VOLUME 12---------------JUNE 2003
SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'
WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY
I think I’m in one of those “The Hurriered I go, the Behinder I get” modes. June 4th is up on the calendar and I haven’t gotten the June Newsletter up yet! (You’d think I had a job or somethin’) Oh well, there probably aint nobody readin’ it but me anyway.
Actually I wanted to report on a new rifle that I didn’t get picked up until May 30th and didn’t get to shoot until June 2nd.
The new baby is a Marlin Cowboy Model 1894 in .44 Winchester Center Fire (WCF) caliber with a straight grip stock and a 24 inch octagon barrel. The caliber is probably better known as .44-40, the .44 being the caliber in inches, and the 40 being the volume of black powder in the original loads of the late 1800’s.
This particular rifle is one of a limited edition Marlin put out in 1997 in response to the rising popularity of “Cowboy Action Shooting” as sanctioned by the “Single Action Shooting Society” (SASS) - www.sassnet.com
I have a Ruger Vaquero in this same caliber and the Marlin is a “companion piece” that was just one of those “gotta haves.”
Just as a matter of note, if you are in the market for a .44-40, either rifle or revolver, you won’t find many dealers stocking them. It seems everyone is stocking the .45 Colt to the exclusion of the .44-40. Personally I think the slightly bottlenecked case of the .44-40 slips into a revolver cylinder easier and cycles through a lever action slicker than any straight cartridge case like the .45 colt
The Little Heifer and I recently made a road trip to Missouri and Iowa, (more on this later) stopping at a few gun stores as we traveled. Of six or seven large gun dealers, the only .44-40 rifle I found was at Cabela’s in Sidney, Nebraska. The one I found was a clone of the Winchester Model 1866 with a brass receiver. The workmanship was just so-so, and the price was nearly $800! As far as I know they still have it!
Even my friends at the Sportsman’s Warehouse couldn’t come up with a .44-40, even though I visited their stores in Provo, Utah, Grand Junction, Colorado, Missoula, Montana, and, of course, here in Spokane, Washington. (If you’ve read any of my previous stuff, you know I buy most of my shooting related items from the Sportsman’s Warehouse – www.sportsmanswarehouse.com
For this rifle, I visited one of the Spokane White Elephant stores - www.whiteelephantstores.com , told them what I wanted, and three days later they had dredged this one out of a corner of one of their warehouses!
Here's the Marlin along with my Ruger Vaquero
Now back to our Midwest trip. If you look back at the last 3 months of my newsletters, you will find I have written about load development for, and shooting of our varmit rifles. (A .25-06 and a .243) The master plan was to try our rifles and loads on some Missouri coyotes while we were there.
So rifles, mouth calls, electronic call, ammo, and camo clothing were dutifully packed away in the big red Ford truck and made the trip with us.
Upon arrival, we trekked to the local vendor to pick up non resident licenses. I picked up the hunting regs to check on coyote hunting, and suddenly found the joke was on me! I discovered that Missouri closes the coyote season, while the turkey season is in progress. The turkey season was in full swing, and it didn’t close until the day before we were scheduled to leave! Oh well, better luck next time!
My brother thinks the local coyotes picked up some sort of disease last fall and most of them died off during the winter. Last spring they were thick as fleas, and now he and Mom don’t see any or even hear them howl. Probably just as well we didn’t spend $60 apiece on licenses!
My son Rick had his 40th birthday on May 31st, and as coincidence would have it, wife Christy wanted to give him a Marlin lever action rifle. Early this year the 2003 Marlin catalogue included a Model 1894 in .41 Remington Magnum caliber. This caliber was last catalogued in 1989. Rick began whining for one of these early this year, because he has a Ruger Redhawk in that caliber. Christy asked me to do the leg work in finding one.
Another tough job! Everyone I talked to in the aforementioned gun shops had them on order but hadn’t received any. Then, I happened to be in the Black Sheep Sporting Goods store in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in early May looking for a particular Primos turkey call. Lo and behold, they had a .41 Mag in the rack. Further inquiry established that they had 3 of them. Rick got the last one on May 31st. My friends at Sportsman’s Warehouse and the White Elephant can’t understand how the Black Sheep got 3 and they can’t get any!
Our June 2nd shooting session included both the .41 Mag and my .44-40. We set up my bench at 25 yards and proceeded to burn some powder. We tried one factory load in each rifle, and one reload each.
Scrounging around in my powder supply, I found an unopened canister of Hercules Unique powder. (Hercules was bought out by Alliant Powder Co several years ago, so this was quite old, but showed no signs of deterioration) I loaded some .41 Mags in new Winchester cases, with CCI 300 primers, Sierra 210 gr JHC bullets, and the minimum Unique powder charge shown in the 5th Edition of the Sierra Manual. These loads clocked about 1300 fps from the rifle and 1200 fps from the 6 ½ inch Redhawk.
Rick, set up and ready to go
To make a long story short, these loads didn’t shoot worth a cuss in either the rifle or revolver! The velocities were consistent, with standard deviation in my acceptable range, but they would hardly stay on the paper! (In fact, two of the shots splintered the top crosspiece on my new target stand) More work to do here.
We also tried some Remington factory .41 Mag loads with 170 grain JHP bullets in the rifle. They were fast, (a little over 2000 fps) but didn’t shoot very well either.
The performance of the .44-40 was a little better. My handloads that run about 800 fps from the 5 ½ inch Ruger Vaquero, clocked at 1050 fps from the 24 inch barrel on the Marlin. After a little getting accustomed to the trigger, (which needs some work), lowering the rear sight, and drifting the rear sight a smidgen to the left, things settled in pretty well for the first time out. Here’s the last 5 shot group I shot with the handloads.
I had a few Remington factory loads with a 200 grain JHP bullet that I tried next. These clocked at 1180 fps. The rifle liked this load a little better as you can see here.
Still need to play with the cowboy action handload to see if I can get it tightened up a little.
Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!