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38 40 vs 44 40

Rex MahanRex Mahan Member Posts: 529 ✭✭
Which is a better in your experienced opinions? I want to purchase a Model 92 and dont know if I should do the 44 40 because its bigger and more popular or the 38 40 since it has more powder than Bullet?

Thanks for you help


  • 44caliberkid44caliberkid Member Posts: 925 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I have rifles and pistols in both calibers. For all around use I'd go with 44-40. Cases and bullets are slightly more available on shop shelves, but I order almost everything on line, so that really doesn't matter. I doubt a deer hit with either cartridge could tell the difference. The 38-40's appeal would be nostalgia, styling points, or just to be different. With the 44-40 you have one more load option and that is they still make a jacketed softpoint for it, which in the Model 92, you could load a little hotter. (stronger action) However, mark them as "rifle loads" and not to be used in toggle action rifles.
  • Rex MahanRex Mahan Member Posts: 529 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Thanks. Im picking up my Colt 1st Gen. today or tomorrow I hope. It is a 44 40 so I was heavily leaning on the rifle being a 44 40 also.

    Just dont want to find out I missed something.
  • dandak1dandak1 Member Posts: 450 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Your question actually brings up a deeper question, I wonder WHY Winchester ever came out with the 38 WCF. Remember the 44-40 originally was a .424" bullet loaded with 38 grains of BP (technically it was a 42-38). Then for some reason Winchester decided to come out with the 38-40 which in its first incarnation was a .401 bullet with 40 grains of BP. So technically you had a choice of a 42-38 versus a 40-40. Why in the world would the bean counters at Winchester pay for this development in terms of cost of R&D, tooling, reamers, molds, different ammo line, plus stocking ammo, etc.
    Like 44 caliber kid said, a deer would not notice any difference, and for that matter, there really isnt much of a difference. Now having said that I prefer the 44-40 too... bigger bores look cooler!
  • elubsmeelubsme Member Posts: 1,969 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    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. Full sizing works the brass too much for me, I neck size most of the time for my two 38-40's. I would choose the 44 over the 38 if I had the choice. But then if a nice 38-40 became available, I would snap it up. Ed
  • machine gun moranmachine gun moran Member Posts: 5,198
    edited November -1
    I have a pair of 38-40 revolvers (Cimarron SA's) that I reload for. I picked the 38-40 for the compatibility of chamber throat diameters and bore/groove diameters. I believe most modern 44-40's are grooved as .429's or .430's, requiring oversized bullets, but then which also require oversize chamber throats.

    I use Lee dies for sizing and expanding. Most sizing dies for the 38-40, including Lee, are not made to reduce the case all the way back to the original factory dimensions, but are made to size the case back to below the minimum chamber dimensions. This avoids the brass being excessively worked, while ensuring positive chambering, and the cartridges always have the appearance of being a 38-40 'improved'. I use a Redding competition seating die to ensure excellent concentricity in the loaded rounds, and I crimp separately, using a Lee 'factory crimp' die. The wide difference between the maximum original factory cartridge dimensions and the minimum chamber dimensions was, I believe, to help ensure the continued chambering of rounds in an even heavily black powder-fouled chamber.

    I don't shoot CAS, so I load to about the original ballistics of the 38-40, a 180 gr lead bullet at 1,000 or 1,050 (handgun). These are about 13,000-pound loads. I use the Lyman manual. Experimenters using specially-made 38-40 revolvers have pushed these bullets to over 1700 fps, which I would not attempt in a stock SA revolver.

    The question as to why the 38-40 ever even appeared, has always fascinated me. I've read that it was Winchester's attempt to produce a low-recoiling version of the 44-40, but that is nonsensical. Winchester made rifles, and anyone who couldn't handle even a moderate-power handgun cartridge in a rifle would have been laughed out of Dodge and all the way back to Jersey City. If there were any such people, Winchester simply would have offered the 44-40 in a 44-30 load as well, and saved a lot on engineering and redevelopment. As the powder charge wasn't reduced, but only the bullet weight (by 10%), velocity was somewhat increased, and bullet energy and recoil stayed about the same. It's more likely that the 38-40 was a marketing ploy, as Winchester had nothing in that category of cartridges between .32 and .44. A 38 was a perfect intermediate round, and Winchester just didn't tell anybody that they were really buying a .40-40 instead of a .42-40, which all did about exactly the same thing.

    Somehow, the myth got started (in modern times) that the .40-40 was inferior to the .42-40 as a deer-hunting round. But it's like trying to build a case for the .32 Winchester Special over the .30-30.[:p][:)]
  • eastbankeastbank Member Posts: 4,215
    edited November -1
    i shoot a win 53 in 44-40 with a ex bore and shoot a 200gr bullet with 10grs unique, i have only killed one deer with it,but did not go far. eastbank.
  • Starr44Starr44 Member Posts: 5 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    The introduction of the necked cartridge by the repeating rifle focused company might explain the 38-40WCF (as an improved feeding round)....
    That being said, I don't have a winchester chambered for it, but I do have a medium frame Colt lightning rifle and it will probably feed empty 38-40 cases. I'll have to try that. I do know it sure is fast if I hold the trigger and pump rounds through it. Aptly named for sure!
  • gesshotsgesshots Member Posts: 15,679 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    The 38-40 duplicates the .40 S&W both in bullet diameter and in ballistic performance. Let your conscience be your guide as far as hunting is concerned. Bullet construction and distance should define
    your parameters.
    It's being willing. I found out early that most men, regardless of cause or need, aren't willing. They blink an eye or draw a breath before they pull the trigger. I won't. ~ J.B. Books
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