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Driftwood Johnson, SASS #38283

Is 44-40 Difficult to Load?

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Howdy

 

From time to time some of you have probably heard me say that 44-40 is not difficult to reload, it is just fussy.

 

The thin brass at the neck makes it more vulnerable to the brass crumpling under the bullet if your dies are not set just right.

 

My advice is always to make sure you have your dies set perfectly, and go slow so you can feel if a case slams into the underside of the sizing die, a sure recipe for crumpled brass.

 

I also advise to set the crimp just a hair below the upper edge of the crimp groove, so the crimp does not bump into the bullet and form a crumple below the bullet.

 

Here is an example of a neck crumpled below the bullet because the dies were not set as I described above.

 

badcrumple-1.jpg

 

 

 

 

But every once in a while in a while I screw one up pretty badly. I was loading a batch of 44-40 last week and I didn't plop the bullet down just right on the case mouth. Yeah, I should have stopped when I felt more resistance than usual, but I didn't. My bad.

 

Bad%2044-40%2002_zpspht06mtv.jpg

 

 

 

 

But I cannot take responsibility for this one. I was finishing off a bag of Starline 44-40, and this one was near the bottom of the bag. No, I am not going to complain to Starline, I have loaded bazillions of their 44-40s and this is the first one I have found that they screwed up.

 

Bad%2044-40%2001_zpsc9xosrqx.jpg

 

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DJ is spot on. I've been loading 44-40 for 18 years. If there is a problem its usually dies out of adjustment or dirty, not starting the bullet square, and I use a Lee factory crimp to avoid the crush as DJ says. Great BP round and also long range.

Ike

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No problems here either. Just remember, If you are loading .430 Diameter (44Mag.) bullets, replace the expander with an expander from a 44 Mag. die set.

You don't have to...but it helps. :D

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Posted (edited)

I load 44-40 on a Dillon and find a good lube makes it easy peasy.  :)  

Edited by levi littleton

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I too have had "mistakes" like in Driftwood's first and second picture.    I will concur that you get the first by not having things set right, and the second by not paying attention to what you are doing.

 

But if you take the time to set your dies correctly, and then take the effort to be careful as you go, you should not have any problems.   Same can be said for .32-20.

 

 

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As Driftwood, et al, have posted, the .44-40 isn't all that difficult to load. You do have to make proper preparations, primarily due to the wide variations in rifling in both your pistols and rifle between original antique guns and modern replicas.  Original .44-40 (aka .44 WCF) nominally have rifling groove diameters of .427".  But I have seen them vary from .424" to .434"!  More than likely, the smaller diameter can be accommodated by using .427" bullets IF the chamber will take a cartridge with a bullet of that diameter.  In the case of the larger, .434" diameter, you have somewhat of a problem:  Using oversized bullets of groove diameter might improve accuracy, but it is unlikely that a round with a bullet that size will chamber.  The only answer might be to use a hollow-base bullet, cast of pure lead, and possibly using black powder, to cause the bullet to "slug up" into the rifling.

 

Most modern replicas will have barrels with .429" groove diameter, so .430" bullets, cast hard or not, will serve quite nicely.  There is one caveat:  The throat diameters of revolvers.  Most will be fine, but the initial run of Ruger Old Model Vaqueros, while having .429" rifling, had .425" throats!  These can be reamed out to handle .430" bullets. (Although I left mine with the tight throats and use hard (BHN 17-22) cast commercial bullets, and have great results, using Winchester brass (with the thinnest walls).

 

The moral is slug the barrels of your guns, and measure throat diameters. You can then decide the bullet diameters and expander plug sizes to use. While this might seem like a lot of hassle, believe me, once you determine the bullet diameters, based on rifling and throat sizes, you will find .44-40 just as easy to load as any other pistol cartridge!  And you blackpowder shooters will have a LOT less blowback than .45 LC!

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Yep time & patience  with the occasional stuff up...sounds like most calibers to me !!

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I have found with loading 44/40 .

That just seating the bullet and crimping with a Lee Factory Crimp Die I dont crush brass anymore !

Works great for me , Your mileage may very 

Rooster  

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I've used Redding dies exclusively for .44-40 in a Lee single stage, and now a Lee Classic Turret press.  Never had a foul up.  I did, however, just buy a batch of .44-40 Starline brass (never fired) from a guy that had about 15% damaged case mouths right out of the container.  I don't know whether these were originally Starline rejects or what.  I got them at such a steal of a price that I really couldn't complain about the number of culls.

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4 hours ago, Rooster Ron Wayne said:

I have found with loading 44/40 .

That just seating the bullet and crimping with a Lee Factory Crimp Die I dont crush brass anymore !

Works great for me , Your mileage may very 

 

Using a separate crimp die does not help if the shell is sitting loosely enough in the shell holder that it smacks into the bottom of the sizing /decap die on the way up.

 

This of course depends on how loosely the brass sits in the shell holder or shell plate on a progressive. With my Hornady Lock & Load the brass sits loose enough that sometimes there is a tad of misalignment and the case mouth strikes the body of the die on the way up. That is why I always caution to go slowly, so I can feel the case contact the die without mashing it.

 

4 hours ago, Marshal Hangtree said:

I did, however, just buy a batch of .44-40 Starline brass (never fired) from a guy that had about 15% damaged case mouths right out of the container.  I don't know whether these were originally Starline rejects or what.  I got them at such a steal of a price that I really couldn't complain about the number of culls.

 

I have lost count of how many Starline 44-40 cases I have loaded, probably a couple of thousand at this point. That case fresh out of the bag with the crumpled mouth was the first one I have encountered mashed like that right out of the bag  Probably one out of a couple of thousand.

 

 

*************************

 

Regarding bullet diameter, I have slugged all my 44-40 rifles. Some are .429, some are .427. Interestingly enough, an original WInchester Model 1892 Saddle Ring Carbine has a groove diameter of .429, while most of my other original WInchesters and Marlins have .427 groove diameters. My Uberti Henry, which has been my Main Match Rifle for close to 10 years not has a .429 groove diameter. Anyway, so that I don't have to load two separate bullet diameters for all those rifles. I have compromised on .428 as my go to 44-40 bullet diameter. Yes, it is .001 undersized of the Henry groove diameter, but it seems to work fine. Perhaps the soft lead bullets are bumping up in the bore, perhaps not. Whatever the situation, .428 in my Henry's .429 grooves works fine.

 

I am still using the standard RCBS die set I started with close to 20 years ago. No fancy cowboy dies, they did not exist then.

 

And yes, 44-40 is the only cartridge I crimp separately. This is because of the way my standard seating/crimp die cannot squeeze any excess BP lube out of the crimp groove. The Lee Factory Crimp Die squeezes a little bit harder, driving the unwanted lube our of the crimp groove. With all other cartridges, I still stubbornly seat and crimp in one step.
 

 

 

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And use just enough mouth bell to seat the bullet without shaving lead.

Just a "little more" bell and you end up with a bulge in the brass. 

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Posted (edited)

With 44 WCF reloads, I too starting out had a few crumpled cases until I read the pamphlet in the die set that explained how to adjust the seating die WITH NO CRIMP & CRIMP.  After that, with in my case  with 427 bullets - Prefect reloads for my JM Marlin Ballard rifle, the only 44-40 firearm in the safe

Edited by John Boy

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I have more issues with 38-40 than I do with 44-40, and most of those issues went away when I got a set of RCBS Cowboy dies.

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As Mr. Johnson suggested take your time when loading is probably the best advice. I was preparing a few more rounds to take to the PA state match and was going a bit faster than I should have and now have a few rounds like the ones DJ  pictured. Yes there are others aside from last nights. But overall not to tough to load and once the dies are adjusted don't touch em!

 

Sgt Hochbauer

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How timely...….l just picked up a Uberti 1873 in 44-40 for a Wild Bunch rifle. I figured if I ever get really desperate I can shoot black powder in it as well. :lol:

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Great post Driftwood....should be a "sticky"

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14 hours ago, Cowboy Junky said:

How timely...….l just picked up a Uberti 1873 in 44-40 for a Wild Bunch rifle. I figured if I ever get really desperate I can shoot black powder in it as well. :lol:

 

Why not Black Powder Wild Bunch???

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9 hours ago, Sedalia Dave said:

 

Why not Black Powder Wild Bunch???

Baby steps...….baby steps...…...lol

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Posted (edited)

One piece of equipment worth mentioning is the Redding Competition Bullet Seating Die, which will only seat the bullet--no crimp feature-- but will do so absolutely straight into the case. This can be important in the 44-40 and 38-40 because of the thin case mouth. If a bullet is seated a little crooked, the thin case does not "straighten out"  the bullet like, say, a thicker 45 Colt case may.  You can actually see a crooked seated bullet as it  bulges the case neck on one side, imprinting the bullets shape and/or base. You are then left wondering why your completed cartridge won't chamber, especially in some revolvers. 

 These Redding dies are a little expensive and are not absolutely necessary if you take your time as mentioned. However. I shoot the 44-40 and 38-40 a lot. I have used the Redding Competition Seating Dies now for almost 20 years and like the fact that they virtually eliminate one potential source of problems for these two cartridges. 

Edited by Navy Six

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Lyman "M" Die

 

44 Mag for .428-.430 bullets

44-40 for .427 bullets

 

Bulging eliminated 

 

opplanet-lyman-neck-expanding-pistol-m-die-for-44-mag-44-special-445-super-mag-7340820.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Not comp;etly, Savy Jack. The M die still won't compensate for a bullet started into the case a little crooked, which takes us back to the issue of a thin case.

Edited by Navy Six

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57 minutes ago, Navy Six said:

Not comp;etly, Savy Jack. The M die still won't compensate for a bullet started into the case a little crooked, which takes us back to the issue of a thin case.

 

The M die, there is no excuse for a bullet to not be seated straight.....at least by hand...

To be fair, I have only had problems with "bulges" from bullets not being seated straight from trying to use .427 dies with .428-.430 bullets. Folks gotta understand that a 44-40 bullet is technically .4255-.427 while 44 spl/magnums are .428-.430. Trying to shove a .430 bullet into a case that is only expanded to accept a .4255 bullet is going to bulge due to the thin "weak" brass. Weak meaning not strong enough to withstand the extra pressure used to cram the .430 into a .427 expanded neck. 

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I may be stupid or lucky or both but I have loaded thousands of them on my Dillon 550B with a Lee factory crimp die and have not crumpled one case yet. The key is setting everything up correctly as has been stated several times.

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