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44-40, Blackpowder and Vaqueros


Johnny Knight
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Quick question to the black powder shooters out there.  I'm still pretty new to SASS, so far I've been shooting duelist with regular smokeless powder 45 Colt rounds.  However, I've been intrigued by the dark side, so I thought I would try my hand at something different, and open up the option for shooting classic cowboy and/or frontier cartridge.  To that end, I'm looking to get setup to shoot black powder in 44-40 rounds.  I picked up a vaquero in 44-40 and loaded up a few rounds.  Initially, they did not want to chamber, so that sent me through a bunch of forums, including this one, that commented on the challenges of loading 44-40, and undersized throats in the early vaqueros in 44-40.  Shaving a bit off of the lee sizing die seems to have moved the shoulder back enough to allow the rounds to chamber cleanly now, so onto the next question.

 

1.  Lube- I've read a number of recipes for black powder lube, but how much lube is required?  And, is that affected by shooting coated bullets?

I have about 500 rounds of .428-.429 bullets from Bang and Clang that I was hoping to devote to this cartridge to get started.  From what I've read, most of the modern 44-40's are using barrels chambered for 44 mag, so the size should work.  I haven't slugged my barrel yet (still on the to do list), but I figured the rounds will at least let me get some time in with the gun.

I've attached a picture of the bullets I'm referring to.  I don't know if the lube groove is sufficient to provide adequate lubrication to prevent leading and/or facilitate cleanup?

 

2.  I've gotten a hold of a couple of pounds of Graf's 3F.  My understanding is to not have any void in the case, with a recommendation of slight compression on the powder when seating the bullet.  I haven't weighed out the powder yet to see about how many grains that will be.

 

3.  Putting a mic on the vaquero chamber throats, they are coming in right at .425 or so.  On a number of forums, it seems that folks have either reamed their own chambers, sent them back to Ruger (with mixed results) or sent them off to several smiths who ream them out.  It appears the topic has been kicked around as long as Ruger has made the vaquero in the caliber.  How much of a difference have the folks here noticed, if they have had the throats addressed?  Has one approach become the "go  to" for addressing the issue?  I'm looking to pair the pistol with a 44-40 Uberti 1873 , (which I understand also has a .429 barrel), but I don't want to just open everything up to turn it into just another 44 mag/spcl.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.

 

Thanks in advance!

Johnny

 

44-40 bullet.jpg

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I bought the reamer from Brownells and opened the throats in my Ruger old model Vaqueros to .430 and shoot .428/.429 coated bullets. Works great. Currently using 180gr truncated cone flat point bullets and 4.5 gr of Titegroup. Also reamed the forcing cone to 11 degrees. I get no leading.

Edited by Ranger Dan
Brownells
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Sub question— the bullet looks to be poly coated which I thought didn’t play well with BP. Will adding a different lube counteract the poly coating/BP crusty residue issue?

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In checking out various forums I've seen conflicting comments on whether epoxy coated bullets would be problematic.  So, I thought I would ask here if folks have had good luck/ bad luck/ or didn't seem to make much difference when shooting with black powder......

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It's not epoxy on coated bullets.  It's a polymer plastic.  HiTek being the most common. 

 

Real BP likes a soft lube to keep the fouling softer.   APP works really well with HiTek coated bullets.  In dry weather, shooting only a HiTek bullet and true BP will probably give you a fouled barrel after just a few number of stages.   My real BP shooting uses an old formula lube of beeswax and crisco, with a bullet at 6 or 8 Brinnell Hardness.  No leading from that.  

 

You would probably do best to start out with APP powder (substitute) until you use up your box of coated slugs.  B&C tends to use a hard casting alloy, like most bullet producers do.  Then consider if you want to move on to the real powder.

 

good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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With .44-40, I can offer the following information.

The barrels may be .44 Magnum .429" barrels, but the chambers are still gonna be .427" .44-40 chambers.  If you use .429" or .430" bullets, they may not fit in the chamber one the cartridge is completed.  And, I believe Colt's still use .427" barrels as well.  I use .428" bullets in this caliber in the following guns...

 

1.  Antique Colt

2. Colt 1878

3. Smith & Wesson New Model 3

4. Smith & Wesson Model 3 DA

5. Merwin & Hulbert

6.  3rd Gen Colt

7.  Uberti

8.  A pair of Sheriff's models chambered for .44 Special that came with .44-40 cylinders

9.  A Colt Buntline in the same configuration as the Sheriffs.

10.  Uberti Henry

11.  Uberti 66

12.  AWA Lightning.

13.  Colt Lightning.

 

A good mixture of old and new, BP and smokeless guns.  I've not had any trouble with the .428" bullet in any of them. and I know that at least half of them have the traditional .427" bore.

Nor did I have to perform any surgery to my Lee dies.  Every time I get a new batch of bullets, just in case the crimp groove is in a slightly different place, (I've seen in vary about the width of the groove depending on who made the bullets) I just reset the dies in my press according to the instructions.   

One thing that helped me out in a huge way was getting a Lee Factory Crimp Die.  When I was trying to use the seating/crimp die to do both, I was getting far too many cartridges that would not chamber.   Once I switched to just seating with the seating die, and crimping with the FCD, that problem went away.  (Did this for .32-20 as well)

And another thing, remember that the case walls of .44-40 are very thin, and leave no margin for error, unlike say, .45 Colt which can be a lot more forgiving.  Make sure you place the bullet straight up and down into the belled case.  If it's crooked, it may cause the case to bulge or rumple.   (Unlike the .45 that'll just correct as you seat.)

 

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I load 2F Goex using the Lee 2.2cc Dipper.

 

Chey Cast Bullet out of Wyoming are good folks and have BP line of bullets... Think they even have a discount going on currently.

 

I use these to http://www.whyteleatherworks.com/BigLube.html

 

Check out this link 

https://forums.sassnet.com/index.php?/topic/246827-loading-44-40-bp/

Edited by Major Art Tillery
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@Jailhouse Jim, SASS #13104said regarding real BP and APP is spot on!

@H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619in his post on reloading is even more spot on. The Lee FCD solves many chambering issues. It is the best thing since sliced bread for bottlenecked cartridges. (I have one for 44-40, 38-40 and 32-20.) I also use .427 sized bullets in my 44-40s. Work best for me.

 

Two other things to consider are a case gauge for an initial check and to use the Vaquero cylinder for a final check.

Good luck and welcome to the Dark Side.

 

La Sombra

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Its not the coating on the bullets that are a problem. If you use a good BP lube with them you won't have a problem, at least in a revolver. That should carry enough lube for even a 7" barrel. Or do like I do and dip em in Borebutter before you load on each stage. I even do this with smokiless. When I clean the revolvers I just take the cylinders out and wipe them off.

kR

PS I went to .427 for all my 44/40 because I have a couple that are difficult to chamber with larger bullets.

Edited by Kid Rich
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Mile the gap Infront of Cylinder. It should be at least 5 thousand. 

I have a set of Ruger 44 wcf. One cylinder gap was 4 thousand, the other one couldn't 

get a feeler gauge in it. 

Had them both opened up to 5 thousand no problems. 

Never shot coated Bullets with B.P. only use SPG Lube.

Know shooters that use APP with coated Bullets.

Since i cast will stick with SPG. I use it with B.P. and smokeless, great lube.

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Lots of good information, thanks as always for the suggestions! Once the Uberti rifle gets in, then I can check to confirm what I am currently loading cycles reliably.

 

ooc, anyone have a good source for 44-40 brass? 

Johnny

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I'll wade in from the standpoint of a retired Gunplumber.  Ruger Cylinder throats are marginal at best and usually abysmal.  Mostly undersize and I don't know why Ruger doesn't get it right.  Based on your measurements, your Cylinder Throats are undersize.  Ruger usually gets the bore size right.  Ruger 44s are normally 429ish.  Your cylinder throats need to be 430 or 4305.  Undersize throats can/will lead to spotty accuracy by swaging the bullet down smaller than bore size.

 

Also give your barrel throat a hard look.  It may well be too steep and short.  The norm has been to cut the throat to 11 degrees. 

 

PLUS ONE for Garrison Joe.  APP requires no lube and plays very well with coated bullets.  I'd also suggest you run APP until you run out of coated bullets.  Then if you wish to go to BP, go with dedicated "Big Lube" bullets and BP lube.

 

You DO NOT need to "Weigh Out" your powder to see how many grains that will be.  The weight will be useless trivia.  With APP and BP you only need the correct volume of what ever powder your shooting.  BP should be loaded a little beyond the bullet base, about 16th of an inch to give some compression.  APP is loaded to the base of the bullet with very slight or NO compression.  It's actually much more simple than loading that Heathen Fad Smokeless Stuff.

 

Then, and most importantly - HAVE FUN!!

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7 hours ago, Johnny Knight said:

Quick question to the black powder shooters out there.  I'm still pretty new to SASS, so far I've been shooting duelist with regular smokeless powder 45 Colt rounds.  However, I've been intrigued by the dark side, so I thought I would try my hand at something different, and open up the option for shooting classic cowboy and/or frontier cartridge.  To that end, I'm looking to get setup to shoot black powder in 44-40 rounds.  I picked up a vaquero in 44-40 and loaded up a few rounds.  Initially, they did not want to chamber, so that sent me through a bunch of forums, including this one, that commented on the challenges of loading 44-40, and undersized throats in the early vaqueros in 44-40.  Shaving a bit off of the lee sizing die seems to have moved the shoulder back enough to allow the rounds to chamber cleanly now, so onto the next question.

That's good to know. I had the same issue running .429 bullets in my omv. My first fix was to post size which seemed to work 99% of the time. My current fix (and permanent) I replaced my lee die set with redding dies. 

 

1.  Lube- I've read a number of recipes for black powder lube, but how much lube is required?  And, is that affected by shooting coated bullets?

I have about 500 rounds of .428-.429 bullets from Bang and Clang that I was hoping to devote to this cartridge to get started.  From what I've read, most of the modern 44-40's are using barrels chambered for 44 mag, so the size should work.  I haven't slugged my barrel yet (still on the to do list), but I figured the rounds will at least let me get some time in with the gun.

I've attached a picture of the bullets I'm referring to.  I don't know if the lube groove is sufficient to provide adequate lubrication to prevent leading and/or facilitate cleanup?

Standard lube groves hold enough lube for pistols IMO. biggest thing that helped me with the rifle before switching to big lube bullets was pre-treating the bore. run a swab down it with bore butter. I do that with all my bp guns though. IMO it really helps with keeping the fouling soft and makes clean up easier. 

 

2.  I've gotten a hold of a couple of pounds of Graf's 3F.  My understanding is to not have any void in the case, with a recommendation of slight compression on the powder when seating the bullet.  I haven't weighed out the powder yet to see about how many grains that will be. 

Case full of powder works but at cas ranges is kind of a waste of powder to me. I run 20 grains of 2f enough filler (I like crushed walnut personally)  to bring the level up to about 1/4" from the top of the case and seat either a 200 gr or 165 gr bullet. no air gap and enough compression to not worry. 

 

3.  Putting a mic on the vaquero chamber throats, they are coming in right at .425 or so.  On a number of forums, it seems that folks have either reamed their own chambers, sent them back to Ruger (with mixed results) or sent them off to several smiths who ream them out.  It appears the topic has been kicked around as long as Ruger has made the vaquero in the caliber.  How much of a difference have the folks here noticed, if they have had the throats addressed?  Has one approach become the "go  to" for addressing the issue?  I'm looking to pair the pistol with a 44-40 Uberti 1873 , (which I understand also has a .429 barrel), but I don't want to just open everything up to turn it into just another 44 mag/spcl.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.  My pair was already addressed by ruger when I purchased them. the throats are .428 on mine. opening the throat isnt changing the entire chamber. it's just correcting the size to what it's supposed to be for the caliber. 

just how I do things and my opinion. YMMV

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This:  slug all barrels to be used, soft lead bullets sized to smallest barrel measured, check chamber mouths, forcing cone corrected, hi-tek coating or BP lube, large lube groove, use a filler to fill case to bullet base ( no need to fill up case with BP )

One thing that helped me out in a huge way was getting a Factory Crimp Die.  When I was trying to use the seating/crimp die to do both, I was getting far too many cartridges that would not chamber.   Once I switched to just seating with the seating die, and crimping with the FCD, that problem went away.  Good luck and welcome to the DARK SIDE!

Edited by Caladisi kid
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On a side note I prefer the Redding Profile crimp die over the Lee factory crimp die for my 44-40 and 38-40. It makes a perfect crimp without overworking the case neck rim. I've used both. It is a separate step as seating and crimping never works out as good as you're still pushing/seating the bullet while it is being crimped. Use the largest bullet that will chamber. Mine will accept a .431, but like others have said the throats must be larger than the barrel groove or ultimately you will be shooting an undersize bullet. My Rugers and Ubertis are .429". I can shoot .430 in my '73 and '66. Good shootin'!

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1 hour ago, Preacherman said:

On a side note I prefer the Redding Profile crimp die over the Lee factory crimp die for my 44-40 and 38-40. It makes a perfect crimp without overworking the case neck rim. I've used both. It is a separate step as seating and crimping never works out as good as you're still pushing/seating the bullet while it is being crimped. Use the largest bullet that will chamber. Mine will accept a .431, but like others have said the throats must be larger than the barrel groove or ultimately you will be shooting an undersize bullet. My Rugers and Ubertis are .429". I can shoot .430 in my '73 and '66. Good shootin'!

Is the Lee Collet-Style Crimp die the same as the Redding Profile Crimp die ?

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2 hours ago, Preacherman said:

On a side note I prefer the Redding Profile crimp die over the Lee factory crimp die for my 44-40 and 38-40. It makes a perfect crimp without overworking the case neck rim. I've used both. It is a separate step as seating and crimping never works out as good as you're still pushing/seating the bullet while it is being crimped. Use the largest bullet that will chamber. Mine will accept a .431, but like others have said the throats must be larger than the barrel groove or ultimately you will be shooting an undersize bullet. My Rugers and Ubertis are .429". I can shoot .430 in my '73 and '66. Good shootin'!

I've had the opposite experience loading for my Lightning rifle. I use a .200 grain .430 sized bullet to fit my barrel and it has no issues chambering. However if I try to crimp with the Redding Profile Crimp die, by the time the die is adjusted to get a good crimp, the bullet often gets stuck in the die. I assume it's that I'm using what is intended to be a .44 Special bullet but I've never tried a "true" .427 .44-40 bullet to compare. On the other hand, crimping with the Lee Factory Crimp die does a marvelous job!

 

30 minutes ago, Slapshot said:

Is the Lee Collet-Style Crimp die the same as the Redding Profile Crimp die ?

Two different styles. The Redding Profile Crimp die rolls the entire circumference of the brass into the bullet, as opposed to the Lee which uses the collet style.

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I don't know? I use the Redding with a .430. and no problems. I've had problems with my 38-40s chambering my favorite Saeco bullet as it was hitting the rifling. Had to get the throats opened up and works fine. Funny, maybe the bullet design, a dirty die, crimping too hard or missing the groove and deforming the bullet. I've never encountered stuck bullets in a crimp die. Anyway, good reloading!

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On 4/19/2022 at 3:53 PM, OK Dirty Dan said:

I've had the opposite experience loading for my Lightning rifle. I use a .200 grain .430 sized bullet to fit my barrel and it has no issues chambering. However if I try to crimp with the Redding Profile Crimp die, by the time the die is adjusted to get a good crimp, the bullet often gets stuck in the die. I assume it's that I'm using what is intended to be a .44 Special bullet but I've never tried a "true" .427 .44-40 bullet to compare. On the other hand, crimping with the Lee Factory Crimp die does a marvelous job!

 

Two different styles. The Redding Profile Crimp die rolls the entire circumference of the brass into the bullet, as opposed to the Lee which uses the collet style.

The Redding 44-40 Profile Die is for 44-40 Profile bullets. Any bullet with an exposed forward driving band is not a 44-40 profile bullet and is where the mentioned issue starts. The rest of the problem is the diameter.

 

67746561_1232303353616912_6175590014420779008_n.jpg

 

Using a true 44-40 profile bullet is boss with the Redding 44-40 Profile crimp. Below you will notice two different crimps for two different crimp needs, using the Redding 44-40 Profile Crimp. The Redding crimp is far superior than any other crimp when done correctly.

 

78926364_567099084077593_2180765710353956864_n.jpg

 

 

Indecently this 43-214A bullet cast and lubed by Springfield Slim!!

1892599564_77221330_1744354482623119_8837394364029206528_n-Copy.jpg.8cf9fbbfd31cd0374ced96d82019d8aa.jpg

117434971_588794995342514_5973645738046510416_nA.jpg.e62fae0b123e259816e87b05c2a69d26.jpg

 

The last photo shows the crimp groove created by the die into soft lead.
67618028_1231029147077666_6265527011851108352_n.jpg.34a1c984f13e86cdb1a7281e8a2b0507.jpg

Edited by Savvy Jack
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The issue with the Lee die is also about diameter. The 44-40 LFCD is machined for use with at least .427 to .428 bullets. Anything larger and the collets in the die to not close and the brass is squeezed through the collets, weaking the case mouth and permanently marking the case mouth with both the little bulge as well as a ring around the diameter.

Redding Left, LFCD Right as well as what a reloaded damaged case looks like.
 

117434971_588794995342514_5973645738046510416_n.jpg

 

The damaged case from use with the LCFD reloaded and crimped with the Redding crimp. Although the bullet used has a foreword driving band and crimp groove, the diameter is small enough for the Redding crimp to work properly and does not roll the mouth into the deep groove.

66698488_1214865565360691_1700307548814442496_n.jpg

 

 

The LFCD has been cut down to show a better view of the collet in action

277612286_550582452984068_1730391519103344924_n.thumb.jpg.e7a3dd97e852b1b61530b353462c49a5.jpg

277596681_1202495273890786_7924066671451964214_n.thumb.jpg.aedf4b1bb207e268d12b960532af7e5d.jpg

Edited by Savvy Jack
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I have to agree with Savvy. I was getting inconsistent results with my regular roll crimp die, and switching to the Redding Profiel Crimp die has worked perfectly on all the bullets I have tried. And some of them have a larger area in front of the crimp than others, but it still works fine. I tried the LEE crimp die but felt it didn't have as smooth a transition from bullet to case and sometimes I could feel it catch on the edge of the chamber on some rifles. 

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The main culprit for 44-40 cartridges not chambering in tight revolver chambers is the relentless roll crimp bulge. Second would be the use of bullets with too large diameter or a combination of bullet diameter and case mouth thickness as well as a crimp bulge.

The Roll Crimp Bulge.

67946279_1232264906954090_4466792702536581120_n2.jpg

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Thanks for the detailed comments and pictures.  If I am following the above, this results in the correct size for a proper 44-40 round.  The challenge as I understand it today is that most gun manufacturers are using .429 barrels, same as 44 Mag, since they don't want to tool up a separate .427 barrel on the original sizing.  That was further complicated by Ruger cutting undersized throats in their cylinders on the 44-40.  Mine are mic'ing in at .425, so it seems that reaming them will be in order regardless of which die is used for the final crimp, unless there is an alternative I haven't heard of yet?

Johnny

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One way to determine amount of powder to use is stand bullet on base take a dowel that will fit in case or a pencil stand it next to bullet and mark where crimp groove is. Make a second mark 1/16 or 1/8 inch closer to the end depending on the amount of compression you want and fill the case till the mark is at the case mouth.

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13 hours ago, Johnny Knight said:

Thanks for the detailed comments and pictures.  If I am following the above, this results in the correct size for a proper 44-40 round.  The challenge as I understand it today is that most gun manufacturers are using .429 barrels, same as 44 Mag, since they don't want to tool up a separate .427 barrel on the original sizing.  That was further complicated by Ruger cutting undersized throats in their cylinders on the 44-40.  Mine are mic'ing in at .425, so it seems that reaming them will be in order regardless of which die is used for the final crimp, unless there is an alternative I haven't heard of yet?

Johnny

 

Although I do use the term "44 Mag barrels", I do not think it is not fair to say that manufactures are using 44 Mag barrels since some 44 Mags use different twist rates than the 44-40, however, it is fair to say they may be using the same .429" reamed blanks.

Ed Harris wrote up a good article a while back of the issues with the Ruger.
Ancient History Pt 1

Ancient History Pt 2

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