The .44-40 Revolver in the West................
No cartridge has killed more game or more men, both good and bad." Anonymus quote concerning the .44-40 cartridge. If that claim were ever true, surely that has been supplanted by the .30 Springfield and its civilian counterpart, the .30-06.
The .44-40 cartridge was introduced by Winchester for its Model 1873 rifle and carbine. Intended to be a more powerful round than the .44 Henry, the case was "bulged" slightly to increase the powder capacity to 40 grains of black powder, an increase over the 28 grain charge of the Henry round. This resulted in the slight "bottleneck" case. To improve reliability, it was made a centerfire round. It was kept relatively short to function in the short-throw of the Winchester action or the time. The bullet was a 200 grain, flat nosed bullet. The Winchester lacked the range and power of the massive Sharps rifles, but was light and flat. It carried well in a saddle scabbard. The 1873 became a popular rifle with lawmwen, outlaws, and cowboys of the period.
Based on the popularity of the Winchester, in 1882 Colt chambered their Single Action Army for the .44-40. So, only one type of ammunition had to be bought for rifle and revolver. Soon, other makers followed suit with .44-40 revolvers. Also known as the .44 WCF the round was riding high, second only to the .45 Colt in popularity, and might have overtaken that round had not smokeless powder come on the scene.
With the coming of smokeless powder problems surface in revolver use. The new powder generated higher pressure, and the bottleneck cartridge set back against the standing breech of a revolver, binding cylinder rotation. This led to the developement of semi-smokeless powders, but the damage was done. Never again would the .44 Winchester challenge the .45 Colt as a revolver cartridge.
In smokeless form, it was offered in the new Model 1892 Winchester and in a Hi-Speed loading with a jacketed soft point bullet, and for years both the original and Hi-Speed cartridges had to be stocked.
Today its enjoying some following in CAS, but the .45 Colt still reigns supreme.