44-40 questions


May 7, 2012, 09:38 PM
I have a post already going in rifle country here on THR and hope its alright to post these additional questions here. The other post started as a rifle question on bore grove and bore diameter and spun into a reloading scenario. So here are the questions.
1. Will a lead bullet with a gas check bump up better than the same bullet without a gas check?
2. What should I expect for accuracy from a 1894 model Marlin from 1895 with a 24" barrel at 50 yards? And at 100 yards?
3. If a bullet is tumbling and I'm looking for key holes in the target, is there any range (distance) that is best for observing (placing target)? (Hope that question makes sense.)

Thanks DMH

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May 7, 2012, 09:47 PM
I think you have multiple issues....

I doubt a gas check would make much difference, except if you're still driving it excessively fast..

more like I think you have the wrong boolit dia for your barrel..

May 7, 2012, 10:00 PM
I went up and checked that thread in the rifle section.. like Driftwood said, Dude, you GOTTA use boolits that match the bore diameter..

I don't know if you can buy that diameter from a commercial caster, of if you're gonna have to buy a mold and cast your own (what would be the harm?)..

But I think that's what it's gonna come down to..

ps.. gorgeous rifle...

May 7, 2012, 10:01 PM
I'm not attempting to drive them fast, just want them to bump up, seal and get some accuracy out of the rifle. I was going to load up some .432 dia. bullets and see if they will camber with out any issues and then compare the accuracy. I am alright with the .430 dia. over the 6.8 grains of Winchester 231 so if that is the best it will get then I'll settle with that load. I can try going down with the load and see at what point it no longer bumps up and seals the grove diameter. I also do not want to push the old rifle too hard with too hot of a load. I have never used gas checks and that is why I asked if they would help in bumping up the base at all.


DLDickmon, Thanks for taking the time to read the old post in the rifle section. The attachment about the Burgess Rifle matches my Bore and Grove diameters. There is no way I can camber a round that matches My grove diameter. My only hope is to get it to bump up and seal.

May 7, 2012, 10:38 PM
then use a hollow base... like a minnie ball.. and when I say hollow base, I mean like a Greener bullet hollow base....

again, you may end up casting your own....

May 7, 2012, 11:20 PM
I own a Navy Arms replica 1866 in 44/40. I use homecast 429215 gas checked boolits, sized .430", and accuracy is very good at 50 yards. It has rather crude open sights, and I've never tried it at more than 50 yards. It will shoot less than 2" groups at 50 yards all day long.

I suggest you load a dummy round using a .430" boolit and test for chambering first.

May 7, 2012, 11:24 PM
I agree, if you don't have a bullet to match your bore dia. then use a hollow base/mini-ball type bullet. FWIW, I have an original 1860 Army Richards conversion, which is a .44 Colt heel base type bullet, and it's not the easiest to reload that type of cartridge. So finding an easy way to make ammunition to work I tried using a deep hollow base/mini-ball type bullet, using very soft lead. FYI, my bore checks out at .454 dia. and these bullets dropped out of the mold at .430, so there's no need to size them. I shot them with very good results. LM

May 7, 2012, 11:30 PM
A gas check won't "bump up" diameter in and of itself.

May 8, 2012, 07:39 PM
The reason I was asking about the gas check was I ran into a re loader who was using gas checks and had recovered some of the fired rounds. I do not remember the caliber, but it was an older original black powder round. He was saying the gas check would be pushed into the heel of the bullet and caused the base to expand and push out excessively. He felt that this was helping seal his grove diameter. From the responses here I would say the gas checks will not help my situation. I personally have never tried gas checks. Just to keep things straight here the 44-40 I'm working with has a bore diameter of .421 and a groove diameter of .441 this is leaving me with a .010 rifling depth in each groove. I have fired .427, .429, .430 dia. and have .432 diameter bullets on the way. The best accuracy so far has been the .430 dia. bullets. The .427 were concave at the base. There is no way the camber will allow be to cycle .441 dia. bullets. So matching the groove diameter is out of the question.


May 8, 2012, 11:33 PM
From what you've said, I would really try some hollow-base bullets. Starting out as big of dia. that will still chamber in your rifle. That thin lead skirt will bump up to fill the grooves giving you the gas seal needed to get good accuracy. Good luck, LM.

July 12, 2012, 11:23 PM
I loaded up some .432" diameter dummy 44-40 rounds and did not like how they chambered, smooth cycling until the last 1/4" of lever coming up and closing the chamber. Not real hard but you could feel the resistance, extracted fine. So based on what I can smoothly chamber I'm going to use the .430" diameter lead bullets. I pan lubed some for testing
and loaded some over 16.5 gr. of 2400 with these results at 50 yards.
Here is the 1894 Marlin
These are slightly better than the 6.8 gr w231 loads. I still think its not bumping up the base enough to seal the groove diameter that I have. I am going to do some loads at 17gr or 2400 and 17.5 grains. I'll post those results as well.

Thanks for looking, David
any load advice is appreciated.

August 14, 2012, 12:22 AM
Well I reduced the load to 16.1 Gr of A2400 and top off the charge with 10 c.c of polyethylene shot buffer. A 200 grain .430" round nose flat point hard cast bullet and this has been the best load so far. 1467 FPS on the high end and 1436 FPS on the low end. The velocity spread was very tight with this load and grouped at 2.5 inches at 50 yards. I will try more loads with the PBS and see if accuracy is consistent. I did try some 20:1 lead bullets at .430" over 17.1 Gr of A2400 with out any shot buffer, but velocity spread was excessive 1017 FPS to 1473 FPS and was not as accurate. I do not believe that the 20:1 is sealing the oversize groove diameter, but the Polyethylene loads are. Increased velocity with lower powder charge.


August 14, 2012, 12:41 AM
The old factory loads were generally pretty soft bullets, the the black powder charges generally bumped up the soft bullets to seal the bore and give decent accuracy. Bullets were often undersize for the bore/groove diameter, but worked out with the soft bullets, and bumping up from the black powder ignition. I was surprised to hear your hard bullets shot better, but it just proves the point, that there aren't any guarantees on what will happen when you pull the trigger on an individual gun or load.

Sounds like you're on to a decent load though. Nice old Marlin, glad you're getting it out and working with it. Are you going to hunt with it any?

If you didn't get a load figured out, I was going to suggest asking on the leverguns forum.


You may enjoy it in any event, lots of old gun nuts there.

hang fire
August 14, 2012, 03:00 AM
.44-40 bore diameters seem to vary considerably and require boolits sized to match.

I have a .44-40 Colt 1873 SA (mfg 1886) and the groove diameter is .426" with chamber throats at .428", so that is what I size the boolits to. Load is 32 grains of Graf's 2F BP and is very accurate with 20:1 boolit alloy.

August 14, 2012, 09:44 AM
Malamute, I was thinking about using it for part of the rifle deer season here in Minnesota. I also do archery and that is less than a month away. Normally for rifle season I use a 1894 model Winchester SRC in 32 ws. I have never had a shot at a deer here that was more than 80 yards and most are in the 40 yard area. I will go back and try some more compressed black powder loads in the 44-40 with the 20:1 lead bullets and see how they work out. I have a Lyman 55 powder measure and 24" aluminum drop tube. I was just working with smokeless and attempting to get a load that functions well in this rifle. If you read the other post (rifle country forum), I'm dealing with a .421" bore diameter and a .441" groove diameter. It has been a fun project and have learned through the process.


August 14, 2012, 11:15 AM
Hang the rifle on the wall and buy a 30-30 Mod 94.

Ya, its a pain to find a bullet for the 44-40, but you have to get one that is 0.002 over bore.

.429 - .430 for 44 Spl or Magnum but .427 for 44-40 works. I cast my own and got the .427 sizer for the Lyman lubrisizer. Use the same mold. Its more of a novelty, not really a useful caliber. Accuracy? If you can hit a 5 gal bucket at 50 yards that's good. They are fun to shoot though, but so is a 30-30. :D

August 14, 2012, 11:16 AM
i would suggest either 9.0 grains of unique or universal clays and Hornady lead .430 bullets . The Hornady lead bullets are soft should bump up to fill the bore . i also suggest trying a .433 roundball and the above load of powder . these loads worked very well in aNavy arms 1873 i had. velocity with the unique or universal clays should give you around 1300 fps. Hornady makes a 180 gr and 2 240 grain bullets . the 180 is there cowboy bullet

August 14, 2012, 06:55 PM
Matching up a lead bullet can be a challenge for this round but as you see the fun is in getting it to shoot.:D We need the picture of the first one you get with that rifle.:cool: I have spent a lot of time getting the 44-40 round to behave in my reproduction Uberti revolver. The hollow base bullet was the best so far for mine. The dead soft lead 44 MAG SWC bullets were the close second as far as accuracy. The rifle sounds like a lot more of a challenge for sure.

August 14, 2012, 08:45 PM

This is a 15 shot group at 50 yards 5 slow fire and 10 rapid. These were all at between 1436 and 1467 FPS
This was my set up with targets at 50 and at 100 yards.


August 14, 2012, 09:42 PM
these loads are fine for hunting.DMH Try putting a wad between the bullet and the blackpowder should seal the bore better.

September 11, 2012, 06:08 PM
I have a load worked up that I will use for hunting and this the results of my spring and summer of fun. WLP (primer) 15 gr. A2400, 1.0 cc polyethylene shot buffer, .430" diameter 200gr. RNFP 14.3 BHN bullet. Seat and crimp in same die at station #3 dillion press. 1260 fps with a standard deviation of 39fps. These are not bumping up the base, but the PSB is sealing the deep grooves (.441") Very nice rifling marks on the recovered lead (fired into water jugs). Penetration was 8 1-gallon water jugs. https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-tcI-aTGmQhI/UEV8eCa4RAI/AAAAAAAAAmY/PvhCvt8a5v4/s720/IMG_1423.JPG


September 11, 2012, 06:18 PM
time to go deer hunting!


September 11, 2012, 10:34 PM
Yup, time to take the old dog out for another hunt! :)

September 12, 2012, 11:09 AM
Looks like you're good to go with that old Marlin. Let us know how it goes with the deer. A report on the bullet performance would be great!

Should be a fun hunt with the old girl.

September 12, 2012, 03:03 PM
Thanks for the nice replies. I would not have been able to work up a good load without the help of the members here (at THR) that supplied valuable information on the large over-sized groove diameters and links to other articles. I'm impressed with how willing and friendly fellow THR members are at helping.


November 12, 2012, 01:40 AM
Success with the 44-40.


75 yards, bullet did leave exit wound. The buck did drop right where I shot him. The cover was thick, weather was rainy. The photo looks like night time, but the pine woods were that dense, it is 9:45 A.M. in that photo.



November 12, 2012, 09:11 AM
That last is a good group. I knew before seeing that you had probably changed your "benchresting"/shooting style from the first pictures as there is such a difference.
To find the accuracy of a load, the rifle must be dead still.

November 12, 2012, 09:53 AM
Well Done!

Looks like the old girl did just fine. Bet that was a fun hunt!

Ok, so now tell us about the 92 Winchester! Looks like a 24" round barrel rifle.

November 12, 2012, 02:45 PM
Malamute, Good eye spotting my mistake. I wanted to post a photo of the 1894 Marlin in 44-40, but posted the photo of my 1908 Winchester 32-20 instead. I picked up the Winchester a couple years ago for a coyote rifle. I have yet to work up a nice load for that rifle. I plan on A2400 powder and try bullet weights from 80gr. to 120gr. But that is a whole other thread and a winter project for me. Thanks for the replies.


November 12, 2012, 02:49 PM
Here is the correct rifle from the deer hunt.



November 12, 2012, 09:26 PM
Very nice! I've got an old 1892 with a sewer pipe of a bore that shoots similar groups with the 429215 GC on 6.7gr Win231.

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