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.


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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

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.

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.

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - BULLPUPS

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - BULLPUPS

Joe Mantegna talks about the origins of Bullpups.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

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...

A simple test of sorting ammo and a shooting session at the range will show how bullet runout can affect the accuracy of your rifles. Shooting Tips

Bullet Runout - How It Affects Accuracy

Joseph von Benedikt - May 13, 2019

A simple test of sorting ammo and a shooting session at the range will show how bullet runout...

The new Tromix .375 SOCOM offers great performance with less recoil than its .458 brother. MSR

Review: Tromix .375 SOCOM

David Fortier - March 15, 2019

The new Tromix .375 SOCOM offers great performance with less recoil than its .458 brother.

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 Trending Articles

More Ammo

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...

Berger announces the addition of the new 30 Caliber 205 Grain Elite Hunter projectile to the long range Elite Hunter product line. Ammo

Berger 30 Caliber 205 Grain Elite Hunter Bullet — New for 2020

RifleShooter Digital Staff - April 20, 2020

Berger announces the addition of the new 30 Caliber 205 Grain Elite Hunter projectile to the...

The .300 BLK offers more versatility in terms of rifle selection, but in terms of energy the .30-30 bests the .300 BLK by a wide margin. Ammo

.30-30 Win. vs .300 BLK

Brad Fitzpatrick - December 24, 2019

The .300 BLK offers more versatility in terms of rifle selection, but in terms of energy the...

In this Cartridge Clash, Brad Fitzpatrick weighs the pros and cons of the .308 Win. vs 7mm-08 Rem. Ammo

.308 Win. vs 7mm-08 Rem.

Brad Fitzpatrick - September 04, 2019

In this Cartridge Clash, Brad Fitzpatrick weighs the pros and cons of the .308 Win. vs 7mm-08...

See More Ammo

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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

Get Digital Access.

All Rifle Shooter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now