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    • #33708
      Goodsteel
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      I was recently in an email conversation with a good friend, concerning the 45-70. I decided to put my current thoughts down and I did so. After reading over what I had written, I realized that my opinion had a TON of testing backing it up and while I am ever willing to change my mind, it’s going to take some serious mojo to get me to budge from my current opinion. Over the past three years, I have been chasing a lifelong dream of precision with the 45-70 based on a story that my father told me of a friend of his named Tony Poledo back in Tucson. Poledo had a Ruger #1 in 45-70 that was fitted with a vernier tang sight, and back in 1976, my father would reload monstrous 550 grain cast bullets for his rifle. The story went that Tony would take posession of 100 fresh reloads from my father during the week, and he would come to the range with all of them in leather bandoleers crossing his chest over his pancho with a huge sombrero on his head. Dad said he looked like Poncho Villa. Tony would supposedly step to the firing line and stand flat footed and ring a 6″ gong at 600 yards. Dad told me he rarely missed. This guy was a regular Mathew Quigley at a time way before anybody had even dreamed up that name.
      This story fired my young imagination, and it became my mission in life to shoot 1MOA from the off hand position. I accomplished this goal through much practice, but the 45-70 beckoned from afar. I finally felt I had become proficient enough of a caster, reloader and shooter to see what could be done so I started messing with 45-70 heavily about three years ago. I quickly found that I was like a kid who watched Herbie The Love Bug and bought a VW beetle in hopes of hopping it up an winning the Daytona 500. I don’t know what to say about my fathers account of what happened, and I don’t discount it as a very inspiring story that planted the seeds of precision shooting in my mind for ever, but there are a few things I’ve learned about this cartridge that are grounded far more in reality than a 40 year old legend.

      I have found several things to be true:
      1. Anybody who claims subMOA groups with the 45-70 and cast bullets are either claiming the best three shot group from a series, or are blatantly full of ****, or are a very savvy reloader with a very exceptional rifle.
      In my own tests using 5 different rifles shooting ten shot groups with a dozen different powders and at least as dozen different bullets, I find that the best precision one can hope to achieve with a lever action rifle is 2MOA consistently. There are some who take exception to my opinion on this, but they also seem to take offence to my suggestion of shooting TEN SHOT GROUPS AT MEASURED DISTANCE OVER A CHRONOGRAPH AND WITH WITNESSES all of which I have done, so pardon me for being……..very skeptical.
      2. The very best precision to be had from a 45-70 is to neck size it, use a properly designed cast bullet made of Lyman #2 or Lyman #2 cut 50-50 with pure, water dropped. BAC lube, and FILL THAT PUPPY UP TILL THE POWDER CRUNCHES WHEN YOU SEAT THE BULLET. This squares with Paul Mathews load of 54 grains of 4895 to a T.
      3. Oddly enough, what shoots well in one rifle will often shoot equally well in another. I have tested my pet loads in several different 45-70’s and when shooting ten shot groups, the results were shockingly predictable and uniform across the board. That was quite an interesting and enlightening exercise.
      4. The best lever action 45-70 on the market today is the Marlin 1895GBL with the 18.5″ barrel and the full length magazine tube. Those rifles (and I tested two in my pursuits) matched my custom built rifle step for step and even outshot it on occasion! I think it may have something to do with the magazine tube having just the right effect on the barrel, but all I can do is admit with starstruck humility that that particular rifle is just REALLY HOT STUFF. It outshot the 1895 Highwall, the 1886 Lever action with the Green Mountain Octagon barrel, and the Marlin 1895SS (exactly the type written about by Paul Mathews in his book 40 years with the 45-70). It was definitely the Marlin GBL’s against everything else, and these were NY manufactured rifles BTW.
      5. The best bullet across the board was the NOE 460-378-RN gas checked bullet. This was beaten by my custom 458XCB bullet, but only when hardened. The old Lyman design was able to shoot soft, and slightly better hard. Even though it was a runner up by a significant margin, it was more versatile and it ran well in every rifle.
      6. Across the board, the lubes that worked well for me were made by White Label (big surprise). The 2500+ was very satisfactory, as was the CBlue, but the real winner was the BAC lube. It was more consistent across the board than the others. The runner up was CBlue, and then 2500+.
      2700+ failed to produce the same level of performance that it has at high velocity in 30 caliber, but I assume that just means that Glenn knows what he’s talking about when he named his lubes.

      Testing will probably continue for the rest of my life with this cartridge, but this is what I have observed so far.

    • #33710
      kens
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      Is the Marlin 1895GBL a micro-groove bbl?
      What twist rates were in the various bbls? what twist was the best?
      Were any of your rifles of Brux, Krieger, or similar barrels?
      just asking out of my own curiosity. I have a enfield set aside for a likely .45-70 project.

    • #33713
      Goodsteel
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      kens;n14512 wrote: Is the Marlin 1895GBL a micro-groove bbl?
      What twist rates were in the various bbls? what twist was the best?
      Were any of your rifles of Brux, Krieger, or similar barrels?
      just asking out of my own curiosity. I have a enfield set aside for a likely .45-70 project.

      All the barrels were 1-20 twist rate, measured optically as being +- 1/4 turn. The Marlins were all traditional rifling. The only aftermarket barrel was that which resided on my 1886, and that was a Green Mountain octagon, lead lapped by myself. It was tested at both 27″ and 16″ lengths.
      Some of the barrels exhibited heavy tooling marks, but as has been noted with other cast bullet projects, this made no difference whatsoever, and in fact, the 1895GBL’s shot better consistently than all but my 1886 and they sure gave that one a run for it’s money.

    • #33716
      kens
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      How much of a difference do you think there would be if a guy used a Brux or Krieger barrel, rather than a factory barrel?

    • #33725
      Goodsteel
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      In my opinion, it would be negligible. The inherent issues with the cartridge (and a cast bullet that large), and lever actions in general, far overwhelm the edge a premium barrel brings to the table. That said, if you were to build a one piece stock, bolt action rifle, meant to be shot with jacketed bullets, the advantage of a premium barrel would be very apparent.
      It would beg the question though: If you’re willing to drop that kind of coin on jacketed bullets, why would you not also use a bottleneck cartridge that lends itself to precision at long range better than the 45-70?
      Only the shooter can answer this question, but to my way of thinking, if the ammunition is too expensive or time consuming to make, or if it significantly reduces barrel life, it leaves a very sour taste in my mouth. The wonderful thing about 45-70 is that you can use it in a lightweight rifle to level anything you need to inside 200 yards with cast bullets that are cheap and easy to handle and load.
      If more precision than 5″ at that distance or greater is needed, then a different rifle should be used in my opinion.

    • #33726
      Waksupi
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      I shot a friend’s Ballard last weekend, in .45-70. I hit two out of three shots at 600 off hand. What really amazed me was, the sights were set so high on this particular stock design, my face was not in contact with the wood at all. I’d hate to have to repeat that performance!

    • #33729
      Sgt. Mike
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      Tim good collection of observations, I can certainly understand the need of such pursuits.

    • #33737
      Goodsteel
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      Waksupi;n14528 wrote: I shot a friend’s Ballard last weekend, in .45-70. I hit two out of three shots at 600 off hand. What really amazed me was, the sights were set so high on this particular stock design, my face was not in contact with the wood at all. I’d hate to have to repeat that performance!

      And that is about par for the course in my experience. I would honestly say that if I could take the best 2/3rds of the 3000+ shots I’ve made with the 45-70 in the past three years, the results would be far more impressive. As it is, I think my average across the board with all loads, bullet types and rifles, was about 4.5″.
      If it’s a question of making a steel plate ring, most of my shots would have done so. That doesn’t mean it shoots a tight group. I feel comfortable saying that with the right load (listed above) I can produce 3 individual groups consisting of ten shots each, the largest of which will be 3.5″, and the smallest will be just over 2″, and I can produce that effect with any of the test rifles mentioned.
      Within those 30 shots, there will be many three shot clusters that will be subMOA. That does not mean that the rifle has a cone of fire anywhere close to that.
      It’s got to be consistent, and the sights have to be set in the middle of the apparent center represented by all 30 shots, or a miss, or a bad shot is in my future.

    • #33742
      Anonymous
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      1. Anybody who claims subMOA groups with the 45-70 and cast bullets are either claiming the best three shot group from a series, or are blatantly full of ****, or are a very savvy reloader with a very exceptional rifle.
      In my own tests using 5 different rifles shooting ten shot groups with a dozen different powders and at least as dozen different bullets, I find that the best precision one can hope to achieve with a lever action rifle is 2MOA consistently. There are some who take exception to my opinion on this, but they also seem to take offence to my suggestion of shooting TEN SHOT GROUPS AT MEASURED DISTANCE OVER A CHRONOGRAPH AND WITH WITNESSES all of which I have done, so pardon me for being……..very skeptical.

      My sentiments exactly, it has to be my old beater 1895 Marlins because I have eyes like a laser and am steady as a rock, so it can’t be me………….All kidding aside Tim, I agree, they are not benchrest rifles, but they do a dandy job of what they were designed for, which is shoot a large bullet a a modest velocity and kill stuff. I have one with a micro groove barrel, one with a Ballard barrel, they shoot .460 cast to minute of rock all day long.

    • #33749
      seaboltm
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      I am a huge fan of the old straight walled cartridges. I shoot them almost exclusively. I used to be a 45-70 addict, but these days I prefer the 38-55, maybe moving on to the 405 Winchester. Given all that, when it comes to long range accuracy, I go to 308 with 168 hpbtm. YMMV. There was a reason we went through the evolution of cartridges.

    • #33750
      kens
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      seaboltm;n14557 wrote: I am a huge fan of the old straight walled cartridges. I shoot them almost exclusively. I used to be a 45-70 addict, but these days I prefer the 38-55, maybe moving on to the 405 Winchester. Given all that, when it comes to long range accuracy, I go to 308 with 168 hpbtm. YMMV. There was a reason we went through the evolution of cartridges.

      Well that’s a good point, on this topic.
      Is there ANY lever gun that will shoot sub moa?
      Is there ANY straight walled cartridge that will shoot sub moa?

    • #33751
      Goodsteel
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      I have shot lever actions in 30-30 that are truely sub MOA. Its a rare occasion because barrel quality is generally complete crap.
      i do believe this is possible.

      The subMOA straight walled cartridge can be answered too with the 22lr. However, I have my suspicions as to why this cartridge does so well. I think the main thing I was dealing with in the 45-70 was bullet diameter (physical size) and powder burn characteristics. Smaller bullets are far better than large ones at internal ballistics. They are just tougher and less “jiggly”.
      The other thing, is that powder can be developed for that specific cartridge which will burn correctly with no neck constriction. I’ve pulled down 22lr, and typically its filled with a strange looking flake powder. I’ll bet you that stuff is tuned and tweaked to burn just so, and make that ammunition do amazing things despite its natural limitations. They’ve got that down to a science we can’t touch.
      Other than that, I know of no straight walled cartridge that can cut the mustard, although I’ll freely admit if a guy is willing to burn the time on a small caliber straight walled cartridge, he very well might get it to work. I think he’s going to start delving into duplex BP loads though.

    • #33767
      kens
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      So, the smaller the easier it is to make them go sub moa?
      what about .30 carbine then? not in the carbine M1, but rather the straight walled idea?

    • #33769
      Goodsteel
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      Not a bad choice, if you could get a reamer cut for a tight chamber with a proper throat. The real trick would be finding a powder that burns very well, even when the expansion area is effectively doubled with 1″ of bullet travel.
      I’d be looking to cheat with a 32-20 personally.
      That said, neither of them would ever be as plug and play as a good ‘ol 30-30 with a slow twist match barrel.

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