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GUNS Magazine January 2010 - Page 52

or 140 years American gun buyers have been in love with the F concept of having their long guns—rifles and/or carbines— chambered for the same cartridges as their handguns. From a Mike “Duke” Venturino Photos: Yvonne Venturino standpoint of factory available firearms this trend started in 1870 when Smith & Wesson introduced their Model No. 3 top-break revolver first chambered for the .44 Henry Rimfire, which had been introduced in the Henry rifle circa 1862 and then carried over to the Winchester Model 1866. As handgun cartridges went back in those days, the .44 Henry wasn’t too bad with 200- to 218-grain bullets over 24 to 28 grains of black powder. Depending on barrel length velocity was probably about 750 to 850 fps. Conversely from rifles it was a distinct pee-dunkler. That fact probably would not have made an impression on US 7th Cavalrymen on June 25, 1876 when the combined horde of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors shot them to pieces at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Modern archaeology has proven the Indians had hundreds of Henry and Winchester ’66s on hand that day. That guntoters of the 1870s wanted long guns and handguns chambering the same cartridge made some sense. There were still vast areas of the American West where dropping into stores and trading posts for resupply was but a dream. What is amazing is gun-buyers today still like the concept, even though rifles and carbines chambering pistol-size cartridges are definitely inferior in power and range to ones chambering even small rifle cartridges. But we do. I do, too. For many years I’ve touted pistolcartridge firing lever guns as my favorites. Such are the Winchester Models 1873 and 1892 and their modern clones. Also the Marlin Model 1894 is in that group—both new ones and originals. My personal favorites are the .44-40s and .38-40s in that same order. So it’s only natural I’ve got sixguns and lever guns for both rounds. Winchester had their ’73s out for about four years by the time Colt got around to chambering revolvers for .44-40. They were instant hits with revolver buyers. By the time the first run of the Colt SAA ended in 1941, .44-40s were second only to .45 Colts in regards 52 to numbers made. In 1879 Winchester brought out ’73s in .38-40 caliber and Colt then took five years to put the round in revolvers. You have to wonder why it took so long. With the success of .44-40 single actions, it would seem like they would have jumped all over the .38-40 as soon as it appeared. Most likely the Colt people were watching .38-40 ammo sales figures and when it was determined the round was indeed popular they jumped on the bandwagon, too. Here’s Duke disliked shooting the AMT .30 Carbine because of the muzzle blast and prefers the US M1A1 .30 Carbine (slung) for toting around his Montana property. another thing to consider. The other big name handgun manufacturers of the late 1800s—Smith & Wesson, Remington, and Merwin & Hulbert—all made .44-40 revolvers. Besides Colt only S&W made .38-40s and only a few of them. My rifle racks hold both replica and original, carbine, rifle and musket Winchester ’73s in both of the above discussed calibers, and original carbine and rifle Winchester ’92s for the same. There’s also a single Marlin Model 1894 .38-40 rifle in there with them. The handgun shelves hold an assortment of Colt and US Firearms Company’s .44-40 single actions in barrel lengths from 3" to 7-1/2", blue/case color and full nickel finishes, ivory, wood, hard rubber, and bison bone grips. (I guess you can tell I like .44-40 handguns.) Only two Colt SAA .38-40s are there, along with a Colt New Service .38-40. Do I use these .38-40 and .44-40 lever guns for “serious purposes” such as hunting or self-defense? Do I really “need” same cartridge combos? No, but I have shot deer with the .44-40s and used handguns in both calibers to finish wounded ones. What they do see use for is plain old fun: such as in getting together to shoot steel dueling trees and paddles with friends, or in the odd cowboy action match. There is much convenience in just taking one type of ammo out for either sort of outing. Taking a mixture of cartridges on such occasions is an invitation for mix-ups. Firing a .38-40 down a .44-40 barrel does no harm and of course a .44-40 won’t fit in .38-40 chambers. But get a .45 Colt round mixed in with some .44-40s and watch out. Here’s an example. A couple of young Marines just back from Iraq back in 2003 dropped by my place and asked to shoot some “old guns” because they had seen the movie Open Range the night before. I made the mistake of taking .45 Colt and .44-40 rounds down to my range. Right off one of them slipped a .45 Colt round into my Cimarron Arms Model 1873 .44-40. That put it out of commission until it could be dismantled and the .45 Colt round retrieved. Now here’s a situation I think should be avoided at all costs. Reloading manuals used to contain special “hot” loads for .38-40s and .44-40s to be used only in Winchester Model 1892s or Marlin Model 1894s. Those two lever guns are far stronger than modern or original Model 1873s and most handguns. (Ruger has chambered both their super-strong Blackhawks for .38-40s and .44-40s and Vaqueros for .44-40s.) Naturally back in the 1980s upon buying my first Winchester Model 1892 .44-40 I assembled some of those high-pressure .44-40s. They were giving WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JANUARY 2010

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