About forty years ago I was driving through central Minnesota with a friend when we spotted a little country gun shop. We went in, sniffed around, and when we left he was clutching a Savage 99 (I think it was) and I had a Springfield Trapdoor in the original .45-70 caliber. I also had a box of original black powder cartridges. I paid $12.00 for the rifle, mostly because some vandal had "sporterized" it by hacking off part of the fore-end.
After that box was gone (it would be worth real money now) I started to think about handloading. I got a Lyman mould and cast some bullets out of wheelweights. As I recall they were something around 350-400 grains. At the time 2400 was the typical powder recommended and what I used, although I don’t see that powder recommended for the .45-70 in either the current Speer or the Lyman Cast bullet manual. The 43rd edition of the Lyman Reloading Handbook (1964) lists 20gr of 2400 with the 300gr cast bullet and 26gr with the 405gr bullet. (I know–it should be the opposite). Before I looked this up just now I thought I remembered using 22gr of 2400. My memory may be a little fuzzy about the powder but it’s sharp as a tack about the results I got because they were lousy. The shots printed like a shotgun on the target and it was at very short range. Very discouraging.
I hardly shot that rifle for several decades until a few years ago. Someone recommended a book by J. S. Wolf called Loading Cartridges for the Original .45-70 Springfield Rifle and Carbine, first published in 1991. It’s a cheap little paperback, badly printed on poor paper, possibly on Gutenburg’s original press, but it may be the best gun book I've ever read. Even if you don’t have and are not interested in the Trapdoor you will enjoy this book because he shows step by step how he went about solving the problem of getting these fine old rifles to shoot with close duplicates of the original military load. He used about a dozen rifles and carbines, if I'm remembering this right, and after several years and a lot of shooting he had it figured out; it’s all explained in this book.
I’ll give it to you briefly, step by step.
These old Trapdoors are a lot of fun to shoot, especially with the black powder loads. I was surprised that some of the range gun nutz don’t know anything about this rifle. They wanted to know what it was. And the smoke draws a crowd, even though the ML gang is pretty strong at this club.
Here’s a picture of the butchered 1873 Trapdoor I’ve been talking about along with a whole 1884 model I bought a few months ago.
Pat Wolf, J. S. Wolf’s widow, has been selling the book and also some of the other materials he recommends–wooden ball and brass cleaning rod tip he recommends that you epoxy to a dowel for cleaning, drill for the primer pockets, and the .45-70 dies that come with the insert to tamp down the powder.
She can be reached at:
Chula Vista, CA 91913
She’s very accommodating, sending me the stuff I ordered without waiting to get paid. Highly recommended.