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Thread: Cast pistol bullets in .45-70

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy

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    Cast pistol bullets in .45-70

    Here's a rather odd question: I recently acquired my first 45-70 (a single shot Handi-Rifle) and though I have been casting and reloading for many years, I've never owned a 45-70 or loaded the caliber. I'm still at the early stage of collecting brass and finding dies for the Handi Rifle.

    So, my question is have any of you ever tried loading .45 pistol bullets in a 45-70 rifle? I've scanned various forums and there's lots of bloviating about why this supposedly is a bad idea, but I haven't seen a single post so far from anyone whose actually done it!

    At this point I should mention that over the weekend I slugged the bore with Cerrosafe (near the muzzle) and to my surprise, it slugged at .453! This is much smaller than the 46-70's nominal groove diameter of .458. In fact it's so small that I have various pistol bullet molds that will cast anywhere from .452 to .456. and would seem to provide an adequately snug fit. My different molds throw bullets from between 185 through 230 grains. I don't currently own a heavier rifle bullet mold.

    Sooo... I'm going to try to throw some of my pistol bullets downrange and might report my results here, but in the meantime have any of you guys ever done this?

    Best
    Doc

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master


    Larry Gibson's Avatar
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    Unless you measured the cerrosafe casting within the specified time frame it won't be correct. Also make sure you measure from top of groove to top of the opposite groove. .453 would be highly unusual.

    I have tried numerous .45 cast pistol bullets in several 45-70s with .457-.458 barrels. I used Bullseye and Unique powders keeping velocities sub-sonic. Bullets used were Lee's C&B conical, Keiths 454 SWC and a 230 gr HB replicant 45 Schofield/Colt bullet. At 50 yards results varied from poor to maybe okay accuracy.....about the same as with .457 RBs. I quit wasting time and components trying to make it work and got two moulds [a 210 gr HB 460210 and a 460250] that cast .460+ bullets that accuracy was acceptable, excellent actually.

    I would suggest if you already have a pistol mould then try it. If you don't have the mould then I would suggest not getting one just to try.....get a mould that is made for the 45-70 that casts 210 - 275 gr bullets.
    Larry Gibson

    “Deficient observation is merely a form of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas prevailing.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy

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    Thank you, Larry! I really appreciate getting a response from someone whose actually done what I'm discussing, instead of hypothetical "what if" responses. Yes, we did use the Cerrosafe correctly. My CAS club VP and I did it at the range on Sunday. Heat - in a double boiler - was provided by the same propane stove we often use for club lunches! Both of us were surprised at how tight the bore measured and it's that tight bore that got me to thinking about using pistol bullets for which I already have molds.

    I'm currently looking for rifle molds and a set of dies. Fortunately, despite the current shortages, I have many thousands of large rifle primers, so I can afford to do lots of experimentation.

    Your input is appreciated, Sir. Thank you.

    Best
    Doc

  4. #4
    Boolit Master


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    .453 bore on a 45-70... that would be darn odd. can you imagine the pressure if you sent a jacketed bullet down that? And at .453 it's too big for pistol bullets... so.. too big for pistol.. too small for rifle... sounds like there is a measurement error.
    I would slug it a couple times using dead soft lead. do once near the chamber then drive back out.. do once near muzzle, then do a third driven thru.. then measure.

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Cast soft and under a upper end load they may swell the couple thousandths to seal the bore an engage the rifling. Another way may be to paper patch a .451 pistol bullet, 2 wraps of .002 paper will add .008 to dia bringing it to .459 or so.

    The short pistol bullet in the rifles twist rate of 1-18" will be over stabilized.

    Loading bullets as is in standard dies may also result in light to no neck tension, this may give some issues with ignition and complete burns.

    I played with a 200 gen swc and lee 255 rnfp in my 45-70 with BP thinking a light chicken load, but accuracy wasnt there as cast. I had thought about lapping a lee mould out to .459-.460 to test.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    One of my many wishes, 45 caliber rifle and pistol were the same, like Mister Rodgers might say, 'that would be nice, wouldn't it'; but even 45 Pistol varies from 451 to 455 depending on manufacturer and year. The 45 rifles run ABOUT .458, but .457 to .460 not unusual. Some of the old trapdoors can go .460-.464plus. MAYBE jacketed 45 Handgun bullets might shoot OK for close range 25-50 yards, but MAYBE NOT. I had an old Lyman 454424 'pistol' mold that shot ok in my Marlin 45-70, but it threw a .4575 bullet with COWW.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    I tried the Lyman 454424 in .456 diameter in a trapdoor carbine, minimally. 5" group at 50 yds IIRC.

    If you can get a correct diameter bullet weighing around 300 grains I think you will get decent results.

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy
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    I paper patch a store bought 200gr SWC
    meant for 45ACP and shoot them in my
    Marlin 45-70 CB. Fun to shoot, fairly
    quiet, accurate and deadly on groudhogs
    out to 50yds.

    I also powder coat the Lee 200gr SWC
    (takes 2 coats to get .459) and use the same way.
    Curiously, both these shoot better than
    the LEE 230 RN treated the same way.

    I learned these techniques by reading
    various posts here and on "Marlinowners.com.

    I keep about 20 rounds of each handy for
    pest control in the neighborhood.

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy
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    Ain't they cute?
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  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    I used the MiHEC .455 MkII 265-grain hollowbase bullet for the .455 Webley cast 1 to 30 tin-lead from Roto Metals with 10 grains of Bullseye in the .45-70 Trapdoor and also the H&R Handi-Rifle with good success. I found it more accurate at 100 to 200 yards than the common "collar button" lightweight .45-70 bullets. If you have a .45 mold which casts larger than .457" in soft alloy, when loaded with a fast-burning pistol or shotgun powder such as Bullseye, TiteGroup, 700-X, Trail Boss, Red Dot, it should do OK if relatively heavy, 250 grains or more.
    The ENEMY is listening.
    HE wants to know what YOU know.
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  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    45 caliber is a mess. The LC used to be .454, the ACP is .452, and the 45-70 should be .458. My Marlin 45-70 is .458, and all my ACPs are .452. Modern LC is .452, but Colt revolvers commonly still have .454 cylinder mouths, which does nothing good for accuracy.

  12. #12
    AKA: GRMPS Conditor22's Avatar
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    My H&R barrel slugs out at .458 and shoots nice groups with.459 boolits.

    My 45-70 barrel likes Unique and 2400

  13. #13
    If u try to fit a 452 pill into a correctly sized 4570 case it’s sloppy ie no neck tension. That’s probably stopping most people from trying it , along with likely not enough engagement of rifling

  14. #14
    Boolit Grand Master Nobade's Avatar
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    As others have mentioned, paper patching 45 caliber pistol bullets works quite well in the 45-70. The only rub is the sights are usually way off due to the much reduced recoil. But pure lead 200 grain hollowpoints at full pressure do certainly damage things that they hit.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Ha...that is something that never would have occurred to me. Mostly because of the discrepancy in bullet diameters and I don't like light for caliber bullets. It is interesting that there is those who have made it work and evidently successfully....and gives food for thought to maybe rethinking my "heavy for caliber" outlook.
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    You could probably make a casting of the end of the barrel by pushing a wad of cleaning patches from the breech thru the bore and stop an inch from the end o

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    f the barrel.
    Then spray pam or vegetable oil into the end of the bore.
    Take an electric glue gun and fill the last inch of the barrel with hot glue and wait for it to set up.Push it out with the cleaning rod and patches. You can measure that slug.
    Or you could plug the end and grease it lightly and use melted paraffin wax to do the same thing.
    That glue gun thing is what I would try
    As long as the mould is oiled, and you wait for the glue to set up, there is no mess and also if you let the soft glue slug age overnite, there will be no stickiness.
    Last edited by Alferd Packer; 06-13-2021 at 01:06 PM.

  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy

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    I haven't forgotten this thread, but this is a slow process. Thus far I've acquired a supply of brass and just today my shellholder arrived in the mail. I still don't have a die set, but now that I have the shellholder, I think I'll try experimenting with my .45 acp dies or .45 Colt dies to seat and crimp the necks. That should at least allow me to get a few rounds downrange. All of the (used) brass I've gotten fits in the Handi Rifle's chamber easily.

    I don't plan on ever hunting with this rifle. My CAS club has a "single shot rifle" category in some of its matches and thus far, I haven't owned a single shot. We only use this to fire at an 8" steel target at 100 yards, offhand. It's a challenge, but not that hard (if the rifle is up to it).

    As with any new (to me) caliber, eventually I'll get the die set and bullet mold(s). Thanks for all the input so far.

    Best
    Doc

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    I have a Saeco that cast a wadcutter bullet that cast out at .456 weighing in at 250 gr. 2 of these as cast over a charge of 2400 gives me 2 holes in a target about 1/2"-1 " apart at 50 yds from my Browning 1885. I don't know the mold number but it was a custom mold at one point

  20. #20
    Boolit Master

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    I had a lyman 452460 200gr that cast at .457"!! Tried it in my H&R "Shikari" 45-70 for maybe 1000fps. Did fairly well, minute of pop can @50 yds

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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