You know I have this little rifle called a Handi-Rifle that shoots a really big cartridge called the .45-70 Government. It is a small single shot called the Handi- Rifle made by New England Arms that is owned by Marlin Firearms Company. The combination of big cartridge and little rifle results in a great deal of punch on both ends of the rifle, and that makes for some short trips to the shooting range.
The company had just came out with a new carbine, and I started thinking about one of the newer models that fires the .45 Long Colt that would be much easier to shoot on the range, but I liked having the power of the .45-70 in the woods. I mean the rifle is a single shot, and only made since to have a great deal of smack delivered with that single shot. Not to mention that money isn’t flowing into my wallet to buy another gun this left me with a bit of a conundrum.
How to keep the power of the .45-70 Government, but still plink, and shoot more? I also wanted a rifle that would shoot the .45 Long Colt cartridge, or something in that power range.
What to do about this situation? What were my options??
Well first I could send the rifle back to the company and have another barrel fitted for it in chambered for the .45 Long Colt cartridge; simply change out barrels when I wanted to use a different cartridge, but again that takes money that I don’t have at the time. So that was not a viable option open to me.
I could make up reduced loads for the .45-70 that would help with the recoil, and take care of that part of the problem, but I could only reduce so much without loosing accuracy. This option would leave me with the other problem of wanting a rifle that would shoot a cartridge similar to the .45 Long Colt.
After a great deal of thinking over a period of months, and thinking about the .475 Linebaugh which is a cartridge that was developed using the .45-70 case cut down; that I might try my hand at wildcatting my own cartridge to shoot in my rifle. Now for those that don’t reload, or have never heard of this practice I have included a full definition of this term.
A wildcat cartridge, or wildcat, is a custom cartridge for which ammunition and firearms are not mass produced. One source of gunsmithing equipment has a library of over 6,000 different wildcat cartridges for which they can make chamber reamers.
Often, wildcats use the case of a commercially sold cartridge that has been modified in some way to alter the cartridge's performance. Barrels for the caliber are originally manufactured by gunsmiths specializing in barrel making. Generally the same makers offer reloading dies for the new cartridges (based on the dimensions of the chamber reamers used for the barrels). Since the most difficult to manufacture part of a wildcat is the barrel, most wildcats are developed by or in association with custom barrel makers. Ammunition is handloaded, using modified parent cases and the gunsmith-provided wildcat dies. Generally the supplier of the barrel or dies will also provide the buyer with basic reloading data, giving a variety of powders, charge weights, and bullet weights that can be used for developing loads. Experienced handloaders will take this data and very carefully develop a load, starting with minimum loads, perhaps switching to similar but unlisted powders, and carefully work up a load for their needs. Wildcats are not for the casual shooter; the work and skill required relegates them to the world of dedicated and experienced shooters.I started looking through books to see if anyone had already created a catridge that might fit my needs. After searching for a few hours I came across one called the .45 Silhouette that was developed by Frank C. Barnes, and Dick Smith of the Washoe County Crime Laboratory in 1984. It is a wildcat of another wildcat the .458 x 1.5 that used a .458 Winchester Magnum case cut down to 1.5”. The .45 Silhouette used a .45-70 case cut down to 1.5”, but it would not be the cartridge that would fit my needs it was a little too much for what I wanted remember I wanted a cartridge that compared to the .45 Long Colt.
I was however inspired to start thinking about my own cartridge that met my needs for this rifle. I started thinking about what would happen if I took a .45-70 case, cut it down to the approximate length of a .45 Long Colt, used pistol powders, and followed recipes for .45 Long Colt loads?
I started work by cutting a Federal .45-70 case down to just a little over the length of the Colt case. Then I decided to try Bullseye powder for my first test. Next I used what I had on hand Sierra .300 grain Pro-Hunter bullets to top it off. I crimped it slight just to hold the bullet in place using a Lee Factory Crimp die for a .454 Casull( if you just slide the .458 into the die it crimps down the bullet fine without changing the diameter) this would do for the first test to get an idea of how this would work.
It went good it was a max load, and shot just fine in the little rifle, but it wasn’t really spectacular. It was promising, and I decided to move up to another powder that was slower burning called H110, but I would have to figure out a way to crimp the case very well to get the right burn. I would also have to go to a magnum primer.
My next try was with the same cut down Federal case, scoop of H110 from a Lee 1.3 Dipper, Winchester large rifle magnum primer, and I ran the case into the Casull die a little further to lock the bullet tight in the case. You can’t run it too far into the die because you will eventually harm the bullet. Stay within the flared out bottom of the die. This worked better then I had planned it was a very promising little cartridge. Yes not Earth shattering, but it would probably fill my needs just fine with a little tweaking. I am in the process of doing just that now, and I when I finish the work I will write part two of this little project for later publication.
This is for the critics who are usually wrong themselves
co·nun·drum (kə nun′drəm)
Etymology: 16th-c. Oxford University L slang for pedant, whim, etc.; early sp. quonundrum