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Thread: What do you know about 45-70 forager rounds?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
    GoodOlBoy's Avatar
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    Question What do you know about 45-70 forager rounds?

    I ran across a new one to me the other day while going on a walk about the internet. At some point in the long ago past the US Govt made "Forager" rounds for the 45-70. These had wood capsules with birdshot in them, and I even spotted one mention and picture of a wood encapsulated buckshot round.

    Being that my old H&R Handi in 45-70 has been murmuring at me as of late I was wondering what folks know of these? How they were constructed? Anybody heard of anybody recreating these rounds?

    Mostly a curiosity question from a fella who can't get out and do much these days. It don't stop the mind from wonderin' about it.

    God Bless, and One Love.

    GoodOlBoy
    Yes I can be long winded. Yes I follow rabbit trails. Yes I admit when I am wrong. Your mileage may vary.

    Keep your powder dry. Watch yer Top knot.

    "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!"

    Yes there were "Short" 45 Colts! http://www.leverguns.com/articles/taylor/45_short_colt.htm

  2. #2
    Boolit Master


    nagantguy's Avatar
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    Haven’t heard of these but sounds like an interesting project.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master




    bruce drake's Avatar
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    http://www.mcpheetersantiquemilitari...6_item_058.htm
    Here is some more information including pictures of the various 45-70 Forager shot cartridges
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  4. #4
    Boolit Master

    Wayne Smith's Avatar
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    Anyone know dimensions of the sabots? Internal and external. I have drill bits and a lathe!
    Wayne the Shrink

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  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    Bruce Drake, yep that is one of the sites I found, but other than a few pictures and descriptions there isn't much there. No information on how they were made, dimensions on wall thickness of the sabots, load, powder, etc. I can't imagine that the wood sabots would "hold up" to a full 70 grain load of black, but then again I don't know.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    These are the only two images I was able to find of the buckshot version. Oh and indication was that the buckshot load would have carried 2 buckshot in it? Weird why not three?

    God Bless, and One Love.

    GoodOlBoy
    Last edited by GoodOlBoy; 05-22-2018 at 06:52 PM.
    Yes I can be long winded. Yes I follow rabbit trails. Yes I admit when I am wrong. Your mileage may vary.

    Keep your powder dry. Watch yer Top knot.

    "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!"

    Yes there were "Short" 45 Colts! http://www.leverguns.com/articles/taylor/45_short_colt.htm

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Couple of things that just dawned on me. I'd be curious what Wayne Smith (who seems as eager as me to figure these out ) and anybody else would think.

    #1 wonder what wood was used? Heavy and dense hardwood? Light softwood?

    #2 wonder what the wood was treated with? It obviously was sealed, it hasn't expanded from moisture, nor has it darkened over time. Beeswax which would also lube it? I doubt animal fat such as lard as it would have discolored and/or gone rancid....

    Just a couple of musings....

    Haven’t heard of these but sounds like an interesting project.
    Just what I was thinking, Nagantguy, and while I can't fiddle with lead right now, I can fiddle with wood

    God Bless, and One Love

    GoodOlBoy
    Last edited by GoodOlBoy; 05-22-2018 at 07:12 PM.
    Yes I can be long winded. Yes I follow rabbit trails. Yes I admit when I am wrong. Your mileage may vary.

    Keep your powder dry. Watch yer Top knot.

    "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!"

    Yes there were "Short" 45 Colts! http://www.leverguns.com/articles/taylor/45_short_colt.htm

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Ken Mathews experimented with the 45-70 for many years. You might find some information in his book "Forty Years with the Forty Five Seventy."

  8. #8
    Boolit Man
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    Would be easy enough to make a load with a couple of gas checks and birdshot, like a snake loads for handguns...I suppose one could load one or two round balls in the case for a duplex load...

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    This probably could be done with 2 or 3 .457 round balls with a card wad on top of a moderate powder charge and the case roll crimped into the hemisphere of the top ball. Anyone done this? GF

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    Would be easy enough to make a load with a couple of gas checks and birdshot, like a snake loads for handguns...I suppose one could load one or two round balls in the case for a duplex load...
    Yes you most likely could, and you certainly could if speer ever made a .457 or .458 capsule to go along with the pistol .45 capsule for shot loads. However part of the appeal of the wood capsule is the historic value of it, AND it would be easy to spot/find in a bag or pocket without mistaking it for empty brass. A good idea though, and one we should revisit particularly if we get the wood rounds made up to test against the other versions.


    This probably could be done with 2 or 3 .457 round balls with a card wad on top of a moderate powder charge and the case roll crimped into the hemisphere of the top ball. Anyone done this? GF
    Actually I think multiple of our handy members on here have done this one, and in point of fact I am hoping to some day make a parlor/plinking load with a single round ball crimped in this manner for light light target and bunny poppers. Again though one of the reasons to investigate the original wood sabot load of it would be historical value and "neat or cool" factor. And again, I think we should consider this again once we have working working wood sabot rounds to test against. I do know that most of the guys I've heard of using a .457-.458 round ball in this way actually got pretty decent accuracy out of them.

    Plus I have got to GOT TO be honest on this one. This thing, these Forager Rounds have been like a ear worm digging in my noodle since I spotted the very first mention of them. One of the reasons I so badly want to try to recreate these is I want to know how well they actually shot. Not just the theory, but the practice of a wood capsule or sabot loaded this way. Historical indication is that these were NOT a "rare" thing back in the day, therefore you have to make at least a minor assumption that they were effective in some form or fashion. Plus, as I mentioned, I just find the entire idea behind them neat and bewitching. I dunno I think part of it is historic, part of it is nostalgia, part of it is the mystery. I've been shooting 45-70 for alot of years, why did I just NOW stumble upon this? And dog gone it how were they made in the 1880s? Did somebody actually sit down and whittle out each and every capsule and sabot at a factory somewhere? I mean, yeah I know we can do it with card wads, and gas checks, but I suspect we should find that the wood sabots and capsules were more effective in a rifled bore. Since looking at this I've seen that eventually they were replaced with crimped brass shot rounds, then poof they pretty well disappeared. I think, again don't know but think, that this was probably because just a card wad, crimped brass round would throw a shot pattern like a two year old sneezing on a birthday cake in the middle of a whirlwind... Again, I suspect this, but I just don't know.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    An image I found for comparison of wood vs crimped.

    As much as I would hate to destroy something historic, if I had the funds I would buy a couple of these rounds just to be able to tear them down and measure everything in them. Wouldn't that be something?

    God Bless, and One Love

    GoodOlBoy
    Yes I can be long winded. Yes I follow rabbit trails. Yes I admit when I am wrong. Your mileage may vary.

    Keep your powder dry. Watch yer Top knot.

    "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!"

    Yes there were "Short" 45 Colts! http://www.leverguns.com/articles/taylor/45_short_colt.htm

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    This is bugging me too, I may try using a .45-90 case to form it into a .45-70 shot round; 2.4inches vs 2.104 inches so it doesn't give you LOTS of shot space though, and I don't have a .45-70 (yet.) You could definitely 3D print a sabot, and I would think you could improvise one out of a .45 shot capsule with paper patching, or even use some casing like a .45 ACP swaged down slightly for a shot capsule? Wood should be doable though, definitely, maybe drill a larger dowel out, put a dowel inside using PVA or some other temporary glue to tack things together, then lathe the outside layers off to thin the casing down? I am not a carpentry expert tho, but that seems a possible approach.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    I've read that the forager rounds were meant to be used in a trapdoor shotgun. Apparently frontier units were supplied with one or two of these, for the obvious purpose. That they existed is confirmed by the fact that they have shown up on Gunbroker. Not often - they are pretty rare.
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  13. #13
    Boolit Bub
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    Look up "Hot Shot" capsules on the web. Thompson Center sold these in the late 1960s and early '70s for the Contender. I believe the 44 mag version held up to 0.5 oz of shot. All of this was before they won the SCOTUS case against the BATF.

  14. #14
    Boolit Bub
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    And yes, I too am interested in what the originals were made from and how they were used.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Thinking more - I imagine you could use heat shrink tubing or the like with a thin plastic or wood (or gas check) in front and a base (maybe cast urethane?) inserted into the case to hold the shot? Or some frangible plastic tubing would maybe work. 3d printing for 45-70 shotshells really sounds interesting to me for some reason, it's the mix between the old case and the new tech probably

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Wood should be doable though, definitely, maybe drill a larger dowel out, put a dowel inside using PVA or some other temporary glue to tack things together, then lathe the outside layers off to thin the casing down? I am not a carpentry expert tho, but that seems a possible approach.
    Now see that is along the line I was thinking too (hoping Wayne will chime in). I thought about reversing it though. take four pieces of wood, match of the corners, round off and shape the outside after chucking it to a drill somehow. Drill out the center bottom and now you have a four "lobed" sabot/capsule to fill with shot and plug with a card. Treat with beeswax (or something) and either load it that way, or make it slightly undersized and paper patch it. Once it leaves the muzzle I am thinking it will petal open and let the shot go on its merry way. Still musing on it. I know most of the historical ones look like a very thin hollowed out unified piece of wood, not cut (with the exception of the buckshot version)


    I've read that the forager rounds were meant to be used in a trapdoor shotgun.
    Now see one site, the one with the buckshot version, DID show a smoothbore on it, so I don't doubt it. But the sheer numbers of them supposedly sold wouldn't account of a couple of smoothbores here and there. Plus you know every Tom, Dick, and Harry wanted a couple in case it was his turn at the stew pot, or in case something got a little too close that would fit in said pot. I also read that ONE version was actually designed for the Gatling gun, but couldn't verify it and couldn't find an image for it unless I am mis-remembering what I read.

    Look up "Hot Shot" capsules on the web.
    I hadn't remembered seeing those before until I looked them up, thanks! Speer, and now apparently CCI both make one you load the shot in yourself for 38, 44, and 45 long colt. It would be under sized in a 45-70 unless you were to patch them. I do want to load some of these to test vs wood, and vs gas checks/card wads once i get to that point.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Keep 'em coming guys I'm glad to see I'm not the only one very curious about these.

    God Bless, and One Love

    GoodOlBoy
    Yes I can be long winded. Yes I follow rabbit trails. Yes I admit when I am wrong. Your mileage may vary.

    Keep your powder dry. Watch yer Top knot.

    "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!"

    Yes there were "Short" 45 Colts! http://www.leverguns.com/articles/taylor/45_short_colt.htm

  17. #17
    Boolit Master


    Larry Gibson's Avatar
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    Foraging shot 45-70 load

    I use a fired R-P case but others work just as well.

    Deprime and reprime with standard LR (make doesn’t seem to matter) primer.

    Drop 10 gr of Unique over primer and then gently push a ˝ gr of Dacron down on top as a “wad”.

    A Federal 410SC shotcup is pushed in and seated down on top of the Dacron. I use a pencil (erasure end) for both of the above steps.

    The cup is then filled with shot until it is “heaping” over the case mouth.

    An inverted GC or a thick cardboard wad is pressed down until inside the case mouth.

    The case mouth is then crimped to hold the GC/wad in. A standard roll crimp seating die works fine. I set a 230 gr .451 .45 ACP bullet (a 300 – 400 gr GC base bullet without the GC works well too) on top of the GC/wad. By adjusting the seating stem so the bullet holds the GC/wad just inside the case mouth at the right depth when crimped works well.

    Velocity is 1160 fps out of my 22” barreled Trapdoor carbine. I’ve shot 20 shots with no leading as the bore is protected by the Federal wad. Pattern with 22” twist rifling is useable to 25 yards with 7 shot on grouse and rabbits and to perhaps 20 yards on quail. Ground sluicing is acceptable when “foraging”. Smaller shot should be used (8-9 size shot) if close range areal gunnery is done on smaller birds. For snakes at close range the number of shot with even #7 shot is dense enough given the amount of shot. This load is pretty much the same as a 2 ˝” .410 shot shell.
    Larry Gibson

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  18. #18
    Boolit Master pietro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tatume View Post

    Ken Mathews experimented with the 45-70 for many years.

    You might find some information in his book "Forty Years with the Forty Five Seventy."

    Experience is a wonderful thing - It lets you recognize a mistake, when you make it again.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Reading this thread with interest and curiosity. I no longer own a Trapdoor or any .45-70, but several .410s and also a .44-40 break-open single-barrel smoothbore shotgun. Might be a stupid question, but would 2-1/2" .410 loads enter a .45-70 chamber?
    I realize the .45-70 case is shorter, but some makes of .410 rounds are less than .460 at the case mouth and might enter. Just thinkin' out loud, has anyone tried one for fit or fired one?
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  20. #20
    Boolit Master

    Wayne Smith's Avatar
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    My 45-70 barrel currently is my Encore Katadin barrel.

    Making the shot capsule is not a problem. Take a piece of wood the appropriate length, drill a hole the right size and depth (what I need to know) and put an expandable rubber chuck in the hole and turn the outside to appropriate size/shape.
    Wayne the Shrink

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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