Introduced by Ballard in 1884 for various
single shot target rifles, the .38-55 was one of the first cartridges to
appear in Winchester's Model 94 lever action ten years later. The .38-55
was also once available in the Marlin Model 93 and Savage Model 99 lever
actions, the Remington Lee bolt action, and various Winchester single shot
In its high velocity loading, which pushed a 255 grain bullet along at over 1500 fps, the .38-55 once enjoyed an excellent reputation as a deer and black bear cartridge for woods hunting. Many hunters were forever convinced that due to the .38-55's greater bullet diameter it was a far more effective big game cartridge than the .30-30 and not far behind the harder kicking .45-70.
Now the .38-55 is seldom seen in the woods, but it is one of the more popular cartridges among todays schuetzen competitors. Benchrest shooters have their PPC cartridges but for those who gather for the annual Coors Schuetzenfest in Golden Colorado, it's the .32-40 or the .38-55 that win most of the gold. Those fellows, by the way, are shooting groups of minute of angle and less with cast bullets in single shot rifles of falling block design.
Most target shooters load the .38-55 with light charges of quick burning powders such as H4227 and SR-4759 for muzzle velocities of 1200 to 1300 fps with bullet weighing from 250 to 300 grains. Some shoot cast bullets of spitzer form for increased wind resistance. For deer and black bear, the Sierra 200 grain and Hornady 220 grain jacketed bullets at about 1600 fps work fine. Another good choice is a cast bullet weighing around 250 grains. Excellent powders for the .38-55 hunting loads are H322, H4895, and H335. In a pinch, .375 Winchester cases can be used in .38-55 rifles, although they are a bit short. Never fire .375 Winchester factory loads in a rifle originally chambered for the .38-55.
Source: Hodgdon Data Manual, 26th Edition
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