Gun Review: Cimarron Texas Brush Popper Model 1873 Rifle in .44-40 Win

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper lever action rifle

Texas Brush Popper (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Cimarron Firearms teamed up once again with Uberti of Italy to create the Texas Brush Popper, a Cowboy Action Shooting-focused 1873 Winchester lever action that would be just as well received by today’s most discerning competitor as the cowhand and lawman of yesteryear.

Prior to it being discontinued by Winchester in 1923, well over 700,000 of the 1873 models were produced and marketed as “The Gun that Won the West” in catalogs. In truth, by the time the rifle was particularly popular, the West had already largely been won.

It was the big bore black powder rifles and percussion revolvers that made western expansion safe enough for commerce a good deal before any of the cartridge guns made their day. Even so, the 1873 can rightly boast itself as the quintessential western repeater.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Texas Brush Popper Model 1873 Tang marking (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Model 1873 is famous in its use, from the Battle of Little Bighorn, in the hands of the Sioux defenders, to use in the hands of Texas Rangers and the outlaws they chased. But the 1873 was historic before it was famous.

Not only was it chambered in the first commercially successful center-fire rifle cartridge, the .44-40 Winchester, it was the first widely produced iron framed repeater. Henry made a few of their 1860s in iron frames, but they are incredibly rare and never gained the popularity of the 1873.

The resurgence in popularity of the 1873 Winchester rifle, not just the .44-40 Caliber, is almost entirely due to Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS) competitions. A Model 1873’s action is simple and fast. Beyond that, there’s a wide variety of gunsmiths who are comfortable with the design, and the platform has deep aftermarket support. For you troglodytes, think of it as the AR-15 of lever guns.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Texas Brush Popper octagonal to round barrel (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Cimarron’s Texas Brush Popper is in the “Short Rifle” configuration, with a half octagonal, half round 18″ barrel. As opposed to the 1873 Winchester carbines, the Brush Popper retains its rifle status, marked by the capped fore-end, curved butt plate, and lack of a barrel band.  There are plenty of historic photos with shortened barrels on Winchester 1873 rifles, many of which were shortened by local gunsmiths throughout the country.

That historical accuracy is appreciated, but the truth of it is that it would be difficult to get a Winchester 1873 in a configuration that wasn’t offered by the factory or commonly altered. Barrel lengths were standardized at 20″ and 24″, but a full-stocked 30″ musket version was produced as well.

Barrel configurations were available custom from the factory in every configuration imaginable, and in lengths from as short as 12″ and as long as 37.”

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Texas Brush Popper barrel marking (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

With its shorter, 18″ octagonal to round barrel, the balance of the Texas  Brush Popper is just about perfect. At 7 1/4 pounds, it’s heavy enough to keep recoil to an absolute minimum.

That weight is concentrated near the body and in the hands, not at the muzzle. For competition, that’s ideal. The muzzle moves fast and, more importantly, stops fast and stays down during strings of fire. With the light loads of most Cowboy Action Shooting, it won’t be recovering from recoil that slows you down, but the cycling of the action itself.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

1873 action elevator (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

That action comes smooth enough to shoot at any match right from Cimarron. Even so, most folks in the Cowboy Action Shooting game will eventually have a short-stroke action installed in the gun, replacing many of the internal parts of the receiver. In a game where fractions of a second count, the couple of seconds per stage a short-stroke action buys you mean a big difference.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

CAS competition guns (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

There’s no shortage of fancy finished and fine guns at a CAS match. One of the regular shooters at my club shoots a pair of heavily engraved Colt Single Action Army revolvers for his competition guns, and they get worked hard. Fancy stocks and engraving are extremely common, if not the norm.

The Texas Brush Popper is appropriately finished for this environment. Cimarron has long taken great care with their finishes, for good reasons. Although never inexpensive to produce, fancy finishes sell guns. The Texas Brush Popper is no exception.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Texas Brush Popper receiver finish (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The rifle is gorgeous.  Most of the photos in this article were taken after 300 rounds of firing, including a full CAS match at a local club. No cleaning or polishing of the gun was done for the photos, other than wiping it down with my T-shirt. If you think it’s pretty now, you should have seen it out of the box.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Texas Brush Popper traditional dust cover (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The beautiful color case hardened finish doesn’t stop at just the receiver. The hammer, trigger shoe, and action lever receive the treatment as well. The screws are not all timed, but they are nitre blued.

The hardwood buttstock and foregrip are straight grained and stained a slight shade of red. This shade looks more like the Marlin red to me, but fancy stocked models from Winchester exist in this shade as well.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Texas Brush Popper fore end (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The wood-stock fit is far better than what passes for good enough on most of today’s American made lever guns. Tightly flush fit, the only places where the wood sticks out a bit from the steel is right where the fore end meets the receiver, and you’ll need to look hard for that.

The curved butt plate is historically appropriate for the short rifle Winchesters of the age. The 20″ carbines released by Winchester had a flatter butt plate. The Texas Brush Popper’s is very well done, with a great wood-to-metal fit, polished steel, and correctly timed and blued screws.

That attention to detail is appreciated, but also a bit of a shame. Everyone competing will cover that butt plate with a leather recoil pad. That recoil pad really isn’t there much for recoil, but to gain better control of the gun. The polished period-correct butt plate tends to slide around on the shoulder, making fast manipulation an issue.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Texas Brush Popper front sight (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The front sight is a simple dark polished metal post without a protective hood or ears. It’s drift-adjustable from a dovetail in the barrel.

The rear sight is a traditional buckhorn style. It has a deep cut for precise work, and wide ears for fast firing up close.  There is no marking on the front or rear to make either line up. For precise firing on a dark target, this would be an issue worth a little bit of homework, but that’s not really what this rifle is for. For the kind of fast, up-close shooting that CAS is known for, the sights are great as is, and require no modification.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Texas Brush Popper rear sight (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The only disappointment with the stock Cimarron Texas Brush Popper is the trigger pull. Measured on my Lyman trigger gauge, the average weight over 5 pulls is 7 lbs 9 oz, and that’s after all of the shooting for the review was complete.

That’s far too heavy, and means that the shooter can’t just bring the trigger finger back with ease while closing the action to fire. The trigger isn’t squishy or catching, it’s just too hard to pull. Almost every competitive shooter will change this trigger anyway, and whole lot of folks replace the shoe as well.

Cimarron offers the Texas Brush Popper in all of the popular CAS calibers, .38/357, .44-40 Win, and .45 Colt. This particular model is in the original caliber that made the rifle famous, the .44-40 Winchester.

The .44-40 Winchester was a direct competitor to the .45 Colt which was, coincidentally enough, adopted by the US Army the same year the Winchester was released in .44-40. Elizabeth Colt, Sam Colt’s wife and heir to the business, didn’t allow Winchester to chamber their rifles in the .45 Colt at the time, but did chamber Colt revolvers in the .44-40 Winchester.

That meant customers could chamber their handguns and rifles in the same Winchester caliber. And they surely did.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Texas Brush Popper caliber marking (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

That .44-40 Winchester caliber would prove extremely popular, and was one of the major reasons for the popularity of the 1873 rifle, carbine, and musket models. For the next 50 years, the .44-40 Win was likely responsible for taking more white tail deer than any other caliber in North America.

In the original 1973 Winchesters, 40 grains of black power would drive a 200 gr lead bullet about 1,100 fps. In these guns, this would have been a very much max-pressure load. Looking through quite a few reloading manuals and a couple specifically for cast boolits and black powder, I can find not a single one that recommends this heavy of a load.

However, in a modern firearm using smokeless powders, there are quite a few loads listed with a 200 grain lead bullet being pushed to 1,000 fps from a 7″ revolver barrel. That’s considerably more energy than the “modern” .44 Special, and represents a starting load for the .44 Magnum.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Texas Brush Popper lever action rifle accuracy testing (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

You would gain as much as 150 fps from an 18″ carbine like the Brush Popper over a revolver. At these speeds, the .44-40 WCF is producing enough energy to reliably take medium sized game out to 50 yards, and more for a marksman skilled with the rifle and the right bullet. It’s impossible to know just how many deer have been killed with the .44-40 WCF (another name for the cartridge), but considering its popularity, numbers in the hundreds of thousands should be considered likely minimums.

Although it’s nice to know it’s capable, hunting isn’t what many folks are using the old caliber for these days. Its revival is due entirely to the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting. (I’m Lectric Jack, SASS #109945). For that application, the period-correct caliber easily meets the minimum power requirement, and is more often loaded down to the softest of loads.

Note that if you’re going to shoot very reduced loads and light bullets in brass with a large case capacity, make sure the rounds leave the barrel. Yes, this is a real concern.

Fortunately, there are several ammunition companies that now make the loaded .44-40 cartridge, and most for mild loads suitable for any smokeless gun. This being the Great Ammunition Ammo Shortage of 2020, I had trouble finding anything at all for this review. Cimarron was able to provide me with 50 rounds of Black Hills blemished rounds in Starline cases, and I simply reloaded these with my own components several times.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

50-yard group (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Black Hills commercial ammunition shot very well.  Four strings of five round groups shot off a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest averaged at just an inch and a half with the supplied iron sights, and 3 1/2″ at 100 yards. That’s about as good as I can shoot with iron sights and this sight radius.

As this was the only commercial ammunition I had for the review, my own hand loads were used for the rest of the 300 total rounds I fired through the gun.  My own hand loads, which were also 200 grains at approximately 850fps (according to the book), didn’t print anywhere nearly as good as the commercial Black Hills rounds.

Under the same conditions, and loaded in the same brass as the commercial ammo, my own loads scored an average of 5″ groups at 100 yards.  They also leaded the bore more in the first 20 rounds than the Black Hills ammunition did in 50. I suspect that is because my bullets were sized to .429″ for my .44 caliber guns, and the groove diameter of the .44-40 is typically at .431″.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Evidence of leading (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

At no point did I have any reliability issues with the Texas Brush Popper lever gun. I cycled the rounds hard and fast, and slowly as well.  Just keep your Cartridge Overall Length within spec and you shouldn’t have any difficulties cycling the gun in any way. I expected nothing less from Cimarron.

Shooting the gun in a breeze, and a blast. There’s nothing at all to the recoil. The pistol grip stock, weight of the barrel, sights and natural geometry of the gun make for a great experience for the novice shooter. The experienced shooter can really make it hum.

I’ve seen the better guys shooting a short stroked Texas Brush Popper fire an 8th round as the first piece of brass is just hitting the ground.  No matter how many times I see it, it always seems impossible. Also note that unlike some of the Winchester models, the rounds eject up and behind the shooter instead of forward of the firing line, a welcome feature as you will certainly want to collect your brass.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

Texas Brush Popper Uberti marking (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

When it comes to CAS, Cimarron already has certainly made a big hit with the Texas Brush Popper. I’ve only been competing for a few months now, but of the half a dozen matches I’ve been to I have yet to attend a single one where one of these guns wasn’t present. They seem to be universally liked, and it’s easy to see why.

Cimarron Texas Brush Popper 1873

CAS guns (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Texas Brush Popper lever action rifle is gorgeous, accurate, and reliable. It’s also an ideal starting gun for anyone wanting to get into the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting. All of your basics are covered right out of the box, and the aftermarket support is deep and diverse. As an added bonus, in any of the calibers offered, the short rifle would make a fine short range hunting gun, and you’d be hunting in style.

Specifications: Cimarron Texas Brush Popper

Caliber: 44-40
Barrel Length: 18 in. Octagon to Round
Style: Deluxe Tx Brush Popper
Capacity: 10 + 1
Frame: Case Hardened
Finish: Standard Blue
Stock/Forearm: Checkered Walnut Pistol Grip
Weight: 7.25 Lbs.
MSRP: $1,494.64 

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * * * 1/2
Cimarron didn’t skimp here. The finish of the gun is exceptional right out of the box and it would be a shame to change it. Half a star off for the screws not timed.

Authenticity * * * * *
It’s hard to create an 1873 that wasn’t either offered by the factory or commonly smithed. People have been modifying these guns since the day they were released. Still, in all of the points that would matter, Cimarron nailed it.

Reliability * * * * *
Perfect. If your arm works the lever, the gun runs.

Accuracy * * * * *
This is as good as you can expect from an iron-sighted 18″ barreled short rifle, especially with a commercial round.

Overall * * * * 1/2
My long-time readers know that the more I like a gun, the harder I am on it. Half a star on this gun was taken off for the trigger weight and the untimed screws. That’s all I could nitpick on this rifle. It’s a beautiful example of one of the most important repeaters of the 19th century. Cimarron has taken a proven design and provided the CAS shooter with an ideal starting point, or the hunter and collector with a beautiful, functional rifle right out of the box.

comments

  1. avatar Wally1 says:

    Very nice, would like to have one in 38/357 but at 1500,00 dollars it’s a bit pricey!

    1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      At that price you’re not done,as out of the box they are rough and way over sprung, plan on 200.00 to 300.00 to get one tuned properly by a name CAS gun smith.

  2. avatar jwm says:

    Once this covid crap settles down I plan on getting a lever gun in .357 to match my new revolver. This gun is pretty as hell to look at. I like that barrel profile.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Exactly. I’m continuing to review my short list of candidates for places the wife and I will possibly move to, if this November somehow shows that California is indeed irreparably lost. I have all the polymers and ARs I could ever want, so the last true grail for me is a combo set of lever action carbine and revolver in .357 Mag. I **really* like the look of a lever action in case hardened finish and brass trim.

      When that day comes, I’ll find a field somewhere, take my old school compass to determine the general direction of Sacramento from my location (hopefully many hundreds of miles away), raise the carbine into the air as I envision it, and yell “Bite Me!” as I loose a round into the blue yonder.

      1. avatar LifeSavor says:

        Haz,

        I think this is the first time you have indicated,on TTAG, that you might have to leave CA. I have been hoping the disease that has infested Portland and Seattle would rally the Patriots throughout CA.

        This past Sunday, a local politician looking forward to the general election, knocked on our front door. I asked his party affiliation. After his reply, I told him, politely, we do not want Allentown to become another Portland; do not expect any support from us. When he began to object, I pointed out that Jerry Nadler says the riots in Portland are a myth. “Clearly, the Democrats have solidified their positions on a foundation of lies. You should not waste your time with me; there are some college professors down the block who would love to talk with you”.

        We shook hands, and he left my front porch with the usual convivialities.

        Keep the faith, Haz!

        1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

          All intentions of staying, but also performing due diligence on potential retirement locales in the unfortunate but possible case that CA lurches even further left. I have fought the good fight and will continue to do so, but at some point I may have to acknowledge that not only is the writing clearly seen on the wall, but it’s written in political obscenities that have drawn too many Leftists to my once Golden State.

          My entire life, I’ve always wanted to live north of here in the American Redoubt, and almost pulled up tent stakes once many years ago, if it weren’t for the fact that my wife’s side of the family lived here. Now they’ve nearly all moved, as have my own relatives, to horizons beyond CA. And they continue to beckon us to follow – as recently as yesterday (again).

          For now, I am content. I’ve been married to my best friend since our youth, a treasure all in itself. We have no debts and own everything outright. I have a great job where I’m respected, valued, paid fairly, and part of upper management. We are members of a solid Bible-teaching church and enjoy true friendships with a close circle. And we have the beach, the mountains, the desert, and major metro amenities all within short driving distance.

          But our children are grown and gone. CA imposes heavier restrictions and taxes/fees every year. It sometimes really sucks living in a desert environment that’s a visual depression of dirt and brown grass ten months out of the year. And we’re constantly having to fight off a growing Leftist Leviathan in Sacramento that spawns like-minded haters of Liberty in mayorships and Sheriff offices across the landscape. Every single day I exit my door and navigate the outside world, I’m aware that I’m violating several unconstitutional laws other Americans aren’t shackled with, if not a dozen lesser infractions. The constant weight of the duty a Patriot must tolerate is borne as a badge of honor, but gradually pulls on you while you process the realization that the Left successfully pushes you another step further from Liberty. It takes its toll.

          As long as Man rules this world, no place will ever be perfect. But CA is at the precipice, and November’s election results all the way up and down the ticket will determine whether we Patriots will roar with renewed life and rally together, or finally look to our spouses and desire a better existence for them. And for this bruised, tired, but proud Californian, the road ahead is clouded in a fog.

          Today, I stay planted, I pray, and I prepare. But I also want to have a plan for both potential outcomes.

  3. avatar Michael Bane says:

    My SASS competition rifle, in .38/.35 is one of the earlier Brush Poppers. I have thousands and thousands of rounds through it over the years. Nothing but good to say. I have a lot of lever action rifles; this is one I will never get rid of.

    Michael B

    1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      Wolf

      The same goes for me,I will die owning that rifle, ain’t gonna part with it any other way.

  4. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    I’ve run a Uberti /Cimarron short rifle since the early 90’s,when Cimarron first had them imported for themselves.
    I had one of the best CAS gun smiths tune that rifle and have lost count of how many rounds it digested, both smokeless and black powder over the years,competiting in CAS puts the guns thru much more use and wear than the originals ever saw.

  5. avatar Jim from LI says:

    How did Colt get away with restricting the .45 Colt cartridge? They didn’t break any new ground; I didn’t think you could patent a set of dimensions on what’s otherwise the same old thing.

    1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      Winchester didn’t want colts name on their product so WCF Winchester Center Fire.

      44 WCF is a much better cartridge in a rifle than is 45 colt, remember when these arms and cartridges were introduced black powder was the only propellent.

      44 WCF being a thin walled bottle neck cartridge will seal the chamber to prevent B. P fouling from the chamber,45 colt doesn’t, won’t,even with smokeless powder it still fouls the rifles chamber.

      One thing all the WCF cartridges have in common,32 WCF,38 WCF and 44 WCF have in common is the thin neck and bottle neck case for a very good reason.

      1. avatar Jim from LI says:

        I understand all that, as well as that period 45LC rims were even smaller than they are today. My question is, we hear how Colt wouldn’t “allow” anyone else to use their cartridge, and I don’t understand how they could have prevented Winchester or somebody else from selling it as, say, “45-30” or some other designation. They obviously didn’t have the pull to stop the 45 Schofield.

        1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

          “My question is, we hear how Colt wouldn’t “allow” anyone else to use their cartridge, and I don’t understand how they could have prevented Winchester or somebody else from selling it.”

          I’ve read and heard all sorts of cockamamie stories of the 45 colt, long colt and 45 S&W but that is one I’ve not read or heard before.
          I do know the arms makers of the period didn’t care to put a competitors name on their guns even it was in the cartridge name.

          Were you aware that Winchester prototyped a revolver as competition to Colts SAA. it ended in a backroom deal that Winchester would not bring out their revolver and after the colt lightening rifle colt would cease producing rifles, that story may have come out of that agreement, or not, that’s one I had not heard.

        2. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

          “period 45LC rims were even smaller than they are today’

          I think what you are referring to above was at that period the cases were referred to as ballon head and did not have the rebate slightly above the rims,as with modern 45 colt cases. I have a old ballon head case so I went and dug it out to look and that is the main reason in the day that the 45 colt was never chambered in a rifle, nothing for the extractor claw to sink into to extract the case.

  6. avatar Geoff "Ammo. LOTS of ammo..." PR says:

    Jaysus, does anyone in mass-market firearms do color-case hardening as pretty as Uberti?

    The could make some good money just doing that for companies…

    1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      Uberti’s color case carries quite a bit gun to gun, example my 73 appears much like the rifle pictured and then I have a Richards Mason Type II and it is very subdued to even washed out colors.

      1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

        Carries before auto correct was varies.

        1. avatar Geoff "Ammo. LOTS of ammo..." PR says:

          I should have said :

          “They could make some good money…”

        2. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

          Geoff

          if you want to see beautiful true bone and chrcoal case hardening,look at Doug Turnbull’s work below.
          I have a Ruger Old Army 7 1/2″ that was finished,B&C hardening with rust bluing by Doug and when I show it to folks it always the same oho’s and awe’s and then did it come like that.

          https://www.turnbullrestoration.com/

        3. avatar Geoff "Ammo. LOTS of ammo..." PR says:

          Whoever did Jeremy S’s squeeze-cock Sig was an artisan…

  7. avatar Biff says:

    I read somewhere that these rifles in .45 Colt aren’t as reliable because the rim is so small. Is there any truth to that?

    I’ve always wanted to get a SAA revolver and a 1873, but I was just starting to be able to buy guns when the 1994 Assault Ban went into effect. Since it expired it’s been all evil rifles all the time. Maybe someday though!

    1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      I’ve never had a properly fitted extractor claw slip the rim on a 45 colt in a rifle. Although I suppose anything could be possible once,If that were to occur there are aftermarket 73 extractors available as replacements.

  8. avatar Ron says:

    “I’ve seen the better guys shooting a short stroked Texas Brush Popper fire an 8th round as the first piece of brass is just hitting the ground.”

    Wow. I’d like to see a video of that. I thought I could shoot a lever fast but that’s nuts. Granted I don’t do any kind of competitive shooting so I don’t personally see that world.

    1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      Ask and Ye shall receive,here you go.

      Cowboy Action Shooting World Records

      http://www.spencerhoglund.com/worldrecords.html

      Be sure to click on the one of Duce Stevens,I shot on a posse with Doots once and I didn’t think a human could shoot that fast, he is amazing and a genuinely nice fellow.

    2. avatar M1Lou says:

      I watched a guy practicing at the range one day putting brass rainbow up a few times. It was neat to watch.

  9. avatar former water walker says:

    What a purdy rifle!

  10. avatar possum says:

    That’s a mighty fine looking rifle, to bad it isn’t in 6.5 creedmoor. BTW those creedmoor rifles back when those lever action rifles were around were quite the deal. When I used to shoot IHMS some of those guys used a creedmoor position. Their scores were pretty good, I just never got off on burning my pant leg and my fingers got stiff holding my head up.

  11. avatar enuf says:

    My buying mood is somewhat torn of late. Have long wanted an older lever gun model. The New Original Henry Iron-Framed in .44-40 for example, damn how that does appeal. But it lists to near $3 Grand. Want it, but not going to happen.

    Cimarron Firearms has a fine looking 1873 there, and at half the list price of the Henry. Darn it tho, not an American make!

    But the AR-10 I have still not bought has been nudging me lately. Would be just a .308, no need of fancy schmancy new golly gee whiz bang calibers. PSA had one yesterday at $850, and other good options just under $1000.

    It’s like the old and the new are both calling lately, wanting to wipe out my gun buying budget for the year.

  12. avatar The Rookie says:

    Daggone, that is one purty rifle! i do believe I’d take that rifle square-dancin’!

  13. avatar Bryan Austin says:

    Bore dimensions on 44-40 (44WCF) rifles ranged from .424″ to .433″ but were typically .427″. Bullets much the same. Today’s 44-40’s are typically .429″ as are ALL of mine. Some modern Winchesters (Japchesters) are .427″.

    44-40 factory loads, both cowboy loads and hunting loads are “Mouse Farts” and should not be confused with original ballistics of yesteryear. Original black powder loads were loaded with 40gr by WEIGHT of black powder and compressed as needed to fit a 200gr bullet. 40gr volume varied by the quality of the black powder.

    Original Velocities

    1873-1877
    Early Black Powder loads were recorded to be 1,325fps.

    40gr Goex FFFg gives me 1,356fps with a 427098 when using original early pre-1880’s Unheadstamed cases at an interesting 12,648psi.
    Swiss FFg proved better at 1,370fps with the 427098 using the same cases at 14,285psi.
    Powder compression varies pending cases used…typically from .17″ to .21″.

    1886-1904
    Black powder loads of this time frame show a lower velocity of 1,245fps. My test loads using various manufactured cases from this time period with the above powders recorded from 1,235fps to 1,276fps with pressures in the 12,500psi area, giving a good comparison.

    Today
    Using the above black powder loads in modern cases resulted in mid 1,250fps range with mild chamber pressures of only 8,500psi to 10,000psi. Powder compression is a must with both original and modern brass. H2O measurments of the cases resulted in different overall volumes as expected. Early Semi-balloon head cases yielded more volume than later semi-balloon head cases and of course more than modern cases. Powder compression was between .17″ – .21″ respectively between them.

    For more information on this great cartridge (to include smokeless powder history), visit: https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Mr. Austin,
      You bring up an important point about black powder measured by weight in the early metallic cases, and not by grains. I hadn’t figured that in my calculation of the speed of the bullet. 40 grains by weight must have been packed in tight! Winchester advertised velocities from the 1873 around 1,200fps, Which is today right where we are with smokeless powder.
      You mentioned that you measured pressure at over 14K psi using the old cases. What method are you using to measure chamber pressure?

      1. avatar Bryan Austin says:

        Original 1873 black powder velocities were advertised at 1,325, not 1,200. Black powder was loaded by weight, 40gr. Because of variations in powder quality, 40gr by weight was not always the same as volume this powder compression varied. This has been my findings when dissecting original cartridges. All measured 40gr but compression varied from .17″ to .21″. Also not to forget was the volume of the cases changed over time. Early unheastamped case held more volume vs later headstamped cases and today’s cases.

        There is an abundance of historical information on the 44-40 website to include the smokeless powder transition years. https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Gracias. The link you provided says 1150 to 1350.

        2. avatar Bryan Austin says:

          Thanks Mr Taylor….but I am missing where you saw the 1150 to 1350? I gave several links so I am not sure which one you are referring to.

          To be clear, original black powder 44-40 cartridges were advertised in Winchester’s 1875 catalog as 1,325fps. The 1873 was first mentioned in Winchester’s 1875 catalog. I quote ““The effect of this change [from the 44 Henry to the 44-40] is to increase the initial velocity of the arm from about 1,125 f.p.s. [Henry] to 1,325 feet per second [Winchester Model of 1873].”

          This is a link to the Velocities titles page. There one can find the different velocities and why
          https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/velocities

        3. avatar jwtaylor says:

          I see my mistake. Thanks for the clarification.
          I just gave it a try, and there’s just no way I can get a 200gr bullet to seat over 40grs of FF by weight. Those original cases must have had considerably more capacity. I’d like to get my hands on some to measure them.

        4. avatar Bryan Austin says:

          I don’t mean to be long winded but I love talking about this wonderful caliber!!

          You are correct, even with today’s Starline Brass (Thicker than Winchester but thinner than Remington brass), and the poor quality of today’s black powder, it is nearly impossible to get 40gr to work without at least.21″ compression of the powder with a powder compression die. Seating depth can be an issue.

          The late John Kort’s “My Black Powder Journey” is a treasure to read if you have not seen it yet.

          https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/contributors/john-kort/two-peas-in-a-pod-by-john-kort

        5. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Mr. Austin,
          you have made me both grateful and miserable, as now I will be chasing velocity and accuracy with different kinds of black powder. Goex is not hard for me to find locally, even now, but Schuetzen certainly is. I would never have thought to gain a hundred feet per second just by changing powder brands. This certainly requires further investigation. For my black powder, I primarily shoot flintlocks, but perhaps I will bring a Henry new Original 1860 to the next long range black powder shoot and see what the black powder 45 Colt can do at the 400 yard line.

        6. avatar Bryan Austin says:

          Oh to add a tad more, when shooting black powder, I do not resize my brass. There is no need to do so and allows for a tad more powder room. The bullet sits on top of the powder so a roll crimp is not needed since the bullet will not telescope back into the case…but a slight squeeze crimp is used to keep the bullets from from backing when transferring from the rifle mag to to the chamber as well as when used in revolvers. I prefer the Redding 44-40 Profile crimp and my custom design 43-214A lead bullet (Black powder or Smokeless). The bullet mold is made by Accurate Molds. There is no crimp groove so the loader can custom set the seating depth as needed and the lead is soft so the Redding crimp pushes the case mouth into the lead creating it’s on “groove” enough for black powder pressures and higher smokeless powder pressures.

          my 43-214A cast bullet – https://sites.google.com/view/44winchester/contributors/bryan-austin/new-43-214a-bullet

  14. avatar KarlB says:

    I am lucky enough to have inherited a ’73 in 38-40. As several others have state, at some point, I really want to get one in .357 to go along with my revolvers.

    1. avatar M1Lou says:

      My grandpa had an 1873 made in the 1880’s in .44-40 sitting in his workshop for years. He kept it out there, but luckily where he lives it is fairly dry. He was moved to a home last year so I asked my uncle if I could have the rifle, and he said yes. My grandpa already had a 03-A3 he wanted me to have, but that neglected 1873 needed a home. He seemed to think it was no good, but I inspected it and it seemed to be fine. I’ll clean it up and make sure it’s safe to shoot again, but I plan to clean it up, and restore as needed. I want to leave as much of the original finish as possible. The 1873 is such a great looking rifle.

  15. avatar Mark Sprague says:

    I like everything about this firearm except the octagon-to-round barrel. One or the other, with preference towards octagonal. Just my preference, of course.

  16. avatar Bryan Austin says:

    Sorry, John, I see the comments are awaiting approval!!

    While so, just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to post a 44-40 article, we need more of them.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      And thank you so much for your intelligent comments. We really need more people like you writing!

      1. avatar Bryan Austin says:

        I can barely spell my name correctly and seldom put the first name first…..last thing I need to be doing is building a 44-40 website. I have to edit my posts at least ten times before I am done and you guys limit me to 4 minutes or 5 minutes…lol

  17. avatar miforest says:

    that is great accuracy for open sights

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I guarantee you a better shooter could do better.

  18. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    I’m going to get a center fire lever gun. Not sure about the caliber. I enjoy the one I have in 22. I have two revolvers. One in 38 and one in 45LC. Thanks for the post. More information is always better. I never considered a 44-40. I’ll check this out.

  19. avatar LJP2 says:

    I’ve got an Uberti ’73 rifle with 24″ octagon barrel chambered in 44 wcf (44-40). It’s gotta be one of my favorite rifles in the safe. I’ve got an Uberti Cattleman and ’58 Remington Conversion, bot chambered in 44 wcf. to compliment the rifle. Those old Cowboy guns are sure fun to shoot.

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