Saturday, July 14, 2012

Range Time

So I went back out to the range today to test out some new .45-70 loads for my Model 1884 Trapdoor Springfield. I made these loads using 405grain cast lead bullets over IMR 4198 and new Starline brass. They're smokeless, as opposed to the black powder cartridges that this old rifle was designed around, but they're downloaded specifically for Trapdoors since the mechanism in these old rifles was never intended to use smokeless propellent.
Sitting down at the 100-yard bench, I took my place between a few AR-15 shooters, set up my spotting scope and rest, then I loaded my rifle with one of my new loads from the first test batch, this one using 28 grains of 4198.


That got the attention of the poodle-shooter brigade. The .45/70, even with these relatively mild smokeless loads still sounds off with some authority. I looked downrange with the scope: About a foot high at 100 yards. I fired a few more to be sure, and every one that was aimed at the chest of my 19X32in. IDPA target struck the head.

OK, knowing that, I began sighting for the target's imaginary belt buckle (as defined by the bottom of the target) and the rest of my loads hit dead center or just off to the left of it. To say that I was happy with the accuracy of this 125 year old rifle was an understatement. In fact, I almost didn't bother trying the five rounds that I'd made up using 30 grains of IMR 4198, but what the heck? I loaded and fired them using the same point of aim (after a slight windage adjustment to bring the group back from the left side of the target) and got a stunning five-shot group bottom center of the -0 center circle.

The target as a whole, with 18 rounds fired. The five in the head were my sighters.

The last five, all from the 30-grain test batch. This was fired at 100 yards using a front shooting rest only.

I heart this rifle.

This old Indian-fighter still has what it takes a century and a quarter later. The US Army never should have phased it out.

Next experiment: re-creating black-powder loads for it so I can get the long-range performance that this cartridge is capable of...and the big smoke clouds.


  1. NICE!!! Bet that was a bit of fun!!!

  2. Beautiful! Great 100 yd groups. I've always admired the ingenuity of the Allin rifle.

    When will we see the Billy Dixon range report? (Sure, he was using a Sharps, but you get the idea...)

    I have a NIB Cherry's (Pedersoli) Creedmore Rem. Rolling Block .45-70 that I need to decide if I'm going to simply keep it in the box or shoot it (for shooting purposes, up to now, have been using a Navy Arms Rolling Block (Uberti, I think) in .444 Marlin.

    At an Independence Day cookout (featuring an 1861 10# field rifle, bbl from Herd Iron Works, ID), my host showed me a beautiful repro (also Pedersoli, from Taylor's) JMB 1885HW, .45-120. Those cartridges are works of art in themselves.

  3. Anonymous5:32 PM

    I would have loved to see the expressions on the other peoples faces.It looks like a sweet rifle.

  4. Impressive!
    I kinda-sorta got the same response from all the 5.56 shooters at the range the day I took my Remington 1100 slug gun out.
    A sabot slug that exits the barrel at 1800fps makes quite a loud BOOM!

  5. Nice groupings!

    So, was the Range Chick there?

  6. @ Moogie: Nope. I've been back looking for her 3-4 times now but she's always absent. She's very part-time, it seems. But the range owner promised to try to get her to work tomorrow and says that he'll call me if she comes in. It doesn't get much easier than that.

  7. Beautiful!!! That looks like it would be some bit of fun to shoot.

    Ask Old NFO about the time he shoot some ammo from the late 1890's. It was down a bit on the powder. :-)

  8. That must have been a lot of fun. Very cool, indeed.

  9. Cool. But I don't know about the part where the army shouldn't have moved on.

  10. If you switch to black powder, get a "blow tube". Helps keep the fouling down to a minimum.

    And for real fun (but no leading), try your hand at paper patching. Slightly undersized pure lead bullets, patched with paper. Zero leading.

  11. Mr. B, you and I should talk, because black powder is a new unknown universe to me.

  12. Dude, i know just enough to be dangerous.

    I just started down that path with a Sharps repro a few months ago.

    I did do well with the paper patching, but need to work up better black powder loads rather than smokeless.

    My advice would be worth slightly less than you'd pay for it.

    But I can tell you all the mistakes I made so you don't have to go down those dead ends....

    I did all my paper patching with lower power smokeless loads.

    Rifle range time is precious to me, and hard to come by.

  13. There was an article a while back on the (now defunct) SurplusRifle website that was talking about a powder called "Trail Boss". They said the cowboy shooters were using it a lot, and they used it to come up with a "Universal Load" for .30 cal milsurps. I may have saved the article - if I find it I'll send it to you.

    I think they worked up a load for their Martini-Henry with that powder too.

  14. I'm with AGirl there....that's one sleek and sexy firearm!

  15. Hodgdon's doesn't specifically show the .45-70 on its Trail Boss reloading table, but does offer the recommendation that for applications not listed, use 70% of case volume as a starting load (where case volume is defined as a full case minus the seating depth of the bullet being used).

    I've purchased, but not yet loaded, some TB to create some light .243 loads for my daughter.