I picked up a lightly used and well cared for 5-1/2” Cimarron Frontier in .44-40 off GunBroker for $400. I figured that having a nice repro would save me from doing something stupid with my 1905 Colt SA, which is probably worth too much to shoot these days.
Gun is nicely turned out, good blue, case colors as good as any Gen3 Colt, metal parts well fitted and finished. Zero end shake, cylinder gap 0.005” pass/0.006” hold. Chamber necks are .447” which gives adequate release clearance for .431 bullets in Starline brass, which will let me shoot 1 to 30 tin-lead as-cast and unsized. Cylinder throats uniform .4315-.432” and barrel groove diameter .430” I couldn’t have asked for better matchup of dimensions if the gun had been special-ordered. Forcing cone had some minor circumferential tool marks which cleaned up easily with light application of Brownell’s 11-degree forcing cone reamer and Brownell’s Do-Drill. Cut smooth enough I saw no need to lap it. Didn’t remove distinct “chips”, but more like steel flour evenly on all flutes.
Test plan is to shoot vintage factory smokeless loads, both balloon-head and solid, and modern handloads with Accurate 43-206H and 43-230G using Goex 3Fg, Bullseye, 452AA and IMR4227 for comparison against my 1905 Colt SA, 1920 New Service and 1986 S&W 544 Texas Wagon Train.
Previous Fouling Shot articles of mine on .44-40 were oriented towards the modern Ruger single-actions, Marlin and Rossi lever guns shooting what we would call Group 2 (+P) loads.
Objective here is to benchmark factory loads and to as closely as possible approximate their performance with modern cast bullet handloads, firing a cross section of antique and modern revolvers.
I’ve sent bullet samples to Larry Gibson and Brian Austin for pressure testing. Brian has a dedicated .44-40 test barrel and Larry will test the same bullets and charges in a .44 Magnum Contender and measure pressures with his Oehler 43 ballistic test system. The differences in powder capacity between modern Starline brass in .44-40 and .44 Magnum are slight, and Larry’s .44 Mag. Contender should give a useful comparison and sanity check to determine Group 1 loads which at most only slightly exceed normal .44-40 pressures. While SAAMI MAP IIRC is about 14,000 psi, A 10 to 15% increase to about 16-18,000 psi max. should be entirely safe in the Colt New Service, modern S&W N-frames (544) and modern Colt and 1873 clones. In particular I want Larry and Brian to test 7.2 grains of Bullseye with the Accurate 43-206H and 43-230G and see where they fall. My previous .44-40 articles published the 7.2 grain Bullseye load with 43-230G and I still believe with the heavier bullet it is a "Group 2". But having reliable pressure data of that same charge with the lighter 210-grain 206H bullet will be useful to confirm if with the lighter bullet 7 grains or so of Bullseye is safely useable in other than the Rugers, Winchester 982 and Marlin 1894. My 1920 Colt New Service shoots them well, with no apparent issues, but I am leary of shooting a great many of them until I know for sure.
My thoughts are that .44-40 loads over about 18,000 psi should be limited to the single-action Rugers, Marlin 1894 and Winchester 1892 or clones only, and that loads for those stronger guns should not exceed about 22,000 psi. as this agrees with experience.
Any thoughts to refine the test parameters, based on your experiences would be welcome.
Anyoneplease feel free to comment.
73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia