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Thread: I would like a 44-40, but.......

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

    Beagle333's Avatar
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    I would like a 44-40, but.......

    I want to learn to load and shoot the 44-40, just to have a new caliber to try out. The question though is..... should I get a new 1873 clone in that caliber, or would I be just as happy if I got a 44-40 cylinder from Borchardt Rifle Corp and put it in my 44 special Blackhawk?
    The price difference makes it a definitely interesting prospect, being around $450 for a dedicated gun, or $175 for the conversion cylinder. The question is, would I be getting the full 44-40 experience from a Blackhawk?
    Thanks. Chuck.
    Colt 1860, it just feels right.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    I'm thinking the projectiles intended for .44-40 might be just enough smaller (0.427", I think?) than the .44 Special's bore (0.429", I assume) to give so-so accuracy, so you might want to discuss that with Borchardt before getting another cylinder. I keep reading reading that the case mouth on .44-40 cases are fragile, so proceed with caution when resizing them.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    but wouldn't a hollow based bullet eliminate any issue of bore difference?

  4. #4
    Boolit Man
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    Does anybody still make 44/40's with a .427 bore? I have two and they are both .429. I'd opt for the replacement cylinder.

    Near as I can tell a modern 44/40 is a 44 mag with a thinner case and lower SAAMI pressure regime.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    My S&W 544 has a .4275+ bore. But the issue is what they put in the ammo, at least if you are shooting factory. If the bullets are undersized for your barrel, you'll get poor accuracy and likely leading as well.
    I have found no joy in loading the 44-40. Lubing cases and then having to clean them is too much work for a fun shooter, at least for me. I had a 44 Special cylinder fitted to my revolver and haven't shot a 44-40 in years
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master



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    Good morning
    Are you planning on just shooting smokeless or just shooting BP or both ? This will make a difference.
    Shooting just 3F (Goex) or whatever BP you choose in a revolver makes the barrel / cylinder variances commonly found a much easier issue to live with. But if the barrel is .431 and the throats are .427 do not expect fine accuracy. In 1870 - 1900 long range accuracy was why rifles were carried for those 30 yard and farther targets. Revolvers were viewed as handy close in tools.

    Shooting smokeless near demands throat / barrel variances to be correct or close in diameters for fine accuracy.
    Shooting both the powders then I would set the barrel / throat for smokeless as the BP in itself with soft cast is very adaptable.

    We have a 1903 made 44WCF Colt New Service down here. Barrel groove diameter is .430. Throats were .427. Smokeless accuracy was awful even with 40-1 Cast. But loaded with 3F (Elephant) 3 inch rocks at 25 -30 yards were not hard to hit. But with the throats reamed to .430 smokeless loads of 7 grains Unique are accurate out to 75 yards with a Saeco 443 (220 FNBP). The 3F loads are also accurate out to 75 yards. And the "clean up" is no issue. It all comes with the "experience" of real life.
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    Boolit Master

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    I would think that a cylinder made specially to fit in a .44 special BH would have a .429 throat, since Borchardt knows what gun it will be installed in, but I could be wrong. I'll surely ask that though and probably wouldn't buy it if it were just a .427 throat.
    I don't know about other makes, but the Cimarron 1873 in 44-40 that I looked at has a .429 throat according to them.
    But for the sake of the thread, let's assume everything is a .429 and if so, would you convert a BH or would you rather have a dedicated 1873 in that caliber.
    I think I would probably be shooting smokeless most of the time, but might use BP in it occasionally, depending on the mood of the day and the other guns I would be shooting that day.
    Last edited by Beagle333; 10-05-2017 at 05:24 AM.
    Colt 1860, it just feels right.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    Questions like yours are always hard to answer, because in the end you will (and should) do what you think best. I like your idea of utilizing your existing revolver for a different cartridge. I didn't get into .44-40s until about 10 years ago, and it was partially because it was a nostalgic cartridge of the Old West, and partially because I had read for years about it being a reloading challenge. The necks are thin and easily crushed when loading, but you'll rapidly improve your technique, and after smashing 5 or 6 I've rarely damaged another. If the bore on your present revolver is .429 and the new cylinder is .429, that's cool. If the bore is .429 and the cylinder is for .427 you can get it reamed. If the bore is .427 and the cylinder .429, loading .427 boolits might still be fine. I have 3 .44-40s, all originating with Uberti and sold under their own and other names, all are .429 and shoot very well. I have a Ruger Vaquero (original model) that has a .429 barrel and .427 cylinder throats and shoots poorly.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I size my .44-40 bullets to .429. use them in a Dakota saa , uberti 66 Winchester and in a real 92 and 73 Winchester.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by rintinglen View Post
    My S&W 544 has a .4275+ bore. But the issue is what they put in the ammo, at least if you are shooting factory. If the bullets are undersized for your barrel, you'll get poor accuracy and likely leading as well.
    I have found no joy in loading the 44-40. Lubing cases and then having to clean them is too much work for a fun shooter, at least for me. I had a 44 Special cylinder fitted to my revolver and haven't shot a 44-40 in years
    Basically my thoughts as well. Seems like a waste of money to get into a cartridge that is more difficult to reload and offers no upside to your .44 Spl. If I had both cylinders, I would never reload for the .44/40. But it is your money.

    BTW, I have wasted money on guns that I thought I wanted but then regretted acquiring. I am a lot more critical of my "needs" now. Also, I am a lazy person, and do not reload for fun; so any pistol cartridge must be reloaded in a progressive with carbide dies. So do not take my comments harshly. Just be honest with yourself and if you want it...go for it. There is the "cool" factor and only you know what that is worth to you.
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  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    I have 3 44 Mags,2 44 Specials and a 44-40 Vaquero and a 1894 Ltd. that I bought just because I thought it was cool.
    I don't have a problem loading the 44-40 or the 38-40 or 32-20 for that matter. You just cant fly thru them like a straight wall.
    Its kinda like asking a person why they have a 44 Special if they already have a 44 Mag.
    My Vaquero is .430 but a friend has a Yellow Boy and it like my 1894 is .429

  12. #12
    Boolit Master

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    I to have been toying with the idea of a 44-40 for a few years. I'm eyeing the Henry made Original Henry as the platform. I'm planning on mounting a MVA Malcomb scope on it also. Iyts all in what you want to do and how. The black Hawk and cylinder should wring out most of what the 44-40 is able to do. Especially with a 7 1/2" barrel. WHat would be interesting is a complete build on a Black Hawk into a buntline. 44-40 caliber and 12"-14" barrel maybe even fit a shoulder stock to it for those times when that little extra is wanted.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    The Borchardt Company ought to be able to chamber a .44-40 cylinder to match your Blackhawk bore dimensions. If you want to explore the nuances of the new caliber, that would likely be the less expensive way to go. On the other hand, an excuse for buying a new firearm is a valuable commodity in its own right, and those Uberti SAA clones are pretty nice.

    It just sort of hinges on what you want. You will likely find yourself clinging to the one cylinder and neglecting the other. You will almost certainly have to change your sight settings when you switch cylinders, which negates a lot of the pop-in-and-out convenience that such a conversion otherwise suggests.

    I have a Target Model Uberti SAA that was originally a .44-40. I bought a .44 Special cylinder from VTI and fitted it to the gun, figuring I would switch back and forth. But the bare, practical fact of the matter is that, with smokeless loadings, the .44 Special will do anything the .44-40 will do, with a lot less effort in reloading, so the .44-40 cylinder spends its time in its little cloth bag, unused, and the sight remains adjusted for the .44 Special.

    The .44-40 is a cool cartridge, and I have a Low Wall and a Remington 1890 clone so chambered. But it's only real advantages are nostalgia, black powder loading, and having a rifle in the same caliber.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    I had John Taylor rechamber my .44-40 Vaquero cylinder so that its chamber neck and throat dimensions are now compatible with its .429" groove diameter barrel. Chamber necks are .447 and cylinder throats .4305" and I shoot .430 bullets. Revolver shoots like a rifle.

    My S&W Model 544 also has .447 chamber necks and .4285 throats with .429 barrel and shoots well with the same loads I use in the Vaquero. Matt's Bullets .430" 215 grain FN work great if you don't cast your own.

    My Marlin 1894S and Rossi Puma both have .448 chamber necks and .430 groove diameter. I run my loads a bit warmer than most people, because I own only strong, modern guns in .44-40, so I use 7.2 grains of Bullseye with .430 bullets across the board, which works for me.


    For Colts and clones you need to cut that load one full grain and run 6.0-6.2 grains of Bullseye with 215 FN!
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  15. #15
    Boolit Master

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    Thanks for all of the comments, guys. It does seem like a very good question why one would want to go from 44 special to a harder-to-load 44-40, just for the nostalgia of it. It is beginning to make much more sense to stick with the 44 special and keep my shooting simpler. I only have to load for 44 special and 45 colt and it would probably only serve to make my life more complicated if I wanted to add the 44-40 in there.
    Colt 1860, it just feels right.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master historicfirearms's Avatar
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    Nothing wrong with nostalgia for a reason to load a cartridge. If you want one, get it.
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    and now there’s no chain.
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  17. #17
    Boolit Master

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    I haven't completely tossed the idea out, but I am going to mull it over for a bit. And perhaps do some more reading on it.
    Colt 1860, it just feels right.

  18. #18
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    My two arms in 44/40 WCF are 1) Winchester '73 carbine--throat a fat .429" and grooves right at .429". 2) Uberti Cattleman x 4-3/4", made 2012, throats all a few tenths over .429", grooves a few tenths under .429".

    SAECO #446 in 92/6/2 sizes @ .4294" +/- .0002". These shoot with reasonable accuracy in both arms given the limits of their OEM sighting gear and abilities of the owner. All chambers accept W-W, R-P, and Starline brass as loaded without modifications to brass or chambers, and release bullets with appropriate expansion as best I can tell from before/after measurements. Given the headaches other folks have experienced with their 44/40 arms, I regard this outcome as VERY fortuitous. ETA--The shoulder placements of RCBS sizing die--chamber of rifle--and chambers of revolver--are all different. The rifle chamber upon firing blows the shoulder forward quite a bit--the revolver chambers not quite so much, but still a visible amount.

    Now the "why" part. The refills of 44/40 WCF came rather late in my reloading career (c. 1995) after receipt of the Win '73 upon the passing of my Dad. It was my Great-Grandfather's ranch rifle, and it shows evidence of considerable past usage and had a few broken parts. I replaced these parts with as-close-to-OEM components as possible in order to get the beast into good mechanical shape. The bore and chamber needed DEEP cleaning, but once that was done the bore showed casual but good condition.

    I invested in 50 W-W factory loads to try out the carbine for its first firing in almost 65 years. This got done in the desert using a played-out tire to hold the carbine and a 50-foot length of clothesline cording to pull the trigger. It fired, and nothing flew off/blew out/blew up. 4 more "fixture firings" were similarly unremarkable. Awright.

    Next test drive occurred at the range, at 25 yards. Grouping was better than given by #00 buckshot from a 12 bore at same distance, but in a close Area Code--about 4"-5" at 25 yards. Nothing tumbled and no oblong hits on paper, though. Not an auspicious start.

    Cast bullets that fit the barrel do far better. It can manage 1.5" to 1.75" 5-shot groups at 50 yards, and seldom exceed 4" at 100 yards. A few groups hover just over 3". Not earth-shattering-good, but for its designed purpose it is adequate. My Win 92 Miroku repro in 44 Magnum can stay well inside 3" at 100 yards with very similar sighting gear, FWIW.

    Bottom lines--I hunt the rifle in the mountains my ancestors lived in and hunted, and will spend this deer season and 2018 using cast bullets in this carbine to do so while it remains legal in this outpost of North Korean consciousness raising known as Kalifornistan. Bruce B Soft Points/SAECO #446, 16.0 grains of IMR-4198, Starline cases (which are LIGHT-YEARS BETTER than the R-P or W-W hulls) and CCI 300 primers to make venison like Great Grandpa did. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

    ETA--Had the inherited '73 Winchester not been a factor, I am uncertain whether I would have ventured into 44/40 WCF country. This is sort of a follow-on to my 32/20 reloading story, because at the time I received the '73 I also received a Colt Bisley x 4-3/4" in 32/20. Its history with me is similar, and with the 32/20 I had the advantage of Ken Waters' "Pet Loads" article on the subject (32/20 in Revolvers) from Handloader magazine. The 32/20 was a good "primer" for the 44/40 addition.
    Last edited by 9.3X62AL; 10-05-2017 at 06:32 PM.
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  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Chuck,
    PM inbound.
    Thanks

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    My vote is for a new SAA clone.
    It'll do two things for you. First you get to explore a new to you caliber. Second you get to explore the new gun.

    I recently bought a Taylors Uberti Cattleman in .357 and at the time had 6 other, better, stronger 357s, one of which a stainless NMBH. The cost with tax was about 2 happy meals under 5 Benjamins.

    It sure is pretty. I really enjoy the 4 clicks, and the load one skip one load four and close the door regimen. It's a purely fun gun. I had to open up the cylinder throats, fire lap some thread choke, order a new ejector rod spring after I shot too long without re-tightening the screws, locktite the new ejector rod housing screw, locktite the frame screws. Yep that list gave purpose to about five range visits. Now I have a SAA clone that shoots great, works well, stays put together and is a real hoot to shoot.

    You could probably have a similar amount of fun and get to work a new caliber! Then you could have two good shooting guns to be proud of.
    "Time and money don't do you a bit of good until you spend them." - My Dad

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