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It's Been A Long Journey, Winchester's 44-40 Cartridges


Savvy Jack

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Although not over, my journey into the history of this great cartridge has been long and very enlightening. Staring in detail about 2007. With what I have learned, I wanted to create a short timeline of Winchester's factory offerings as far as powder used. There are so many variations and loads, I decided to just stick with the powders.

For details, I have much information and photos on google docs here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet...cnEM1lv6tCWBJsCOB8vLIDOIg/edit#gid=1905899731

For extreme details, visit the 44-40 website: https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester but for this topic, I wanted to just post about the powders Winchester used for this cartridge.

I did mix in a few UMC/REM-UMC variations for comparison.

Basically Winchester seems to stick with only a few powders for the 44-40 over the duration of it's lifespan. Obviously starting with black powder and basically using a mixture of FF and FFF I have often herd referred to as a "Sporting" black powder. But for the most part, just ole black powder loads compressed on average .17" to .21" pending cases used.

After dissecting and studying some 28 cartridges of different years, I found the following;

Dates are for reference only
1. 1873-1946 - Black Powder, no details needed, lead bullets, 1,325fps
2. 1894-1924 - Dupont No. 2, used in normal loads...JSP and Full Patch, 1,325fps
3. 1903-1941 - Sharpshooter used in High Velocity loads, JSP and FP, 1,500fps to 1,565fps (M-92 rifles only)
4. 1924-1950's - Sharpshooter used in standard JSP loads, 1,310fps
5. 1962-1964 - Flattened Ball powder, JSP, 1,310fps
6. 1964-1976 - Ball Powder, JSP, 1,310fps
7. 1976-today - Disc powder, JSP, 1.190fps (some people call it flake powder like Unique)

Powder charges varied greatly and were not consistent. Dupont No. 2 charges varied from 15gr to 17gr. Sharpshooter loads remained in the 16gr charge while the HV loads varied with years from as high as 20.3gr (early loads) to as low as 13.9gr (late loads). One 1946 load showed a light charge of a perforated disc powder like Sharpshooter but was only 11.3gr with the discs looking a tad thinner than Sharpshooter.

12gr to 12.5gr is what I found with the ball powder charges and by mid 1976, 7.5gr to 8gr of disc (flake) powder similar in looks to Unique.

The more this cartridge was transitioned from rifle use to revolver use, the performance plummeted. Even in 1937, it was urged to load this cartridge different when used in rifle vs revolver.

 

I prefer Unique for my revolvers but I have discovered that for rifle use, Mid-Range rifle powders like Reloder 7 work extremely well in the Winchester 73' giving me 1,325fps @ only 12,000psi with less than 4" 40 shot groups at 100 yards. 200 yard ten shot group yielded 7 1/2" group.

For CAS, I used Trail Boss

99440185_1664821740323666_1268335191475093504_n.jpg16.8grDupontNo2.jpg124723708_1358260084516141_3116908392104025041_n.jpg85223892_963153770803188_6054534780635054080_n.jpg

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16.5gr Sharpshooter.jpg124426720_372633397125955_1267925226809339629_n.jpg123782100_711599626451651_3475655693729518690_n.jpg

7.5gr Tanish Flake.jpg8gr Tanish flake.jpg

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71107343_1263463183834262_8256496906214047744_n.jpg

 

 

Picture 2369.jpg

 

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Great information Jack! Thanks for sharing your research and photos.

 

I have some of these early 44-40:cartridges and other dash caliber cases I have collected over a lifetime of scrounging and trading. There may a Milburn primed cartridge in the mix, but I haven’t checked in awhile.   I think there are two or three Henry cartridges in the mix along with some early government and civilian 45-70 cartridges and cases. 

 

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Great info.  I cringe when people that should know call the 44WCF as a pistol cartridge when it was clearly developed for the Winchester 1873 rifle.  

 

A friend that collector of Winchester rifles has a big collection of ammo.  Besides boxes of ammo, he has a lot of loose odd ammo.  We looked through about a gallon of 44WCF ammo and it looked like every one was some versation of brand, primer, or headstamp.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Warden Callaway said:

Great info.  I cringe when people that should know call the 44WCF as a pistol cartridge when it was clearly developed for the Winchester 1873 rifle.  

 

A friend that collector of Winchester rifles has a big collection of ammo.  Besides boxes of ammo, he has a lot of loose odd ammo.  We looked through about a gallon of 44WCF ammo and it looked like every one was some versation of brand, primer, or headstamp.

 

 

The variations are horrendous!
I have not even had time nor the funds to even start with other manufactures but I did get a few Western's in there. It is hard not too with the merge of Western/Winchester.  UMC would be my next venture but I will have to pass. I did get some UMC/Remington information added to the website but not much research.

Yeap, the 44-40 (Marlin/UMC designation :ph34r:) was introduced as a rifle "cartridge" (the 44/100 by Winchester) and always will be a rifle cartridge. Load this cartridge with pistol powders and you will only get pistol ballistics. Load it like it should be, black powder...the appropriate load...and mid-range rifle powders and you can reach out & touch someone from a distance....with loads safe for the Winchester 73'.

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15 minutes ago, Warden Callaway said:

What did you run across with the 38WCF?

 

Me?

Nothing! I have yet to do anything with the 38-40.

Interestingly enough 20gr of Sharpshooter was used for UMC's 140gr 44-40 Hi-Speed "Mushroom" load. Related to the 38 (.40 cal) as far as ballistics, Remington stated the following;

 

1923Rem.png

 

What this means to me is that the 140gr gave the 44-40 a chance to better relate to the 38-40 and even the 30-30.

 

 

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I only see this 140gr offering in 1923. Before and after I only see the 165gr

 

1923Pg130.png

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The first time I ever heard about the .44-40 was in a Hopalong Cassidy movie, where one of his compadres asked what he shot in his sixguns.  He answered, "Forty-four-forty," whereupon, his sidekick said, "Why, that's a rifle cartridge."

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7 hours ago, Savvy Jack said:

and mid-range rifle powders and you can reach out & touch someone from a distance....with loads safe for the Winchester 73'.

 

Where can one start reading about these rifle powders for 44.40?

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51 minutes ago, Cemetery said:

 

Where can one start reading about these rifle powders for 44.40?

 

Lyman's 49th pages 299 and 300
2400, IMR4227, SR4756 - To include High Velocity loads for strong action rifles, 9 listed

John Taffin, Guns Magazine November 2003
2400, IMR4227 - Also High Velocity loads listed

Hercules, 1995, Alliant 2005, Lee three die set pamphlet.
Reloder 7, 240gr lead bullet

Hornady 10th Edition, 1st print page 916
SR4756, IMR4227 - Also High Velocity loads listed

Lyman 3rd, Feb 1994
SR7625

Shooting Times, Feb 1973
2400, 4227 - High Velocity loads for the Winchester 92'

If that's not enough, try here: https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester

John Kort - https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/contributors/john-kort

Larry Gibson - https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/contributors/larry-gibson

Billy Key - https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/contributors/billy-key


Velocities - https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/velocities

 

 

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Please do not load these hot loads in the Winchester 73' type or normal frame revolvers.

Here is the 100 yard hot loads in my Buckhorn 44 Magnum frame. 44-40 cylinder walls are thicker. This is NOT a fun load and I have no desire to continue to shoot them. This was done for data collecting only!!

https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/contributors/bryan-austin/imr-4227
 

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6 minutes ago, Sedalia Dave said:

Did you look at the loads that Phillip Sharpe listed in his book?

 

Yes, from 1937. Sharp is also the one that warned against trying to get rifle performance from revolver powders.

 

Sharp once wrote in his 1937 hand-loading manual...

" The 44-40 is capable of excellent performance when loaded properly for handgun use. If, however, one endeavors to combine loading for both handgun and rifle in this caliber, he is destined to meet with only mediocre success. As in all other dual-purpose cartridges, the factory loads are only a compromise at best. Smokeless-powder loading for handguns requires a much more rapid-burning type than loading for rifle use, as the short barrel must burn all the powder if satisfactory results are to be achieved. In addition, rifle cartridges can be loaded to a pressure of about 30,000 pounds in this caliber, whereas the same load in a revolver would be more or less disastrous." Thus the reason for modern mediocre factory loads using pistol powders."

 

Did any English scholars out there notice the content that this was written? Although I am no scholar, this is written in a way that leads one to believe he is explaining that the 44-40 rifle loading has always been the lead role during that time-frame and that people were having issues with loading the revolvers, 100% reverse than is done today. Today, it is the revolver that is the lead role with pistol powders and the rifle loads that have mediocre success.

That wording meant that the rifle was king with rifle smokeless powders and the revolver needed help. Revolvers needed to use the new formulas of fast burning pistol powders to re-achieve their black powder performance. Lets change the wording of Sharpe and see how it will look with today's powder and loading standards.

 

Hypothetically...

" The 44-40 rifle is capable of excellent performance when loaded properly for rifle use. If, however, one endeavors to combine loading for both handgun and rifle in this caliber, he is destined to meet with only mediocre success. As in all other dual-purpose cartridges, the factory loads are only a compromise at best. Smokeless-powder loading for rifles requires a bit slower-burning type than faster-burning loading for revolver use, as the longer barrel allows more time for the slower burning rifle powders to burn enough powder if satisfactory lower chamber pressure results and original 1,300fps or greater velocities are to be achieved. In addition, revolver cartridges can be loaded to a pressure of only about 11,000 psi for weaker action rifles and closer to 18,000 psi. for stronger action rifles."

 

I do load my rifle powder cartridges in my revolvers but like Sharpe explained, velocity is compromised and results are notably slower than when using pistol powders. By the same token, using pistol powders in rifles creates less velocities at greater pressures than when using the appropriate rifle powders..

 

Sharpe goes on to continue and explains that a wide range of bullets are available but one must slug his barrel and measure the slug carefully.

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I have read that some of those high velocity jacket rounds, while safe to fire in a 92, but not a 73, had a tendency to scrub away the rifling if used a lot.  I think that it's best to keep that cartridge to replicating black powder type performance with your smokeless rounds.   At least in a real Winchester.  If you want to experiment with higher velocities, get a modern made replica.   

 

All of that being said, very interesting to see what they pushed the round to being able to do.   It clearly is capable of quite a lot in the proper rifles.

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1 hour ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

I have read that some of those high velocity jacket rounds, while safe to fire in a 92, but not a 73, had a tendency to scrub away the rifling if used a lot.  I think that it's best to keep that cartridge to replicating black powder type performance with your smokeless rounds.   At least in a real Winchester.  If you want to experiment with higher velocities, get a modern made replica.   

 

All of that being said, very interesting to see what they pushed the round to being able to do.   It clearly is capable of quite a lot in the proper rifles.

 

Yeap, High Velocity loads were around from 1903 to 1941......I am sure if it was bad medicine, they would not have lasted for nearly 38 years. However, no need to keep pushing old firearms when perfectly good new are available.

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Howdy Pards

 

All in all, a very informative, interesting thread about one of my favorite cartridges: take a well-deserved bow, venerable and respected 44-40 WCF.

 

Have owned and cast bullets and reloaded for a period Winchester 73 since the late 1970’s.  When one thinks he has read all there is to know about the 44 WCF , along comes a spate of new research such as this. Well done,Lad!

 

While my favorite bullet for this great oldie is the Lyman 429434, it does not have a crimping groove. It appears this mould is no longer cataloged by Lyman. It also works great in my 44 Russian, 44 Special, and 44Mag revolvers. My more recent go-to bullet for my 73 Winchester is the Lee 429-200-RF. The Lee bullet has a properly positioned crimping groove and, to boot, it is available in. 6-cavity mould.
 

There is nothing good to say about the chinese-virus pandemic and I won’t try. So many matches and events cancelled and they are gone forever and can never be recovered. In a feeble effort to make lemonade from a giant lemon, I have made use of the time to reload ammo and have cast a “chamberpot” full of bullets.
 

Thanks again for a great thread. Someday our matches will resume and in the words of a philosopher, “ ... with each passing day we are closer to that day ... “.

 

Adios and Happy Trails 

 

Fort Reno Kid 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great depth and detail.

Thanks for the post.

I have original Winchesters in .32 and .38.

Looking for a 1892 SRC in .44.

Both Brian Pierce and Mike Ventarino have written good articles about all three WCF cartridges that we shoot in CAS.

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