Author Topic: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?  (Read 59124 times)

Offline cactus joe

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how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« on: December 14, 2010, 07:27:32 PM »
I was just wondering after reloading a batch of .45 long colt ammo, for my hungry henry, how the .44 rim fire original cartrige of yesteryear would stack against the .44-40 or the .45 long colt, say for white tail hunting at ranges of 50 to 75 yards, or just billistically at  the range. I'm not planning on taking it on any  buffalo hunts like kevin costner of course.anyone out there have any thoughts?

Offline Joe Lansing

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2010, 08:18:31 PM »
    Accuracy and luck are everything. Buffalo have been killed from horseback with the 44rf, but that was at point blank range and with how many shots? A record griz was killed in Canada with a 22lr by a native American picking blueberries.....but what does that tell us?
    If one were to hunt deer with a 44rf Henry(or '66), one better be a damned good shot and make the first one count, because you cant see a thing through the BP smoke, and not all deer drop like a rock when hit.
    Another point, to gain perspective, is successful hand gun hunting with revolvers before the magnum era. Again, accuracy and luck are everything.

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Offline Fox Creek Kid

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2010, 03:49:53 AM »
...A record griz was killed in Canada with a 22lr by a native American picking blueberries.....but what does that tell us?...

Uhh, avoid berry pickin' in Canada.  ;D :D ;)

Offline Major 2

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2010, 05:32:04 AM »
Uhh, avoid berry pickin' in Canada.  ;D :D ;)


Ummm... berry good answer  :)
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Offline StrawHat

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2010, 06:13:29 AM »
... A record griz was killed in Canada with a 22lr by a native American picking blueberries ...          J.L.

Joe,

I recall reading about that.  Young girl and her brother out gathering and ended up in a tree with the bear coming after them?  Do you have the article or a site to read it?  I thought it was a Single shot rifle and she used 22 shorts.  If I remember it correctly she shot it 6 or 8 times and after it died the kids went back to camp and only mentioned the incident after a couple of days.  Wish I could find my copy of the thing.  If you can help out, it would be appreciated.

As for the 44 Henry, I believe it about equals the 45 Cowboy Special when both use black powder.  When I get the time, I'll check my books.
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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #5 on: Today at 04:23:45 PM »

Offline Driftwood Johnson

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2010, 07:35:25 AM »
Howdy

The 44 Henry Rimfire cartridge had between 26 and 28 grains of Black Powder under a 200 grain lead bullet. That load can be exactly duplicated by the 45 Schofied cartridge. It had considerably less power than the 44-40 or 45 Colt cartridge which nominally held about 38 grains of powder. As a matter of fact, the 44-40 round with a 200 grain bullet was developed specifically as a more powerful round to replace the 44 rimfire.

As far as modern firepower is concerned, the 44 Rimfire round fired out of a rifle had about the same muzzle energy as a modern 357 Magnum fired out of a revolver.
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Offline cactus joe

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2010, 11:32:44 AM »
thanks for the info. I reload with smokless powder, so i shouldn't have a problem with smoke getting a 2nd shot, as far blueberry picking, so far no grizzlies have snuck up behind me that i know of, but i'll try not to let my guard down.

Offline Driftwood Johnson

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2010, 04:39:16 PM »
Smokeless in a Henry?

Blasphemy :)
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Offline cactus joe

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2010, 06:17:49 PM »
I knew that was comming. i hated to admit it, but  i use the same powder in my other 2 deer rifles, and so i only have to keep 1 kind of powder around and i don't get mixed up on my loaden, i am easily confused nowadays.

Offline Forty Rod

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2010, 06:20:23 PM »
Smokeless in a Henry?

Blasphemy :)

Too true.  ;D
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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #10 on: Today at 04:23:45 PM »

Offline StrawHat

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2010, 05:20:49 AM »
I knew that was comming. i hated to admit it, but  i use the same powder in my other 2 deer rifles, and so i only have to keep 1 kind of powder around and i don't get mixed up on my loaden, i am easily confused nowadays...

I know what you mean.  I am trying to limit the numbers of powders on my bench.  So far it is down to black, Unique, Bullseye and one other I need for a double rifle.  Unique is slowly being replaced by black so soon it will be down to three.  2.7 grains of B'eye under the 148 WC just can't be beat.  The only load I use with B'eye.  Black goes in eveything else.
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Offline StrawHat

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2010, 05:37:36 AM »
...The 44 Henry Rimfire cartridge had between 26 and 28 grains of Black Powder under a 200 grain lead bullet. That load can be exactly duplicated by the 45 Schofied cartridge ...
As far as modern firepower is concerned, the 44 Rimfire round fired out of a rifle had about the same muzzle energy as a modern 357 Magnum fired out of a revolver...

You can also come pretty close with the 44 Colt (okay maybe not considered a modern load).  Actually most of the early rounds, rimfire or centerfire, were on the light side of the power spectrum.  I count the 50-70 as being the first of the heavy hitters and that was not followed until 1873 when the 45 long Colt, 45-70 and 44 WCF were introduced.  Until 1873, most of the handgun cartridges were fairly anemic.  Even after 1873, few cartridges were what we would consider powerful.
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Offline Christopher Carson

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2010, 07:20:23 AM »
You can also come pretty close with the 44 Colt (okay maybe not considered a modern load).  Actually most of the early rounds, rimfire or centerfire, were on the light side of the power spectrum.  I count the 50-70 as being the first of the heavy hitters and that was not followed until 1873 when the 45 long Colt, 45-70 and 44 WCF were introduced.  Until 1873, most of the handgun cartridges were fairly anemic.  Even after 1873, few cartridges were what we would consider powerful.

I suspect you could also make a good "heavy hitter" argument for the Spencer cartridges and probably some of the early Brit cartridges of the day...

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Offline Driftwood Johnson

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2010, 05:37:17 PM »
Howdy Again

I will agree, some of the early repeater cartridges were a little bit anemic.

The way I see it, there were a couple of reasons. Most of the 'Heavy Hitter' firearms at the middle of the century were single shots. Sharps, Rolling Block, Trap Door, come to mind. With a single shot, you can make the action big and strong. With 19th Century iron and steel, big meant strong. But a repeater built that big and massive would have to have really big parts inside and it would weigh a ton. Kind of like the Winchester 1876.

If you look at the history of the Henry, it was actually a step up in power from its predecessor the Volcanic. The Volcanic fired that anemic little Rocket Ball. I dunno how much powder it held, but it sure wasn't much. In fact, probably most of the reason for the financial failure of the Volcanic was because the ammo was so anemic. They just did not sell. When Oliver Winchester took over most of the old Volcanic company, he was busy selling off the stock of Volcanic firearms already built, but at the same time he got B. Tyler Henry working on a better replacement. First thing he did was instruct Henry to come up with a rimfire cartridge to replace the Rocket Ball. But Henry's first effort was a 38 cal rimfire, probably because that was the caliber many of the Volcanics had been. Winchester told him to go back to the drawing board and come up with a 44 cal rimfire. The 44 Henry Rimfire round was the result. Just a simple staight, copper rimfire case, but it held about 26 to 28 grains of powder, which was a lot more than the Rocket Ball did. The 44 rimfire was a good cartridge for the bronze framed Henry and Winchester 1866. Not too powerful because their actions were not real strong.

When 1873 rolled around, the Winchester Model 1873 was introduced. Part of the reason for the new model was for a more powerful cartridge. That's why the 1873 had an iron frame, to take the punishment of the more powerful 44-40 round. Later on, the 1873 had a steel frame, so it would have been even stronger.

Same thing with revolvers. Up until about 1872, S&W still controlled the Rollin White patent for bored through cylinders. If you tried to built a cartridge revolver with bored through chambers for cartridges, you would get sued. S&W was very vigilant about policing the White patent. So most of the cartridge guns being made then were conversions of C&B revolvers, and most of those did not have a top strap. Most were of the Colt style of open tops with the barrel assembly attached by a wedge. Not a very good platform for a powerful cartridge. So many of those conversions were chambered for less powerful cartridges like 44 Henry, and a few other cartridges. I'm not sure when the 44 Colt came about, but it definitely did not have the same powder capacity as the 45 Colt. As for S&W, they contented themselves mostly with cartridges like 44 Schofield and 44 Russian. Both relatively short cartridges without a huge powder capacity. S&W favored the Schofield round because their cylinders were not long enough to accept the more powerful 45 Colt round. Therein lies a whole nother story. Remington did produce some cartridge conversions under license from S&W for their solid frame revolvers, but I am not sure what caliber they were. Probably 44 Henry. Definitely not 45 Colt.

It wasn't until the White patent finally expired around 1872 that Colt came out with the solid framed SAA, capable of harnessing a cartridge as powerful as 45 Colt. And it truly was a powerhouse in its day. 38 to 40 grains of powder under a 250 grain bullet. About 1875 or so the Schofield came out, but like I say, it chambered a less powerful cartridge. Remington came out with their new solid frame cartridge revolver in 1875. I don't have it handy right now just what cartridge it was chambered for, but being a solid frame, I'm sure it could handle a powerful handgun cartridge. Probably 44-40.

It was not until 1878 that Winchester came out with a really big, heavy repeating rifle capable of handling the big powerful rifle rounds of the day. And it was not until 1886 that Winchester came out with a lever gun that could handle the 45-70.

One thing about Browning's designs like the '92 and the '86 that some folks don't realize is that in addition to being lighter and stronger than their predecessor the '73, they were also less expensive to produce. You got a stronger, lighter gun for less money. At least they cost less to build, I dunno if the savings were passed on to the buying public.
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Offline Buck Stinson

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2010, 06:38:35 PM »
I have two full boxes of original .44 Henry Rim Fire ammunition, one Winchester and one UMC.  Both are loaded with a 200 grain bullet and 28 grains of black powder.  I have one full box of UMC .45 Long Colt loaded with a 250 grain bullet and 40 grains of black powder.  I also have one full unopened 20 round packet of .45 Long Colt loaded and dated March 1874 by Frankfort Arsenal.  These have a 250 grain bullet and 30 grains of black powder.   When I was in high school (over 40 years ago) I had a Winchester model 1866 saddle ring carbine and 50 or so rounds of original RF ammunition.  After school one day, a friend and I took the carbine and the ammunition out to his grandparents ranch and shot gophers.  Between the two of us, we fired about 15 to 20 rounds.   Most all of the RF ammunition went off, but half a dozen did not ignite.  We did manage to drill a few gophers and I still have the spent copper cases, as well as the loaded rounds that didn't go off.  It was an experience of a life time, especially for someone like me who has loved old Winchesters since I was 8 or 9 years old.   By that time in my life I had carried an 1892 Winchester carbine in .44-40 for several years and had fired hundreds of rounds through that gun.  I was actually surprized by the .44 RF in comparing it to the .44-40.  I thought they were very much alike in the way they shot and the recoil.

Offline Fox Creek Kid

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #15 on: December 16, 2010, 10:55:56 PM »
...S&W favored the Schofield round because their cylinders were not long enough to accept the more powerful 45 Colt round...

It wasn't until the White patent finally expired around 1872 that Colt came out with the solid framed SAA, capable of harnessing a cartridge as powerful as 45 Colt. And it truly was a powerhouse in its day. 38 to 40 grains of powder under a 250 grain bullet...

Since the S&W Schofield was a new design they could have made it for the .45 Colt but chose not to. The reason accepted by most historians ( and most probable) is that Daniel Wesson wanted his own proprietary revolver ctg. as there was bitter rivalry between S&W & Colt at the time.

On another note, the Colt SAA was designed BEFORE the .45 Colt ctg. was conceived. W.B. Franklin, then president of Colt, actually recommended the military use the .44 Russian ctg. and went so far as to submit targets shot with both the .44 Russian & .44 S&W American, in a Colt SAA respectively chambered, to show why he felt that the Russian was a better round. However, the Terry board of 1872 recommended standardization with .45 cal. as they had just approved what was to become the '73 SA Trapdoor. It was then that the military ordered Colt to design a .45 pistol ctg. for their new SAA and this round only used a 30 gr. charge of BP. It was later that commercial ctg. makers loaded it to 40 gr.

This is all covered in the Colt Peacemaker "Bible", the Kopec book. Interestingly, what we now know as the Colt '72 Open Top bested the Colt SAA in military tests but the military was sold on a solid frame revolver at this time.

Offline StrawHat

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #16 on: December 17, 2010, 05:24:44 AM »
...I will agree, some of the early repeater cartridges were a little bit anemic.

Driftwood,  I see you and I are pretty much on the same page.

...Most were of the Colt style of open tops with the barrel assembly attached by a wedge. Not a very good platform for a powerful cartridge.  ... I'm not sure when the 44 Colt came about,...

The 44 was a product of hte early 1870s, perhaps 71.

  ...Remington did produce some cartridge conversions under license from S&W for their solid frame revolvers, but I am not sure what caliber they were. Probably 44 Henry. Definitely not 45 Colt...

I believe Remington cut there conversions for the 46 Rimfire in a 5 shot cylinder.

...It wasn't until the White patent finally expired around 1872 that Colt came out with the solid framed SAA, capable of harnessing a cartridge as powerful as 45 Colt. And it truly was a powerhouse in its day. 38 to 40 grains of powder under a 250 grain bullet. About 1875 or so the Schofield came out, but like I say, it chambered a less powerful cartridge. Remington came out with their new solid frame cartridge revolver in 1875. I don't have it handy right now just what cartridge it was chambered for, but being a solid frame, I'm sure it could handle a powerful handgun cartridge. Probably 44-40...

The 1875 was built in 44 WCF but also a couple of others, the brain is not working right now to be able to tell you what ones.

... And it was not until 1886 that Winchester came out with a lever gun that could handle the 45-70...

Let's not forget that Marlin was there in 1881.

Self contained cartridgesnot needing additional priming, were a huge leap in ammuntion technology and like many huge leaps it had to wait for the rest of the industry to catch up to in order to make full use of the progress.  The Burniside and Gallagers were miles ahead of the muzzleloading muskets, not as powerful but they still lead the way. 
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Offline Driftwood Johnson

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2010, 04:29:22 PM »
Howdy Fox Creek Kid

Thanks for your notes on the first SAA cartridges. I have read some accounts which say as much. I guess my point was the solid frame of the SAA was better suited to a cartridge as powerful as the commercial load of the 45 Colt.

Regarding S&W and the Schofield round, I have read accounts on both sides. Certainly if they had wanted to the Schofield could have been chambered for 45 Colt, but it would have required a longer cylinder. The longer cylinder might have required a longer frame. Recent replicas of the Schofield exhibit how badly the original length frame performs with a stretched cylinder and Black Powder since the gas ring has been extensively modified. Since the Schofield frame was a new version of the #3 frame, I dunno if it would have been more expensive or not to retool for a stretched frame. Certainly, some of the later #3 S&W top break designs had cylinders long enough for cartridges like 38-40 and 44-40, but I do not know how well they performed with Black Powder in the binding department.

I have read that Daniel Wesson rued the day he decided not to chamber the Schofield for 45 Colt, but I dunno if that is factual or not. S&W certainly did not sell as many Schofields to the Army as Colt did SAAs. And the Army surplussed the Schofields out pretty early. It looks to me like a grand total of only around 8,000 Shcofields were ever made.

In any case, as usual, I welcome your comments.

Buck Stinson:

Have you taken any of those 30 grain Frankfort Arsenal rounds apart? I have always wondered if they put cardboard wads in to fill up the space as with the Carbine loads for the 45-70. I have one Frankfort Arsenal 45 Colt round in my collection, made in December of 1913. It is the only one I have and I do not want to take it apart. This particular round has an exceptionally large diameter rim, about .540 in diameter, much larger than most old 45 Colt cartridges and larger than most modern rounds too.
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Offline pony express

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2010, 10:46:06 PM »
Driftwood, I believe that the .45 colt cartridge with the large rim diameter you have was made for the Colt 1909 revolver(AKA New Service) Army adopted them as sort of a stop-gap measure before the 1911 came along, but they had problems with the ejector star slipping past the rims. Since the New Service had enough space between the chambers, they just made it with a larger rim. I have read that the rims on those were too large to load all the chambers on an SAA.


Edit......It occurs to me that the one you have would most likely be loaded with smokeless powder, since it wasn't meant for the SAA, but for a New Service instead.

Offline Shotgun Franklin

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Re: how would the .44 rim fire stack up with todays ammo?
« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2010, 09:46:54 AM »
A better question might be, "Why were the early cartridge guns so much better than percussion guns?' Other than hunting a buffalo or a big bear, why would a man on the frontier be better equipped with a repeater and several boxes of ammo than a single shot rifle, a bag of bullets, a can of powder and a box of primers?
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