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Old December 1, 2018, 11:00 AM   #1
Savvy_Jack
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Early 44WCF Box Label Information

Winchester 44WCF Box Label Color Codes

I tried to gather some basic cartridge box color coding information and dates for those that may have an interest. One would think that there would be a sense of security in not getting the wrong ammo, especially the more powerful High Velocity loads. Certainly there would be no confusion right?

Label Color/Powder Type/Projectile Type

Green/Black Powder/Lead
Red/Smokeless/Lead or Soft Point
Orange/Smokeless/Full Patch
Yellow/Smokeless/Soft Point…High Velocity
Lavender/Pink/Smokeless/Full Patch…High Velocity
Grey/Grey-Green/Lesmoke/Any
Tan, red print/ Smokeless/Any Bank or Proof Loadings
Tan, black print/Black Powder/Primed Empties. Blank, Military, Special Order loadings


During this time frame the cartridge box was never designated "44WCF" The earliest 1st boxes were designated 44/100 just like the 44 Henry boxes. Second box designs only showed "Winchester Model 1873" on the bullet photo on the box. Others were shown as simply Winchester Rifles 73' and/or 92. No mention of the 44WCF designation.

No case headstamps from 1873-1884
1884 is when Winchester started headstamping their cases with WRACo. 44WCF

1873-1874, 1st Box Label..44/100 Winchester Repeating Rifle...Yellowish...excluded from color code (Milbank Primed [Copper Cases?])

1874-1876, 2nd Box "Green" Label...Winchester Model 1873 (top label wraps around right side)

1876-1877,  Factory boxes were not sealed until the mid 1870's
1877-1880,
1880-1883, 3rd Box "Green" Label....44 Cal Winchester Rifle Model 1873 (No Headstamp)
1884-1890's, "Central Fire" (WCF Headstamp)
1890's- , "Central Fire" changed to "Center Fire"

1895, First Smokeless Load, red top label, green side labels, "Winchester Rifle Model 1873" on
top label with the 1892 added on the green side label.

1900-1903, Red Label (not high velocity loads) but does note "NOT FOR PISTOLS" on side label
example 1900-1903, Red Label "Winchester Rifle Model 1873"
example, Red Label "Winchester Rifle Models 1873 and 1892"

1906, Date Coding…specification/Labeling changes; File Codes…Label covering/loading

1890's-1906, Fancy WRACo logo
1906-1910, Red "W" side logo, example date 4-7
1907-1912, Silver "W" side logo
1903-1938, Winchester High Velocity Loads
example 1909, Lavender top label .44-40 Model 1892 Special
example 1920 side label on the 10-9 box (above) denotes NOT FOR PISTOLS
example Kxxxx code, 1930's Yellow label

1910-1912, Italicized "Winchester" marks typical, example date 2-12…Black Powder Hollow Point…
Trade Mark
example 1914, Sliver "W" replaced by white outlined "W" side logo

1912-1920, Trade Mark+"throughout the world"…example data 11-15
example 1919…Models '73" and '92" replacing 1873 and 1892 call-out
example 1920…shows other misc changes
example 1911..."Lesmoke" box
example 1912…Lesmoke "W" stamped on primers
example 1919…phased out half split box design

1920-1928, two-piece boxes
1928, New "Staynless" Primers and one-piece blue/white boxes
1939-1945, Blue/Yellow boxes...red trim
1946-1956, Red/Yellow box…

to be continued.....

Last edited by Savvy_Jack; December 1, 2018 at 02:59 PM.
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Old December 1, 2018, 11:16 AM   #2
Savvy_Jack
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The 1900-1903 box labels could shed some light on the "week link" reason for the SAAMI low pressure max of 13,000CUP/11,000psi. Before the "High Velocity" loads (22,000cup) came out in 1903, smokeless powder load limits seem to have already been an issue with old steel thin cylinder walled Single Action revolvers. Early smokeless loads were okay for the Winchester 73' and the Winchester 92' but obviously not for the single action revolvers as noted on the label's "NOT FOR REVOLVERS".

When the High Velocity loads were produced in 1903...the only rifle designated on the box was the Winchester 92'. No mention that it was not to be used in the 73' or revolvers from what I can find except on the side panels starting at least by 1920. It is also known that the High Velocity loads increased in 1910 and at some point "NOT FOR PISTOLS" was added to the top label but still no mention that it was not to be used in the 73'. Even then, the High velocity load had been manufactured for nearly 20 years. The High Velocity loads were manufactured from 1903 to 1938...24 years!!

Last edited by Savvy_Jack; December 1, 2018 at 11:21 AM.
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Old December 3, 2018, 12:24 PM   #3
Mike Irwin
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Nice information, Jack.

I'd often wondered if there was any rhyme or reason to Winchester's early box colors.

This is the best picture I have of one of my early boxes of Winchester .44 Special.

The .44 Special was introduced in 1907, and I know these boxes were loaded after 1915. One of the boxes is broken open (I have 4, 3 complete, one broken) and inside was a small advertisement for Winchester shotshells dated either 2-15 or 3-15.

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Old December 4, 2018, 05:29 PM   #4
Savvy_Jack
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NICE!!!
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Old December 5, 2018, 06:38 PM   #5
Savvy_Jack
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Correction for the HV box labels. Trying not to confuse myself or anyone else is not easy. On the side label that has the small print, there should be included; "They should never be used in Winchester 73' Rifles".
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Old December 6, 2018, 09:36 AM   #6
Mike Irwin
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This is a picture of a post 1927 box of Winchester ammo with the warning that they used.




Remington-Peters used a less pronounced warning on the back of their boxes.

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Old December 8, 2018, 08:04 AM   #7
Savvy_Jack
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That's a good box label Mike...nice red bold words too for both rifle and revolver. I never could understand why Winchester put not for revolvers on the top label, sometimes side labe and not for use in the Winchester 73 in small words on the side label.
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Old January 5, 2019, 07:58 AM   #8
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I find the "should never be reloaded" warning interesting. As someone who knows just enough about reloading to be truly ignorant (LOL), the obvious question arises: "Why not?"
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Old January 5, 2019, 11:54 AM   #9
M88
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Great information for those of us that have some ancient original ammo boxes... appreciated. As for why they put "should never be reloaded" on their box, could it possibly be for liability reasons back then? Didn't think society was even close to being as litigious as it is today with everybody having to cover there a$$.
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Old January 7, 2019, 08:17 AM   #10
Mike Irwin
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"I find the "should never be reloaded" warning interesting. As someone who knows just enough about reloading to be truly ignorant (LOL), the obvious question arises: "Why not?""

Well, one thought I have is that when Winchester was loading that particular ammo, the effects of mercury embrittlement on cartridge brass had just become known with the introduction of smokeless powders.

The US military worked pretty quickly to develop non-mercuric primers, but it took some years for similar primers to be rolled out commercially.

Mercury embrittlement only started showing up with smokeless powder because black powder fouling helped dilute the mercury and BP's lower pressures didn't drive it into the cartridge brass like smokeless did.
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