Skip to comments..45-70 Big Power At Close Range
Posted on 10/29/2003 2:00:09 PM PST by 45Auto
High in the Oregon Cascades, I squinted into a wet, blowing snowfall for the antlers of a bull. I could see elk moving through a couple of gaps in the young fir trees about 60 yards away, when I caught sight of a bull. I flipped the cover off my scope lens and waited for the bull to show in the next opening.
As the bull reappeared, I could see antlers distinctly through the brush. I shouldered the rifle and tried to look throught my scope, but the lens was covered with wet snow. I swept it off quickly with a wet, gloved thumb. When I looked up, the bull had passed the opening and was out of sight.
That was not the first time that happened to me. I've lost game several times because a scope was rendered useless by either rain or wet snow. Thinking back about my elk hunting during the last few years in this wet, thick-wooded region, nearly all shots have been less than 100 yards. All this got me thinking about changing my rifle choice.
One hunter I know bought a Marlin .45-70 for elk and fitted it with a receiver peep sight. He was so successful with the cartridge and receiver sight that several of his friends bought the same combination. Local hunters also reported one-shot kills with the 350-grain Hornady roundnose and 400-grain Speer flatnose bullets in handloads. The performance of these bullets on elk-sized game was reported to be awesome.
When you think about it, it makes alot of sense. The rifle/cartridge/sight combination seem like a good match, particularly for elk under these conditions. Big heavy bullets have the mass to deal a powerful blow to an elk even after passing through a fair amount of heavy ferns and light brush. And what better cartridge is there for big bullets than the .45-70?
Iron sights are plenty good for the effective range of the cartridge and the relatively short shooting distances encountered in dense brush and timber. So I decided to give the old .45-70 and a new Marlin Model 1895 chambered for it a chance. The Marlin Model 1895SS is an easy-carrying fast-cycling lever gun. I knew from past experience with lots of Marlins in other calibers that these rifles are plenty accurate.
While everything so far sounds good, there are clinkers in this peep sight and .45-70 plan. First, while a good receiver peep sight is fast to use, there is no denying the fact that a scope gathers light and is a better performer under low-light conditions. An optical sight works earlier and later in the day.
Second, many middle-aged shooters have a problem with iron sights due to far-sightedness.
Third, the .45-70 is loaded mild at the factory, and rightly so, in deference to the old and weak actions are chambered for this round, so if you want high performance from this cartridge, it's a handloading proposition.
SAAMI specs on the .45-70 call for 28,000 either in pounds per square inch (psi) or copper units of pressure (cup). On the other hand, Marlin's lever actions are known to be strong rifles. Marlin's own .444 round, for example, carries a pressure spec of 42,000 psi, same as the .30-30 Winchester. The newer .356 and .375 Winchester cartridges, rounds the Marlins have been chambered for in the past, have maximum pressure standards of 52,000 cup and psi.
SAAMI/ANSI specifications are relatively mild for the .45-70 cartridge in general, handloading manuals have separated .45-70 data into catagories that match the various rifle action strengths. Nearly every major loading manual has plenty of good data developing pressures specifically for the strong Marlin rifles.
I shot several varieties of factory ammo and its performance could be safely exceeded with good handloads in every instance with the Marlin rifle. So, while SAAMI standards limit factory load performance, this is not a problem for a handloader with a strong Marlin and reliable shooting data.
Fourth, the .45-70 shoots large diameter, blunt bullets at relatively low velocity. While these are killers at close range and great for busting through brush, they make for a lot of drop at any distance. The blunt bullets with poor ballistic coefficients (B.C.) not only drop a lot over short distances, energy is also rapidly dissipated for the same reason - blunt bullets. I was interestd to see the downrange drop and energy figures after I determined the velocity to be had from the loads in my rifle.
Putting the .45-70 To The Test
I figured that iron sights were plenty good for 200 yards, and I like to hit an elk with 1500 foot-pounds (ft-lbs) of energy. While shots are generally close, I want to be able to take an elk out at 200 yards in case the opportunity presents itself. Would the .45-70 shoot flat enough and have enough energy to do it?
Just for test purposes, I mounted a Tasco 1.75-5X scope on the new Marlin. I figured a more honest load comparison could be had with the greater sighting precision of a scope. The scope could be taken off, and the iron sights mounted, after I completed the accuracy testing and settled on a hunting load.
Four factory loads were fired from Federal, Remington, and Winchester. Five bullets and eight powders were tried in handloads. I experimented with several propellants including VV N130 and N133, AA 2495, 2015, and 2520; Varget; H322; and RL 7. As it turned out, my chosen hunting load was 50.0 grains of RL 7 with bullets weighing 300 to 405 grains, which are plenty heavy for elk.
With the components selected, loading and shooting soon revealed the performance of the handloads with my lots of components in my rifle. The highest velocity loading fired during the test series was 2173 fps from a 300-grain Hornady hollowpoint ahead of 61.0 grains of W N133. The case was a Winchester, and the primer was a Remington 9 1/2. The same 300-grain Hornady hollowpoint loading produced the greatest energy at 3145 ft-lbs.
(Excerpt) Read more at membres.lycos.fr ...
The passage of time sucks.
Ruger No. 1 falling block.
It can also fire 410 gauge shotgun shells. If you cut the shell into at the wadding, it fires like a slug. Ah, those were the days.
It's been many years for me, but I think it might be because it's faster to precisely put the cross-hairs of a low-power scope on a target than to line-up iron sights.
With some scopes there might also be an advantage in low light.
Well you can shoot my Derringer chambered in 45-70 then. Doesn't hurt your shoulder a bit.
Tears your thumb off though.
5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern!
It ain't quite as bad as what you'ld think, most of the powder burns outside of the barrel. Quite spectacular at night.
I beg to differ. I have a Marlin 1895SS myself, and out of the box it packs a helluva wallop. My first time on the range with it I was using some locally-produced loads that were designed for use in T/C Contender pistols chambered for 45-70, IOW a relatively weak load for the Marlin rifle. The first shot wasn't so bad, but by the time I fired the eleventh or twelfth round, I had to quit - my shoulder was screaming for mercy. It was quite sore for a couple of days afterward.
The biggest problem with the rifle is that it comes from the factory with a hard plastic buttplate which just strokes your shoulder a good one every time you shoot. It got to where I couldn't use the rifle - like your Namibia guide I was flinching and scrunching up every time I'd pull the trigger, getting ready to take the pain. At that point, I wimped out and got a slip-on rubber recoil pad for it, and that has made all the difference in the world. I can shoot it all day now and all I get is that pleasant little ache you have when you've spent a good day at the range.
I remember a writer in a gun magazine years ago doing a report on a lightweight lever-action in 45-70. He joked that the max load depended on how much pain you could stand. I saw a 45-70 revolver at a gun show once. It was a serious boat anchor, had to weigh at least 5 lbs. I can't believe a company (I think American Derringer) actually made a two-barrel Derringer, caliber 45-70. I saw it in the Shotgun News years ago. No thanks, I'm not touching that thing off.
I've never fired a 45-70 in a lightweight lever action before, but I know what .458 Win Mag and .416 Rigby feel like. In each case, I took one shot, handed the rifle back to the owner, and wiped the tears from my eyes. You have to have meat on your shoulder to shoot those dang things. I also knew a doctor who touched off a .458, scoped, without a good firm grip. He stitched up his hanging eye brow in the rear view mirror of his car.
Itouched only off only one.......had to get a new pair of glasses and my shoulder hurt for a week!
Are you sure it is a Winchester '94?
The engineering of that rifle was not designed to handle a .45 Colt... the carriage and lifter would have to be designed and the lever throw modified. I know of the Turnbull Restoration sets in .45 Colt (very rare, 5 I think, and exceedingly expensive) and the .45 Colt Legacy Winchester '94s. Is your's one of those??
A Winchester '92 (basically a miniaturized 1886 Browning design) possibly could be rechambered for the .45 Colt from the .44-40 Winchester it was designed to handle. The '92 was made in .44-40, .38-40, .32-20, .25-20 and some very rare .218 Bees.< In the '40's and '50'2 some were converted (unsafely) to .357 Magnum.
There are some REPLICA 1892s that were manufactured in .45 Colt in Japan in a limited run of 500 in 2002.
Ouch - nothing like a case of "scope eye" to ruin a day at the range. My old Horanady reloading manual has data for the .460 Weatherby cartridge. They mentioned that the only way they could shoot the test rifle enough to develop the load data was to drape a bag full of lead shot over the shooter's shoulder to absorb the worst of the impact. Even then, they said the recoil was tremendous.
I did a pretty good number on my wrist with a Winchester 12 gauge shotgun with a pistol grip I had a few years ago. I was hip shooting it, using 3-inch 00 buckshot shells. The pistol grip was hard plastic, and it was a typical Florida afternoon in late July, so my hands were very sweaty. That damned gun just about jumped out of my hands, and it took a decent-sized hunk of skin out of the base of my thumb, as well as really popping my wrist backward. I had to wear an ace bandage on it for a couple of days
Rossi makes and EXCELLENT Winchester 92 copy in 45 Colt that you can load for all get out. They also chamber it in 454 casull .... and mine runs like a champ.
This is the main reason I prefer a nice semi-automatic rifle over a bolt action about any day. I have a .308 semi-auto and it is fun to shoot (though I know a .416 magnum round is no comparison to a 7.62 N.A.T.O. round).
Even the 2 3/4" slug loads are too much for me off the bench. I had to use a sand bag between my shoulder and the butt when sighting in off the bench. Made me happy though, that my cheap smooth bore with Remington rifled slugs, was out-shooting my brother and his friend with their fancy rifled bores and sabot slugs. Out to about 65 yards, anyways, trusty old Mossberg can keep it in the black.
I think the most I could handle, if I ever went on an Alaskan dream hunt for Grizzly, would be the BAR in .338. I'd get it Mag-na-Ported, then it would be sweet. Of course, I'd want an experienced guide backing me up with something nasty and reliable, like the .458 or .416 in a Mauser-style bolt rifle, in case the semi-auto decided to malfunction. I guess a lot of us must fantasize about a hunt like that, or going to Africa for the Big 5. Oh well.......maybe some day, before the old bones get too old...
When I was working in a gun shop in Sacramento, a gunsmith that worked there built a .458 WinMag rifle that weighed only 4.5 pounds! He had a standing offer that if you paid him $50 and could shoot the gun three times in an hour, you could have it. Last I heard he still had it.
He let me fire it once for free... and I put a heck of a lot of padding on my shoulder before the attempt... and I was sore for over a month and had a bruise you would not believe.
HE could fire it that many times... but then he thought nothing of taking an unstocked 10 Ga. Magnum and test firing it holding on to the tang...
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