Handloading the .40-60 WCF
Date: Jun 01 2008
In spite of the Winchester Model 1873 being a huge success, the company was quick to recognize requests from many western U.S. frontiersmen wanting a repeating rifle offering greater power. After all, there was big game, including elk and moose, that were better hunted with something of greater power than the ’73’s .44-40 WCF cartridge, not to mention grizzly bear that were born to fight or wary antelope. That answer came in the Model 1876 (thus its Centennial name), which was essentially an enlarged Model 1873 with the same patented toggle link action.
The new Winchester was initially introduced in .45-75 WCF caliber, with the .45-60 WCF and .50-95 WCF being added in 1879 and the .40-60 WCF appearing in 1884. In future editions of LoadData.com, we will discuss and present loads for each of these cartridges, but today let’s focus on the .40-60 WCF.
The .40-60 WCF contained a 210- grain lead bullet that was driven with around 60 grains of black powder, which had an advertised velocity of 1,562 fps and was the highest muzzle velocity of any cartridge offered in the Model 1876 rifle. The case was based on the .45-70 but shortened to 1.89 inches and heavily tapered from the head to the mouth to accept a bullet of around .406 inch. It gained a good reputation for hunting deer and antelope and became popular, but when Winchester introduced the Browning-designed Model 1886 rifle, its days were numbered. By 1898 the last Model 1876 was shipped, and by the middle 1930s, the cartridges were obsolete – at least until now.
Reproduction Model 1876 Rifles
Original Winchester Model 1876 rifles are difficult to find and valuable, but, Chaparral-Repeating Arms (imported by Charter 2000) and Uberti (imported by Cimarron Firearms Company and Taylor’s & Company, Inc.) are offering reproductions. Since most shooters are probably familiar with the Uberti Model 1873 rifles that have been available for around 35 years, I will refrain from giving them a review. It should be noted, however, that the Uberti rifles display better wood, fit and finish than the Charter 2000 rifles, but at a higher cost.
For the purposes of this article, a Charter 2000 rifle was obtained in .40-60 WCF that featured a 26-inch octagonal barrel. Function and feeding were flawless. The gun weighs nearly 10 pounds, and thus produced very mild and pleasant recoil.
As of this writing, the only factory ammunition available is from TEN-X. Using its “smokeless” load containing a 260-grain cast bullet, velocity was 1,472 fps, and the extreme spread was 212 fps.
Handloading the .40-60 WCF
Before proceeding, it should be emphasized that smokeless handload data is intended for Uberti and Chaparral-Repeating rifles only and should not be used in original Winchester Model 1876 rifles. Keep in mind that all original guns were designed for black powder, with many of them being crafted of iron rather than steel. Certainly some rifles would be safe to fire with smokeless powders, but that is another discussion for another time.