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Thread: Getting back to the Wesson & Harrington .45-70 Buffalo Classic 1871

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Getting back to the Wesson & Harrington .45-70 Buffalo Classic 1871

    A little explaining - I bought this rifle about 20 years ago at a gun show. New condition, but no sights on it. I put a low Lyman 17A on the front, with narrow post. I had a Williams sight on it, but wanted better. I took a 1903 Springfield base, cut it longitudinally, and had a machinist friend drill it to match the scope mount holes in the barrel. Now I had a staff elevator sight with infinite elevation and plenty of windage adjustment. Mounted to the barrel, not the stock. Then I accumulated a few bullet moulds. I was ready to experiment - but life intervened - get the house ready to sell in Mass., Move to Maine, find a job, prepare the garden, repair the farmhouse we bought, etc.

    So today I began to really shoot this rifle. The first load is the Lyman 550 gr. 457676 designed by Schmitt (?) at Lyman, with a 1/8" card wad and 26.0 gr. XMP-5744. The wad is to protect the bullet base, and is not seated down on the powder - I don't want a ringed chamber. Group is about 1 1/2" at 100 yd. My intent is to get sight settings. I started with the 400 setting, which put this load 8" above POA at 100 yd.
    Then I shifted to a 300 yd. target, a white painted board 14x24 inches. It is hard to see the sights, but it was suggested to me that reading glasses would clarify the sights, and the target was seen through a peep so it would remain relatively clear. This proved to be good advice. Here are the results:
    Peep at 400 - shot lost low
    Peep at 600 - shot 30 yards short
    Peep at 700 - shot 10 yards short
    Peep at 800 - shot 18" low
    Peep at 900 - hits 4 to 7 inches above POA

    As you can see from the above, the load is not particularly high velocity, but this is fun and I am glad to be able to get back to prove my rifle / sight combination. I quit for awhile because after 12 shots with this 550 gr. bullet I was getting to where I felt I might start flinching. I'll get back to it during the week with other bullets and loads.
    "You will wantonly strike a hornet's nest which extends from mountains to ocean, and legions, now quiet, will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal." Robert Toombs, Democrat of Georgia, warning of the results of the imminent attack of the Confederacy upon Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, 1861

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    Glad you found the old girl ready to play . I've got the Wesson & Harrington, too. Right now I have a scope on it (aging eyes) and have settled on a 415 grain hunting bullet. The shoulder has given out, so those long range games, for me, aren't possible anymore.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    I declared myself a 'wimp' when I got past 50. Gave up high power pistols cause they started to bother my wrist and elbow. For rifles I got a Past recoil pad and put recoil pads on all my rifles. Works well.

    Congrats on the rifle. Sounds like it is getting dialed in.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master marlinman93's Avatar
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    Bad news to use a wad with 5744! It's a double base powder, and if that wad becomes dislodged and drops down against the powder a ringed chamber is the best that could happen! Things like blown up barrels, or other catastrophes have been documented with 5744 and wads.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I thought of the problem of a displaced wad. The material I use is an old cardboard "grain" barrel which grit to make grinding wheels was shipped in. It makes a hard 1/8" wad, which I cut myself on the drill press. It has a slight curvature, so when I thumb them into the case mouth they stay put, and the bullet base presses them down and tightens them. They aren't going anywhere.

    The group I shot today is five at 100 yd into 3.2", with four of those into 1.7". The load is 26 gr XMP-5744 under the Lyman pointed plainbase 500 gr 457659.
    "You will wantonly strike a hornet's nest which extends from mountains to ocean, and legions, now quiet, will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal." Robert Toombs, Democrat of Georgia, warning of the results of the imminent attack of the Confederacy upon Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, 1861

  6. #6
    Boolit Master marlinman93's Avatar
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    As the bullet base presses down on a wad, the case internal dimensions get larger. It might be a snug fit at the mouth, but pushed down it's not as snug. It's your gun, but I would leave the wad out, and use the same loads.
    This is a Ballard that blew up at Quigley using 5744 with a wad.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Ouch!

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy
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    A case full of 3f black powder with wad to base of bullet, no air space, at those distances keep track of weather & wind conditions,, more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
    HAPPY TRAILS.

  9. #9
    Wow!!! Was that one of your rifles, Marlinman? That is one sad picture. Was the shooter hurt?
    NRA Life Member

  10. #10
    Is the blown action a cast one or forged? Metal appears very grainy and coarse.

  11. #11
    Banned
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    Ballards were never cast !

    The way to use a wad is to put it over the powder ON the powder, then fill the rest of the space with coarse ground (Cuban style) corn meal. Everything should be slightly compressed. A light crimp (in single shots) completes the job. Bonus: The corn meal smells good and gently scrubs the bore.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master marlinman93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eldon View Post
    Ballards were never cast !

    .
    Who told you that baloney? All pre-Marlin Ballards were cast, and the #2 and #3 Ballards were all cast, with possibly a handful of exceptions. I see far more #2 and #3 cast actions than I do all the rest that were forged actions.

    Pull the trigger- No this was not my gun, but it was well documented around the internet. It is a cast #2 action rebarreled to .38-55, but that's not why it failed. I've seen a fair number of cast #2's rebarreled to .38-55 or .32-40, and even a couple in .45-70! If they use the correct powder, and correct loading procedures, they will hold up forever in these calibers in cast actions. I know people who've shot them in these calibers for decades with no issue.
    Yes, the woman who was shooting this was hurt badly, and mostly in her offhand arm. Her husband loaded the rounds for this gun, and said he used 5744 with a wad. Since this incident the use of 5744 with wads has been banned from the Quigley shoot.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

    Wayne Smith's Avatar
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    Yup, the inside of the 45-70 case is very slightly tapered and does get bigger as your boolit goes down. I'm afraid you are playing with fire with this loading procedure unless you glue your wads to the base of the boolit. If you have to use 5744 and a wad find a glue that will hold your wad to the boolit please.
    Wayne the Shrink

    There is no 'right' that requires me to work for you or you to work for me!

  14. #14
    Boolit Master Don McDowell's Avatar
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    Get rid of that danged wad with the 5744, bad business.
    Drop the powder charge to no more than 24 gr, and you'll likely see the groups tighten up, and loose those fliers.
    GUSA #6
    People will forget what you said...
    People will forget what you did...
    But People will NEVER forget how you made them feel

    Want to join in adult conversation about shooting the old ways without the hysterics associated with other places?http://historicshooting.com/mybb/index.php

  15. #15
    Boolit Master marlinman93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne Smith View Post
    Yup, the inside of the 45-70 case is very slightly tapered and does get bigger as your boolit goes down. I'm afraid you are playing with fire with this loading procedure unless you glue your wads to the base of the boolit. If you have to use 5744 and a wad find a glue that will hold your wad to the boolit please.
    If you glue a wad to the bullet base and it stays there during flight, it will have detrimental affect on your accuracy. Wads need to drop off as they exit the muzzle. No need for a wad with 5744, or many other powders. Simply omit it.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    The story that I heard was that is a cast iron Ballard and should not have been used for any centerfire especially not a 40-65 Win. That it blew up was not the fault of the powder so much as the fault of the owner for having it barreled to a large CF round shooting any kind smokeless.

    Quote Originally Posted by marlinman93 View Post
    As the bullet base presses down on a wad, the case internal dimensions get larger. It might be a snug fit at the mouth, but pushed down it's not as snug. It's your gun, but I would leave the wad out, and use the same loads.
    This is a Ballard that blew up at Quigley using 5744 with a wad.
    EDG

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Don McDowell's Avatar
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    Well actually that rifle had been relined years and years ago, and had thousands of rounds thru it. When we were looking at it, when this photo was taken, you could see where that had been a crack in the receiver for quite sometime. Eventually that old cast action let go.. The blood curly screams coming from Sharon was a bit unsettling. The rifle barrel flew about 20 yards out in front of the firing line. For a wonder no one else caught shrapnel. Thankfully she has recovered most of the use of here hand. Had it not been for the Shooters Friend recoil pad, it's quite likely a sharp sliver of that buttstock could of penetrated her shoulder, and most likely she would of bled to death in minutes.
    2 years later another rifle blew, it was known to have a rung chamber, but the owner didn't figure there was any need to change his load from the 5744 and the wads he used.. Don't know if he's recovered the use of his hand yet or not.
    You guys just keep loading that smokeless with wads... Sooner or later the odds aren't going to be in your favor.
    The load was a bit over recommendations in some books , not so much in others.
    GUSA #6
    People will forget what you said...
    People will forget what you did...
    But People will NEVER forget how you made them feel

    Want to join in adult conversation about shooting the old ways without the hysterics associated with other places?http://historicshooting.com/mybb/index.php

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    I thought you might like to see the Buffalo Classic, so I figured ot how to get pictures off my ipad.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    "You will wantonly strike a hornet's nest which extends from mountains to ocean, and legions, now quiet, will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal." Robert Toombs, Democrat of Georgia, warning of the results of the imminent attack of the Confederacy upon Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, 1861

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    A view with the sight staff up.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    "You will wantonly strike a hornet's nest which extends from mountains to ocean, and legions, now quiet, will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal." Robert Toombs, Democrat of Georgia, warning of the results of the imminent attack of the Confederacy upon Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, 1861

  20. #20
    Boolit Master marlinman93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EDG View Post
    The story that I heard was that is a cast iron Ballard and should not have been used for any centerfire especially not a 40-65 Win. That it blew up was not the fault of the powder so much as the fault of the owner for having it barreled to a large CF round shooting any kind smokeless.
    I've always questioned using a Ballard cast action for CF rifle, or high pressure pistol rounds too. But I know many guys who have done so safely for decades without an issue. My concerns aren't that the action will come apart with the correct smokeless loads, but rather that the gun will eventually end up in the wrong hands, and get loaded incorrectly, as this Ballard did.
    I still don't think this gun would have come apart if it wasn't for the load of 5744 and wads being used. I also think the gun with the ringed chamber got ringed using the 5744 and wad, and it was a ticking bomb waiting for the next bad load to finish it off.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check