Range Report - 1873 Trapdoor


Phantom Captain
March 25, 2011, 10:16 AM

This one is moving right to the top on my list of favorites. Absolutely love it.

I got the chance to get out to the range last weekend with a bunch of handloaded cartridges and have to say it was awesome!

This is the rifle, again. Model 1873 with all the correct markings and cartouche. Stamped 1884 on the cartouche. Has the 1873 sight so is an early 1884 before the model 1884 came in. Also has the serrated trigger and original cleaning rod. :)



So the load I decided to try first consisted of a 405 grain soft lead bullet from a Lyman mold. Hand lubed with SPG lube (love the stuff and use it on my .45 Colt cartridges exclusively). This first batch I went with 60 grains Goex 3f. I shot 40 rounds on the first outing. Since I've re-loaded 30 of the shells with 60 grains 2f to see if there is a difference. I will slowly keep making tweaks til I find exactly the load I like best!



Very old school with the Lee hand loading dies and a hammer! I'm getting a press soon though. I've had no problem doing my .45 Colts this way and now doing the .45-70 this way also but figured it's time to make the jump to a press. Plus I can start reloading modern stuff too. Have to say though I actually do enjoy assembling them one at a time with these reloading kits.



I started off shooting 25 yards offhand. Shoots a bit high and right but will have to bench it next time out with comparitive loads to see what shoots better. I was super happy though. Was shooting 2" groups offhand at that range with my first batch of handloads. My fiance even really loved it though the kick was a bit strong. She really liked the whole trapdoor function and cartridge as she is more a pure muzzleloader. She shot really well too. We were just playing mostly this time and not really getting serious about accuracy. More just wanted to get it out and burn some powder for fun!

I did take it down to the 50 yard range too for a couple shots just to see how the bullets were at a bit longer range. I put four rounds in the black out of four at 50 yards also offhand so I do have to say I think it has a lot of potential. REALLY super fun to shoot and man do I LOVE it!!

I, of course, got lots of looks and questions and let a couple other guys try it out and everyone really loved it. Quite the thump from those BP cartridges and everyone is always blown away how big they are, plus the smoke and smell always makes for a good show! Good times!! :D

Now I've got a new itch. I've always been so much more a muzzleloader, civil war musket, flintlock and cap and ball shooter but since I got my SA .45 and now am loading the .45-70 i'm really really loving the BP cartridge guns. They are just beyond cool. So I've been looking REAL hard at this beautiful little honey....

Have a feeling I'm going to have to get one like real soon.


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45-70 Ranger
March 25, 2011, 10:56 AM
Well, there's nothing wrong using a Lee Loader for this baby! Even though I have a full press at my shop and have loaded for almost half a century now, I carry a toolbox with all the trappings to load my 45-70 with the Lee system. It's just fine and loads ammo just as good as a press (except it will not, of course, FL resize). I take "My Kit" to work and when things are slow, I'll load rounds with this system. That gives me more time at the range when I get home!

I am so glad to see that you have that Trapdoor. I love those weapons and I know that you will continue to get more attached to it everytime you go out to the range with it. They grow on you FAST!!

Have fun and again, glad you have a fine piece of history to enjoy!:)

March 26, 2011, 06:24 AM
Trapdoors are some of the best of the old rifles available. I rebuilt an 1866 model (50-70) and it is a good shooting rifle. I have also handled, shot and loaded for several of the smaller bored trapdoors (45-70). If you don't already have this book,


it is THE book about duplicating the original loadings for the Trapdoor. There are a couple of techniques that are no longer in favor but the majority of the info is spot on.

If you need additional loading info let me know and I can point you in the correct direction.

March 26, 2011, 08:58 AM
Hi Phantom, what's the diameter of the bullets you're loading?

I have an 1890 vintage model 1884 trapdoor and have been shooting it for about a year. I was not really getting good results until slugging the barrel and realizing that I should be shooting a .461 instead of the .458 and .459's I had been loading. Now I am getting great results and the problem I have is that I take too many rounds to the range and end up busting my shoulder!! I just don't want to put that rifle down!

Phantom Captain
March 26, 2011, 09:50 AM
StrawHat, excellent! Definitely going to look into and order that book! Thanks! How are you loading or what is your favorite load you've found?

FiveStrings, the mold I bought was the Lyman 405 grain .458. I'm using pure soft lead for the bullets so thought they might bump up a bit on ignition like the old minies do even though they aren't hollow base like the minies I cast. I should slug the bore though. The bore is really bright and clean and doesn't look worn to me at all, one of the reasons I traded for this one was because it seemed in such good shape all around, but looks can be deceiving of course.

March 28, 2011, 07:58 AM
My loads are for the 50-70 but my technique works good enough for me with all my black powder cartridges. I scoop a case full of powder for starts and make a measure that will hold that much. This powder is then poured through a drop tube to settle it in the case. A cardboard wad is added (not with hollow based bullets) and then a properly lubed bullet is seated on top of the powder column. I do not crimp as I use single shot rifles and the neck tension is all I need to keep the bullet from shifting. Do I load 1000 yard target quality ammo? Nope! But for my style of shooting this works fine. Once I have a load and rifle targeted in, I stop shooting at paper and use the rifle at various ranges shooting at rocks, 5 gallon pails, stumps, whatever is laying off in the distance. It gets me used to shooting at unknown ranges from field positions, mostly offhand or sitting. As long as my rifle and load keeps the impact within 2 inches of where I sight it, I am happy. 1 inch is better but realistically, the 2" standard puts meat in the freezer.

Oh, standard large rifle primers spark the charge. My bullets are usually cast from an alloy of 30 or 40 parts of lead to one part of tin. Sometimes softer, but I don't recall the last pure lead bullet I have launched, except from my muzzle loaders.

On trapdoors, the throat is a critical dimension, some of them are huge compared to the bore.

If your mold casts undersize, there are ways to increase the diameter unless you want to buy a custom mold.

Trapdoors are alot of fun and easy to load for. Most of them are still more accurate than many would imagine and they can handle decent charges. The hardest part of shooting them is managing the trigger and hammer fall. And having enough loaded ammunition available.

March 28, 2011, 11:31 AM
I have always admired the trapdoor designed guns. I would love to move into black powder cartridge guns. Unfortunately, it wouldn't make much sense for me to do so. My local indoor range doesn't allow BP; and the club that runs the outdoor range doesn't allow anything other than muzzle loaders.

The only thing worse than not having a BP cartridge gun would be having one without a place to shoot it.

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