.45-70, big game vs long distance

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by idaho, Apr 13, 2011.

  1. idaho

    idaho Member

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    Mods, I apologize if this should be in the general firearms discussion, but I was leaning towards the application of the round versus the availability/ballistics/history of the round itself.

    I have read websites, and seen western movies that portray the fabled Sharps in .45-70 as this awesome long range man/buffalo stopper. I am not disputing this, but I am wondering for those that have experience with this caliber; was this because AT the time, it was the best? Or because even TODAY this round is a solid long range caliber capable of making extremely accurate kill shots. Be it beast or man. I am currently in the market for a long range platform. I love the older weapons, I still use revolvers and Winchester lever guns in an era of auto's and AR's. I have come to accept the fact that most bigger caliber (.30 caliber up) long range purpose rifles will come with a price. If I can get the same performance from a replica Montana made Sharps rifle as I can with the latest tacticool bolt gun, I would much rather get a Sharps.

    One alibi, when I say 'the same performace' I understand that a Sharps rifle is probably not capable of the same accuracy as say a Rem 700 with bipod, Leupold and match .308 ammo. But, will it make satisfactory shots out to the same long ranges. I simply do not know enough about the gun, or about its abilities at taking game.
  2. 2506

    2506 Well-Known Member

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    Um, gravity affects all objects equally.
  3. OFADAN

    OFADAN Well-Known Member

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    I have some experience with this cartridge using Black Powder and in a Sharps rifle. The cartridge you're discussing is technically called the .45 2 1/10" and was originally loaded with 70 grains of black powder and used a 400 grain 1 in 12 tin to lead bullet. The cartridge was adopted by the US Army in 1872 and the Northern and Southern Buffalo herds were almost exhausted because of this cartridge as well as the 50-70 and the 44-77 which were extremely popular.

    Since you do not want a history lesson and you want some background for selecting a rifle/cartridge and using it for hunting I will digress. If you're going to buy a modern "Montana" replica I'd suggest you seriously consider one from the Shiloh Sharps company in Big Timber. If you want to continue this discussion off line so I can become more specific and overt I would be delighted to do so.

    The 45 2 1/10 (aka 45-70) can be shot out to 1000 yards with some relative accuracy. I know...because I have done so on numerious occassions in competition and in plinking. While it has the capacity to shoot great distances please do not confuse the two technologies (modern flat shooting high powered-optic equipped rifles vs artillary launching projectiles from an open sighted Sharps). My .45 2 1/10" Shiloh drops 1600 inches at 1000 yards and requires a rear tang sight of over 3" at the back to reach that distance.

    For hunting, I would suggest you limit your shots to 200 yards and closer and for newbies I'd say 125 is plenty. I cannot discribe all the reasons why here as I'm too slow to type and their is too much to discuss. But suffice it to say, you're talking about an almost forgotten technology and tactics when using Buffalo guns of a different era. BUT, once you get hooked you will not want to shop for another 300 WSM and optic again!

    If you're going to go with a Sharps then I'd suggest you start with the 45 2 1/10 as the 45 2 7/8" (aka 45-110) is a bugger to load and to get started with - trust me I know. Also the 50-70 is a great hunting cartridge but again a bugger to load for the first time. Take just about everything you know about modern smokeless propellant reloading and park it in a box because you cannot make the same reloading assumptions with black powder cartridges.

    These rifles/cartridges will perform best from the original combo of black powder and lead bullets. Modern smokeless propellant and modern bullets work but not as well. These are a totally different technology and mindset and you need to be prepared to go back in time to make these beasts shoot and shoot effectively. Also you'd better be prepared to learn how to load for black powder and invest in some new reloading gear as it is a totally different critter.

    Also large bore Black Powder Cartridges are not like the ubber hyper speed modern cartridges and do not have the hydrostactic shock. These cartridges poke large holes in and out of the game and they die not from massive tissue distruction and severe tramau but rather from air coming in and blood coming out. They generally do not die immedately - they can but generally it takes a minute or two. Totally different technlogy and tactics. We can chat if you want....email me off line at dan@oregonfirearmsacademy.com or call our office 541-451-5532 if you want to learn more.

    [​IMG]
    L to R - 50-70; 45-70; 45-110 (2 7/8")
    titsonritz and (deleted user) like this.
  4. Gaust

    Gaust Member

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    Ofadan has some great advice. I would also love to learn more about the 45-70. Another company I would suggest checking is Borchardt Rifle Co. in Silver City, NM. The owner Al Story builds beautiful rifles and has a incredible amount of knowledge.
  5. idaho

    idaho Member

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    OFADAN, by all means, bring on the history. I just didnt want to tick off the moderators, as I probably posted the thread in the wrong place. Reloading really isnt an option for me yet. I just dont have the patience or know how yet. So I'm really looking at choosing between the 'widely' available factory .45-70 ammo, or the usual suspects; .308, .30-06, .338L,....

    So, from what I gather, the .45-70 is 'capable' of reaching out, and knocking something down (eventually), but it simply doesnt have the flat shooting (aka easier) capability of the other mentioned calibers.
  6. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Ofadan's extensive advice is exactly what needs to be said, and his experience in target shooting and/or competition is greater than mine. Most importantly, is his contention that the long-range highpower game is completely different from the blackpowder/lead approach, and the latter requires a complete re-thinking of all one thinks one knows about handloading, and long range shooting.

    As for hunting experience, I have tramped around quite a bit with both of my Shiloh Sharps guns: one is a Montana Roughrider in .45-70, and the other (pay attention here: perhaps this is the meeting of both worlds) is a Shiloh Jaeger rifle in .30-40 Krag. This gun grants the performance of a competition-proven .30 caliber highpower cartridge in the Sharps platform. Antelope and mule deer (and coyotes and rockchucks) taken with the Jaeger, and Antelope, elk, mule deer taken with the Roughrider.

    The absolute most fun was had at a gathering where a 500-yard range was available, and the talk was flowing freely (and other things flowing freely) about long range shooting. As with any such gathering, at least two or three guys piped up about an elk they had shot at the 400-500 yard range with their .300 Whatchamacallit Magnum, and so someone (won't say it was me, won't say it wasn't) quickly trotted downrange with a gallon milk jug full of water to the 500 yard mark. The Whatchamacallits came out of the cases, and I halted the first shooter after his first shot (a clean miss) to allow shooter number two to take a poke. Then shooter number three. Mister Milk Jug seemed not afraid.

    Out came the Roughrider, (bore previously fouled), and a softcast Lyman 457125,520g Roundnose pushed by Swiss, sent Mister Milk Jug to the happy recycling center in the sky.

    Granted: I had practiced extensively at 500 (that's why the jug was where it was). Granted: the elkslayers had not practiced. (They just claimed to have shot an elk.) Easy way to gain one's 15 minutes of fame.

    Here's a nice Montana goat taken by the Roughrider. Note wound at the bottom of the rear of the brisket. At 350 yards, after a 1/2 mile trot in pouring rain to catch the herd before they crested the next ridge, I actually missed his "milk jug" by a bit. But he went down immediately lacking a sternum, and one lung was ruptured dramatically by a shard of sternum bone. Sharps Goat.jpg
  7. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    The Second Battle of Adobe Walls occurred in the Texas Panhandle over the dates of June 27-29,1874. This nearly forgotten battle involved a small group of buffalo hunters and residents of several adobe buildings who were attacked on the morning of June 27, 1874 by a large force of Indians drawn from at least three warrior tribes: Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne. The Indians, lead by Quanah Parker, and inspired by the medicine man, Isa-tai were armed with bows, lances and relatively short-range firearms. Their armaments as well as their culture requiring them to approach the barricaded defenders of Adobe Walls to deliver effective fire and demonstrate great individual courage. Most of the defenders at Adobe Walls were buffalo hunters all armed with large caliber, long range rifles. Among the men at Adobe Walls was William “Billy” Dixon- a buffalo hunter who was an extremely accomplished long range marksman and who, on the third day of the battle, purportedly made an incredible long distance fatal shot with a “Big Fifty” Sharps rifle.
    According to Dixon’s biography, this shot was witnessed by participants on both sides of this battle and brought an end to the hostilities. In the years that followed the battle, the distance was variously reported as 800-yds, 1200-yds, 1400-yds and finally as 1538 yards-the current and popular value.
  8. OFADAN

    OFADAN Well-Known Member

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    idaho,

    If you're buying a Shiloh Sharps then the barrel twist is designed for greater mass lead bullets in the 500 plus range and not the 405 jacketed bullets with smokeless propellant. Like I said it will work with modern cartridges but not optimally. Really if you want to go "old" then you ought to seriously consider buddying up with someone who can work with you on developing a load and reloading black powder cartridges. The CDI factor is huge (CDI = Chicks Dig It). These Shiloh's really like the 535/540 grain bullets and black powder. You can buy black powder cartridges but they are blooming expensive and you will may not get optimal accuracy but you may get acceptable accuracy. Custom made ammo just like the old buff'lr runners (not hunters) used is the most effective means of making these rifles earn respect from the guys/gals at the range.

    Also I"m unaware of any rifle having true knock down power. While the phrase is used generically many people literally believe a small diameter bullet will lift an Elk off their feet and throw them to the ground. It doesn't happen and most certainly a big bore Sharps is not going to do it either...so please set or calibrate your expectations accordingly. This rifle will punch or drill a .45 caliber hole in one side and go clean through a Bull Elk or Buffalo and exit out the other-side somewhere in the .45 to .46 caliber diameter (roughly speaking). It will punch holes but not lift anything off the ground or knock any large animal over.

    Also I'd stick with sub-200 yards for this cartridge for humane hunting. I train with guys who are Master Class National Champions in Black Powder Cartridge setting national records with Sharps and even they don't shoot much past 225 yards. One close friend hunted with a 45 2 7/8" in Africa and limited all his shots to under 200 and he is a world class competitor. So as the great philosopher Clint Eastwood once said "a man/women needs to know his/her limitations." :thumbup:

    Regardless keep your hunting expectations realistic to sub 225 or less and learn to become stealth, learn to stalk, learn to become quiet, learn how to hunt and get close like our forefathers did. Modern technology has almost eradicated our memory of how to hunt and hunt like our forefathers. Guys like spitpatch and others know how to hunt and not snipe with their muzzleloaders and Sharps rifles.

    The reason the 45-70 became less favorable the the 45-110 45 2 7/8") became more favorable in the later part of the buffl'r hunt was because the herds became thin, were staying further away and the shots became necessary to shoot greater distances. These Buffl'r Runners were not humane and didn't care if a critter was nicked or wounded and wandered off and died. We're not wired the same as they were so we have to adjust our hunting tactics accordingly.

    For your needs and expectations you might want to consider going with a Shiloh in 30-40 Krag like spitpatch did as that rifle is designed for smokeless propellant and modern bullet weights/twists. You can buy factory ammo and shoot at the same distances you can with a 30-30 only a little better because the Ballistic Coefficient of a 30-40 is a wee bit better. Something to consider...and a good choice.
  9. 2506

    2506 Well-Known Member

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    No, they are all treated equally by gravity. The 243 just happens to go farther before it hits the ground. Recall the hammer and feather from Apollo 15:
    YouTube - Feather & Hammer Drop on Moon

    If you would shoot a bullet from a gun exactly parallel to the Earth's surface, the motion of the bullet would have no effect on how gravity acts on the bullet. In other words, the bullet would drop at the same rate as a stationary object.
  10. del_and_bones

    del_and_bones Physics Pirate

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    Sorry to hijack, but I have to say this.

    Your observation is true, no denying that gravity imparts a force on all objects. Your trajectory argument is valid as well.

    I think the confusion with the other gentleman is why the 243 will travel further, that has to do with air-resistance (ballistic coefficients). We have to take in to account the cross-sectional area of the objects, the surface area in the direction of travel.

    Basic drag involves two parts a linear and quadratic term, so Fdrag = b*v + c*v^2. The constants b and c have caveats to them, but they are proportional to cross-sectional area of the object. Since we are looking at high velocity objects we can ignore the linear term because it will have less of an effect that the squared term.

    Take the cross section of a .243, area = pi*r^2 so we have
    pi*(.243/2)^2 = .046 in^2
    and a .45-70
    pi*(.458/2)^2 = .165 in^2, roughly four time the area of a .243

    Compare their velocities as well

    and now do some math!

    Let's use the equation from my intro physics textbook: c = 1/2*D*p*A
    D= drag coefficient
    p= density of air
    A = cross sectional area
    We should also set D=1 and p=1 for simplicity. Then
    Fdrag = 1/2*A*v^2

    For the .243
    Fdrag = 1/2*.046*4000^2 = about 371000

    For .45-70
    Fdrag = 1/2*.165*2200^2 = about 400000

    So the .45-70 have a greater drag even though it's traveling slower, so this only exacerbates the difference between the distance traveled.

    This gap should be greater since the ballistic coefficient should be at least proportional to the drag coefficient D (I'm guessing they're equal) and the BC's of 243's are waaay less than .45-70.

    Hope you enjoyed the physics lesson.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
  11. del_and_bones

    del_and_bones Physics Pirate

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    Deadeye, I'm sorry if I sounded like an ***. I really didn't mean to, I just wanted to shed some light on the scenario. I do have real world smarts, I'm high-class trailer trash and proud of it!
  12. salmonriverjohn

    salmonriverjohn Well-Known Member

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    :drink:Nice reply del_ That deserves a toast.
  13. HollisOR

    HollisOR Active Member

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    Caliber is not much of a consideration in building a precision rifle. Near Bend, OR there is a 1000M Black powder shoot, with open sights. Long range shooting is not for everyone and not everyone does it. Also, a place like Montana, large open spaces is needed.


    Also there is long range BP competitions. I finally sold by Shiloh Sharps, I live in the valley so it was a expensive safe queen.
  14. OFADAN

    OFADAN Well-Known Member

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    Indeed, shooting BPCR (Black Powder Cartridge Rifles) is not for everyone and most definitely long-range is not as well. I find I enjoy shooting my 50-70 hunting rifle out to 300-400 yards on smaller steel plates as enjoyable and as challenging as shooting the 45's out to 1000.

    A lot of folks just don't want to learn and master the technology (which isn't a bad thing) and instead end up shooting smokeless propellant/cartridges in the 45-70 rifles...in doing so one never really gets to fully appreciate what they can do and how darn much fun they are...but as my business partner said to me at one shoot...I'd rather watch grass grow. So this isn't for everyone. The learning curve is long and arduous and it just isn't for everyone - it requires disclipline, patience, attention to detail, and a stubborn spirit in order to get these rifles to really perform.

    But hitting the steel buffalo at 1000 yards at the COSSA range over in Bend, 7 out of 10 shots ,isn't an easy feat with these rifles...and in doing so it gives one a sense of frontier pride and accomplishment. Then when you turn the same rifle and cartridge load over to some world class hi-power shooters and they cannot hit the same buff'r with 10 shots then they realize this isn't as easy as it looks. Don't ask me how I know this...

    [​IMG]
    This is in East Texas with me on the mat shooting my Sharps in .45 2 7/8" (45-110) at 600 yards. Spotting for me is my friend Bill Bagwell...yes the same Bagwell who is one of the three founders of the Knife Makers Guild. You can see one of his custom Hells Belles knives on the bench over left shoulder. Bill besides being a world-class custom Bowie Knife Maker, & former Knife Editor at Soldier of Fortune, is also a Master Class BPCR shooter/competitor. He wife, Sidra, won the women's divison at the Quigley Match a couple years ago.

    [​IMG]
    Here I am with Bill again a year earlier, drilling the plate center at 435 yards with a .45 2 7/8" (45-110). This rifle was used in the Movie Crossfire Trails with Tom Selleck and was used by Wilford Brimley to shoot at the bad dude in the church tower scene. They fitted it with a scope for the movie. It was originally custom built for a very famous second generation Country Star and has his birthday as the serial number. Long story but the star no longer owns the rifle. This rifle shoots lights out once a fella learns how to load for this cantankerous cartridge!
  15. 2506

    2506 Well-Known Member

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    More of a physics review for me than a lesson--but enjoyed it nonetheless! Thanks for doing all the heavy lifting. (that's a gravity joke).
    Kinda like saying there are only 10 types of people in the world: those that understand binary and those that don't.