All this brings us
to the accuracy testing I’ve done within the last month of this writing. Three rifles
have been used for this. One is a Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing .45-70. The other two are
from C. Sharps Arms: one a .45-70 and the other a .44-90 Straight. All are Model 1874s.
The Shiloh .45-70 and C. Sharps .44-90 Straight rifles were brand-new when my test
shooting began, while the C. Sharps .45-70 has been with me for several years. The Shiloh
carries a barrel made in that factory, while the C. Sharps rifles have Badger barrels. All
have one-in-18-inch twist rates. Nominal specifications call for the .45-70s to have
.450-inch bore diameters with .458-inch groove diameters, while the .44 has a .438-inch
bore with .446-inch grooves. Barrel lengths were 34 inches for the .44, 32 inches for the
C. Sharps .45-70 and 30 inches for the Shiloh .45-70.
It might be
interesting to note that although I’ve been a .45-70 reloader since 1972, these were
my first rounds fired through a .44-90 Straight. Therefore, a custom mould for the .44-90
Straight was ordered from Steve Brooks (1610 Dunn Ave., Walkerville MT 59701). It drops a
Creedmoor-style bullet 1.47 inches long with four wide, deep grease grooves. From 1-20
tin-to-lead alloy, these bullets weigh 525 grains and have noses measuring .438 inch with
a body diameter of .446 inch.
The most recent
.45-caliber rifle mould added to my assortment has been a Mos brand as sold by Ballard
Rifle Company (114 W. Yellowstone, Cody WY 82414). It too is a Creedmoor style but with
three grease grooves. Nose diameter is .448 inch with a body diameter of .458 inch. Bullet
length is 1.40 inches. Weight with the same alloy is 530 grains. This is the bullet design
currently shooting best in both of the .45-70 Model 1874 rifles.
The accompanying load
chart will show the other particulars of the BPCR handloads, but here is a little about
test procedure. Two, five-shot groups were fired with each handload through each rifle,
and the rifles’ barrels swabbed with wet and then dry patches between groups. A
single fouling shot was fired before the five shots for group, and it was not counted as
part of the groups because a BPCR usually puts the first round from a clean barrel
somewhere other than in the group. In firing these three rifles, a group was fired from
one, then it was cleaned and put back in the rack to cool while another was fired, and so
forth. Therefore, the two groups with each rifle and each load were not fired at one
sitting. Each rifle was fired for group about every half-hour. Also I want to stress that
one eye was kept on the wind meter during the afternoon. It ranged from 11 to 25 mph, but
I tried to shoot when it was hovering between 15 and 20 mph.
The biggest group
fired came with the Shiloh .45-70, and it was still only 1 3/4 inches. The first shot was
the flier with the last four printing into only 1 1/8 inches. The next group from the Shiloh
had the first four shots into only 3/8 inch. That’s right, 3/8 inch! The fifth shot
went high and made the group 1 1/16 inches. The C. Sharps Arms .45-70 made a 1 1/8-inch
group and then followed it with one of 1 3/8 inches.
The .44-90 did very
well too. The first four shots in its first group went into 3/4 inch. The last one was
slightly left and made the group 1 1/4 inches. Remember those winds! The next group was
very interesting. Its first four shots were also in 3/4 inch. The fifth shot dropped 3 3/4
inches low! Looking through the spotting scope, I was just plain distressed. That is until
I opened the breechblock and only half a case popped out! For some reason the case, which
had been used much previously as .45-90 before being formed down to .44-90, had torn in
two. After the front portion was fished out of the chamber, another round was fired. It
made the group 1 1/4 inches.
Now I want to stress
that these certainly were not the first groups fired from these three rifles. Several
other bullets were tried in the .45-70s, and several powder charges, different types of
wads and different primers were test fired through all three rifles. Many of those
preliminary groups ran upwards of 2 inches. That particular afternoon’s shooting was
just to again affirm that these loads were as good as thought. They were and now it’s
time to try them at longer range. Incidentally I have tried both the C. Sharps .44-90
Straight and the Shiloh .45-70 on metallic silhouettes out to 500 meters with these loads
with extremely good results, but still want to test fire them on paper targets.
the way, during the same week this Sharps shooting was happening, I was also finishing up
a project on the .308 Winchester using a pre-64 Model 70 Featherweight I have owned since
1980. Dozens of five-shot groups were fired at 100 yards with a variety of powders and
bullets. Not one grouped under 1 1/8 inches and most went over 1 1/2 inches despite the
aid given by a 2-7x Leupold scope. So yes, BPCRs definitely can sometimes outshoot
scope-sighted bolt actions.