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The Ultimate Reloading Manual
Wolfe Publishing Group
  • reloading manual
  • alliant reloading data
  • reloading brass
  • shotshell reloading
  • bullet reloading
The Ultimate Reloading Manual
hodgdon load data

.44-40 Winchester (Rifle)

Author: Brian Pearce / Wolfe Publishing Co.
Date: May 30 2013


The .44 Winchester Center Fire, more commonly known as .44-40, was originally offered in 1873 in the Winchester Model 1873 lever action rifle. It served faithfully in the eastern woods, but is most associated with the western frontier, where it served in many roles in rifles and revolvers.

Many early rifles were constructed of iron, or weak steels, and should only be used with black powder loads, rather than the smokeless powder loads listed here. If using an original 19th century rifle (or revolver), it is advised to research its date of manufacture and determine if it is safe (mechanically and otherwise) before firing it.

The .44-40 is a bottleneck case and will need lubricating (lightly) before sizing to prevent scratching cases, or worse, sticking them in the sizer die. Due to its thin walls that are easily damaged, sizing, neck expansion, bullet seating and crimping steps should be accomplished with some degree of finesse.

Hornady 205-grain FP Lead Cowboy bullets do not have a crimp cannelure. It is suggested to seat them to 1.570 inch overall cartridge length, then apply a roll crimp that bites into the bullet as a separate step. Crimping should be heavy enough to hold the bullet properly and prevent its being deep seated, especially when subjected to the spring pressure of a tubular magazine and recoil, and aid in uniform powder ignition. Too heavy a crimp will cause the thin case to buckle at the base of the neck or point of the shoulder. Cases that are uniform in length will result in uniform roll crimps, whereas cases with length variations will result in less than perfect crimps and a decrease in accuracy and reliability.

Another option is the Lee Precision factory crimp die, which will place a uniform crimp on cases that vary in length.

Starline cases have proven the easiest solution to handloading the .44-40, as they are stronger than other commercial versions, last longer, and are less likely to buckle or become damaged in the handloading process.

Although the .44-40 is a rifle cartridge, large pistol primers are suggested.