View Full Version : 44-40 for deer.

Alex Johnson
January 30, 2001, 09:35 PM
I was considering hunting deer with a 44-40 Henry, but I'd like to try it with black powder loads. Does anyone have any experience with this cartridge in black powder. 50-75 yard shots would be reasonable in my area so it would be very close range.

Bill Mitchell
January 31, 2001, 07:05 PM

Even a full case of BP won't drive the bullet over 1000 fps, and it would probably travel a good bit slower than that. I'm not a deer hunter, but that combo doesn't sound too great for your intended purpose. If you don't get a definitive answer here, you might want to ask over in the Hunting forum.

Bellicose Bill

Mike Irwin
January 31, 2001, 09:08 PM
Lots of deer have been taken with that combination over the years...

But I'd bet nearly as many have been lost, as well.

I wouldn't do it unless I had the absolutely PERFECT lung or head shot at no more than 50 yards.

Doc Hudson
February 1, 2001, 11:28 AM
What a thoroughly inapporpriate deer cartridge!!!!!! Be sure not to tell the hundreds of thousands of dead deer and the thousands of dead buffalo killed by the .44-40 WCF. :p

Develope an accurate load and chronograph it. I believe that Bill and Mike are shortchanging the old .44 WCF. You will probably get a velocity in the neighborhood of 1200 to 1300 fps. That is plenty of UUMPH to kill a deer at fifty to seventy-five yards.

If your rifle will feed them, I'd suggest a SWC or Flat point bullet design for better game killing effect.

Doc Hudson

P.S. Am I correct to presume that you are familiar with the procedures of Blackpowder cartridge reloading? LMH

Mike Irwin
February 1, 2001, 01:03 PM

there's plenty of OOMPH in a .22 Long Rifle to kill deer at those ranges, too.

Does that make them "appropriate" to the task at hand?

No, it doesn't.

Doc Hudson
February 1, 2001, 02:07 PM
Most of the deer I've seen that were killed by a .22 LR were shot through both fore hooves. They'd put 'em up to keep the light out of their eyes.

You can hunt with a .45 LC or .44 RemMag handgun throwing a bullet in the 180 to 325 grain range at velocities very comparable to the velocity Alex will be getting with his .44-40. Would you care to say that the .45 LC or .44 RemMag handguns are nor appropriate for the job? Hardly!

Alex has already stated his self imposed range limitations. They sound quite reasonable to me. His .44-40 will kill deer just as dead as my .45-70, .358 Winchester, .30-30 WCF, .44 RmeMag, or .45 LC. Dead is dead whether you hit him with a .44-40 in the right spot or pulverize him with a .460 Weatherby Magnum. The main difference is that the .44-40 will ruin less meat.

I do not claim that the .44-40 is the best deer cartridge around, it isn't. But it will do the job if Alex holds up his end of the job.


Mike Irwin
February 1, 2001, 06:10 PM

Read Alex's message again.

He wants to use black powder.

In a modern .44-40 cartridge, that's no more than 36 grains of black powder, which would give, at best, 1000 fps out of a rifle, and I suspect it would give less than that.

You're getting better than that out of a .44 Mag. in a handgun normally.

But, you are correct, I'm damning with faint-to-no praise.

Yes, the .44-40 does have the power to take deer, but only under optimal conditions. The same is true of hunting a deer with a handgun.

But, I still don't think it's prudent UNLESS:

1. You've the disciplin to choose your shots carefully.

2. You've got the disciplin to pass up shots that you're not confident in making, or which are too long.

3. You've got the ability to put your shot into the vital zone at varying ranges.

Doc Hudson
February 1, 2001, 10:10 PM

You are going to have to settle this. I'd do it but I don't own a .44-40 rifle. Load her up and chronograph the results. Let me reccomend you use Elephant or Swiss blackpowder rather than Goex.


Believe it or not we are pretty much on the same page. The only two major differences I see is that I give Alex credit for having the discipline to wait for the right shot, pass up marginal shots , and put the bullet in the right place. I don't know Alex, so I don't know if he can do all of that or not. You might know him personally and consider him not capable of doing these things. I am simply giving the man credit for being capable with his chose rifle.

The other thing we might be in disagreement is on handgun hunting. Rereading your post, I am not too sure of your opinion of handgun hunting. But if, if mind you, you consider handgun hunting to be nothing more than a novelty, you are sadly mistaken. There are revolvers and loads available today that produce as much energy at one hundred yards as the .30-'06 180 gr. does at the muzzle.

If you are opposed to handgun hunting, or think it is only a novelty, let me suggest that you visit: http://disc.server.com/Indices/34422.html
and make a post politely stating your opinion. Come back in a few hours, with a glass of something cool and soothing and read the rebuttals. Rest assured they will be polite, but they will also be most informative.

Now I guess it is up to Alex to let us know whose velocity predictions are closer to right.

Doc Hudson

Mike Irwin
February 1, 2001, 11:13 PM

Never said anything about handgun hunting, so don't read too much into my replies so far.

In fact, I've done far more handgun hunting that you'd probably suspect.

But, just as I believe that hunting with a marginally powered cartridge isn't for everyone, handgun hunting isn't for everyone, either.

Doc Hudson
February 2, 2001, 12:58 PM
Mike, you said:
"handgun hunting isn't for everyone,"

Pardner you said a mouthful there!!! In fact other than the occassional rabbit or squirrel for the pot, I ma not a handgun hunter. I know my limitations and I do not wish to make them even more limited with a handgun. I will though use my .45-70 Rolling block stuffed with a case full of FFg under a 510 grain cast bullet. I love the smell of the black stuff.

The invitation to drop in at Sixgunner's Message board stands. I think you will enjoy the company and might even learn a few things.

Doc Hudson

Alex hurry up with those chronograph results! :)

Alex Johnson
February 3, 2001, 11:28 AM
Sounds like I've opened up a can of worms here. Where to start. 1. Yes I'm familiar with BP cartridge loading procedure. 2. I don't care much for venison (though If I do shoot it I will eat it) so waiting for a perfect shot is no problem. 3. We own good land, so getting a perfect shot shouldn't be too difficult either. 4. I've shot competition for years and hunted just as long and making a precise shot inside the range limitations I've outlined won't be too hard. 5. I've also hunted with pistols and muzzleloaders so I know the importance of getting in close and making the first shot count. 6. I can't do the chroneograph thing since I haven't bought the Henry yet, that's, I guess, why I was wondering about the performance of the 44-40 in blackpowder from this rifle. I've looked at the 45 LC in the Uberti model and I guess I'd like to stick to a cartridge that is closer to the original. Anyway, it was just a whim. Probably I'll end up shooting another deer with my Shiloh #3 sporter again this season. Nice talking to you guys, hope I've answered some questions.

Doc Hudson
February 3, 2001, 10:37 PM

Since I don't have a .44-40 rifle, I can't either. But I posted a question for .44-40 shooters at Sixgunner.com's Message Board. Robert "Doc" O'Meara and Jim Taylor responded. I've posted both my question and their responses below.

Take this for what it's worth. It is hearsay and I can't ofer first hand evidence/

Doc Hudson

Do any of you .44-40 rifle owners use blackpowder loads?

Have you chronographed any of these blackpowder loads?

Another gentelman and I are having a bit of a disagreement. He doesn't think that the blackstuff will push a .44-40 bullet faster than 1000 fps. I think that they will get into the 1200-1300 fps neighborhood.

Are either of us correct? Which comes closer to correct velocity?


"Doc" O'Meara
Mike Venturino gets 936 fps....
Fri Feb 2 14:39:17 2001

...from a 7 1/2-inch SAA, with 33 Gr. Goex BP. By extrapolation, 1200 fps from a rifle would seem about right. Remember that modern brass doesn't have the capacity the 19th century stuff, with its baloon heads had. Those likely went to about 1500 fps or better from a 24-inch bbl.


You are Doc... some went over 1400 (nt) — Jim Taylor, Fri Feb 2 14:28

Mike Irwin
February 3, 2001, 11:27 PM
Well I'll be pooped, Doc.

Good on you.

Just to be ornery, I'm still going to say the .44-40 is a WORSE choice that .22 CB caps for deer.

Doc Hudson
February 4, 2001, 09:45 AM

That is because the .22 CB Caps don't make enough noise to alert the game warden, or wake the neighbors. Right? :p

BTW, you keep practising that orneryness, and we will invite you to join the Intolerant Old Farts of America. Of course if you are under 40 it can only be an Honorary membership.

Doc Hudson :D,

Alex Johnson
February 4, 2001, 01:17 PM
Thanks for all the information on the 44-40. I'm thinking about getting one this summer and working up some loads for it. I have a chronograph so I'll be sure to send you all some data on it when I get some. Anybody know a source for brand new 44-40 balloon head brass :)

Alex Johnson
NRA Life Member

Doc Hudson
February 4, 2001, 01:59 PM

I don't think anyone has made balloon head brass since WWII.

You can get more powder in the balloon headed stuff, but the cases are weaker and become unusable quicker. With the lower case capacity of modern brass, you should be able to reach the same pressure and velocity with the smaller amounts of powder than in the original loadings.

I know I get about the same velocity with 65 gr. of Elephant FFg as the original Frankfort Armory load of 70 gr. of FFg with a 405 gr. cast bullet in my .45-70.


Mike Irwin
February 4, 2001, 02:25 PM
Balloon-head brass?

Good luck. I'd better bet that no one would be willing to make it anymore for liability reasons.

I also bet that no one has the specialized equipment you need to turn that type of case out.

Dave T
February 27, 2001, 10:49 PM
Hey guys - I have some hard information for you. I used to shoot Cowboy Action with black powder cartridges. I had an original '73 Winchester, restored to shootable condition.
I loaded 36g of FFFg under a 200g FP cast of 1-20 alloy. I just dug back in my chronograph records and it averaged 1312 fps, 10 feet from the muzzle. That load would stay inside 4" at 100 yards and in about 2" at 50 yards.
Alex said he wanted to shoot at 50-75 yards. If he has any trigger control I would guess he could hit a deer in the right place after some practice. Likewise, since thousands and thousands of deer have been killed with the 44 WCF (the proper and original designation for this cartridge, introduced in 1873) I would suspect he could kill one today.

PS: Just for fun, on a calm day, I shot a five shot 7" group (from a rest of course) at 200 yards with the above rifle and load. I wouldn't suggest shooting at game at that range but you could sure keep a bandit's head down out there.

March 5, 2001, 12:57 AM
I used to know a fellow that used a .44-40 single shot for deer and squirrels with blackpowder duplex loads. Didn't talk to him about it, but did talk to his friend who loaded his ammo.

They used a 230 gr Lyman flatpoint (an old mould) and duplex as I said. My guess on velocity was around 1100 fps. They were perfectly happy with the performance on deer and attributed it to the flat point.

If I were you I would use heavier than 200 grain bullets.