impaired with the unfired new brass... use fire-formed brass for full-snort heavy loads.  Not only will the case capacity be different after firing, but the brass case will center better in the chamber, and contribute to more uniform accuracy.

Also, be careful when crimping the .38-40, as too much of a good thing can cause a case-neck collapse as well.

One last thought... most of these guns seem to shoot best with a .401" diameter bullet if shooting cast!

Happy loading and God Bless,

Marshall
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Marshall, thanks for adding to my knowledge of reloading for the 38/40 with the additional information.  After more futile attempts to load lead bullets using fireformed and trimmed cases (which still resulted in my inabilitity to chamber rounds in chambers # 2 & 3) I slugged the bore and the chambers.  What I found out was enlightening; the bore slugged at .4005 while the throats in the chambers measured .397 in #2 & #3 and .398 in #1, 4, 5, & 6.  It didn't matter what length I trimmed the cases to (without resorting to undersizing the cases) I could not chamber my reloads in the two .397 chambers.  I talked to Ruger's product service dept., and while the customer service rep was polite, she offered very little help - told me to ship the gun back and they would see if it met their specifications.  I decided not to waste the time or money with Ruger and sent my cylinder to Dave Clements in MS; he will open all six throats to .401 inch for &#3645.00.  Hopefully that will solve my chambering problem, my leading problem, and my accuracy problem.  Thanks again for the help.  Odessa
 
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