Standard Pressure .44-40 Loads

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Ed Harris posted this 17 December 2019

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

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RicinYakima posted this 17 December 2019

Ed, I think you are on the right track with the repro SAA. My concern is always the thickness under the bolt cuts in the 44/40 and 38/40 cylinders. With lots of volume to work with and no need for high pressure, the repro's should be great with the standard pressure loads. With a fixed sighted 44/40, what are you going to shoot that you need more than 1,000 f/s? It will kill every deer, or varmint you can hit. Ric

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Ed Harris posted this 18 December 2019

Ric,  you read my mind.  I would expect around 900 fps+/- with the 230G and approaching 1000, but not quite up to it with 206H, based upon my experience testing so far:

.44-40 Test Data - Representing extremes of barrel gap and cylinder dimensions, and El Tigre carbine:

1986 S&W 544 Texas Wagon Train 0.006"cyl.gap, .4285"cyl.throats,.429"groove diameter

1905 Colt Frontier Six Shooter 0.012"cyl.gap, .4285" cyl.throats .427"gr. diameter.

1920s Eibar El Tigre slugs .425" groove diameter.

Cast bullets of wheelweight alloy and sized .430" 

Ammunition_________S&W 544, 5”______Colt SAA 5-1/2”_____El Tigre 22”

Description____0.006” cyl.gap___0.012” cyl. Gap_____solid barrel

Western 1940s_______958 fps__________916 fps____________1273 fps

200 JSP_____________36 ES, 13 Sd_____75 ES, 35 Sd________32 ES, 12 Sd - Solid head

Rem-UMC_1930s______923 fps_________893 fps____________1252 fps 

200 JSP_____________94 ES, 36 Sd_____93 ES, 31 Sd________76 ES, 29 Sd_BALLOON HEAD

Modern W-W_1990____866 fps_________826 fps____________1218 fps

200 JSP_____________73 ES, 30 Sd____45 ES, 15 Sd________76 ES, 29 Sd - Solid head

Avg. Factory Load Vel.__916 fps________878 fps____________1248 fps

 

#42798 wheelwts_____771 fps________769 fps____________1133 fps

W-W case, WLP______119 ES, 46 Sd___104 ES, 36 Sd_______52 ES, 17 Sd 

35 grs. Goex 2Fg, Solid Head case

#42798_(206grs.)_____887 fps________854 fps____________1079 fps

6.5 grs. 452-AA_______94 ES, 39 Sd___75 ES, 28 Sd________68 ES, 24 Sd

W-W case, WLP, Solid Head case

#42798_____________947 fps________887 fps____________1142 fps

6.0 grs. Bullseye______24 ES, 9 Sd_____29 ES, 9 Sd________43 ES, 12 Sd

W-W case, WLP, Solid Head case

#42798_____________951 fps________878 fps____________1178 fps

16.0 #2400__________150 ES, 44 Sd__133 ES, 36 Sd______76 ES, 22Sd

W-W case, WLP, Solid Head case

#42798_____________970 fps________953 fps____________1364 fps

18.5 IMR4227________96 ES, 37 Sd___108 ES, 37 Sd_______89 ES, 26 Sd

Rem-UMC factory primed balloon-head case, REDUCE 1 FULL GRAIN IN MODERN SOLID HEAD BRASS!

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Eutectic posted this 18 December 2019

In the recent testing I got 830 fps with 5.4 gr Tightgroup and 206H. I have not tried to push it any harder, but I could easily as my 44 Specials are all recent S&W and Rugers.

I have looked at the Cimarron and other Cowboy Cannons like the Uberti at the Trail Regionals and they are lovely. The only question is what are the steels used and what is the heat treat. If you have any information on this it would be nice to know since they are surely only proofed to 44 Special or 44-40 specs.

Steve 

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Ed Harris posted this 18 December 2019

Best information I have is that they are plain carbon steel similar to 1050, being heat treated similarly to smokeless-frame Colts of the post-WW1 to pre-WW2 era.  They are certainly Stronger than the pre-1905ish black powder frames, but not suitable for pressures exceeding .45 ACP levels, they are OK to about 16,000-18,000 psi, similar to .38 Special +P.

My experience with fairly extensive shooting of my 1918 Colt New Service .45 ACP with WW2-era hardball and modern 230-grain personal defense (not +P) loads as well as the 1920 New Service .44-40 with modern handloads with 6.5 to 7 grains of Bullseye and 211-grain cast bullets like #43-206H cast 1 to 30 tin-lead, or 6 grains of Bullseye with Accurate 43-230G in the same alloy would seem to validate this.  Pressure tests to confirm what these loads really are, rather than just a SWAG, is still pending when Larry and Brian can manage to do so.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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BigMan54 posted this 18 December 2019

I have an Armi San Marco by way of EMF. It's fit and finish was as good a 3rd Gen Colt,  But heavy use in Cowboy Shooting Black Powder Class have degraded the finish. However it still shoots well. 

The bbl is tight a .427, chambers run from .427 - .429, however the extra .44Spl cyinder is a uniform .429 

Groups with the Spl cylinder and .429dia #42798 run 2"- 3" on a good day. I'm lucky in my Lyman mould. It's an old one My Dad cleaned it out to drop .430 with Linotype, My alloy of COWW/#2 drops .429dia. Unique is 1st choice, Titegroup 2nd. 

Unique - 7.0grs or Titegroup - 5.5grs. Both under a 200gr - 210gr bullet. 

With the .44-40 cylinder I can shoot 10rds of BP into 3" - 4" at 25yrds. Good enough for the steel plates before they got too Blasted close for me. 

I hope to hear of the Fun you're having experimenting with your New Revolver. 

Long time Caster/Reloader, Getting back into it after almost 10yrs. Life Member NRA 40+yrs, Life S.A.S.S. #375. Does this mean a description of me as a fumble-fingered knuckle-draggin' baboon. I also drool in my sleep. I firmly believe that true happiness is a warm gun. Did I mention how much I HATE auto-correct on this blasted tablet.

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SavvyJack posted this 18 December 2019

In the recent testing I got 830 fps with 5.4 gr Tightgroup and 206H. I have not tried to push it any harder, but I could easily as my 44 Specials are all recent S&W and Rugers.

I have looked at the Cimarron and other Cowboy Cannons like the Uberti at the Trail Regionals and they are lovely. The only question is what are the steels used and what is the heat treat. If you have any information on this it would be nice to know since they are surely only proofed to 44 Special or 44-40 specs.

Steve 

 

A while back I corresponded with an Uberti rep. He told me that all of their revolver cylinders are "made the same". At the time I was referring to the 45acp and 45 colt cylinders.

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Larry Gibson posted this 18 December 2019

I got the rest of Ed's bullets last week as he's sent two different bullets.  Assembling the loads for testing but Holiday stuff seems to be continuously getting in the way......

My W-W 44-40 and 44 Magnum cases have almost identical capacity.  Plan is to pressure test in Contender 44 magnum test barrel several 44-40 suggested loads  loads.  Given equal case capacity and all other equal the pressure developed should be basically the same in either cartridge.  To test that theory I will then chronograph identical loads in 44-40 and 44 magnum cases in the same revolver.  If the velocities of the same load in the different cases out of the same revolver are similar then the pressures are similar and test data of loads tested in the 44 magnum barrel are applicable to the same loads in the 44-40. 

The revolver is an old model Vaquero 44-40 with 7 1/2" barrel.  The 44 Magnum cylinder from my FTBH fits and indexes perfectly in the Vaquero.  The Barrel cylinder gap is identical with both cylinders.  Barrel groove diameter is .429 and .430 sized bullets will used in both cylinders.

So, we'll see how it all pans out.

LMG

The Vaquero with both cylinders;

 

 

Concealment is not cover.........

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Larry Gibson posted this 18 December 2019

44-40 and 44 magnum cases with 41.7 gr ball powder

LMG

Concealment is not cover.........

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SavvyJack posted this 18 December 2019

Larry I may try the same thing just for kicks in my Uberti "Buckhorn" 44 Magnum with 44-40 cylinder as well.

It may be summer before I can test Ed's loads on the test bed. One thought I had was to give you my barrel and you could have it fitted to the contender but it may be more cost effective to buy a 357 barrel and have it cut for the 44-40. If you are interested let me know and I will end it to you. My only option next summer will be a public range and they may not let me use the test barrel set-up.

 

  

 

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BigMan54 posted this 18 December 2019

SavvyJack,

Is that one of the .44Mag Buckhorns imported by American Arms about 1990 ?

I had one. It came apart while shooting .44Mag loaded with #429244 over 9.5grs of Unique. 

I mean the chamber just cracked over the bolt stop. I know it wasn't an overload because back then I loaded using a Little Dandy. Took the loading block outside to check Powder levels.

American Arms wouldn't replace the Revolver,  just refunded the full purchase price.

Long time Caster/Reloader, Getting back into it after almost 10yrs. Life Member NRA 40+yrs, Life S.A.S.S. #375. Does this mean a description of me as a fumble-fingered knuckle-draggin' baboon. I also drool in my sleep. I firmly believe that true happiness is a warm gun. Did I mention how much I HATE auto-correct on this blasted tablet.

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SavvyJack posted this 18 December 2019

SavvyJack,

Is that one of the .44Mag Buckhorns imported by American Arms about 1990 ?

I had one. It came apart while shooting .44Mag loaded with #429244 over 9.5grs of Unique. 

I mean the chamber just cracked over the bolt stop. I know it wasn't an overload because back then I loaded using a Little Dandy. Took the loading block outside to check Powder levels.

American Arms wouldn't replace the Revolver,  just refunded the full purchase price.

 

Yeap, that seems to be the weak link in revolver cylinders.

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Ed Harris posted this 19 December 2019

CIP web site lists max. sample average pressure for .44-40 as 1100 Bar = 15954 psi

Pmax X-bar+3Sigma 1265 Bar = 18347 psi

Proof (1.25xPMax) 1375 bar = 19943 psi

 https://bobp.cip-bobp.org/uploads/tdcc/tab-ii/tabiical-en-page108.pdf

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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RicinYakima posted this 19 December 2019

So, 16,000 psi is a maximum average. That allows you to do a lot if you have an "average" chamber, bore, forcing cone, etc.,etc.

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Larry Gibson posted this 19 December 2019

Keeping in mind both CIP and SAAMI "average pressures (PMax and MAP)  are arrived at in test barrels with minimum dimensional specs and w/o the long throats (in essence free bore) and barrel/cylinder gap.  Rounds fired in revolvers with slightly larger dimensional chambers, throats and a barrel/cylinder gap will have lower pressure.  

Most factory cartridges are seldom loaded to either the CIP or SAAMI PMax/MAPs.  They are loaded to a +/- velocity specification while staying under the PMax/MAP.

One of the primary benefits to strain gauge pressure measurement is that we can measure the pressure in the chamber/firearms we use instead of just relying on pressure measurements from specially made test barrels.  There are some limitations to even that though. 

LMG

Concealment is not cover.........

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Ed Harris posted this 23 December 2019

Finally had a chance to shoot the Cimarron .44-40 today.  For its first outing I shot only black powder loads assembled with 38 grains Goex 3Fg with 1/8" compression in pre-WW2 WRA solid-head cases with WInchester primers and #42898 as-cast and unsized at .430" pan lubed with 50-50 beeswax and Goya Manteca.  I was curious with the Cimarron's 0.005" pass/0.006" hold cylinder gap how many BP rounds I could fire until it got difficult to work the action.  I fired an entire box of 50 rounds with no issues, although the hammer took noticeably more effort to cock for the last two cylinders full and the cylinder rotation was less free in loading the gun.  Fixed sights were on the money at 50 feet firing the BP load and I was able to keep the Colt Speed Plate happily flapping in rapid-fire.  Altogether a fun half hour.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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