40-70 Sharps Straight, Smokeless

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Josh A.
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40-70 Sharps Straight, Smokeless

Post by Josh A. » Sun Sep 14, 2008 12:22 pm

First let me preface what will follow here. I have fielded numerous inquiries from guys that are interested in loading their 40-70ss's with smokeless powder and are at a loss how to proceed. This is intended to simply put out in public what I have learned. It is not intended to be definitive. My opinions and conclusions are my own so value them at the price you paid for them. I do not wish to discuss the smokeless vs. black powder debate. Use what makes you happy.

A couple of other things:

1) There is no bullet under discussion here that is not procured or sized to .408". I will not discuss any other diameter.

2) Both my 40-70ss rifles are Shilohs. Any references to chamber dimensions are based on Shiloh's reamers.

3) All loads were assembled in R-P stretched 30-40 Krag cases from Bufflalo Arms. I know of and have used the 405 Winchester cases from Hornady, but they were not used here. If you wish to use them in the Shiloh chamber use caution. The 405 case has less powder capacity than the Krag, it is also thicker in the neck and the case web extends much higher up the body of the case.

The bullets:


Image

The first three bullets were purchased at the .408" diameter. They are the Hawk 300gr round tip, the Hawk 300gr spitzer (may still be special order) and the Woodleigh Weld-Core 400gr.

The center of this picture shows a Corbin bullet sizing die that reduces .411"-.412" bullets to .408".

The last two bullets are the Hornady 210gr. 41 Mag. XTP and the 300 gr. 405 Winchester bullet. Both these bullets HAVE BEEN SIZED TO .408"!!! I cannot emphasize enough that all the bullets under discussion are .408".

Here are most of the bullets as loaded rounds in overall length to go through an unaltered Shiloh chamber.

Image

I have been loading H4895 exclusively. I know that 3031 has a strong following with such loads but I don't like it for some reason. Chronograph numbers have been a little flakey with 3031 so I just let it go. Anyway, I have been using the starting loads for 405 Winchester as my guide and have decided that 50.0gr of H4895 is about as high as I am prepared to go with a 300gr. bullet. In fact, I have settled at 48.5 as my standard load with most 300gr bullets.

The best of the hunting bullets for hogs and deer sized animals have been the Hawk 300gr Round Tip. It has been accurate and it kills all out of proportion to what it should. If may be the pure lead/pure copper combination. I have long suspected that the gilding metal in modern bullets was a bit stiff, I dunno. The Hawk is great. The spitzer seemed like perfect idea, but oddly enough I can hear a difference when the bullet strikes a feral pig. The round tip hits harder and I even think it may hold a bit straighter course inside the animal. The both kill fine but I like the round tip a bit better. My standard load of 48.5grs of H4895 produces 2025fps out of my 26" barreled Shiloh. For those of you keeping score at home that is 2732ft-lbs of kinetic energy and a T-KO of 35.4. Which is not too shabby in my estimation.

Here are a couple of recovered Hawks:

Image

The bullet on the left was recovered from a prehistoric sized feral sow. She was quartering on and the bullet broke the on-side shoulder going in and traversed about 30" of hog before stopping just under the skin on the offside just in front of the ham.

The bullet on the right was recovered from just under the off-side skin of a 200lb sow. As you can see it has shed its jacket. When I fired at the sow, about 90 yards out, I thought she was a single. What I didn't know is that there was a second sow standing shoulder to shoulder with the one I shot. This bullet went through the shoulder area of TWO feral hogs. Thats four shoulders, which seems to be very good performance to me.

Post to be continued at time permits. I have several other areas that I want to cover that may be of use.


J
No words of mine can hope to convey to you the ringing joy and hope embodied in that spontaneous yell: “The Americans are coming; at last they are coming!”

I hadn’t the heart to disillusion them.

John "Pondoro" Taylor
Africa 1955

beltfed
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re. 40-70ss Smlss loading

Post by beltfed » Sun Sep 14, 2008 3:41 pm

Josh,
Good thread started.
Tho some may not admit to it. These larger caliber rifles do make good/excellent game rifles- hey , that is what most of them were originally designed for.

My work in this area has been in 45-70 cal, since 1963 when I bought my first one-an '86 win. I shot a lot of the bigger WI deer with the rifle loaded with smklss loads.
Actually best results were with the cast bullets. At the time, the 405 gr SP bullets acted like a varmint bullet with my (remember Elmer Keith?) loads cranking 1870fps. But my 457483 cast FP bullet has given excellent results over the years.

Also, if you are interested, you might look at paper patched bullets with smokeless. I have had good game taking results for the last 20 yrs with a 358 win with 250 gr PP cast bullets cranking 2350fps.

Will look forward to more of your results in the 40 cal. I am now thinking of reboring or rebarrelling another rifle in 40 cal for hunting.
I even thought of using the HI Wall 40-65 I bought from you a couple yrs ago. But its kind of heavy for our woods bumming kind of hunting in No.
WI.
I just have a hard time of it to think of using BP loads in our cold deer hunting climate.
beltfed/Arnie

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Josh A.
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Post by Josh A. » Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:02 pm

Arnie, you must have known where I was headed with this thread. Here is part of the next installment:

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1) A stepped cast paper patch bullet from a mould that Steve Brooks cut. It drops 370grs with a 30-1 mix. Seems like .023 onion skin was the paper. The front end will chamber on the lands and bore ride and the rear end patches up to groove diameter. I load it over a .060 LDPE wad with and 45 grs. of H4895 it runs 2030fps. A fast, slippery bullet and when that lead hits hide at that velocity it is a brutal killer.

2) A Paul Jones flat point bullet that is .400grs in 30-1. It is nothing more than his creedmoor with the nose lopped off. I can get it near 2000fps real easy and it is tough on game. It does seem to lead sometimes and at others nothing. I dunno.

A huge note for all of you guys hand annealing and shooting dead soft case necks. DON'T DO THIS! Case necks need to be pretty close to perfect hardness for these lead bullet/smokeless loads. If you are using a torch, spinning, etc and seeing ANY color your necks are going to be too soft for the stress lead bullets and smokeless are going to put on them. Either stick to black powder or change your annealing process. Cheap advice, do with it what you will.

Anyway, that paper patch bullet is fast, has good BC and nearly turns itself inside out in a game animal without shedding any weight. Accuracy can run from excellent to heavy verticle stringing. Good loading practice applies here.

More to come...
j
No words of mine can hope to convey to you the ringing joy and hope embodied in that spontaneous yell: “The Americans are coming; at last they are coming!”

I hadn’t the heart to disillusion them.

John "Pondoro" Taylor
Africa 1955

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Post by Big Gun » Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:06 pm

Josh resized some 300 gr. Hornady slugs for me last year so I could go down this road...and what a trip! Accuracy was outstanding, but not without a price as he stated...before you trip the trigger, make sure your dentures are settled in good and tight if you wear them. Caution is strongly suggested and it is wise to take small steps as you proceed. Just make sure everything but the rifling is out of your barrel before shooting those jacketed slugs...and clean well after use. Thanks Josh for sharing the results of your jacked slug project with us. I plan to continue experimenting with jacketed slugs in my 40-70 once the rest of the new loading componets and tools arrive.

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Josh A.
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Post by Josh A. » Wed Sep 17, 2008 3:44 pm

Ok, I have got a little time to make my next series of comments. Anyone that has read this up until now has noticed that I have ignored the 10,000lb elephant in the room. That is what the bolt guys call the super premium bullets. The selection in .411" and thus those that can be sized to a useful .408" for the 40-70ss is limited but contains a dandy. That is the Barnes X bullet. I won't proceed to lecture experienced rifleman of the virtures of the X bullet, but for those of you not familiar with it a short description may be in order. In essence it is a monometal, controlled expansion bullet. The X has come near re-defining expectations in performance from the highest to the lowest ends of the velocity envelope. They are long for weight because of the lack of a lead core. The 300gr X bullet is as long as the 400gr Woodleigh weldcore. That lack of a lead core is a huge advantage when it comes to an accurate bullet.

Here is a .411" Barnes X bullet reduced down to .408" and a loaded round in 40-70ss.

Image

This bullet is accurate. Its been the most accurate of all the bullets I have fired from my 40-70's. I have been a little conservative loading for it and have not driven it past 2000fps, but at that velocity it is in the lower range of African cartridges. Now it is no 416 Rigby but it is no pumpkin roller either. I discussed the prospect of hunting Cape buffalo with my PH last year and his attitude was that he didn't care if I hunted them with a pellet gun, he would back me up and keep me safe. He said he takes archery hunters and would handle a black powder Sharps the same way. When I told him that I thought I could get a .40 cal. 300gr Barnes X up to 2000fps he just laughed and said he has lady hunters take buff every year with 9.3's and that .40 cal Barnes would be twice the as effective.

More to come as soon as I get a little further farming.

j
No words of mine can hope to convey to you the ringing joy and hope embodied in that spontaneous yell: “The Americans are coming; at last they are coming!”

I hadn’t the heart to disillusion them.

John "Pondoro" Taylor
Africa 1955

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Josh A.
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Post by Josh A. » Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:47 pm

I want to put a few final comments out there before I am done.

First, the 40-70ss is not a 405 Winchester and I don't think anyone would be well served trying to make it one no matter what rifle format you might be in. The 405 will get 300gr. jacketed bullets in the 2200fps range pretty easily. In my estimation, 2000fps is about the prudent maximum for 300gr. bullets in the 40-70ss. Thats a full 10% reduction. I know it is sort of a seat-of-the-britches suggestion but I think that 10% is about right. Of course a 300gr bullet going 2000fps is nothing to sneeze at. It takes a cool old original Sharps buffalo round and brings it quite nicely into modern ballistics. The old round shoots well and kills well.

Second is the lack of available .408" diameter bullets. You either shoot the Hawks or cast a bullet. The Hawk is a fine hunting bullet but it has two draw backs. One is that it is expensive, about 75 cents a go. Second is that it is not exactly a match quality jacketed bullet. If you ever run a few of them on one of Vern Juenke's bullet comparators, you will understand what I mean. It will scare you. Of course we are not trying to shoot 1000yd benchrest with them but at 75 cents a pop you would think they would be a bit more consistent. Ok, maybe I am just cheap. If you shoot cast bullets you either have to work your way through the paper patch learning curve or shoot grease groove. At 1800 to 2000fps grease groove can give you a smidge of leading. Sometimes none, sometimes Leadville. I honestly don't know why. The paper patch is cool and interesting but let me once again warn all you guys annealing to dead soft case necks, this seems to me to be a recipe for disaster. The potential for high pressure lead bullet loads to grab a case neck is very real. Either leave the necks hard or LIGHTLY anneal on one of Ken Light's machines.

Third, Corbin charged me $115 for the bullet reducing die that I use to make .411-.412 bullets into .408's. It opens up a whole new world of options for the 40-70ss with smokeless powder. From the 25 cent 41 mag 210gr XTP all the way into the big Woodleigh dangerous game bullets. The 210gr XTP is low recoil and fun to shoot. At high velocity it shoots flat and knocks the snot out of rocks. The Hornady 300gr 405 bullets are perfect for everyday hunting bullets. Very accurate and kill well. And they are pretty cheap. Then there is the grand dad of premium bullets, the Barnes X. Super accurate and about as tough and useful a game bullet as any built.

The 40-70ss can cover a lot of ground as a smokeless hunting round and best of all its just cool.

So there, you know about everything I do for loading the 40-70ss with smokeless. I am sure there is a lot more information out there, but this is what I got.

j
No words of mine can hope to convey to you the ringing joy and hope embodied in that spontaneous yell: “The Americans are coming; at last they are coming!”

I hadn’t the heart to disillusion them.

John "Pondoro" Taylor
Africa 1955

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Post by Timberlake » Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:23 pm

Josh,

Thanks for the input here. Very interesting work you've done.

I have on occasion shot straight smokeless/jacketed bullets in my 45-70s. Your thoughts on annealing are well presented and spot on whether using black or smokeless.

TL
2nd GUSA
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...

Post by deerhuntsheatmeup » Fri Sep 19, 2008 5:43 am

Good read!

And the best part is, the info comes from experience, not hearsay. Nothing like doing you own testing, finding what works, and what doesn't.

As for the part about expensive bullets, I had a good friend and a great amateur golfer tell me when I was a 10 handicap that the best way to elevate you game was to bet your own money, and then play like your house note depended on it. Same with testing with a .75 cent bullet. After something don't work, we won't do that anymore.

Again, Good Read!

Best, Barvid
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Post by ironramrod » Fri Sep 19, 2008 6:20 am

Josh,

Any chance a glue on paper patch (chase patch?) on hard cast bullets (e.g. ww alloy) might handle the leading better in your .40/70 experiments with cast bullets and shoot well? Just a thought.

Regards

Marshal Deadwood
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Josh

Post by Marshal Deadwood » Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:13 am

Joah,,,thanks pard. Opens new ideas and questions to me,,and learning,,ANY learning ,,is a good thing.

Since I'm the 'new'er' kid on the block to 'buffalo rifles'...I appreciate your efforts, hoss.

MD

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Josh A.
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Post by Josh A. » Sun Sep 21, 2008 10:57 am

Iron, I don't have any experience with glued on paper patch bullets. As far as I can tell the standard paper patch flat based bullet works just fine. It does seem to string vertically on some occasions.

Barvid, bullet prices are near and dear to my heart. A 75 cent bullet is not a big deal on a hunt, but most days I shoot 20-30 rounds at various things. That adds up fast so I am always looking to cut the price.

Here is a pig from last night. I don't have a good sense of how much it weighed. I was headed up a road toward a feeder in pitch darkness when a group of them broke and ran. This boar took one of the 300gr Barnes X bullets square in the butt. Actually I was pretty proud of the shot. He had started out crossing going away from left to right, then when I got on him he started to reverse direction and I fired just as he was pointed dead away. It was 53 yds and he was dead-right-there. I dug and dug for the bullet but couldn't find it.

J




Image
No words of mine can hope to convey to you the ringing joy and hope embodied in that spontaneous yell: “The Americans are coming; at last they are coming!”

I hadn’t the heart to disillusion them.

John "Pondoro" Taylor
Africa 1955

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