44-40 Extra Long

Gentlemen, I found an excellent discussion of this cartridge here dating from 2008. The bottom line seemed to be a lack of rifles (not shotguns!) chambered for this cartridge, especially in the early days of the cartridge that came to be known as the 44 WCF or 44-40. It turns out that I have such a rifle. It is a Frank Wesson Two-Trigger Type 4 First Variation which dates from 1872 to the mid years of the 1870s. Frank was known to have a thing for different cartridges such that his rifles must be chamber cast to determine their actual cartridge. It would be interesting to me to read about the early history of the 44-40 and how its odd base diameter was arrived at. Wesson also had the 44 Wesson Long at the same 1.6 inch case length as the 44-40 Extra Long but a straight case with the common 44 base size such as the 44 Russian, Special and Mag. I believe I read that the 44 Wesson Long dated from 1875 somewhere. Could it be that he was experimenting in developing a more powerful 44 before he settled on the 44 Wesson Long? I would like to run across an example of a 44-40 Extra Long cartridge with no headstamp to compare with a UMC one that I have. Fortunately for those needing them, like me, shootable 44-40 Extra Long cases are easily made from 444 Marlin brass.

You have a .44-40 Extra long with a UMC headstamp? Is it a shot load? Does it have EX in the headstamp? Could we please see a photo, an overall side view & please write out the headstamp in full.
Thanks

To post a photo, save it in JPG format on your desktop, then click and drag it into the dialog box & it well go where your courser is blinking.

I’m only aware of one variation. See below.
44-40 ex long hs 44-40 Ex long

Here you go:44-40 Long HS 44-40 Long

NEAT ! Thank you. Learn something new here every day

Is it really sample, not made from blank or shot elongated rounds with correct 44-40 headstamp?

This is a question more easily asked than answered. It has obviously been the way it is for a long time. Look at Pete’s example for an even older one. Here’s a better question: When were the long 44-40 blanks first made and why? Buffalo Bill started his Wild West Show in 1883. That might account for headstamped ones. When was the first mention of these blanks in ammunition catalogs? Shot cartridges do not do well in rifles. the rifling scatters the shot to no end. My rifle was made well before 1883 as a rifle. It shot rifle ammunition. Someone was making it back then. Who?

Wessoneer,
Can we get the case dimensions, including overall length, of your .44-40 headstamped Extra Long? And does this round chamber correctly in your rifle?
Thanks,
Dan

Yes, it chambers correctly. Dimensions are: rim .522; head .466; shoulder ~.450; neck .443; bullet .427; length 1.59; COAL 1.93. For a comparison, here are some of a blank from a box of blanks headstamped W.R.A. Co .44 W.C.F.: rim .523; head .465; shoulder ~.454; neck .437; length 1.58. So basically they are a current 44-40 with a longer neck. As you will understand, I’m not going to dissect the cartridge to determine the quantity and condition of the powder that it contains nor the weight and description of the bullet.

I can’t help you with the .44-40 long’s time line, but I do have an opinion on why the .44 WCF cartridge has its “odd base diameter.” The .44 WCF was designed for the tubular magazine repeating rifle design used by the New Haven Arms Company and Winchester since the early 1860s. This design was built around an action relatively long in relationship to the cartridge it fired, and Nelson King was stuck with it in creating the 1873 rifle and its new centerfire cartridge.

Taking one of the existing .44 centerfires and adjusting its case length to the limitations of the 1873 action design would have resulted in a cartridge of scarcely any more power than the .44 Henry used in the earlier Winchester designs. Lengthening the cylindrical bodied design of the then current .44s would have given an unacceptable overall cartridge length. By enlarging the base and tapering it to the case mouth he was able to provide a cartridge barely more than an inch and a half length yet containing 40 grains of powder behind a 200 grain bullet. It wasn’t much of a change, but it was enough to satisfy Winchester’s plans for the '73 rifle and its ammunition. Jack

I had read, sometime back, that the “extra Long” 44-40 were often made (in the field) using the full length shot casing (not the XL paper sabot type). Saw one on Ward’s recently being touted as a 44-40 Extra Long with a W.R.A. Co. head stamp of 44-40. It was a pretty obvious shot case, and I know of no WRA Co loading or listing of a true Extra Long.

Jack, that has to be it. A random enlargement of the base sufficient to get to an even 40 grains of powder capacity with the neck reduced to fit the 44 bullet (and make feeding into the chamber easier).

savage, the maximum loaded length for a 44-40 cartridge in a repeating rifle is 1.6 inches. A load in the field starting with a 44-40 full length shot case would not work in a repeater and may or may not work in a single shot smoothbore like the 101 Stevens (1909-1914?) and would be like shooting slugs in a shotgun, that is, not too accurate. It is also not easy to load a bullet in a shot case without tools. For fun, I took one of my 44-40 blanks and put a bullet in it using a loading press and 44-40 dies. Attached is a pic and the wasp waist is obvious where the bullet expanded the neck. Winchester made on special order a smoothbore 1873. When they started this I couldn’t determine but Buffalo Bill ordered one for his show so that was post 1883. Again this Winchester or the 1892 that followed (also available in a smoothbore) would not function with the 1.6 inch case loaded with a bullet. Bottom line I suppose is that in the time period of my rifle you would have to have had a single shot with a chamber cut to accept the long case with a bullet. 44-40 Blank

A photo in my office taken a couple of weeks ago of myself (rt) & the current owner of Buffalo Bill Cody’s nickel plated smoothbore M-73.
He is looking to sell it.
I’ll get measurements of my Ex L tomorrow. & a photo of it with some factory shot loads.

2 Likes

Very nice! Great piece of history.
To clarify my post; My understanding is that the 44-40 Extra Long was never meant for the Winchester, Marlin, Kennedy, etc. repeaters, but rather a single shot. I did find the reference. Cartridges of the World, both my 1969, 2nd edition and the 14th edition. Kind of wonder it it wasn’t an early wildcat?

Pete was relating to me that this rifle has a unique firing mechanism. The working of the lever cocks and fires the rifle.

I tried to chamber a WRA blank in a single shot rifle I have that has a modern 44-40 chamber. No go by about 1/8 inch. No way a case loaded with a bullet would even come close unless the chamber had been cut for it. It would be interesting, but probably difficult, to find someone with an original 44-40 single shot shotgun and see if a blank with a bullet loaded would chamber. In the meanwhile I’m thinking that the only for sure factory loaded rifle round is the UMC 44-50 Spencer mentioned in the UMC memo (44-50-200 or 44 Spencer CF?) and that all the other full length cases with bullets have been privately loaded by persons who thought it would be a good idea and had single shot rifles modified or made to use it or those who wanted to create a fake. Thoughts?

OK did some digging.
1st in Doug Culver’s list of UMC & U.M.C.headstamps the U.M.C. .44-40. is listed but as for the W.C.F. and no other chamber.

Now to compare the headstamped with the plain (in italic)
rim .522; .524" head .466 .469" ; shoulder ~.450 .450"; neck .443 .441"; bullet .427 .428" ; case length 1.59 1,568" ; COAL 1.93 1.853".
An important measurement not considered is base to start of shoulder 1.114"
and mouth to end of shoulder. .392"

Next a photo of an extended neck .44 W.C.F. blank headstamped “U.M.C. .44 C.F.M.” ( this is an earlier UMC headstamp then their .44-40 stamp but I don’t have a blank of this type with that HS) The blank has a case / OA length of 1.603"
So if we look at the case length of the headstamped example it is closer to a blank length UMC case 1.603" vs 1.59" than 1.59" vs 1.568" the plain Ex. L. example.
So based on the case length comparisons. I believe the headstamped example was made from a blank case. The other measurements are close enough as we know it fits the firearm.
44 exlong rt w:44 UMC CWF blank left

It’s interesting that your dimension for the start of the shoulder of 1.114 is greater than the specified 44-40 WCF start of .9275. I doubt that that cartridge would chamber in a 44-40 WCF.

Sorry but I have no answer to that. The UMC 44 CWF blank in the photo, shoulder starts at 1.136".
Edited to correc & completet. on the ExL. base to where the black arrow tip is, is 1.075".
44 exlong rt w:44 UMC CWF blank left