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Winchester 1873 - shoot or not?


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I have a Winchester 1873 in 44-40 and I really want to take it to the range, but I would like some advice. First, the stock is intact and not cracked, and I’d like to keep it that way- I’d hate to crack it because I shot it. The bore is bright and rifling seems adequate. The action is smooth and everything seems okay there. My second question is about ammo- assuming I can fire it safely, what powder would be best to use to load rounds for it? I thought the 44-40 was originally a black powder round, so I’m assuming my powder selection would be limited. Thanks.

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Sometimes when I ask for advice, I already know the answer I’m looking for. Thank you, gentlemen- “shoot it!” Is the answer I was looking for. I’ll order some Bullseye powder and try to locate some brass. I’ll post the results. I’ve been obsessed with this rifle since I was a kid and first saw Jimmy Stewart in the namesake movie. 

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Hold on there slick!.... Before you go putting pressure on that toggle lock, you best have a look at it. The toggle locks on those original guns were pretty hard and anywhere in its history of home loads could very well crack one of the 4 in the gun. I checked one for a guy once that like you, wanted to shoot it. The action worked OK by hand but one of the links were cracked in 2 but the crystalline surface of the crack mated so well it still toggled up and down matching the movement of it sister link on the other side of the bolt. IDK if the new Italian clones will swap locking links. Back when, I found an original link to replace the broken one. So, Yeah you can shoot it even with factory loads since they are watered down big time from the factory and I know on new Remington boxes they even print for "All" firearms chambered in 44-40. Just pop the side plates off and look the link joins over really close. If they are sound, hammer time!

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On 1/13/2022 at 6:04 PM, xtriggerman said:

Hold on there slick!.... Before you go putting pressure on that toggle lock, you best have a look at it. The toggle locks on those original guns were pretty hard and anywhere in its history of home loads could very well crack one of the 4 in the gun. I checked one for a guy once that like you, wanted to shoot it. The action worked OK by hand but one of the links were cracked in 2 but the crystalline surface of the crack mated so well it still toggled up and down matching the movement of it sister link on the other side of the bolt. IDK if the new Italian clones will swap locking links. Back when, I found an original link to replace the broken one. So, Yeah you can shoot it even with factory loads since they are watered down big time from the factory and I know on new Remington boxes they even print for "All" firearms chambered in 44-40. Just pop the side plates off and look the link joins over really close. If they are sound, hammer time!

Thanks for the sound advice. Although the receiver plate screw didn’t want to budge, I carefully kept at it and got it out. The link joints and associated parts were in remarkable condition, but I’m glad you suggested that precaution. I took the old girl to the indoor range just now and fired away. She shoots and cycles like a dream and grouped well, at 25 yards, anyway. Shout out to the Marine in Oneida who sold me 90 rds of 44-40 on Saturday- thank you!

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Told ya!

It amazes me to see the quality of then standard production firearms in America 100+ years ago. Those folks worked for beans, yet took pride in their jobs to a degree almost no one today could relate to.

 

The fit and finish of a Winchester, Marlin, Colt, Remington, Smith and Wesson, etc. made around 1900 exceeds most anything available on today’s custom market at any price.

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I’m glad you got to shoot it and enjoyed it. I picked up a Winchester 1894 yesterday in 30-30. It was manufactured in 1897. Hex barrel and 5 digit serial number. Can’t wait for some range time. 125 years old. 

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On 1/24/2022 at 11:50 AM, derf said:

I’m glad you got to shoot it and enjoyed it. I picked up a Winchester 1894 yesterday in 30-30. It was manufactured in 1897. Hex barrel and 5 digit serial number. Can’t wait for some range time. 125 years old. 

We're gonna need some pictures of this! How long is the barrel? Crescent butt plate?

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On 1/13/2022 at 11:50 AM, DesertRanger said:

I have a Winchester 1873 in 44-40 and I really want to take it to the range, but I would like some advice. First, the stock is intact and not cracked, and I’d like to keep it that way- I’d hate to crack it because I shot it.

Forgive my ignorance on this caliber as I've never shot it. But isn't it also a pistol caliber? If so, wouldn't the recoil be too mild to strain the stock? 

I would think the majority of stock breakages resulted from the gun being knocked over or dropped or something similar? 

Buffalo Arms, an ammo company, makes cowboy load ammo. IOW, very mild loadings compared to standard commercial loads. I would also check out www.georgia-arms.com for ammo. I've been buying from them for decades now & they make darn good stuff.

I envy you your ownership of this nice looking rifle too!

 

  Happy Party GIF by Bounce

Edited by bobsguns
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On 1/13/2022 at 10:50 AM, DesertRanger said:

I thought the 44-40 was originally a black powder round, so I’m assuming my powder selection would be limited.

Trailboss is a pretty good all-around plinking powder and can be used in older, sound, firearms. I use it in several different cases and really like it. 

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6 hours ago, gregintenn said:

We're gonna need some pictures of this! How long is the barrel? Crescent butt plate?

I’ll get some pictures up for you today. It’s sweet. 

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On 1/28/2022 at 9:20 AM, bobsguns said:

Forgive my ignorance on this caliber as I've never shot it. But isn't it also a pistol caliber? If so, wouldn't the recoil be too mild to strain the stock? 

I would think the majority of stock breakages resulted from the gun being knocked over or dropped or something similar? 

Buffalo Arms, an ammo company, makes cowboy load ammo. IOW, very mild loadings compared to standard commercial loads. I would also check out www.georgia-arms.com for ammo. I've been buying from them for decades now & they make darn good stuff.

I envy you your ownership of this nice looking rifle too!

 

  Happy Party GIF by Bounce

There was almost no recoil at all. I was surprised, but the cowboy loads were obviously light. I have no desire to push the envelope and load them hot. A ranger buddy in CO was into cowboy action shooting and loaded his own 45 LC. When I shot that I was surprised how little recoil there was. 

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20 minutes ago, DesertRanger said:

There was almost no recoil at all. I was surprised, but the cowboy loads were obviously light. 

I remember the hue & cry when a lot of cowboy matches began to use falling steel plates. The mild loads that they had been using up to then didn't even bounce the plate, much less knock it down. LOL! 

That's why I don't get how low recoil would crack a stock in a rifle? I would think most of them happened when the rifle fell over or got dropped? 

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1 hour ago, bobsguns said:

I remember the hue & cry when a lot of cowboy matches began to use falling steel plates. The mild loads that they had been using up to then didn't even bounce the plate, much less knock it down. LOL! 

That's why I don't get how low recoil would crack a stock in a rifle? I would think most of them happened when the rifle fell over or got dropped? 

Or overtightened the stock screw.

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On 1/31/2022 at 9:27 AM, bobsguns said:

I remember the hue & cry when a lot of cowboy matches began to use falling steel plates. The mild loads that they had been using up to then didn't even bounce the plate, much less knock it down. LOL! 

That's why I don't get how low recoil would crack a stock in a rifle? I would think most of them happened when the rifle fell over or got dropped? 

It may be just an irrational fear on my part. I’m a woodworker, too, and I’ve built furniture out of reclaimed wood. The really old stuff is sometimes very brittle, and I think about that. I don’t know the real risk-it may be zero. I’m not planning to take it out every weekend, but I do plan to shoot it on a regular basis.

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