Best Bullet
Gun World|Gunslinger Fall 2016

The .44-40 WCF Is a Leading Candidate for the Best All-around Cartridge of the Old West Era.

Bob Campbell

It is easy to sing the praises of a particular cartridge based on a sense of history and emotional attachment. It is quite another to engage in an extensive loading program and then retain the same respect and affection.

Such is the case with the .44-40 Winchester Center Fire (WCF) cartridge. When overall performance, accuracy and killing power are considered, the .44-40 WCF is a great all-around cartridge.

The .44-40 WCF was introduced along with the new Winchester 1873 rifle. The cartridge was a considerable improvement over the previous .44 Henry and .44 Winchester rimfire cartridges. The ballistics were better and the center fire cartridge proved more reliable and better able to withstand both rough handling and the elements.

Colt chambered the Single Action Army for this cartridge around 1878. Quite a few double action revolvers were later chambered for the . 44-40. The history is satisfying to research.

The .44-40 WCF and the .45 Colt are similar cartridges in some ways. The pistol is more about short range power, and the .45 Colt had this with a 250-grain bullet at about 900 fps.

The .44-40, with the original 40-grain black powder load, will approach 1,000 fps from a 7.5- inch barrel revolver. The .44-40’s sectional density gave it good penetration on game when fired from a rifle at 1,200 fps.

The .44-40 WCF, with its 200-grain flat point bullet (demanded by tubular magazines, with the bullet nose resting on the primer of the cartridge leading) held its velocity and energy better to 100 yards and beyond.

FIREPOWER AND UTILITY

The Winchester rifle wasn’t about power or even accuracy, but about firepower. Against Apache, Comanche, rustlers and outlaw gangs, the repeating rifle gave a good shot with a cool head an advantage.

The Army’s .45-70 was needed for long-range use and buffalo rifles were necessary for hunters. But the Winchester ’73 and the .44-40 WCF were of great use for everyone.

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