We all have seen it in the movies and in the history books but most don’t believe it for a minute. The Winchester 73′ 44-40 is only good from 75 to 100 yards.
…as referred to by the catalogs, is really difficult to keep up with which rifle the 1873 catalog is talking about. After Winchester and Davies purchased Volcanic repeating Arms sometime around 1856, it gets rather complicated. The New Haven Arms Company, by 1857, manufacture the 1860 Henry, “Henry Rifle of 1860”. By 1866, Henry lost attempts to regain the company and Winchester changed the name to Winchester Repeating Arms Company. In the meantime, by the end of December 1866, the “Infantry Model” [Winchester Model of 1866] had finished field testing in Switzerland. Testings from 300 to 1,000 paces shooting at 6ft x 6ft targets resulting in 1.5ft x 1.5ft groups@300 paces. Several 50-75 yard shots reported by amateurs resulted in 1/2″ to 3″ groups.
The 44 Henry bullet was not much different than today’s 44-40.
1873-1877 – In Winchester’s 1875 catalog the first 44 WCF cartridges appeared but were not labeled as “44 W.C.F”. Winchester stated, “The effect of this change [from 44 Henry to the 44-40] is to increase the initial velocity of the arm from about 1,125 f.p.s. to 1,325 feet per second.” During the Indian Wars, the Indians would proved how valuable the Lever-actions would become!!
During The Battle of The Little Bighorn, 44 cal Henry, 66′ and 73′ artifacts were discovered all over the fields. One location near Calhoun Hill was names Henryville by archeologist because of the vast concentration of bullets and cases discovered in that area. Most of the exchange with the 44 calibers were from 150, 200 and 300 yards.
Many testimonials were published in Winchester’s 1875 catalog of hunters who praised the arm for it’s accuracy and killing power at longer distances. Bears, Deer…you name it. Ethical kills?, ethics is up to the hunters beliefs and how bad his or his families stomach is growling.
With the advent of smokeless powder, accuracy and power continued, at least for a little while. For stronger rifles, the Winchester High Velocity loads was available for over 35 years from 1903 till 1938. However, by by the time Winchester started using pistol powders for this cartridge, accuracy and power tapered off considerably. With this, over the past 50 years…this cartridge has gained a bad reputation.
However, when this cartridge is loaded correctly, even for use in the Winchester 73′ weak action rifles…it’s Glory once again can be seen.
Black powder accuracy and power out to 300 meters as well as smokeless powder accuracy and power out to 200 and 265 yards have been documented.
Unlike the 30-06 and 270 with lots of power and almost no bullet drop from 50 yards out to 300 yards…the 44-40 is a different breed. Although trajectory is a nightmare, the shots can be made…and made ethically!
Although I do not own an original (old or new) Winchester 73′, the Uberti model still holds it’s own.
If you decide to watch the video, make sure to activate the “CC” for subtitle notations.
Uberti Winchester 73′ at 200 yards. Shots 2 throu 15 Grouped inside 5.5″
29 Consecutive Shots
6x Malcom scope (my old eyes)
Reloder 7 powder