.44-40 or .45 Colt

Discussion in 'Revolver Handguns' started by tinbucket, Oct 21, 2020.

  1. tinbucket

    tinbucket Well-Known Member

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    Competitive Shooting: well I have given up the idea because of infirmity. but have considered for carry my cowboy rig. It.s .45 old Vaquero Stainless.
    36 loops worth of heavy .45 Colt lead plus the revolver and 6 more rounds and the substantial weigh to the belt and holster itself. Probably 12-15 lbs?
    If I carry a Colt pattern gun in .44.40 might save some ounces, especially in the lighter New Vaquero. Suppose I could save 2 lbs?
    The .45 Colt was not popular until after WWII, I hyear. In the old West 1865-1930s, they carried .44-40s and .36s and some others. So it would be going back to traditional.
    The .45 Colt is a big hunk...of slow lead. unless you hand load or buy loads equivalent to the Cassull's. I won't try the.45 Colt carbine 340 grain bear load in the Vaquero again, that's fer sure.
    The.44-40 how does it compare in ballistics, that is smokeless powder, new loads?
    Anyone carry the.44-40?
     
  2. locutus

    locutus Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Tin, judging y the guns I see in musuems in Wyoming and Montana, the .45 Colt was very popular.

    Ballitics wise, the .45 had a bit more bullet weight, and the .44 a bit more velocity. Both had a good rep for being effective.
     
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  3. Gatoragn

    Gatoragn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    A Colt pattern gun in 44 special would be more practical than 44-40 and serve you well.

    The advantage of the 44-40 vs 45 Colt in the old west was the ammo could be used in both your rifle and your handgun. A Winchester rifle and a revolver in 44 40 was a very useful combination.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2020
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  4. Virginian

    Virginian Well-Known Member

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    I am a .44 Spl. fan, but there is nothing wrong with a .45. I never could warm up to a bottlenecked handgun round. Either a new Vaquero or any of the Colt clones will do. I have an original Vaquero in .44 Magnum caliber and it is a LOT heavier than any of them.
     
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  5. locutus

    locutus Well-Known Member Supporter

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    One of the things that made the .44-40 casrtridge popular was that everyone had a rifle. Most of them .44-40.

    Not many folks back then had pistols. Other than working cowboys and LE, most did not carry a pistol. It was an expensive, and in most cases unneeded luxury item for most folks.
     
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  6. freefall

    freefall Well-Known Member

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    .45 Colt is a Way easier find for ammo.
     
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  7. Virginian

    Virginian Well-Known Member

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    I reload, and the same dies work for Spl. and Magnum. Also, all the rifles and handguns for .44 Magnum will also digest Specials.
    I had an acquaintance who reloaded .45 'Special' loads. When his cases started to split he would cut them back 1/10" and make Specials. Don't know where he got the load data. They were very nice shooting loads.
     
  8. freefall

    freefall Well-Known Member

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    I thought you were talking about .44/40.
     
  9. Gatoragn

    Gatoragn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    That was in the OP.
     
  10. freefall

    freefall Well-Known Member

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    Ah, I hadn't kept up with the drift.
     
  11. formerCav

    formerCav Well-Known Member

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    I'd go with what is more readily available.
    I had an SS Ruger Vaquero in 45 Colt. It shot very nicely using the cowboy loads.
    Only thing I didn't like about it was that if you turned the cylinder a THOUSANDTH of an inch too far you had to go all the way around to eject that spent case.
     
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  12. Gatoragn

    Gatoragn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    A good free spin pawl is a nice modification.

    I believe the mid-frame Vaqueros come from the factory with a free spin pawl, the 22 lr Wranglers have this feature.
     
  13. locutus

    locutus Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The old style large frame .45 is the way to go. Everything from anemic cowboy loads to .44 magnum+ power levels. Always nice to have a choice.
     
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  14. Bryan Austin

    Bryan Austin New Member

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    The 45 was more popular than the 44-40 when it came to the revolver. However, for revolver and rifle, the 44-40 was preferred. The 45 Colt load was reduced early in it;s life, less than a year which then made the 44-40 more powerful. However, today, the 45 Colt revolver has an edge over the 44-40.

    If you do not handload, get the 45 Colt...ammo is easier to find. If you handload, get the 44-40.

    If you decide to get a rifle chambered for 44-40 and you handload, Unique works well for both rifle and revolver....rifle at and below 100 yards. If you handload with certain slower burning rifle powders, you can get the Winchester 73' to perform to original ballistics out to 250 yards.

    If you prefer a Winchester 92' or Marlin 1894CB, you can replicate Winchester's 1903 to 1945 High Velocity loads that can be accurate out to 300 yards when loaded correctly.

    Here is a link to the 44-40 website: https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester
     
  15. Bryan Austin

    Bryan Austin New Member

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    To the one person that visited the 44-40 site to read that article and another three pages of 44-40 information for 22 minutes. THANKS!

    If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. The 44-40 can be a very complicated cartridge.
     
  16. JTJ

    JTJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    45 Colt is very easy to handload and you dont need expensive equipment. You also dont need to load heavy bullets or full power loads which would cut your weight down to the 44-40 level. Personally I could not carry that belt without a shoulder harness to keep the weight off my waist. Lever guns in 45 Colt are now available.
    Firearms people really carried in the old west are not what the movies portray. A ranch hand made $30-$40 a month and could not afford even the ammo. A single round of 45 Colt or 44-40 was 2 bits/25 cents. It was used to buy a drink of whiskey in bars. That is where the term "A shot of whiskey" and the shot glass came into being. Muzzle loading rifles and pistols were around for a long time. Most were war surplus bought cheap and cheaper to feed. Holsters were mostly cut down military surplus. Some wealthy ranch owners armed their men for protection against rustlers and bandits. They had better firearms and also provided horses.
     
  17. Bryan Austin

    Bryan Austin New Member

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    Correct, the old west was not what the movies portray.
    [​IMG]

    "Cowboys" seen here with gunbelts full of ammo with the buckles moved back so they can get to their ammo. Or is this just for a photo? The photos were expensive enough, much less the addition of un-needed ammo, belts holsters etc.

    Out on the trail most cowboys, by the 1890's, left their firearms in the chuck wagon....or was at least true with the Wyoming cowboys.

    Nevertheless the 45 Colt revolvers out sold the 44-40 revolvers, but the 44's came in second behind the 45. Those guys didn't go around handloading like many think they may have, they purchased a box at the cost of a day's pay and they sure as heck didn't "shoot up the town" with such expensive ammo.

    As for the power and accuracy of the 44-40, it surpassed the 45 Colt early until the 45 Colt started using stronger cases. The US Army stopped using full loads in the 45 Colt almost as soon as the ordered them. By July 23rd, 1873 the US military ordered 8,000 Colt SAA revolvers. Frankford Arsenal first manufactured the new 45 Colt cartridges for the military's new M1873 Colt Single Action Revolvers by, and stamped, October 1873 on the cartridge boxes. These are standard length copper-cased centerfire Benét inside primed cases with a 250gr lead bullet loaded with a reduced 30gr of black powder load. These early "weak" cases could not withstand the pressures from 40gr full loads.

    By July of 1874, the military ordered 3,000 Smith & Wesson Schofield revolvers. With the Schofield's shorter cylinder, the Frankford Arsenal abandon the longer Colt case and began producing ammunition that would fit both revolvers. The case was .162" shorter than the colt case and filled with only 28gr of black powder. The 250gr bullet was replaced by a lighter 230gr lead bullet. Production of this new shorter cartridge began in early 1875 and at some point officially designated the ".45 Government Revolver cartridge"

    By the late 1880's, the Schofield (using the shorter cartridge) was the only 45 cal revolver being produced for US Army issue. The cartridge box call-outs seem to remain the same until 1882. These were the reloadable catridges with external primers.

    With the advent of the Center Fire case with external primer pocket, by Jan 1884 there was a lot more information added back to the cartridge boxes to include handloading ORDERS. The Cartridge loading seems to have remained the same.

    By 1887, Frankford offered a new style box but maintained the "string" used to open. The cases, by 1891, where now "Tinned" but seem to retain the typical loading.

    By 1898, the military adopted the new M1909 Colt double action revolver. It would appear that the longer cartridges were re-adopted by 1911. The 1911 cartridge boxes contained 20 cartridges rather than the previous 12. Some cartridge boxes were actually stamped with at least three different dates. One example shows 2 May 1911 on the side label, 28 Oct 1913 on the top and 10 Dec 1913 on the bottom.

    Commercialy available 45 caliber cartridges from the longer 45 Colt to the shorter 45 Schofiled. Technically the 45 "Colt Government" cartridges where manufactured to fit the 45 Schofield.....thus we only really have two cartridges, those that fit the 45 Colt and those that fit the 45 Schofiled.

    Untitled.jpg

    With all of that said, Winchester offered the handloading tools and components as early as 1875 for the 44-40.

    Winchester seems to offer their first 73' handloading tool; patented Oct 20th, 1874, in their 1875 catalog. Much like my writing skills, Winchester's is a bit hard to follow at times but here is what I interpret....

    The interesting part of the add is the availability of factory bullets and the comparison of accuracy claims between the two.

    Winchester writes..."Where it is desired to have a more perfect cartridge than can be made with a simple cast bullet, the best course is, if practicable, to purchase the machine swaged bullets, having grooves to receive the lubricating compound, from the manufactures; but, where this can not be done, a very perfect bullet can be made in hand swages, furnished to order. For ordinary use, however, it is found that the cast bullet will answer."

    "Winchester's "New Model of 1873"
    I failed to see a catalog offered for 1874, however, in Winchester's catalog of 1875 the "New Model of 1873" is introduced.

    "Its Popularity Proves Its Success", the title given to the article that explains...

    "One hundred and fifty thousand have been sold without advertising or puffing, and they have everywhere been given unqualified satisfaction, having earned their position solely by their merits."

    Most testimonials listed appear to be from hunters rather than "cowboys". Killing deer, bear antelope etc., nothing is mentioned about "cattle trails".

    Tons of historical information here:
    https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester
     
  18. Bryan Austin

    Bryan Austin New Member

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    On a side note:

    Back around 1909, the US Government's loading machines kept dropping an occasional "double charge" of Bullseye in their M1909 45 Colt loads. Most of the time they would blow the gun with the first shot. DuPont came up with a replacement powder called RSQ. One could fire six consecutive double charged 38 caliber loads before it got ugly. Being "rescued" by DuPont, Major K. K. V. Casey requested it be called "RSQ"......Resque! The powder was dropped two years later with the Model 1911.

    On a side note side note, this issue with smokeless powder could be at least one reason why Colt would not approve smokeless powder for the 45 Colt (all Colt's revolvers) until 1909. MEANWHILE, the 44-40 was already being loaded with "High Velocity" loads for 92' rifles ONLY.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2020
  19. tinbucket

    tinbucket Well-Known Member

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    I would by the Colt .45 short or Schofield or Russian if they could be found at a good price, or the Cassull round for the Blackhawk frame...provied someoen else would shoot it for me.