Remington-Hepburn .38 x 1-3/4

Hi All,
On one of the more popular auction sites there is a R-H rifle which lists it’s barrel-marked caliber as “38 x 1-1/4”. I’m wondering if this refers to the length of the entire ctg, or possibly the projectile only. I have several UMC .38-40 R-H ctgs which are right at 2-1/4 inches OL, and have seen listings for .38-55 among others, but I’ve never seen a R-H designated .38 x 1-1/4. What is this ctg?

Lee T.–Are you sure it is marked .38-1 1/4 Inch and not .38-1 3/4 inch. U.M.C. never made a 1 1/4 inch case for the Remington-Hepburn but did make .38-1 3/4 inch, better known as .38-40 Remington-Hepburn, which, as you stated are 2 1/4 OA. All the black powder loads were listed in the U.M.C. catalogs with the length of the case, NOT overall length, which could vary according to the weight of the bullet used.

whooops…right you are ! Took another look at the auction (on GB), it IS .38 x 1-3/4. which makes it a .38-40. That’s what I get for relying on memory. I’ve looked for a R-H in .38-40 for a while since I have these ctgs. Maybe there weren’t very many in this chambering, it’s the first one I’ve run across on the internet.
Your information makes me wonder why there were 2 ways to ID the same caliber. It must be like the .30-40 Krag vs. .30 Gov’t. I guess.
Thanks very much for the help!

Lee–There really is not two ways of designating the cartridge. The cartridge is always listed in the catalog as .38-40 Remington or .38-40 Remington-Hepburn. It is only the markings on the barrel that used the case length to show what the chamber length was. This was importent because a .38 caliber Remington-Hepburn gun could have a chamber length of 1 3/4 inch or 2 1/4 inch. The 1 3/4 inch was the the .38-40 RH while the 2 1/4 inch was .38-50 RH.

Why they used the case length on the barrel instead of the name of the cartridge I do not know. It is true that you could fire the .38-40 RH in a .38-50 RH, so maybe that is why. Also, in those days many people refered to the guns only by the caliber and model so a gun with either a 1 3/4 inch chamber or a 2 1/4 inch chamber would likely have been called just a .38 Remington-Hepburn, so it would then be importent to have the chamber length marked on the gun. According to James Grant in his book “Single Shot Rifles”, the practice of stamping the barrel with the chamber length only applied to “Straight” cartridges, never bottle-necked types.

Ron, again, thanks for taking time to explain it so well. It seems more like the relation between modern day .38 special and .357 mag, where you can chamber either in the .357 but not in the .38.

My dad got these ctgs. from Bannerman in the 30’s, why I don’t know since he never owned a RH firearm. Probably just teenage fascination with cheap ammunition. I have noted on a couple collector’s sites that the asking price is around $20 ea. so I assume they are a little scarce but not in much demand as the rifle type is very specialized.

Is there a way to date these ctgs? There is no headstamp, UMC is the probable maker, and they are in really good condition. The FN lead bullets aren’t a bit oxidized.

Lee-The .38-40 (1 3/4 inch) was first listed in the E. Remington & Sons catalog in 1882 as the .38 Remington Special for the No.1 Sporting Rifle and the Remington Improved Creedmoor Rifle No. 3. The first catalog I have listing the .38-50 (2 1/4 inch) is 1887. Both cartridges were made up to at least 1914. They are listed in the 1913-14 Catalog but NOT the 1917. I do not have the the 1915 or 16 catalogs. U.M.C. started to put headstamps on their cartridges around 1890, so yours probably date between 1887 and 1890.

Bannerman offered packages of “10 Old Cartridges” for like $1.00 or something similiar and I assume that is how your Father got these.

As to the current value, the “Cartridges Prices” listing in the March 2007 issue of “Gun Report” show both of these as $3.00 each. They are not anywhere near the $20.00 range. That price is a hyped up auction value by someone who is seeing an “Old Cartridge” without any real knowledge of the value. Unfortunally, there are other equally uninformed buyers out there.

From the 1939 Bannerman catalog (the one my dad ordered a lot of things from) p. 77 :
“Special Cartridge Collection 35 Different Cartridges at $5.00 Net”, followed by the list of assorted ctgs.
"Civil War Set of Cartridges, 29 Ctgs. $3.50"
"Six Spanish War Cartridges, $1.50 per Set"
“14,090 38-40 Ball Cartridges, with patched bullets for the Ballard and Remington mid-range Sporting rifles. Price $12.00 per 1000.”

Even today’s $3.00 ea. is a pretty fair return (unless you add in 70 years of inflation!) ;-)