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Ammo question
July 31, 2020
12:28 am
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Hey guys,

A couple of days ago a friend of mine brought over a 1885 HI wall #4538 that his uncle left him when he passed. The rifle has a 28"-#3 barrel that is roll stamped 45-70 on the bottom under the forend. I thought this was strange so I requested a record search from the Cody museum. The rifle letters as a 30"-32-20 so obviously the barrel has been changed. So here is my question. The ammo that my friend received with the rifle is 45 caliber but they measure 3.679 inches (93.41MM) long. That includes the soft nosed jacketed bullet and casing. I mean these things are huge. The head stamp on the casing says - 45 HDS Basic . I am sure there is someone out there that can give us some information on this round. By the way. The chamber in the barrel must have been bored out because the long round does chamber. We have shot 45-70 rounds through the rifle and they seem to perform pretty well at 100 yards. My friend would like to shoot the rounds he got with the rifle as they appear to be factory loaded. Any information and thoughts would be appreciated.

Thanks for your time

Glenn

July 31, 2020
1:16 am
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Grevans.44@gmail.com said
Hey guys,

A couple of days ago a friend of mine brought over a 1885 HI wall #4538 that his uncle left him when he passed. The rifle has a 28"-#3 barrel that is roll stamped 45-70 on the bottom under the forend. I thought this was strange so I requested a record search from the Cody museum. The rifle letters as a 30"-32-20 so obviously the barrel has been changed. So here is my question. The ammo that my friend received with the rifle is 45 caliber but they measure 3.679 inches (93.41MM) long. That includes the soft nosed jacketed bullet and casing. I mean these things are huge. The head stamp on the casing says - 45 HDS Basic .

 

So you have no idea how these rounds were loaded?  BP?  That's the only excuse for using these cases.  If you know they were fired in this rifle without blowing it up, I wouldn't be too worried about shooting them.  Otherwise, pull the bullets & load them as you please, but the extra length will complicate loading with smokeless.  Damn shame the original brl was kept with the gun, but they seldom are when a re-barreling job is done.

July 31, 2020
1:36 am
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Glenn,

It is possible that the bore was punched out to the 45 EX (45-125), or the 45 3-1/4 Sharps. Both cartridges used a 3.25" case. The Sharps was loaded with a heavier (larger) bullet than the 45 EX. If the barrel was originally a 45-70 (Govt), it has the correct twist rate for the 45 3-1/4 Sharps.

Bert

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July 31, 2020
2:16 am
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Thank you Bert,

I was pretty sure that one of you on this site would have a reasonable answer. I will relay this to my friend when I return his rifle. I also agree that since we have no history on the ammo i.e. how it was loaded, we will probably do as Clarence recommends and pull the bullets and reload them using BP.

I appreciate your quick response and the sharing of your knowledge.

Glenn

July 31, 2020
2:51 am
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Grevans.44@gmail.com said
Thank you Bert,

I also agree that since we have no history on the ammo i.e. how it was loaded, we will probably do as Clarence recommends and pull the bullets and reload them using BP.

 

Even a .45-70 case has excess space when loading with smokeless, so the extra length of your cases exacerbates that problem.  Was the previous owner shooting long-range BP matches, for which the extra powder capacity was an asset?  Sure no asset with smokeless.

The .45 Basic case was produced for use in guns originally chambered for the cartridges Bert mentioned.  Chambering a new brl for one of those cartridges serves no useful purpose, unless one enjoys smoke & recoil.

July 31, 2020
12:26 pm
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Clarence,

The rifle came out of north central Wisconsin. My understanding is that the gentleman that previously owned the rifle was not really a long range shooter but he did enjoy shooting BP. We really have no idea what his original thoughts were. I talked to my friend last night and it sounds like he will be using 45-70 rounds if and when he shoots it again. He will probably just keep the long cased ammo as they are for a conversation piece.

I explained to him that the collectors value on the rifle has been greatly reduced since the barrel has been changed. He is OK with that as it is more of a nostalgic thing for him. He is more of a shotgun guy than a rifleman.

July 31, 2020
1:37 pm
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Grevans.44@gmail.com said

I explained to him that the collectors value on the rifle has been greatly reduced since the barrel has been changed. He is OK with that as it is more of a nostalgic thing for him. He is more of a shotgun guy than a rifleman.  

In  that case, tell him to try shooting .410 shells in it!  Don't know if that will work in this gun, but it sure will in a Trapdoor Springfield. 

Using .45-70s is the most practical way to shoot it, but the long jump the bullet will have to make to reach the rifling is not conducive to good accuracy.  90% of the value of the gun now resides in the receiver alone, as the present barrel is more of a detriment than an asset.

July 31, 2020
4:55 pm
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Ok thanks for the help. I will pass on the information and advice you have shared.

Have a great weekend

Glenn

July 31, 2020
5:19 pm
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I have an original WRACO 45 EX (45-125) cartridge that measures 3.6245".

Here is a picture of a 45-90, 45 EX and a 45-70.  I'm not sure if I would even try a 45-70.  A 45-90 might be better if the cartridge will load into the chamber.  The 45 EX is a bottle neck and the straight wall of the 45-90 might hit?

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July 31, 2020
10:40 pm
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The ammo we have is a straight walled casing. The casing measures exactly 3.255 inches. It is not necked down.

July 31, 2020
11:08 pm
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Grevans.44@gmail.com said
The ammo we have is a straight walled casing. The casing measures exactly 3.255 inches. It is not necked down.  

That would make it nearly identical to the 45 Sharps 3-1/4 cartridge.

Bert

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July 31, 2020
11:58 pm
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I’d like to cast (pun intended) another vote for pulling a bullet. I’m puzzled that the bullets are jacketed, I had your friend’s uncle pegged for a BPCR sillywet or long range shooter but the JSP bullet pretty much shoots down that theory. I’d be interested in knowing which bullet he loaded in that old monster and of course if he was a fan of the Holy Black. Sights, if still present, may give us more clues about the purpose of this rifle.

 

Mike

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August 1, 2020
8:50 pm
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Bert H. said

That would make it nearly identical to the 45 Sharps 3-1/4 cartridge.

Bert  

I believe that Sharps made a BN, bottle neck and a SS, straight shell. Even if the 45-90 fits it will be a long jump to the lands. If the longer cases chamber when loaded I would use them.

HDS is Huntington brass and basic means it is a 45 case that needs to be cut to your proper length.  The 45-120 Sharps Straight shoots a .451" 485 gr. lead bullet.  The case is 3.25" and the OAL is 4.16".  One load I found says to use 26 grs. of 4198.  I have never loaded this round.  I would recommend using toilet paper that has been lightly rolled up so it will slip in the case and sit on top of the powder.  You need to cut this roll so it is just below the seated bullet.  No compression but it keeps all the powder down by the primer.  You need to slug your barrel and determine the correct diameter of the bullets.  Usually .001" over for lead.  Normally jacketed bullets use less powder that lead bullets.

August 1, 2020
8:57 pm
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Chuck said

I believe that Sharps made a BN, bottle neck and a SS, straight shell. Even if the 45-90 fits it will be a long jump to the lands.  

Chuck,

The 45 Sharps 3-1/4 is a straight walled "SS" case.  The bottle necked cartridges were in .40 caliber... e.g. the 40-50, 40-70, and 40-90.

Bert

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August 1, 2020
9:14 pm
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B

Bert H. said

Chuck,

The 45 Sharps 3-1/4 is a straight walled "SS" case.  The bottle necked cartridges were in .40 caliber... e.g. the 40-50, 40-70, and 40-90.

Bert  

Bert, I think you are right.  The Winchester 45-125 is a bottle neck.  Also I edited my post above with some data.

August 1, 2020
11:58 pm
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You guys are awesome. I never expected so much information and help. Thank you Chuck, for the reloading information it is very much appreciated.

August 2, 2020
5:18 pm
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You are welcome.  Just be careful and use a lesser amount of powder at first.  If you are going to shoot the jacketed bullets you need to find a good starting point for the powder.  I don't normally use jacketed bullets in my old guns.  Sometimes when I find factory loads with jackets I will shoot them and after that I use lead.  Accurate XMP 5744 is a good powder to use in the old Winchester large cases.  30 grs. is what is normal for the 45-90.  Maybe start there and work up.  If you don't have a chronograph it may be hard to determine the max load.  In general 1,400 FPS is max.  If you don't understand how to watch for excess pressure you need to read up on that.   Cases get hard to extract, the primers crater and start pushing out.

August 3, 2020
12:14 am
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OK thanks Chuck.

As this is not my rifle I will be letting my friend decide how he wants to proceed on what to shoot through it. We will heed your advice and proceed with caution should he decide to reload for this rifle.

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