In the 1800s, gun manufacturing was a boom. Many companies with war contract inventory to liquidate sold to the commercial market saturated with Western-bound opportunists suffering from wanderlust. Innovators like Henry, Spencer, Winchester, Browning, Sharps and Wesson, to name a few, were rolling out new and revolutionary designs each year. The year 1873 alone saw the dawn of the famous Colt Peacemaker in .45 Colt, the Winchester Model 1873 in .44-40 and the .45-70 Government cartridge became available in various rifles.
The Colt handgun was already a household item on the frontier with its Patterson and Walker models having been made famous in the hands of the Texas Rangers; the 1851 Colt Navy was the preferred choice for Wild Bill Hickok, and along with the 1860 Army saw extensive use in the war between the states. The Peacemaker was an instant success.
Winchester’s levergun was the ultimate evolution of B. Tyler Henry’s 1860 repeater. Winchester secured rights to the design and in 1866 released the “yellow boy,” which shared Henry’s brass frame and long tube magazine as well as the rimfire .44 Flat cartridge. A loading gate and wooden forend were both welcome changes over the 1860’s design. In 1873, the “gun that won the West” debuted with a steel frame and the more powerful .44-40 centerfire cartridge. The rifle and its round were also instant hits, combining the firepower of the fast cycling lever action with a reloadable, more powerful cartridge.
The .44-40 was so popular that nearly immediately Colt’s engineers were set to modifying their Peacemaker to house the Winchester cartridge. The idea of being able to have a handgun and rifle in the same chambering was very sensible. Outposts, forts and mercantiles were quite a bit fewer and farther between back then so the versatility of being able to stock up on one caliber of ammo to then use as needed precluded a lot of potential problems. One such, which is unbelievably common even today, was chambering the wrong cartridge into the wrong gun. Especially if ammo was stored in a cartridge belt, the shooter would often retrieve the cartridges and load them by feel rather than taking the time to check the headstamp. On many occasions .44s went into .45s and vice versa. At worst, your gun could explode. At minimum, it was out of action, possibly leaving you hungry, definitely leaving you helpless.
Although there are a few rifle/pistol cartridge combos available today, the premise has largely been lost. Would it not be useful to have a 100-yard deer rifle and a self-defense handgun both using the same round? I, for one, would love to have a .357 or 10mm rifle and handgun combo.
Do you have a rifle and handgun in the same chambering? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!