Me and the 45-70

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Joined: 06/03/2010

Me and the 45-70
            The first 45-70 I ever owned is the Springfield Trapdoor rifle that I inherited from my great grandfather. I have talked about being around that rifle for many years as a kid dragging it all over my grandmother’s farm. When I inherited it and made some needed repairs to it, I bought a box of 45-70 ammunition, shot it and eventually hunted with it one deer season. I still have it and treasure it for its heritage and link between me and my ancestor, but it is not a hunting rifle!
            I determined that in a different rifle, more suited to my north woods hunting style, that a 45-70 would be a great deer gun. I had a love of large bore rifles ever since I can remember and I was used to hunting in the forest lands of Upper Michigan where a powerful “brush” gun was definitely an advantage. I had grown up with 32 Specials, 35 Remingtons and the tried and true 30-30 Model 94’s. So I started to  search for a 45-70 that would meet my needs.
            My search for 45-70 rifles was not very fruitful because most people didn’t use them, thinking them to be outdated or they were collectors’ rifles like the 86 Winchester or the real Sharps rifles. I was close to buying a new Sharps rifle when they were being reproduced but family responsibilities put the kibosh on that so I waited and waited for another day.
           My next thought was to find an old double barrel shotgun and put liners in it for the 45-70 and make a double rifle. This project never got out of the grey matter in my brain and eventually was shelved for a far away future which never happened. The idea of a double 45-70 rifle popped back into my mind, however, when the Kodiak double 45-70 rifle showed up and I tried to get one. No such luck, due to all kinds of reasons and many excuses that I don’t even remember now but mostly because I couldn’t afford it at the time.
            A friend of mine picked up a little Ruger number 3 in 45-70 and I was back on my quest for a 45-70 rifle. I shot his #3 quite a bit, getting the feel of it and working out how it was made. Eventually I couldn’t stand the idea of not having a 45-70 rifle so I built one. I designed a falling block single shot action and put a Douglas barrel on it and stocked it in fine walnut. It shoots like a charm and is super accurate but, for some strange reason, I have never hunted with it. The only duty it sees is target shooting because I think I am so proud of it I’m leery of trying to take it out in the field.
            Since that first box of factory 405 grain 45-70 cartridges that fed the old Springfield I have always reloaded for the big cartridge, preferring to load mild so I could target shoot my single shot for long sessions at the range. I use the loads common to most of the loading manuals and my life with the fine old cartridge is not about how I load or what loads, just about me and my rifles.
            My lust for the 45-70 was sated for a while so I turned my attention to other things, mostly a 375 H&H heavy game rifle, because Elmer said you couldn’t go wrong with one. I moved on to other jobs and eventually my family grew up and went nest building on their own. I was at the point in my life when I didn’t need any more rifles but I was now a little less encumbered and more affluent than I had been for many years. I had been forced to give up hunting because of health issues but I could still shoot so when my brother wanted me to get a couple of used rifles with him I said “Why not?” You can never have too many rifles!
            The deal was two rifles for a set price, one a stainless and the other a plain blue steel gun. They were Marlin 1895 lever guns, one stainless and one blue model that someone had purchased and couldn’t manage to use because of the heavy recoil (?), so they were up for sale as a pair. The thing that cinched the deal for me was the caliber, 45-70 Gov’t! My brother wanted the stainless with laminated stock and I would take the blued one, no problem; I love blue steel and wood. Here, after so many years of longing for and even building one, I now had a lever action 45-70 rifle without really trying.
            As I write this now I have three fine 45-70 rifles. I would never have dreamed of having them way back when I first wanted one and perhaps that is why they are special today; they are well earned and well appreciated. Although I don’t hunt anymore I still shoot when I can, mostly with my handguns, but the 45-70s still get shot now and then. My life with the 45-70 may not be all that glamorous or breathtaking but it has been a good life.