Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Journey Back in Time

This months guest post is about a rifle and cartridge introduced 140+ years ago.
The Winchester model 1876 and the .45-75 Winchester were both nicknamed "Centennial" as they were introduced at the United States Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, July 4th, 1876. This was of course to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of our nation.

The model of 1876 was a slightly larger version of the model of 1873. Chambered for the .40-60, .45-60, .50-95 and the .45-75 which we will look at here.
While the 1876 was indeed larger than the 1873, it was still not large enough for the U.S. rifle cartridge, the .45-70 Government.
This is where the .45-75 comes from, the cartridge was designed to replicate the power of the .45-70 only in a shorter case (to fit the shorter action of the Model of 1876). This of course required the case to be fatter at the bottom and have a gentle sweeping bottle neck type shape, which is typical of early rifle cartridges.

The .45-70 Government (L) and .45-75 Winchester (R)

The 1876 was also the last Winchester using the old toggle link design. The lever action model that followed the 1876, was the model of 1886, designed by John Moses Browning.

One interesting note, both the .45-75 cartridge and the 1876 Winchester rifle were favorites of Teddy Roosevelt.

As far anyone can tell from history, the Winchester 1876 was Roosevelt’s first hunting rifle he purchased for himself, at the age of 22. I understand he used the money he won in a tennis match to buy the rifle...

The remainder of this post is in the authors words (italicized).

Finally Midway has some .45-75 brass in stock, and a reasonable price at that. Purchased 100 pieces today.

Dad (now 85) has a 95% or better condition Winchester .45-75 1876 Sport model that he's had since he was 10 years old. Him being an ex-101st Airborne Sargent (Korean Conflict) needless to say this firearm has been pampered over the past 7 decades and the photos show it. Each year he takes it out and oils it, applies a good wax to the stock.

He's flying out from Minnesota for his youngest grandson's final senior year in Football for Senior Night in Oct this fall and I'm surprising him with 100 rounds of .45-75 ammunition. He said he's not shot the rifle since the late 40's (A Garand replaced the Winchester as his "Go To" deer rifle after the war).

The first step is ....taking the step and ordering the brass, which I did. Now I will be motivate to purchase the die set, black powder and lead bullets however this will follow in the next few months (I have to go slow on ordering as I'm ramping up my own supply of 5 calibers in prep for the Hillary win ;) Wife "Flak" starts peppering my fuselage when I'm overspending in enemy territory)

They will be ready when he gets here in October.

A little history of the rifle before I show the pictures, in his own words:
"Serial # 57XXX, The rifle is King's Improvement, Patented March 20,1866 ....October 20, 1880. Round Barrel, Interior Brass Shell Feed and Extractor. with Lever Action. Rear fold down Elevated Sight. It is really in good shape for its age and has never been refinished. I bought this gun in the early 1940's at around 12 years old and used it as a youngster for deer my Grandpa's Resort at Cass Lake, MN.

During the second World War there were not any new firearms for sale. My Uncle Ed who was a traveling salesman bought it in Iowa from one of his customers before he was drafted into the Second World War. He use to take me deer hunting and put me in the woods somewhere on a log while he went off and tried to chase deer my way. I paid for it from the money I made at that early age by taking people out fishing from my Gramp's resort on Cass Lake. It cost me a whole $10.00 that was a lot of money for a kid in the 40's. So basically that is all the info I have on it."

Started the BP journey with setting up for .45-70 first before I move on to Dad's loads.
(The gun will be a vintage Springfield Trapdoor)This first BP load I used the following:
Starline Brass
Federal Magnum primer
500 gr bullet
This 500 grain bullet is made by "The Bullet Man" in Montana. He claims "Duplicate 45-70 Gov. 500 gn bullets. These are cast in a soft alloy of about BHN-9 and sized to .459" diameter. This design is our copy of the original arsenal design shown in the picture. They are cast identical to the original arsenal bullets recovered in the Fort Buford Fort Union area of eastern Montana. This is a replica design. This bullet loaded to between 1270 and 1330 fps will regulate to the original Trapdoor Springfield issue sights at all ranges the sight is calibrated for."

I wanted to start with about 62 approx in volume. The powder used is an older unopened can of Dupont FFg that came with this rifle. I validated it was BP and that it would burn

I built a drop tube to assist in compacting the powder to prevent air pockets. Instead of eye screws to hold the 24" of brass tube, I went with a combination of a nylon strap supported by a washer and rubber grommet. It has a gasket around the brass tube to make it adjustable too.

I drilled a couple of holes in the base plate just to keep the Valved flask and powder measure in place when not in use.

I used a .060 vegetable .45 dia wad. These were relatively inexpensive. After loading the BP into the casing, this wad placed on top. I then used a Montana Black Powder Compression die to push the wad down another .150

As you can see, I went beyond the max 2.795 to 2.835. The reason being is I took a friends advice (Thks Vic) and compressed it about .150 after dropping the powder in. I was careful not to 'crush' the powder as suggested. I also added a taper crimp in a separate stage from the bullet seating.

Its one method for eliminating any chance of air pockets and yes, to get the powder to fill lower in the casing. I still have to compress about .150 with a compression die.
The thing I've been told about black powder is to compress it, but not too much because then you change the granularity of the black powder and that can be an issue for accuracy.

Range Report:
5 rds of each 62 and 65 volume. (10 rds total)


The "Smoke" wasn't impressive as I thought it would be but after reviewing the video I realized what everyone else was seeing. Very cool!

62 gr of Dupont FFg were all over the place. 65 gr of same powder things improved!!

I first had a great grouping of 65 so I'm confident 69-70 would be the best in the future, (of which 30 I've loaded this afternoon in 68-70 volume grs.

Photo directly below is that of grouping (eek! not as accurate as Missouri Bullets in 405 with AA5744) and I'm still working the load. (bumping to 68-70 volume)

All shots were with Notch's custom Titanium front sight replacement to hold the trapdoor on target at 100 yds. (This site is .350 from base of barrel to top. (Stock sight is .275)

Grouping of 5 shots (1 test shot with 405) using 65 gr volume FFg and 500 grain bullet. Setting on the Buffington was set at 200 yrds. (Extra tall front sight allows for min buff mark of 200 to be used on 100 yd range thanks to the new front sights)

I dropped each BP spent casing into a milk jug of warm water and dish soap for easier processing. I also ran a few Butter Bore patches down the barrel before I proceed to smokeless rounds. That first patch , bottom, came out awfully dirty. Normal for BP from my research. :) 

Annealing the 45-75 Brass

The dies should be here tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I looked around and shopped around for a nice wood box to put Dad's rounds in.
Considering Dad was born in the depression (1930) he'd prefer something that didn't cost as much.
So I thrift shopped, found a faux leather Trunk/Chest looking item for $2.00 that was reasonably stout! (Turns out they're on Amazon from China for $17)
He loves a bargain even though he's very well off. That's a trait of that era!
Then I added a 5/8 particle board base, and a 1/2" piece of old cedar fence on top of that of which I will drill out with a Forstner drill for each shell.

(The shells are just set in to check for clearance and whatnot)

My neighbor is taking a 1.3" backstrip of cedar fence and burning "45-75 WCF" onto it. When he's done, we'll stain it, put it together and add the cartridges. :)

Dies arrived.

1.5 hrs of dinking around getting everything set up so I didn't crush a $1.80 shell case. I only had 20! :)
Only made one. Now that I have the dies set up, downhill tomorrow.

Bullets: Bitteroots Components 350 gr .458 dia, SPG lubed bullet
Brass: JBA .45/75 (Annealed slightly)
Primer: Federal Lg Rifle Magnum
Powder: 64 volume Pyrodex RS (41.9 grains weight) low pressure load.

Bitterroot 350 gr .458 SPG lubed bullets

I started off with a flare of .005 to accept the .458 dia bullet

A Drop- tube was used to add 64 grs of Pyrodex RS Select into shell casing, leaving .440 between neck base and top of cartridge. Then a John Walters .060 vegetable wad was added and compressed with a Montana Precision Swaging Compression Die. to .500 allowing for another 1/8 inch of compression with bullet seating.

After adjusting the bullet seating depth on the RCBS die set, I added the proper crimp to the crimp groove. You can see the taper crimp in this picture. OAL is 2.250. (I cannot chamber cast the rifle since it is 1739 miles away. So I have to go with what Winchester published back in the day.)

The final bullet, cleaned up, ready for Box Presentation. 19 left to go!

and finished....

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