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Old August 27, 2018, 02:21 PM   #1
ligonierbill
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Join Date: May 20, 2007
Posts: 1,572
Gaining some respect for 44-40

Except for us old time cartridge nuts and cowboy action shooters, this round is pretty much dead as a practical caliber. Blame the .44 Special. Yes, the Special shades the old WCF ballistically, and it's rumored to be easier to load. (I have not found this to be true.) But I will argue that it ain't half bad, even by modern standards.

I started loading 44-40 when I got the itch for a Colt single action. In Colt's words, a .45 Colt is a Single Action Army. The 44-40 (Sam was not going to put "Winchester" on his barrels, not even the W) in the same pistol was called the Frontier Six-Shooter, and it came out 4 years later. Now you could feed your rifle and pistol the same round, a big selling point. But the selling point to me was I already had a Ruger Blackhawk .45 and was loading some "Ruger only" rounds that one would not want to fire in the old Colt. So, I went with the 44.

A "spec" load of Unique sends a 200 cast out of my Cimarron/Uberti 4 3/4" at 845. The same load goes 1,270 from a Uberti '73 clone. Not bad. Now, the .44 Special does better. Still loading a 200 cast over Unique, I get 1,100 out of a 5 1/2" Blackhawk and about 870 out of a 2 1/2" Bulldog.

What I really like is loading true black or Alliant Black MZ in the 44-40. ("Shooting on the dark side" in the cowboy action world.) The old balloon head cases packed 40 gr of, I presume, FFFg. Loading FFg in modern Starline cases, I can only fit 32. That's good for 750 out of my pistols. BMZ is another story. Loading down a drop tube, I can get 37 gr of the substitute in my cases. (Big grains, lots of air space.) Good for 900, probably more like the old days. Have not managed a read on these out of the rifle, but guessing about 1,300. The old cowboys and sod busters didn't have it too bad, in firearms at least.

So, if you want a mild shooting, but still capable, handgun round, go...44 Special. It's really better. But if you're thinking of cowboy action (I highly recommend it) or just wanting to relive the late 19th century, you won't be giving up much.

PS: I know a lot of CAS guys shoot .38 Special mouse fart loads. Very fast, but not near as much fun as a real smokewagon.
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