Wednesday, February 24, 2010

38-55 Winchester

Last year I sent one of my Marlin 336 Texans back to Marlin for the Cowboy Conversion in 30-30. When I got it back I was VERY pleased with the results.

The before picture

The after picture, the bottom rifle compared to a "real" 30-30 Cowboy

The idea of shipping my other 30-30 Saddle Ring Texan back into Marlin to get the 38-55 Win Cowboy Conversion has been rattling around in my brain for a good while... Luckily for my wallet Marlin quit offering it for a spell.

Last week on a whim I gave Marlin a call to see if there are any plans to resume with the conversions and the friendlly voice on the other end of the line said "Yes we are in 38-55."

So after a short debate with myself and some correspondence with my 'enablers' the Texan is on its way back to Marlin...

While not the most practical or economical choice... the 38-55 Winchester is an intriguing cartridge. Introduced in 1884 in a single shot target rifle and quickly earned a reputation for accuracy including the first perfect score recorded in a 300 yard match. It didn't take long to find its way into leverguns including the Marlin 1893 and was one of the orginal chamberings for the Winchester 1894 (along with 32-40). The Savage Model 99 also was chambered for this cartridge. The 38-55 is also the 'parent cartridge' for the 30-30 and the 32 Winchester Special (and a few others). Even today the old cartridge holds its own in Schuetzenfest competitions taking more than its share of gold medals.

In the metallic cartridge black powder era it was considered an excellent Deer and Black Bear hunting cartridge launching a 255 grain 38 caliber projectile at a bit about 1300 fps. With today's powders and firearms safe loads approaching 2000 fps have been published, though most top out around 1600 fps.

Since this is a new caliber to me it will require me to buy new dies, bullet molds (Ranch Dog's excellent TLC379-235RF is on its way here now) and Brass - which ain't cheap or free like 30-30 brass (though I may be able to fire form 30-30 brass...) The 38-55 Marlins have a reputation for being a bit finicky due to tight chambers and loose bores (the opposite has been my experience, especially with the 1894 and 1895 platforms) so I'm expecting some trial and error to get it ready for the field.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens is the most amazing place I've ever been. Beauty, power... magic. It is one of those places that resets your perspective.
This is what the Lava Dome looked like in the mid-1990s. It has grown a LOT since. Looking down into the caldera and seeing how much the mountain blew into the sky is hard to wrap one's mind around. The mountain is still very much alive - the near constant rock slides make that very clear. Looking eastward as far as the eye can see the landscape still wears the evidence of that fateful day May 18, 1980.

Standing on the rim. Before the morning of May 18, 1980 the mountain was 1,000 feet higher than where I am standing in this picture (circa 1995)

The climb there is not very difficult. Near the top the landscape becomes very abrasive, moon-like almost. Large pieces of pumice are surprisingly light and erode beneath boot treads.

Sadly, a climber fell to his death earlier this week from very near this spot.