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Old 08-23-2010, 01:42 PM
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Default Smith & Wesson .44-40

Just wondering if anyone owns a S&W .44-40 and if they actually shoot it ? If you do shoot it what is it comparable to caliber wise ?

Thinking about trying one and ammo doesn't seem to be a problem--if anyone reloads for these is it harder to reload than anything else ?

Thanks for your help

Steve
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Old 08-23-2010, 02:14 PM
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Hi,

I reload .44/40. The cases are generally thinner than a lot of other calibers and so get bent up easier. However they can be "ironed" out with a small screw-driver or similar tool and resized.

Resizing requires the old fashioned method of case lubing as it is a bottle-necked case and no carbide dies are available, unless I am missing something.

Due to the thin cases, over-crimping can easily be done and then occurs the bulged case. I suspect the Lee Factory Crimp Die might do a better job than a standard crimp die but I have never tried one.

Due to the thin cases DO NOT TRY TO HOT-ROAD THE AMMO. Cases will split easy enough with standard loads and several firings. If you want a high powered .44 get a .44 Special or bigger.

However, the .44/40 can be loaded with a 200 grain lead bullet to aboout 900 fps [handgun] easy enough. That load was potent enough for men and deer for a long, long time.
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Old 08-23-2010, 02:34 PM
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Smile S&W Model 544

I own a 544 that is a shooter. This was a Texas commemerative and there are lots of them available. The ammo in stores is very mild for SASS cowboy shooting. I also have a Ruger Blackhawk .44-40/.44 Magnum convert.

There are several interesting facts about both these guns. First, the barrels are both sized for .44 SPL/Mag which is a .429" bore. The .44-40 is nominally a .427" bore so lead bullets with that diameter aren't very accurate in the two modern guns mentioned above. Second, chambers in the same two guns seem to vary a bit. Factory ammo fits OK but when you reload the brass you may discover the sizing die needs to be adjusted specifically to fit each gun.

I suggest the original .44-40 can be described as a bit hotter than a .44 Special. It is a fun cartridge.
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Old 08-23-2010, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by S&WIowegan View Post
I own a 544 that is a shooter. This was a Texas commemerative and there are lots of them available. The ammo in stores is very mild for SASS cowboy shooting. I also have a Ruger Blackhawk .44-40/.44 Magnum convert.

There are several interesting facts about both these guns. First, the barrels are both sized for .44 SPL/Mag which is a .429" bore. The .44-40 is nominally a .427" bore so lead bullets with that diameter aren't very accurate in the two modern guns mentioned above. Second, chambers in the same two guns seem to vary a bit. Factory ammo fits OK but when you reload the brass you may discover the sizing die needs to be adjusted specifically to fit each gun.

I suggest the original .44-40 can be described as a bit hotter than a .44 Special. It is a fun cartridge.
Thanks to both of you for the info. So if the modern guns are .429 is that what you use to reload with or won't the cases handle it ? I'm kind of confused ---Please explain further if you don't mind.

Steve
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Old 08-23-2010, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by semperfi71 View Post
Hi,

Due to the thin cases DO NOT TRY TO HOT-ROAD THE AMMO. Cases will split easy enough with standard loads and several firings. If you want a high powered .44 get a .44 Special or bigger.
I have loaded 44-40 for use in a Ruger Vaquero and a Rossi 92 replica, both often chambered for 44 MAG. In these strong guns 44-40 can be loaded up to lower end of 44 Mag performance, with 200-300 grain bullets with no problems in case failure. DO NOT TRY THIS IN WEAK GUNS!! -- that is toggle links , old S&W revolvers, Colt SAAs, etc.

Should one look closely at solid head modern 44-40 case you will find them quite strong in head area, despite being thin in body. As a result, modern 44-40 brass from Starline and Remington, especially, will last for well over 10 loadings, even well over SAAMI chamber pressure limits for 44-40. For loads matching external ballistics for true HV 44-40 loads (approximately 180 grain bullets at 1600+ fps from rifle) case life is at least 5 shots, probably much more, in my guns.

Chamber dimensions can make a big difference in number of times a case can be loaded before body splits. My Ruger Vaquero has really minimal chambers and almost no working of brass occurs on resizing. Not so with cases from Rossi -- once workhardened, I start seeing longitudinal splits, even with low pressure nitro loads or BP loads in that Rossi.

There is one limiting factor with thin walled cases, like 44-40. That is that no crimp in that thin brass will hold heavier bullets in place with heavy recoiling loads. In my experience this becomes the practical limiting factor well before chamber pressures. I only saw this when exceeding substantially the loads corresponding to original, true HV 44-40 velocities with 200 grain bullets (as given in published loading manuals). With 300 gr bullets, bullet movement quickly became limiting factor, at least for practical use. I never pushed 240 grain bullets hard enough to observe this, but never tried to go above very lower end of published velocities for 44 Mag loads. NO, I WILL NOT POST LOADS -- DO YOUR OWN LOAD DEVELOPMENT!! WITH LOTSA CARE!!

Also, with Rossi, magazine tube would not stay in place with heavier loads, thanks to there being almost nothing to hold it against inertia.

Niklas
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Old 08-23-2010, 03:56 PM
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Thanks to both of you for the info. So if the modern guns are .429 is that what you use to reload with or won't the cases handle it ? I'm kind of confused ---Please explain further if you don't mind.

Steve
I only use 0,429 diameter bullets and my loading dies are intended for 0,427. Both my 44-40s have 0,429 bores. IF I wanted smallest groups, I probably should get expander plug for 0,429 bullets -- so as to get more consistant alignment of bullets with bore -- at least that is expectation.

I too find loading 44-40 really easy, in spite of thin brass. Maybe I have advantage cause I started loading 32-20 brass when I was 13 years old and still do. One does have to take care in adjusting loading dies, more care than with 44 Mag, 44 SPL, 44 MAG. Lubing is only extra, that is if you are accostumed to using carbide dies.

Stick with lighter loads and 44-40 can be a really pleasant round to shoot. Even with full BP loads and equivalent nitro loads, it is pleasant -- and it will also give you understanding why it was such a popular cartridge for so many, many decades, both in USA and elsewhere.

Niklas
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Old 08-23-2010, 04:16 PM
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Niklas,

If I understand you correctly--would you say that the .44-40 is more of a push as far as recoil is concerned ? I really love my 25-2 in .45 ACP just because the recoil is more of a push unlike the .44 mag. which can be punishing.

Also--thanks for all the insight--it is greatly appreciated--plus I tend to like the weird calibers, just more interesting. Already looking for brass and I don't even have a gun yet--go figure.

Steve
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Old 08-23-2010, 11:30 PM
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Push vs whack? In a heavy revolver, like a Ruger Blackhawk/Vaquero or large frame S&W, recoil of standard velocity 44-40 nitro loads is "mild", call it a push if you want. BP loads fully equal to original 44-40 BP loads get beyond "mild", right up there with modern 45 ACP loads, maybe even with what I remember with early 45 ACP loads.

Load that 44-40 revolver with true HV loads (as loaded by factory in early 1900s for rifles), which were NOT recommend for revolvers (meaning Colt SAAs, S&W, etc., typical of late 1800s, early 1900s) and it has a really sharp whack and muzzle blast, just like a 44 Mag with similar 200 grain loads in a Ruger Blackhawk/Vaquero.

Oddball calibers?? I have been using 44-40 for so long it is more of a standard caliber, like 32-20, 7X57, 16 gauge, etc.

Niklas
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Old 08-25-2010, 02:27 PM
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Quote from NiklasP,

"I have loaded 44-40 for use in a Ruger Vaquero and a Rossi 92 replica, both often chambered for 44 MAG. In these strong guns 44-40 can be loaded up to lower end of 44 Mag performance, with 200-300 grain bullets with no problems in case failure. DO NOT TRY THIS IN WEAK GUNS!! -- that is toggle links , old S&W revolvers, Colt SAAs, etc."

My response,

I have had a good number of standard .44/40 cases split vertically after being fired only with standard velocity loads. I have also had factory new unfired and loaded cases split. My ammunition is loaded with 200 grain bullets to a velocity of about 800/850 fps from a revolver.

I suggest that if one wants a hotter .44 there are enough .44 Specials and .44 Magnums available to do so.
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Old 08-26-2010, 11:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by semperfi71 View Post
Quote from NiklasP,

"I have loaded 44-40 for use in a Ruger Vaquero and a Rossi 92 replica, both often chambered for 44 MAG. In these strong guns 44-40 can be loaded up to lower end of 44 Mag performance, with 200-300 grain bullets with no problems in case failure. DO NOT TRY THIS IN WEAK GUNS!! -- that is toggle links , old S&W revolvers, Colt SAAs, etc."

My response,

I have had a good number of standard .44/40 cases split vertically after being fired only with standard velocity loads. I have also had factory new unfired and loaded cases split. My ammunition is loaded with 200 grain bullets to a velocity of about 800/850 fps from a revolver.

I suggest that if one wants a hotter .44 there are enough .44 Specials and .44 Magnums available to do so.
Based on my experience, I would expect that whatever 44-40(s) you are using have rather large chambers or you have been getting some really brittle brass -- most likely the former. I don't recall ever having a case split in body with my tight-chambered Ruger and only after lots (maybe 10) in Rossi's more generous chamber.

If one does not already have a nice 44-40 in a strong actioned gun (Ruger, Rossi, Marlin, Freedom Arms, Sauer, etc.), buy whatever 44 strikes your fancy and allows use of loads you want to use. With my experience, with my two 44-40s, I sure would not blow money on an additional 44 Spl or 44Mag chambered gun of same type. However, IF I really wanted full 44 Mag performance in a scoped revolver or carbine for hunting, THAT would logically result in buying a Ruger Blackhawk in hunter configuration or a Marlin carbine. But, I don't.

Niklas
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44 magnum, carbine, cartridge, chamber pressure, colt, crimp, remington, rossi, ruger, s&w, sass, sauer, smith & wesson, starline, vaquero

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