Vaquero 44-40 ????

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BearStopper

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May 16, 2008
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I just noticed a Vaquero in 44-40 on a website at a good price and while I don't necessarily want it, it would seem to me that this caliber would be desirable especially since I don't see it chambered in the New Vaquero. Is this something that is not popular with Cowboy Action due to expense of reloading and higher recoil than the .38 special? I have always been interested in the Single Action Army Frontier Six Shooter as they seem to be less common than the 45 Colt.
 

BIgMuddy

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Feb 15, 2007
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550
Others will give you more details I am sure, but the 44-40 is not the most popular with CAS shooters, but still many do use it.

In the Ruger Vaquero, several of them need the chamber mouths reamed out as they were tight, like .426-.427 and they used the same barrels as the 44 mag, which is more in the .429-.430 range. I have seen some that shot great out of the box, and some that were horrible. They have all shot well after opening the cylinder, and that is not to hard to get done, not too expensive.

In this gun you get some pretty impressive ballistics with the 44-40 through reloading. I don't have experience doing that, but have seen some impressive results.

All in all...if you found one at a good price I say grab it up!
 

buckeyeshooter

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Nov 8, 2004
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674
the bottleneck design and thin case necks make it a 'challenge' to load for. This may be part of the equasion as 44 special/magnum are easily loaded.
 

Driftwood Johnson

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Sep 25, 2007
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Howdy

I've been reloading and shooting 44-40 for years. The 'bottleneck' has nothing to do with the difficulty of reloading it. In truth, the 'bottleneck' of 44-40 is so slight that you have to look closely to even notice it.

The thinness of the brass at the case mouth though does make 44-40 a bit fussy to reload. 44-40 brass tends to run only about .007 thick at the case mouth. 45 Colt tends to run around .012 thick at the case mouth. That thin case wall has everything to do with it being 'fussy' to reload. Improperly set up dies will often result in the case neck crumpling down below the bullet. But 44-40 is not difficult to reload once you have your dies adjusted properly.

But you do have to be a bit more carefull. That thin case mouth will not take much abuse, and if the case is not properly centered in the shell holder and one carelessly rams a case mouth into the base of the sizing die, the mouth will probably crumple and the case will be ruined. If one did the same thing with a 45 Colt or 44 Special, it would just shrug off the blow. So I always run my press a little bit slower when loading 44-40 vs 45 Colt or 44 Special. I want to be able to stop pushing on the handle if I feel resistance when the shell first contacts the sizing die. So running a little bit slower keeps me from ruining cases if they shift on the shell plate.

Another myth about the bottleneck of 44-40 is that it helps keep chambers cleaner than straight cases. This is also untrue. Again, it is the thinness of the brass at the neck that allows the case to expand better at relatively low pressures to seal the chamber and prevent blowby in a rifle. The thicker case of 45 Colt cannot do this as well at the same pressure. The 'bottleneck' shape has nothing to do with it, high pressure gas has no problems going around corners.

P.S. Perhaps the idea bottlenecks being difficult to load is the fact that no carbide sizing dies exist for bottleneck cases, so one must use case lube when loading them. Carbide dies can be purchased for any straight walled case, like 38 Sp. 44 Sp, or 45 Colt. Carbide dies allow one to size cases without lubing them. But Carbide dies would be hideously expensive to make for anything other than straight cases, so only standard steel dies exist for these cases. That means one must take the extra step of lubing cases, not really a big deal, but it is an extra step in the loading process.

It is true that revolver manufacturers have often gotten diameters wrong when chambering revolvers for 44-40. The original 19th Century specification for barrel groove diameter for 44-40 was .427, as opposed to .429 for 44 Russian, 44 Special, and 44 Magnum. In truth, old 44-40 guns often varied as much as .425-.430. Today, most manufacturers have standardized with .429 barrels for 44 Special/44 Magnum guns. These guns require .429 or .430 lead bullets to perform properly. It can be a problem seating .429 or .430 bullets in 44-40 cases, with those thin necks, it often leads to cases bulging down below the bullet. In addition, and more importantly, manufacturers have often gotten chamber throat diameter completely wrong for 44-40 revolvers, often having undersized chamber throats as small as .425 coupled with a .429 barrel. A prescription for innaccuracy. The first Vaqueros chambered for 44-40 suffered from this problem. Later, Ruger got it right with slightly larger chamber throats.

Lastly, the New Vaquero is not available in 44-40 because when Ruger did the math, they realized they could not guarantee that all SAAMI spec ammo would fit in the cylinder without the rims interfering with each other. 44-40 rims run around .525 in diameter, 45 Colt rims only run around .512 in diameter. It was not a problem in the larger Vaquero cylinder, but it became an issue in the smaller New Vaquero cylinder.
 

KWYJIBO

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Nov 19, 2007
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Great reply, DJ! I am not interested in shooting or loading the 44-40, but I enjoyed reading your information on it. You are a very knowledgable fellow.
 
Joined
Jan 20, 2008
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I shoot the .44-40 in a 1913 Colt New Service and a 1911 Colt Bisley, as well as in a Win 1885 Hi-wall made in 1893. You have to be gentle with the cases, is all. Since I use a hand press, muscle ain't the problem... I am getting a .44-40 rifle with .429 barrel, since my Hi-wall is sort of valuable to experiment with and the mfr. of my new rifle uses only Badger .429 barrels. First I'll try annealing Starline brass and then--gently--expanding the necks to .429. Hope it works...

Then I'm gonna try loading some of those LeverEvolution .44 bullets, just to see wht can be done with them. Single shot .44-40s are somewhat more forgiving of experiments than repeaters; '92s and Marlin '94s are strong enough, but they have definite feeding limitations on ctg. length, etc.

You could load "rifle only" loads in that Vaquero!
 

Driftwood Johnson

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Sep 25, 2007
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Hi Mike

If you are going to be using a .429 barrel you might want to use the expander plug from a 44 Mag/44 Special die set instead of the plug that came with a standard 44-40 die set. The expander plug from the 44 Mag die set will be a couple of thousandths larger in diameter and will expand the case mouth enough to seat .429 or .430 bullets better than the standard 44-40 plug. You won't really have any problem splitting the necks with the larger diameter bullets, the thin brass would expand fine to accept them. The problem would be if you use the smaller plug, the larger diameter bullets may generate enough friction as they shove their way into the case mouth that they will 'catch' in the neck, shoving the entire neck downwards and causing the neck to crumple down below the bullet. This is a classic problem with 44-40. You may get away with the standard plug, but if you notice crumpling down below the bullet I suggest you try the slightly larger plug from the 44 Mag/44 Sp die set. You can probably order just the plug from who ever made your dies so you can swap it in easily.

A lot of folks claim you must seat bullets and crimp separately with a Lee Factory Crimp die in order to avoid problems with the 44-40. This is cerainly one solution, however I have been seating and crimping in one step for years. You just have to be very careful when you set the seating/crimp die, if your setting is off you will have problems.

For what it's worth, I have no feeding problems in my Winchester Model 1892, Marlin Model 1894 or Uberti made Henry, as long as I stay under the SAAMI max length for the cartidge. Don't forget, Winchester invented the 44-40 a long time ago and a lot of lever guns were made for it. If it was a problem round so many rifles would never have been sold. However I must add that my Uberti made Model 1873 is fussy about cartridge length and requires ammo a little bit longer than SAAMI Max to function well. But this is unusual. Most shooters I know have no problems with 44-40 in a lever gun as long as they observe SAAMI guidelines.
 

flhr62

Single-Sixer
Joined
Feb 23, 2007
Messages
307
KWYJIBO wrote

Great reply, DJ! I am not interested in shooting or loading the 44-40, but I enjoyed reading your information on it. You are a very knowledgable fellow.
+1
 
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