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Talking Tech: Cowboy Cartridges | Shooting USA

In 1873 two powerhouse companies in Connecticut, Colt and Winchester made firearms history that would have a profound effect on the Western Frontier. Elizabeth Colt directed Colt’s Patent Manufacturing in Hartford, and the news was the Single Action Army model of 1873. That same year, in New Haven, Connecticut, Oliver Winchester’s company introduced the model 1873 lever action rifle. Both companies introduced new centerfire cartridges for their new firearms. For Colt it was the .45.Colt, which had a 255-grain lead bullet over 40 grains of black powder with a primer. The Army shortly adopted both the revolver and the cartridge as the primary sidearm for the expansion West.

At Winchester, the new round for the new rifle was the 44-40 Winchester Centerfire, also one of the first to use a primer, and also with 40 grains of black powder, but a slightly smaller and lighter bullet with 212 grains of lead in 44-caliber. There was one other significant difference, the cannelure, the groove pressed into the case that is a bullet stop, because of the tube magazine on the ’73. That recoil with each shot could hammer the stack of rounds and could force the bullets deeper into the case, if not restricted by the cannelure groove.

Later in the 1800s, Colt would chamber its Peacemaker for 44-40 Winchester, to allow a pioneer to use the same ammo in his revolver and rifle. However, Winchester never chambered the lever-action rifle in .45 Colt because Elizabeth Colt wouldn’t allow it and Colt held the patent on the cartridge. So what was the cartridge that won the west? Good case here it was the 44-40 WCF. Tune in to Outdoor Channel for more!

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Jim Scoutten, America’s Most Watched Firearms Reporter, has been on the beat for 25 years, reporting the stories of the Shooting Sports and the firearms Industry. The show produces a series of popular segments focusing on historical guns, the personalities in the sport and industry, insider reports from gun tests, and practical tips from shooting sports pros. The show appeals to shooting sports enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels by providing practical tips on safely handling, modifying and repairing their favorite guns.

Shooting USA airs every Wednesday on Outdoor Channel.

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