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Old August 1, 2020, 08:43 AM   #26
Driftwood Johnson
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Join Date: January 3, 2014
Location: Land of the Pilgrims
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"Here’s a thought: are the carbine and rifle forend stocks interchangeable? If I bought a carbine with a barrel band front end, could I just replace it with a rifle style forend?"

In a word, no.

Here is a photo of my well worn Uberti 1873 rifle, chambered for 44-40. Notice the screw in the fore end cap. That is what holds the fore end in place on a Winchester rifle. Under the cap there is a piece mounted between the barrel and magazine. The piece has a threaded hole. The rear of the fore end is inletted and is held in place by the frame. The fore end cap fits over the front of the fore end and it secures the front of the fore end with the screw.

Here is an antique Winchester Model 1873 chambered for 38-40. Same story.

Before I get any further, please allow me to explain the difference between a rifle and a carbine, as far as Winchester was concerned in the 19th Century. A carbine was defined by more than just a short barrel. I don't have an 1873 carbine to show you, but here is a Winchester Model 1892 Saddle Ring Carbine. The saddle ring is on the other side. The features of rifles and carbines were the same for the Model 1866, 1873, and 1892 Winchesters.

Go back and look at the photos of the Winchester rifles. Rifles were configured differently than carbines. Rifles had the fore end secured as I have mentioned. The magazine was held under the barrel by a hanger dovetailed into the underside of the barrel. Rifle barrels could be any length, from around 16" to 30" or more on special order. Barrels could be round, octagonal, or half round and half octagonal. Most important is the configuration of the butt stock. Rifles had a crescent shaped butt plate. Notice how deep the crescent is and notice the sharp points at the top and the bottom. More on that in a moment.

Carbine barrels were usually 20" long, but they could be slightly longer or slightly shorter. Carbine barrels were always round, and they were tapered more than rifle barrels, so the muzzles were narrower than a similarly sized rifle. There was no fore end cap on a carbine, the fore end was held in place by a barrel band. The magazine was supported by a second barrel band. The front sight was sometimes brazed to the front barrel band, this one is brazed to the barrel. Most important is the configuration of the stock. Carbines had a much gentler curve at the rear and the butt plate was a heavy piece of formed sheet metal as opposed to the cast crescent shaped butt plate of the rifle.

Here is the thing about the shape of the butt plate. I wish I had a dollar for every shooter who has complained about the crescent butt plate of a Winchester rifle, either antique or replica. When placed against the meaty part of the shoulder, the two points dig into the flesh in recoil and it hurts. Mild recoiling rounds such as light 38 Specials do not hurt much, but with any round with a moderate recoil, such as 45 Colt or 44-40, it can hurt. Carbine shoulder stocks do not hurt as much because there are no sharp points. So why did rifles, and modern replicas have that style of butt plate? Because they were not meant to be mounted to the meaty part of the shoulder the way most shooters do today. A crescent shaped butt plate is meant to be mounted further out on the shoulder, so the points encircle the shoulder joint. That way, the points do not contact the shooter. They keep the butt from sliding up or down when the lever is worked, which is exactly what they were meant to do. Something to bear in mind when shopping for an old lever gun, either antique or modern replica. I have lots of lever rifles, antique and modern replicas, and they all have a crescent shaped butt plate. They don't hurt when I shoot them because I mount them as I have mentioned. Modern CAS guys like to put a leather pad over the points on their rifles so they can shoot them the way riflemen shoot today, but I think that looks crummy.

One other thing. I know you said you are not interested in a '92, but the 1873 is a heavy rifle. My 1873 Uberti weighs exactly one pound more than that this 1892 Winchester. Both have 24" barrels and both are chambered for 44-40. Just something to bear in mind if you plan on carrying your rifle through the woods all day. I don't remember the exact weights of the two rifles, I think the '92 weighs about 7 pounds, I think the '73 weighs around 8 pounds. I will have to get back to you on that.

I have to go right now, so I will have to get back to you about what cartridge.

Stay tuned.

Last edited by Driftwood Johnson; August 1, 2020 at 09:10 AM.
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Old August 2, 2020, 12:06 PM   #27
Driftwood Johnson
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Join Date: January 3, 2014
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Posts: 1,909
Howdy Again

About cartridges.

Let's talk history for just a moment. The 44-40 cartridge was developed specifically for the Winchester Model 1873 rifle. They both appeared at the same time, obviously Winchester was manufacturing the ammunition for the rifle. The 44-40 or 44WCF (44 Winchester Center Fire) cartridge was a replacement for the old 44 Henry Rimfire cartridge. Both the 1860 Henry and the Winchester Model 1866 were chambered for the 44 Henry Rimfire cartridge.

Left to right in this photo the cartridges are 44 Henry Rimfire, 44-40, 38-40, and 32-20. The first thing that is obvious in this photo is how much shorter the old Henry Rimfire cartridge was than the other three. Unlike modern Smokeless powder cartridges, Black Powder cartridges were filled completely with powder. There was no air space. So the relative sizes of the cartridges is a good indicator of how much gunpowder was inside, hence a good indicator of the relative power of each cartridge.

The 44 Henry Rimfire cartridge contained 26 grains of Black Powder under a 200 grain flat nosed bullet. There was an earlier version that used the same powder charge under a 216 grain conical bullet, but the cartridge pictured here is the 44 Henry Rimfire Flat that became the standard. Originally the 44-40 held 40 grains of Black Powder under a 200 grain bullet. The 38-40 held 40 grains of powder under a 180 grain bullet. (Yes, the bullet diameter of 38-40 is actually .401, but that is a separate topic for another time.) Lastly, the 32-20 had 20 grains of Black Powder under a 100 grain bullet. That should give a good idea of the relative power of each cartridge.

The 1860 Henry and the 1866 Winchester both had bronze (not brass) frames. The 1873 Winchester was basically an improved version of the 1866, model, the chief difference other than the frame material and Center Fire instead of Rim Fire was the 1873 had side plates that were easily removed with one screw, the side plates on the 1866 model were a bit more difficult to remove.

Because of the significant increase in the power of the 44-40 round over the old Henry round, the 1873 model had an iron frame. About 1880 the frame material was changed to forged steel.

As I said earlier, Winchester originally chambered the Model 1873 for the 44-40 cartridge. In fact until the 38-40 chambering was introduced in 1880, there was no caliber marking on the Model 1873. At that time, caliber was marked on the underside of the cartridge elevator. This Model 1873 left the factory in 1887, and it is marked 38 CAL because it is chambered for 38-40.

The Winchester catalog of 1882 listed the Model 1873 chambered for 32-20. The only other cartridge the original Winchester Model 1873 was chambered for, believe it or not, was 22 Short, starting in 1884.

Winchester never chambered the Model 1873 for 45 Colt. Uberti began chambering it for 45 Colt sometime in the 1980s, with the rise in popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting.

Currently Uberti offers their replica of the Model 1873 Winchester chambered for 45 Colt, 44-40, and 357 Magnum. There is one carbine chambered for 44 Magnum, but other than that, those are the three choices of caliber for an Uberti '73. 32-20 is not offered. If you want a 32-20 '73 you will have to buy an original antique Winchester.

Not a '73, this Model 1892 is chambered for 32-20. It left the factory in 1911 and it is a tack driver.

The Miroku manufactured Model 1873 rifles currently marketed by Winchester are chambered for 45 Colt, 44-40, and 357 Magnum.

While I'm at it I will put in a plug for the Uberti replicas over the Winchester replicas because there are plenty of parts available for the Uberti version, not so much for the Winchester/Miroku version. And no, the parts from the two different manufacturers do not interchange.

I just weighed a few rifles. My 44-40 Uberti with its 24" octagonal barrel weighs 8 pounds 14 ounces. My antique 38-40 Winchester 1873 weighs 8 pounds 13 ounces. I do have a Winchester 1873 Franken-Carbine that left the factory in 1882 as a rifle but at some point somebody substituted a 38-40 20" carbine barrel, magazine, and fore end onto it. It weighs 8 pounds 6 ounces. And my 24" 44-40 Winchester Model 1892, that left the factory in 1897, weighs 7 pounds 14 ounces.

As I said earlier, the 1873 model is about 1 pound heavier than a similarly set up Model 1892. Something to consider if one is going to be carrying it through the woods all day.

Clearly the most popular rifle in Cowboy Action Shooting today is the Uberti replica Model 1873 Short Rifle chambered for 357 Magnum. At least that has been my observation. This model has a 20" octagonal barrel. The short barrel is preferred by the top competitors to easily maneuver around obstacles that may be included in the stage. This model has the crescent shaped butt plate that I mentioned earlier. Because most competitors are shooting very lightly loaded 38 Special ammunition in their 1873 short rifles, the effect of the sharp points of the crescent butt plate against their shoulders is minimal. Most do not hike the rifle butt out on their arm as I mentioned earlier, mounting the rifle this way tends to slow the shooter down, so most mount it against the meaty part of their shoulder and hunch over to bring their face down to the stock. A few have put a leather pad over the points of the crescent but most do not, because their rifles recoil very mildly in competition. It would be a different story out in the field with a '73 Short Rifle firing 357 Magnum ammo, I'll bet it would hurt if it were mounted against the meaty part of the shoulder. I can relate a story another time about an old 30-30 Model 1894 that I used to own, with a crescent shaped butt plate, and how much it hurt every time I fired it because I had not yet learned the proper way to mount a crescent butt plate rifle. When I mount a rifle with a crescent shaped butt plate, I hike it out on my shoulder as I have mentioned, and rather than bring my face down to the stock, I raise my elbow to bring the rifle up to my face.

If I were a hunter, which I am not, I would probably take that '92 saddle ring carbine with me into the woods, the one chambered for 44-40. It weighs 6 pounds 10 ounces. Light weight, no crescent shaped butt plate, and lighter than a similarly appointed '73. I am a handloader, I have been loading 44-40 with Black Powder for many years, so that is the chambering I would choose. I have only taken it to a few CAS matches, so I have not fired it a whole lot, but I seem to recall recoil with my Black Powder 44-40 rounds was mild.

If I were not a handloader it would be a toss up between 45 Colt and 357 Mag. 45 Colt is available in light cowboy factory loadings, but they are relatively expensive. Plus, a 45, with a bigger hole in the barrel, will weigh a teeny bit less than a 357 with a smaller hole in the barrel, outside dimensions being the same, which they are with the Uberti rifles.

I think I would slightly favor the 45 Colt over the 357 Mag. I'm thinking you don't really shoot a lot of rounds if you are hunting, so the cost differential between 357 Mag and 45 Colt might not be very significant. However with the 357 you can shoot inexpensive 38 Specials all day long at the range, it's going to cost a bit more to shoot 45s all day at the range.

One more consideration. As has been stated earlier, the toggle link rifles; the 1860 Henry, 1866 Winchester, and 1873 Winchester are not as strong as the later 1892 Model. This has to do with the nature of the lock up of a toggle link rifle.

This is a photo of the action inside my Uberti 1873. Because the side plates are only held on with one screw, it is easy to get a photo of the mechanism. In this photo the rifle is in battery. The toggle links are fully extended, and they have pushed the bolt all the way forward. There are two sets of links, they are mirror images of each other. We can only see one set in this photo, the other set is hidden behind first set. There are three pivot points on a set of links. The front pivot is attached to the bolt, the middle pivot is attached to an extension of the lever, and the rear pivot is fixed to the frame. There are no solid locking lugs as there are in the Model 1886, Model 1892, or Model 1894 Winchesters. Just the links fully extended is what keeps the rifle in battery.

When the lever is rotated forward, the extension pulls the middle pivot of the links down, folding the links. The rear pivot is fixed to the frame, so when the links are folded, the front pivot pulls the bolt back. At this time the bolt extension at the rear of the bolt moves back and cocks the hammer for the next shot. The lifter arm has raised the brass carrier to align a cartridge on the carrier with the chamber. The top of the carrier can be seen protruding above the frame. When the lever is pulled back again, the links unfold and the bolt pushes a new cartridge into the chamber. At the last moment, the lifter arm drops down, bringing the carrier with it, so a fresh round will feed out of the magazine and into the carrier.

A bit of caution here: There are two bits of steel visible protruding down below the frame, behind the trigger in one of these photos. These are the safety interlock. They are actually one piece, and a spring presses them down. As can be seen in the photo, the front part of the interlock is pressed against the trigger. It prevents the trigger from being pulled until the lever is snugged up. At that point a bump on the top of the lever shoves the interlock up, allowing the trigger to be pulled. This is not a modern lawyer mandated safety. Winchester added it to the design of the Model 1873 a few years after the model was introduced. This is because with out the interlock, if the trigger is accidentally brushed just before the links line up straight, the hammer will fall, and recoil will fold the links, forcing the lever forward and the bolt extension back towards the shooter's eye. The engineers at Winchester recognized this possibility, so the interlock was added sometime in the late 1870s or early 1880s. Both or my antique '73s have the interlock.

Years ago it was customary for competitors to remove the interlock from their rifles, thinking the extra force needed to overcome the interlock's spring was slowing them down. After a number of out of battery discharges, we all learned not to disable the interlock. I was at a match years ago when a rifle with the interlock removed fired out of battery and the lever sprang forward so forcefully that the loop broke off and the shooters hand was very sore.

As can be seen in these photos, the frame of a '73 is pretty much skeletonized. There is not a whole lot of steel there. Uberti proofs all their rifles to European standards, which are actually stricter than American SAAMI standards. So an Uberti 357 Magnum 1873 replica will have had one or two proof round fired through it, then the barrel will be marked as having been proofed. Contrary to popular belief, proof rounds are loaded to about 25% higher pressure than the standard Maximum pressure for a particular cartridge. Not 100% more pressure as some believe. I have no idea how a 357 Magnum Toggle Link rifle will hold up under a steady diet of 357 Magnum ammunition. I do know a friend brought home a used 357 Magnum Uberti 1873 a bunch of years ago. When he got it home he discovered a small crack in the frame. It was a used rifle, so no idea what caused the crack, how many rounds at what pressure. My friend took the rifle back to the dealer and got his money back.

Just a cautionary tale.

One more photo. The locking lugs on a Model 1892. John Browning basically downsized his earlier Model 1886 Model when he designed the Model 1892. The frame is solid steel. When the lever is pulled forward, the lugs ride down in a pair of grooves in the frame and free the bolt to move back. When the lever is pulled up again, the bolt moves forward and the lugs rise to lock the bolt in place. I love my toggle link rifles, but I love my '92s too. The Winchester Model 1892 was stronger then the Model 1873, lighter, and it was less expensive to produce than the Model 1873.

Last edited by Driftwood Johnson; August 2, 2020 at 12:24 PM.
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