Saturday, April 8, 2017

(Pictures/Video) Loading and shootin' .45-70 Blackpowder Cartridges

Loading .45-70 Government on the cheap

Oh, look, a maymay.
Loaded 70 rounds of .45-70 government.  The load was a cast 300 grain, flat-nose bullet behind ~50 grains of Shockey's Gold (similar to American Pioneer) FFG blackpowder substitute, primed with Remington Large Rifle Magnum Primer.  The 50 grain load was used because that's what fit in the measure spoon I used.  An airgap in the blackpowder cartridge will cause excess pressure, so cream of wheat was used to fill the rest of case to the top and the bullet was seated and compressed over the powder.  I've previously used newspaper or crumbled up paper towel as wadding, but I thought I'd try cream of wheat as it was recommended by other blackpowder cartridge shooters.

Of the 70 cases I had, fifty were good, thirty were rejects/blasting ammo.  I had forgotten to use the case-mouth opening die on the last thirty cases so the bullets were seated badly, scraping some bullets or inserting them slightly lopsided, though nothing major.  Fifty grains of powder times 70 cartridges is 3500 grains, so approximately half a pound of $20 powder was used.  I cast the bullets myself from range scrap and the primers were $30 per 1000.  I already had about 200 rounds total of loaded and empty cartridges, so total cost for 70 rounds of reloaded .45-70 blackpowder cartridges is less than $25 (or 35 cents per round).  For comparison, a box of Remington Express Core-Lokt .45-70 runs at $44 at Cabela's (or $2.20 per round).

The Gun

Trapdoor and a Magnum Research .45-70
The rifle is an 1884 Springfield Trapdoor I bought off GunAuction years ago.  I bought it as a companion-piece for my Magnum Research BFR .45-70 revolver.  This Trapdoor specimen is junk and I believe I paid $250, but 1) It's still fun to shoot occaisionally and 2) Looks cool on my wall.  The bore is rusted and the muzzle has been abused.  WB is stamped on the barrel, indicating it was used by Warner Brothers for film, possibly The Alamo (1968) starring John Wayne.

Fancy posin' going on over here.
11 rounds were fired at a distance of ~65 feet. Two rounds hit in total.  Yeah, it's the gun's fault, I swear! The two that did hit the target were about 6-9" high from point of aim.  Recoil was not bad.  Less smoke appeared to be produced compared to American Pioneer and regular black powder.



Note to self: Use Magnum primers to
avoid primer piercing.
These were previously reloaded cases, so when I loaded them up last week the interiors of the cases were dark from previous loadings (I used to never clean brass right away).  They had spots of green and brown rust which I painstakenly scraped out with steel wool and had rinsed and dried them before reloading them.  You couldn't even see the bottom of the case.  After I shot them today I gathered the brass and put them in a jar with hot, soapy water and shook it up, rinsed out the crud water and repeated the process until the emptied water was no longer black.  I used a clean rag and dried the cases inside and out.  To my surprise I noticed that the interior of the brass was really clean at this point.   I guess the process of shooting them and immediately rinsing loosened up the crud that was in there.

I ran a hot, wet patch through the bore and then ran several more patches until it was clean and finally wiped all metal surfaces with hot water, then CLP.  The gun is now leaning against the wall in a small room with a dehumidifier to be observed over the course of the next few days to check for rust.  I think I spent more time cleaning than shooting.  Such is the way of the black powder shooter!
Top to bottom: Gewehr 1888, Springfild Trapdoor,
unknown US military muzzleloader.

Other Observations:

1) This gun is not for new shooters.  I noticed that the firing pin was rusted closed when I grabbed it off the wall after several years of neglect (which was remedied with CLP) and there existed the possibility of a slam-fire on a primer if you don't pay attention.  Additionally I noticed someone kept fumbling with the lock and, for some reason, could not grasp the concept of "half-cock to load and eject," and "full cock when ready to fire."
2) A few of the brass cases were already primed with Remington large rifle (non-magnum) primers that I left in my humid Texas garage for three years.  I marked the brass with a red marker to see if they would have problems igniting.  Ignition seemed fine, although I did have a cartridge fail to fire, but looking at the video it seems it had something to do with the latch not being closed all the way.
3) All of the Remington non-magnum primers got pierced, however no gas blowback was felt.  For the most part they maintained a seal but I suspect this is what caused the firing pin to rust in place previously.

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