44-40 winchester questions


#1

What are the differences between 44-40 winchester,44 XL and 44-40 extra long?

According to me the 44 XL is more a variation of the 44-40 extra long than of the 44-40 winchester,altough it has the same 44 WCF case.Being loaded with a long sabot it matches the 44 extra long OAL

Barnes lists 44 WCF,44 XL and 44-40 extra long as distinct cartridges and places the 44 xl in the shotshell chapter.

I am a bit confused,what’s the real story behind these cartridges?

Thanks


#2

Pivi - I am at a loss to understand the Barnes entry for “44-40 Extra Long” on page 146 of the current edition of “Cartridges of the World.” He says that it is listed in various publications, but doewn’t say where. I can find nothing on this cartridge in my library. He quotes a source as saying that the Stevens Model 101 “Featherweight Rifle” was chambered for it. Not according to the highly comprehensive and normally accurate “Flayderman’s Guide,” the absolute best all around work on U.S. Antique firearms, which shows the Model 101 Stevens chambered for the .44XL, .44 WCF shot and the .44 Game-getter, all of which are interchangeable and all of which are based on one form or another of the standard .44-40 case (all-brass shot cartridges and blanks in this caliber have elongated cases).

Since the Stevens in question was made in 1914-1916, I checked the Winchester catalogs for those years and found nothing about any extra-long .44-40 (in normal ball form - I have to clarify, which is one of the problems in discussing this caliber, due to the special length cases for blanks and shot loads). While interchangeable in guns like the Marble’s Game-Getter, which used shot loads and a round-ball bulleted load, and the Stevens 101, it is a one-way interchageability. Over all cartridge length is not critical in firearms where the cartridge is loaded directly into the chamber (barrel). However, in lever guns it is extremely critical. In the first .44-40 made, the Winchester Model 1873, the bullet tip is the cartridge stop that prevents more than one cartridge from leaving the magazine tube, into the carrier. The carrier, as it raises to present the cartridge for chambering, becomes the cartridge stop. If a cartridge is too long, it will jam the carrier as the nose of the round will be partially into the magazine tube, and if it is too short, part of the next round can come into the carrier creating the same jamming effect. Some later design tube loading firearms have a true mechanical cartridge stop, but overall cartridge length remained critical in those as well, as the round can’t be even slight over-length.

Blanks and all-brass shot shells have an extended case length but the overall cartridge length is compatible with most lever guns, as is the shape of their necks. Shot loads were used for some of the aeriel shooting stunts, from Winchester 73’s, in the original William F. Cody old-west recreations, for example. (Wild West Show).

Barnes mentions that some think that the .44-40 extra long are shot or blank cases loaded with a conical bullet. That would intimate a “fake” cartridge. I have no opinion on that, as I don’t recall ever seeing any of these long .44-40s that he describes as being “common.” that is not an indication he is wrong. While due to the number of .44-40 firearms I have, a bout a dozen, I accumulate a little “cheat-collection” of these rounds, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to them at cartridge shows.

The .44-40 can be a confusing cartridge. The case type is known by so many names, .44-40, ww W.C.F., .44 XL, .44 Game-getter, .44 Colt Lightning Magazine Rifle, .44 Marlin, etc., and even things like the UMC Factory Log devote many separate pages to the same case type, instead of simply noting the data and changes for one cartridge and mentioning specific loads. They even separate the .44-40 Black Powder rounds from the .44-40 Smokeless. However, they do not shown any bulleted “.44-40 Extra Long” with lengthen brass neck. I cannot find mention of such a cartride in any of the very few old Remington catalogs I have either. Admittedly, I have not check Peters, or U.S. Cartridge Company.

I think I will query a top .44-40 collector about this round, and if an answer, regardless of what it is, is forth-coming, I will report back.


#3

John–I have to take issue with a comment you made above concerning the .44-40 Win. that “all-brass shot cartridges and blanks in this caliber have elongated cases”.

This is incorrect, at least in U.M.C. brand. The elongated shot load, called “.44-40 SHOT, LONG SHELL” was introduced in 1909 and was discontinued in 1910. Before that it used the standard case with a flat nosed wood sabot, listed in the catalogs as “.44 WIN., WOODEN END”. This loading was made to at least 1923. In both loads, they were available in shot sizes #5-#12 +Dust.


#4

Ron, I’m sorry, but you are wrong. Firstly, I didn’t mention UMC specifically. However, you have admitted that they showed it for a very short time, and possibly, therefore, made some. I put no time element on my statement.

However, let’s say that UMC never made one single round of extended-case .44-40 shot. I don’t know, since I don’t have one. Regardless, in the overall picture, and again I said nothing about “UMC,” you are still wrong. In my tiny accumulation of .44-40 rounds, about 55 specimens, I have more elongated brass-cased shot rounds than I do ones with wooden sabots. I am not mixing up blanks. These are way too heavy to be blanks. I have three with wood sabots in the normal case length, and six with extended cases. In the extended case, I have two variations of W.R.A.Co., two variations of REM-UMC, one variation of Peters and one variation of U.S.C.Co.

Weights of blanks I have, all expressed in grains:

148.7; 157.9; 148.4; 129.1; 146.6

Weights of wood-sabot shot loads, in grains:

231; 180.2; 267.3

Weights of extended case shot loads in grains:

251.3; 259.8; 280.5; 287.7, 220.7, 255.0

thought I would supply these so you could see what I mean about the shot loads being too heavy to be blanks. Most of the rounds are in decent shape, with top wads intact. Not impossible that one of them might have lost some shot, but I forget which weight was the one with a slightly tilted top wad.

The W.R.A.Co rounds, and one of the REM-UMC rounds have small copper primers; the U.S.C.Co. a small “US” (Intertwined) brass primer, and one REM-UMC has a large nickled-cup primer. One of the W.R.A.Co. has the “W” on the primer, of the style where at the center point of the W the lines cros into a “X”. The other primer is plain. The copper REM-UMC primer is with “U”.

Mind you, I have no 44XL or GG headstamped rounds that I can think of, as my little collection centers around the Colt’s Revolvers and Colt, Winchester and Marlin rifles I have in this caliber. The rounds made specifically for non-lever and pump rifles don’t interest me, other than my general interest in all ammunition. All of the .44-40 rounds I have have been picked up at random, mostly from other collectors. I have no reason to believe that any are tampered with (blanks reloaded with shot).


#5

Ron - o.k., after all that work, it dawned on me that I might have misinterpretated your point, because you misinterpretated what I said. I know full well that there are shot loads with normal case and wood sabots. That is whay I hyphenated (I think I did) “all-brass.” I was speaking of elongated cases made completely of brass, as opposed to overly long rounds like the 44XL that have normal case lengths but very long sabots.
It was not meant to be exclusive of wooden sabot shot rounds, because I wasn’t talking about them at all. So, to put it another way, I was talking about “all, elongated all-brass shotshells,” and NOT about “all shotshells are elongated brass.”

In the context of your interpretation of my comments, your reply was not wrong. Simply a misinterpretation of what I probably could have worded more clearly.


#6

I believe the .44-40 Extra Long is considered to be a legitimate cartridge, but I agree with John that Frank Barne’s Cartridges of the World comment that they are common is incorrect. I have owned only one in my 30+ years of collecting. Buttweiller sold 8 or 10 of these over the years, initially referring to them as the .44-40 Extra Long, and eventually as the ‘.44 Center Fire Spencer 50 grain’, a name mentioned in a May 1885 UMC journal entry he briefly refers to. Unlike the illustration in COTW, which shows a WRA Co headstamp, these are unheadstamped. I would be suspicious of any headstamped example which has one of the standard 44-40 headstamps, as it has likely been made from an extended case 44-40 shot cartridge.


#7

John–Thank you for the second reappraisal of what I had said. I could not understand why you were ranting on about what I had said, but, with your next post, it is clear that we both had misinterpreted what the other was saying. You are right, I did think you were saying that ALL .44-40 Shot Loads were extended case. I now see that I did, in fact, misinterpret what you actually meant. But at least it allowed the fact to come out that the U.M.C. Long Case Shot load was only cataloged for 2 years, thus accounting for their scarcity. Plus, the Wooden End shot load was available at the same time. It is obvious most people bought the familiar wood sabot shot loads and not the “New-Fangled” “All-Brass” extended case loads.


#8

Ron - sorry if I seemed to be “ranting on” in the first one. I am getting old and cranky I guess. I don’t mean to sound like anything upset me. I reread one of my answers to something Lew had said in another thread, though, and my first thought was “what arrogant SOB wrote that.” It is not intended. Like anyone, I have opinions and I get so engrossed in trying to explain them with my mediocre writing ability that I realize I sometimes come off as sounding like what I am answering personally offended me or something. That is seldom the case. I can’t say never, but certainly wasn’t the case here.

Just a mutual misunderstanding of the points each of us was making.


#9

Armed with Guy’s observation about a Journal entry referring to the “long .44-40” as a Spencer round, and with information from our friend Victor v.B. Engel, I have the answer for the long .44-40 round and Guy was right on.

I found this round in the notes from the U.M.C. factory log. “May 2, 1885. Commenced to make a sample and sent to Spencer Arms Co. The shell is a .44 Winchester Solid Head only 1/3” longer. 50 Grains FF powder and the regular 44 Winchester bullet 200 grains, ball seated the same as Winchesters and crimped."

That is the one and only entry for this round. It is titled 44 C.F,. Spencer 50 Grains." I would say that the correct name for the round is simply “44 CF Spencer,” or perhaps “.44-50-200 C.F. Spencer.”

Victor made the following observations:

"The “.44-40 Extra Long” has been around since I started collecting in the late '50’s. No one seemed to know any other name except what Barnes calls it.

"One day some told me that an entry in some factroy records had a name for a cartridge like this. since there was no picture of it, we are presuming that the .44-50-200 Spencer, or “.44 C.F. Spencer 50 Grains” is thei .44-40 extra Long. The case length is that of the extended case .44-40 used for shot and blanks. One of the rounds I picture has the W.R.A.CO. .44 W.C.F. Headstamp. Although I have not pulled one of the rounds apart, I am guessing that the case contains 50 grains of powder and the bullet is a typical 200 grain .44-40.

“There are far too many of these cartridges in our circle, at $25 each, not to have some historical meaning. Were they all loaded by someone for a gunsmith special when more power was needed? We can only hope that something appears in the future to clarify the mystery.”

In answer to Vic’s last question, as the UMC Log says, a sample was sent directly to Spencer Arms Company. There is no indication in the log of any followup order, but then, perhaps for price, or some other reason, Spencer contracted with Winchester for more of them. One thing is clear - the round has nothing to do with the Stevens “rifle” as mentioned in Barnes. “Flayderman’s Guide” and the dating of the UMC Log entry pretty much repudiate that statement.

Winchester production remains problematic in identification, as the Winchester catalogs for that time period - 1885 thru 1887 - do not show any .44-50-200 cartridge of any description. However, if the cartridge was a proprietary (there’s that word again) round made exclusively for Spencer Arms Company, and not sold to any other Winchester distributor, dealer or to the public direct from Winchester, there would be no reason to list it in the catalogs.

By the way, in a picture sent to me by Vic, the UMC rounds do not have any headstamp. The W.R.A.CO. headstamped-round is pictured as well, although the headstamp is hard to see in the photo. Once pointed out, it can be seen.


#10

New primed empty Winchester extended length .44 WCF cases are pretty common, and given what the .44 Extra Long cartridges sell for, I can’t imagine that someone hasn’t loaded some of these cases with 44-40 bullets. If this cartridge had been loaded at anytime by Winchester, I would expect it to have been included in Dan Shuey’s excellent book on WRA Co headstamps.


#11

Guy,

I agree with your comments. I have seen boxes of the new primed empty shells designed for making blanks or shotshells. While I can understand the possible reasons why the round was not catalogued by Winchester (at least in the time periods I researched - contemporary to UMC’s entry and contemporary to the Stevens rifle mentioned just to check out that possiblity), I, too, find it hard to understand why there is no entry in Shuey’s book. Those books were not just researched from collection samples. Dan had access to scads of factory records in doing the book.

That is why I called the Winchester specimens still “problematic.” I think we can very confidently say that the unheadstamped UMC rounds are perfectly correct, and do constitute a different caliber made for Spencer. The Winchester specimens may be handloads for the Spencer firearms made in this caliber, using the blank/shot primed factory cases, or even possibly fakes, although I tend to discount the latter.

Our friend Guy has really been right on concerning this round, as far as I am concerned!


#12

John, Guy and Ron.
You are all, as always, a great wealth of information. How timely. One of the 44-50-200 Spenser’s has been consigned to the IAA Friday night auction. The consigner insisted it was a Spenser, but I wouldn’t list it as such until I could verify it. I had not checked Robbies catalogues yet, so you have saved me hours of searching and cursing. Thank You All. Great question Ron.

Cheers,
Will.


#13

Oops. Sorry Pivi. Great Question Pivi. I didn’t go far enough back into the thread when I posted previous reply. I owe you a beer at St. Louis if you come Pivi.

Cheers,
Will.


#14

Well,I must come to St. Louis then…


#15

Here are pictures of a couple of the W.R.A.Co. .44 W.C.F. new primed empty cases, plus one of the boxes. The full boxes are not too uncommon, so there have been plenty of the cases in circulation to have been used by those parasites who seem to be present in every collecting field. The cases are 1.581" long.


#16

Because of some outside correspondence I have received on this round, I now tend to think that any of these rounds that are found with W.R.A.Co. .44 WCF, .44-40, or 44 EX headstamps are likely spurious, as Guy seems to indicate in his comments.

A picture of a correct round, from UMC and without headstamp, was sent to me that had “.44 Kennedy Long” written on the side, indicating a possible connection with the Kennedy lever-action rifles. I researched one of my books that includes a comprehensive study of the Kennedy rifles and carbines, and could fin no reference to any .44 based on the .44-40 case other than the actual .44-40 chambering itself.

I have also, since my last posting, researched everything I have on Spencer rifles and ammunition. The .44-50-200 Long CF is not shown anywhere. This is not to dispute the primary source - the UMC log. It simply indicates to me that these were probably made for a single, or very limited number of prototype Spencer arms, not any sort of serial production. The fact that the UMC log has only one single entry with no further indications of any subsequent production tends to corroborate this.

In truth, I can find no reference to this cartridge in any books other than the UMC Log and “Cartridges of the World,” nor can I find any reference to any Winchester, Ballard (Single Shot), Bullard, Colt, Kennedy, Marlin, Whitney or Spencer rifle chambered for this cartridge.

The point is, if the guns are that rare, why would anyone, simply for shooting purposes (which would make the loads semi-legitimate), be loading rounds for it? The only rounds so far confirmed on the Forum and in the personal correspondence I have received, other than the unheadstamped UMC cartridges, have W.R.A.CO. .44 W.C.F. or .44 XL headstamps. The latter is only reported from the cartridge drawing - not a photograph - in Barne’s book. There seems to be no Winchester round with a headstamp that would indicate a factory-produced .44-50-200 cartridge, nor any unheadstamped round with Winchester or any but UMC characteristics.

As my friend Lew told me, and which is correct, you can’t prove a negative. So, my comments above are conjecture based on a lack of any information about this cartridge other than its presence in collections, with the UMC Log being the only primary-source material so far brought to our attention that proves factory production of any cartridges of this caliber.

Edited for spelling only

Reference: U.M./C. Factory Log notes
Reference: “The Winchester Book,” by George Madis
Reference: “Winchester’s New Model of 1873, a Tribute, Volume II,” Chapter “Winchester Ammunition and Accessories,” by James D. Gordon
Reference: “Bullard Arms,” by C. Scott Jamieson
Reference: “Ballard” by John T. Dutcher
Reference: “Spencer Repeating Firearms,” by Roy M. Marcot
Reference: “Lever Action Magazine Rifles,” by Samuel L. Maxwell Sr.
Reference: “Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms,” by Norm Flayderman


#17

There is also the .44 Extra Long Ballard. With its straight sided case and deeply grooved bullet, it is easy to distinguish from the cartridges that are based on the .44-40 case, but it still can add to the ‘Extra Long/XL’ confusion.


#18

Guy - I found the .44 Long and Extra Long Ballard in that book that I referenced. I got all excited until I found the page with the picture of it, and then what the powder charge and bullet weights were. As you say, close but no cigar!

I simply can’t imagine why any factory other than the initial UMC production or any shooter would load the .44-50-200, when today we can’t even find a reference to a gun for it in the finest gun books on the various arms that might have used it - not even in Marcot’s fine book on Spencer guns and ammunition, the company for whom UMC made the intial rounds. In the absence of a need for shooting ammunition, that doesn’t leave many options for why the non-UMC loads that are found were made.


#19

Guys, including you Guy. This is really impressive work, and an example of the power of this Forum as a real research tool. 44-40 is not a caliber that has intersted me, but this search for fact and the real story behind the cartridge described in COTW.

My only thought is how often I have run across gun collectors who own guns and they truly have no idea what caliber some of them are chambered for. The most striking example is the number of Chinese FN1900 copies that were sold to me as 7.62 Browning weapons when they were actually chambered for 7.63 Mauser. The clip and a number of other aspects of the pistols should have made the caliber obvious, but the owners were working off assumptions. There maybe a 44 Extra Long Spencer or 44 Extra Long Kennedy without the owners knowledge.

Sound conclusions and thanks to you all!!!

Lew


#20

I agree with Lew on the fact that there may be rifles out there in this caliber where the owners have no intention of firing them and really don’t know what caliber they are. My only reservation on that is that in this area, unlike some areas of firearms, some terrific, heavily researched books have been written. Roy Marcot’s book on Spencer is tremendous, and I know him to be an extremely thorough researcher. The presence of scholarly literature diminishes, BUT DOES NOT ELIMINATE, the chances of what Lew mentions being correct. Again, it only diminishes the possiblity that there are unknown guns out there. I mentioned that I can find no mention of an example of a gun for this cartridge in any source I have. Yet we know there must have been at least one; Spencer Arms Co. didn’t contract with U.M.C. for a cartridge without having so much as a test vehicle for it.

I do believe, though, that the Kennedy connection can be eliminated completely. The only source of any connection to Kennedy is a hand-written note on the side of a .44-50-100 cartridge, put there by a collector. We have nothing, including any comment from UMC, to show any connection with the Kennedy series of lever-action rifles.

Lew, when do we get a book on the Asian pistols? That will save a ton of conjecture on them some day, and you are the best qualified person, perhaps on planet earth, to write one! I’ll take the first copy, autographed, of course!