.44 Henry short and long cases


Does anyone know about when Winchester made the transition from the short cased outside lubed .44 Henry to the long cased inside lubed? I have always assumed it occured in the 1880s, but have never seen anything that addressed the subject. There appears to be evidence of long cased examples being found at the Custer battle sight, so my 1880s assumption is apparently a bit late.


I have no info on the date the long case was introduced.

However, “recovered” items from historic sites run the gamut from stuff that was left there when the famous event took place, to stuff dropped later by tourists, to stuff that was never anywhere near the site, but profitably marketed as having that provenance by unscrupulous sellers.

Even if recovered in a professional archaeological dig, the key is to fate it from the adjacent layers, and not just assume that everything found came from teh same time frame.

I bet the Indians hunted that area for decades before it became a park, and some undoubtedly had Henry rifles. Or, bored tourists may have popped off a few rounds at prairie dogs.

Be very skeptical of any “Custer stuff.”



It’s a good policy to be skeptical of anything claimed to be “Custer” but there are ways to tell the real article. The battlefield was a National Monument in 1886 and all property surrounding the Monument is private. There were no excavations at the Monument before 1984 except for a few artifact-finding attempts by Monument personnel using outdated mine detectors. Their finds were cataloged and preserved in the Museum but the number of 44 Henry cases were few because of the inability of the mine detectors to find them. That is the basis for the oft repeated statement that the Indians were not well armed. No empty cases means they had no firearms.

Up until the 1970s no one thought to explore the private property outside the boundaries because the general feeling was that nothing would be found there. When amateur historians got access to really good metal detectors and began to look on private property their finds were well cataloged and preserved. I was fortunate to be one of those early ameteurs.

Bottom line is, the real Custer “buffs” are not duped by any of the fakes. The real ones have been documented and we know what they look like…



This is an interesting topic. In relation to WRACO only, the early 100 round Black box, and the 50 round NHA green label boxes such as the one I posted the other day; all have short cases. I don’t know of anyone who would claim that a long case came from a NHA box. Then you get into the first couple of WRACO boxes that are also only short cases. To the best of my knowledge, and according to the Giles/Shuey book, it was the Stetson’s box that was first loaded with long case Henrys. The first variations of the Stetson’s box coming out in 1871 had short cases. It was the later version just a few years later, of this same box that started to come loaded with long cases. Note that this box was produced from 1871 through 1892 if I recall correctly. I would have to go back to my books/notes, but I seem to remember it being in the 1870’s latter part when the switch was really made. Anyway, that’s off memory. I would have to look it up further in my books and notes to be more accurate. If you aren’t sure what a Stetson’s Henry box is, look at my signature line, top box, original 50 short cases. Remember, the battle was in 1876, so I would expect the existing ammo that has already made it out to “the prarie” to be the earlier short cases. But I guess it’s hard to know, I never thought about this topic in relation to Little Big Horn. Interesting… Hope it helps.


Thanks all. My question was not for the purpose of authenticating any purported Custer items, but rather to try to determine when the switch was made. I’m well aware that items found on a site don’t necessarily date from an event that took place there. My wife has vowed to bury my collection with me - I can imagine a future amateur archeologist trying to figure what that was all about.

Thank you Tony for your input and for mentioning the Giles/Shuey book - I tend to overlook useful reference books that I have in my own small library.


Anytime, I hope I was helpful. I have other UNppublished Henry resources if you want me to dig further to narrow it down.