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Thread: Black powder 44.40

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Black powder 44.40

    I recently obtained a Winchester Model 1892 in 44.40 cal. According to the serial number it was made in 1896 and would be a black powder rifle. Also obtained with the rifle were a number of cartridges loaded with black powder, which, naturally I had to try out. They functioned very well and were quite accurate. I took one apart and found it to be loaded with 44 gr. by weight of black powder and a soft lead bullet of 200 gr. I have a 44.40 bullet mold and a set of dies. On talking with some black powder shooters I have been advised that I must use bees wax cookies and cardboard wads on top of the powder. The cartridge I took apart didn't have any of these so I have come to font of knowledge for advice. Such as, what is good for lube,and can smokeless powders be used in a rifle of this vintage? All published data I have seen show low feet per second. The rifle is in very good condition, which, after lots of cleaning shows good rifling with no pitting.
    Any info would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    Bent Ramrod's Avatar
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    Bob,

    Your .44-40 should do fine with SPG lube in the grooves without a cookie or an overpowder wad. However, every gun is a law unto itself and yours might like such a thing, but typically grease cookies are indicated when the powder charge is twice yours, or the bore is of smaller diameter. I can only get about 35-39 grains of Goex 3F into my shells, the larger amount only with semiballoon head shells. I use the standard 42798 solid or 42499 HP bullets. I find that blowing through the barrel seems to help accuracy.

    Your 92 ought to be able to handle smokeless powder loads, if it's in good condition. I have used 11.5 grains of Blue Dot behind the above boolits, but my standard compromise powder charge for use in both pistol and rifle is 11 grains of SR-4756 (not 4759) behind the two boolits.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Bent--

    That load using 11.0 x SR-4756 is intriguing. Was it sourced from Dupont or IMR?

    In revolvers......the 32-20 using a boolit about half the weight of the 44-40 uses 5.5-6.0 grains of this same fuel to do decent work. These get about 925 FPS with the 115 grain #311316 from a S&W M&P x 5", and not quite 1200 FPS from a Marlin levergun. That looks like 1873-level ballistics to this here social science major.

    Some redneck extrapolation makes it seem like the 11.0 grain charge would be safe in my old '73 in 44-40. Several hundred rounds using 14.0 grains of 2400 or 24.0 grains of RL-7 haven't bent anything.

    My sole venture with The Holy Black was not encouraging. The boolits used had light lube capacity, and the bore fouled out after 5-6 rounds. My current mold for this rifle (SAECO #446, IIRC) has a lot more capacity. Maybe another test drive is in order.
    "As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts' desire at last and the White House will be adorned with a downright moron."--H.L. Mencken

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    Al,

    I don't know whether the 11 gr of 4756 load for the .44-40 is in any manual. I reverse extrapolated it from .44 Magnum loadings in (I think) Propellant Profiles because I had come across an 8-oz container of 4756 for cheep and I have an Italian copy of an 1890 Remington revolver that is incredibly persnickety about what it will shoot. One day I started experimenting and out came this load. It isn't the most accurate in my rifles, but it's not bad and it's nice to have a dual-use load.

    SR-4756 burns a lot cleaner than Unique, and seems to bulk up better in the case than Unique does. Velocity in my rifle is about 1300 ft/sec. I've gone up to 12 grains without trouble in the pistol, but accuracy falls off. My rifles are a Winchester Low Wall and a Remington 14-1/2; although I often look longingly at a Henry or 73 copy I haven't bit yet. There doesn't seem to be any evidence of high pressures; flattened primers, bound cylinder or hard extraction in either pistol or rifle. I've gone down to 9 grains of 4756; it's pretty low velocity but still accurate in the pistol, anyway.

    Another .44-40 rifle load I like in the rifles is 11.5 grains of Blue Dot behind either 42798, 42499, or 429435 (a 42798 made slightly heavier with a gas check shank). These go about 1350 ft/sec out of my rifles. I have gone up to 16 grains of this powder with the 200-grain Remington or Winchester jacketed 44-40 bullets for velocities of 1700 ft/sec, but I'd be leery of this load level in a Winchester 73.

    I always start way low and work up. There is no waste in time and materials by this development, just more opportunity to shoot. I don't believe that these old rounds are frustrated Magnums just because they have extra volume in the shell, so I don't stoke them up to the max. I don't use progressive loading machines and I look at the powder level in every case before I cap it with a bullet.

    I realize there is a school of thought that says you shouldn't use smokeless loads in black powder guns at all, but I have done so for all my years of shooting and will continue to do so. No doubt the margin of error is more critical and more care is needed in loading for these old relics than with more modern smokeless designs, but we should be doing all that stuff anyway, regardless of the rifle or pistol involved. The factories managed to produce millions of rounds of low-pressure smokeless loadings for .44-40, .45-70 and other blackpowder guns and there were neither dire forebodings from catastrophists throughout most of this period nor was there an epidemic of such catastrophes among the shooting community from shooting this ammunition. As long as the gun is in good condition, care is taken and the shooter knows his business, firing such ammunition should be at least as safe as the drive through traffic to the rifle range. This of course is merely my own loading philosophy; I leave it to others to develop theirs.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    One great post, Bent! Your philosophy and mindset parallel my own very closely.

    For some bizarre reason, I just enjoy the daylights out of the smaller hyphenated Winchester calibers. The only one of them not in residence is the 38-40, and a repro '73 keeps whispering in my ear.

    Or is that "The Little Voices"--again? They can be an unruly lot.
    "As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts' desire at last and the White House will be adorned with a downright moron."--H.L. Mencken

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Thank you one and all for the information.

    Bob in Revelstoke

  7. #7
    Boolit Master w30wcf's Avatar
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    Bob,

    I have loaded and fired several hundred b.p. cartridges in my original '73 .44-40.
    When using a bullet with enough lube capacity, there is no need for bees wax cookies nor wads on top of the powder.

    The Lyman 427098 (2 lube grooves) is a copy of the original .44-40 bullet and, in my experience, gives very good results with b.p. As mentioned, SPG is a good b.p. lube as is a 50/50 mix of beeswax/ olive oil. Lars and Bullshop (see links at the bottom of the page) offer b.p. lube which, I am sure, will also work well although I have no experience with either.

    I would suggest FFG powder, enough to be compressed at least 1/8". Original factory b.p. cartridges that I have dissected have had as high as 1/4" of compression.

    If you make your bullets from w.w., the bullet will be tough enough to compress the powder without distorting the bullet. If you use tin/lead or pure lead, it would be best to compress the powder in a separate operation. The lyman "M" die (neck expander) works well for this.

    Regarding smokeless, with a 200 gr. cast bullet a capacity load of RL7 will duplicate the early .44-40 ballistics (1,300 f.p.s.) as will 17/4227; 15/2400; 12/Blue Dot.

    With the 427098 which is slightly heavier and seats deeper in the case, a capacity load of RL7 works well. as does 15.5 grs. of H4227E and 14/2400.

    Have fun.

    w30wcf
    Last edited by w30wcf; 08-07-2007 at 10:05 AM.
    aka w44wcf
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  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    Al,

    Thanks for the kind words. The .38-40 is the only one of the 73/92 series I don't have either, myself. So far I've been able to convince myself it isn't sufficiently different from the .44-40 to bother about. Still, who knows; one of these days...

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I've got a 44-40 rifle (24" barrel) and my son has a 44-40 carbine (20" barrel). We use Lyman 427098, SPG lube, and black powder with both. There is enough lube in the bullet for the 20" barrel, but often not in the 24" barrel. The hard fouling builds up near the muzzle and ruins accuracy. This is most often when there is low-humidity. So, I load all of them with a lube wad 9or cookie). I would give it a try without a lube cookie. If it doesn't work, add one.

    PS. Pretty much the same thing with a 38-40 rifle (24" barrel), too.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    I have been shooting a RCBS #082036 44-200-FN in my original '73 built in 1886 over 7.0 grains of Unique with good results. It is a very light load and shows no signs of pressure. Pretty good case fill also. The bullet only has one grease groove, so it probably would not be ideal for BP. It does shoot better with a 20:1 alloy than wheelweights.
    So many toys........so little time.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    W30WCF--

    You've taken 2400 to 15.0 grains with the #427098 in a '73? Just being cautious here. The RL-7 did very well, BTW.
    "As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts' desire at last and the White House will be adorned with a downright moron."--H.L. Mencken

  12. #12
    Boolit Master 45r's Avatar
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    you might want to try trail boss for smokeless loads.It has shot the best low pressure groups in my 357 CB.I use win mag primers for best groups and because the pressure is so low.My 357 shoots consistant one inch groups at 50 yards with very little recoil or noise with 180PB boolits.It was designed for lead boolits and I am starting to use it more for practice loads and finding it hard to beat.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master w30wcf's Avatar
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    Al,
    Thank you for the "heads up". I was thinking 200 gr. cast bullets when I typed that. I have since updated my post.

    Harry O,
    Interesting info. That parallels my experience with testing bullets of different lube capacity in my .45 Colt Marlin Ltd. (24") and I have also found that the brand of b.p. can make a big difference as well. With one bullet, using Goex, I was getting a hard ring of fouling in the last 4-5" of the barrel.

    Whereas, with both Swiss b.p. and Schuetzen b.p., the barrel had even fouling for the full length. I had to use a .45 Colt bullet that had 50% more lube capacity with Goex b.p. to get even fouling the full length of the barrel.

    I will say that, in my experience, different 427098 molds can have different lube capacities. I have two different 427098 two cavity molds and one carries more lube than the other.

    My feeling with regards to the correct b.p. in repeating rifles, using the origial b.p. bullet designs, Swiss is definitely the powder of choice with Schuetzen next. They most closely resemble the black powders in exsistence when the original b.p. bullets were designed.

    Bent Ramrod wrote:
    I realize there is a school of thought that says you shouldn't use smokeless loads in black powder guns at all, but I have done so for all my years of shooting and will continue to do so. No doubt the margin of error is more critical and more care is needed in loading for these old relics than with more modern smokeless designs, but we should be doing all that stuff anyway, regardless of the rifle or pistol involved. The factories managed to produce millions of rounds of low-pressure smokeless loadings for .44-40, .45-70 and other blackpowder guns ....
    I definitely agree! I do prefer the slower smokeless powders though (RL7, 4759, 5744, 4227, 2400) since they will produce b.p. velocities at equal or less pressure, and are closer in burning rate with the powders used in the early smokeless loadings....DuPont No.1, DuPont No. 2, and Sharpshooter.

    w30wcf
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  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    w30wcf: Interesting information. I will have to give that a try. I was using GOEX when I had those results. I have been making the changeover to Swiss for a short while now, but still have a few pounds of GOEX to use up.

    I use Swiss exclusively for handguns and smaller diameter rounds any more. As everyone notes, Swiss fouls less. In small diameter rounds, that makes a big difference in how long I can shoot before accuracy goes to h3ll and I have to swab down the bore. I am still using GOEX on the larger diameter rounds, like the 44-40.

    I have also been experimenting with Trail Boss. It has given pretty good results so far. I have decided to use it exclusively for my 32-20 Colt Police-Positive Special (the lightest duty handgun ever built for the 32-20 -- and one I bent with "rifle only" loads when I was a teenager). Anyway, with what I stockpile, it takes awhile to move from one powder, bullet, or whatever to another.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry O View Post
    Anyway, with what I stockpile, it takes awhile to move from one powder, bullet, or whatever to another.
    I can relate. Definitely.
    "As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts' desire at last and the White House will be adorned with a downright moron."--H.L. Mencken

  16. #16
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    To keep fouling down just use a bullet with more lube. Lube cookies just use up powder room. I like the 200 grain MAV Big Lube(tm) bullet.
    Last edited by Springfield; 08-08-2012 at 11:14 PM.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    Springfield--

    That Big Lube casting looks a lot like the SAECO I described above.
    "As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts' desire at last and the White House will be adorned with a downright moron."--H.L. Mencken

  18. #18
    Boolit Master McLintock's Avatar
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    I use that 200 gr Big Lube bullet in my Uberti '73 with 24" barrel and have shot in 3 day cowboy shoot matches without ever cleaning the barrel or doing anything but shooting the action with a little ballistol each day before starting to shoot. Maintains accuracy with no hitches in the gitalong at all. Used a Lyman 427666 before and had to use a grease cookie to do the same thing. That's with KIK 2F, never have tried it with any of the substitutes.
    McLintock

  19. #19
    Boolit Master


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    I use the MAV bullet, fill the case almost to the brim with GOEX FFFG, compress enough to put in the bullet, load the bullet and then crimp with the Lee Factory Crimp die. One of these loads went through about three hours of vibration in my Lyman with ceramic beads and soapy water. It fired two weeks later.

    I'm getting 1400fps out of my Uberti Short Rifle, good lube star, no fouling problems to date. I'm getting 940fps out of a Uberti Cattleman 7.5" barrel with the same load. Not a shabby load, and cleanup is no problem using soapy water. With the ceramic bead media cleaning the cartridges isn't a problem either.
    Wayne the Shrink

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  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Where have you been getting your ceramic beads? I am looking for a reasonable source.
    So many toys........so little time.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check