Favourite rifles for Africa

August 27, 2013 in Gunroom, Hunting Info by Hunting Legends

African Outfitter Back Issues: CONTENTS – June / July 2007 - (Vol 2/4)

Favourite rifles and terminal performance - Mauritz Coetzee

Favourite rifles and terminal performance

In the 5th edition of “Cartridges of the World”, the late Frank C Barnes made the observation that old soldiers never die, and that the same apparently applies to old military cartridges.

Considering that the 45/70 Government cartridge was adopted by the American military in 1873, and the fact that this old timer is still going strong in 2007, surely warrants the title of being labelled a classic cartridge. Throughout the years this cartridge, whether in black powder or modern propellant configuration, has been available in factory chambered rifles by all major American rifle manufacturers.

This includes Remington, Winchester, Marlin, Ruger and the Navy Arms Company. The obvious difference obviously lies in the strength of the rifles manufactured a 134 years ago and the rifles currently chambered for the 45/70 Government. The old single-shot ‘trapdoor’ Springfield rifles of 1873 are simply not suitable for loads used nowadays with the modern Marlin 1895 (SS), including the Marlin Guide gun and Ruger No 1 single-shot rifles. To a certain extent the same applies to the original Winchester 1886 lever-action rifles regarding top-end loads.

Favourite rifles and terminal performance

What is relevant today is that modern factory ammunition with a 300 grain .458 diameter bullet is loaded to velocity levels of around 1 800–1 850 feet per second for modern rifles. Remington specifically loads a 405-grain bullet at an average velocity of 1 270 feet per second for the older types of rifles. This corresponds to the original loads of a head bullet of 405 grains at 1 285 feet per second.

In Africa, like in America and Canada, countless hunters have found that a 300 grain bullet at a velocity of 1 850 feet per second, especially for bush conditions, is a deadly combination.

The Hornady loading manual (fifth edition) lists loads with a 300-grain bullet to velocity loads of 2 000–2 100 feet per second for Marlin model 1895 rifles. In the same manual, 350 grain bullets were tested to 2 200 feet per second in the Ruger No 1 single-shot rifle.

Favourite rifles and terminal performance

Locally this cartridge can be loaded with S321, a ball propellant, which in terms of burning rate lies between IMR 4198 and IMR 3031. S341, another ball propellant (± IMR 4064) as well as S335 (± IMR 3031) have also delivered excellent performance levels with the 300 to 350/360 grain bullets.

Mark Goosen is one of many local hunters who are dedicated 45/70 fans. During the last five years, he has used this cartridge in his Marlin 1895 (SS) rifle against all plains game found in South Africa, as well as buffalo (see African Outfitter Volume 1/4). During late 2006, he also managed to hunt a giraffe bull with a 360 grain Rhino solid at a velocity of 1 930 feet per second. He used the same combination against the buffalo bull.

For all-round use when hunting impala, blesbok and warthog for example, the old style 300 grain Hornady .458 hollow-point bullet is used. With this bullet, 59 grains of S335 with a CC1200 primer delivers a velocity of 1 970 feet per second. For general use against animals like blouwildebees (brindled gnu) and eland he utilizes the 360 grain Rhino soft.

Favourite rifles and terminal performance

Mark readily acknowledges that the 45/70 cartridge is by no means the optimum ballistic combination against game such as buffalo. In the case of his buffalo hunt the 360 grain solid penetrated both shoulders of the buffalo.

It needs to be mentioned that the 360 grain Rhino solid in the ultra strong Ruger No 1 single-shot rifle, can be pushed to a velocity factor of 2 140 feet per second, thereby closely comparing to the original .404 Jeffrey loads of 2 150 feet per second with a 400 grain bullet.

All in all, Mark is totally satisfied with his 45/70 Marlin rifle. Apart from being very effective for short-range bushveld hunting applications, the rifle is a typical example of a gun design well over a hundred years old and still relevant in 2007. If one can close one’s eyes for a few minutes, images of Indian war parties and clashes with settlers can appear rather quickly. What a colourful cartridge this 45/70 is indeed!