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The size of the ball depends on the diameter of the chambers and the bore. For example: if the chambers are .370, going up from a .375 ball to a .380 will do little because when you load either one, they become .370 anyways. All too often, the guns come with chambers smaller than the bore of the bbl, this is detrimental to accuracy and the opposite of the way the originals were made. You need to slug the chambers and the bore, if the chambers are smaller than the bore, reem them out a tad larger, if the chambers are larger(good thing)-use the ball that is the "next" size up from the chamber diameter-(ie: if the chambers are 370, use a .375, if they are 375 then use the .380.)

Bullets (conicals) are another story, they can be hard to get loaded strait unless they have a tapered heel and the same size rules as above apply. I've had good luck with Dixe's conicals but rarely use them because of the cost-(and balls are more accurate for me).

1860
 

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A larger ball is indeed a benifit, as the larger ball will form a longer bearing surface once resized into the chamber. That is the reason most recommend a 457 ball in 44 revolvers normally calling for 451 or 454. Warren Muzzleloading has a website, and offers cast, sprueless 380 diameter balls which should work much better in Italian 36 cal revolvers. My 1861 chambers wil not hold a 375 ball by Speer or Hornady, the loading lever pulls them back out after seating them. I replaced the cylinder with one that's slightly tighter, but most Italian repros have a very close to 375 chamber, which isn't tight enough on a 375 ball. I will soon order 390 balls from Warren to try the fit.
 

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Flint,

RE your problem with pulling the ball back out with the ram, I assume the plunger is deforming and sticking to the ball. Can you polish or otherwise radius it so the surface is a smooth match to the ball? That would eliminate an "imprint" and the ball should stay in the cylinder. Of course, if it is that easy to move, it may creep out under recoil.
 

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Flint,

"going up from a .375 ball to a .380 will do little"

What you posted about bearing surface is what I was referring to when I said: "will do little”. There is some benefit to a larger bearing surface but at the velocities of these revolvers, there is little chance of proper sized ball skipping the rifling. Conversely, the fact that a larger ball will be sized into a more oblonged shape could have an adverse affect on the way it travels through the air. I've found that .005 over the chamber size is generally ideal, any more just makes loading harder. Just my .02

Ain't fine tuning these guns fun...

1860

BTW: I agree, even though you mentioned the balls were a little undersized, I'll bet your ram is too sharp or of the wrong shape if it's pulling the balls back out.
 

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I have preached the value of .380 inch balls in .36 revolvers for about two years now.
I still believe it.
I have a Colt 2nd generation (circa 1981) 1851 Navy whose chambers are so large that a .375 inch ball is nearly a slip-fit. It is mandatory that I use a larger ball in this revolver.
In the past, before I purchased a Lyman mould that cast .380 inch balls, I used .375 inch balls. The rammer also would often pull the ball back out after ramming it down.
I discovered that it's not the rammer, per se. It's the lubricant on the face of the rammer that apparently creates enough of a suction to yank the bullet out.
The lubricant on the face of the rammer generally gets there two ways:
1. Lubricant is used over the ball. During firing, the rammer unlatches and the rammer drops against the grease over a ball.
2. When greased, felt wads are rammed down on the powder, before the ball is loaded.
I have been using .380-inch sprueless balls from Warren Muzzleloading of Arkansas for nearly a year now. An excellent product! I ordered 1,000 of them (10 boxes) for less than $70, which included shipping.
These oversized balls also give better accuracy in my Uberti-made 1858 Remington Navy and my Armi San Marcos-made 1862 Colt Pocket Pistol.
I don't often use .375 inch balls now.
The larger ball does, indeed, create a wider bearing surface for the rifling to grip.
As for accuracy of the elongated ball, I have no complaints.
Last summer, I was given a few dozen swaged .433 inch balls. As an experiment, I tried them in my Colt 1851 Navy, from a benchrest, at 25 yards.
Boy, talk about leaving a ring of lead after ramming that ball .059 oversized!
Interestingly, accuracy was on a par with the .380 balls. I only fired a dozen of the .433 inch balls so it's not much of an experiment. I stopped the experiment when my hand grew weary from seating those vastly oversized balls.
In retrospect, it was probably a dumb stunt. I risked bending the rammer pivot screw by having to apply so much force. I don't suggest others try this experiment, especially with one of the poorly made revolvers so often seen on the market.
But the fact remains, the .433 inch ball was swaged into an oblong shape but accuracy apparently did not suffer.
I continue to recommend .380 inch balls for all .36-caliber revolvers. They are easier to find, thanks to Warren Muzzleloading. I've written both Speer and Hornady, suggesting they offer this diameter in their swaged lead balls, but aside from receiving a polite reply I've received no indication of interest.
It's a pity, because I think it would be a popular and useful ball size. As I pointed out to Speer and Hornady, it could also be used for very light gallery or small game loads in the .38-55, .378 Weatherby or .375 Winchester.
 

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Gatofeo is probably close with the idea that grease might stick enough to lift out a ball that's too loose. My 1861 definitely has a loose chambered cylinder, and it loads fine (or at least better) with a different cylinder installed. But, .375 is definitely too small for most any repro Colt. (Hear that Speer?). The improved ignition and accuracy from using larger balls is noticeable, and 457 balls work best in any 44, even if the cylinder is for 451. So I will have to order 380 balls from Warren. I deburred the rammer wnen I got the gun, as I always go over a new gun, and particularly an Italian single action.
 

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LEE makes a nice 130gr conical with a stepped driving bands that get larger in diameter as they go toward the nose. They are easy to line up with the chamber and are quite accurate and give more knockdown on falling targets. At one time LEE even made a hollowpoint 36 cal conical that I have. They also make 380 dia double cavity roundball molds. A good company.
 

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I don't believe that Lee makes the .380 diameter conical bullet for .36 revolvers, anymore.
Anyway, it didn't a year ago when I looked at their website. Nor was it listed in the 2000 catalog.
I managed to find one, new in the box, on Ebay for $15. A double-cavity too.
It works well in my Colt 2nd generation 1851 Navy, as does the .380 ball.
I use the .375 Lee conical in my repro 1858 Remington .36 caliber made by Pietta. The chambers are too small to start the .380 conical straight, even with Lee's heeled bullet.
If you take the time to load the Lee conical carefully, it can be accurate. But I haven't found it any more accurate than the .380 inch round ball, and it's often less accurate. Hard to beat that ball.
I use .380 inch balls in all of my .36 revolvers. That extra bit of bearing surface makes quite a difference in accuracy, compared to .375 inch balls.
 
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