30 January 2024

An Argument for the .45-70 Trapper

 There are several .45-70 lever action options showing up these days. Once I saw that Rossi had a threaded barrel trapper model with wood stocks, I started asking myself if this would be a good option. The price is the most interesting part at around $800 on the street. The first question I had was regarding black powder loads. My only real interest in .45-70 at this point is a "reduced logistics" cartridge. Meaning, if I can't get ammo but I have everything except powder, can I make a homemade black powder load that would be useful for hunting? Alternatively, if I couldn't get good smokeless powder but I could get Blackhorn 209 or Pyrodex from Wal-Mart or Academy, would I still be able to make a useful load? I'm intentionally ignoring the primer issue. I just assume I can harvest large primers from other cartridges that I have but can't hunt with. Think range quality .45 ACP ball or .308 Winchester FMJ.

I haven't been able to answer the BP question but I'm pretty sure that given .45-70 was a black powder cartridge first and foremost, plus add the ability to tune the lead alloy with softer lead, we should be fine if we make cast bullets. I'm pretty sure I can make a useable, short range deer load even with a 16 inch barrel from soft cast bullets. Even if with BP or a BP substitute the velocities are low, 1000 fps is still useable for a soft lead alloy. With the right bullet mold this should work.

My next question is, if I did this, would it be just as useable from an MPBR perspective with commercial ammunition? I pulled data from YouTube. Lee Mason used a Marlin 1895 Trapper and some Hornady 325 gr Lever-evolution loads and got 1811 fps in his testing. I pulled from Hornady a 0.230 G1 BC and plugged it into a calculator. After tinkering with the zero, I found that a 145 yard zero would get us around 170 yards MPBR with a 6 inch vital zone; that's three inches high and three inches low. 

The Hornady 325 gr load zeroed for 145 yards

While that's not as good as the 200 yard MPBR for a .30-30, I think I could live with that limitation. All of my shots on whitetail have been well under 120 yards since I started hunting. A 100 yard zero would put me around 140 yards. I can do that with my .357 Mag Marlin already. What I can't do with the .357 Magnum is make a good black powder load that's still usable. At least I don't think I can. 

I went back to YouTube to look for a lighter bullet weight. The Hornady 250 grain Lever-evoltion Monoflex does a little better. With a zero at 150 yards and a velocity around 1948 fps we can get an MPBR around 175 yards. The bullets are an all copper affair so I'll wager they will open up at that distance. If we hold on the spine, we should be able to drop a round into the vitals around 190 yards. I can live with that. 

The Hornady 250 gr load zeroed for 150 yards

Quick recap. We have a commercial load with a decent MPBR and a cartridge can work with black powder or a black powder substitute to make a short range hunting load. We have a threaded barrel on a wood stocked and blued steel lever action. I think we may have a winner. It's not my Ultimate Lever Action Hunting rifle build but I like having a rifle I can keep feeding during tough times. I don't know that I will go spend the $800 I would need to buy the rifle but it sure is compelling. 

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