Diving ever further down the rabbit hole that is reloading your own ammunition, I found myself on an unusually warm November morning trudging through the sand that makes up my Eastern Long Island Range towards a set of post-up targets. Not one or two, mind you, but ten individual targets. This can only mean one thing—it was time for some good old-fashioned load development. Before going further into the events that led up to this, you may be wondering which cartridge was the star of this show. Well, folks, sitting in my trusty Caldwell rifle rest was none other than the Marlin 1895, hungry as can be for some home-grown .45-70 Government. Ammunition of any caliber is expensive nowadays, but for some specific types—.45-70 Gov’t. being one of them—the price seems to have skyrocketed even higher. Could I have gone to my local retailer and picked up a few boxes of preloaded boxed ammo and called it a day? Of course, I could have! But what’s the fun of that?
The day prior, I had been combing through my stash of reloading supplies and selected 50 rounds of the shiniest .45-70 brass I could find, courtesy of Starline. Since this was brand new brass straight from the factory I skipped over the tumbling portion of the reloading process and went straight to lubing and resizing, using the first of three dies from our Lyman die set. This was a quick and easy process; soon I was removing the lubricant with a quick wipe of rubbing alcohol, and it was time to run each case through the primer-pocket-uniforming portion of the process. Before moving on to priming though, I had to take each case and run it back through the press, this time with the resizing die removed and the neck expanding die inserted. The neck expansion of the first case went a little slow as I was careful not to go too far with the expansion. Once I was happy with the amount of expansion I proceeded to run the remaining cases through the press, double-checked that we were still set as far as case length went, then the whole lot was ready for priming.
Using the Lyman E-ZEE Prime Hand Priming Tool I was quickly able to seat each of the Wolf large rifle primers with no snags or hang-ups. I was only prepping fifty rounds for this session, but the priming tool fit comfortably in my hands, seeming to indicate that it would be a pleasure to use when doing larger precision rifle batches numbering in the hundreds. With our primers set we were now ready to start throwing powder. Having already warmed up our RCBS Matchmaster Powder Dispenser, we filled its reservoir to the brim with VihtaVouri’s N-130 gunpowder. This extruded rod powder is amongst the more popular choices for those who reload their own .45-70 Gov’t.
Earlier, we had read from Hornady's Book of Reloading that for our 250-grain MonoFlex bullet and VihtaVouri N-130 combination, we were looking at a minimum powder charge of 45.3 grains and a maximum of 53.4 grains. Seeing no reason to go to the max powder charge if we didn't need to, I began my charges at the minimum charge of 45.3 grains of powder and ran off sets of five rounds in 0.5-grain increments, ending this round of load development with 49.8 grains of powder. While the Matchmaster threw powder, I began seating bullets, topping each with a 250-grain head and then placing them in their respective spots in the MTM Case-Gard ammo box. For anyone else looking for a storage solution for their .45-70 Gov’t. ammunition, you'll need the following model: RMLD-50. This box is also used for 7mm Remington Magnum, .30-40 Krag, and many other rounds. With 50 rounds finally completed, it was time to pray I didn’t drop the box and mix up all the different powder charges—that was a mistake I’ve made once and vow never to repeat!
Back on the range where we initially started this story, it was finally time to send some lead downrange. After warming up and fouling the barrel with a few factory rounds, the fun began … and soon stopped, because load development requires a little extra time to cool the barrel than other rounds. This was ok though, because when it comes to me and my fellow range buddies, barrel-cooling time equals cigar time.
As much of a pain as load development can be at times, it's always interesting to see where certain powder charges will hit their stride, while others seem to fall apart at the seams. After reviewing the results back home, we found that with this bullet in this specific rifle, 46.8 grains of N-130 was the magic number, boasting half-MOA groups. Will this accurate combination of components matter to the black bear I plan to harvest from my woods in Pennsylvania? Probably not, I’d expect that bear could care less about group size varying by half an MOA in either direction. But to the reloader, it does matter, and if it doesn't, you haven't yet traveled far enough down the rabbit hole of reloading.