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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just purchased a Marlin 1889 in 44-40. The serial number shows that it was made in 1893 (oldguns.net). The shop that I purchased it from puts it in "very good" condition, with no cracks or chips. They say it has been well taken care of. It is a 24" octagonal barrel, which was probably the most common. All parts appear to be original. I would like to just use it for hunting, after being sighted in, and therefore I'm steering away from "Cowboy Action" cartridges because I know they're probably loaded way down to facilitate fast shooting. I have a model 1982 Marlin 1894 in .357, and a 1976 1895, and a pre-'64 Win. 30-30, so I'm somewhat familiar with lever guns, but have never had to break one down. First off, since this is my first really old firearm, what should I know/learn about it? I came of age in the 60's when chrome moly steel was popular and glass bedding started, and wonder about the difference in metallurgy back in 1893. Did they "temper" steel back then? Should I only use lead, or are jacketed bullets o.k.? Was there any smokeless ammo available when it was made or was it designed for black powder? I don't even know when jacketed bullets made their first appearance! I've always wanted a real original old saddle piece, but now that I've got one, I realize that I don't know anything about it. Please clue me in to what I've got on my hands here. It will arrive next week, and I want to have some cartridges ready!!! I will post pix as soon as it arrives. I know I went over the limit on questions here, but I'm just so excited! THANK YOU
 

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The model 1889 rifles were all Black Powder. The barrels are not as strong as the Special Smokeless Steel barrels made for smokeless powder after 1895. Black powder loads are rather sedate. I would only shoot lead bullets in that softer steal barrel. Many of us here shoot (light) smokeless loads from them at Black Powder velocities! Now the problem. Slug the bore. Many vintage Marlins groove size run all over the place. This wasn't a problem back in the day using BP as the soft (pure) lead bullets (5 BHN) bumped up to groove size. Smokeless may bump up lead some, but not enough for most commercial bullets which are 9 BHN at the least up to 22 BHN. The 44-40 bullet is .427- .429. These bores groove size measure up to .432 maybe more...see the problem! My 1894 in 44-40 measure .4315 and I use .432 bullets. Lucky they will chamber in my rifle. With smokeless you want a bullet that measures at least groove size preferably 1 or 2 thousands larger, which may or may not chamber in your rifle. It's a challenge, but not too bad if you are a reloader. Not a reloader? You could buy black powder loads for the 44-40, but ammo for these old pistol cartridges are very expensive!


Some good reads!


http://www.marlinowners.com/forum/3...20-black-powder-oversized-bores-test-2-a.html

http://www.marlinowners.com/forum/3...ndard-calibers/92011-my-1894-44-40-c1895.html

Not 44-40 but same idea
http://www.marlinowners.com/forum/marlin-collectors/145457-1894-1st-yr-prod-38wcf.html

http://www.marlinowners.com/forum/marlin-collectors/91027-marlin-1894-44-40-a.html
 

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I wouldn't load a thing until you get the rifle.

Scrub the heck out of the bore.

Slug the bore for groove diameter.

Once you have done this there are many here who have gone through this and are more than willing to help!

DON'T FORGET THE PICTURES!:biggrin:
 

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Far as I know, with perhaps some rare exceptions that I have not heard of, any factory 44 40 will be loaded to safe pressures for the older guns, even if they are not black powder. The ammo companies know the ambulance chasers are never far away and they load them light for the reason of older weapons.

The cowboy loads are geared for less target damage issues as much as anything.

The old ones are fun to shoot, but if a guy wants to hot load a 44 40, its probably a better bet finding a recent made weapon, or find one of the later 1892 Wins or even a later production 94 Marlin with nickel steel.

I dont have an 1889, but have been keeping my eyes open. A guy should have one right? :)
 

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Far as I know, with perhaps some rare exceptions that I have not heard of, any factory 44 40 will be loaded to safe pressures for the older guns, even if they are not black powder. The ammo companies know the ambulance chasers are never far away and they load them light for the reason of older weapons.

The cowboy loads are geared for less target damage issues as much as anything.

The old ones are fun to shoot, but if a guy wants to hot load a 44 40, its probably a better bet finding a recent made weapon, or find one of the later 1892 Wins or even a later production 94 Marlin with nickel steel.

I dont have an 1889, but have been keeping my eyes open. A guy should have one right? :)

Very good post. The only change I would make is to change "probably" to 'definitely". The O P is obviously new to old guns and smart enough to ask the opinion of others familiar with using them. If I may be so bold to make an analogy without appearing overbearing or inconsiderate. Hot Roding old vehicles is "cool" and can still be safe with good driving, however, a hot rodded old gun, once loaded and the trigger pulled, is in total control of what happens...you are at the mercy of the results of the explosive damage it may cause. You have no control on the damage...from none up to catastrophic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks so much to all of you for your help. I live way out in the country and don't have a gunsmith nearby that I would trust to leave a good rifle overnight, so I think I'll put aside the slugging of the barrel until I see how it groups. Now I know to only use lead - no jackets, and stock factory ammo should be o.k. I can just hope for the best when it comes to grouping, key-holing and such. The threads above yielded 1895 as the introduction of smokeless powder, does anyone know when the first jacketed bullet appeared? Thanks again. Looking forward to posting some pics!
 

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Tom T.,
Jacketed bullets were first patented in 1886. "Metal Patched" was the term used back then. I do the large portion of my .44-40 shooting with lead bullets but, personally I do not feel it is an issue to shoot jacketed bullets in the older rifles. After all, the steel is much harder than jacketed bullet.

When I first got my original Winchester '73 (1882) a number of years ago, I shot a lot of jacketed bullets out of it (500+) and in slugging it before and after, I could not detect any change at all.:biggrin:

Here's an early UMC .44-40 box with jacketed bulleted ammo contained therein.


The '89 & '94 Marlins and the '92 Winchester were reportedly ok to use the .44-40 HV (High Velocity) cartridges that developed almost 1,600 f.p.s. (Standard .44-40 1,300 f.p.s. at that time.)

w30wcf
 

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We all began some place, and thats easy to forget at times. Personally after some years of observation, I too believe the "warning" about jacketed bullets in the older lever guns is a bit over done as well as 30WCF.

If a guy shot thousands and thousand, maybe.

Of course a few handguns were taken apart by using the rifle velocity loads of the early smokeless days, but even then, I have not really seen any evidence except in the lighter frame guns in the 32 20 rounds.

if someone claimed a guy blew up a Colt SAA, or maybe a Triple Lock Smith using the rifle load 44 40, I would have to say, "show me".

And then I would be skeptical.
 

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Here's an early .44-40 box of smokeless / jacketed soft point ammunition with the Marlin & WInchester call out...



w30wcf
 
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As Lever Addict indicated, the 1889 was essentially a b.p. rifle since it was first produced when the only available cartridges were loaded b.p.
Smokeless ammunition was still 6 years away.

According to Brophy's book on Marlin, standard smokeless (1,300 f.p.s. / 13,000 psi) and high velocity (1,600 f.p.s. / 22,000 psi) ammunition was safe for barrels that were not marked "Special Smokeless Steel".

Current Lyman loading data indicates that the 1889 falls in group 2 rifles along with the 1892 Winchester and 1894 Marlin.

Group 1 rifles (weaker) include the 1873 Winchester, 1888 Marlin, Colt Lightning and a couple of others.

w30wcf
 

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I try to shoot nothing but cast lead bullets from my old guns, with softer steel barrels. But when I used my 1889 in .38-40 for hunting, I loaded up a box of 50 with jacketed bullets to sight it in, and hunt with. I wanted to push the gun slightly, but not really hot loads, so I loaded them around 1500 fps. I also wanted a load that would hold together well on mule deer, and this load proved to work very well. I've rarely seen a mule deer go down as quickly as the one taken with my .38-40 at around 80-90 yds.
 

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We all began some place, and thats easy to forget at times. Personally after some years of observation, I too believe the "warning" about jacketed bullets in the older lever guns is a bit over done as well as 30WCF.

If a guy shot thousands and thousand, maybe.

Of course a few handguns were taken apart by using the rifle velocity loads of the early smokeless days, but even then, I have not really seen any evidence except in the lighter frame guns in the 32 20 rounds.

if someone claimed a guy blew up a Colt SAA, or maybe a Triple Lock Smith using the rifle load 44 40, I would have to say, "show me".

And then I would be skeptical.
Not bark'in up your tree, that comment just brought back a childhood memory for me.

Back in the early 60's, the only place we could buy reloading supplies in Alberta was at a shop owned by a fellow named Len Thompson. The same Len Thompson that sold painted 5 of diamond fishing lures all over North America. on his counter he had a sign that said "my safety manual" with an arrow pointing up. On two walls above the sign were a bunch of very badly damaged guns. One wall was covered with mostly old mill surp rifles (lee enfields, mausers, p 14-17 and such) and above them a sign saying " bore obstructions & pistol powder". The other wall was hanging full of a few pistols but mostly old rolling blocks, falling block & lever guns, above them the sign read " Smokeless powder".

Very fond memories of sitting in that shop listening to the men visit and talk guns while Len sat at his bench (with his fat black lab at his feet) painting fishing lures that no doubt some of you or your father have used.
 

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Every one presumes the old time guys were more gun savvy than the current generations of computer kids. I am not so certain.:biggrin: The thing with damaged guns, is that the true facts are rarely presented.

A writer name of Sherman Bell, did a multi issue investigation a few years back in Double Gun Journal, over the deal about damascus barrel shotguns and their alleged dangers. He took around 20 classic mostly american made damas shotguns, some of them with bailing wire, gaps in the breech face, loose fore ends, etc, and shot actual factory "blue" loads made by Remington.

He checked and noted any gaps, headspace, etc before firing them and after. As memory serves, out of all the guns, none of them actually blew up as every one suspected, and only one or two even had increased headspace. The magazine got letters for some time, some saying he was a genius, the others that he was one step above a moron in I Q.

I am not certain what I think. The onery side of me cheers. He proved of course that legend is often stranger than fact. Of course damascus is not all equal, and its a bit like playing russian roulette.

Being from MO, I believe what I see, sometimes.:biggrin: The net is great for one thing, and that is spreading total BS about guns, the whole world believes what ever, over night. And the facts are often 180 from what was presented.:vollkommenauf:
 
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Not bark'in up your tree, that comment just brought back a childhood memory for me.

Back in the early 60's, the only place we could buy reloading supplies in Alberta was at a shop owned by a fellow named Len Thompson. The same Len Thompson that sold painted 5 of diamond fishing lures all over North America. on his counter he had a sign that said "my safety manual" with an arrow pointing up. On two walls above the sign were a bunch of very badly damaged guns. One wall was covered with mostly old mill surp rifles (lee enfields, mausers, p 14-17 and such) and above them a sign saying " bore obstructions & pistol powder". The other wall was hanging full of a few pistols but mostly old rolling blocks, falling block & lever guns, above them the sign read " Smokeless powder".

Very fond memories of sitting in that shop listening to the men visit and talk guns while Len sat at his bench (with his fat black lab at his feet) painting fishing lures that no doubt some of you or your father have used.
Sounds like a really neat place. I would have suggested to the owner that the wording be corrected to.....
"incorrect loading of smokeless powder (too much or the wrong type used)"

w30wcf
 
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Every one presumes the old time guys were more gun savvy than the current generations of computer kids. I am not so certain.:biggrin: The thing with damaged guns, is that the true facts are rarely presented.

A writer name of Sherman Bell, did a multi issue investigation a few years back in Double Gun Journal, over the deal about damascus barrel shotguns and their alleged dangers. He took around 20 classic mostly american made damas shotguns, some of them with bailing wire, gaps in the breech face, loose fore ends, etc, and shot actual factory "blue" loads made by Remington.

He checked and noted any gaps, headspace, etc before firing them and after. As memory serves, out of all the guns, none of them actually blew up as every one suspected, and only one or two even had increased headspace. The magazine got letters for some time, some saying he was a genius, the others that he was one step above a moron in I Q.

I am not certain what I think. The onery side of me cheers. He proved of course that legend is often stranger than fact. Of course damascus is not all equal, and its a bit like playing russian roulette.

Being from MO, I believe what I see, sometimes.:biggrin: The net is great for one thing, and that is spreading total BS about guns, the whole world believes what ever, over night. And the facts are often 180 from what was presented.:vollkommenauf:

I guess I did see them, and I'll be the first to admit that I'm more paranoid than most because of it (more or less realized this yesterday after some thought on my post). And was constantly reminded about them every chance the old man got to do that. I would get a manual out to try and figure out how to shave 1 ten millionth of a second off the flight time/lifespan of my .284 Win bullets and he would comment " well I need to go visit Len tomorrow, wonder if he has anything new on the wall".:biggrin:

I had to chuckle as well when you brought up "Damascus". I do a bit of R/O timer operating at cowboy matches, whenever a shooter comes to the line with a Damascus barrel and using smokeless rounds I stand so far back the timer has trouble picking up the round...again :biggrin:. Russian Roulette isn't a favorite pastime of mine.

I guess another reason I'm a little anal over hot rodding old guns (and old designs) is that I have a little shop that I repair guns for other cowboy shooters and friends. I sometimes see results of over-exuberance on guns. A good "fer instance"...a friend brought me a Uberti Henry, In his words " firing pin broke, nothing hits the primer, no mark at all". Took me about 2 minutes to show him the firing pin was still intact and working as it should... the problem was the frame (brass) had stretched so much from his "44-40 deer hunting loads" that the bolt was so far back that the pin wasn't even reaching the primer other than to put a very faint dimple in it if you looked real close. The headspace measured .049" (I have pictures).
 

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Sounds like a really neat place. I would have suggested to the owner that the wording be corrected to.....
"incorrect loading of smokeless powder (too much or the wrong type used)"

w30wcf
you are right on both accounts... the place would have made an excellent Norman Rockwell subject.
 

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Sounds like a really neat place. I would have suggested to the owner that the wording be corrected to.....
"incorrect loading of smokeless powder (too much or the wrong type used)"

w30wcf
Right on both counts. The place would have made an excellent Norman Rockwell painting.
 

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Actually Fingers, if we think about it, the brass framed rifle, with the .049 gap, is a bit of empirical evidence of over kill about headspace, and its 'dangers" so oft read about on the net. Not that it cant be dangerous, but its not the planet killer some many net shooters are afraid of.

As 30 WCF points, out, its more often the wrong powder, or the wrong round being fired and a couple of other things that were totally avoidable. I have seen more shotguns "blown up" from base wad failures, than powder mixups a base wad failure is much like a base failure in a 40 SW where the rim blows out at the feed ramp. A buddy did the same on his 1911 years back, the main cause was that he was stoned when he was loading, and doubled the charge of Herco if memory serves. It cracked the grips, and blew all the rounds down around his feet. Where it can get exciting, is if the round in the magazine lets loose, which is rare. But typically not much happens, except some clean skivvies may be needed.

There has been way too much testing over the years, guns rarely blow up as oft claimed, or seen in the bugs bunny cartoons, but those are what occasionaly has new shooters afraid to go into the water.

And thats a shame, reloading is a very very safe hobby, as long as one has a clear mind, and can walk and chew gum at the same time.
 

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Reloading requires some attention to detail. It also requires the person reloading to not be a daredevil, and know the parameters of everything he's working with. It's not just a case of opening up a manual and pointing at a load, or trying to push the gun or the cartridge as far as it will go. Those of us that have been reloading for decades tend to take it for granted that it's simple and easy. But I still vividly recall when I first ventured into reloading, and how scary it was to start with zero experience, and nobody to hold my hand. I was sure every move I made might be a mistake, or I'd blow myself up! I even cringed at the thought of stuffing primers into cases, as I didn't know how heavy handed I should be, or when to know it was fully seated. Just a ton of things I don't even think about today, that scared me 35 years ago!
I've never been one to reload with the idea of how fast can I push this cartridge or gun. Even with modern guns I've always built my loads with the thought in mind that I'd work up to a load that was the most accurate, and stop there. In hunting loads I'm looking for good performance also in bullet expansion, and penetration. So in hunting loads I do try to get a little more out of the load, but still stop if I see groups opening up. I've never seen flattened primers, or head separation, stuck cases, etc. in my loads, as I just never got to those kinds of pressures.
With old guns my reloading has been strictly for accuracy, and as mild as I can make them. I want to be able to shoot all day without my shoulder getting sore, but also want to put as little wear on the guns as possible. I know the guns have had hotter loads most likely, and that they'll handle them, but I have nothing to prove in pushing them hard, and want to ensure the next owner can enjoy them as much as I have.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
It came yesterday, and I am very pleased. I was prepared for it to be rougher than it is. Now I feel a great deal of pressure to keep it nice, as it was obviously someones beloved family heirloom. Here are some pics. Please tell me whatever comes to your mind as you look.....Thanks, Tom 01.png 02.png 03.png 04.png 05.png
 
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