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1886 45-70 Shooting High
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August 16, 2022 - 12:21 am
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I want to shoot a pig with my 1886 (1894 built) 45-70. Not a common thing for me, but I’ve been invited by a friend to hunt and I think it would be fun to rock up with the antique when everyone else is bringing fancy scopes and modern super-fancy hunting rifles. Here in CA I need to use copper bullets for hunting so I bought some 300 grain Barnes Vortex to try out.

At 100 yards shooting off a bag with the lead ammo from Choice Ammunition I’m getting 3.5″ groups and the elevation is pretty much perfect – maybe an inch high on average, but good enough. The Choice 405 grain ammo clocks at 1450 fps.

The Barnes ammo is 1950 fps and I’m shooting the same size group on the same day 5″ high. The problem is that I can’t depress the sights any more – all out of rear sight adjustment.

I’d like to swap the front sight, but I’d prefer to go with something authentic. Does anyone know if Winchester 45-70’s came with a selection/option for front sights? My alternative would be to buy a second sight, weld and grind it a little taller and use that for the hunt, then put the original one back on. Or maybe make some kind of magnetic contraption to grip a piece of mild steel to the top of the sight.

Or, just decide to shoot low, which I really don’t want to do because guestimating that kind of thing is hard in the moment and I’ll probably screw up and shoot the pig’s toe off.

Ideas?

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August 16, 2022 - 1:19 am
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At 100 yards shooting off a bag with the lead ammo from Choice Ammunition I’m getting 3.5″ groups and the elevation is pretty much perfect – maybe an inch high on average, but good enough. Doug Bailey said

  

Amazing–an HONEST range report!  The usual report is the best of a dozen 3-shot “groups,” probably shot at half the range claimed.  Unfortunately, your honesty disqualifies you from membership in the hugely popular Gun Board BSers Club.

As for front sights, many factory options were available, but finding an original is going to be a whole lot more trouble than it’s worth, given your stated purpose.  My advice (based on a lifetime of shooting irons under hunting, not range, conditions):  forget “originality,” & find a Redfield Sourdough high enough to lower your group; no better front sight for hunting has ever been made.  Also forget “shooting low”–it’s not impossible, but VERY hard to remember at the crucial moment, whereas “shooting high” at long range comes more or less naturally.

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August 16, 2022 - 6:55 pm
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You don’t mention the height of your front sight or what style of front sight it is.  More information would help.  RDB

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August 17, 2022 - 12:55 pm
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Brownells has a selection of front sights you can use for the hunt, if you’ll measure your existing sight and sight radius the correct height can be determined. 

 

Mike

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August 17, 2022 - 9:48 pm
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The current sight is a blade type (steel blade welded to the dovetail) that stands 0.282″ above the top of the barrel. I don’t have a measurement for the depth of the dovetail in the barrel or the overall height of the sight because I did not drive it out of the dovetail to check. 

My math shows that to drop the shots down 6″ at 100 yards I need to add 0.040″ to the height, which is not much. Skinnersights.com have some brass blades that I can probably file down in situ to get the right zero to target.

That will bring even more amusement to the firing line than I had last time when I was whacking the sights with a hammer and punch to get it zero’ed. I’m not sure that the folks with the fine modern optics that probably cost more than my truck were ready for some guy making adjustments with a hammer. They’ll likely freak if they see me taking a file to a 130 year old gun. 🙂

 

  

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August 19, 2022 - 4:07 am
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I drifted the sight out of the barrel dovetail. It measures 0.375 from the bottom of the dovetail to the top of the blade. I just ordered a 0.450 replacement, which will be too tall, but I can trim back with a file.

One other issue. I decided to check the trigger pull while I had the rifle in the stand. It’s about 7lbs, which seems excessive and matches my impression on the range that I was having to work pretty hard to fire it. Is that a normal pull for an 1886?

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August 19, 2022 - 1:38 pm
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Doug Bailey said
One other issue. I decided to check the trigger pull while I had the rifle in the stand. It’s about 7lbs, which seems excessive and matches my impression on the range that I was having to work pretty hard to fire it. Is that a normal pull for an 1886?

  

No, but there’s nothing you can do to improve it yourself, without removing the buttstock, which may not be an easy job if the wood has never been separated from the metal before; after 100 yrs, the old oil that often seeps between the stock & tangs oxidizes to something like varnish.  If you want to try it, take out the two tang screws, & strike the comb hard with the heel of your hand; if the wood starts to separate from the tangs after a couple of blows, you can work it off slowly; if not, best leave it alone if you’ve never done this before. 

If you can get it off without damage, spray the trigger & hammer with Gun Scrubber or something similar, & when dry, try to work a dab of red grease into the full-cock notch of the hammer. 

I almost “can’t shoot” a gun with a heavy pull, but if your chief interest is taking a shot at a hog, which will probably be at pretty close range, you won’t notice the heavy pull as you do at the bench, in which case leaving the gun alone may be the wisest choice of all.

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