Can a 44 WCF be safely converted to a 44 Special?


4v50 Gary
February 16, 2014, 06:12 PM
A friend has a (Colt SAA clone) Cimmaron Arms 44 WCF he wants me to convert to 44 Special. Can it be safely done?

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February 16, 2014, 06:18 PM
Hmm...which diameter did they use?

4v50 Gary
February 16, 2014, 06:41 PM
From my Hornady reloading Manual, .430.

February 16, 2014, 06:43 PM
Oh, I meant to say, which did Cimmaron (Uberti?) use in building his particular gun? Or did the Hornady reloading manual say that Cimmarons are all .430"?

February 16, 2014, 06:46 PM
I do PRECIOUS little gunsmithing, so I'm hardly the last word on the matter. But I'D be afraid to do it. If the .44 WCF barrel mikes out a true .429" diameter, then the .44 Spl slug shouldn't notice the difference, and it MIGHT be safe. If the barrel mikes .427", which, if memory serves, the .44 WCF originally used, then I envision pressure excursions, and a very unsafe situation.

February 16, 2014, 06:47 PM
Borrowing a couple images from, it looks like the chambers would be a bit loose. Might be hard on the brass. I think it would work, but just might not be a great idea. Then again, the "worst" part would be right at the web, which is the strongest part. Might not be a problem.

Jim K
February 16, 2014, 07:21 PM
That is one of those conversions that might work if the shooter doesn't mind bulged cases and inaccuracy, but IMHO it is not practical.


February 16, 2014, 07:24 PM
In a word. No.

Fingers McGee
February 16, 2014, 07:27 PM
Yes, it can be safely done by fitting a new 44 spcl cylinder to the frame. The 44/40 had a larger case & rim diameter than the 44 spcl and is bottle necked rather than straight walled. Ruger made convertible super Blackhawks back in the day with two cylinders. Ruger SUPER Blackhawk Convertible 44 Mag & 44-40 Win, (Model S-4440) NEW MODEL, 7 ” (DUAL CYLINDERS). IIRC, they used .428 or .429 dia bullets. A Ruger expert could tell you for sure. Shooting 44 spcl in a 44-40 cylinder would be unsafe.

February 16, 2014, 07:46 PM
Fingers McGee gets the Cigar, and a seat on the Whoopee Cushion throne tonight!

An extra cylinder, fitted to the gun chambered in .44 Special is all you need.

About everybody has been using the same .429" bore size on new guns in both calibers for years now.

Unless you have an original old Colt or S&W, it has the same .429" bore diameter in either caliber.


Don McDowell
February 16, 2014, 07:47 PM
Yes it can be done. You will need either a 357 cylinder to bore a guide hole to run a 44 special cylinder reamer into, or you will have to drill out and sleeve the 44-40 cylinder and the chamber it for the special.

February 16, 2014, 08:05 PM
Why not just buy a .44 Special cylinder from Cimarron for $113.30 and take the easy way out?

Drop it in, check the timing, And be done with it?


Don McDowell
February 16, 2014, 08:12 PM
Sure would be the easy way, but not a particularly good option for someone working their way thru gunsmith school training.
At least I hope he's training to be a gunsmith , and not simply a gun parts changer, lord knows there's more than ample amounts of the later, and precious few of the former these days.

February 16, 2014, 08:17 PM
My mistake!

I didn't even know 4v50 Gary was working his way through gunsmith school and had to take the hard way on everything he does to a gun.

My mistake.


4v50 Gary
February 16, 2014, 10:44 PM
Thank you to everyone who provided their insights. Like 25schaefer, we are in our fourth and final semester at Trinidad State.

It depends on what can be done safely and whether the tooling is available (reamer, head space gauges). I do know from the Hornady reloading manual that the 44-40 is .002 larger in diameter than the 44 Special. It can cause some bulging in the case.

Anyway, I'll speak with some instructors tomorrow.

Don McDowell
February 16, 2014, 10:49 PM
The last time I converted a 357 to something more useful, I got the 44 special cylinder reamer from Brownells.
Saami spec pressure for both of the 44 rounds are similar enough that changing the chambering won't be a problem as far as the pressures go. The next thing will be if the groove diameter of the barrel will be happy with the 429-430 bullets of the special.
Using a second cylinder would be the best route, that way you'll end up with a "convertible" gun.

Prairie Dawg
February 16, 2014, 11:29 PM
Here is a link to Cimarron's bore & twist guide.
44 special and 44-40 use the same bore dimensions.

February 16, 2014, 11:41 PM
I do know from the Hornady reloading manual that the 44-40 is .002 larger in diameter than the 44 Special. It can cause some bulging in the case. Better do some more in-depth looking at your manual.

The 44-40 WCF bullet is actually shown as .002" smaller in the Hornady manual.

Bore diameter, right or wrong, has nothing at all to do with bulging of the case.

What does is, the 44-40 WCF is a bottle-neck case with a case diameter of .471" in front of the rim.

The 44 Special is a straight case with a diameter of .457" in front of the rim.

That's .014" on my calculator.
And that's a case bulge for sure.


Jim Watson
February 17, 2014, 12:27 AM
Yes. The .002" difference in NOMINAL bullet/barrel diameter is absolutely inconsequential.
And often not present at all. Colt .44 Special barrels are small, Italian .44-40 barrels are large.

As said, the .44-40 is a faint bottleneck and cannot be rechambered to .44 Special, you cannot ream a hole smaller. I sure would not want to try to sleeve a chamber in a thin-walled cylinder to get down to Specials.

Replacement cylinders are not expensive. I have a .44-40 cylinder for my .44 Special Colt and have thought about a .44 Special cylinder for my .44-40 Cimarron.

Willie Sutton
February 17, 2014, 08:18 AM
Gary, just as a project to make it more complex than simply parts-changing, the idea of taking a .357 cylinder and reaming it would make sense. Make a nice machine shop setup project.

Bridgeport, reamer, and a rotary table perhaps? ;)



February 17, 2014, 10:13 AM
Fitting a new 44 Special cyl would be easier, but line boring a 357 cyl can produce a more accurate revolver and if I was doing a shop project that's dang sure what I'd do.

Kinda like the 5 angle valve job my pickup motor got when I went to Wyotech

February 17, 2014, 11:00 AM
You can't rechamber a .44-40 to .44Spl. I would hope any gunsmithing school would discourage this.

The best way would be to procure a .44Spl cylinder. They are cheap and factory Uberti .44's shoot well.

The best way in the context of it being a more involved project would be to rechamber a .357 cylinder.

Either way, .44Spl loads down a .44-40 bore are a non-issue. Colt has been doing it for years.

Driftwood Johnson
February 17, 2014, 06:54 PM

As has been said, most everything Uberti makes these days uses a .429 barrel for both 44-40 and 44 Special. It's simply a matter of inventorying less parts. Barrel blanks are cut with .429 rifling and used for both calibers.

I will tell you though that I have an Uberti made 1873 replica rifle chambered for 44-40 that does have .427 rifling. Have slugged it several times to make sure. So far I have five rifles chambered for 44-40 (no revolvers yet), three are .427, two are .429. The antique Marlin and Winchester are .427 as well as the 1980s era Uberti 1873. my recently made Uberti 1860 Henry replica is .429, as is a Winchester Model 1892 Saddle Ring Carbine made in 1916. Go figure.

Generally speaking, .002 of difference in the barrel will not make any difference at all, pressure wise, with lead bullets and reasonable loads.

And no, ya can't ream a 44-40 chamber to 44 Special.

February 17, 2014, 07:11 PM
I remember a few years ago a caller on guntalk had a ruger that was supposed to be a .44 mag that had a .44-40 cyl and it would split special brass.

4v50 Gary
February 17, 2014, 08:48 PM
I spoke with my instructors and they said it could be done, but it would have headspace issues and was not the type of work they wanted done. They suggested that a new cylinder be purchased instead.

I disassembled it, ultra-sound clean it, scrubbed and oiled it. Then I polished the cylinder bushing and reassembled it before returning it to the owner with the suggestion that he buy a new cylinder.

Thank you to everyone.

February 18, 2014, 02:36 PM
A problem with sleeving the chambers is that the sleeve is not part of the original metal. So it ends up acting like the separate slip in shim that it is. Which means all the pressure ends up being taken up by the metal left behind.

Actually it's worse than that since these sleeves are generally done as a force fit. So the sleeve loads up the cylinder walls with some pressure ahead of time. And then the pressure from the round going off adds onto that.

I don't feel it's kosher to consider the sleeve as adding to the cylinder wall since it's under compression when it's installed due to the force fit. So until the sleeve were to expand to where it's back to the original size it's actually adding to the pressure from the round going off. Only once it expands out to the original size would it begin to hold back the pressure. But by that time the poor cylinder would likely be well stretched. So that's why I'm suggesting that you can't add the sleeve wall to the cylinder wall when considering the strength of the cylinder walls.

All of which suggests that starting with a .357 cylinder would be the optimum way to go.

If the chambers are only opened up to the major diameter of the existing hole size for the sleeves then you leave the walls essentially intact. On top of this if the sleeve can be set up so it uses a firm but relatively light force fit then you can avoid stressing the cylinder walls overly with the sleeves. To aid in retaining the sleeves with a lighter force fit a slight taper could be formed at both ends of the bored out holes and the raw sleeve peened open with a matching taper arbor to lock the sleeve in place. Then dressing up and chambering would proceed.

Having said all this I'm not a gunsmith. But I've worked with metal machining things like this for a good portion of my life as an avid hobbyist. I'm also a fan of using the least force that will get the job done. So if you see anything of value in this plan feel free to use it.

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