Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday Smith #26: Model 544, 1986.

In 1873 Winchester introduced a new cartridge for their brand spanking new M1873 lever-action rifle. The new chambering was known by them as the .44 WCF (Winchester Center Fire,) but quickly became known as the ".44-40", as it utilized a .44 caliber bullet propelled by 40 grains of black powder. The factory loading lobbed a 200gr bullet out of a carbine barrel at roughly 1800 feet per second and became a wildly popular general purpose cartridge.

In seemingly no time, Colt began offering the round as a factory chambering in the Peacemaker, and Smith & Wesson followed suit in their No. 3 top-break revolvers. This was enthusiastically received by people who wanted a carbine and pistol chambered for the same round. As the century turned and Smith debuted their new large-frame Hand Ejector wheelguns, the .44-40 continued to be offered as a standard cartridge. As newer cartridges like the .44 Special came to the forefront, interest in the old .44-40 began to wane; when production was discontinued during World War Two to focus on revolvers for the military, that seemed to be the end of the line for the venerable .44 WCF in Smith wheelguns. After the war the chambering did not remain in the catalog.

In 1986, Texas celebrated the Sesquicentennial of its independence from Mexico, commemorating the year with a wagon train that wound through the state. Smith & Wesson commemorated the event with a limited edition revolver; a blued steel 5" N-frame, the Model 544 "Texas Wagon Train Commemorative" chambered for the old .44-40 cartridge. According to Smith's records, 4782 of these revolvers were shipped, all with special serial numbers with the "TWT" prefix. They came with a fitted basswood box sporting the Texas Wagon Train logo on the lid, and smooth basswood target stocks. They were the first S&W revolvers chambered for the .44-40 round to ship since 1940, and their collectible status has earned them a place on the "Curio & Relic" list from the BATFE.

The above revolver was purchased for some $275 back in 2003. It came with the original basswood box and the original stocks, which are not shown in the above photo. Given the amount of wear and the minor freckling on the gun, it is probably worth only about $350-375 in today's environment. Given that I've used it to bust rocks at 100 yards down on the Rio Grande in Big Bend country, to me it is priceless.


Anonymous said...

Awesome, its making me want to sell my 629 and buy an older blued S&W.
and ain't nothing wrong with a little minor freckling, adds character.

Matt G said...

Nice to see you claim one as priceless to you. Do you still have that sweet manlicher Ruger .243, as well? Stalking around hunting with a gun brands it as a keeper for me.

That's an all around odd gun. Odd prefix to the number. Odd decision to make it in a caliber born 37 years after Houston kicked Santa Anna's arse on the Buffalo Bayou. (Now, if Colt had marketed an original .36, such as they patented that year... now that would have been summpin'.)

It's an interesting pistol, fit to bust rocks with, take hunting, or keep as a kick-ass nightstand companion. Frankly, I'd have zero problem carrying one on duty.

Anonymous said...

I have that very gun. It is a blast to shoot. Dad bought it at the sesquicentennial event down at the place where the fat stock show is helt every year. Dad and I relaod, and have enjoyed working up a good load for that pistol.

Tam said...


Your dad said "Why are you shooting it double action?"

I said "Hey, I'm mostly hitting the rock pile, okay?"

Tam said...

PS: Sadly, the .243 Ruger made the go-aways. I'll be buying its twin at some point in the next year or two, only this time it will be in the proper 7x57mm. :)

JPG said...

HA! I wrote my response to this post off-line, and then posted it on your VFTP blog.

Anyway - - I remember that strange sixgun, Tams. Seems I fired two or three cylindersful from it. 'Spensive ca'tridges, compared to the .38s and 9mms.

I sold off my .44 WCF '73 carbine a while back, so I have nearly two boxes of ammo for you, first time one of our friends is headed your way.


Matt G said...

Screw dat, Dad-- we'll all load up and shoot your ammo out of her resolver at Art's rock pile again.

And you're right, Tam-- 7X57 *is* the proper caliber for it. But that little .243 was an elegant critter, that you'd stomped around rural Jawja with. Sniffle.

Joseph said...

1,800fps? I'm thinking maybe 800 out of a pistol and 1,200 out of a rifle.

Tam said...

Current loadings seem to be seriously watered down from the originals.

800fps out of a handgun is indeed what is claimed for the Georgia Arms fodder mine eats.

John B said...

I just saw adverted in the Sportsman's Warehouse, A "Smith and Wesson M&P model 15 .223 rifle. Any chance that may make your Sunday Smith sometime?

john b

Tam said...


The "Sunday Smith" feature is a chronological meander through my S&W collection, which only contains (and only ever will contain) revolvers.

Well, someday I might own a Model 52 or a Model 41...

Papa Frank said...

Have you tried the new Ruger SR9? What's your opinion?

Anonymous said...

What about a Model 39 the second full bore pistol i ever owned my first was an 7.63 C96 Mauser.