Author Topic: Questions about .44-40  (Read 5720 times)

Crooked River Bob

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Questions about .44-40
« on: August 04, 2007, 12:58:10 PM »
Howdy

Not all of this pertains to cowboy action shooting.  However, I do love the old .44 WCF, and I have been shooting original Ruger Vaqueros in that chambering for eight years in cowboy action competition.

I am aware of the issues around Ruger .44-40 bore size and chamber throats.  I have not had the throats reamed on the Vaqueros because they have been fine for cowboy action as they are.  I did have a cylinder for another Ruger .44-40/.44 Mag Convertible ruined by a well-meaning gunsmith who reamed the chamber mouths to .430"...  It didn't shoot worth a dang after that, and leading was severe, even with moderate-powered loads and .429" bullets.

I am not set up for reloading.  I did use a commercial reloading service for several years, but they changed management and I had some problems with their ammo, so I have been shooting factory ammunition and selling the once-fired brass to recover some of the cost.  Most factory ammunition has .427" bullets.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to have a custom .44-40 with adjustable sights for recreational shooting and possibly hunting.  A New Model Blackhawk would make a good platform for the conversion.  I would expect to shoot mostly cast bullets in the 700-800 fps range, but would like the option of shooting jacketed softpoints at higher velocities if I take it hunting, or just want something more powerful.  I believe the standard diameter of 200 grain jacketed soft points for .44-40 is .426".

So far so good... However, the "standard" .44-40 barrel these days has a .429" bore, even from the custom gunsmiths.  One of 'em told me that his chamber reamer won't accommodate a chamber mouth smaller than .429".

The rule of thumb for cast bullets is that the chamber mouths should be bore-size or .001" over, and the bullet should fit the chamber mouth.  What is the "rule" for jacketed bullets?  How much do they obturate?  Do any of you Warthogs have hands-on experience shooting soft points in a .44-40 revolver?

U.S. Firearms makes a flat-top in .44-40 with a drift-adjustable rear sight and a tall, replaceable blade up front.  They make their .44-40s with correct bore and chamber specs.  Their flat-top is appealing, but these cost over $1,600.00 and I'm not sure they will safely handle the increased pressure of higher-velocity loads with soft points.

Any thoughts on this?

Thanks,

Crooked River Bob

Lars

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Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2007, 03:19:23 PM »
Hi Bob!

I have one of the Ruger Vaqueros in 44-40 that initially had cylinder with the well known undersize throats and neckspace. Sent it back to Ruger for installation of a cylinder with at least 0,429 throats and corresponding neckspace. I later polished out the throats to almost 0,430 -- true 0,429 bullets just slide easily, but snugly, through the throats. The bore is 0,429 groove-to-groove. Someone reamed a longer than stock forcing cone in this Ruger. The gun shoots any true 0,429 or 0,430 lead bullets really well. Does just as well with 0,429 jacketed bullets. Powders have been Blue Dot and 2400, with 2400 preferred -- these are my favorate for small grouping 44-40 loads.

This gun leads badly with 0,428 or smaller lead bullets, unless I put fiber wad under the bullet (BP loads only -- even leads badly with BP and too small bullets).

I have loaded ammo for this gun up to low end of 44 Mag velocities and all worked well. One of these loads has given consistantly the best groups ever in this gun. This is the best grouping revolver I have, with 240 to 300 grain bullets. I probably would not bother to load 200 grain bullets to the higher velocities. I would skip factory 44-40 ammo totally. Perhaps you can find a custom loader that will provide what you need, to your specs. The 44-40 loads that Alliant lists for Blue Dot and 2400 have always given really excellent groups in my guns.

Should I want a 44 caliber Ruger with adjustable sights, I might perhaps just get a 44 Mag and shoot it with lighter than full magnum loads. Because I already have loading dies, etc, for 44-40 I might get it rechambered for 44 Mag (think I recall correctly that can be done, just not the other way around). Might also look for a 44-40 cylinder and get it fitted, if it needs to be fitted.

Actually, my Ruger Vaquero shoots so well with 200 to 240 grain bullets, cast and jacketed, that I don't feel any need for adjustable sights -- which would be nice with heavier bullet loads. Most 200 bullet loads shoot very close to POA at 75 yards, 240s do so at 100-125 yards.

I would not buy a 44-40 with 0,427 bore because of the small selection of good bullets, especially jacketed.

Lars




Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2007, 08:02:44 AM »
Nope!  can't just re-chamber a .44-40 to .44 RM.  The base of the WCF is quite a bit larger than . the .44 RM.

The best is to get a new cylinder.  I'm not sure if RUGER will do it, but some of the specialty gun businesses will.

Lars

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Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2007, 08:49:45 AM »
Should I want a 44 caliber Ruger with adjustable sights, I might perhaps just get a 44 Mag and shoot it with lighter than full magnum loads. Because I already have loading dies, etc, for 44-40, I might get a 44 mag Ruger rechambered for 44-40 (think I recall correctly that can be done, just not the other way around). Might also look for a 44-40 cylinder and get it fitted, if it needs to be fitted.

Lars


Changed my misswrite to say what I really intended. Thanks to Charles de MoutonBlack for catching my goof.

FYI, last I knew Ruger will not sell cylinder to anyone. However, I have found a few used ones now and then, mostly for 44Mag  and 44-40, what I was looking for -- but all of them needed fitting to index properly for rapid fire.

Lars

Crooked River Bob

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Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2007, 03:23:42 PM »
Thanks, gentlemen.  Your responses are appreciated.  I expect I'll just abandon this particular project, since it's getting just a little too complicated. 

I solve problems at work.  I like to shoot for fun.

Much obliged,

Crooked River Bob 

Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2007, 08:16:04 AM »
CRB;  Don't give up on the 44 WCF!  It has stood the test of time, and is THE classic 1873 round, and the ideal (IMHO) combination cartridge.

Lars

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Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2007, 11:34:43 AM »
The 44-40 is one of my very favorate cartridges. It does have the minor problem of having two different "standard" bore and bullet sizes. Pick one -- my choice is the 0,429 version -- and enjoy! I have only one 45 Colt left and never could get interested in the 38 Special/357 Mag cartridges, the 44 Mag, the 30-30, etc. Just give me a nice 44-40 Ruger and Winchester 92, a nice 32-20 Ruger and Low Wall, a 7X57R and 16 gauge kombi gun or drilling and I have all the guns and cartridges that have served me well over 50+ years of hunting and shooting in the field.

My 44-40 chambered guns are amoung the last I will sell.

Lars

Lefty Dude

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Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2007, 05:53:59 PM »
The 44-40 is one of my very favorate cartridges. It does have the minor problem of having two different "standard" bore and bullet sizes. Pick one -- my choice is the 0,429 version -- and enjoy! I have only one 45 Colt left and never could get interested in the 38 Special/357 Mag cartridges, the 44 Mag, the 30-30, etc. Just give me a nice 44-40 Ruger and Winchester 92, a nice 32-20 Ruger and Low Wall, a 7X57R and 16 gauge kombi gun or drilling and I have all the guns and cartridges that have served me well over 50+ years of hunting and shooting in the field.

My 44-40 chambered guns are amoung the last I will sell.

Lars
____________________________________________________________________________



Lefty Dudes reply;
My favorite also. The only way to truly enjoy the 44WCF is to handload. If you do not handload you are not getting the true performance from this classic cartridge.

I have on order from the Colt Custom Shop, a pair of 4 3/4" blued, 44WCF with seperate 44 special cylinders. When you order in this configuration from the Custom Shop they barrel the piece with a .429 barrel. USFA might do the same. This give me a wide selection of cartridge's to shoot in the pair. 44WCF, 44 S&W, 44 Russian or 44 Colt. I already have my test loads (44 S&W ) ready when the pair arrives. I am anxious to shoot 44 S&W's. I also have a Uberti Cimarron 73 carbine in 44WCF, and a 92/44WCF Rossi located.

It is very important with the 44WCF firearms to slug the bore and make sure the Cylinder throats fit the bullet selected. And you must tailor your loads to make them shoot well.

I shoot smokless, can't afford to shoot that expensive black dirty crud. >:D 

I have a pair of Uberti Bisleys in 44WCF. The bores slug .429 and when I got them the cylinder throats were also .429. Accuracy was so- so. I had the forcing cones reamed to 11 degrees, and the throats opened to .431. Accuracy improved, leading decreased and I shoot .430 bullets. When I got the 73, the bore slugs .428. I have compromised and shoot .429's in all guns now. I use soft cast desperado bullets for CAS. The soft cast obutrates and seals much better than hard cast bullets at the lower velocity as we shoot CAS.

I have an old EMF Jager 44WCF. The bore of this piece is .4295, throats are .434. I load hard cast .431's and this piece is very accurate with a full load of Alliant Unique Powder.

Lefty Dude,

One who loves the 44WCF
« Last Edit: August 10, 2007, 05:57:35 PM by Lefty Dude »

Crooked River Bob

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Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2007, 07:53:08 PM »
The additional posts are also appreciated.  Lots of good information here. 

I'm not giving up on the .44-40;  I have a pair of early Vaqueros in that chambering as my favorite main match guns for CAS.  These are paired up with a Marlin Cowboy, also in .44-40, from a special run commissioned by Davidson's in 2000.  I love all of 'em.  It's just that I thought I might get an adjustable-sighted Ruger converted to .44-40, along with some other work, to make a really special revolver.  At this juncture, I don't expect to follow through with that particular project.

Regarding bore size, I suppose the depth of the grooves might also be of interest.  The Cimarron website has a table showing bore sizes and twists for Uberti guns.  Remarkably, they show both minor (land-to-land) and major (groove-to-groove) dimensions of their various calibers.  I thought it was interesting that all of their .44's (including the .44-40) have a major diameter of .429."  However, the .44 Colt, Special, and Russian bores have a minor diameter of .417", while the minor diameter of their standard .44-40 is .4215."  I don't know what the groove depth is on Rugers, or in my Marlin, which has the "deep cut" Ballard-style rifling.  When I get to it I'll slug my guns and measure both major and minor diameters.  If I remember correctly, Hamilton Bowen's book says groove depth is typically .0045" to .005".  If the Uberti chart is right, their .44-40 grooves are only .00375" deep, as compared to .006" for their other .44's.

Seems like it ought to be the other way around.  Go figure...

Crooked River Bob
« Last Edit: August 10, 2007, 08:08:12 PM by Crooked River Bob »

Lars

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Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2007, 10:13:26 AM »
I too once carefully examined the bore and groove-to-groove diameters that some import distributers give on their websites. Remember only that I got kinda confused and, since I eliminated their guns easily, I forgot all about the information.

I have sometimes wondered just how much the "deep cut" Ballard rifling that Marlin touts really differs from that in Rugers and other well made gun with standard rifling. I keep thinking that "Ballard" has been more or less standard for a long, long time. I keep wondering if the "deep cut" Ballard rifling is being touted by Marlin only as a means to distinguish it from the "Micro-Groove" rifling they touted so heavily for so many decades. Marketing, no more, no less. As most of you probably already know, "Micro-Groove" rifling has gotten a partly undeserved bad reputation for giving poor groups with cast lead alloy bullets, especially the soft alloys so preferred by folks using BPs and/or similarily low velocity lead alloy bullet loads.

Lars

 

Lefty Dude

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Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2007, 01:44:42 PM »
When I first got my Cimarron 73 carbine I called them to get the groove diameter. They informed me that all Ubert 44-40's were .429" I sluged the bore and it is .428". I later found out their tollerance variation is +- .001".

It is best to slug your own bore and do the measurments or have a Gunsmith do it for you.

Doc Cuervo

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Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2007, 01:05:12 PM »
44 40 is a great old cartridge and I love it dearly. However it's pretty much a handloader's proposition these days as long as you are talking revolvers; rifles and carbines do not have as many pieces to the puzzle, as we all know. Having revolver that is made correctly, with proper cylinder/bore match up helps a lot.
Personaly, I am no fan of rugers. I gave up on hasseling with their inherant problems long before starting CAS. But that is personal preference, not looking for any arguments.
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Life's journey to the grave is not about arriving in a well preserved body; it's about sliding in sideways, tires smoking, cigar in one hand, scotch in the other, shouting HOLY $H!T WHAT A RIDE!

Grizzly Clark

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Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2008, 06:49:19 AM »
Crooked River Bob,

I have a pair of Ruger 44 WCFs that I had Larry Crow re-work.  He does great work.  I would suggest that you contact him http://www.competitiveedgegunworks.com/  to discuss your desires/needs.

Good luck

Grizzly Clark

Crooked River Bob

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Re: Questions about .44-40
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2008, 06:53:44 AM »
Thanks for the reference, Grizzly Clark

I met Mr. Crow at the SASS Convention a few years ago, and I have heard that he does exceptional work.

Crooked River Bob