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1/22/2020 12:12:56 PM
Posted: 11/20/2012 4:55:07 AM EST
Well I've been bit hard by the lever action fever. What I would like is a lever action that is accurate to an old western but that I can enjoy putting rounds through. Id like to keep it below $1000 but if I can't that's ok too. I'm not sure what round id like to run but I do know that I would like a western copy 6 shooter down the road and I wouldn't mind them sharing the same ammo.
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 5:28:43 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/20/2012 5:30:27 AM EST by Green_Canoe]
Originally Posted By Stopsign:
Well I've been bit hard by the lever action fever. What I would like is a lever action that is accurate to an old western but that I can enjoy putting rounds through. Id like to keep it below $1000 but if I can't that's ok too. I'm not sure what round id like to run but I do know that I would like a western copy 6 shooter down the road and I wouldn't mind them sharing the same ammo.


How accurate do you want your reproduction. i.e. Accurate right down to the caliber? What era do you wish to replicate? (Give the actual years.)

The easy answer is a repro 1873 Winchester rifle in either .44-40 or .38-40 and then get a 1873 Colt Single Action Army in the matching caliber. If you want to replicate a specific era then we can get into specific calibers for the rifle and pistol and specific barrel lengths for the pistol. If you want to replicate an era before 1874-1875ish then we'll need to nail down some specific years and maybe give up what you think of as the typical western gun(s).

Link Posted: 11/20/2012 5:53:00 AM EST
Canoe you make good points and ones I should have made clear first. As long as I can remember I've liked reading and watching movies about the famous outlaws of the west. Jesse James, The Kid, Wild Bill (even thought he wasn't an outlaw).. So I'd like a lever action that would be as close to the same of that era. What was that...1870-1880? I looked at the 45 colt, wasn't that the caliber that was used for both the Win and colts of the time?
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 6:24:54 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/20/2012 6:47:08 AM EST by DakotaFAL]
.45 Colt was actually a propriety cartridge that Colt did not allow other companies to chamber rifles and pistols for, so beyond it's use in the Colt Peacemaker and various cartridge conversions for older black powder revolvers, it was not quite as common as folklore would suggest, and it was never chambered in a Winchester rifle or carbine of the period. So while the .45 Colt was more or less the .44mag of it's day, with Colt taking the "don't let others chamber weapons for it" position, the .44-40 became far more widely used in both rifles and pistols. And by the time the Colt patent protections expired, the black powder era was ending and it never gained any of the popularity it lost to similar calibers like the .44-40 or the .45 Scofield (a short .45 Colt that worked in the S&W Scofield as well as the Peacemaker, much like a .38 in a .357).

Of course the irony is that it was adopted by the military and was in service until 1911 with the adoption of the 1911 Colt in .45 ACP. The military adopted the .38 Long Colt in 1892 but was not not happy with the .38's performance and retained the .45 Colt even after the .38 was adopted and in 1909 they even issued a new pistol chambered for it. So like most adopted military cartridges, it aged very well and by WWII the .45 Colt was still around while the others of it's day were obsolete. It really took the growth of cowboy actions shooting to bring most of the older black powder cartridges back from the dead.

If you want the ultimate in realism you'll want to load black powder cartridges - and that adds a very unique dynamic to the whole process in terms of performance and in terms of what you need to do to get reliability in a repeater over any significant number of rounds.

Most people are not that serious about realism and from there all kinds of slippage occurs as smokeless powder, and more recently, cowboy action shooting, have changed a lot of things.

For example, lever action rifles and carbines chambered for black powder revolver cartridges had slightly lower performance than the longer black powder rifle cartridges used in lever action rifles designed for them. The longer cartridges like the .38-55 generally offered a more bullet weight and slightly more velocity in a slightly smaller caliber with a little better sectional density and sometimes slightly better trajectory.

Now, however I can load a 16" lever action in, for example, .45 Colt with smokeless powder and a 250-335 grain bullet and launch it at velocities that easily exceed what you could have ever done with a .38-55 in a BP loading and a 24" barrel. Or, I can load a 250 grain round down to the 650-700 fps level and shoot it in a pistol as well as the carbine with light recoil in either weapon. So the shorter, lighter and handier pistol caliber carbine can now really do double duty.

And some reproduction pistol caliber carbine actions like the Rossi copies of the Winchester Model 92 and the Marlin 94 are stronger than "rifle" caliber carbines and rifles like the Winchester Model 94, so you can ironically enough push cartridges in those actions to levels that would soon cause bolt setback issues on the Win Model 94.

So you have to decide on whether you want to be accurate in terms of BP versus smokeless, then whether or not you want to stay with a vintage caliber correct for the model you choose like the .44-40, 38-40, or .32-20 or go with something like the .357, .44 mag or the .45 Colt (which was very proprietary back in the day and not that common, but very capable and desirable today if you reload).

Edit:

Personally, given that I like to reload and it's performance capabilities in modern brass with smokeless powders, I am a real fan of the .45 Colt and even prefer it over the .44 Mag in terms of performance due to the greater flexibility it offers with heavier bullet weights (up to 335 grains) in carbines and rifles. If you don't reload, however you'll find that .44 mag or .357 is a lot less expensive to shoot than .45 Colt or other vintage calibers such as the .44-40, .38-40, or .32-20 as the .357 and .44 Mag are a lot more common with comparatively inexpensive mid range loads available.


Link Posted: 11/20/2012 7:56:14 AM EST
Where do you even get .44-40 ammo from? Not only that but how would you find a lever action or revolver that can fire it without going to a turn of the century firearm that would be hard to find, pricey, and possibly not like being fired a lot?
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 8:43:59 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/20/2012 8:53:41 AM EST by Green_Canoe]
Originally Posted By Stopsign:
Canoe you make good points and ones I should have made clear first. As long as I can remember I've liked reading and watching movies about the famous outlaws of the west. Jesse James, The Kid, Wild Bill (even thought he wasn't an outlaw).. So I'd like a lever action that would be as close to the same of that era. What was that...1870-1880? I looked at the 45 colt, wasn't that the caliber that was used for both the Win and colts of the time?


Of your examples, Will bill was killed in '76 and the last, Jesse, was killed in '82. The Winchester '73 would have been available to all of them at the end of their lives. A Uberti copy of the '73 Winchester would be an excellent choice in your price range.



Originally Posted By Stopsign:
Where do you even get .44-40 ammo from? Not only that but how would you find a lever action or revolver that can fire it without going to a turn of the century firearm that would be hard to find, pricey, and possibly not like being fired a lot?


With cowboy action shooting (CAS) as popular as it is .44-40 ammo and '73 Winchester and Colt clones made by Uberti or others will be found at any reasonably well stocked gun shop. (Uberti is the best of the clones.)

The downside is that the .44-40 is a bottle necked cartridge and so is a little more time consuming to reload than a straight sided cartridge such as the .45 Colt. This is why you will see a lot of period incorrect rifles chambered in .45 Colt. I'm an authenticity purist therefor I could never own a Winchester in .45 Colt. You will have to decide how important historical accuracy is for yourself.

Sounds like you need to do a little research before you purchase. One of the best sources with good facts and opinions is Mike Venturino's "Shooting Lever Guns of the Old West". This book will be some of the best money spent to get you headed the corect direction before you drop the big money on an actual firearm. If you then want to make the next step he wrote a couple other books in which you might be interested: Shooting Sixguns of the Old West and Shooting Colt Single Actions. Unfortunately, the they are out of print so the price will likely go up as supply dwindles until the 2nd edition comes out.

Link Posted: 11/20/2012 10:03:00 AM EST
Thank you for that information!!! Just checked out Uberti and wow I like what I see. Would the 1873 cattleman single action be a good 6 shooter choice for the lever? I see both are offered in .44-40. Still though I'm scared of how ill be able to get ammo and how much it would cost me. Haven't found rounds yet online.
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 10:24:15 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/20/2012 10:36:09 AM EST by Karl_Withakay]
".45 Colt was actually a propriety cartridge that Colt did not allow other companies to chamber rifles and pistols for, so beyond it's use in the Colt Peacemaker and various cartridge conversions for older black powder revolvers, it was not quite as common as folklore would suggest, and it was never chambered in a Winchester rifle or carbine of the period. So while the .45 Colt was more or less the .44mag of it's day, with Colt taking the "don't let others chamber weapons for it" position, the .44-40 became far more widely used in both rifles and pistols. "


I'm not looking to start a flame war, but I think there's more to it than just the proprietary round deal. Colt never even chambered their own rifles for .45 Colt. Neither the 1883 Colt Bugress lever action nor the (medium frame) Lightning slide action of 1884-1904 were chambered for .45 Colt; they were both .44-40 and other WCF rounds like the .38-40 & .32-20.

You'd have a hard time convincing me that Colt believed there was no market for a .45 Colt rifle by 1883. Other possible contributing factors are the minimal rim on the early .45 colt cases and the fact the a rifle maker could not be sure which size rim casse would be used in the gun, and the bottleneck/tapered case of the WCF rounds, though gun makers today seem to have no problem with straight wall cartridges (even the .45 Colt) in the old design guns. All modern manufactured .45 Colt cases feature the wider, revised rim, so this is no longer an issue.

ETA: The Remington 1875 (1875-1889) was chambered in .45 Colt, so by at least 1889, other makers were making guns in .45 Colt. With Winchester selling like hotcakes, Winchester may have felt no pressure to chamber in .45 Colt at that time, but it seems likely Colt would want to offer a gun in their own caliber. They obviously knew having a dual use round was a popular idea since the .44-40 was the second most popular chambering of the Peacemaker.
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 11:04:36 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/20/2012 11:05:08 AM EST by DakotaFAL]
Originally Posted By Karl_Withakay:
".45 Colt was actually a propriety cartridge that Colt did not allow other companies to chamber rifles and pistols for, so beyond it's use in the Colt Peacemaker and various cartridge conversions for older black powder revolvers, it was not quite as common as folklore would suggest, and it was never chambered in a Winchester rifle or carbine of the period. So while the .45 Colt was more or less the .44mag of it's day, with Colt taking the "don't let others chamber weapons for it" position, the .44-40 became far more widely used in both rifles and pistols. "


I'm not looking to start a flame war, but I think there's more to it than just the proprietary round deal. Colt never even chambered their own rifles for .45 Colt. Neither the 1883 Colt Bugress lever action nor the (medium frame) Lightning slide action of 1884-1904 were chambered for .45 Colt; they were both .44-40 and other WCF rounds like the .38-40 & .32-20.

You'd have a hard time convincing me that Colt believed there was no market for a .45 Colt rifle by 1883. Other possible contributing factors are the minimal rim on the early .45 colt cases and the fact the a rifle maker could not be sure which size rim casse would be used in the gun, and the bottleneck/tapered case of the WCF rounds, though gun makers today seem to have no problem with straight wall cartridges (even the .45 Colt) in the old design guns. All modern manufactured .45 Colt cases feature the wider, revised rim, so this is no longer an issue.

ETA: The Remington 1875 (1875-1889) was chambered in .45 Colt, so by at least 1889, other makers were making guns in .45 Colt. With Winchester selling like hotcakes, Winchester may have felt no pressure to chamber in .45 Colt at that time, but it seems likely Colt would want to offer a gun in their own caliber. They obviously knew having a dual use round was a popular idea since the .44-40 was the second most popular chambering of the Peacemaker.

I think you identify the problem pretty well. By the time Colt started to care/reconsider, the .44-40 was already very well established. Why would Colt ,or Winchester for that matter, put a great deal of time and effort into developing a weapon that offers a .45 Colt rifle that offers only minimal performance advantage over the .44-40? Then add in the smaller rim diameter relative to the base - a situation that may well have given pause to designers, especially in a BP cartridge back in the day. However, I don't think that in and of itself would have been sufficient to kill the concept if it had been an option early on, given all the less than optimum cartridges that were made to work in the latter half of the 1800s.

As for timing, that's my point. Smokeless powder was being produced in the US by 1890 and by1893 Winchester was producing smokeless powder loads. At that point, the priorities in cartridge design took a major change in direction in terms of capacity, pressure and caliber.

It's always a fun topic to debate though...
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 11:08:32 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/20/2012 11:11:31 AM EST by DakotaFAL]
Originally Posted By Stopsign:
Thank you for that information!!! Just checked out Uberti and wow I like what I see. Would the 1873 cattleman single action be a good 6 shooter choice for the lever? I see both are offered in .44-40. Still though I'm scared of how ill be able to get ammo and how much it would cost me. Haven't found rounds yet online.


CASS has made it widely available:

http://www.ableammo.com/catalog/cheap-winchester-centerfire-rifle-ammo-sale-online-discount-prices-c-10480_14658_14743_14908_14843.html

http://www.targetsportsusa.com/c-63-44-40-wcf-ammo.aspx

http://www.lg-outdoors.com/products.asp?cat=9998

Those are just a few of the hits on the list, but they'll give you an idea of just how many companies are making a .44-40 load.
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 11:33:28 AM EST
Here are a couple shots of my Uberti 1973 in .44WCF (aka .44-40).




Vernon
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 11:54:30 AM EST
I'd stick with .45LC or .38sp for economical reasons. There will be a lot more ammo choices available in those two calibers.

If you want what was used in most old western movies and TV shows, you will want a Rossi '92. If you want historical correctness, the Uberti '73 is more correct for the "Old West" time period. Uberti wasn't around in the 50's when Westerns were popular, so the '92 was used primarily even though it wasn't invented at the time that most were supposed to occur. Both will be stiff out of the box, but both can be slicked up. If you plan to eventually run it very fast, a '73 is better. If you want to shoot higher power ammo, the '92 is a stronger design.
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 12:11:31 PM EST
Originally Posted By frankiebagadonuts:
I'd stick with .45LC or .38sp for economical reasons. There will be a lot more ammo choices available in those two calibers.


Going to Midway for consistency:

.45 Colt - 5 choices ranging from $36/50 to $54/50

.44-40 - 16 choices ranging from $16/20 or $35/50 to $57/50

The .45 Colt and the .44-40 are essentially the same economically. The .38 special will be cheaper. But the problem I have with the .38 special is it wasn't designed until 1898 and never chambered in a rifle until modern times. Not very historically accurate.

The real answer to shooting anything that isn't surplus in volume these days is handloading.

Link Posted: 11/20/2012 12:22:58 PM EST
But the problem I have with the .38 special is it wasn't designed until 1898 and never chambered in a rifle until modern times. Not very historically accurate.


The way I figure it is if you're going to consider the .45 Colt in a lever gun, you may as well consider the.38 Special and .357 Magnum. The .45 Colt was never factory chambered in any lever guns until the late 20th century, while at least the .357 was a common re barrel job for the 1892 after the .357 cartridge was introduced in 1935.

It's the same deal with a Winchester 1866 in .44-40. You may as well consider any cartridge since the 66 was never made in a center fire cartridge.

...Unless you have a time machine and plan on traveling back in time and just care about finding ammo locally.



Link Posted: 11/20/2012 12:42:45 PM EST
Ok so 2 questions.

I'm thinking about handloading my .223s and 9mms soon so how hard will it be for a beginner to handload the .44-40?

Is the availability of the .44-40 going anywhere in the future?
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 12:45:19 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/20/2012 1:22:06 PM EST by Karl_Withakay]
I think you identify the problem pretty well. By the time Colt started to care/reconsider, the .44-40 was already very well established. Why would Colt ,or Winchester for that matter, put a great deal of time and effort into developing a weapon that offers a .45 Colt rifle that offers only minimal performance advantage over the .44-40?


We're supposedly not really talking about any major development work here, just a caliber offering. How much time and effort did it take to chamber all these reproduction rifles for .45 Colt (at a time when all .45 Colt brass had the enhanced rim)?

I would think that in 1883 & 1884, there would still be a viable market for a Colt rifle chambered in .45 Colt. But perhaps the key here is markets. The market for a lever action rifle was larger than that of a revolver. A farmer might not have much use for a revolver, but plenty of use for a handy rifle in .44-40. Winchester made about twice as many 1873s (and that doesn't even include the 1866s or 1892s) as Colt made Peacemakers, and Colt had US military contracts included in their production numbers, which suggests that in civilian markets, the 1873 Winchester rifle was far more popular than the 1873 Colt revolver. I suppose it could just be that .44-40 ammo was so much more commonly found in stores, that by 1883 Colt saw no reason to chamber a rifle in a cartridge that was going to be less available than .44-40.

As for timing, that's my point. Smokeless powder was being produced in the US by 1890 and by1893 Winchester was producing smokeless powder loads. At that point, the priorities in cartridge design took a major change in direction in terms of capacity, pressure and caliber.


Of course, Winchester introduced the 1892 and managed to sell over a million of them between 1892 and ~1941, mostly in .44-40 and .25-20.

It's always a fun topic to debate though...


Indeed it is.

Link Posted: 11/20/2012 12:45:23 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/20/2012 12:46:58 PM EST by Him]
Originally Posted By Stopsign:
Ok so 2 questions.

I'm thinking about handloading my .223s and 9mms soon so how hard will it be for a beginner to handload the .44-40?

Is the availability of the .44-40 going anywhere in the future?


Novice reloaders seem to have a lot of trouble crushing cases. The .44-40 brass is very thin and frequently comes to grief while seating the bullet.

Be prepared to lose some cases.

I think a large part of the popularity of the .45 LC is due to its heavier brass and greater ease of reloading compared to the .44-40.




Link Posted: 11/20/2012 12:57:40 PM EST
Is .44-40 going to be smokeless or true to the time non?
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 1:24:41 PM EST
Originally Posted By Stopsign:
Is .44-40 going to be smokeless or true to the time non?


typical factory(Winchester, Remington, etc) .44-40 ammo is smokeless. Goex does make black powder loads if you're looking for authenticity, messy cleanup, and corrosion potential.

Link Posted: 11/20/2012 3:43:54 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/20/2012 3:59:48 PM EST by Green_Canoe]
Originally Posted By Karl_Withakay:
But the problem I have with the .38 special is it wasn't designed until 1898 and never chambered in a rifle until modern times. Not very historically accurate.


The way I figure it is if you're going to consider the .45 Colt in a lever gun, you may as well consider the.38 Special and .357 Magnum. The .45 Colt was never factory chambered in any lever guns until the late 20th century, while at least the .357 was a common re barrel job for the 1892 after the .357 cartridge was introduced in 1935.

It's the same deal with a Winchester 1866 in .44-40. You may as well consider any cartridge since the 66 was never made in a center fire cartridge.

...Unless you have a time machine and plan on traveling back in time and just care about finding ammo locally.





I'm not. Which is why I said this in an earlier post:

Originally Posted By Green_Canoe:
I'm an authenticity purist therefor I could never own a Winchester in .45 Colt. You will have to decide how important historical accuracy is for yourself.


This where I'm split. If you want a Henry or 1866 you're pretty much stuck with the .44-40. I did see one on a forum once where someone converted an 1866 to a centerfire .44 Henry cartridge which was historically accurate in very limited numbers. However, I'd have to have a whole lot more disposible income to justify the gunsmithing cost.




Link Posted: 11/20/2012 3:48:13 PM EST
Wow, I was set on a Uberti repro in .45-70 until I read this post. Thanks guys for all the info.
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 3:53:11 PM EST
Originally Posted By Karl_Withakay:
I think you identify the problem pretty well. By the time Colt started to care/reconsider, the .44-40 was already very well established. Why would Colt ,or Winchester for that matter, put a great deal of time and effort into developing a weapon that offers a .45 Colt rifle that offers only minimal performance advantage over the .44-40?


We're supposedly not really talking about any major development work here, just a caliber offering. How much time and effort did it take to chamber all these reproduction rifles for .45 Colt (at a time when all .45 Colt brass had the enhanced rim)?

I would think that in 1883 & 1884, there would still be a viable market for a Colt rifle chambered in .45 Colt. But perhaps the key here is markets. The market for a lever action rifle was larger than that of a revolver. A farmer might not have much use for a revolver, but plenty of use for a handy rifle in .44-40. Winchester made about twice as many 1873s (and that doesn't even include the 1866s or 1892s) as Colt made Peacemakers, and Colt had US military contracts included in their production numbers, which suggests that in civilian markets, the 1873 Winchester rifle was far more popular than the 1873 Colt revolver. I suppose it could just be that .44-40 ammo was so much more commonly found in stores, that by 1883 Colt saw no reason to chamber a rifle in a cartridge that was going to be less available than .44-40.

As for timing, that's my point. Smokeless powder was being produced in the US by 1890 and by1893 Winchester was producing smokeless powder loads. At that point, the priorities in cartridge design took a major change in direction in terms of capacity, pressure and caliber.


Of course, Winchester introduced the 1892 and managed to sell over a million of them between 1892 and ~1941, mostly in .44-40 and .25-20.

It's always a fun topic to debate though...


Indeed it is.



I'd never though about it from that angle before. I was always stuck on the engineering challenge of chambering a tiny rimmed .45 Colt in the rifle. If the desire to chamber the .45 Colt in a rifle was great enough it wouldn't have been a very big deal to increase the rim diameter as they have done on the modern .45 Colt. After all, the rim was being made large enough on the .44-40. The technology existed. They just couldn't justify it for the reasons you stated.
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 3:58:23 PM EST
Originally Posted By attworth:
Wow, I was set on a Uberti repro in .45-70 until I read this post. Thanks guys for all the info.


Just start saving now. Before you know it you will follow the ARFCOM mantra of "Get both".
Link Posted: 11/20/2012 4:13:36 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/20/2012 4:22:48 PM EST by DakotaFAL]
A few diverse comments:

––––-

I've never shot anything other than black powder in my 1859 Sharps (a nitrated paper cartridge rifle) and 1874 Sharps reproductions - but then they are easy to field strip completely and clean and it's easy to use a blow tube between rounds to keep fouling under control, so BP just adds to the fun.

A single action revolver is similarly pretty easy to clean and I've never had corrosion issues inside the lock work of the weapons - but they stay pretty well oiled in between detail stripping and cleaning maybe once or twice a year. And while I nearly always use FFFg in my cap and ball revolvers, I almost never use black powder in my cartridge revolvers. The fouling is just a pain to deal with on them

And I have never used black powder in my lever guns, due to the fouling and potential corrosion issues

––––-

I really love color case hardened frames and that is one of the attractions of some of the repro lever guns as well as the Sharps.

––––-

I agree with the comments above that reloading .45 Colt is easier than .44-40, but that's in large part because the .45 Colt is very simple to load as pistol cartridges go.

––––

Reloading is also about the only way to keep costs reasonable if you shoot a lot. A box of 50 commercially loaded rounds will run $35-$36 on-line before shipping, and the local gun shop price is closer to $45-$50, because they've eaten the shipping and other overhead costs.

In contrast, at the low end of the cost scale I can buy a box of 1000 250 grain .45 cast bullets for $60 and along with primers and powder, I can load the .45 Colt for about $.16 per round ($8.00 per box of 50), not including the cost of the brass. New .45 Colt brass runs around .30 per round, but the per shot cost won't be more than 3 or 4 cents per shot if you don't load it incredibly hot or over work the brass when belling and crimping the case mouth, so the total cost per box of 50 is still around $10.

The relatively low cost per round was one of the major attractions of the pistol caliber lever action carbines and rifles and the .45 Colt allows for some very impressive performance in smokeless powder loads with terminal effectiveness on part with a .30-30 out to 100-150 yards.

For something like a .38-55 the bullet and brass costs double, but case life is quite good at vintage .38-55 pressures and powder and primer costs are about the same, so the cost per round using a cast bullet is about $0.25 compared to $1.00-$1.50 per round for cast bullet factory ammo and $2.00-$2.50 per round for jacketed bullet factory ammo.

If you are loading the 45-70 with black powder, the cost of brass is almost nothing (I'm still shooting the same batch of 200 cases in my Sharps that I started with about 10 years ago) but powder costs start rising and good .45-70 cast bullets start to get expensive.

Black powder is also a bit of pain to get due to shipping restrictions and fees so I tend to buy it in either 25 pound or 50 pound lots to keep the costs down.





Link Posted: 11/20/2012 4:48:00 PM EST
I think I've decided on the 45 colt round. Going to my local supply for ammo there were about 5 different brands to choose from for 45 colt, 1 brand for 44 mag, and ofcourse I saw no 44-40. It won't be 100% accurate but I think it will be ok, especially since I plan to reload and I'm new to that. With that said, which one of these would be the choice for the "outlaw" lever (one an outlaw would have run around with)? http://www.uberti.com/firearms/1873-rifle-and-carbine.php
Link Posted: 11/21/2012 4:13:21 AM EST
Originally Posted By Stopsign:
With that said, which one of these would be the choice for the "outlaw" lever (one an outlaw would have run around with)? http://www.uberti.com/firearms/1873-rifle-and-carbine.php


The Winchester was made in so many different variations any of teh rifle or carbines shown would be accurate historically. However, I think an "outlaw" would be looking for something that would be handy to carry on a horse so I'd vote for the carbine or short rifle.
Link Posted: 11/21/2012 4:53:15 AM EST
Originally Posted By Stopsign:
I think I've decided on the 45 colt round. Going to my local supply for ammo there were about 5 different brands to choose from for 45 colt, 1 brand for 44 mag, and ofcourse I saw no 44-40. It won't be 100% accurate but I think it will be ok, especially since I plan to reload and I'm new to that. With that said, which one of these would be the choice for the "outlaw" lever (one an outlaw would have run around with)? http://www.uberti.com/firearms/1873-rifle-and-carbine.php


People tend to forget that guns were just a tool to the average person out west back then. For that matter growing up on a ranch in the 1970's, a rifle or pistol was still just a tool, and the same thing still holds true for many people living and working in rural areas.

In that regard, rifles/carbines, shotguns and pistols got used and "pretty" was not a requirement for a working gun. Reliability and durability were however very important, as was readily available ammunition.

It was not uncommon, then (or frankly in my childhood) to see an old winchester with a wire wrapped or rawhide wrapped section on a stock to repair a split and I've seen some pretty crude but effective metal work repairs on working rifles over the years. Running to the local gunsmith (30-50 miles away) and spending big bucks on repair of an old rifle - not high on the list, especially if bailing wire will get the job done in 5 or 10 minutes. Time is money and money is scarce on a ranch.

And back in the day the average outlaw was not much different than the average cowboy. So an outlaw rifle would have the same plain as a piece of paper no frills look as a working rifle for a cowboy. Good quality but no fancy engraving or checkering. Case hardened finishes are beautiful, but no more functional than a blued finish so if it cost more, it probably would not have been chosen.

So, any of the rifles or carbines on the page are equally plausible, except the special sporting rifle. Rifle or carbine is a toss up. Rifles offer a little more sight radius, mag capacity and velocity, plus the forward weight distribution helps track moving targets better - but carbines are lighter and handier, especially on horseback where they are a lot easier to get out of a scabbard quicker, so it just depends on what you like most.
Link Posted: 11/21/2012 5:54:31 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/21/2012 5:55:37 AM EST by Karl_Withakay]

I'd never though about it from that angle before. I was always stuck on the engineering challenge of chambering a tiny rimmed .45 Colt in the rifle. If the desire to chamber the .45 Colt in a rifle was great enough it wouldn't have been a very big deal to increase the rim diameter as they have done on the modern .45 Colt. After all, the rim was being made large enough on the .44-40. The technology existed.


I think the key there in say, 1883 or 1884, is designing a repeating rifle that can effectively function with both the original and the enhanced rim variations of .45 Colt interchangeably as both might have still been around. Designing a mechanism that can function reliably with both sized rims might be problematic. Today, it's not an issue because nobody makes .45 Colt cases with the original rim; gun makers only design their guns to work with the enhanced rim variety of .45 colt ammo. This might be a problem for the time traveler that goes back to 1873 with a reproduction 1873 Winchester in .45 Colt.

Link Posted: 11/21/2012 5:29:12 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/21/2012 6:58:27 PM EST by DakotaFAL]
As a recap here, the original .45 Colt had a rim diameter of .505, while the .45 Schofield had a rim diameter of .520. That made sense at the time given that the Colt SAA used an ejector rod and the only function of the .45 Colt rim was headspace, not extraction. The .45 Schofield however had an ejector that operated on the rim, and thus needed the larger rim (especially with black powder and the related fouling - more on that later). The .455 Eley had the same pair of issues and took it even farther with a.530 rim diameter on the same .480 base diameter case.

The modern version of the .45 Colt has a rim diameter of .512 and I know that rim diameter was part of the M1909 specification for the .45 Colt used in the Colt New Service from the same year. What I am not sure about, is when or if the rim on the .45 Colt was made larger prior to 1909, or alternatively when it became the commercial standard after 1909.

The reality is that the Colt SAA could shoot the larger rimmed .45 Schofield just fine so that pistol at least posed no issues for Colt, if Colt had decided to enlarge the rim diameter for the .45 Colt to allow it to be used in lever action rifles. The question then is why they did not do that.


Lets take a different look at why this did not happen...

The use of black powder is one thing that is I think over looked when considering the number of Winchester rifles chambered in .44-40, .38-40, and .32-20 versus none chambered in .45 Colt.

The .44-40 had a .525 rim diameter and Logan's1948 Cartridges lists the case diameter at the head as being .465, rather than the .471 you tend to see now, so the period case had a smaller head than the modern round as well as a rim that was a full .03 wide. The .44-40 also tapers .014" from the base to the start of the shoulder, compared to the .45 Colt which is a pure straight walled un-tapered case. The .38-40, .32-20 and .25-20 all follow the same tapered body, mildly bottlenecked/shouldered case design as the .44-40.

So the major black powder "pistol" calibers used in Winchester and Marlin lever actions in the black powder era and early smokeless era were all tapered body, mildly bottle neck cases. This is also no surprise as all of the above mentioned calibers were designed from the get go as rifle cartridges. They were known at the time as .44 WCF, .38 WCF and .32 WCF, and Winchester didn't design pistols, so rifles were what the Winchester Center Fire cartridges were all about, the fact that they could do double duty in a companion pistol was fortunate, but secondary. Similarly, for the same black powder related reasons, the full power black powder rounds used in the 1876 and 1886 rifles were also either heavily tapered or both tapered and mildly bottlenecked as they were also designed for use in rifles.

Those design choices are significant as with black powder and the related fouling issues, the shoulder helps keep the powder fouling forward of the shoulder, and on ejection, the tapered body and shoulder together mean that the case is drawn immediately out of contact with the chamber as soon as the bolt and case begin to move aft, greatly reducing the ejection force required.

The .45 Colt in contrast, was designed from the start as a pistol cartridge and it maximizes case capacity and velocity by using a straight walled and un-tapered case. But that "magnum" pistol cartridge status of it's day carried a price as it meant that as a black powder cartridge, the case had to be drawn all the way out in full contact with a chamber that is also powder fouled for much of it's length, with the only clearance being the relaxing of the brass after firing. That's not a big deal on an ejector rod pistol like the Colt SAA, but it would be a major issue in a lever action rifle.

Interestingly, Logan's Cartridges shows the .45 Colt having a base diameter of .478, compared to the .480 quoted for the modern round (but sadly it says nothing about rim diameter, so it still leaves me wondering when the rim diameter changed). Significantly, it also shows a diameter of .474 for the .45 S&W Schofield patent cartridge rather than the .477 you see today.

Consequently, while the .45 Schofield was also a straight walled, un tapered case, the case was shorter than the .45 Colt (less total surface area in contact with the chamber) and was even more undersized - a full .003" - in addition to the generous .510 diameter rim. All three factors, not just the larger rim, would have aided ejection in the S&W pistol. And as far as I know, the .45 Schofield was never chambered in a lever action either, even with that big honking rim. I think it's pretty obvious why that's the case if we look at the larger issue of black powder and straight case extraction issues.

From that, I've concluded that the straight walled un-tapered rounds of the black powder era like the .45 Colt were intentionally made undersized, compared to their modern smokeless powder descendants, to facilitate extraction from black powder fouled chambers. That makes sense from a functional perspective and at black powder pressures, the extra room was not a problem, especially in a rimmed cartridge.

I'll also submit for your consideration that Colt and Winchester both no doubt understood that even with a larger rim, the .45 Colt would still be a challenge to extract reliably in a fouled lever action chamber, and thus was just not worth the effort. Unlike the .44-40, .34-40 and .32-20, It was never designed to be a rifle cartridge. With that being the case, and with the limitations of the straight walled un tapered case in a black powder firearm being obvious at the time, there was also no reason to increase the size of the rim, especially to make it more suitable for a lever action. The perceived need to increase rim diameter would have only come after smokeless loads were the norm and after the .45 Colt was being chambered in star ejector type revolvers for military and civilian use.

Given that the Colt SAAs built from 1900 onward were the first SAAs approved by Colt for use with smokeless powder loads, I suspect that the change in .45 Colt base dimensions also occurred around the same time with the introduction of .45 Colt smokeless powder loads (but we'd need a cartridge expert to chime in here to confirm that.)

After poking through old books and modern manuals all night, I'm of the opinion that neither the rim diameter nor the proprietary tendencies of Colt had much to with the .45 Colt not being chambered in lever action rifles, instead it had everything to do with the straight walled un-tapered design of what was strictly intended to be a pistol cartridge, and designed from the start as a pistol cartridge - unlike the .44-40, .38-40 and .32-20 which were designed from the start as rifle cartridges. .

The .45 Colt was a design that was ideal for maximizing case capacity and velocity in black powder pistol cartridge, but was just not well suited for use with black powder in lever action rifles due to case related, rather than rim related, extraction issues. So not surprisingly the black powder "pistol" cartridges that you did see in Winchester rifles were all designed as rifle cartridges with tapered and mildly bottle necked cases - as that design, while less capacious, is much easier to extract from a fouled chamber.

And only with the advent of modern smokeless powder and a larger rim acquired in the M1909 version of the .45 Colt for use in the Colt New Service, did the .45 Colt became a workable option in modern lever action rifles.



Link Posted: 11/21/2012 9:01:58 PM EST
I refuse to buy foreign copies of classic American western rifles no matter how good they are but that's just me. I have an older Winchester 94 in 44mag (not really a classic western caliber but great for hunting) that is just so fun to shoot. There's just something about holding and shooting a real Winchester while playing cowgirl that you can't get with a copy. I also have a Henry Big Boy in 45LC with the brass receiver, stock strap and buttstock plate and octagonal barrel that screams old west even if its brand new. It is a FANTASTIC rifle...extremely accurate and the action is butter smooth. My "six gun" is a Ruger Vaquero but I'll get a Colt one of these days.

When I want to take a trip back in time I get out my authentic Springfield 1873 "Trapdoor" carbine in 45-70 government (black powder cartridge). Man if that rifle could talk......

Good luck....lever actions are awesome!
Link Posted: 11/22/2012 2:21:52 AM EST
Originally Posted By Brandi:
I refuse to buy foreign copies of classic American western rifles no matter how good they are but that's just me. I have an older Winchester 94 in 44mag (not really a classic western caliber but great for hunting) that is just so fun to shoot. There's just something about holding and shooting a real Winchester while playing cowgirl that you can't get with a copy. I also have a Henry Big Boy in 45LC with the brass receiver, stock strap and buttstock plate and octagonal barrel that screams old west even if its brand new. It is a FANTASTIC rifle...extremely accurate and the action is butter smooth. My "six gun" is a Ruger Vaquero but I'll get a Colt one of these days.

When I want to take a trip back in time I get out my authentic Springfield 1873 "Trapdoor" carbine in 45-70 government (black powder cartridge). Man if that rifle could talk......

Good luck....lever actions are awesome!
I have similar views on lever actions and I tend to stay with WInchesters. Cowboy actions shooters rag on the Winchester Model 94 in .45 Colt, .44 Mag or .357 Mag. Fortunately, I'm not into cowboy action shooting and I've got a first year production Model 94 saddle ring Trapper in .45 Colt. It's smooth as butter, eats what ever I feed it, it's got a great case hardened finish and it's a Winchester.

I do own a couple Pedersoli Sharps however, partly because a couple years before I got into them the movie Quigly Down Under had increased the price and converted the prior 3 month wait to a 4-5 year wait for an American made Shiloh Sharps or C.Sharps Arms rifle. And realistically you'll pay 3K for a Shiloh or C. Sharps when you can get a Pedersoli for $800-$1000. I'd prefer to buy American, but I have limits.


Link Posted: 11/22/2012 8:43:07 AM EST
Yeah, I had a new C. Sharps in my hands a few months ago. It belonged to a guy who bought it about 25 years ago, never shot it and kept it in his safe until, for whatever reason, it was sold to a local gun shop. I wanted it but $2300 was a big hit....looking back now at what they normally sell for I kick myself for not buying it
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