16 February 2024

Random Thoughts on .45-70 vs Muzzle Loader vs 12 Gauge for Reduced Logistics

Lately, I had been mulling over the idea of having a firearm that I can load up with commercial black power if it ever becomes available again, homemade black powder if it doesn't and black powder substitutes like Triple Seven or Pyrodex but also having the ability to use modern smokeless powders could be handy.

At first .45-70 and .45 Colt seem like the correct options as they are both cartridges that started life as black powder cartridges but survived the switch to smokeless and have special versions that are smokeless specific and intended for modern rifles. Think Marlin 1895 and Ruger Blackhawk or Rossi R92 respectively. What this means for you is that you can, in a pinch, make black powder, assuming you can get large primers, and reload. There is plenty of information regarding the use (though not suggested) of BP substitutes in those cartridges.

I later considered the idea that instead of having an option for smokeless, by focusing on a modern muzzle loader such as a CVA using 209 primers, could be a better choice. I can still use BP substitutes but now I don't need cases and reloading equipment. What's nice is most popular shotgun cartridges use 209 primers by default, meaning in a pinch, you can try to punch out the primers. If you happened across a random box of 28 gauge shells or target 20 gauge somewhere, you can pull them apart for the components. The only down side is you can't use the powder unless you were willing to take some risks.

Alternatively, why not just use a regular 12 gauge shotgun? The 12 gauge shotgun can handle common smokeless powders. Some shotgun powders are also pistol powders. Titegroup, Universal, Unique and HS-6 have loads for both 12 gauge shotguns and pistol cartridges. Some of those powders even have rifle cartridge loads available, though they may be reduced power loads like subsonic.

Shotgun shells already use 209 primers as that's what 209 primers are for. No need for anything special. If a shop has muzzle loading equipment, then you can probably get 209 primers. Folks have also found ways to load 12 gauge with BP subs such as Pryodex and Triple Seven. 

What do we need to start looking at this? Well, setting up a simple reloading kit can put us in the right direction. The Lee Loader kit for a 12 gauge would be a quick solution and can be found used on eBay for not much money used. Otherwise, we'll need a punch, something to elevate the cartridge with a hole in it to punch out the primer and a powder measure. Wads and some wax will be needed to help put it all together again.

For the projectiles themselves, slingshot ammo can be had. Note that many of these bulk packs on Amazon are hard clay and may not work but metal shot would be better. You can also get pellet molds that you can cast your own buckshot. I think a #4 buckshot and 1 oz slug mold might be in my future and a small kit.

I also have some of the Magtech brass hulls on order. While they don't use 209 primers, they do use large pocket primers. I can load basically any large diameter pistol, rifle, bench rest or magnum primer I can find into the shells. Normally, I think these are for black powder and subs but 25 should go a long way for me. I'll just need to build out a reloading kit.

I have a Remington 870 Express that this sort of thing would be good for. We also have a single shot .410 that could also work. I'm thinking I can hold off on the muzzle-loading rifle for now.

I found this video on YouTube that someone put together a very simple kit that demonstrates what I'm thinking.

There would be trade offs by focusing on the shotgun. The biggest one is range. The .45-70 cartridge even in black powder form can reach out especially with a longer barrel. While slugs are an option, I don't know how well those would work without a rifled slug barrel for the 870. I don't think a Trapper in .45-70 would be a good choice for black powder loads but there are some options for longer barrels out there such as the CVA Scout or the Rossi R95 with a 22 inch barrel. The muzzle-loader is still a solid choice regarding range but you're limited to BP and BP subs. Also, I don't know if modern inlines can use round ball with a patch as accurately. I'm just not educated enough on the subject at the moment but looking around it seems you are better off to pick a muzzle-loader intended to use patched balls for this if you go that route.

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