Two Different Approaches

     Several months ago I bought a new gun, the first in a long time. After considerable debate I settled on a Marlin 1895. I always wanted a lever action, and I liked the possibilities of the .45-70. I had had my eye on this famous cartridge for a long time, but didn’t want to buy one until after I got into reloading. Most of the current factory ammo is loaded much lighter than the cartridge can handle due to the volume of antique .45-70’s intended for black powder cartridges. But with reloading in modern guns, like the Marlin, this chunk of a cartridge can be cranked up quite a bit hotter than the original loads.

A 165 grain .308 bullet (left) and 405 grain .458 bullet (right). Where the former is fast, flat-shooting and modern, the latter is basic, heavy, and slow. But that doesn’t mean it won’t get the job done!

     My intent had been to reload with a 350 grain jacketed bullet, but the options were woefully limited when it came to .458 bullets in the local (and not so local) gun shops. I eventually ordered online after settling on a great big 405 grain cast lead offering, made by Berry’s Manufacturing  of Utah. I was a little hesitant about cast lead, but the price was right and certainly adds a nostalgic touch to a .45-70.
     I like heavy bullets, so I had no problem with the weight. The trend toward small and fast is a bit overrated and doesn’t make a lot of sense with a .45 caliber bullet. With velocities generally topping out under 2,000 fps, the 405 grain slugs aren’t as flashy as the lighter, modern bullets available in, say, .308 caliber, but they work very well for hunting. In fact, 405 grains was the original .45-70 load when it made it’s debut in the late 1800s. This load killed countless deer, bear, elk and, tragic as it was, helped virtually eradicate the American Buffalo. Any bullet that can tackle buffalo has a lot going for it, even if it tumbles out the muzzle at a leisurely pace. Combine the ballistic properties of this monster of a bullet with modern guns and propellants and it becomes clear that this old cartridge/bullet combination has a lot to offer the modern hunter.

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