I haven't used a 38-55 but have used my 375 winchester with 250 gr hardcast bullets loaded to just under 1800 fps for both target fun and deer. It knocks em down real nice. The 38=55 has a good rep in Canada for everything up to and including moose.
I have killed Oklahoma whitetails with my 38-55 Target Model. I used 265 grain lead with 9 grains of trailboss powder. Not sure of the velocity but slow enough that it doesn't lead my barrel. I am guessing maybe 1300-1400 fps. Regardless of the exact velocity, loads like this are touted out of handguns all the time as legitimate deer killers, 265 grain bullets at 1400 fps. I have not found a jacketed bullet that i liked so i just stick with the lead.
when it comes to fairly big bores and slower velocities, I usually go with hardcast and bullet shape over expansion. I like a nice wide meplat. If you are getting any expansion at all or at least it is flattenning the face of the bullet, you are going to do a lot of damage. I think of bigger bores as being "pre expanded" . Think of a non expanded .375 as being the same diameter as a perfectly mushroomed 25-27 cal bullet.A heavy wide faced bullet really does a number when it hits heavy bone as well all those secondary projectiles do damage as well.
So to end my long winded respose, don't fret not getting massive expansion with a big heavy bullet.
8-point 205 lb whitetail shot at 40 yards running toward me , hit between base of neck & front shoulder. Deer went 40 yards. Using buffalo bore bullets plenty of knockdown power. In Miss. we can use older single shot rifles during our 4 wek primative weapon season
150lb give or take a couple buck around 65 yards, One 250gr GCWFN hardcast lead pushed by some IMR4227 to about 1950fps give him maybe 40 yards to run and we have meat in the freezer. Thease bullts don't expand much they just punch a nice hole all the way through, Lots of air in, lotsa blood out, works for me.
Too many rifles and not enough remaining years but I used my 38-55 Marlin CB to kill a doe with the Win. factory load about 5 years ago. Quartering toward me and entrance was at the point of the shoulder, exit near the last rib on opposite side from entrance. Got complete penetration and the deer ran 35-40 yds. wiith a good blood trail. This past season I killed one with a 250 gr. cast bullet, down & dead almost immediately.
So for me, it's two for two on deer with the 38-55. On those doggone silhouettes it's record is nowhere near 100% success!
Here's a 38-55 I recovered from a buck last year. It's a Buffalo Bore brand and the only one I have ever recovered. All the rest have been pass thrus. It was quartering towards me and I shot it dead center of the rite shoulder. It was under the skin about 6" inches in front of the left hindquarter. Is the 38-55 a good deer cartridge? You betcha!
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