During my career I’ve been wrong about many things. One of them was the7mm-08 Remington. Back in 1980 the cartridge was brand-new when a Remington 788 in 7mm-08 Rem came into the office. You remember the 788 bolt-action, Heavy, unlovely, rear-locking…and they shot like gangbusters. Colleague and friend Payton Miller and I were assigned to wring it out, I think for that year’s G&A Annual. The rifle grouped extremely well, but the truth is we both got it wrong: We scratched our heads, and didn’t understand what this brave new cartridge was for…or what it could do that existing cartridges couldn’t.
As to the latter, probably nothing…but that can be said about almost any new cartridge. As to what it was for, it was a mild-kicking, short-action cartridge that was probably very effective. Part of our problem was we had no first-hand experience with the 7mm-08 Rem on game. This was not entirely our fault. Payton and I took that early 7mm-08 Rem on several forays up the Central Coast for wild hogs, but we never got a shot. We figured it would do just fine…but we didn’t know.
The 6.5mm Creedmoor is a great cartridge…but it isn’t the only 6.5mm cartridge out there. We all know the 6.5mm Creedmoor is the hottest thing since sliced bread, right now, except the 223 Remington, our hottest-selling centerfire cartridge. And the greatest cartridge phenomenon I’ve seen in my career. The Creedmoor is different because its popularity isn’t based on marketing hype. Developed as a long-range target cartridge, its introduction was soft and its designer, Hornady, had limited expectations. The Creedmoor won matches right out of the starting gate, but it actually fizzled along for several years. Then, suddenly, it took off and, so far, hasn’t looked back. The 6.5mm Creedmoor is accurate, efficient, mild in recoil, and with its short case is able to utilize the long, aerodynamic bullets currently in fashion, from a short action.
There are quite a few cartridges in the middle tier of “fast” 6.5mm’s. All of these will at least approach 3000 fps with a 140-grain bullet, and certainly with a 130-grain slug. Left to right: 6.5mm Remington Magnum, 6.5×284 Norma, 6.5-06 (wildcat), 264 Winchester Magnum, 6.5mm SST (proprietary).Suddenly the .26-caliber (bullet diameter .264-inch) is in. This, in itself, is odd because this bullet diameter is hardly new. Back in the 1890s, at the dawn of smokeless powder, a number of 6.5mm cartridges were developed for military use, primarily for European powers. Several became popular sporting cartridges, not only in Europe but also over here. Some, such as the 6.5×54 Mannlicher-Schoenauer and 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser, are ballistic equals to the 6.5mm Creedmoor…especially if modern propellants and bullets are used. Up through the 1930s America’s sporting press was full of references to early 6.5mms, but their use dwindled and almost faded away.
It was a perfect setup for prairie dogs; we had a big shade tree to our left, three of us in line on portable benches, with a big colony stretching away before us. Stephen Shen was on the left, Gordon Marsh in the middle, me on the right. Interestingly, all three of us were shooting the 204 Ruger cartridge: Stephen a Savage 116, while both Gordon and I were shooting Ruger No. Ones, his in blue/walnut and mine stainless/laminate.
It wasn’t universal; Bill Green was off the right, popping away and having a ball with a semi-auto 17 HMR . This was Gordon and Bill’s annual prairie dog shoot out of Cheyenne, hunting with Craig Oceanak and Nick of Timberline Outfitters. It was my second shoot with them; for Stephen, CEO of Vector Optics, his first ever. We had other rifles, 223’s and 22-250’s. However, except for Bill, who clung to his 17 HMR and walked in some amazing shots, the 204’s did the majority of the work. There are many excellent varmint cartridges, so it struck me as unusual that three among our foursome were shooting 204’s…but I think we made good choices.
In 1873, Winchester introduced the gun that would be known as “The Gun that Won the West”—the Winchester 1873 lever action rifle, chambered in .44 WCF (Winchester Center Fire.) The same year, Colt introduced the 1873 Colt SAA revolver in Colt .45 and the US Army introduced the .45-70 Government.
Colt, realizing that western settlers wouldn’t want to carry different types of ammunition for their rifles and side arms, decided to chamber their 1873 SAA revolvers in .44 WCF—though they renamed the .44 WCF to .44-40 (.44 caliber and 40 gains of black powder) in order to prevent giving Winchester free advertising.
Winchester never reciprocated by chambering any of its guns in Colt .45.
Today, most lever gun reproductions are chambered in the Colt .45 for two reasons. First, the rims on modern Colt .45s are stronger than their 19th Century counterparts; and second, .44-40 Winchester ammunition is rather scarce.
If you have considered buying or reloading the .44-40 Win, here are some helpful recommendations from my experience.
The Colt 45 also known as 45 Long Colt, 45 LC is one of the original center fire cartridge still in production and going strong.
The 45 Colt came in to being when the US Army put out for bid a new revolver that would use a 45 caliber bullet at 250 grains over 40 grains of black powder. It is said the requirement was based on the desire to have a revolver that could drop an Indian War pony at 100 yards.
Colt beat out Smith and Wesson with their now famous Colt 1873 Single Action Army revolver and the cartridge got it’s first name the Colt 45. However good the revolver was difficult to reload on horse back. The Army then ordered some break open design pistols from Smith & Wesson known as the Schofield revolver. These guns proved to be very popular and successful however they were not strong enough to fire a full power Colt 45 cartridge. They were chambered in basically a shortened version of the Colt 45.
Now that the Army had two 45 caliber revolver cartridges in inventory and they both could be fired in the 1873 SAA revolver, the name 45 Long Colt started to be used to avoid confusing with the Schofield cartridge. It is a fun cartridge to shoot and reload but caution must be used when reloading because with many smokeless powder there is a danger of double or triple charging a case. That’s why we recommend using Tin Star powder.
Try using Tin Star powder for your Colt .45. This powder will fill the case completely like black powder but it is a smokeless powder that has a light bulky density for use in old black powder cartridges like the Colt 45 and give you the pressure and velocity as the originals. Most people shoot the Colt 45 in Cowboy type guns like the 1873 SAA Colt revolvers or reproductions. I would strongly advise to stay with loading cast lead bullets. The original lead alloy for these bullets was 20 parts lead and one part Tin. This alloy will give you the best performance and the least leading problem.
Quality Cowboy bullets are made by Missouri Bullets. A charge of Tin Star powder that nearly reaches the bottom of a 250 grain Missouri Bullet from a 7 1/2″ barrel will give you a velocity of 930 FPS. LG Outdoors has a good supply of this hard to find reloading powder..