In the 1800s, and even earlier, it was not at all uncommon for military organizations to adopt a common caliber for both handguns and long guns.
In Britain both the standard Tower flintlock pistol and the Brown Bess were .75 caliber, while the French and Americans both fielded .69 caliber long and hand guns.
While this made some sense in the age of the round ball, it didn't make as much sense once military forces started to go with conical rifle bullets, but in some militaries, the practice continued for a long time.
For a number of years the United States fielded the .50-70 rifle and a .50 caliber rolling block pistol before switching to the .45-70 and the .45 revolver.
Germany fielded 11mm Mauser rifles and handguns.
The French also fielded 11mm rifles and handguns. After the adoption smokeless powder the French adopted the 8mm Lebel rifle round and the 8mm Lebel revolver round.
Probably the longest practitioner of this was the Russian military, but they went it one better...
They adopted the 7.62 Nagant Revolver and the 7.62 Moisin-Nagant rifle. Then, in the 1920s they adopted the 7.62 Tokarev (a derivative of the 7.63 Mauser). All three were in regular service during the War.
Their one better? They increased the caliber by a factor of 10 and adopted numerous artillery pieces in 76.2mm, including the original gun on the T-37 tank, which was a derivative of the 76.2 divisional artillery piece.
As for the .44-40, Winchester introduced it in 1873, the same year that Colt and the US military introduced the Peacemaker and .45 Long Colt cartridge. It's pretty evident that Colt had been working with Frankford Arsenal for a number of years before that to develop both the revolver and the .45 revolver round, and it's likely that the decision to adopt the .45 as the caliber standard was done well before 1873 and independently of whatever Winchester was working on.
Supposedly Colt produced a number of Model 1872 Open Tops for military testing in .44 Colt (most were in .44 Henry rimfire), but the round was too heavy and there were problems with the frame.
Oh, and a lot of people don't remember that 1873 was also the year that the .45-70 was officially adopted.
"The gift which I am sending you is called a dog, and is in fact the most precious and valuable possession of mankind" -Theodorus Gaza
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Last edited by Mike Irwin; August 2, 2012 at 03:56 PM.