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The .45-70 Government and .458 Winchester Magnum for North American Game
ChuckHawks ^ | 2003 | Chuck Hawks

Posted on 10/30/2003 12:02:51 PM PST by 45Auto

The article is written for the hunter who wishes to hunt medium and large game with a big bore rifle. He or she is not looking for an elephant rifle, but rather a big bore rifle with adequate killing power for hunting all North American game at typical woods ranges (less than 200 yards). The same basic criteria will also apply to a European hunter seeking game including deer, feral pigs, and Scandinavian moose, or anyone hunting similar size game worldwide. This person must be a reloader willing to develop loads appropriate for medium and large thin-skinned game.

This is not a comparison of two essentially similar cartridges. It is about handloading two dissimilar .45 caliber cartridges to produce equally appropriate loads for hunting medium and large game at recoil levels tolerable to most shooters. This requires light .458 Winchester Magnum loads, and (in some cases) heavy .45-70 loads, and considerably extends the usefulness of both cartridges. It is made possible by the development of modern smokeless powders that enormously extend the versatility of older black powder rifle cartridges like the .45-70 in suitably strong rifles.

There is no doubt that with full power loads the .458 Winchester Magnum is the more powerful cartridge. Its greater case capacity allows muzzle velocities (ME) approximately 300 fps faster than even the heaviest .45-70 loads (which are restricted to strong bolt action and single shot rifles only). This translates to an equally great advantage in muzzle energy (ME), which amounts to about 1100 ft. lbs. with a 350 grain bullet.

But it is also true that the heaviest .45-70 handloads tread on the lower reaches of .458 Magnum reloads. And that these .45-70 reloads are sufficiently powerful for all North American big game. So might the reverse also be possible? That is, handloading the .458 Magnum to .45-70 levels specifically for use on the common types of North American and European big game? After all, many .458 "Safari" rifles are no heavier than the strong .45-70 single shot rifles that frequently weigh about 9 pounds with a scope.

This would require three distinct levels of power. One should be a light load of moderate recoil, appropriate for deer and other medium size big game. This load should be essentially equivalent to the standard .45-70 factory loads suitable for use in all types of .45-70 rifles. These loads typically drive a 300 grain JHP bullet at a MV of 1810-1880 fps. Modern .45-70 factory loads are usually held to a modest maximum average pressure (MAP) of 21,000 cup in deference to the ancient .45-70 rifles still in use, and modern "Trapdoor" Springfield replicas.

The second level of power should approximate .45-70 loads intended for modern lever action rifles such as the Marlin Model 1895. These loads operate at higher pressure than .45-70 factory loads and are unsafe in original Trapdoor or replica .45-70 rifles of similar strength. Such loads, with suitable bullets, are recommended for large game such as the North American elk. These loads can drive a 300 grain bullet about 200-300 fps faster than .45-70 factory loads and are loaded to a MAP of up to 40,000 cup. (350 and 400 grain bullets can also be used at similar pressure.)

The third, even higher pressure, load should drive a 350 to 400 grain bullet at the maximum velocity possible in a modern .45-70 rifle, such as a Ruger No. 1. These are loads suitable for the heaviest North American game, and most of the heavy game in the world. They will achieve MV's in the 2100 fps region with a 350 grain bullet, and can develop pressures as high as 50,000 cup. Such loads deliver heavy recoil, on the order of a powerful medium bore rifle, but still much less than full power .458 Magnum loads.

The .45-70 is the oldest rifle cartridge still in production and wide scale use. It was introduced in the 1873 Springfield "Trapdoor" rifle, and adopted by the U.S. Army. It served as both a military and civilian cartridge on the American western frontier, and helped to decimate the immense heads of buffalo that once roamed the land. The American bison is a very big animal, on the order of 1600 pounds on the hoof, so even with black powder loads the .45-70 clearly possessed serious killing power with heavy bullets.

The .45-70 is based on a rimmed, straight walled case of the type most suitable for single shot rifles and repeating rifles using a tubular magazine, such as the Winchester Model 1886 and Marlin Model 1895 lever actions. Its name comes from its .45 caliber bullet (it uses the same .458" diameter bullets as the much later .458 Mag.) and the weight of black powder (70 grains) once used in standard loads behind a 405 grain bullet. This sort of nomenclature was common in the days of black powder cartridges. The SAAMI maximum average pressure (MAP) limit for the .45-70 is 28,000 cup.

However, most reloading manuals have special sections where they list .45-70 loads for use only in strong, newly manufactured lever action rifles, typically the Marlin (336 derived) Model 1895 rifle. These loads produce pressures from 28,000 cup to as high as 40,000 cup.

Some reloading manuals have a third section devoted to .45-70 loads intended for exceptionally strong rifles such as the modern Browning, Dakota, and Ruger falling block single shots. These loads can run in the 35,000 to 50,000 cup range.

Winchester introduced the .458 Winchester Magnum cartridge in 1958. It is based on a straight, shortened .375 H&H belted magnum case necked-up to accept .458" bullets. It is loaded to a MAP of 53,000 cup.

The .458 was intended to duplicate the ballistics of the British elephant rifle calibers in a cartridge that would work in standard (.30-06) length bolt action rifles. It is also available in some of the same strong single shot rifles offered in .45-70. The .458 Winchester Magnum has become the world's most popular cartridge for dangerous thick-skinned game.

Winchester's .458 Magnum was designed to drive a 500 grain bullet at a MV of about 2100 fps with ME of 4895 ft. lbs. Factory loads are available from A-Square, Federal, Hornady, Norma, Remington, Speer, and Winchester. These include bullet weights ranging from 350 grains to 510 grains at velocities ranging from 2470 fps (350 grain bullet) to 2040 fps (510 grain bullet). Federal Premium Safari loads, for example, drive 500 grain solid or controlled expansion bullets at a MV of 2090 fps.

Most .458 Magnum "safari" loads use bullets too tough for normal expansion on thin-skinned game. Most .45-70 loads, however, use bullets designed for proper expansion on medium to large size thin-skinned game. So for our purposes we will ignore the .45 caliber FMJ "solid" bullets and ultra-tough controlled expansion bullets like the 500 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw. Instead we will focus on loads developed for soft point expanding bullets designed for .45-70 impact velocities.

The handloader has a good selection of jacketed 300 grain, 350 grain, 400-405 grain and 500 grain .45 caliber rifle bullets from which to choose. Since all North American and European game can humanely be taken with 300 or 350 grain bullets, we will focus on those bullet weights. Specifically, for the purposes of this article, I am going to use the 300 grain Hornady Flat Hollow Point (#4500) and the 350 grain Hornady Round Nose (#4502) bullets. Obviously, since the .45-70 and .458 Winchester Magnum can use the same bullets, the sectional density (SD) and bullet frontal area will be exactly the same for either caliber.

Sectional density is computed by dividing a bullet's weight (in pounds) by the square of its diameter (in inches). SD is important because it is one of the major factors in bullet penetration. The higher the sectional density figure the better the penetration, all other factors being equal. The SD of the 300 grain .458" bullet is .204; the SD of the 350 grain .458" bullet is .238.

The standard 300 grain .458" bullet has a SD generally regarded as suitable for antelope, deer, feral pigs, and black bear (CXP2 class game). Premium controlled expansion .300 grain bullets that offer deeper than normal penetration can also be used for larger game such as the North American elk and Scandinavian alg. 350 grain .458" bullets have a SD often recommended for elk and moose (CXP3 class game).

The cross-sectional area (frontal area) of a bullet is also important. The greater the frontal area, the bigger the hole it makes in the target. The frontal area of all .458" bullets, regardless of weight, is 0.1647 square inch.

Now let's look at a medium game load. The Hornady 300 grain JHP bullet is intended for best performance when launched at muzzle velocities between 1600 and 2100 fps. For medium game like deer, most antelope, and feral pigs we can do no better than to duplicate the standard .45-70 factory loads. As we have already seen, .45-70 factory loads drive a 300 grain JHP bullet at claimed MV's of 1810-1880 fps. The muzzle energy (ME) of these loads ranges from 2182 ft. lbs. to 2355 ft. lbs.

Reloaders will have no difficulty finding data to duplicate such loads in all of the popular reloading manuals. The approximate recoil energy of a 9 pound .45-70 rifle shooting a 300 grain bullet at a MV of 1850 fps is a manageable 18.7 ft. lbs.

Reloading data for using 300 grain .45-70 bullets in the .458 Magnum is not as wide spread, but it is available. The fifth edition of the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading lists .458 Winchester Magnum loads using their 300 grain JHP bullet at a minimum of 1850 fps with four different powders. It is interesting that three of these powders, IMR 4198, H4198, and Viht. N-120 are also among the powders listed for .45-70 loads with the same bullet at similar velocity. The recoil energy of these loads averages about 18.1 ft. lbs. when fired in a .458 Magnum rifle weighing 9 pounds.

A 300 grain JHP bullet at a MV of approximately 1850 fps is our chosen medium game load, and both the .45-70 and .458 Magnum can do the job with less than 20 ft. lbs. of recoil energy. Most reasonably experienced shooters will be able to handle that amount of recoil without too much problem. Such loads make these big bore calibers a reasonable choice for hunting medium game at woods ranges.

For our intermediate power load, the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading shows that in the .45-70 their 300 grain bullet can be driven to a MV of 2100 fps with maximum loads of two powders, IMR 4198 and Viht. N-130. The same reloading manual shows that four different powders (including IMR 4198) can be used to drive the 300 grain bullet to a MV of 2100 fps in the .458 Win. Mag.

At a MV of 2100 fps a 300 grain bullet develops ME of 2937 ft. lbs. At 100 yards the remaining energy of the Hornady bullet is 1978 ft. lbs.

The recoil of these loads, at a MV 250 fps faster than the standard .45-70 load using a bullet of the same weight, is naturally greater. In a 9 pound .45-70 rifle the recoil energy should be about 24.4 ft. lbs. In a .458 Magnum rifle of equal weight the recoil energy should be about 23.8 ft. lbs. (According the Hornady Handbook, the .458 Magnum actually uses less powder to achieve this velocity than the .45-70, probably because their .45-70 Marlin test rifle had a 22" barrel and their .458 test rifle had a 24" barrel.)

For tough, heavy game we can use 350 grain bullets. Hornady specifically recommends their 350 grain bullet for large and dangerous game. This is a round nose InterLock bullet designed for best performance at muzzle velocities from 1800-2900 fps.

The Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading shows that this bullet can be driven to a MV of 2200 fps by three powders (IMR 4198, Viht. N-130, and IMR 3031) in the strongest .45-70 rifles. That handbook also shows that the 350 grain bullet can be driven to the same velocities in the .458 Winchester Magnum cartridge by eight different powders, including all three of the powders used in the .45-70.

At a MV of 2200 fps a 350 grain bullet has a ME of 3761 ft. lbs. The 100 yard energy is 2507 ft. lbs.

The recoil of such a load in a 9 pound .45-70 rifle is about 34.9 ft. lbs. In a 9 pound .458 Magnum rifle the recoil will run about 35.9 ft. lbs. That is a lot of kick, about like that of a typical .358 Norma Magnum rifle, but only a little more than half the recoil of a full power .458 Magnum factory load.

Flat trajectory is not usually the reason for purchasing a big bore rifle, but it is worth comparing the maximum point blank range (MPBR) of the three different loads we are considering. In the field it makes sense to zero a hunting rifle for its maximum point blank range. Here are the numbers, calculated for a line of sight 1.5" over the bore (as with a low mounted scope). These figures will apply to either a .45-70 or .458 Magnum rifle using the same bullets at the same velocity. If the bullet is allowed to deviate no more than 3" above or below the line of sight the MPBR of our three loads is as follows.

300 grain at 1850 fps = 170 yards

300 grain at 2100 fps = 190 yards

350 grain at 2200 fps = 197 yards

The hardest factor to quantify is killing power. We know that energy, penetration, and bullet frontal area are all important factors in killing power, but not exactly what is the best blend of these factors. What is clear is that the same bullet at the same velocity will have identical killing power, whether fired from a .45-70 or a .458 Magnum. Of course, this article is about the .458 and .45-70 loaded to equal performance. If one wants more killing power, the .458 Magnum has a great deal of reserve potential that can be realized merely by loading to higher velocity. Full power .458 Magnum loads with proper 465-500 grain bullets have proven suitable for the largest game on earth, the African elephant.

One indication of killing power is the "Optimal Game Weight Formula" developed by Edward A. Matunas. While undoubtedly not perfect, this formula at least gives an approximate idea of the capability of the cartridges under discussion. I calculated the maximum optimal game weight for each load at 100 yards.

300 grain at 1850 fps - 474 pounds at 100 yards.

300 grain at 2100 fps - 706 pounds at 100 yards.

350 grain at 2200 fps - 1088 pounds at 100 yards.

The .458 Win. Mag. has the smallest case capacity and the biggest bullet selection of any of the "elephant rifle" cartridges, so it follows that it has the greatest diversity of reduced power, moderate recoil reloads. And the .45-70 case, although smaller than the .458 Magnum case, was designed for bulky black powder. Consequently, when loaded with much denser modern smokeless powders, the .45-70 has considerably greater performance potential than was originally envisioned.

Ammunition availability is always an important consideration for any rifle, and in this area the .45-70 and .458 Winchester Magnum are exceptional compared to all other big bore rifle cartridges. .45-70 and .458 Magnum factory loaded ammunition is both more economical and more widely available than any other big bore rifle cartridges. Equally important, so are reloading dies, brass, bullets and other reloading supplies.

New and used rifles chambered for the .45-70 and .458 Win. Mag. cartridges are widely available. Because it was designed for standard length magnum actions, many manufacturers can and do chamber their bolt action rifles for the .458 Magnum. And .45-70 rifles of various sorts (primarily lever action and single shot models) are even more common on today's market.

For the reloader who wants to own and shoot a big bore rifle, the .45-70 and .458 Winchester Magnum seems like the best candidates. The reloader can assemble reasonable loads for everything from whitetail deer to polar bear and moose at considerable savings in both cost and recoil compared to most other big bore buffalo and elephant cartridges.

TOPICS: Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: 45s; banglist; big; rifles
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Interesting comparison of .458 and .45-70. Anyway you cut it, these two rounds have a lot of "smackdown" power at 100 yards.
1 posted on 10/30/2003 12:02:52 PM PST by 45Auto
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To: 45Auto
This little nugget of knowledge would have been helpful to Amie Huguenard and Timothy Treadwell.
2 posted on 10/30/2003 12:06:03 PM PST by theDentist (Liberals can sugarcoat sh** all they want. I'm not biting.)
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To: *bang_list
3 posted on 10/30/2003 12:08:24 PM PST by Atlas Sneezed
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To: 45Auto
Do you have one of those Marlin 1895's? They seem like a lot of gun for a good price.
4 posted on 10/30/2003 12:11:42 PM PST by Rocky Mountain High
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To: 45Auto
Thanks 45. I shoot a Springfield trapdoor but I load my own bp cartridges and would never use smokeless in my old rifle. The weight of the rifle is sufficient to absorb the worst of the recoil with proper loads. My rifle is in excellent condition and shoots very accurately at 100 to 200 yds. It has a slight drift but I'm sued to it and it's a joy to shoot that fine old gun. Thanks again for the info!
5 posted on 10/30/2003 12:13:01 PM PST by Lee Heggy (Make God laugh...tell him your plans.)
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To: FlyVet
6 posted on 10/30/2003 12:14:14 PM PST by harpseal (stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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To: 45Auto
A .458 on a white tail seems a bit much.
This from a guy who once hit a big buck antelope with a .338 mag. Serious smackdown indeed.
7 posted on 10/30/2003 12:20:26 PM PST by mad puppy
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To: 45Auto
Many years ago I briefly, couple of years, lived in the Fairbanks area of Alaska. I knew an old guy, at that time he was in his mid-60's, who lived out in ther bush. He choice of guns was a .45 long colt wheel gun and a .45-70 rifle. He said that these were reliable for him for over 30 years. Sounds like a good testimony. I think he did a bit of reloading. He also bought ready roll when he came into town.

Thinking more on this, I think he had several different rifles in that .45-70. So I don't know as if he had a favorite or not. Another old bush coot swore by an old Kragg he had.

8 posted on 10/30/2003 12:24:18 PM PST by Khurkris (Scottish/HillBilly - Revenge is an Art Form for us. Ranger On...)
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To: 45Auto
Marlin 1895GS, Stainless in 45-70
9 posted on 10/30/2003 12:25:34 PM PST by xsrdx (Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas)
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To: 45Auto
I already spend enough on guns without you inciting me!
10 posted on 10/30/2003 12:27:30 PM PST by Tijeras_Slim (SSDD - Same S#it Different Democrat)
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To: mad puppy
A .458 on a white tail seems a bit much.

It depends how large a tree the deer is hiding behind!

11 posted on 10/30/2003 12:28:59 PM PST by verity
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To: 45Auto
Ruger No.1 Tropical in .458 WinMag

12 posted on 10/30/2003 12:31:10 PM PST by xsrdx (Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas)
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To: 45Auto
When I am hunting moose, I always use cheese, and whine a lot.
13 posted on 10/30/2003 12:37:11 PM PST by genefromjersey (So little time - so many FLAMES to light !!)
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To: Rocky Mountain High
I shoot .45-70 in a Ruger # 1.
14 posted on 10/30/2003 12:50:53 PM PST by 45Auto (Big holes are (almost) always better.)
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To: harpseal
15 posted on 10/30/2003 1:10:08 PM PST by FlyVet
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To: 45Auto
Or, you can make your .45-70 perform like a .458!

16 posted on 10/30/2003 1:10:41 PM PST by Liberty Ship ("Lord, make me fast and accurate.")
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To: 45Auto
The old original 45-70 load with 70 grains of 2F black powder and a 405 grain lead bullet at 1325 FPS damn near wiped out every species of north American big game that existed in that time period and since.

For the author to say it needs to be beefed up like a near magnum load for modern day game is so much hype and crap. What the hell did they do, game get tougher over the past 130 years?

Some people have this weird concept that a huge louden banger will make them a better hunter. To that I say waugh!!
17 posted on 10/30/2003 1:22:38 PM PST by Ursus arctos horribilis ("It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!" Emiliano Zapata 1879-1919)
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To: 45Auto; Squantos; harpseal
This doesn't cover the whole field. I got .458 loads that run from cape buffalo to squirrel and cottontail. Open up the flashhole a bit on .458 brass(mark it externally so you don't use it for full power loads) Federal 215mag primers, bullseye powder, and Hornady .457 roundball. Makes for a great foraging load for small game.
18 posted on 10/30/2003 1:35:42 PM PST by TEXASPROUD
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To: 45Auto
.45-70 at Two Miles: The Sandy Hook Tests of 1879


THE SHOOTER at the heavy bench rest squinted as he aligned his .45-70 Allin-Springfield Model 1873 Army rifle on the distant target. The rifle fore-stock and barrel was cradled in a rest; the butt was supported by his shoulder. The rear sight was flipped up to its full height, so with no stock support for his head, the rifle tester from Springfield Armory worked carefully to align high rear and low muzzle sight on the speck that was the target - a surveyed 2,500 yards distant.

Holding his breath, he squeezed the 7-pound trigger. The rifle fired, and some 15 seconds later, signals from the target indicated that his shot had struck well inside the 6-foot diameter bullseye on a target well over a mile away!

The Report of the Secretary of War, 1880, Volume III, under the chapter titled, "Extreme Ranges of Military Small Arms," had this to say:

"The firing was done by Mr. R.T Hare of Springfield Armory who has the enviable distinction, so far as is known, of being the only person in the world who has hit the 'Bull's-Eye' six feet in diameter at 2,500 yards with three different rifles, and who has ever fired at and hit so small a target as that described in this report at 3,200 yards.
In comparison with this, all other so-called 'long range firing' pales into insignificance. The gun was held under the arm, a muzzle rest only being used."

The chapter on long range firing begins with a report from the Armory at Springfield, Massachusetts, May 9, 1879. It records the results of long range tests of U.S. Army Model 1873 .45-caliber rifles using 405 and 500-grain lead bullets, including variations in muzzle velocity and penetration of lead bullets through one-inch target boards and into sand. These tests were made at the request of the Chief of Ordnance. His interest had been aroused by reports of long range infantry fire, up to 1½ miles, during the1877-78 Turko-Russian War.
The line age of the "trapdoor" rifles used in the tests is apparent from the separate lock plate, the massive side hammer, the milling out of a portion of barrel and fitting a breechblock hinged at the front - all clear indications that the rifles were merely breech-loading variations of the traditional muzzle-loading infantry-man's rifle. The Allin conversion of the 1861 and 1863 models Springfield muzzle-loaders came out first in .58 caliber rimfire. Later refinements resulted in the .50-70 rimmed centerfire for the 1866 model. The .45-70 cartridge was first introduced with the Model 1873 single shot Springfield. Several model changes were made from 1873 through 1889, relatively minor differences being the type of sights, modified and improved breech-blocks and changes in stock furniture.

The first long range tests were made at ranges of up to 1,500 yards on the Springfield Armory test range at Long Meadow, Massachusetts. These tests compared the long distance shooting and penetration performance of the .45 caliber trapdoor Springfield and the .45 caliber Martini-Henry rifles.

The Springfield rifle weighed about 9.6 pounds, had a rifle barrel 33 inches long with a bore diameter of .450-inch, three grooves and a right hand twist and groove depth of .005-inch. It fired the then standard Service round consisting of the 405-grain bullet in the rimmed straight case 2.1 inches long with 70 grains of black powder giving a muzzle velocity (MV) of 1,350 feet-per-second (fps). With the same weight of bullet and a charge of 85 grains of powder, the MV was 1,480 fps.

The British Army .450-577 Martini-Henry lever-operated, drop-block action was far stronger than the Allin trapdoor breech. The Martini-Henry weighed about 9½ pounds, had a barrel 33 inches long with a right-hand twist, seven groove bore. The bore diameter was .450, and the groove diameter was .463. The .450-577 Martini-Henry cartridge was a muscular creation. It was based upon a sharply necked-down and lengthened .577-inch Snider case, loaded with a 480-grain lead bullet of .445 diameter, backed by 85 grains of black powder for a muzzle velocity of 1,253 fps.

The following table gives the angles of elevation for these loads from the actual test firings at 1,000 and 1,500 yards. Accuracy firings of the rifles were made at 300, 500 and 1,000 yards.


1,000 yards 1,500 yards
.45-85-405 Springfield Long Range 2d 40' 53" 4d 35' 34"
.45-70-405 Springfield Service 3d 6' 37" 5d 20' 4"
.45-85-480 Martini-Henry 3d 18' 36" 5d 41' 24"


Mean Mean Mean
Horizontal Vertical Radius
Springfield 9.23" 16.8" 19.1"
Martini-Henry 10.9" 14.55" 18.2"

Though there is no direct relationship between mean radius and group size figures, a mean radius of 18 to 19 inches would probably translate into a group size of between 55 and 70 inches. Old Ordnance records show that when fired from a machine rest the .45 Springfield was expected to group all of its bullets inside a 4-inch circle at 100 yards, in a 11-inch bull's-eye at 300 yards, and inside a 27-inch circle at 500 yards.

At 1,000 and 1,500 yards, as expected, the mean vertical figures are considerably larger than the mean horizontal. (See the above table.) This is the result of variations in muzzle velocity, which gives this dispersion at long range, and also the effect of the high trajectory of these rifle bullets since the target is perpendicular to the ground, while the bullet is descending at an angle.

The report of October 15, 1879, covers long range firing at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. This was done along the beach to make the location of the bullet strike easier to find. Also, the long beaches allowed shooting back to 3,200 and even 3,500 yards.

The rifles tested included a special "long range" Springfield chambered for a 2.4-inch shell instead of the standard 2.1-inch case. The 2.4-inch case held 80 grains of black powder behind the new prototype 500-grain lead bullet. The other loads tested were the standard .45-70-405 Army load in the issue M-1873 Springfield, and the .45-85-480 load in the British Martini-Henry rifle.

The report states that a leaf to the rear sight several inches long was prepared in order to obtain the necessary elevation. A combination of the V-notch slide of the regular issue sight and a screw at the bottom of the leaf afforded means of correcting for wind and drift.

The target, which had been 12 feet by 12 feet square at 1,500 yards, was changed to one 44 feet long by 22 feet high. The extended wings had a height of 16 feet.

Since one of the test's objectives was to gauge bullet penetration, the huge target consisted of three 1-inch thick boards, separated by 1-inch cleats. The target was supported on 6-inch spruce posts and was constructed partly of spruce and partly pine, since this was the wood at hand.

In the tests at 2,500 yards, the target was hit five times in seventy rounds with the .45-70-405 service load, only once with the Martini-Henry in eighty rounds, and four times with the long range Springfield in thirty shots.

When the Springfield long range cartridge was fired, the 500-grain blunt nosed lead bullets propelled by 80 grains of black powder in the 2.4-inch cases at about 1,375 fps penetrated right through the three inches of wooden target and buried themselves in the sand. One 500-grain slug pierced three inches of target and buried itself in a supporting six-inch post, giving a total penetration of a measured 5.25 inches. The Service 405-grain bullet gave a penetration of just 1.12 inches, and the Martini-Henry 480-grain bullet, 2.50 inches.

Angles of rifle elevation were: Springfield service .45-70-405 - 17°08'16"; Springfield long range .45-80-500 - l0°38'21"; and Martini-Henry .45-85-480 - 13°20'18".

The angle made by the shot holes with the face of the target appeared to be about 40 degrees for the service Springfield, 45 degrees for the Martini-Henry, and 50 degrees for the long range Springfield. This angle is taken from the vertical and thus the lower angular reading indicates the higher angle of descent. Various kinds of bullets were dug out of the sand within 45 feet of the target and directly behind it. This shows the great angle of trajectory at this range and how extremely difficult it was for Mr. R.T. Hare to hit a 2,500-yard target the size of the one used.

The target 22 feet high by 44 feet long was then placed at 3,200 yards from the firer. The range chosen was fortunate in that it was found to be the extreme for the Martini-Henry. When the firer was instructed to increase his elevation, the range decreased. On decreasing the elevation, the range increased to a certain point.

The majority of the Martini .45-85-480 balls fell from 50 to 100 yards short, while the others did not go more than 25 yards beyond. More than 300 Martini-Henry cartridges were fired, but the target was not hit.

The long range Springfield's 500-grain bullets hit the target four times - twice where it was one board thick, and twice where it was two boards thick. In each case the heavy blunt nosed lead bullet punched through the wood planks and buried itself several inches into the sand.

At this extreme surveyed range, the angle of fall of the Martini 480-grain lead bullets was about 65 degrees to 70 degrees judging from the holes in the moist sand. Bullets were found in the sand behind the 22-foot-high target at a distance of only 35 feet. It was evident that they struck the sand point on, as the lead noses were always found rough.

In the case of the long range Springfield, the angle of the shot hole with the face of the target was about 30 degrees and the heavy bullet in punching through two one-inch boards actually penetrated a total of 2.5 inches. Those lead slugs that struck in the sand generally penetrated to a depth of 8 to 10 inches, sometimes more.

In this respect the Armory's 500-grain balls surpassed the Martini's 480-grain balls, which did not penetrate more than 6 inches into sand. In trying to get the correct 3,200-yard elevation, the long range bullets were thrown over 300 yards beyond the target. These were then dug out of the beach and all were found to have struck point on.

For the .45-80-500 2.4-inch case Springfield long range rifle at a MV of about 1,375 fps, the angle of elevation was 20°51'37". For the .45-85-480 Martini-Henry at 1,253 fps MV, the angle of elevation was 26°5l'.

The report of November 13, 1879, lists the results of firing tests made at 3,500 yards distance with two long range Springfields. One had a rifle barrel with a l-in-18 rifling twist, the other .45-80-500 had a 19 5/8-inch twist. Two different loads were used: .45-70-500, and .45-80-500. The Martini-Henry .45-85-480 and the service .45-70-405 Springfields were again tested against a Sharps-Borchardt using the same loads as in the long range M-1873 Allin-Springfields. After firing many rounds, the service Springfield and Martini-Henry rounds failed to reach the target at 3,500 yards.

In these firing experiments, two telephones provided with Blake transmitters were used for timing the bullet's flight. One was placed within a few feet of the rifle, to receive and transmit the sound of the shot. The other Blake unit was nearly two miles downrange in the shelterproof, which was located about 30 feet in front of the right edge of the target. At the instant the sound of the discharge was heard over the telephone, a watch ticking fourth-seconds was started. At the sound of the bullet striking target or sand, it was stopped. Average time of flight for the .45-70-500-grain load was 21.2 seconds, With the more powerful .45-80-500-grain cartridge the time-of-flight was 20.8 seconds.

For 3,500 yards distance, angles of elevation ran from 27 degrees to 29 degrees. This varied drastically from day to day due to the effects of head and tail winds. The quicker-twist rifles required less elevation than the others at the same range. The greatest distance obtained with the .45-caliber long range, 1-in-18 twist Springfield rifle was 3,680 yards. Angle of elevation didn't exceed 32 degrees on a day when an angle of about 25 degrees placed bullets all around the target at 3,500 yards range.

While these tests may be considered mere oddities today, they proved extremely useful at the time. The fact that the 500-grain bullet penetrated through the three-plank target and eight inches into sand meant that it could kill or wound enemy troops at extreme distances, even if they were partially protected and that was significant military information in a period when it was quite usual for large masses of troops to form up within view of defenders. Although no average infantryman could be expected to equal Mr. Hare's accuracy, a large number of defenders shooting from barricade rests and given the proper sight adjustments for the range could severely harass companies and larger bodies of enemy troops at previously unheard-of ranges. It may have been these tests, and this line of thinking, that caused military theoreticians to employ machine guns for indirect, high trajectory fire in the same manner as artillery during the earlier stages of World War I.

Since the tests showed that the 405-grain service bullet failed to perform as well as the 500-grain, and that the 500-grain bullet showed relatively little difference when propelled by either 70 or 80 grains of black powder, the .45-70-500 load in the service 2.1-inch case was adopted as standard for rifles. Thus those little-remembered Sandy Hook tests of 1879 had a lasting impact on firearms history without them, the gun companies might have recently resurrected the .45-80.
19 posted on 10/30/2003 1:36:59 PM PST by HuntsvilleTxVeteran (CCCP = clinton, chiraq, chretien, and putin = stalin wannabes)
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Gees, where the heck have you been? I haven't seen you post in a while.

There's a new face at the ammo store. I was in there today and next door getting a haircut.

When can we go shooting?
20 posted on 10/30/2003 1:57:01 PM PST by Shooter 2.5
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