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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here's some information for you .38-40 and .44-40 revolver shooters from 1930.
One of my gun-related hobbies is collecting the magazines of American Rifleman, Handloader and Rifle. I have every American Rifleman from December 1928 to last month's issue, an unbroken set.
Recently, I was looking through the August 1930 issue when I ran across the following by J. V. K. Wagar in his article, "Wilderness Sidearms."
I was under the impression that the all-too-common disparity between the diameters of chamber mouths and bore in the .44-40 was a recent discovery. Obviously, that's not so.
Wagar writes, "I have bought old revolvers, chambered for the .44-40 cartridge, with which no accuracy was possible because of barrels as large as .433 inch in the grooves, and cylinders only .424 inch in the mouths.
"With soft lead bullets and black powder, these shot fairly well, but with harder bullets and smokeless powder they would hit nothing until I reamed out the cylinder mouths. Some other old arms are as faulty in their dimensions."

Wagar also has an interesting note on some defective, old ammunition:
"A few years ago (remember, he wrote this in 1930) there was much talk of certain .38-40 and .44-40 smokeless powder cartridges with white primers (?) being unreliable in side arms. I found them so, and a close friend had, on two different occasions, bullets from the same make of .44-40 cartridges stick in his revolver barrel.
"Fortunately this fault has been remedied in cartridges made during the last few years, and the old lot are rather well used up."
Wagar writes of cartridges with a "white primer." I think he must refer to a nickel-plated primer, as is common today. Back then, many primers were copper or brass colored. I wonder if these white primers weren't actually an early attempt at non-corrosive primers.
I've read that the early non-corrosive primers didn't have much of a shelf life and tended to become unreliable in a short while.
That's why the U.S. military hung onto corrosive primers up to the mid-1950s. Military ammunition may be stored for decades before it's used. Soldiers can ill-afford unreliable ammunition while for hunters an occasional misfire is not nearly so life threatening.
But I digress. Anyway, I thought the 72-year-old information on the .38-40 and .44-40 was interesting because it was realized so long ago.
Like the song says, "Everything old is new again."

738 Posts

When your reading the old books, could you keep your eyes open for articles about the .45 colt. I collect these articles. If you do find some could I impose on you to scan them in and email them to me?

That way I could add them to my collection.

The information about the undersized throats in the old 44-40 is very interesting. It just goes to prove that no matter how things change, they stay the same.

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