The Legendary .44-40

The Legendary .44-40

If the Winchester 1873 was the "Gun that Won the West," then that rifle's most popular caliber, the .44-40, was definitely the "Cartridge that Won the West."

If the Winchester 1873 was the "Gun that Won the West," then that rifle's most popular caliber, the .44-40, was definitely the "Cartridge that Won the West." There were more firearms chambered for this round than any other during the last quarter of the 19th century.

Current .44-40 factory loadings feature a 200-grain bullet running about 800 to 1,100 fps.

The first commercially successful reloadable centerfire cartridge, the .44-40 emerged at precisely the right moment in history to blaze its way through clouds of blackpowder smoke and tame America's rugged and often lawless frontier.


By 1870, Oliver Winchester had achieved success with his two repeating rifles: the Henry and the Improved Henry. But both were plagued by weak bronze frames and an anemic cartridge, the .44 Henry Flat--a rimfire round that held just 13 grains of blackpowder (later increased to 26) behind a 200-grain bullet.



But Winchester's fortunes improved with his steel-framed Model 1873. To feed this stronger lever action, a .44 WCF (Winchester Center Fire) round was created. Combining power with reloadability, its success was instantaneous. Soon, other companies began chambering firearms for the .44 WCF, but not wishing to promote their rival's name, it became known as the .44-40--signifying a .44 caliber bullet powered by 40 grains of blackpowder. Barely adequate for deer, this cartridge nonetheless achieved further acclaim in 1878 when began Colt chambering its Single Action Army for it.

In 1903, a Winchester High Velocity .44-40 was produced for the stronger Model 1892, but it was eventually discontinued as shooters kept blowing up their weaker 1873s with this more powerful loading. At one time thought to be obsolete, the .44-40 was resurrected with cowboy action chooting. Thus, 137 years later, the .44-40 cartridge is still winning the West.


Recommended for You

Thompson/Center Arms rimfire rifles are available with Traditional Hardwood and Flat Dark Earth Black Grit finishes. Rimfire

Thompson/Center Arms Adds Stock Options to Rimfire Line

Rifle Shooter Digital Staff - April 16, 2019

Thompson/Center Arms rimfire rifles are available with Traditional Hardwood and Flat Dark...

The new MSR 15 Long Range in .224 Valkyrie reaches out with authority. MSR

Review: Savage Arms MSR 15 LR

David Fortier - May 17, 2019

The new MSR 15 Long Range in .224 Valkyrie reaches out with authority.

For decades, things were quiet on the .22 centerfire front. Starting in 2017, shooters were offered not one but two hot new centerfire .22 cartridges. First out of the gate was the .22 Nosler, followed by the Federal .224 Valkrie. Ammo

.22 Nosler vs .224 Valkyrie

Brad Fitzpatrick - May 02, 2019

For decades, things were quiet on the .22 centerfire front. Starting in 2017, shooters were...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Keith Feeley of Tactical Solutions sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to talk about the new X-Ring Takedown SBR .22LR rifle.

RS Sako Finnlight II

RS Sako Finnlight II

The new Sako Finnlight II sports an innovative stock and Cerakote metal paired with the terrific 85 action.

Steyr Arms Announces Sniper Rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor

Steyr Arms Announces Sniper Rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor

Scott O'Brien from Steyr Arms sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to take a look at Steyr's new tactical heavy barrel sniper rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

The Federal Berger Hybrid Hunter Ammo combines high BCs with a forgiving bullet profile and promises versatile performance. Ammo

Federal Berger Hybrid Hunter Ammo

Brad Fitzpatrick - April 30, 2019

The Federal Berger Hybrid Hunter Ammo combines high BCs with a forgiving bullet profile and...

A simple test shows how runout can affect the accuracy of your rounds. Shooting Tips

The Rundown on Runout

Joseph von Benedikt - May 13, 2019

A simple test shows how runout can affect the accuracy of your rounds.

The handloading question: With large availability factory ammo on the market, why bother with reloading? Craig Boddington offers a few answers. Reloading

Reloading Ammo – Why?

Craig Boddington - March 26, 2019

The handloading question: With large availability factory ammo on the market, why bother with...

See More Stories

More Ammo

Aguila Ammunition has met the needs of shooters again. Ammo

Aguila Ammunition Announces Bulk Packaging for 5.56 Rifle Ammo

Rifle Shooter Digital Staff - January 11, 2019

Aguila Ammunition has met the needs of shooters again.

The new Winchester .350 Legend is an effective straight-wall whitetail round with low recoil and a low price tag. Ammo

Winchester .350 Legend Review

Brad Fitzpatrick - July 24, 2019

The new Winchester .350 Legend is an effective straight-wall whitetail round with low recoil...

Weatherby has announced two new rifles — the Backcountry and the Backcountry Ti — and the 6.5 RPM non-belted cartridge, their first non-venturi design. Bolt-Action

New Weatherby Backcountry Rifles, 6.5 RPM Cartridge Announced

J. Scott Rupp - September 06, 2019

Weatherby has announced two new rifles — the Backcountry and the Backcountry Ti — and the 6.5...

See More Ammo

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.