Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by bear166, Jul 6, 2021.
First off, 45-70 brass is not truly 'straight walled'. There is an ever so slight taper from front to back, that's why there are no carbide dies available for 45-70.
Here is the official SAAMI drawing of the 45-70 cartridge and chamber.
Yes, that bulge can probably be ironed out when resizing your brass, but be sure to use plenty of case lube. I use Winchester brass for all my 45-70 loads. A bunch of years ago I had some Federal 45-70 brass and no matter how hard I tried I could not get that stuff through my RCBS 45-70 sizing die. No matter how much case lube I put on it. I have not tried Starline 45-70 brass, but I have shot tons of their 45 Colt, 45 Schofield, 44 Russian, 44-40 and 38-40 brass and I have no doubt their 45-70 brass would be top notch.
bear166: Not that it really matters but I don't believe you mentioned the bullet weight you are using.
Here is one of my 45-70 rounds on the right, with one of the original copper cased, Benet Primed rounds that were so prone to problems with the early Trapdoors. The soft copper cases expanded in the chamber and got stuck. The extractor tended to rip right through the soft rim. Modern cartridge brass is 70% copper and 30% zinc. When fired it expands to fill the chamber, but it has enough 'memory' to shrink back slightly in size so it does not become stuck in the chamber.
The big bullet 2nd from the right is the 405 grain bullet I use with my 45-70 reloads.
I don't have my reloading notebook handy, but I seem to recall I am putting about 70 grains of Schuetzen FFg into my Winchester brass. I trickle it into the cases with a 24" drop tube, then I use a compression die to compress the powder I don't recall exactly how much. Then a thin card wad, then I seat the bullet. Yes, I do put a bit of a crimp on my 45-70 rounds, but not a whole lot.
I seem to recall my Trapdoor was made in 1875, but I can't swear to that right now.
Anyway, I suspect at some point your chamber was bulged slightly, perhaps by somebody putting a Smokeless load through it. All the other answers are correct, you could take a chamber casting, but with a bulge like that you might have just as much trouble removing the casting as you do removing your bulged brass. You could take it to a Trapdoor expert, but I suspect the only real solution would be to have the chamber machined out and a new one sleeved in, or perhaps bore out the entire barrel and have a new sleeve installed. I suspect the cost would be prohibitive.
I do suggest you limit shooting your Trap Door with Black Powder loads. I don't know how old your Trapdoor is, but if it is an old one with a slightly bulged chamber I would not put any Smokeless loads through it.
I don't think the loads have much to do with it. My rifle fires 80 grains of Swiss under a 400 grain bullet, with no issues. I'm glad you don't shoot smokeless though. Intelligent!! As far as a smokeless load bulging the chamber, I think other parts of the action would have failed before the chamber would bulge.
I think re-lining the barrel would be "worth it". At the least a noble cause to preserve the rifle, and worth it in the long run. I wonder if it couldn't be bored, rifled, and rechambered, or re-lined to 50-70 or 50-90? That would be cool. Also, if one is starting from scratch with a re-lined barrel and chamber, I've always thought a Trapdoor would be cool in .45-90. I'd load it with 80 grains, and have room for a big old 500 grain bullet. !!! But I hunt in Grizz country, so I'm weird that way.
Good luck and I hope you keep the old girl shooting. Not too long ago, I was shopping for a Trapdoor barrel, and there seem to be plenty around for around one hundred bucks or so. That might be less expensive than a re-line. If you spent $100 on a new barrel, and another $100 for the gunsmith to screw it on, that's way cheaper than another rifle.
You mention that the extractor does remove the fired case. Either you have a faulty extractor or the bulge is preventing it from working properly. My guess, the latter situation. How it happened? Who knows but I would guess a too hot reload with smokeless.
Can it be repaired? How much are you willing to spend.
I'll say again, the old girl is worth fixing. I'd put up to $300 or more into it if it were my gun. I'd stop and think about it if I began to approach the price of what they are going for now. I think a "new" barrel would be the way to go. Again-again, less expensive than a new rifle. Unless they have all dried up suddenly, you should be able to find a good used barrel on ebay or somewhere. They were not hard to find when I was looking for them.
Thanks for your detailed reply, always learn a bunch from your posts! Good call on mentioning the bullet weight; I shoot 405 grain bullets. I'm a big fan of Starline brass myself, especially for my .45 Colt loads. They suggest that annealing their 45-70 brass might be necessary for shooting black powder, although I skipped this step and it doesn't seem to have caused any issue. I'd be tempted to just scrap the range brass I bought and stick with the Starline only, if not for the fact it was so expensive!
I did find a gunsmith here in Nebraska that seems to have experience with Trapdoors, and according to his listed prices, could do this for what I would consider a very reasonable price, though I have not contacted him yet. I probably will at some point in the future.
I think you're right on sticking to black powder. Not that I had much intention to try smokeless, because the BOOM and the thick cloud of smoke is more than half the fun for me. As for its age, I don't know exactly what year it was made, but being a model '84 I have to assume it was made some time between then and 1888 when they introduced the next revision. I wouldn't consider myself super knowledgeable about that topic though, if you have any insight, I'd love to know if there's a better way of determining its age. Would be cool to give it a more precise birth date.
Always appreciate your posts as well! Those are some interesting ideas right there. I think I'd like to keep her firing 45-70s for now, just because I'm kind of a stickler for history (and more importantly already have the components and equipment) but if I ever encounter another well-worn Trapdoor, that is certainly something I would be interested in trying. And don't worry about whether or not I'll keep her shooting... However I go about it, this old girl has many more years of lead slinging to go, as long as she's in my hands!
I think it is probably the bulge, and I kind of suspect the same as you, that someone who previously owned the rifle was firing hot smokeless loads in it. The extractor has no issue removing cases that were fired in chambers that were up to spec, so it would seem that the out-of-spec chamber is the cause of my issues.
Anyhow, what a mystery. Not just a slight bulge, but a big bulge. When it's all said and done, we'll refer to this project as the battle of the bulge.
Hahaha! That got a good laugh out of me. I suppose when the mystery is solved, I'll report back with the results of who won this battle of the bulge.
MidwayUSA had chamber casting alloy on sale last week. Still might be?
True that. Just replying to this in case the OP wanted to know. If it were mine it would already be at the gunsmith being rebarreled or sleeved.
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