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Best dies for 44-40


Smokestack SASS#87384

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I just ordered my first rifle in 44-40 and have never reloaded for that caliber. Who makes the best set of dies for this cartridge? I don't think that there are carbide dies available for it and was wondering what type of case lube is the least hassle to use or works best? Thanks, Smokestack

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I load 38-40 and use Hornaday One Shot spray lube. Lay out 50 cases in 10 groups of 5 on a shop cloth, spray, give them a half turn with your palm rolling across them. Spray again, wait 1 minute and load as usual. Go slow till you get it right, case necks crush easy. Just sayin'

 

Big Jake

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I'm sure everyone will have their own preference. I have .44-40 dies from all the major manufacturers and the problem is that .44-40 chambers vary quite a bit, especially on old original guns. Most of the modern dies do not set the shoulder back far enough for the re-sized brass to chamber in a variety of chambers. As a consequence, many times you have to shorten the sizing die several thousands of an inch and then re-chamfer and re-polish the die. The only die I have found that properly resizes all of the Winchester bottleneck cartridges (.32-20, .38-40 and .44-40) are the Hornady New Dimension dies. Hornady One Shot is also the best and easiest lube to use. Just spray a little on, let it sit a few minutes, and then dump them in your case feeder.

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Personally, I have always used RCBS dies, regular, not the Cowboy dies, for .44-40. The .44-40 requires light lubrication of the cases, as there are no carbide sizer dies made for the bottlenecked case. I have always used RCBS lube, which comes in a small squeeze bottle. Others recommend a spray-on lube, I think made by Hornady. Some folks just leave the light coating of spray-on lube on the cases. I prefer to clean the primer pockets and then tumble the cases after sizing.

 

One recommendation with the .44-40 is to slug the barrel of your guns and also slug each chamber's throat. Unfortunately, the groove diameters and throat diameters of .44-40's vary all over the place. You can do very well with a .429-.430" groove diameter barrel and very tight throats (as tight as .425"!), IF you use .430" bullets that are hard cast (BHN 17-22+) and smokeless powder. If your barrels and throats measure in the .427-.428" range, you will probably want to use .428" bullets. For that diameter, the regular expander plug that comes with the die set will do fine. If you should elect to use .429-.430" bullets I would recommend buying either an extra .44 Magnum expander die or the plug assembly and three extra locking collars for the plug insert (NOT the die body itself). Adjust the .44-40 expander, but add a second small locking collar right on top of the first. Then remove the plug (you might need a pliars the first time). Install the .44 Magnum plug in the die body, with two of the small locking collars. Once you get the right adjustment on both plugs lock the adjustment by tightening the two collars against each other. That way you can change plugs if you need to use different size bullets.

 

I recommend Winchester brass due to its thinner walls, especially with .429-.430" bullets. The sizer die will size the brass a fair distance down the case, moreso than they come from the factory. When you insert the case in the expander die, it will probably leave a slight "wasp waist" below the base of the bullet. Of course, this will fire form out. When you resize the case again, the wasp waist will reappear. Don't worry about repeating this shortening case life. I've reloaded my Winchester brass over 20 times and seldom lose one in the process. Flare the mouth just enough to get the bullet base in. Roll crimp firmly so you can see the curvature of the case mouth, but not so much as to bulge the case away from the side of the bullet.

 

ALWAYS use large PISTOL primers, even in your rifle. Large rifle primers can be up to .006" longer than large pistol primers, and the primer pockets of the brass are correspondingly shorter than in a rifle case! Using large rifle primers in .44-40, .44 Magnum, .45 LC etc., WILL RESULT IN HIGH PRIMERS!

 

Ride easy, but stay alert! Godspeed to those still in harm's way in the defense of Freedom everywhere! God Bless America! :FlagAm:

 

Your Pard,

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On the single stage press I've been using the RCBS cowboy dies, in the SDB well I dont have a choice and use the Dillon conversion kit for the caliber and never had problems with either. You are getting good advice about the cartridge ref checking bore and chamber sizes on the guns, a dead soft 454/455 ball makes a good slug to check bore size. Over belling and too heavy a crimp will shorten the life of your brass, you need to get to a "goldilocks" point with both adjustments.

 

Regardless the brand of brass remember 44-40 has a thin neck and, at least with Starline, when that box of brand new shiny brass shows up they will look more tapered then bottlenecked. No worries, they will fire form just fine. You can also salvage cases with dented mouths as well with a little patience.

 

One of my rifles was a touch sensitive to case rim dimensions, it worked fine with WW and Starline brass but would occasionally fail to extract RP so before it got tuned up I'd load the RP in the handguns just in case. We cast the Mav D for bp shooters and to make life easy we setteled on sizing all of them at 427. What that gets us is a bullet that will chamber in everything we have come across so far, rifle/pistol/brand/old/new, with anytype of brass. Larger diameter bullets with heavier brass can cause chambering issues but the 427 bullet cast dead soft slips in and then slugs up nicely when bumped down the bore by a charge of BP.

 

And now for the confession.... My name is Iron Pony and I dont lube 44-40 cases before sizing them. Shoot em, wash em, tumble em with some car cleaner/polish and run em through the press. I also confess that I'm going to pick up another can of Hornady one shot to use with rifle cases and might see if it slicks up the process on the SDB.

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I just ordered my first rifle in 44-40 and have never reloaded for that caliber. Who makes the best set of dies for this cartridge? I don't think that there are carbide dies available for it and was wondering what type of case lube is the least hassle to use or works best? Thanks, Smokestack

 

I use Hornady One Shot, too, not as much as Big Jake... but it works fine.

 

FWIW, I'm using standard Lee dies for sizing and belling/charging (with a Lee powder measure), their (collet-style) Factory Crimp Die, and Redding's Competetion Seating Die. (I also have a Dillon powder die, but all my Dillon powder measures are previously claimed for other cartridges, so... the spare Lee measure that I already had solved that.)

 

Reason for the Redding die has to do with chamber, bore, and brass dimensions in an Uberti Schofield. Bore diameter makes me want to use .431 bullets, but they won't chamber unless a) seated in brass with the thinnest mouth, and B) seated absolutely straight in the case.

 

Winchester, Starline, Hornady, and PMC brass works OK... Remington brass is too thick at the case mouth for such "fat" bullets in the Schoefield chambers. And even with the thin brass brands, the standard Lee seating die allows bullets to seat with some run-out (i.e., cocked a little to one side or the other), and the resulting very slight case bulge on the opposite side is just enough to preclude chambering with some of the loaded cartridges, again with "fat" bullets. The Redding die has two functions, one of which is straight in-line seating... and that fixes the problem. FWIW, the Redding die also has a micrometer depth adjuster, which is nice but overkill for my situation since I'm just seating to the depth of the crimping groove.

 

The collet-style crimp (which only pertains to Lee's FCDs for bottlenecked cases) may be at play here, too, although I can't be sure about that. At least squeezing the case mouth straight inwards, similar to a taper crimp, doesn't seem to hurt.

 

-Chris

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RCBS Cowboy dies and a Lee factory crimp die.

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I Had .429 Chamber and barrel and could not get ammo loaded with .430 bullets to fit. Broke down and purchased the RCBS Cowboy dies and 44-40 soon became one a joy to load.

 

Don't need the Lee crimp die, the roll crimp with the RCBS dies works just fine.

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I agree with Larson E. Pettifogger about the need to remove some of the metal from the dies to set the shoulder at the right point for proper chambering. When I first started loading 44-40 I thought that the bullets were too big or the brass too thick because the loaded rounds wouldn't chamber in my pistols. It turned out that the shoulder wasn't set back enough and was keeping the round from chambering properly. If you're loading on a Dillon 550 like I am, you'll probably have to adjust the length of the dies regardless of what brand you get.

 

There are those who disagree, but I've had good luck with the Lee Factory Crimp die as a final stage coupled with Lyman Cowboy dies.

 

I lube my cases with a spray lube like Hornaday One Shot. I tried the method of laying out the cases on a cloth and spraying them, but found that I was getting too much lube on them. Since you don't need much lube, I came up with this method: Start by filling a cardboard box (sized about 6x12x8) with about 400-500 cases; Pour the cases into another box while spraying the lube into the stream of cases. This gets enough lube on the cases and is really quick. Takes about 4 or 5 seconds. It's so easy that I lube everything, even straight walled cases, that way!

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I only shoot bp in my Uberti .44-40 '73 Border Rifle. I cast Big Lube bullets, size them at .430 and use a standard set of Lee dies on my 650 Dillon. I use the Dillon spray lube and I just lay a bunch of cases in the lid of a copy paper box and give them a light spray, then shake them. I don't worry about whether I hit every case or get lube around the whole case, it just isn't critical.

 

You might crumple a few cases getting set up, but after that, loading the .44-40 is not nearly as difficult as some people believe.

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Howdy

 

I reload 44-40 for two antique Winchester 92s an antique Marlin 1894, as well as my Uberti '73 and Henry. Maybe I am lucky, but I have never had to remove any metal from my dies and all my ammo seats just fine. I use a plain vanilla set of RCBS dies to load 44-40. Mostly I load them with Black Powder, but every once in a while I will load up some Smokeless. For Black Powder, I do finish off with a Lee Factory Crimp die. The only reason is the huge amount of lube in the lube groove of a Big Lube bullet is difficult to compress with a standard seating/crimp die and the thin brass of 44-40. The Lee die smooshes the brass and lube down into the crimp groove. For all other calibers I do not use the Lee crimp die. When loading Smokeless for 44-40 I use an old Lachmiller seating/crimp die to seat and crimp in one step.

 

It is true that 44-40 bores can vary. All of my rifles have the old 19th Century standard .427 groove diameter. I always did fine with .427 bullets in them. When I bought my Henry it turned out to have a .429 groove diameter, so I compromised and bumped up my bullet diameter to .428. Works fine.

 

I use Hornady One Shot spray lube. I set all my cases in loading trays of 50 each before I load. I give the cases a quick spray and set them aside to dry while I set up my dies. Do not sweat it if some case lube gets inside the cases, it will not hurt anything. Because of the thinness of the brass at the mouth, I too prefer Winchester brass. I did just buy 200 cases of Starline 44-40 brass, it will be interesting to see if they are any different.

 

P.S. Be cautious when using any sort of case lube. Too much will cause dents on the brass. This is because we learned in physics 101 that you cannot compress a liquid. So if there are any droplets of lube on the brass, the bass is going to give, not the lube. It takes a little experimenting, but it is not too hard to find the right amount. As a matter of fact, with brand, spanky new Winchester 44-40 brass I don't lube it at all. My sizing die barely touches the brass, and no lube is needed. Your mileage may vary.

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I have both Lee and Hornady dies, both work great. With Lee the seat and crimp dies are seperate, the Hornady uses a seat/crimp die. Like others have said, I use Hornady One Shot case lube, makes for easy loading, Good Luck

 

Jefro :ph34r:

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The 44-40 has all kinds of horror stories about it but is quite a fun cartridge to load and shoot. I am going to say something right now that will bring a lot of naysayers but I don't use any lube on the 44-40 cases that I load on my 550b Dillon with RCBS Cowboy Dies. I am not some idiot that just started loading either. I load and shoot 100% BP all the time. When I broke down a few years ago and changed from my 45 Colts to the USFA 44-40 revolvers and a Uberti 1873 Brush popper I purchased a large amount of Starline brass. I started loading in 1969 and know all about loading for bottle neck cartridges.The 44-40 is not what I would call a true hard core BN case. When I first started loading them I was using both Hornaday One Shot and Imperial case lube on them. The Imperial is very good but slow in that it is applied by hand by rubbing the cases in between your hands with a back and forth motion. I had some cases that I had lubed the day before in a container next to some waiting to be lubed in the same type of container. Well in my old age I picked the wrong container and it was only after loading about 100 cases that I realized what had happened. I said to myself this can't be correct so I set up a small test to prove myself wrong. I took 10 new cases and 10 lubed cases and ran them through different dies so that no lube residue would be in the die. I could not detect any difference in the amount of pressure required nor did any case try to become stuck in the dies. I loaded another 200 or so rounds on the Dillon with the same results. I use the RCBS Cowboy dies and seat and crimp in different stages and not together. I did use the Lee FCD for a while but tried the Redding Profile Crimp die and it does a much better crimp than any die I have ever used. It may be purchased from Mid-South. I have since tried loading Winchester, R-P, and found the same results. I am a member of many forums but have never posted this before as I knew the wise cracks would follow fast. I am not telling anyone to load the 44-40 cases in this manner and I am only posting my results that I did on my equipment. I have loaded the 44-40 like this for about 18 months. The presses were the 550 B Dillon with the RCBS Cowboy dies and the Lee Classic turret with the same dies. The Redding Profile die provided the crimp. I have not seen a bit of difference in case life using my 35-36 grs of 2 F BP. I have yet to throw away a case with a split neck. That's my story and I am sticking to it. Before you start with all the bad replies why not try a case and see. You will not have a problem with one being stuck as you may spray a liquid from the top of die if that happened. Well pards as the man said "THAT'S MY STORY AND I'M STICKING TO IT" Take Care Fairshake

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I used to use spray lube on my bottleneck cases untill I discovered Imperial Wax. It takes such a tiny, tiny amount that every 15 or 20 cases I just touch my fore-finger and thumb in the wax. Then as I pick up each case to put them in the shell holder I roll them a little bit in my thumb and finger. Fast and works great. I dont know how many thousands and thousands of cases you could lube this way with a single can of wax, but it is a lot.

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I use a four die set from Lee.

 

I don't pre lube the cases, since I roll black, I tend to get the boolit lube on my rubber gloves I wear during reloading sessions, and that finds its way onto the brass, and works for me.

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I don't have anything useful to add, but wanted to say thanks to everyone for the information. I just bought a pistol in 44-40 and plan on picking up a rifle in the same, so this is very helpful. Bookmarked!

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I agree with Fairshake. I use a Dillon square deal with the RCBS dies. The only lube is on virgin brass that have not been sized or fire formed yet. After that I just run them through.

 

I also agree with the person who sizes, de-primes and cleans the primer pocket. This gives me an opportunity to check overall case length and trim if necessary. My son and I shoot 44-40 through his 73, my Henry and all four of our main match pistols. Its a great cartridge.

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Thank you all for the responses. Lots of good information and now i have a pretty good idea of where to start. i just ordered a set of RCBS cowboy dies and a redding profile crimp die. i will probably try the imperial sizing wax as that is what I use now for rifle cartridges. Thanks Smokestack

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I use an old set of RCBS dies that I found at a gun show with the lee factory crimp die. I use nickel plated starline brass and before I load I run them overnight in the tumbler with some turtle wax. When it comes time to load I don't use lube at all, no problems!

 

The reason I use nickel cases is so I don't mix them up with my 45LC loads for my pistols. It will probably work with brass too.

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Howdy Pard,

 

Guess you'd have to pay for all this advice from all these pards that have learned their lessons, sometimes the hard way..but here it's here just for the asking....

 

I really like RCBS products, Cowboy dies. I use'em in 44WCF, 38WCF, 44 Russsian, 44 Colt, 38-55. I think they work well with Pb bullets we use..

 

Your mileage may Vary..

 

Regards,

 

Texas Red

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Who makes the best set of dies for this cartridge? I don't think that there are carbide dies available for it and was wondering what type of case lube is the least hassle to use or works best?
Smokestake, aren't you glad you asked the question and received a box of chocolates replies?

 

I have a gun krank/collector friend that shoots 44-40's exclusively for CAS. He uses Lee Precision dies. He also does not clean his Winchester brass. He keeps a log of the number of times the cases have been reloaded and the number of splits. Last we chatted, he was at 23 reloads and few splits for the latest batch. Again, he uses Lee Precision dies and resizes at every reloading session. The choice is yours though!

 

OK, as for the Best Case Lube. It's a can of Bag Balm, 99% lanolin.

A light finger rub is all you need and the cases do not bind in the resizing one iota! I've been through the drill of many store bought and home mades. Bag Balm wins, hands down.

 

I resize many cases for different calibers also.

I've tried the spray on stuff and the cases bound up in the resizing die, such as when I resized 348's to 45-75's or 30-30's to 8.15x46R's for example. Never a bound case using Bag Balm. In addition, it's a great for chapped skin! Cows love it too - rubbed on their udders!

 

http://www.bagbalm.com/ ... in your friendly drug stores

PS: Spend your 8 - 9 bucks for a few ounces of the spray stuff. They use lanolin-perfume and anhydrous alcohol and it goes quickly. Plus you have to buy a pad that wears out in no time.

 

A can of Bag Balm lasts for years for 9 bucks. I'm half way through a can after over 3 years and ... no pad!

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*I don't use any lube on the 44-40 cases...

*I load on my 550b Dillon with RCBS Cowboy Dies...

* I did use the Lee FCD for a while but tried the Redding Profile Crimp die and it does a much better crimp than any die I have ever used.

Yep, exactly the same for me, and no, Fairshake didn't show me his setup. Except I'm using a Lyman turret press, as my 550 is setup for 45 Colt and 45 auto.

 

Good luck, GJ

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I use a common old set of RCBS dies, but since they are in a Dillon 550 press I use a Dillon case mouth expander for .44 spec/mag (.426 diameter) which works better with .429 bullets than the stock Dillon .44-40 expander at .424 diameter. Originally it did not seat bullets very straight, meaning chambering problems, then I noticed the caliber info line on the RCBS box label ended with "RN". As in round nose. The round nose bullet plug did not like to seat flat nose bullets straight unless they were perfectly straight when placed on the case mouth by hand. Replaced it with a seating plug for flat nose. Do not know why anyone would want a round nose bullet seat for .44-40.....

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Hornady dies and no lube, figured that one out years ago. When I used the little LEE LoadMasters I always lubed everything, even the carbide die stuff got lubed and it made things run smoother. I stopped lubing soon after going to the LNL AP and have not looked back.

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I use Redding dies for 44 WCF because they were a gift from a friend. If I were going to buy a set new I would probably go with the LEE dies. I would also buy the LEE factory crimp die. I have been using LEE 38 WCF dies for over 20 years with no complaints. I did finally wear out my 38 WCF factory crimp die though and need to buy a new one.

 

All the die makers do a good enough job for CAS shooting. I addition to Redding and LEE, I have Dillon & RCBS dies as well.

 

Enjoy your new shooter!

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