Author Topic: Ammo questions for Original 1873 Winchester 3rd models  (Read 544 times)

Offline spencer_pa

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Ammo questions for Original 1873 Winchester 3rd models
« on: June 23, 2019, 06:41:10 pm »
Hello All,

Newbie here.  I have purchased the following rifles and am looking for commercial ammo and reloading options to shoot them:

3rd Model 1873 38-40 WCF (manuf. 1885)
3rd Model 1873 22 short (manuf. 1895)
1894 Takedown 32 WS (manuf. 1903)

I have read a few forum threads on CAS website about the wisdom/stupidity in using black vs smokeless, asked two different gunsmiths and a professional reloader -- I can't seem to get a straight or consistent answer out of anyone.  I am starting to understand this is by design (nobody wants to take the risk, it's a personal decision, etc), but it's not easy for a newbie to make an informed decision. I am joining a local CAS club just to discuss and learn more about this, so I can safely shoot my guns.

I am considering these commercially available smokeless options for the above, in order:

Black Hills 38-40 180 Gr FPL (800 FPS)
CCI 22 short LRN (710 FPS)
Federal 170 Gr soft point FN (2250 FPS)

I've taken an NRA reloading class and am interested in learning how to load these rounds by myself.  I'd greatly appreciate any load advice and what supplies/tools to buy (beyond the basics, that is).

Thanks for any advice!

Offline Coffinmaker

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Re: Ammo questions for Original 1873 Winchester 3rd models
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2019, 03:09:56 pm »

 :)  OK, I'll take whack at it.  If it helps you at all, I'm a retired Gunplumber and I'm also somewhat opinionated (Yes, it's true)  However:

I don't recommend running smokeless powder in pre-smokeless guns.  Modern ammunition is loaded to SAMMI specs for pressure that will be safe in any gun originally chambered in your specified caliber.  Just keep in mind .... the Pressure spike between smokeless and BP is quite DIFFERENT.  Your '73 was designed around Black Powder.  Use Black Powder.  Also, remember, those folks from SAMMI aren't holding your rifle when it fires.  Neither are those folks who will tell you "Hey, it's perfectly safe .. I do it in mine all the time."

Your '73 22 is pretty much OK for anything.  The rifle was designed around much stouter ammunition and probably doesn't even know it's being fired.

Your Take Down '94 in 32 WS is pretty much the "Bank Vault" of lever guns.  Was designed for early smokeless cartridges and can easily deal with much higher pressures than 32 WS can deliver.  DO NOT shoot any form of "Round Nose" or pointy Nose ammunition in this rifle.

Loading advice is dirt cheap and worth what you pay for it.  DO NOT accept load suggestions from ANYONE on a web page.  Not even this one.  PERIOD.  Hot foot to your local Book store or Sporting Goods outlet large enough to carry a LARGE selection of reloading manuals.  Look for the LARGE softcover book by Lyman.  Read it until you can quote it from memory.  Then to buy stuff.  Oh, and most Sporting Goods store clerks know LESS than you do.  Just ask for directions to the books.

Offline spencer_pa

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Re: Ammo questions for Original 1873 Winchester 3rd models
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2019, 04:52:15 pm »
Coffinmaker,

Thank you sir!  That sounds like reasonable advice and confirms what the ammunition manufacturers told me today (I called them):
* CCI says any 22 short is fine in the 1873/22s, esp the lower charged ones
* Black Hills said emphatically no, do not shoot their smokeless 38-40 rounds in my 1873 due to pressure curve differences.
* For the 32WS, Federal said to call Winchester (who don't seem to have a public number, so I emailed them), but my gunsmith did say the 1894 should be fine with the modern smokeless ammo. The Federal 32WS I have is flat nose.

I appreciate the comment about loading advice.  What edition of the Lyman book do you recommend? What's a good second choice?

Thanks again for the tips!

Offline Coffinmaker

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Re: Ammo questions for Original 1873 Winchester 3rd models
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2019, 09:59:31 am »

Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with the "Edditions" of the Lyman book anymore.  However, any of the Lyman books will be just fine.  The only thing that changes is the inclusion of different calibers and "New" powders.  Normally, the one on the store shelf is the most current.

Calling Winchester is a wast of time and effort.  Winchester today is nothing more than a Marketing entity.  Winchester Hasn't built guns in decades.  Most of the people who work there are Cubicleites without a clue.  Same suggestion applies to eMail to Winchester.  Waste of band width.

Not that I'm Opinionated. (Snicker Snicker).

Offline Cliff Fendley

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Re: Ammo questions for Original 1873 Winchester 3rd models
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2019, 08:45:03 am »
I've never shot anything but black powder in original 1973 rifles. Except for the 22 maybe I would be to stay with black powder, that's what the cartridge and the guns are designed for.

The 32 special in model 94 carbines is one of my favorite deer rifles for deep woods hunting and I reload and shoot smokeless in them, they were designed for smokeless but that said the 32 special also lends itself well for black powder because the model 94's chambered for that round have a 1 -16 rate of twist rather than the 1-12 of the 30wcf. Lots of speculation surrounds why Winchester did that from doing it so shooters of that time period used to the larger bore rifles could reload using black powder to Winchester using existing tooling to rifle the barrels.
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Offline spencer_pa

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Re: Ammo questions for Original 1873 Winchester 3rd models
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2019, 08:52:51 am »
I shot all these guns I originally posted about last week.  It was a lot of fun.  Used Buffalo Arms 38-40 BP rounds in the 1873, modern Federal Winchester 32 special in the 1894, and modern CCI 22 short in the 1873 22s.

The BP rounds went through nicely in the 1873 38WCF, but man was it a pain to clean out that powder.  This is my first time to ever shoot black powder rounds, so the cleanup was an unexpected chore. It took about 25 patches and some bore brush elbow grease to really get it clean.  Then all my tools, nibs and brushes were dirty and needed to be soaked in paint thinner.

The 1894 winchester 32 special was a beast.  Kicked so hard that I had bruises on my shoulder and a bruise on my cheekbone from the tang peep site.  Couldn't figure out how to make that bugger not punch me in the face each time I shot.  Still a pleasure to shoot.  All three rifles were shot in 3" groupings at 100 yards with no adjustments.

Offline Bryan Austin

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Re: Ammo questions for Original 1873 Winchester 3rd models
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2019, 10:38:11 am »

I don't recommend running smokeless powder in pre-smokeless guns.  Modern ammunition is loaded to SAMMI specs for pressure that will be safe in any gun originally chambered in your specified caliber.  Just keep in mind .... the Pressure spike between smokeless and BP is quite DIFFERENT. 

Your information is inaccurate.

Early smokeless powder (Dupont #2) was not coated with a burn deterrent thus pressure spikes were higher than today's smokeless powders. When Winchester first started using smokeless powder in their rifles (1896 for the 38 WCF), The RED labeled smokeless powder ammo boxes specifically stated  "For The Winchester Model 1873" .38 cal. (Winchester Cartridge Boxes 1856-1956 ~ Giles & Shuey) BUSTING this anti-smokeless myth!

Quite the opposite...Some earlier smokeless powder had less of a pressure spike than BP!!!



NOT noted for the .38 WCF, the 44 WCF Red label boxes noted "NOT FOR PISTOLS" but was phased out with later updated powders.

ANY CURRENT HANDLOADS LISTED IN MANUALS is safe for ALL firearms chambered for the 38WCF UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED! (or firearm is a piece of crap).



 There is no mention of the model 92 on this particular box making it's value between $2,500 and $5,000
« Last Edit: July 09, 2019, 11:18:08 am by Bryan Austin »

Offline Trailrider

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Re: Ammo questions for Original 1873 Winchester 3rd models
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2019, 03:44:45 pm »
Your information is inaccurate.

Early smokeless powder (Dupont #2) was not coated with a burn deterrent thus pressure spikes were higher than today's smokeless powders. When Winchester first started using smokeless powder in their rifles (1896 for the 38 WCF), The RED labeled smokeless powder ammo boxes specifically stated  "For The Winchester Model 1873" .38 cal. (Winchester Cartridge Boxes 1856-1956 ~ Giles & Shuey) BUSTING this anti-smokeless myth!

Quite the opposite...Some earlier smokeless powder had less of a pressure spike than BP!!!



NOT noted for the .38 WCF, the 44 WCF Red label boxes noted "NOT FOR PISTOLS" but was phased out with later updated powders.

ANY CURRENT HANDLOADS LISTED IN MANUALS is safe for ALL firearms chambered for the 38WCF UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED! (or firearm is a piece of crap).



 There is no mention of the model 92 on this particular box making it's value between $2,500 and $5,000
Were those pressure/time curves taken from an Oehler M43 Personal Ballistics Lab?  Looks similar to the runs I made, especially on the .45-70, except I was shooting a variety of smokeless powders, including IMR3031 and ReloadeR 7.  Although some of the loads were in the ranges for M1886, the p/t curves were similar, smooth and consistent.

I have NOT tested M1873 rifle loads in .38-40, but the loads shown in the latest Lyman handbooks should be safe for that rifle, IF the gun is in good condition, headspace is correct, no cracks in the toggle links, especially in the knuckles. (Years ago, I had an original '73, which did have a cracked lefthand knuckle joint. I replaced both toggle links with Navy Arms links, and never had any further trouble.  I have also shot smokeless .44-40 loads in a Navy Arms M1860 Henry replica. These were 8.0 gr of Hodgdon's Universal behind a 213.5 gr. hardcast commercial bullet. Through over 3,000 rounds there was never an increase in headspace!

In spite of the above, I would opt on the side of those recommending black powder or one of the substitutes (NOT Pyrodex) for safety sake!
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Offline Bryan Austin

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Re: Ammo questions for Original 1873 Winchester 3rd models
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2019, 04:40:48 pm »
Were those pressure/time curves taken from an Oehler M43 Personal Ballistics Lab?  Looks similar to the runs I made, especially on the .45-70, except I was shooting a variety of smokeless powders, including IMR3031 and ReloadeR 7.  Although some of the loads were in the ranges for M1886, the p/t curves were similar, smooth and consistent.

I have NOT tested M1873 rifle loads in .38-40, but the loads shown in the latest Lyman handbooks should be safe for that rifle, IF the gun is in good condition, headspace is correct, no cracks in the toggle links, especially in the knuckles. (Years ago, I had an original '73, which did have a cracked lefthand knuckle joint. I replaced both toggle links with Navy Arms links, and never had any further trouble.  I have also shot smokeless .44-40 loads in a Navy Arms M1860 Henry replica. These were 8.0 gr of Hodgdon's Universal behind a 213.5 gr. hardcast commercial bullet. Through over 3,000 rounds there was never an increase in headspace!

In spite of the above, I would opt on the side of those recommending black powder or one of the substitutes (NOT Pyrodex) for safety sake!

It is my understanding that they are. They appear to be for shotgun and 45-70, respectively. Also, pressure curves may be different for different calibers but gives an idea. I use Reloder 7 exclusively for my 44-40's although I also use Trail Boss. Contrary to the "formula" given by Trail Boss for loading, the 44-40 data is available and max loads should not be exceeded. If using the Trail Boss "formula", a shooter will exceed max 11,000psi pressures for Group I rifles.