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1886 amunition
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June 2, 2017 - 10:18 pm
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 Hello all,

I have a beautiful 1886 45-90 that I want to shoot. I guess everyone knows finding any kind of factory ammo is a lost cause, unless you want Cowboy Action ammo. I’ve been reloading for 45 years now, but as you probably also know there is little data around for smokeless powder loads.  I know the argument against shooting smokeless in these old guns and agree. But, isn’t there two different 1886’s? I mean, the early guns are “black powder” guns, yes. But the later ones, after the turn of the 20th century, weren’t they chambered and rifled to shoot jacketed bullets? Mine was made in 1910, toward the end of production (#152878_A). I know (or think I know) the Express loads had a 300 grain bullet. But was there a smokeless Express load with a jacketed bullet? Or a BP load with a jacketed bullet?

I guess what I’m getting at is:

In 1910 or 1911, when the rifle was sold, what would have been the newest, latest ammo I would have been sold at the time? Or what is the CORRECT ammo for this fine old rifle?

Dave

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June 3, 2017 - 12:41 am
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Dave,

Is the barrel marked “Nickel Steel”? If not, check the bottom of the barrel for any of the following; “MNS”, “BNS”, or “CNS”. If it has any of those markings, it is perfectly fine to shoot jacketed bullets at moderate velocities, loaded with smokeless powder.

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June 3, 2017 - 3:01 am
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In my opinion the 45-90 is a poor smokeless powder cartridge but a wonderful BP cartridge. If you’re dead set against BP then 5744 is probably your best bet. I’d stay towards the lighter end of the 45 caliber rifle bullet spectrum, 300-330 grains. If you’re not a caster yet the 45-90 is an excellent excuse to start, Lyman’s 457122 Gould bullet would be an excellent place to start. My theory about the lack of loading data is that as I understand it SAAMI never standardized the cartridge. Mike V’s “Shooting Leverguns….” lists a load of 30 grs of AA XMP5744 under a 300 gr lead or jacketed bullet…but I prefer lead in my old leverguns.

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June 3, 2017 - 7:09 pm
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Burt,

Without taking the forearm off I see none of the markings you refer to. This rifle came from Canada and has lots of British proof marks all over the rifle, the standard Win. markings on the top of the barrel with the last patent date being Jan. 20 1885, the standard cal. markings, model and brand on the upper tang and the serial # on the lower tang. That’s it. Are you sure the marking you refer to were one a rifle made as late as 1910? If they are, are they under the forearm?

TXGunNut,

Thanks for the load data. I have a very old original Winchester mold marked 45-90. It drops 300 grain bullets with a fairly soft lead mix. BUT my rifle hates that bullet with any load. I’ve tried 5 or 6 other lead bullets also. They have been of varying weights with various powders and charge weights with no joy. Although I haven’t tried the Lyman 457122, so far my rifle just hates lead bullets. The best groups at 50 yards were around 5″ at 50 yrds.. I have also tried 400 grain JFN bullets and they shot the best of them all at about 3 1/2″ at 50 yrds., but they have a pretty stiff recoil as opposed to the lead 300s. I was hoping someone here would know if this rifle was made to shoot with lead or jacketed bullets. I don’t really want to shoot jacketed bullets if my rifle was made to shoot lead. Thus the main question I asked in my first post about what exactly this late manufactured rifle was made to shoot, lead or jacketed. I know this rifle is an “express” rifle, and that means 300 grain bullets, but again, was my rifle manufactured to shoot lead or Jacketed bullets? Anyone?

Dave

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June 3, 2017 - 7:21 pm
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dave said
Burt,

Without taking the forearm off I see none of the markings you refer to. This rifle came from Canada and has lots of British proof marks all over the rifle, the standard Win. markings on the top of the barrel with the last patent date being Jan. 20 1885, the standard cal. markings, model and brand on the upper tang and the serial # on the lower tang. That’s it. Are you sure the marking you refer to were one a rifle made as late as 1910? If they are, are they under the forearm?
 
  
Dave  

Dave,

Yes, I am absolutely sure…  In fact, the markings I mentioned are more likely to me present on a 1910 production rifle than one that was made pre-1899.  After the turn of the century, Winchester intentionally began using nickel steel barrels for smokeless powder on the older formerly black powder rifles. 

The “MNS”, or “BNS”, or “CNS” markings are found on the bottom of the barrel under the forend stock and magazine tube.  The “NS” means Nickel Steel, which is the steel alloy Winchester specifically used for smokeless powder and full patch (jacketed) bullets up through the early 1930s.

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June 3, 2017 - 7:41 pm
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Thanks for the reply Burt,

Next time I pull it apart I’ll check for those markings. I’m still a rooky at disassembling and assembling lever guns so I only do it when necessary. But from what you said I should expect the marks to be there because it was made after 1899, correct? And if that’s true I could assume that my 1910 vintage rifle has a nickel steel barrel and was made to shoot smokeless powder and jacketed bullets. Correct?

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June 3, 2017 - 9:25 pm
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dave said
Thanks for the reply Burt,

Next time I pull it apart I’ll check for those markings. I’m still a rooky at disassembling and assembling lever guns so I only do it when necessary. But from what you said I should expect the marks to be there because it was made after 1899, correct? And if that’s true I could assume that my 1910 vintage rifle has a nickel steel barrel and was made to shoot smokeless powder and jacketed bullets. Correct?

Dave  

Correct.

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June 4, 2017 - 12:19 am
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Don’t feel bad, Dave. Had a 45-90 eat my lunch for years. Away from home at the moment and not sure about the number for that Gould mould. I have learned that anything smaller than a .459 lead bullet is too small for my .45 rifles. Rumor has it that BP “bumps up” soft lead bullets but I’ve only verified it in the 38WCF.

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June 4, 2017 - 1:38 am
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Well, after getting help from you guys on this thread, I’m going to pick up some Sierra 300 grain JFN bullets and start a load workup with them. I’m bound and determined to find a load that works in this beautiful work of art that is the Win. 1886 and make it shoot like it did when it was new.

Thanks to both you guys, Bert and Tex. I now have another path to follow in my 1886 saga.  🙂

Dave

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June 4, 2017 - 2:30 pm
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Sounds like a plan, hope it works out for you. Looking forward to a range report.

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June 4, 2017 - 4:15 pm
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I have loaded and shot 86’s for thirty years with smokeless powder including 45-90. The following is what I’ve learned, 1. DO NOT USE ANTIQUE BRASS, the heads blow off. 2. I have the best results with new brass made from stretched 45-70, it leaves more room for bullet dia. 3. I have good luck with bullets cast in the original Winchester mold marked 45-90, it’s 300gr. I cast but DO NOT SIZE and hand lube. I also use Remington 45 cal. 300gr. JHP. 4. The original vel. is about 1450fps, it’s accurate but like a rainbow, (vel. of each round must be the same), and that’s the challenge, it was simple with BP, but difficult with smokeless. I achieved consistency by using 38-40grs. of 3031 covered by a very thin paper wad and filling the case with corn meal, leave approx. 3/8″ from the top empty for the bullet. The paper wad separates the powder from the corn meal and keeps the powder against the primer. 5. I use a Lee collet crimp to secure bullet. 6. I do not use gas checks, one less thing to lodge in barrel. 7. I check brass after every shot to make sure part of it is not in barrel.                    This is what I do, not a recommendation. T\R         

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June 5, 2017 - 3:11 pm
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Thanks for the tips TR!

I guess I’ve got some of them covered. I’m using Bell brass. I have loaded some antique Win. brass but I’ll not use it anymore seeings how you found they sometimes fail. 

How do you “stretch” 45-70? Do you mean use 45-70 cases that have been fired enough times to stretch?

I have been sizing the 300 and all lead bullets to .459, I’ll try unsized ones from my 300 grain antique mold, that may work. Don’t know why I didn’t think of that. Duh.

Is the price point the reason you use Rem. bullets? Or is it the design of the bullet for feeding purposes? I usually find Sierra bullets more accurate than Rem. bullets but they are a different profile. 

I did notice a high SD on any rounds I loaded without a filler. ( love my $100 Crony). I haven’t used corn starch and a wad but instead I’ve been using Dacron pillow stuffing. Do you think the corn starch works better? 

Dave

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June 5, 2017 - 11:12 pm
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     Dave,        I use Quaker Yellow Corn Meal, I have never used corn starch. I have never stretched brass, when I buy it the head stamp says 45-70 but it’s the length of 45-90, don’t know how they do it. The cast not sized bullet using an original Winchester mold using wheel weights lead comes out .458″ish, not quite round, but that’s the way Winchester intended when you bought their 1894 reloading tools when your gun was new. I use Remington 300gr. JHP .457 in  my 45cal. 1886 and 1876 guns, because they shoot straight and are cheap but so are cast. If you are serious about shooting old Winchesters buy Clyde “Snooky” Williamson book Winchester Lever Legacy printed 1988, 600 pages of loading data on 1886, 1892, 1894, and 1895 models. Snooky and his good friend George Madis where the experts in the day. I bought his book in the day and do not regret it. T/R.  

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June 5, 2017 - 11:52 pm
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  Dave, I buy stretched brass, it is head stamped 45-70 but is 45-90 length, do not know how they make it. In 1894 Winchester sold reloading tools, the mold included in the box was designed to produce a unsized bullet to be used in your gun. The bullet it makes comes out .458″ish, not quite round but it works well in their gun. The Remington 45cal. .457″ JHP works well in all my 45cal. 86’s and 76’s. I have never used corn starch, I use Quaker Yellow Corn Meal as a filler in the 45-90, it’s handy,cheap, and smells good when shot. If you are serious about shooting old Winchesters buy The Winchester Lever Legacy by Clyde “Snooky” Williamson, 600 pages of loading data on old 1886, 1892, 1894, and 1895’s. The book was published in 1988, I bought one in the day. T\R    

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June 6, 2017 - 2:39 am
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If you plan to shoot the .45-90 on a regular basis, invest in some new brass made by Starline. In my opinion, they make the best brass available.  I use it for many of my old Colt’s and Winchester’s, including the .45-90.

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win4575 said
If you plan to shoot the .45-90 on a regular basis, invest in some new brass made by Starline. In my opinion, they make the best brass available.  I use it for many of my old Colt’s and Winchester’s, including the .45-90.  

I’ll second that.  Track of The Wolf and Buffalo Arms have them in stock now, Starline and Jamison.

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I use the Starline correct head stamp brass also. I load for the 45-70 as well and don’t need to add to the confusion when correct brass is available. The stretched brass cost about the same as correct brass last time I saw any.

I’m not too excited about using fillers of any kind, I know it’s controversial but I prefer my barrels without rings. I prefer to fill the case with BP or use a powder that is not position sensitive. I know other folks besides JR that have done it successfully for years but I know how my luck runs. Fillers become bore obstructions, bore obstructions cause high pressure. High pressure causes rings or burst barrels. Not every time, not even all that often, but it only takes once.

 

Mike

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June 6, 2017 - 4:53 pm
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TXGunNut said
I use the Starline correct head stamp brass also. I load for the 45-70 as well and don’t need to add to the confusion when correct brass is available. The stretched brass cost about the same as correct brass last time I saw any.

I’m not too excited about using fillers of any kind, I know it’s controversial but I prefer my barrels without rings. I prefer to fill the case with BP or use a powder that is not position sensitive. I know other folks besides JR that have done it successfully for years but I know how my luck runs. Fillers become bore obstructions, bore obstructions cause high pressure. High pressure causes rings or burst barrels. Not every time, not even all that often, but it only takes once.

 

Mike

.   

Gotta agree with both points TXGunNut brings up.  When dealing with guns, safety comes first, hence using the correct head stamped brass.  As to fillers and position sensitive powders in old BP calibers (like Unique), years ago I read somewhere that holding the cartridge with the bullet up prior to inserting it into the chamber, will cause the powder to slide down closer to the primer and reduce the SD spread of shots.  Of course, this will only work when firing in single shot mode, whether it be an 1885 or a Model 1886.  I’ve been doing that for years and it works for me.

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June 6, 2017 - 6:16 pm
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Wow! you guys are a wealth of information!

I have some Starline and some Bell and some Winchester brass. All with the correct head stamp. I’m going to retire the old Win. brass as suggested. I read about the chamber ringing from 45-70 rounds and have no intention of using them in my rifle. I checked mine and it doesn’t have a ring and I intend it to keep it that way. 

I tried using fillers when I was trying to get my rifle to shoot with a number of different lead bullets.  I found the SD didn’t change much with or without fillers. Especially if you tip up the rifle and give it a couple of pats on the side. Even more so when using Unique. When I gave up on Unique I also gave up on fillers. I doubt I’ll try either one of them again if I can find a load with a jacketed bullet. When my 300 grain JHP Sierras get here I’m going to try some stick powder like IMR3031 and or IMR4895 first. They did a pretty good job filling the case when I was trying lead bullets but those loads were pretty bad as far as accuracy went. I never liked the Unique loads, just not enough powder in that big case. They gave me the willies.

Mike,

What powders aren’t position sensitive? Do you mean powders that fill the case enough?

Dave

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June 6, 2017 - 7:23 pm
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Here’s an intelligent article on the subject of position sensitivity.  Perhaps it is more the volume of the smokeless powder being used in a specific cartridge rather than the inherent “position sensitivity” of the powder itself.

http://blog.westernpowders.com/2015/08/powder-position-and-pressure/

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