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The Winchester Single Shot and the .45-70 - a mystery
January 14, 2022
5:27 pm
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I was reading Bert’s excellent article on the Single Shot in the winter 2021 WACA magazine.  A vast amount of excellent and interesting information was provided.  A small detail caught my attention.  That was the .45-70 Govt. cartridge was dropped from the catalog line-up for four years.  Bert labels this as, “inexplicable” and I heartily agree.  It was dropped from the catalog in November 1887 and added back in 1891.  So – four years of no .45-70 offering?  Why?  It was a popular cartridge that was chambered by many other manufacturers.  Surely, it was a cartridge for which ammunition was widely available.  It had a strong reputation and history of excellent performance.  It was (I believe) the most popular chambering in the M1886 during the 1887 to 1891 period.  And while it was dropped for four years – they kept the .45-60 and .45-75 chambering throughout those years.  Looking at the production tables Bert provided, the .45-70 accounted for 3032 rifles in the Single Shot rifle while the .45-60 accounted for 193 rifles and the .45-75 accounted for 110 rifles.  In fact, if you look at the 11 .45 caliber rifles the Single-shot was offered in, all of them added together don’t total the number they made in .45-70!  

Can anyone offer an explanation, conjecture or thought on why the .45-70 was dropped as outlined above? I’d sure love to hear the discussion around the Winchester management table when they decided what cartridges were in and what ones were out.  I just can’t imagine the logic that favored the .45-60 and .45-75 over the .45-70.

January 14, 2022
6:10 pm
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Just spit-balling here.  I did not read the article (only your post).  Was it merely dropped from the catalogue, but kept in production?  Or was it dropped from production also?

If the former, then maybe it was a mistake at the publishing house that nobody caught for four years.  Or maybe it was like Henry Ford’s Model T, where they’d advertise special colors, but not black.

If the latter, then I’m at a loss.  I look forward to reading what others have to say.

January 14, 2022
6:10 pm
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Although no one can prove it either way now, I suspect it was a catalog formatting/printing issue.  Not an actual decision to drop the .45-70 cartridge from the lineup for the single shot.  My guess is that someone dropped the ball in setting up the catalog and then it went un-noticed for those years.  

Did Winchester continue to ship out Single Shot rifles in .45-70 during those years?  If so, that would be as close to conclusive as we can get today.  If not, then that would indicate it was an actual decision to drop the cartridge.

I’m digging out the Winter 2021 issue.  Until then, “paging Bert H to a white courtesy phone.”

I call myself a collector as it sounds better than hoarder

January 14, 2022
6:30 pm
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Bill Hockett said
Although no one can prove it either way now, I suspect it was a catalog formatting/printing issue.  Not an actual decision to drop the .45-70 cartridge from the lineup for the single shot.  My guess is that someone dropped the ball in setting up the catalog and then it went un-noticed for those years.  

Did Winchester continue to ship out Single Shot rifles in .45-70 during those years?  If so, that would be as close to conclusive as we can get today.  If not, then that would indicate it was an actual decision to drop the cartridge.  

I think it likely Winchester continued to ship out some .45-70’s during those four years.  Winchester shipped out a variety of single-shots in chamberings that didn’t appear in the catalog.  If a customer ordered one, surely they would fill the order.  They would have had everything they needed to build one during those four years.  I would suspect .45-70 sales would have suffered.  If it didn’t appear in the catalog, many customers would just pick something from what was listed.  I do note the second most popular chambering among the 11 .45 calibers was the .45-90.  This was available during those four years.  I could see customs being satisfied with that choice.  

January 14, 2022
6:39 pm
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Just to add a personal note:  My business would spend what was to us a goodly amount of money for certain hard-copy advertising.  We would get an opportunity to “proof” the draft copies, but sometimes a mistake would get by.  After paying and printing thousands of final copies for distribution, it was not worth pulling them and re-doing for a mistake.  Sometimes the mistake was even “forgotten” and the next round was kicked out without prior approval, as-is.

Mistakes happen.  I’m not saying that is what happened here, in Winchester’s case, but unless we hear they actually dropped the round for that rifle for those years, that would be my guess.

If so, somebody probably got a boot in the rear.  

January 14, 2022
6:57 pm
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Here is a copy of a letter covering this time period.

January 14, 2022
8:01 pm
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Simply not credible to believe production of one of the country’s most popular cartridges would have been suspended.  Anyway, most guns were purchased from retailers, not ordered direct from factory, which makes the catalog description less important.

Recently ran across a statement in the ’39 catalog that surprised me:  a notice that no sales would be made direct to customers.  No such notice in the ’34 catalog, but neither was there ordering info.  When did this policy go into effect?

January 15, 2022
12:12 am
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Based on my research survey, the 45-70 was not dropped from production, but was just omitted from the catalog. While I do not have precise production numbers (yet), there were at least 750 high-wall rifles made in 45-70 during the 1887 – 1891 timeframe. I am currently in the process of determining exactly how many of each caliber/cartridge were manufactured in each block of 10,000 serial numbers. I will then later correlate it to how many of each caliber/cartridge were manufactured in each calendar year.

Bert

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January 15, 2022
4:46 am
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I’m firmly in the “omission” camp but another possibility exists. It’s my impression that the early Single Shot was built around the grand old 45-70 and that the other cartridges listed in the catalog were likely “optional” chamberings. 

 

Mike

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Smokeless powder is a passing fad! -Steve Garbe
I hate rude behavior in a man. I won't tolerate it. -Woodrow F. Call, Lonesome Dove
Some of my favorite recipes start out with a handful of depleted counterbalance devices.-TXGunNut
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January 15, 2022
1:49 pm
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TXGunNut said
I’m firmly in the “omission” camp but another possibility exists. It’s my impression that the early Single Shot was built around the grand old 45-70 and that the other cartridges listed in the catalog were likely “optional” chamberings. 

 

Mike  

Mike – I’ll join you in the omission camp.  As to your other idea, it is intriguing.  But it seems odd they would list it for several years, then not list of several years and then list it again.  If it was an error, mistake by the printing company etc., it would be interesting to know if it was any big deal when they discovered it.  Again, to have been a fly on the wall during their management/marketing discussions would be fascinating.  

A while back someone here presented some archival information on the discussion of what chamberings to include for the Model 70.  I recall one manager advocated to include the .300 Savage (and got his way).  That didn’t turn out to be the best move. However, collectors who own one today are real happy with the decision to include the .300. Wink

January 20, 2022
6:55 pm
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I think what we have is a rather an accidental “Omission” on the part of the Printer that made up the catalog.

I’ve found similar happenings while researching Winchester Reloading Tools.

On the 1894 Tool Instruction Sheets the .32 Winchester Special appears for a couple of years, then disappears on some sheets, then found continued to end of production. This occurs on some 1904 dated sheets and I’m guessing the printer simply re-used an earlier produced type set page or plate. 

Another example is when Errors occur, particularly when noting the .50-110 Express and .50-100-450 Express on some of the 1894 Instruction Sheets. There is a simple typo where the 110 is noted as 100 for a couple of sheets. 

From 1887-1891 the Model 1888 Reloading Tool was continually offered and sold in 45 Gov’t. for loading the 405 grs and 500 grs cartridges. It also was appears to be a popular cartridge in the Reloading Tool. I only wish I knew what production figures the Tools had vs. the rifles.

Sincerely,

Maverick  

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