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Old December 16, 2002, 04:27 PM   #1
Skunkabilly
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.45 Colt vs .44-40 vs .357 Magnum

I don't know anything about the first two, and only used a .357 Magnum once or twice.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
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Old December 16, 2002, 04:33 PM   #2
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.45 Colt: The original manstopper. Pushing a nominal 250 grain lead bullet at around 900 fps, it was the standard that the 45 ACP was developed to.

The .45 Colt can, in modern revolvers, be loaded to easily surpass .44 Magnum ballistics. However, most figures that you will find are moderate at best. This is because there are a lot of older revolvers out there that will not tolerate such loads. For the hot loadings, only the Ruger Blackhawk/Super Blackhawk/Vaquero and the Colt Anaconda will do it safely.

.44-40: A .44 caliber bullet originally loaded with 40 grains of black powder. Now the ballistic equivalent of the .44 Special.
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Old December 16, 2002, 05:08 PM   #3
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Hmm, an interesting set of cartridges, all of which I love. In standard factory loadings, the .357 Magnum is probably the most versatile (lots of bullet weights and choices, different velocity loads, and the ability to fire the .38 Special); however, the others really can shine when handloaded. The .45 Colt can be handloaded to .44 Special velocities or to surpass the .44 Magnum and was the basis for the .454 Casull. I think the .44-40 is probably the most neglected cartridge other than for cowboy-action shooting because later designs superseded its performance in friendlier packages.

The .44-40 Win (aka .44 WCF) is a slightly bottlenecked cartridge that uses very thin brass. I believe the round was developed for the Winchester 1873 and then found its way into handguns. Handloading is a bit difficult since carbide dies are not available and the thin neck can easily be crumpled, especially if one uses too much lubricant. In factory guise, I am only aware of 200 grain softpoints and flat lead points, and the factory ammo is on the expensive side. While the .44 Special and .44 Magnum use .429" bullets, the .44-40 Win uses .427". I have only one .44-40 Win, the S&W 544. With its 5" barrel, this is one fun N-frame. It can be loaded from .44 Russian velocities to near .44 Magnum velocities in a strong revolver and/or rifle; however, I choose to keep my loads on the .44 Special side (for me, between 750 fps and 950 fps) for fun and easy shooting. In my mind, the .44-40 Win does nothing the others do not do; it just is a historic round that happens to be a lot of fun. It is also the parent round for the .38-40 Win, the 10mm of the West.
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Old December 16, 2002, 05:08 PM   #4
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The .44-40 is a really nice caliber for BP. Its a necked case originally designed for 40 grains of BP (actually somewhere between 35-40 depending). The thin brass and neck makes for a nice case seal and less fouling in a weapons action which is why its still popular in BP Cowboy shooting circles. It is more difficult to reload for though because of the necking. Its also called 44 winchester center fire or 44wcf for short because it was originally made for the 1873 winchester. It was carried over into pistols for obvious utility purposes on the open range.

.45 colt is also called .45 long colt to differential it from the shorter .45 schofield round. Its the original manstopper as has been previously stated and .45 acp ballistics are based on .45 colt. Originally a BP cartridge it has lots of case volume and so some have taken to boosting it to higher pressures in modern guns that can take it. This is how the .45 colt magnums have been developed (only safe in guns which also have versions chambered .44 magnum). .454 Casull was basically developed this way as well although in more specially built 5 shooters (.454 is essentially a lengthened .45lc case).

.357 magnum evolved from .38sp in much the same way .454 casull evolved from .45lc. .38sp is originally a BP case so individuals decided to really push what they could do with that extra volume to increase stopping power. The old timers say that .357 used to be much more of a bear than the more common current versions because they have been dummed down for the lightweight .357 snubbies rather than big steel 6 shooters. 357 sig is an auto round which has been designed to emulate 125 gr .357 magnum ballistics (the standard police round).
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Old December 16, 2002, 05:14 PM   #5
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What's BP? Berdan primed? Backpacking?

I don't think I'll be reloading for a while. I am toying w/ the idea of a Beretta SA revolver to go with my banjo.
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Old December 16, 2002, 05:31 PM   #6
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BP - Black Powder or the modern equivelent Pyrodex.
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Old December 16, 2002, 11:08 PM   #7
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Hot dog, .45 Colt and .44-40 sure are expensive.
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Old December 17, 2002, 09:16 AM   #8
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All three have their followers. The .45 has a small problem in that the rim is quite narrow and this can sometimes cause exjection trouble with a DA revolver.

The .44-40 is a bottle-necked case and these can "set-back" at times, locking up the gun. Case life is also shorter for reloading.

The .357 is probably the least likely to cause any sort of problem in function.
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Old December 17, 2002, 10:21 AM   #9
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powederman, besides the models you stated as being suitable for heavy 45 colt loadings, include the redhawks and T\C family
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Old December 17, 2002, 06:16 PM   #10
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Oops! Absolutely correct. As a matter of fact, the Redhawk family and the Contender will take loads that will make any other guns whimper and hide.
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Old December 17, 2002, 11:12 PM   #11
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The only thing I can add Skunkster...

is that it's sort of a question of balancing your needs/desires for nostalgia, power, and utility. I don't fancy myself Tom Mix and I detest having to lube pistol casings, so the .44-40 gets flushed first. Good round for it's day, but that day is gone as far as I'm concerned. The .44 Mag will do anything the WCF will, and do it better.

Depending on the gun you choose, the .45 Colt will do anything the .44 Mag will do, except for two things- ammo availability and the abililty to use full-power loads in any gun factory-chambered for it. It does have a high-volume case which presents some challenges with light loads of fast powder; it also seems to suffer from a lack of uniform and sensible chamber cylinder-throat dimensions from the manufacturers. The .44 Mag does not have this problem, and is essentially equal to the hottest loadings of the .45 Colt (with 350+ grain bullets) in any application except perhaps the heaviest game and bears.

The .357 is a superb round and is available everywhere, and while it has been used on all North American game it is not in the same class as the .44 Mag & .45 Colt. For the individual wanting an all-around handgun however, it still does a fine job and I would not hesitate to turn one on deer up to 200 pounds, at 35 yards or so. Anything and everything else including defensive applications is handled in fine style by the .357 Magnum.

Gee, for somebody with 'not much to add' I got on quite a ramble there. While you did not specifically inquire as to their suitability as hunting cartridges, I have hunted with handguns for so long that it essentially impossible for me to think about powerful revolvers, and not address this application. I'm afraid that I also repeatedly mentioned the .44 Magnum, because it is a hunting cartridge par excellence, as well as the standard by which all others are judged. It can be loaded up or down to cover any power spectrum from the mild .38s, on up to 300+ grain bullets at 1300+ fps; power that in fact rivals the heavy rifles of the late 1800s. 'Elmer's baby' will do it all well enough to carry the day, and deserves a hard look if you need a versatile, powerful revolver.

Good luck with your choice.
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Old December 17, 2002, 11:15 PM   #12
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Can I shoot .38 Sp thru a .357 Magnum SA revolver?
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Old December 18, 2002, 06:34 AM   #13
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If efficiency is a priority, .357 on all accounts.

If fun factor is included, big .45's are the epitome of FUN.

44-40 is a fine, harder to load, more expensive cartridge that is very nostalgic, and accurate.

YMMV,
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Old December 18, 2002, 07:38 AM   #14
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Skunk...

You asked, "Can I shoot .38 Sp thru a .357 Magnum SA revolver?"

Absolutely, just like you can shoot .44 Specials thru the .44 Mag; this is a major reason they are considered to be so versatile. Since I don't own any guns chambered for the "special" version of either cartridge, I simply load my light loads in magnum cases. It simplifies the brass-sorting/cleaning process for me.

If you haven't been over there yet, take a look at www.sixgunner.com which is probably the Mecca for handgunners who prefer the wheelgun. The FAQ, articles and "guest speakers" section are a wealth of information. I post over there as "Sarge" (already taken, or I would have used it here).

Have fun & take care.
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