44-40 Mid-Range Rifle Cartridge, as it was referred to in the 1930's

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SavvyJack's picture
Joined: 08/18/2012

When loaded correctly, this cartridge certainty deserves respect.
With Winchester's factory Super-X ammunition only chronographing in at 1,022fps, less than the original Henry ballistics. All Cowboy Action factory ammunition clocked in below 1,000fps so , it is no wonder this cartridge has such a bad reputation. Back in it's heyday this cartridge produced over 1,300fps and by 1910 Winchester's "High Velocity" ammunition clocked in at 1,600fps. That extra velocity flattens the trajectory a little and allows the bullet to maintain enough energy at 300 yards to be a killer. Even when looking at Winchester's website, the 45-70 405gr Springfield factory loads produce just over 800ft lbs of energy at 300 yards, the 200gr 44-40 at over but slightly less than the 45-70 and the 180gr 38-40, over 800ft lbs but greater than the 44-40. Since we are talking pre-WWII no food stamps time, food on the table meant ethical killing was out the door if that is your argument. Now we all know that later 45-70 cartridges are certainly more powerful than the the Springfield loads but so were the 44-40 loads, I mean....more powerful than Winchester's current loads. Winchester's Super-X loads may be advertised at 1,190fps but all I could get was 1,025 from my first ten and 1,020fps from the second ten while my black powder loads exceed 1,350fps with black powder and equal at 1,350fps with Reloder 7 at Winchester 73' chamber pressures. Using IMR-4227 I can achieve much higher velocities but a modest 1,600fps for strong action rifles. This 1,600fps load gave me 6" x 6" groups at 265 yards (furthest my gun range is) while the 1,300fps load gave me four consistent 3 1/5" group at 265 yards. Tjhos groups could certainly open up with more shots but those first 4 were impressive...to me at least!

The advent of Cowboy action shooting brought back the popularity of the 44-40 cartridge but mouse-fart and p-poor ammunition brought with it mis-information as well as a bad reputation, not to mention Millennial's conjecture of the 44-40 being a "pistol" cartridge. By the 1930's the 44-40 has been referred to in books as a Mid-Range rifle cartridge of which I certainly agree. The 44-40 is a rifle cartridge used in "pistols", not a "pistol" cartridge used in rifles.

For target photos, video's and more information, check out the 44-40 web page.