Sunday, November 02, 2008

.405 Winchester vs. .45-70 Government

This was an interesting question that popped up in search terms, and I thought it was worth discussion.

The .405 Winchester is a pretty serious big game cartridge, intended for Winchester's Model 1895 lever-action rifle. Designed from the ground up as a smokeless powder round, it is just short of being considered a real dangerous game cartridge by virtue of the fact that all commercial loadings for it use a 300-grain .412" bullet, which is a little lacking in weight and sectional density for stopping the charge of the largest African game (although T.R. laid out lion with the round...) It should be more than adequate for anything that walks, crawls, or flies on the North American continent, although I wonder why a caliber deemed insufficient for dispatching dangerous game in Africa is considered okey-dokey for the minivan-with-fangs that is the Alaskan brown bear...

The .45-70 is hampered by the fact that the first rifle chambered for the loading was the Trapdoor Springfield. As a result, anything you buy from the Big Three (Remington, Winchester, and Federal) is going to be throttled back so as not to turn Paw-paw's floptop into a pipe bomb. The stuff I keep around the house as fodder for my M1873 Springfield offers a 300gr unjacketed bullet meandering out the muzzle at something less than 1400fps, for less muzzle energy than today's most adventurous handgun loadings. In a modern rifle, such as a Marlin 1895, however, truly vigorous ammunition from Buffalo Bore is available, and in a Ruger No.1, you are free to handload items that will kill on one end and maim on the other.

If you have to pick just one of the two to sledge down really big critters, I'd go for the .45-70 and a modern rifle, to take advantage of the really scary stuff available from the boutique ammo companies.

You get a lot more style points for a .405 Winchester, though...

17 comments:

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

And now I know.... And knowing is half the battle!

Thanks Tam. A whole lot of 'stuff I didn't know yet' in that one entry.

Doug Watson said...

.45-70 with a 425 grain soft nose hollow point is my favorite white-tail load.


I hate to track....

Dr. StrangeGun said...

You could always go .450 Marlin, no worries about weak OTS ammo.

Jenny said...

So... how's things shaping up for your African hunt? And is the Kenai before or after that?

og said...

Having shot the 45-70, the 45-90, I can say, I love to shoot them both. But in Africa I shot solid 375 h&h, and 416 Rigby.

I'm now looking for a rifle chambered for 416 Rigby. It comes to your shoulder with authority. It impacts the target with authority. I lurve, lurve lurve it. Even just to take to the range (though it will make a reloader out of you in just one trip to the ammo store)

Mark@Sea said...

I picked up a very nice 1873 at the last gunshow I was able to attend. I was concerned about having to handload for it... but heck, guess I don't have to.
And it sure beats a rubber mallet.

RichardCalderwood said...

I have one of Jim West's wonderful little Co-Pilots. He starts with a new Marlin 1895 and converts it into a take-down gun in any of a variety of finishes. You can get it chambered in .45-70, or .50 Alaskan, or in .457WWM. I got the .457, which will also shoot the much softer-hitting .45-70 and .410 shotshells. The .457WWM ammo is from Hunting Shack of Montana (HSM in the ugly orange box), in either 350gr or 405gr. My particular gun shoots the 405gr far more accurately than the 350gr or OTC .45-70. VERY VERY fun gun to shoot. Haven't yet had the chance to try it on game, just paper.

OrangeNeckInNY said...

Which round would YOU use to take out those 1-ton zombies??

Jeff said...

I love my Marlin guide gun, I think the buffalo bore guy went to Africa and took down the big 6 with that gun and the buffalo bore loads.

staghounds said...

There are several elephant- approved English rifle cartridges of the late 19th century that are very similar to a hottish 45-70.

The most style point elephant cartridge is still the 6.5 M-S.

Submit word prodeb- a well mannered seventeen year old girl who goes to better parties with ugly boys for a living.

Bunnyman said...

.405 Winchester after a Teddy Roosevelt quote? Surely this can't be a coincidence.

fastbike said...

Question for Doug Watson:

Is there much Whitetail left after 425g 45-70?

Anonymous said...

Try Paco Kelly's Leverguns.com and the Frontier Sixshooter Community bulletin board for up to date .45-70 ballistic and rifle info.

Jim Taylor of both boards, and some others incl a good levergun smith [Regan Nonneman, Souper .38-56Imp in Marlin action], have 'done' African hunting. There's mos' def' some esoteric stuff happenin' on the edges of ol' cowboy stuff.

As well, doublegunshop.co has a forum devoted to historic and modern good rifles. Some Sweeeeet
eyecandy, and scholars who actually did 'write the book'.

Haven't kept up with crowd at Accurate Reloading or 24 Hour Campfire, tho there are some excellent folks and knowledgeable pro writers at both sites. Some sifting of wheat from chaff from OCD loonytunes used to be the order of the day at the latter two, tho I'm told that has changed.

FWIW, Brian Pearce has an approach to caliber selection that is well worth researching reading, in favor of moderate loads, accurate rifles,and top-notch modern bullets.

A 7MM Mauser bolt or SS, f'r instance, w/premium bullets used by a good practiced offhand shot, is prolly suitable for about anything but the big five in the land of dust and hot sun.

45-70 in modern guns, bullets and loads is far more common than it was a decade ago, when such doin's were gunpress NEWS!!!

As f'r mese'f, I'm much enchanted by the .405 mystique, but it has been 'bullet challenged' in the past, as noted above. A .405 in a Pukka Sahib Lee-enfield Victorian style Sporter -- as in 'stocked and sighted by...' would about cause me to expire of requited longing.

For a really rare .405, see if you can locate a Model 10 Ross Commercial Sporter in that caliber. Coolth beyond kewl. Also, the .404 Brit whaddyacallit caliber is a good respected boltgun caliber. CZ mebbe?

Ach!! gotta go. the work bell ringeth. Round One, Monday.

Oh! John the Red, fomenting just to foment, in order to discomfort those who must needs be discomforted, in order to justify their wuss lives.

Doug Watson said...

Reply for fastbike:

Let's just say that field dressing times are greatly reduced.

Gewehr98 said...

People pooh-pooh the venerable .45-70 in its original loading, like it has no teeth whatsoever. I load a 535gr Postell on top of 70gr Goex Cartridge BP for my Sharps - even at a sedate 1200fps it has all sorts of energy to put venison on the dinner table, out to 400 yards or more if that's your thing.

I'm quite guilty of handloading Ohmygawsh .45-70 405gr rounds that chronographed an honest 2100fps out of my Ruger #1. That's great for taking out the occasional Brinks truck, not so great for your shoulder. That's also why the 32" Sharps with period-correct BP loads is my favorite of the .45-70 bunch, and that's not taking into account all the extra style points for the combination.

Tam said...

I wouldn't pooh-pooh the original black powder loading.

And even the mild "cowboy" loads are still on the order of a .454 Casull in the ballistics department.

I just wouldn't want a DGR chambered in .454 Casull. ;)

Anonymous said...

I LUV my Ruger # 3 45-70. I like my Winchester 70 375H+H. Just got an 1895 leaver 405. get'in atatched to it!It's bin a good gopher geter so far.