Author Topic: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.  (Read 13075 times)


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Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« on: February 08, 2013, 04:47:01 AM »

Offline El Tio Loco

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2013, 10:02:36 AM »
If I remember correctly, Ned Robert preferred the .38 WCF over the .44 WCF in that the .38 was flatter shooting.  Kinda like the .270 vs the .30-06 argument in my day.  Really not much difference to the deer.

Offline Driftwood Johnson

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2013, 05:40:41 PM »

I have always thought the 38-40 cartridge started out as nothing more than a marketing ploy dreamed up by Oliver Winchester, to sell a new caliber to somebody who already owned a model 1873 chambered for 44-40. The first 73s chambered for 38-40 showed up in 1878 or 1879, according to a couple of different sources. But 38-40 was never a very big seller as far as the 1873 model was concerned. 44-40 was considered the standard caliber, and if no caliber was specified in an order, it would be made in 44-40.

Total sales by caliber for the 1873 model were

44-40 - 566,487
38-40 - 24,826
32-20 - 109,558
22 - 19,738

Sales of 38-40 rifles were a bit better with the model 1892, but it still comes in behind 44-40, 32-20, and 25-20.

44-40 - 598,680
38-40 - 109,714
32-20 - 127,511
25-20 - 168,770

Don't get me wrong, 38-40 is a cool cartridge, the only original '73 I own (so far) is chambered for it. It was just never a great seller as far as Winchester was concerned.

P.S. 38-40 lagged behind 45 Colt and 44-40 in SAA sales too.

45 Colt - 158,885
44-40 - 71,391
38-40 - 50,520

That’s bad business! How long do you think I’d stay in operation if it cost me money every time I pulled a job? If he’d pay me that much to stop robbing him, I’d stop robbing him.

Ya probably inherited every penny ya got!

Offline rbertalotto

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2013, 07:30:11 PM »
An interesting point made over on the Gun Broker forum

"The 38-40 chambers on all guns that I have checked are not cut to the cartridge dimensions. When firing a factory or full length round the 1/4" portion of the case just forward of the canular will swell out like an "improved" cartridge."

Huh!  I have seven rifles and revolvers in 38-40 and I've not seen this in any of them. Any idea what this fellow is talking about....Or does he simply have a bad headspace issue?
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Offline Sir Charles deMouton-Black

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2013, 09:58:33 AM »

Could he be shooting 38-40's in a 44-40?

No!  Thats just the way my 1896 vintage Colt SAA acts.  As far as I know that is normal ;D

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #5 on: Today at 10:36:49 PM »

Offline Grizzly Adams

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2013, 03:33:14 PM »
Factory fresh 38-40 rounds have a very precise, well defined bottle neck with a crimp at the base of the neck.  Once fired, in any 38WCF chamber , that beautifully proportioned bottle neck vanishes.  You will not be able to put it back, no matter what dies or brass you use.  ( Well, OK, RCBS will be build you a custom set that will do it, for a very fat fee!)

Reload and factory round - both 38-40.  Both will chamber in any 38-40 I own.

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Offline griswold

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2013, 04:37:08 PM »
This string reminded me of a visit I took once about 20 years ago to the Texas Livestock Range Detective Museum. They were first offically created in the Panhandle of Texas and worked under the North Texas Cattlemens Association as Range Detectives. later in the 1890's, (forget which year) they were appointed as Special Rangers to act as backup  to the Texas Rangers when they were needing extra manpower during one of their man hunts. But the Cattle and Livestock Associations today still pay their salaries.

Anyway, this museum had several old Colt's there and most were 38-40 caliber. It was on one of the information signs you find in museums that said the Cattle Detectives, of the day, preferred this caliber because it has less recoil than the 44 win or 45 colt and hit HARD!.

Interesting side note: the  standard .38-40 load uses a 180 lead bullet with an average muzzle speed of 900 fps.
The S&W .40 the cops use today has the same standard bullet weight and velocity. (except for the hollow points that the DHS have bought millions of)

What was good back then is still good today........just different style delivery system.
The Griswold was favored by my Great Grand Pa James Henry Story who rode with the 7th Georgia Cavalry.

Offline w44wcf

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Winchester 1879 catalog - .38 W.C.F. introduction
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2013, 07:59:05 AM »
From Winchester's 1879 catalog......

"This arm, now offered for the first time, is intended to meet the demand from many of our correspondents  for a small bore repeater suitable for small game. The cartridge contains 37 grs. of powder and 160 of lead.  Accurate shooting of up to 300 yards is obtained.
Glass ball shooters will find this a convenient gun."

Winchester's description as a small bore repeater sounds a bit off.  The person that came up with that description apparently did not know that a .40 bore is not "small".

Eventually, the bullet weight was increased to 180 grs and the powder charge to 40 grs.  After 1892, the charge was reduced to 38 grs.  In the U.M.C. / Marlin .38-40 equivalent, the powder charge was always cataloged at 40 grs.


Grizzly Adams,
Thank you for the pic. My 1873 Winchester .44 W.C.F. does the same thing. I often wondered if the reason for it was that the designers allowed a little extra space between the cartridge shoulder and chamber was because of the possible build up of b.p. fouling.


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Offline scrubby2009

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2018, 09:24:01 AM »
I must confess, I'm intrigued as to what MikeS (the OP) could have said initially that triggered a removal, but the posts so far are informative as always... that's why I'm here.

Kicking this old thread in the ribs- I recently got a great deal on an 1889 Marlin in 38-40 with a 28" barrel. With handloads in Starline brass, I'm working my way to a reliable reload to "stock up" with. Last outing was 6.0gr of Bullseye under a 180gr. 40/10mm FN from Bear Creek Supply, part of the excellent moly-coated soft lead bullets they produce. Using RCBS cowboy die set, with no extra crimp applied, I had no "turtling" with many full (15 rounds) magazines. About 200 rounds so far with this fine old rifle, I'm pretty pleased with cycling and accuracy.

It's a little sensitive to aggressive "overthrows" on the lever, action is lighter and slightly shorter than either of my 44-40 Model '73's. I'm using the same powder charge on this next set of loads to try out in both the 44 and 38, that is 15.2gr. of Alliant2400. The 44 gets the Bear Creek 205gr RNFP versus the 180gr FP in the 38. Same CCI 300 primers. Anyone with 38-40 storys or handloads... I love a tall tale and a cold beer!
Responsive, timely, tactically accurate, and strategically precise fire.

Online Coal Creek Griff

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2018, 10:21:47 AM »
I must confess, I'm intrigued as to what MikeS (the OP) could have said initially that triggered a removal

From the appearance, he likely deleted his own post.  If the mods had done it, the thread would either be locked or completely deleted.

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #10 on: Today at 10:36:49 PM »

Offline Isom

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2018, 07:00:43 PM »
Well Scrubby,,
you asked for it. When I started shooting 38-40, B/P of course.I ended up with pistol rounds and rifle rounds. Couldn't figure out why. Whenever I'd reload a batch, I'd have to separate them. Talked to a guy, try Hornaday, (I'm using RCBS). Nope! Talk to another guy, also told him about having to squeeze my lever a little harder when I levered. Do my bullets have rifling marks on them,, hmmm. I check ,,,,yep. I must have a short chamber. Now all of this is going on for about 6-9 months. Oook,, how do I fix this ?? Pull your barrel and ream it with a finishing reamer. Brownells,,, reamer ,,,gunsmith, pull barrel,, ream ,, back on . Ammo goes right in the rifle Since I had a reamer,, I might as well do all my cylinders ,,, 6 ea. Just a little fuzz .  , Still separate ammo. Talked to another guy, how're you loading it ?. Powder up to here ,,, bullet ,,, compress/crimp. He says I could be compressing to much and blowing the shoulder out just enough. Says to either run the finished ammo back through the resizer/deprimer die or buy another one , take the pin out and run it back through to resize it . I load on a Dillon 650, so I had another hole . Put it in ,, adjusted it ,, all is right in the 38-40 world. Like I said ,,, this is over a 6-9 month period. Was that worth 2 beers ??  :D
Be safe,

Offline mtmarfield

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Re: Interesting 38-40 vs 44-40 Topic.
« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2019, 06:43:54 PM »

   When Dad and I were cleaning out Grannys garage, I found an old tobacco tin with
two boxes worth of .38WCF brass, a mixture of USCCo, and Rem-UMC. That's when
Dad informed me that GDad used to carry a SAA chambered for that cartridge. Since
then, I've been buying and handloading for ( among other things ) .38WCF revolvers.
   Is there a disparity between .38WCF chambers? Perhaps. Ken Waters mentioned this
in his "Pet Loads" series, and I've had handloads that would drop into some chambers,
and almost into others. My first Die Set was from LEE; the FL Sizer would not size the
neck / shoulder down enough to chamber the rounds in my first .38WCF, an EMF / Armi
Jaeger SAA - Bisley clone; I sent the die back, and they proclaimed it perfect, returning
it to me. I gave it to my gunsmith, who ground about 1/8" off of the bottom. Then, it
worked. I later found a set of Pacific .38-40 Dies at a gunshow, and the sizer did a much
better job for all the revolvers.
   Although I've never chrono'd my handloads, my three revolvers love the Ideal#40043,
and the Lyman Devastator #401638(?)HP moulds; the latter groups wonderfully, striking
paper a little lower.
   A few years ago, Dad bought me a Remington 14-1/2 Rifle chambered for the ".38-40
Rem", and as soon as I can land a Lyman Peep Sight for it, load development will



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