Q: I own an early Italian copy of the Winchester Model 1873 in .44-40which is giving large groups with Lyman’s bullet No. 42798, a 205gn flat nose. From the mold the bullets dropped at .432inch when poured of my 1:20 tin-to-lead alloy and I sized them to .430 as most manuals list .430 inch diameter as the nominal groove diameter for .44-40s. It has been recommended that I should slug the barrel before reloading. Can you tell me how to go about that?
A: Individual tolerances vary greatly in rifles chambered for the .44-40 Winchester and extreme care should be used in working up maximum loads. Due to variations in groove diameter, it is recommended that you slug your
barrel before you start reloading.
This goes double for old Model 1873s and Italian replicas. To drive a lead slug through the barrel, first start it at the muzzle with a plastic faced hammer. have used a RCBS inertia bullet puller for this. Once the bullet is flush with the muzzle, use a small brass punch to tap it a few inches farther in. Then push the bullet all the way through with a close fitting hardwood dowel or a plastic-coated cleaning rod. Whatever you use should be tapped gently and not hammered violently. A soft lead bullet is easy to tap through the barrel, and if you pay close attention you can spot any tight or loose spots in the bore. After the bullet drops out of the chamber, all you have to do is measure it at its widest point to find the groove diameter of your barrel.