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Thread: .44-40 wcf

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy Captain*Kirk's Avatar
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    .44-40 wcf

    I recently stumbled across a Navy Arms Winchester '66 in .44-40 WCF.
    Long story short, it will soon be in my possession.
    Since I have no dies, moulds, etc for this, I was considering loading up BP rounds rather than buying the off-the-shelf "cowboy" loads.
    Anybody here currently loading BPCR for this cartridge, and what are your preferences?
    Also wondering if shooting BPCR is gonna be a major cleaning nightmare in the Henry-style action?
    "Are you gonna pull those pistols, or whistle Dixie?"

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy
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    There at least 2 folks in our local CAS group who shoot .44-40 loaded with black powder cartridges. I do not know the particulars, but I do know there is a lot of noise, a lot of fire, and a lot of smoke. Obviously they are not "wimpy" loads.

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy Captain*Kirk's Avatar
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    I'm sure they wouldn't be!
    Firing an equivalent 40gr of 3F behind a 200gr Lee conical in my 2nd Dragoon is no kiddie load.
    "Are you gonna pull those pistols, or whistle Dixie?"

  4. #4
    Boolit Master


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    My daughter and I shoot 44-40 SASS shoots with BP, rifle and handguns. As long as you use regular brass, like Winchester or Starline, the brass expands and seals the chamber pretty good, keeping the mess to a minimum. Just make sure you use a bullet that holds enough softer lube or you might get carbon fouling in the barrel, ruining accuracy and making barrel clean-up more difficult.

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Ive loaded a few for a henry original in 44-40 black powder and a softer lead bullet. As stated above they do seal the chamber off pretty well I do anneal my necks to help with this. Use a lube that is recommended for Black Powder like SPG or homemade emmerts improved. I bought bullets lubed with SPG from BACO to test in my rifle.
    Figure your powder space with a bullet seated to correct overall length. you want to know where the base and a wad is at from the mouth down into the case. You want the starting charge to be no compression no air space to start. Just fill a case to the point needed and weigh it this is your starting charge. Load a test series at this with a .030 wad (I used .030 napa rubber fiber gasket material but card board, felt, cork or ldpe may work also). Seat the wads down with a dowel or punch square and flat. Seat bullets to touch the wads and very lightly crimp. With the full case bullets wont set back. Work up from here in 1 grn increments adding powder and compression to where your desired accuracy and performance are. A chronograph is handy to see where your at velocity wise and the extreme spreads. As compression goes up es drops and loads become cleaner burning to a point. Watch Over All Length close early levers relied on the lifter for a cartridge stop and to short or long binds the action up. You may want to use a die to compress powder to avoid deforming bullets compressing with it when seating. This is a thinner case and while not hard to reload each step needs to be right or crushed necks and shoulders result. Chamfer and deburr case mouths a good bell and light crimp dome separately from seating.
    My test ammo used a 210 grn flat point rem rifle primer starline brass and a .030 wad. The other bullet was a 215 grn Hollow based bullet. Olde ensforde 2 f was the Powder used, Around .080 compression. It shot well fed and functioned and fouling stayed soft.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master enfield's Avatar
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    NOE makes a nice mould with a large lube groove . A funnel with a hose, hot water and a bicycle brake cable makes a good push through cleaning rod to push most of the crud out for clean up.

    hey, watch where ya point that thing!

  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master

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    For cleaning I mount the rifle in the cradle upside down and muzzle down. Use a spray bottle with a small hose on it and give a couple squirts ballistol and water (1 part balistol 10 parts water ) into the chamber. I use an Otis cleaning cable and pull a brush thru 2-3 times then patches. Mounted upside down and muzzle down the solvent runs out the top of the receiver and out thru the barrel. Rough dry the receiver with a soft rag and pull clean dry patches thu ( 2-3) check bore for fouling and or leading. If fouling is present still another pass with ballistol mix. Leading use solvent and brush to remove. Blow out action receiver with aerosol solvent lightly and then canned air. Lightly oil action bore and out side. I save the patches I use to wipe bullet lube of bases of bullets with. A little rubbing works the lube into the patch and pull thru bore 2-3 times to coat then a clean dry patch to smooth and even the coat. You can use these patches to wipe down outside also. this gives me a better long term protection.
    At the range for cleaning between strings the Otis system and windex with vinegar works great to remove fouling.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    one time I loaded a case of .44-40. Winchester cases got 36 gr. 2f through a droptube. I used a mold 429215 lyman. it is a heavy mold copies the marlin bullet. it is gas checked with a large grease grove which I filled with spg lube. they shot very well some even dropped a deer. I even used some in my original Winchester 73.

  9. #9
    Boolit Bub
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    I mostly shoot black powder in my Cimarron 1860 Henry and 1873 Sporting Rifle, both in .44-40. The load I use the most is:

    --2.2cc or 35 grains of 3Fg black powder. Either Swiss or Goex. Swiss burns cleaner and is more powerful but Goex is fine for plinking.
    --219 grain bullet cast from 1:20 tin:lead alloy from an Accurate Molds 43-215C mold. I lube it with a mix of 50/50 beeswax/mutton tallow.
    --Federal or CCI large pistol primer.
    --Starline brass.

    These loads chronographed at a bit more than 1300 FPS from my 24" barreled 1873 Sporting Rifle, and group into about 2" at 50 yards from the bench. That's as good as I can shoot with open sights.

    The Accurate 43-215C was designed by John Kort to carry enough lube so that you don't get a nasty ring of fouling near the muzzle in 24" barrels when using Goex. I've been able to shoot 100 rounds in a session with no fouling problems.

    Another fun load but one that's more involved to put together is to reduce the powder charge to 28 grains of BP and add 0.5cc cornmeal filler so that there is no air space. You always want 100% loading density with black powder, and preferably a slightly compressed load. This duplicates the original .44 Henry rimfire ballistics. Brass is noticeably less fouled with this reduced load.

    I've also used 2Fg Goex since I did a bulk purchase a few years ago and it works fine.

    Cleanup is very easy with a water based solvent. E.g., Windex, windshield wiper fluid, or moose milk made from about 1/3 to 1/4 Ballistol to water. I'm able to get the bore clean faster with this than when shooting smokeless loads of Unique with commercial cast bullets.

    One nice thing about the .44-40 is that the thin brass when combined with full loads like the above, seals the chamber extremely well. So well, that in my rifles no fouling gets back into the action behind the carrier block.

    Also, make sure that you wash your brass within a day of shooting, or it will corrode. I use warm water with a drop or two of dish soap. Soak it for awhile, then rinse and dry. I tumble the brass for at least a half hour before loading it.

  10. #10
    Boolit Man heelerau's Avatar
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    I use a compressed load of 40 grains of fffg behind a cast bullet from a period cast iron mould, shoots fine and clean. You do need to use a black powder lube though, not lubes for smokeless ammunition. I am currently shooting pure lead but will go to a 1 in 16 tin/lead as per original.
    Keep yor hoss well shod an' yo powda dry !

  11. #11
    Boolit Bub
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    Quote Originally Posted by heelerau View Post
    I use a compressed load of 40 grains of fffg behind a cast bullet from a period cast iron mould, shoots fine and clean. You do need to use a black powder lube though, not lubes for smokeless ammunition. I am currently shooting pure lead but will go to a 1 in 16 tin/lead as per original.
    FWIW, per my facsimile of an original 19th Century Winchester catalog, the bullets they used in .44 WCF were pure lead. They used other alloys for different cartridges.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Captain*Kirk View Post
    I recently stumbled across a Navy Arms Winchester '66 in .44-40 WCF.
    Long story short, it will soon be in my possession.
    Since I have no dies, moulds, etc for this, I was considering loading up BP rounds rather than buying the off-the-shelf "cowboy" loads.
    Anybody here currently loading BPCR for this cartridge, and what are your preferences?
    Also wondering if shooting BPCR is gonna be a major cleaning nightmare in the Henry-style action?
    Somebody has to give you the baling wire version
    I decap and reprime
    Then I line em up along the front of my loading bench about 30 at the time and I eyeball fill em with my muzzle loader powder horn - its got a little shoulder on the spout that bottoms on the case mouth - works great - gives about 36grains - no spillage and quick - just plunk a lubed boolit in - seat and crimp - good to go ---this gets me about 30 to 35 fps variation over the chronygraph - not good enough for a long range load but within th 44/40 effective game range with open sights - who can pick it?

  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indian joe View Post
    Somebody has to give you the baling wire version
    I decap and reprime
    Then I line em up along the front of my loading bench about 30 at the time and I eyeball fill em with my muzzle loader powder horn - its got a little shoulder on the spout that bottoms on the case mouth - works great - gives about 36grains - no spillage and quick - just plunk a lubed boolit in - seat and crimp - good to go ---this gets me about 30 to 35 fps variation over the chronygraph - not good enough for a long range load but within th 44/40 effective game range with open sights - who can pick it?
    Indian Joe, sure I like your style! At our hunting camp I decap and prime with Lyman tong tool, use a fired .30-'06 case to iron out any mouth dents, mouth resize only, charge with BP powder flask, insert Accurate 43-200QL bullet to base band, wipe Crisco around bullet with fingers and seat bullet to stop ring by pushing nose against table top. Crimping is easy by lying cartridge in V between the boards of table top, then using screwdriver bit and tiny hammer to stake crimp case mouth into crimp groove on boolet. Makes a better crimp than the 310 tool.
    The ENEMY is listening.
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  14. #14
    Boolit Buddy
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    Hundreds of people in the N-SSA shoot .44-40 black powder loads in brass frame and iron frame Henry repros. Since they're all made by Uberti, they're essentially the same as your 1866. Very accurate loads run around 25-30 grains 3F, CTG, or Swiss, standard primer, and a 240-250 grain bullet. I designed a target bullet that Tom at Accurate Molds cuts that shoots very well. Deep lube groove, increased weight and bearing surface for accuracy, same nose profile as the original 205 gr factory bullet for reliable functioning through magazine. Load to 1.605" overall length, with a decent crimp if yoiu plan to load through the magazine. You can load longer, and use Keith-type bullets if you're willing to single load. Here's the bullet I designed for .44-40 BP loading. http://accuratemolds.com/bullet_deta...=43-245C-D.png

    Visit N-SSA.org, bulletin board if you'd like to interact with more folks who have shot hundreds of rounds in .44-40 with black powder as the only propellant.
    John Wells in PA

    Peabody's and Peabody-Martini's wanted
    Also shoot a 10-PDR Parrott Rifle in competition

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by John in PA View Post
    Hundreds of people in the N-SSA shoot .44-40 black powder loads in brass frame and iron frame Henry repros. Since they're all made by Uberti, they're essentially the same as your 1866. Very accurate loads run around 25-30 grains 3F, CTG, or Swiss, standard primer, and a 240-250 grain bullet. I designed a target bullet that Tom at Accurate Molds cuts that shoots very well. Deep lube groove, increased weight and bearing surface for accuracy, same nose profile as the original 205 gr factory bullet for reliable functioning through magazine. Load to 1.605" overall length, with a decent crimp if yoiu plan to load through the magazine. You can load longer, and use Keith-type bullets if you're willing to single load. Here's the bullet I designed for .44-40 BP loading. http://accuratemolds.com/bullet_deta...=43-245C-D.png

    Visit N-SSA.org, bulletin board if you'd like to interact with more folks who have shot hundreds of rounds in .44-40 with black powder as the only propellant.
    John
    your load did not work in my uberti - its a very early model with slow twist barrel - heavy boolits and light blackpowder charge in my rifle result in groups about three feet across at 200yards with about 50% of the holes full profile sideways through the paper - come back to 200 grain like the originals were designed for and a full charge of powder and the "problem" goes away.
    Its an accurate rifle but that slow twist barrel will not shoot a heavy boolit at low velocity - had the same problem with an original 38/40 model 73, unless we used a full charge it would tumble the boolit somewhere past 50 yards. This is not rocket science - if they increased the twist rate in later models its not gonna be a factor at all.

  16. #16
    Boolit Grand Master
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    A read for you ... http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...Powder-Journey

    I use John Kort's mold from Accurate 43-215C (427 dia) with excellent BP accuracy to the Pigs at 300m in a JM Marlin Ballard - #2 Sporting Rifle
    Last edited by John Boy; 10-24-2019 at 11:02 PM.
    Regards
    John

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Boy View Post
    A read for you ... http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...Powder-Journey

    I use John Kort's mold from Accurate 43-215C (427 dia) with excellent BP accuracy to the Pigs at 300m in a JM Marlin Ballard - #2 Sporting Rifle
    Yep - been there numerous times (and again just now) its a good read
    a couple of points
    1) he was using full charges of powder
    2) 210 and 215 grain boolits NOT the 240 - 250 that sparked my comment
    3) whats the twist in that Ballard / marlin? You might think the difference between (say) 38" and 40" doesnt matter - but if its on the edge - that small difference counts - as does 50 or 100FPS velocity

    I came undone with a 225 grain and a 35 grain powder charge

    When a projectile is on the edge of unstable its a very fine line that is crossed - my first experience of this was a winchester 22/250 - we loaded and tested 70 grain speer pills for foxes - when outside temps were around 30 c - went night shooting in the winter - clear frosty nights, 0 to 5C - missed several good foxes and getting more frustrated as it went. I finally jagged one at about 70 yards - good clear standing shot - he ran about 15 and dropped??? when I picked him up the initial strike was a ricocchett off the bony patella part of his back leg then went across his belly and gutted him on the spot - so hit 15 inches from my hold. Next morning sight in on paper I couldnt cover the group with my hat at 100yards - 3 of 5 sideways - it took only three quarters of a grain of 760 powder to get it right - later Speer changed the shape of their 70 grain pill just a little and I could not get it to shoot at all in that 14" twist. Game over at that point.

    I said not rocket science ---- well I guess thats exactly what it is eh!
    cheers

  18. #18
    Boolit Grand Master

    Wayne Smith's Avatar
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    1) Almost certainly your rifle was made with a .429 barrel just as the 44Mag. In fact, most makers use the same barrel for both. This means you have to size as if you are shooting a 44Mag. - .430 or .431

    2) I made a compression die with a spare seat die and filled the bullet nose cavity in the seat plug with JB Weld. Fits perfectly in the case and is fully adjustable.

    3) With my Starline cases 38gr Goex FFFG compressed is a maximum load. Any more and you might expand the case when you compress the powder.

    4) I started doing this years ago and the MAV Big Lube bullet mold was the only one, at that time, that carried an adequate amount of lube. I got one and still use it - 200gr. I make a modified Emmert's lube and use this for all my pistol loading, it is adequate and a good BP lube.
    Wayne the Shrink

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  19. #19
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by indian joe View Post
    John
    your load did not work in my uberti - its a very early model with slow twist barrel - heavy boolits and light blackpowder charge in my rifle result in groups about three feet across at 200yards with about 50% of the holes full profile sideways through the paper - come back to 200 grain like the originals were designed for and a full charge of powder and the "problem" goes away.
    Its an accurate rifle but that slow twist barrel will not shoot a heavy boolit at low velocity - had the same problem with an original 38/40 model 73, unless we used a full charge it would tumble the boolit somewhere past 50 yards. This is not rocket science - if they increased the twist rate in later models its not gonna be a factor at all.
    Well apparently something has changed because MANY shooters in the N-SSA shooting Uberti Henry .44-40's have great success with loads in the range that I suggested. When did Uberti change the twist rate as far as you know?
    John Wells in PA

    Peabody's and Peabody-Martini's wanted
    Also shoot a 10-PDR Parrott Rifle in competition

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by John in PA View Post
    Well apparently something has changed because MANY shooters in the N-SSA shooting Uberti Henry .44-40's have great success with loads in the range that I suggested. When did Uberti change the twist rate as far as you know?
    Dont know when or if they did change twist - my 1866 is an early model (1970's) and has the lever safety latch/trigger block as you find on a 73.

    I am wondering why duplicating original (200grain) loads in these is a problem ???
    Whats the gain from heavier boolits on range targets (or game for that matter) - pressure becomes the limit for smokeless in these brass guns and case capacity the limit for black powder - give away a couple hundred FPS to gain fourty grains of lead ya gonna cicrle around and end up very close to the place ya started from surely???
    Last edited by indian joe; 11-01-2019 at 11:01 PM.

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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