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Thread: Stevens model 44 strength?

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy Cheshire Dave's Avatar
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    Stevens model 44 strength?

    I have a Stevens Model 44 that has been relined chambered to 25-20 wcf that I am waiting to receive . I have been researching loads for it and I'm wondering how high I can go pressure wise? I'm only interested in punching paper at this point but I may want to go to slow powders and heavier bullets if that's what it likes. What are your opinions of how hot I can go safely with this old gun? Again I'm not looking too hot rod it I just don't know if I can go up to normal pressures.

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  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    For the smaller calibers a 44 is fine .25-20 .32-20 .44-40 Where the problems started was in .32-40 and the .38-55 because folks were using the high speed ammo loadings rather than the black powder pressure loads. If the lever has a bit of up & down movement(flop) with the action closed this is a sign that its had some use with the high speed ammo and the lever links are worn. I'd would load an 86gr or 60gr to match the original velocity. More .25-20's were loaded with smokeless than black and rather than trying to push an 86gr bullet faster they came out with the 60gr load.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

    Chev. William's Avatar
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    The Stevens 'Model 44' also does well with .32 Long Colt and even .32 S&W Long or Special.
    From what I have Read, and from my own experience. I would not try a .32 H&R Magnum or .327 Federal Magnum class load in this action family.
    Best Regards and Enjoy your Stevens,
    Chev. William

  4. #4
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    The old 44 is an obsession of mine. Have rebuilt/rebarreled nigh on a dozen, and I own several more. My rule for the .25-20 Stevens cartridge, is 15,000 psi max for a usefully long service life. The WCF slightly less, owing to the larger case head.

    15Kpsi amounts to about 1500 fps for the canonical 86 grain bullet, and 1800 for the 60 grain bullet, out of the typical 24 inch barrel.

    What you need to avoid is J-word factory loads, which can run quite a lot faster. (The SAAMI pressure limit for the WCF is 30,000 psi.) Another good reason to avoid J-word loads is the relatively soft steel they used for the barrels.

    This does assume that the action still breeches up tight. The lever should close with a distinct "snap" as the toggle linkages goes over center, without a cartridge in the chamber. Headspace in the 44 is entirely controlled by the depth of the rim recess; the face of the breechblock must be tight against the barrel. Very few are breeching up properly as-found these days, so an upgrade of the link pins is almost always in order. The looser they are, the faster they get looser.

    Tightening the toggle linkage isn't hard. It requires a $25.00 chucking reamer and some 5mm steel dowel pins, which I have in stock. (Minimum package was 100; I therefor have a lifetime supply and then some.)

    It is also important that the shoulders of the breechblock fit snugly against the ledges in the frame when the action closes. Test this with strips of very thin (.0005) cellophane used as feelers. If the toggle linkage is sloppy, use paper shims between barrel and breechblock when you do this test. If the shoulders aren't bearing, the toggle linkage is taking much more of the load than it should.

    Correcting the fit of the breechblock shoulders requires setting the barrel back, so hope yours is still tight that way. Stevens got sloppy about this fit in later years when most of the rifles being made were low-pressure rimfires.
    flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy Cheshire Dave's Avatar
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    The seller said that it had been recently rebuilt before he bought it and he has only shot about a hundred cast bullet loads in it. When I asked what rebuilt meant as far as what have been done to it he didn't have any good answers. He had bought it at a gun show. It does appear to have been reblued and re case-hardened. Hopefully they put new pins in it also .Thank you for the information I will check it out the best I can once I receive it. I only plan to shoot cast and I will adhere to your pressure limits.

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  6. #6
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    If the barrel is any good at all, it will be a fine paper-puncher. Check out the twist of the liner. There is a guy in the ASSRA shooting mind-bending scores off the bench at 200 yards, using a 10 inch twist and 120 grain plain base bullets in the .25-20 WCF cartridge. More likely yours has a 15 inch twist, and will be limited to bullets of about 90 grains. (I hasten to add that he's using a stronger action; I think it's a 44 1/2 falling-block. He's also breech-seating his bullets.)
    flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo

  7. #7
    Boolit Master

    Chev. William's Avatar
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    Also note that smaller Case Heads allow somewhat higher pressure loads in the '44' family of Actions.
    A .25ACP has a Head only slightly larger than a .22LR or .22WRF and I have found that Factory .25ACP will give MV about the same as an old .25 Stevens (Long) RF from a 20" to 22" Stevens Barrel; yet the Factory current pressure limits are about 25,000psi Pmax MAP.
    Chev. William

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    The 44 that was in the higher pressure range has a hammer block to help hold the breach block closed. These where made in 28-30, 32-40 and 38-55 but were not designed for "hunting loads". The only ones I have seen in 32-40 and 38-55 were loose from running to much pressure. I have one in 44-40 that is still tight.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    John, have you actually seen a 28-30-120 with the lug? I've scanned my database, and have found only lug-less examples. Not that there are many, since the .28-30 was only offered for a couple of years on the 44 chassis.
    flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy
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    I have a mod 44 in 22 lr that has a sewer pipe barrel. Would 38 special be ok to chamber in a mod 44?

  11. #11
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    Yes, but steer clear of +P loads.
    flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo

  12. #12
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by uscra112 View Post
    John, have you actually seen a 28-30-120 with the lug? I've scanned my database, and have found only lug-less examples. Not that there are many, since the .28-30 was only offered for a couple of years on the 44 chassis.
    Have not seen one, going on what a so called collector told me. Have seen the 32-40 and 38-55 with the lug. I have the chamber reamer for the 28-30, only been used a couple times.
    Like all information out there, some is wrong.

  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy Cheshire Dave's Avatar
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    I received my Stevens 44. It's nice and tight and the barrel looks brand new. I think I'm going to get a 65 grain plane base that way I really can't load it too hot. Arsenal molds has the .257283 in both 85 grain and 65 grain versions. Wish I could get both weights in one mold. The gun has a 1 in 14 twist and seems to slug out at .256. I think I will Slug it again when I get a better piece of lead to use. All I had was a little fishing weight.

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  14. #14
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    According to legend, when Rabbeth developed the original .25-20, (the Stevens version), he preferred the lighter bullet, since what he wanted was a squirrel cartridge. But the ammo companies issued it with the 86 grain bullet on the theory that it would be better for target shooting, which in those days was done at 200 yards. You pays yer money and you takes yer choice.

    Maybe worth telling you that I once fired a double charge of AA#9 behind an 86 grain bullet,in a .25-20 that I'd just rebarreled. Quickload said 80,000 psi, which agreed with the Chrony. The primer fell out, and I had to drive the case out with a cleaning rod, but for that one time it didn't damage the rifle at all. Hot .25-20 loads won't blow the rifle up, they'll just shorten service life. (The correct load of #9 was set to yield about 1450 fps.)

    That experience does point up the major risk in loading the .25-20 with smokeless and plain base bullets. Almost every good powder for the application is less than 50% load density, so double charges are all too possible. I failed in that I let an onlooker distract me while I was loading at the range. Take better precautions than I did that day. I had a "check stick" on the bench, but I didn't use it.
    Last edited by uscra112; 05-04-2019 at 09:49 PM.
    flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Contact Jared at Arsenal. If you want a 4 cavity mold that is 2 & 2 he will do that kind of work. For the .32-20 he offers a 4 cavity mold that 2 cavities are gas check and 2 are flat base as a standard item. So for what you want its possible. Iv'e got 4 of his molds and they are top notch.

  16. #16
    Boolit Buddy Cheshire Dave's Avatar
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    Thank you Hawkeye I will give him a call. I tried to email him and never got a return. I'm pretty sure they would use the same Cherry just at different depth to get the two bullet weights so it should be even easier then having a gas check and plain base.
    Thanks for the great info uscra112. I wish you lived next door so I could show it to you and get your opinion on the gun

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  17. #17
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    Post a few photos when you get a chance.
    flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Yes I think when he's got a heavy work load the emails kinda stack up. From the look of things on his website I think he's got about a week long backlog now.

  19. #19
    Boolit Buddy Cheshire Dave's Avatar
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    Here is a pic I took the day I got it.

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  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy Cheshire Dave's Avatar
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    The gun came with dies and about 40 cases. I spent a few minutes today forming some old 32-20 cases and it worked out great. That was a relief because I've got 200 Starline 32-20 cases on the way.

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    Last edited by Cheshire Dave; 07-18-2019 at 09:49 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