View Full Version : .44 vs .45?

December 25, 2010, 05:55 PM
Anyone know why .44 was chosen as a caliber for bp revolvers in the first place, and later cartridge revolvers and rifles only to be followed by .45 calibers revolvers? Now today, one can buy a new .45 rifle. Seems kind of redundant to have two bullets so close in size at the same time. What am I not seeing here. Thanks

December 25, 2010, 07:33 PM
I don't know why Colt and Remington referred to their C&B pistols as .44s since they are, I believe more like .452 or .454 bore size. That's right isn't it? I load .454 rb in my replicas. Then there is the whole heel type 44 cartridges until S&W loaded the a nonheel type in the .44 russian which was really a .43 calibre...and so on...

December 25, 2010, 08:08 PM
Early definitions of 'caliber', or bore size, were based on land to land measurement, not projectile size. However, even the more recent use of projectile diameter is inconsistent as anyone reloading .38 Special is aware.

December 25, 2010, 08:32 PM
I think the .38 name comes from the original .375/.380 C&B bore size which continued with the heel type bullet. When they went to inside lubed nonheel style the diameter was closer to the ID of the cartridge case, but the original name remained.

Foto Joe
December 26, 2010, 10:56 AM
Here's my theory...First off I agree with mykeal and I've read numerous other postings elsewhere to support this theory and most importantly, it makes sense.

When Colt's started producing cartridge pistols there was probably a need to differentiate between those guns easily. It's my thought that since all Colt's percussion hand guns of the period were referred to as 44 Caliber then the cartridge weapons would be referred to as 45 Caliber.

To quote Dennis Miller, "That's just my opinion, I could be wrong".

December 26, 2010, 12:52 PM
That's not exactly true foto joe, one of the first successfulColt cartridges was the .44 Colt. The Army used it from 1871 until 1873 (replaced by the .45 Colt in the new SAA). I believe the diameter of the bullet was a true .44, or a little more, while the heel portion was closer to the diameter of later .44. While the .44Colt was an outide lubricated heel type bullet, the later .44 russian was an inside lubricated bullet of .43 or so calibre. The rims and length were different but the case diameters were similar so the .44 name stuck. I believe the 38 colts were the same thing, an outside lubed heel bullet of .38 cal. The 38 spec is a direct descendant of the .38 colt case with an inside lubed bullet of .36 cal and a case of different length but same diameter.

Foto Joe
December 27, 2010, 04:34 PM
Wrong, wrong, wrong...my ex-wife was right. I'm wrong most of the time. Don't worry though, I've gotten used to it.

December 27, 2010, 04:44 PM
Anyone know why .44 was chosen as a caliber for bp revolvers in the first place

That is a good question and one that I have not seen in print.

I wonder if it is related to the number of balls you can get out of a pound of lead.

December 27, 2010, 05:43 PM
Salvadore has it right.

Doc Hoy
December 27, 2010, 06:21 PM
Where does the government come in?

How much of the decision to design arround .44 or the variants discussed above can be attributed to the need to fulfill government contract specs?

Did the .45 become popular as a response to the .45 auto or the .223 in the M16?

December 27, 2010, 07:54 PM
The .45 Colt was developed in 1871 and submitted to the army in 1872. It was purchased in 1873 and dropped in 1892.

December 30, 2010, 12:38 AM
It interesting that the Colt Walker .44 is listed as having a muzzle velocity of between 1000-1200+ feet per second which approximates the speed of sound of 1,126 feet per second.
And it may not have merely been a coincidence that about 1,100 Walkers also happened to be built.
We all know that the size and velocity of a projectile affects its effective range.
So maybe the Colt engineers had a particular velocity range and power level that they were aiming for as a goal, which for some unknown reason also happened to coincide with the speed of sound.
While we don't actually know whether the caliber was intentionally engineered around the speed of sound or not, the coincidence of the ~1100 figures certainly can't be denied. So maybe it shouldn't be ignored as one of the determining factors that helped to initially establish the .44 caliber designation either. Since it was an intentional design it would be much less likely that the choice that was made was totally a random accident or dumb luck. :)


December 30, 2010, 01:14 AM
the coincidence of the ~1100 figures certainly can't be denied. So maybe it shouldn't be ignored as one of the determining factors

I load my 357 with a 158gr bullet near 1100fps as to not experience transonic air flow; which hampers accuracy. If I ever get a 44 Magnum rifle, I'll load 300gr bullets to below the speed of sound also.

December 30, 2010, 11:27 AM
Affirmation from Hawg Haggin...I am not worthy. I thought that was the case, thanks for the thumbs up.

December 30, 2010, 11:30 AM
don't worry joe, I'm wrong on a regular basis, I just don't have a contintuous wife to rub my nose in it.

December 30, 2010, 12:14 PM
Just some thoughts here....I think the 44 made it possible to load a more powerful cartridge than the 45- although the difference doesn't seem like much I think I recall reading that you cannot load a 45Colt to any where near 44 Magnum pressures or you'll blow the walls out on the cylinder.
If I read between the lines- I think you might be thinking of one cartridge for both rifle and revolver- sort of like the old "Cowboy cartridge" the 44/40. Sounds okay but you usually can load hotter for the rifle as the action is stronger so you end up with two different type of ammunition in any event AND- I'm not sure but the brass likely stretches differently in each so you might not be able to reload rounds fired in say- the rifle- and have them fit in the revolver, or perhaps the other way- rounds fired in a revolver not fitting in a rifle- although I suppose you could full size and make things work.

December 30, 2010, 12:47 PM

Here is a dimensioned drawing of the .44 Colt for you. Note the heeled bullet appears to be .455 forward and .447 inside the case mouth....

December 30, 2010, 01:32 PM
Affirmation from Hawg Haggin...I am not worthy.


Actually the .45 has it over the 44-40 but not by much. They're pretty close to the same ballistically with the 44-40 using a 200 gr. bullet and the .45 using a 250. The .44 Colt revolver can't handle anywhere near .44 mag pressures. The 44-40 can be loaded to .44 mag pressures but the thin necked brass doesn't last long. The .45 can be loaded beyond .44 mag pressures. I think the main reason Winchester never made a .45 lever action is because the original case heads were smaller than modern ones and the extractor couldn't grip them. I have used the same 44-40 brass in rifle and pistol and never had a problem with reloads chambering in either one and I have loaded some pretty hot ones for the rifle. I paint the case heads red on those so they don't accidentally get put in the pistol.

December 31, 2010, 07:35 AM
Thanks Junkman, the source I used said the bore diameter was .443, but if that refers to the lands and not the grooves your diagram should be right on.

I wonder what the deminsions of the S%W .44 American was, and if it may be remotely related to the inside lubed Russian.

BTW, the mammoth museum in Yellowstone Park has an excellent example of a

S&W #3 .44 American that one of the surveyers, or photographers carried in the 1870s. It was behind glass and I couldn't figure out how to take it home with me.

December 31, 2010, 07:57 AM

From what I could uncover, the 44 American is pretty much the same as the 44 Russian.