33 WCF "stuff"

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coyote nose
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33 WCF "stuff"

Post by coyote nose »

Ok, I have been experimenting around with the 33 WCF round for about 10 years now and have accumulated a lot of info as I dug into shooting and reloading this round. There have been several threads and questions on this forum about reloading the cartridge I hope no one minds if I dig into my notebook and old photos and relay some of the info here. A recurring question is where to get cases and bullets. I'll get into that, as well as where to find load data, as well as comments on the 14 different old factory loads I have shot in my 1886 Rifle.
First off is cases. Frankly, it is not too difficult to find factory rounds that can be bought for the cases if you attend gun shows. I started out with 100 Jamison cases and now after only mild searching at gun shows have about 100 Winchester and 100 Remington as well as a few dozen miscellaneous added to the stable. Stay away from collectors shows or collectors tables. They think their stuff is gold, and do not realize the collecting world has passed them by. I have seen the same boxes on the same 'collectors" dealers tables for over 5 years and they will not budge on their $100 a box price! Unfortunately its a plastic gun world and the market for the old stuff is fading, ....as demand fades so should prices! Hopefully you will find a box of factory ammo on a table where the guy wants to sell and not take the stuff home. Before the madness started I bought a box of factory Remington for $45. I think the most I paid for a full box of NICE factory Winchester ammo was $75. Usually an offer on a typical table of $60 would be accepted. Thats $3 a shot but remember you get that desirable reloadable case. Sometimes in life you have to pony up to get what you need. The 33 WCF in factory loads is one of those times. Of course right now is probably the worst time to look for ANY factory ammo. Here are the 4 boxes of ammunition most commonly encountered (click on photo to enlarge):
1. Boxfactorytext.jpg
Now here is what I do. I pull all bullets, deprime the case, and place the powder, bullet, and case in a pill bottle. Deactivate the primer in oil and toss it. I weigh and examine the powder charge. If it has a very strong smell, or has orange specks in it, or is oily or sticky, toss it. Examine the case with a magnifier and make sure it has not been reloaded and has no corrosion. Look at any unfired brass you have in any caliber and compare it to a fired case. Look at the primer pocket too. Fired cases are pretty easy to spot. You may have to toss any suspect case, the main worry being that you do not know if a mercuric primer was used in the past. Examine the bullets for corrosion too. Next I anneal the neck of the case in a flame, holding the base in my fingers and rolling the neck only in the flame tip until it gets too hot to hold. That "too hot to hold temperature" is well below the temperature the base would anneal at. You DO NOT want to anneal the base, just the neck. A bucket of water is under my hands and I just drop the case into the water when I cant hold it. I have found if I do not anneal I will lose almost all cases to neck splits on the first or second firing. Even my brand new Jamison cases had to be annealed as losses occurred after 2 or 3 firings. Next is seating a new primer, recharging the case, seating the bullet, and test firing. If I find loose rounds in the "50 cents a round" box at a show I do the same procedure but toss the powder as well as the primer...I have no idea who loaded it and wont trust it. Of course this is what I do....you are on your own of course whenever it comes to endeavors of this type. Use your head.
Here is a photo of some of the factory loads:
2. Rem33fac1text.jpg
3. Rem33fac3text.jpg
If any powder charge in the box was way off from the others, (I never had this happen yet) I would assume the box was a "put together" box and would not take a chance on any of the powder. Anyway, doing all this allowed me to get my couple of hundred cases that should last me the rest of my shooting life. Here is a photo of the various cases that have been collected:
8. headstamptext.jpg
As can bee seen there are 2 types of W.R.A. Co cases, but one has a very large primer. These cases have always come with a tin coated bullet and I believe they are from the 1905-1920 or so era. They also have the funny copper center primer. Almost always they have split necks even when unfired. They are totally unsuitable for shooting or reloading. Primers are probably mercuric. The other W.R.A. Co case is one of my best cases, in fact, my hunting load was developed using this case. With proper annealing (after every 2 firings) they have lasted for many shots. Make sure the case is unfired before you load it (look inside for any blackness and check the primer pocket, you can tell if it has been fired). These cases came in the 1939-1945 box. Next is the WRA case. Note there are no periods between the letters. Another excellent case, but I found my 1886 is case sensitive and case #2 gave better accuracy in my rifle for any given load. This probably came in the 1946-1955 style box as the cut on the box showing the cartridge is usually accurate as to headstamp. My box however was bought with a few other boxes and I do believe the contents were switched as the 1946-55 box pictured had W.R.A.Co cases in it. Either the box was switched or Winchester had some older rounds left and thus my box was an early transition one. Does anyone out there have a factory box of the 1946 style? If so what is the headstamp in the box? Next up the 2 Remington cases. Self explanatory as to the difference, the ledge base being found in the 1930 style box and the flat base in the 1946 style. The flat base Remington's are my most shot cases as I use them for my plinking and general shooting loads. A very good case. Next up the 2 Peters cases. I dont have enough to do any meaningful testing. Again one has periods between the letters. Same with the UMC and USC Co cases...just too old to mess around with. The Western cases seem good but I dont have enough, and the Jamison I used for cast bullets when I used to mess around with casting.
I cross sectioned the cases to see if any were ever balloon head or folded head but I think the 33WCF is too late of a round for that. Who knows?
9. casebasetext.jpg
I noticed something that developed into another direction of inquiry. My "hunting" loads worked fine in my W.R.A. Co cases but led to sticky extraction in the REM flat base case. Hmmm....I figured the Remington case maybe had less case capacity and thus was spiking pressures so I sized, trimmed, and weighed several cases of each make, then took the average. Next I filled with water to the top of the neck to check case capacity. Here are the results:
10. casecapacity.jpg
So it turns out the Remington cases have MORE case capacity than the W.R.A. Co cases. Perhaps the thinner case of the Remington's is the cause of the sticky extraction? In any case I backed off another 1.0 GN of powder for my high power hunting loads.
Please note the cases that are made from 45-70 cases. Look at the differences and the capacities! No wonder load data for this round is all over the map! (more on load data later). I never used these, a few were given to me one way or another. I can't stand incorrectly marked cases and would much rather pay for correct cases IF they are out there. Just my 2 cents on that issue.
Well, if there is any interest I'd like to cover bullets next.
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2ndovc
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by 2ndovc »

Wow, that's a lot of info. Interesting read for sure. I've had my .33 WCF for about 12 years and got really lucky early on picking up components and a mold from one of the guys here. I really enjoy shooting that old rifle and it's been my large game rifle since I bought it for the most part.

Good Stuff!!

jb 8)
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coyote nose
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by coyote nose »

2ndovc wrote:
Sun Jul 18, 2021 7:51 pm
I really enjoy shooting that old rifle and it's been my large game rifle since I bought it for the most part.
jb 8)

I like to think its my big game rifle too, but I'll probably never draw a big game tag out west. Still, at least am all prepared if I do. Have used it on prairie dogs in Montana if that counts :lol: :
2012,9-13d,hunt.JPG
As far as bullets go, after obtaining the rifle I could not find any of the Hornady 200GN flat point. Turns out they were discontinued in 2001. I was itching to try out the gun and had heard that the 200GN Hornady spire point could be modified into service for the 33 WCF. Bought a box and set up a collet with a collet stop in the lathe at work. Took the point off until the flat part of the bullet (the meplat?) was large enough in my estimation to not set off the primer, then lightly radiused the sharp edge on the jacket with a small file. Turns out the final weight of the bullet was 189GN so I only lost 11GN. They shot reasonably well and certainly would do. Here is a photo of the result:
7. Hbullettext.jpg
Saw a few boxes of the flatpoint at gun shows but again, dealers wanted $100 a box for them and again, would see these boxes show after show as they wouldn't sell. Finally, at an OGCA show a dealer had a table full of junk scattered all over the place. In the corner I saw a Hornady box with the magic #3315 on it! I asked the guy how much and he said $40. Told him that was pretty cheap and he said he said he purposely set it in the corner thinking only a shooter looking for it would notice it. Said he didn't want to sell it to someone who would just put it on their table for $100. His price was $40 because he knew I would shoot them up. Great guy. Since then had a forum member sell me a few boxes at a great price, and in the intervening years found several more boxes in the $50 to $60 range. Not really bad when you think about it. So components are still out there if you scrounge the gun shows. In addition Hawk bullets makes a 200GN for the 33WCF. I never tried them as I now have enough, barely, of the Hornady to last my shooting life. Did notice there were slight grouping differences in the Hornady bullets over the years so the scientist in me started another little project. Turned out I had boxes from 5 different production runs. The early runs had a lot number that I couldn't decipher production date, but the later boxes have what I assume is the date as part of the lot number. Here are the 5 lots I have:
4. 33wcfbulletbox1TEXT.jpg
5. 33wcfbulletbox2TEXT.jpg
6. 33wcfbullets1TEXT.jpg
The bullet was first made by Hornady in 1973. That first box in the picture is an early style Hornady but I have no idea when it was made. There are certainly several production runs missing from what I have between box 1 and box 2. Notice how the profile changed over the years. Also note how they got slightly lighter as the years went by. Diameter was incredibly consistent. In fact they ALL measured on my micrometers exactly 0.3380" but as a retired tool and die maker, I do not want to indicate a precision that isn't there in my measuring tool. They all shot about the same. I say about because at the high end of my loading there was slight differences in my rifle between the bullet lots. Not enough to call my rifle finicky as to bullet lot selection, but enough for me to set aside 1 box each of style #1 and #4. I need to get a few more groups from each to determine which one gets saved for use if I ever do get a tag drawn for elk or deer or even pronghorn. The bottom line though is no matter the lot, they all shoot good. Those of you looking for a good bullet for your 33 need to hit the gun shows and do a little searching....bullets are scarce but they are out there. (As an aside, last week at a gun show I found the holy grail of 25-20 bullets: the discontinued Speer 75GN flat point Hot Cor. The guy wanted $10 for it...a great price at any time let alone during this panic induced frenzy). Cast bullets are usually all over Gunbroker and while I have tried them (and have a mold) and they shot fantastic, I prefer jacketed.
Only did limited testing of powders mainly due to the load data I had which only mentioned a few powders. Of these, IMR 4064 and IMR 3031 stood out for the jacketed, and IMR 4320 for the cast, but again, I left trying cast bullets early on. On the low end, my 'plinking' load, IMR 3031 was more accurate, while on the top end "hunting" loads, IMR 4064 was the best. I don't particularly want to list my loads due to the incredible varying case capacities etc., but I guess I should list where you can obtain data from. BE CAREFUL. The maximum charges for the same powder varies considerably.

Magazine articles with load data:
1. Handloader Jan/Feb 1977. By Jim Hanson. By far THE information you want on loading this round. If you love this round, buy this back issue. He didn't use the powders I use, but he lists old data for them.
2. Handloader #112 Nov/Dec 1984 by Wilf Pyle. Another good issue but for my rifle, VERY high loads. His IMR 4064 Maximum is 4 GN of powder OVER where I get sticky extraction!
3. Handloader Nov 1989 "Loading the Old Ones" Pet Loads by Ken Waters
4. Handloader #149 Jan/Feb 1991 Cartridge Board by Gil Sengel
5. Handloader June 1997 "Obsolescent Cartridges" Pet Loads Ken Waters
6. Handloader Dec/Jan 1997 Cast Bullets
7. Leverguns Magazine Jan 2000
8. Handloader #305 Dec/Jan 2017 John Barsness. Good loads in my rifle

Reloading books:
1. Belding and Mull, 1949. Data that seems to be on the hot side for maximum loads
2. Dupont 1949. I dont have this but did somehow get data listed in it. Seems hot.
2. Complete Guide to Handloading, 1953, Phil Sharpe. Again data on the hot side for maximum loads
3. Ideal Handbook. My issue #39 (1953) has data while #41 (1957) does not. A bit hot
4. Pacific Manual, 1967. Yep, a bit hot on the high end of loads.
5. Hornady loading manual. Good data for my rifle
6. Shooting Leverguns of the Old West, by Mike Venturino
7. Cartridges of the World. 11th edition (2006) still list it with a couple of loads

Perhaps I have a tight chamber, but most of the information for maximum loads is well above where I ran into issues. I even called Hodgon (Apr 19 2011) and got info from them. Their maximum loads for IMR 3031 and IMR 4064 were above what I would use in my rifle. The lesson is clear, each rifle is different so start at the low end and slowly work up. It is no doubt worthwhile to call Hodgon yourself to get the information you need.
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Bill in Oregon
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by Bill in Oregon »

Thanks for posting all this hard-won information, Coyote Nose. I don't have a .33, but have always admired this cartridge.
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by JOG »

Super interesting post on the 33 wcf.
I've had a little luck trying to find the Hornady 200gr f.p. out there.
I paid $50.00 a box, pretty good price for these day's.
I guess I should buy them up whenever I find them!
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coyote nose
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by coyote nose »

Thanks guys. Yes JOG $50 a box is pretty good. I am told the Hornady flex tip in .338 can be used too, but I've never tried it.
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2ndovc
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by 2ndovc »

coyote nose wrote:
Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:19 pm
Thanks guys. Yes JOG $50 a box is pretty good. I am told the Hornady flex tip in .338 can be used too, but I've never tried it.
I bought a box if the flex tip bullets, but haven't had a chance to try them yet.

You mentioned the OGCA, willing to bet we've passed each other at one show or another. :D

jb 8)
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coyote nose
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by coyote nose »

The reason I haven't tried the flex tip yet is because all this other testing has taken up what little shooting time I have! Plus the 200 gn Hornady flatpoint shoots so well I don't think I can beat it. Plus until recently I had so much factory fodder to shoot and test I had my hands full. Still, one day I'll try those flex tips as well as the Hawk bullet.
The factory stuff I tested was both Remington and Winchester brand. If in boxes, it was one of the 4 shown in the photos in the first thread. The ammunition however was often a bit different even between the same box styles, so the recipe and bullet was changed over the years. For example, of all the Remington 1930 "dogbone" style boxes I've owned, they have ALWAYS had Remington ledge base cases, the bullets always had a little rim around the base, and the powder was always a disc type powder. Yet the bullets varied from tin coating over the entire bullet including the tip, to tin plating only on the jacket (ie: exposed lead tip), to no tin plating anywhere on the bullet. The velocities were pretty consistent though. On the low end one box averaged 2010 fps and on the high one box averaged 2035fps. Some boxes were partially full so after safety testing them and chronographing I wasn't left with enough for several groups. One box though did a group just under 1", the other had a few groups with an average of 2.2" (all groups are 3 shot at 100 yards with a tang sight). Good stuff!!
The later style Remington box always came with flat base cases, always came with copper jacketed bullets, and always came with stick type powder. Bullets however sometimes had the little rim on the base, sometimes were flat. Velocities ranged from 2025 fps to 2155 fps. Accuracy from under 1" to 3.1". The 3.1" group has bullets that measured 0.335" in the box while every bullet from other boxes was 0.338".
Winchester ammo: The 1939 style box always came with W.R.A. Co cases, stick powder, but the bullet could be flat base or rim base. Velocity: 1820 fps was the low box (!), 2165 fps the high box. Accuracy 1.2" to 3.1". The 1946 box I had came with W.R.A. Co cases but I do believe it should of had WRA cases. I only had 1 box of the 1946 style so I don't know. With individual rounds the WRA cases I had though all came with stick powder, a rim base bullet. The exposed nose length varied plus the powder charge varied. These variances were enough to lump individual rounds into 3 different styles. Velocities ranged from 1825 fps to 1960fps. Note that most Winchester loads were significantly below the 2200fps cataloged! Accuracy was under one inch to 3.4"
The one Western box shot at 1965 fps and 2.0" average group size.
I'm done buying factory ammo unless I get it for a song!!! Again, they are out there for those of you that want to shoot your old 1886 as long as basic precautions are taken. Getting the cases and reloading is a joy for me, for this round, (I usually do not like reloading), so much so that I made up a reloading kit to take on my travel out west. It is so cool to load ammo like they did in the old days, around camp, with vintage loading tools. Made up a kit to do it for 44-40, 33 WCF and a few other calibers. Here is the 33WCF kit.
11..JPG
13..JPG
14..JPG
In these kits I make sure I use the mild load....using a powder scoop I don't want to use a near max load.
Well, I guess I've bore some of you long enough. If nothing else, I hope this helps some of you get components for your 33 and get her shooting.
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by JOG »

I did manage to find a box of Buffalo Arms 33wcf 200 gr. Hornady FTX.
I still haven't fired any yet,
A very helpful gentleman on this forum helped me out with some reloads to see how she fires.
Very happy with it. My gun shop has a Winchester 1886 33wcf in stock right now!
It's reblued with some carving of a deer on the stock.
Someone name is also carved in the stock. I didn't get the chance to look at the bore.
I got exited for a moment when i saw a model 92 on the shelf! It was a mint Rossi in 357 for $450.00!
I think it was $1200.00 on the late production Winchester 86 in 33wcf!
Kittery Trading Post, Kittery, Maine.
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by Woodsloafer2 »

Really like these posts where information is shared from a lot a lot of extensive and detailed testing. I have never had a 33 but always thought it was a great cartridge. I grew up with a 348 in the house which covered the big bore lever action needs. The 33 and 1886 is a very well thought of combination for the Maine hunting woods. I may just need to try one someday! Thanks for all the information!
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by marlinman93 »

I've owned a couple old 1895 Marlins in .33WCF, and made my brass from .45-70 using dies I already owned to step the cases down. First to .40-65, then .38-56, and finally to the .33WCF. Had no issues, and once formed down I lightly annealed the cases just because I figured they were work hardened by the forming.
I never have had an issue with mismarked cases, and I use a burr in my Dremel tool to deface the markings, just so they don't get into the wrong rifle. Since I don't mix brass in my tumbler, and their boxes are well marked it's never been an issue.
I like the .33WCF, and it's older brother the .38-56 also. They always seem to be two less desirable chamberings in old leverguns, as most guys want the biggest chamberings. So prices are usually more affordable in these smaller chambered guns.
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by piller »

I do not have a .33 WCF, but good info for that just in case situation.
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by KWK »

Good information, thank you. I've always thought the 33 was a well designed cartridge for the '86.
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by KirkD »

Outstanding post! Thank you for this excellent information. I don't have a 33 WCF, but this is certainly worth adding to my archive.
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Re: 33 WCF "stuff"

Post by 450 Fuller »

This is excellent information for those of us who still have Winchester or Marlin rifles in
33 WCF. I have a couple of these fine 1886 Models in 33 WCF and they are excellent
stalking rifles for deer or black bear.
Hawk bullets in NJ makes an excellent bullet in 180 or 200 gr FP, perfect
for the 33 WCF in velocity from 1800-2000 FPS. Quality Cartridge Co in Maryland makes NEW brass for the 33 WCF.
They can also provide loaded ammunition-for a price.
I use IMR 4198-3031 and 4064. Nosler 210 gr partitions can be used for a first shot
in the chamber of an 1886-for elk or bear.. I have a few boxes of Hornady FP 33 WCF 200 gr FPs left.

Be extremely careful using gas checks on any lead bullets for the Marlin or Winchester rifles.
If the GC slips off for ANY reason into the powder and is forced into the neck of the cartridge,
a pressure spike will occur that can ruin a rifle and injure the shooter. Use plain base lead bullets ONLY.
Lever actions do not like pressure spikes or gas checks .

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