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  #1  
Old 10-16-2002, 02:43 AM
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44-40 Original Ballistics


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History indicates that the .44-40 with its original load of a 200gr lead bullet at approx 1150-1200fps from a 24" barrel was highly regarded. It was used for everything in the woods of northern Canada until the .30-30 became soundly established, but even in the '50's there were still hunters using '73's in .44-40. Obviously, ranges were relatively short with 100yds being a long shot, but I wonder just how effective it was. It was routinely used to drop 1000lb + moose in their tracks (the old through the hump shot) and would kill reliably (if not quickly) with a shot through the lungs.

My question to you all is, has anyone out there taken any deer or similar sized game with .44-40 at or close to the original ballisitics? If so, what were the results?

Also, for you cartridge collectors and history buffs, was the bullet design loaded by the factories in the early days of the round in anyway similar to Marshall's 200gr BB? His bullets seems to have a rather small meplat (out of respect for the many different rifles it is expected to feed through I imagine).
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  #2  
Old 10-18-2002, 11:40 AM
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I have a single .44-40 cartridge that is said to be one of the very first made. It bears no headstamp and has the old, small primer typical of those made in the 19th century.
Obviously, I don't want to disassemble this round to take measurements.
I don't know what Marshall's BB looks like.
On this old cartridge I measured:
Primer pocket is .176 diameter. The copper primer is seated 0.012 below the level of the case so I can get my calipers into the primer pocket for a rough measurement.
Meplat is about .290 inch. It's tough to tell because the meplat has been rounded on its edges over the years.
Case length of about 1.312 inches. It's difficiult to get an accurate measure because the case is crimped into the bullet.
Lead bullet diameter where the brass meets the bullet is .425 inch. It may be larger back from that point, inside the case.
Bullet projects about .303 inch from the case.
Overall cartridge length is 1.600 inches.
Rim diameter is .518 inch
Head diameter ahead of the rim is .466 inch

An old .44-40 cartridge marked W.R.A. Co. 44 W.C.F. has a meplat of about .290 inch too. Again, age has rounded the meplat on its edges so an absolute measurement is difficult.
Case length is about 1.295 inch
Lead bullet diameter where brass neck meets bullet is .410 inch. It is obvious in this cartridge that the bullet is larger inside the case.
Bullet projects about .303 from the case.
Copper primer is seated .008 inch below flush
Primer pocket measures .170 inch
Rim diameter is .520 inch
Head diameter ahead of rim is .465 inch.
Overall cartridge length is 1.600 inch.
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  #3  
Old 10-18-2002, 12:56 PM
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Hi, Gents:
Click on Shopping Cart on the left side of this screen, then scroll down to .44-40, click some more for a picture and specs.

My W.R.A.Co. 44 W.C.F. cartridge has a meplat of about .250", small primer, case length of 1.325", bullet diameter of .410", neck diameter = .442", base dia. = .463" and rim dia = .563". Overall length is 1.585".

Bye
Jack
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  #4  
Old 02-15-2003, 05:55 AM
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Early on, the .44-40 carried a 217 gr. lead bullet at a published velocity of 1,190 f.p.s. The .44 W.C.F. used a 200 gr. bullet at 1,245 f.p.s. After 1912 or so, the factories loaded the same 200 gr. bullet in both cartridges which were identical except for the headstamps.

Today, Lyman's 42798 bullet is a copy of the original .44-40 bullet. In pure lead, mine weighs 217 grs. just like the original. It has a metplat diameter of .27".

With regards to it's effectiveness on deer, here are a few excerpts from hunters as shown in a copy of Winchester's 1875 catalog .................

..."I have fully tested the late improved Winchester Rifle and take pleasure in stating that it is the best rifle I have ever used. I have killed a number of deer, at distances from one to two hundred yards and in every instance, the bullet passed clean through the body."
..."I killed at a full gallop, at about 100 yards distant, a very large buckwith a splendid set of antlers with the first shot. The bullet struck him in the shoulder, as he ran toward me, and after traversing the entire length of his body, tearing the lights and paunch into atoms in its course, it passed out behind through the thickest part of the ham."
..."The killing qualities, at large game, is all that could be desired, to the wonder and admiration of the guides and sportsmen who saw its working during my visit to the Adirondack woods last fall."
..."I can say for one, that I think the Winchester Model of 1873 is the best firearm now in use for hunting and sporting; they give the best satisfaction to every one that has used them here. James Gary and C.S. Martin have killed 17 bears and 100 deer since the first of September with Model 1873.
..."For a sporting rifle, I think the Winchester Rifle is excelled by none. I have killed antelope, deer, and elk, with my gun, at from 200 to 400 yards. I would not exchange it for any other rifle."


And more recently "Doc Toombs" had posted this interesting field report on the SASS Wire:

“I took 2 deer this year with a ‘73 short rifle clone in .44 W.C.F. My hunting partner took 3 deer with a Marlin in 44 magnum. We both using hand loaded cast bullets, mine weighed 200 grains, his 240 grain. His came out of the barrel at over 1,700 f.p.s., mine came out the barrel at 1,290. All deer were shot at under 100 yards.”

The results:
- all deer dropped within 50 yards
- no bullets were recovered (complete broadside penetration)

“There was NO difference on effectiveness between the two calibers. Of course I still believe the Magnum is a superior deer cartridge. Probably the result of too many years of reading gun magazines.”

“But the reward of using a 73 in 44wcf with original velocity cartridges is immeasurable.”

John
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  #5  
Old 02-16-2003, 08:24 AM
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WOW!! These early "testimonials" on the capability of taking all kinds of game at extreme ranges are remarkable. When first offerred the 44WCF was considered a potent number, indeed. 400 yds does seem a bit extreme, though.
My vintage 1884 model '73 carbine has accounted for several deer, over the years. Only one required two shots to take down. The largest was a 5x5 200+ lb Mulie. All were taken at ranges less than 125 yds, most a lot less. Most of these animals were killed using factory SP ammo that was available at the time. This gun has not been used in over 20 years, due to my preference for the 1886. Your posts have encouraged me to dust it off and have a go at hunting it again. This time 215 gr lead FP handloads will be used. Maybe a nice young pig will fall to it soon. I can't wait!
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  #6  
Old 02-16-2003, 03:38 PM
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Kanuck,

Original .44 W.C.F. and .44-40 bullets had two grease grooves and no crimp groove. A full capacity load of black powder supported the base of the bullet and it was crimped over the front driving band.

A profile of Lyman's 42798 can be seen at
http://missoula.bigsky.net/western/cbip/b42798.html
Lyman shows the current weight at 210 grs. but that is in #2 alloy. Factory loads used pure lead bullets which weigh in at 217 grs. for the .44-40.

John
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Last edited by John Kort; 02-16-2003 at 03:41 PM.
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  #7  
Old 02-16-2003, 05:23 PM
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Mike,

Glad to hear that you have been encouraged to get your '73 out again. I don't hunt much at all anymore so have not harvested anything with my circa 1882 Winchester '73 .44 W.C.F. short rifle. Since acquring it 3 years ago I have put almost 3,000 rounds through it, though. It is a fun gun to shoot!

It certainly does appear that the good old .44 W.C.F. / .44-40 works very well in the game fields as you and others have attested. It produces life extinguishing wound channels regardless of the fact that its ballistics are less than impressive compared to other cartridges. Results are what count, not numbers on a paper!

There is a .44 W.C.F. club over at Yahoo. Some history, loading info and shooters experiences can be viewed there. Here's the link if you are interested.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/the44wcfclub/

Have fun,
John
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  #8  
Old 02-16-2003, 06:54 PM
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Thanks for the encouraging reply John. I have been loading 44-40s for a long time, mostly to use in my 1st generation Colt Frontier Six Shooters. Although these guns have had many hundreds of rounds fired through them they are still in great mechanical condition.I have three, all with 4 3/4" bbls; one is a Bisley model. Neither has had any problems in the past thirty or so years that I've had them. No parts have broken, either. They have never even seen a gunsmith. I just shoot 'em, clean 'em and put 'em away. They are Colts.
I've never loaded black powder for any of my guns, either. Moderate smokeless loads are fine with me. I guess that the "nostalgia" of shooting original BP loads has not hit me yet. It's probably the intense cleaning required that has kept me from using black.
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  #9  
Old 02-17-2003, 07:40 PM
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Mike,

Sounds like you really enjoy shooting your .44-40 revolvers.
All of my single actions (4) are chambered in .45 Colt but someday I would like to pick up a .44-40 hangun to go with my '73 Winchester.

I currently shoot the 200 gr. Magma bullet which has a crimp groove and the 42798, which is my favorite bullet. I too shoot mostly smokeless powder, so to make the 42798 bullet work, I needed to lengthen the case neck when resizing so that the base of the bullet is secured by the lower portion of the case neck.

So loaded, the 42798 gives me the finest accuracy in my rifle.

I wrote up the following and posted it at the .44 W.C.F. club on the subject.

Sincerely,
John


"Ramblings On .44-40 Case Neck Lengths"

I have found that over the years, the .44 W.C.F. / .44-40 cartridges historically have had slightly different case neck lengths depending on the bullet and powder used. Most factory neck lengths I have measured on vintage headstamped cartridges, W.R.A. Co., UMC & Peters,
have been anywhere between about .33" to .38" with the exception of the Rem-Umc 140 gr H.P. loading whose cannelure is .26" from the case mouth and the long obsolete Game Getter round ball with the cannelure positioned at just .15" from the mouth opening.

Today, case neck lengths on current factory ammunition average around .33" for cartridges having 200 gr. bullets which have a seating depth of about .30" for the lead variety and .33" for jacketed.

One exception to this is Winchester Cowboy ammunition which carries a 225 gr. bullet. It has a neck length of about .40". The bullet seating depth of the 225 gr. lead bullet is .37".

You will note in both cases that the factory necks containing lead alloy bullets are about .03" longer than the seating depth of the bullets, giving the bullet extra support in addition to the crimp.

This is not so important if a capacity load of black powder is used since it will support the bullet to keep it from potentially
telescoping back into the case under spring pressure from the magazine.

However, it is important when using most smokeless powders since there is airspace in the case.

Factory smokeless cartridges with 200 gr. jacketed bullets have a case cannelure at the case / bullet base juncture to support the bullet base. This method has been used since the advent of dense smokeless powders in the early 1900's.

Since the crimping groove depth on jacketed bullets is shallower than most lead alloy bullets, the cannelure is vital to help keep the jacketed bullet in place.

Since most of us don't have a canneluring tool, the extra
.03"+ neck length will also act as somewhat of a cannelure when using jacketed bullets.

Now to the problem. I have tried 2 different .44-40 R.C.B.S. dies, both the Cowboy and the standard versions. They will size the necks back to a .33" length, but no further. I am not sure about Hornady, Lyman, Lee, or Saeco. If you are using any of these die sets, please enlighten us on the case neck length they will produce.

The .33" length neck is fine if one is using the 200 gr. Magma or similar bullet which has a seating depth of .30". It will also work fine regardless of the bullet seating depth if you are using a case full of b.p. or one of the b.p. substitutes.

The .33" length neck does not work well when using smokeless powder and jacketed bullets with a seating depth of .33", or bullets that need to be crimped over the front driving band such as Lymans historically correct 427098 .44-40 bullet. The unsupported bullet base can give way under spring pressure while in the magazine and the bullet can end up down in the case. Been there, done that and more
than once!

The answer was to machine about .07" from the back of the sizing die, allowing the case neck to be sized back up to .40". Actually, on second thought, I decided to have .10" removed to allow for a .06" long bullet support under a bullet with a seating depth of .37" if need be. One can then adjust the die for what length neck is preferred.

Fresh Winchester factory brass for reloading, has the same longer neck length which is important if you are using jacketed bullets or bullets similar to the tried and true Lyman 427098 .44-40 bullet.

The Lee Factory Crimp collet die is another tool that can
enhance .44-40 reloaded ammunition. It pushes in on the sides of the case neck to give a superior crimp. One can actually make a crimp groove where there isn't one if enough force is applied!

Have fun shooting those .44 W.C.F / .44 -40's!
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  #10  
Old 02-19-2003, 09:06 PM
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Talking

John, my RCBS die produces necks of .31" length. I have been loading Laser-cast 200 gr RNFPs to a depth of .31". The COL is 1.60". The brass used is mostly WW and R-P, with a smattering of older Peters and UMC cases. I just received 500 44-40 Starline cases; I can't wait to try them. Starline cases have proven to be of excellent quality. I use them for the 45-70 and 45-90, and to form other obsolete cartridges such as 33WCF, 40-70WCF and 40-82 WCF. These old guns are lots of fun to shoot, and, are always "head turners" at the range. They also are more than capable of taking the biggest game on any continent.
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  #11  
Old 02-23-2003, 03:18 PM
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Mike,
Thank you for the feedback on the case neck length that your RCBS die produces. Interesting that you also have some old Peters and UMC cases.

I like the old original W.R.A. CO. .44 W.C.F. headstamped brass with the small primer pockets that are period correct with my 1882 Winchester '73. I have about 30 cases that I pulled the original components from and then annealed the case necks.

After several loadings, so far , so good. I have some of the older 7 1/2 Remington small rifle primers that are copper in color which look similar to the original copper colored primers.

I believe your UMC cases also have small primer pockets as did early Peters and Rem-Umc in addition to W.R.A. CO. Just curious, what primers do you prefer to use in your old cases?

Sounds like you have some neat old Winchester 86's(?). A friend of mine has a .40-82 Winchester 1886. The bore is not the greatest but he has managed to get good accuracy with smokeless powder.

Is the .40-70 the same case as the .40-82 but using a 330 gr. bullet as compared to a 260 gr. bullet?

In my cartridge collection I have several original .45-90 rounds. One has the special "Express" bullet which was a hollow point with a copper cup inserted with the bottom facing out to keep the soft lead bullet from being deformed in the magazine. There is an "X" on the face of the copper cup insert. Interesting looking cartridge.

John
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Last edited by John Kort; 02-24-2003 at 05:39 PM.
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  #12  
Old 02-24-2003, 07:14 PM
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Smile

Howdy, John,
Some of the older 44WCF cases do accept Remington and Winchester small rifle primers. I have not annealed any of them; that is probably what causes them to crack so easily. I have more than 500 new Starline cases that are awaiting use.
Yes, the 40-70 and 40-82 cases have the same dimensions, with only the powder charge and bullet weight differing. All you have to do to make them is run 45-90 brass through the respective sizing die and trim, if necessary. Starline has again saved the day by offering great 45-90 brass at a bargain price.
Regards, Mike
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Old 02-25-2003, 04:16 PM
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Well now! It is strange that the hand cannon boys did not jump on these posts about the great old .44-40 as being wimpy for anything except mice! As others posted, there were still Win. 92's in both .38-40 and .44-40 riding on saddles in the 50's. Many older hunters felt those two better than the .30-30.....However, understand our woods/swamp ranges are somewhat short.
But, the sticker here is....I have been suggesting for years that an excellent load for the .44 Mag. handguns was a 250/265 hard cast, big meplat bullet at 1200 fps. I have gotten quite a bit of flak over that statement, even if I have killed a great deal of deer and hogs with it. Will someone then tell me why the .44-40 recieved such good reviews and my loads don't?
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Old 02-25-2003, 07:26 PM
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Now James..... you know as well as I do, that the old calibers quit working when the animals figured out how to read cartridge headstamps (I think it was some 'extras' from one of the Disney movies that escaped and taught the rest of them to read). So we needed to add the word 'magnum' to the cartridge names for a little extra effect......

How's the experimenting going down in the swamp? Any reports with that new slug design you sent out?
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  #15  
Old 02-25-2003, 08:44 PM
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Hello Mike and All......Well, I am amused at some of the positions some people take that have absolutely not basis in fact. One that happened recently......as many know I have been involved in developing long range specialty shotshells. In talking to many people, some strange ideas come up. One.....many shooters who prefer a 20 gauge 3" magnum throwng 1 1/8 or 1 1/4 oz of shot...in turn think someone is nuts to use a 12 ga trap load or super pidgeon load.....that has the same 1 1/8 oz or 1 1/4 oz. of shot at the same velocity???????????? you tell me!
As for the "Terminator" slug....I am in touch with a mold maker now.
Best Regards, James
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