Gearing Up for .44-40 Smokeless Loading

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Old Stumpy, Aug 2, 2020.

  1. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

    Mar 3, 2019
    I wanted to handload for my Miroku .44-40 Winchester 1873 short rifle and have been buying the dies and such, as well as doing the research.

    For dies I ordered Redding .44-40 dies, but RCBS would work just as well I'm sure.

    This cartridge requires some finesse to load since it's very thin brass is unforgiving and will crumple with anything other than gentle roll crimping. And, crimping is a must with smokeless loads since there is no compressed charge of BP to support the bullet against telescoping inside under magazine tube spring pressure. So a crimp groove cast bullet is needed to satisfy this.

    For this I have ordered the LEE Precision 429-200-RF (90285) which is a typical RNFP which resembles an original bullet profile well. While it has 2 smaller grease grooves instead of one larger one, it should work well with NRA beeswax and Alox lube.
    I ordered the lube from Dragon Lube. It's soft and will work well with pan lubing.
    Later I will order the Accurate 43-200C mold since it also has an original looking bullet profile and also has a single wide grease groove as well as two wide bearing bands.

    My rifle bore slugs out at .429" - .430", which is pretty normal for a Miroku, so I am told. At first I figured that I would need to use at least a .430" sized bullet to fill the bore well enough for good accuracy. However, in a rifle chambered for .44-40 and .427" bulleted cartridges this might result in cartridges that are difficult to chamber. But, research revealed that old original Winchesters often had oversized bores and still shot well. The reason being that the bullets used were very soft at BHN 6 or 7 (1:50) tin/lead or even pure lead at BHN 5. With either BP or smokeless the base obturates well with soft alloys.

    A modern article shows that Black Hills and Hornaday Cowboy ammunition use .427" soft lead bullets and gave as good accuracy as .429" RCBS cast bullet handloads at 50 yards. (Hornaday swaged lead bullets = BHN 7)
    The rifle used was a New Henry Repeating Arms replica Henry rifle with a .429" bore.
    (chart at end of article)

    I also recall an article where Mag Tech .44-40 factory ammo using .427" bullets and BHN 6 lead bullets shot well in a .429" bore.

    I have ordered a LEE Precision .427" sizing kit (90053). From an article, I read that these dies can be smoothed out and trued for better sizing by wrapping fine emery cloth around a dowel and rolling the die across your bench in a wheel and axle process. I will also enlarge it to .428", since it won't take much.

    I do need to stock up on pure lead, but fortunately I have about 50 # of linotype for the small amount needed to get BHN 6 or 7.

    I intend to IMR-4227 powder since it's burning rate is similar to the first smokeless powders like Dupont #2 that were used in .44-40 (and other) cartridges, and fills the case well. Alliant 2400 is another possibility. Both are recommended in my Lyman 48th Edition Reloading handbook.

    Right now I have only Fiocchi 210 grain cowboy ammo to test. Apparently this shoots okay although it seems to use hard cast bullets. But we will see.

    When I get everything organized and load some ammo I will let you know what my results were.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2020
  2. troy fairweather

    troy fairweather Member

    Mar 21, 2018
    Up State New York
    Get some starline brass, I like that Lee bullet it has worked well lubed and pc.
  3. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

    Mar 3, 2019
    Oh yes. I failed to mention that I did order some Starline brass. I have 150 cases counting the Fiocchi cartridges which use Starline. Will order more.
    troy fairweather likes this.
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