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44-40 Winchester - 3.jpg
.44-40 Winchester cartridge
Type Rifle/Pistol
Place of origin  United States
Production history
Designer Winchester Repeating Arms Company
Designed 1873
Parent cartridge .44 Henry
Case type rimmed, taperd
Bullet diameter .427 in (10.8 mm)
Neck diameter .443 in (11.3 mm)
Shoulder diameter .457 in (11.6 mm)
Base diameter .471 in (12.0 mm)
Rim diameter .525 in (13.3 mm)
Case length 1.310 in (33.3 mm)
Primer type Large pistol
Ballistic performance
Bullet weight/type Velocity Energy
200 gr (13 g) lead 1,245 ft/s (379 m/s) 688 ft·lbf (933 J)
217 gr (14 g) lead 1,190 ft/s (360 m/s) 682 ft·lbf (925 J)
225 gr (15 g) lead 750 ft/s (230 m/s) 281 ft·lbf (381 J)

The .44-40 Winchester, also known as the .44 Winchester, the .44 WCF (Winchester Center Fire), and the .44 Largo (in Spanish speaking countries) was introduced in 1873 by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. It was the first centerfire metallic cartridge offered by Winchester, and was brought out as the standard chambering for the new Winchester Model 1873 rifle.[1][2] As both a rifle and a handgun caliber, the cartridge soon became widely popular and ubiquitous, so much so that the Winchester Model 1873 rifle became known as "The gun that won the West".[3]


Remington and Marlin soon released their own rifles and pistols which chambered the round, and Colt also offered it as an alternative chambering in its popular Single Action Army revolver in a model known as the Colt Frontier Six-Shooter. Settlers, lawmen, and cowboys appreciated the convenience of being able to carry a single caliber of ammunition which they could fire in both pistol and rifle. In both law enforcement and hunting usage the .44-40 became the most popular cartridge in the United States and to this day has the reputation of killing more deer than any other save the .30-30 Winchester.[4][5]

When the Union Metallic Cartridge Co. (U.M.C.) began selling the cartridge, it called its own version the .44-40 (shorthand for .44 caliber and the standard load at the time of 40-grain (2.6 g) of black powder), as it did not want to offer free advertising by mentioning the name of a competitor. Unfortunately for Winchester, the name stuck and it threw in the towel by itself adopting the .44-40 designation for the round after World War II.[1] Although according to Winchester's website, as of January 2009, it is referred to as "44-40 Winchester".

Technical background

The initial standard load for the cartridge was 40 grains (2.6 g) of black powder propelling a 200-grain (13 g) round nose flat point bullet at approximately 1,245 ft/s (379 m/s), but in 1886 U.M.C. also began offering a slightly heavier 217-grain (14.1 g) bullet at 1,190 ft/s (360 m/s), also with 40 grains (2.6 g) of black powder. Winchester soon began to carry the 217-grain (14.1 g) loading as well, but in 1905 U.M.C. discontinued the heavier load. In 1895 Winchester switched to a 17-grain (1.1 g) loading of DuPont No. 2 Smokeless powder with the 200-grain (13 g) bullet for 1,300 ft/s (400 m/s), and in 1896 U.M.C. followed suit with a reintroduced 217-grain (14.1 g) bullet @ 1,235 ft/s (376 m/s) Soon both companies were offering the cartridge with lead ‘Metal Patched’ (i.e. jacketed), and full metal case versions. In 1903 Winchester began offering a higher performance version of the loading called the W.H.V. (Winchester High Velocity), boasting a velocity of 1,500 ft/s (460 m/s) with a 200-grain (13 g) jacketed bullet from a 24-inch (610 mm) barrel length, U.M.C. and Peters Cartridge Company soon introduced equivalents. Over the years a number of different bullet weights and styles have been offered, including 122, 140, 160,165, 166, 180 and 217-grain (14.1 g) in lead, soft and hollow point, full metal case, and even blanks and shotshells. The most common current loading is a 200-grain (13 g) bullet @ 1,190 ft/s (360 m/s).[1]

By 1942 more modern cartridges had all but eclipsed the .44-40, but it regained some popularity in the 1950s and '60s when Colt began once again to manufacture the Single Action Army and Frontier.[6] More recently the .44-40 has enjoyed a resurgence due to the popularity of Cowboy action shooting, which inspired the introduction of a 225-grain (14.6 g) loading, the heaviest factory bullet ever available for the cartridge.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Two peas in a pod: Winchester's .44 WCF & Marlin/UMC's .44-40" Leverguns Web site.
  2. "The .44-40 Winchester" Guns and Ammo Magazine Web site.
  3. Madis, George (1971). The Winchester book. ([1st ed.] ed.). Lancaster, Tex.: Art and Reference House. ISBN 978-0910156035. 
  4. Hawks, C. "Early Metallic Cartridges" Chuck Hawks Web site.
  5. ".44-40 Winchester" Reloading Bench Web site.
  6. Taffin J. "Taffin Tests The .44-40 Winchester" Sixguns Web site

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