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The Marlin 1895 DL
As much as I respect the 444 in the Winchester Big Bore...and I really do, I have to admit the power potential is greater in the 45-70. And now that Marlin brought out a fine new 1895 Levergun in 45-70....the winds of change are blowing......I think most reloaders will admit the 444's down range ballistics are better...with substantially less bullet drop. But the 45-70 pushes heavier bullets, so itís what you are going to hunt and the range, that should have a large bearing on caliber choice. Marlin and Winchester make fine 444 rifles....and now Marlin has introduced the DL IV 45-70. Which is a 24 inch barrel that is octagon and tapered...midnight blue and finally a Marlin 45-70 with the wood trim and slim. And the wood on my copy is figured well in black walnut and is very good for a levergun....which traditionally have suffered with plain vanilla most times. This 336 is one nice looking gun. And yes it can shoot also....
A friend that owns a gun store gave me a box of Winchesterís 300 grain Jacketed Hollow Points...the price on the box is $22.95 cents! I knew there was a good reason to reload, besides better accuracy, excellent bullet choices, and the ability to practice more. Pacoís Rule with store bought ammo could bankrupt a normal shooter.
(PACOís RULE: one round for each yard of potential range one would chance a shot at live targets....100 yards...100 practice shoots...200 yards then 200 rounds...etc...over the ranges out to the furthest you will shoot....)
Now I believe in having a box of Garrettís...Cor-Bonís...or Buffalo Boreís ammo on hand for the 45-70. You never know when a chance at something big comes along....and these three ammo companies make the best and most powerful 45-70 ammo on the market....nothing walks that wouldnít fall to any of the three from a fine 45-70 rifle....
But reloads give real versatility to the round. I have shot 10 lb turkeys to very large elk, and monstrous bovines in the 1500 lb class. All with the 45-70 and tailored reloads. In my article on the 45-70 Elves to Elephants...I classify the strength of the 45-70 rifle actions into 4 categories....the Marlin 1895 in modern 4140 steel is in the third level of strength. Out done only by the new immensely strong Winchester 1886s...and modern falling block single shots like the Ruger #1.
Excerpt from Elves to Elephants...
At 'Level Three' I hope Winchester chambers its Big Bore (fatside) '94 for the .45-70 in the near future. Certainly if the model 94 BB Winchester can take the 444 it can take the .45-70. It's not going to be a simple job for Winchester designers. But it can be done and WW will sell a ton of them. Also the Marlin .45-70s are on the market. The Marlin rifle has been around since its reintroduction back in the late 1960s and now Marlin has introduced the .45-70 in their Guide Guns. And they are neat. These guns are sure to be in level three and can be loaded to 40,000 psi. The Winchester, when it comes, will probably be able to take more pressure than that.
Then there are the level three rifles, and most likely the largest user of .45-70 ammo in our game fields. If any animal in America won't fall to a well-placed shot from a .45-70 level three power load, then as good friend Jim Wilson said, "you shouldn't have gotten into an argument with it in the first place."
When you are pushing a 350 grain Speer jacketed flatnose at 2050 fps and almost ton and three quarters muzzle energy they are not going to talk back if you do your part, (57/AA2015). I would brain an elephant, without hesitation, using a heavy jacketed 458 magnum designed bullet in 350 grains, like the Hornady 350. So how much more power do we need for hunting in the lower 48 states?
The largest animal you can take would be a American buffalo, and he's no risk. And of course the great bears of the North and they can be a risk....But just in case that 350 grainer is not enough for you, then Speer makes a 400 grain bullet that you can push with 53 grains of AA2015 and 1900+ fps velocity, as will 57 grains of H335. And they will take even the bears cleanly if we do our part. These two loads of 2015 powder must be worked up to, they are top loads. Don't think that I lowered the powder charge to be careful for you, I didn't. The usual good advice: Start 10% below and work up.
ReL7 is a fine powder in the 1895 Marlins and will be, I am sure, in Winchester's BB 45-70 if they get it off the ground. With 53 grains the Hornady 300 grain jacketed bullet will go over 2250 fps, 52 grains of IMR 4198 will go 2150 and 59 grains of 3031 will do the same. These are great hunting loads. 47/4198 (IMR) will push the 350 grainer to 1900 fps as will 50 grains of ReL7 also. With 58 grains of 4320 under the 400 grain Speer you get a little over 1800 fps and a good deal of accuracy at much lower pressures.
One of the more accurate powders I have found with the 400 grain Speer is ReL7. With 51.5 grains and 1900 fps, we are getting 3200 plus ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. Elk and Moose will go down very handsomely to a well placed shot with this load. And the best part is the accuracy! I put three of these from my 25 year old Marlin into 1 Ĺ inches at 100 yards. With a three inch zero at 100 yards this big flatfaced bullet is down 6 inches at 200 and 12 inches at 250 yards. That's pretty much a high dead on hold, on a deer to 250 yards and, for elk and larger, it's probably closer to a high dead on hold, out to 275 to 290 plus yards - not bad for a big blunt power house leveraction!
My earlier wish for Winchester to chamber itís Big Bore 94 for the 45-70 looks grim since they have re-introduced the two models of the 1886 to the market. ĎTis a shame. As much as I love the 86s...they are big rifles. The new marlin 1895 DL-IV that I have weighs 7 Ĺ lbs. Even though it has a tapered octagon barrel at 24 inches it still has excellent pointablity. Tim Sundles of Buffalo Bore fame is going to cut one down to 21 inches but only because it will pull from a horse scabbard easier. Iím sure that will make for a sweet shooter. The barrel on my DL-IV is .855 at the breach and .710 at the muzzle...thatís a slow taper and very attractive.
As I said earlier the wood is very good walnut with some figure in mine. If your local gun shop gets a few of these guns in...let them show you all of them and grab the best wood. Marlin didnít put a rubber butt pad on this rifle...so that will be my first alteration. When a rifle starts getting over 20 lbs of recoil (30-06 with commercial 180 grain loads goes 16 to 18 lbs) and climbs into 25 to 30 lbs, I begin to feel it....and I like to shoot long strings, so a soft sissy pad for me. One of things about the Winchester 86 that looks so good but feels so bad is that crescent butt plate. When you start pushing 500 grain bullets up into 1700 + fps it tells you about it.
Sights...as I said in my old book...if I were to put bitches about leverguns in a list...the open sights would be on top. As soon as I get a set of Ashley Outdoors Ghost Ring peep sights this Marlin will be ready for the field. Scopes....I use them on flatter trajectory leverguns when we are going long range hunting like antelope. And on the 45-70 for accuracy testing but the peeps are best on the 45-70.
Marlinís round 336 bolt is hard to beat for smoothness, and for keeping the gun to your shoulder and jacking in the rounds. I had a contest with a NRA rated high power bolt action rifle expert back a number of years ago. I had two shots fired before he could get his second shot chambered, and I had four shots fired before he could get his second shot fired and the bolt open for the third. I kept all my shots in a 12 inch circle at 100 yards. His group was much better than mine...but with a charging lion...elephant...etc....from 50 yards, I would have been fine....if his first shot wasnít perfect he would have been run over.
As soon as I get some Cor-Bon and Buffalo Bore 45-70 ammo I will report on it. I do have Garrettís ammo and the velocities were excellent. The fine plastic carrying cases you get with Randy Garrettís ammo are marked"This is +P ammunition generates "This is +P ammunition generates higher chamber pressures and is safe only in Marlins and Rugers..." Iím sure that was before Winchester put the new 86s out...itís certainly safe in them also...and of course the Browning since they are the same guns.
Garrettís heavy weight bullets are called Hammerheads...you will find that designation in my 1985 book on leverguns...I talk about Hammerhead Bullets and how effective they are on large game. And Randy Garrettís Hammerheads are good ones. The 45-70 Hammerhead is 530 grains and is rated at 1550 fps. No barrel length is stated. But from my 24 inch Marlin five rounds averaged 1663 fps at 10 feet to the chrono. It is a cast bullet with a very good flat face, and it would set any animal on itís butt in short order. Thatís 3255 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. Compare that with the heavy weight bullets in the 350 Rem Belted magnum from a bolt gun...youíll be surprised.
Garrettís other offering is his 415 grain cast bullet, it is rated at 1850 fps and at that velocity is no slouch but at the 1923 fps from my Marlin it is even better. It also generates terrific power...with over 3400 ft. lbs! What a headache these loads would give an elephant! Lesser game like moose in this hemisphere wouldnít stand a chance with good shooting. I have heard that Garrettís heavy 45-70s wonít chamber in the Marlin leverguns...In my circa 1970s round barrel 22 inch, and this DL-IV 24 inch, I have had no trouble at all....so I donít know what itís all about. But I tend to disbelieve it...thou it might be a particular problem to a particular rifle. It is not the norm. The ammo I have from Garrett is loaded in the fine Federal nickel cases...and reeks of quality control. Good stuff.
If I were to cast my own in the heavy weights....and I do often, I go to the RCBS offerings....their 45-300...45-405 and 45-500 are all the same shape in the nose. Itís listed as a flat nose...but there is some taper for good down range ballistics. All gas checked designs...all giving excellent ballistics, and accuracy.
Using the 300 grainer over 63 grains of H322 (itís a compact load) gets just under the magic 2400 fps and over 3800 ft. lbs of energy. This is the express load of the 19 century plus! The old 450 BP double and singe shot rifles had what the British called Express Loadings..they were for the plains game. The bullet weight was lowered and the velocity was stepped up. Some of the other old time African chamberings also went this route also. It was and is very effective.
My usual down range test for any bullet is this. I take a cheap piece of plywood 4' by 8' and with the gun and load set for a three inch high at 100 yards...I fire a three shot group at that range into a large black bull painted on the wood. I then put the plywood out at 200 yards and fire another 3 shot group into the same aim point....then 250 yards and then 300 yards. This gives me bullet drop and group size in relationship to each other all the way to 300 yards.
This RCBS 300 grain (tapered flat nose) has fairly good down range ballistics at 2400 fps. With my usual 3 inch high at 100 yards, it is down only 1 and Ĺ inches at 200 and 16 inches at 300 yards. After 300 it is heading down hill fairly quickly. Remember a 3 inch high at 100...because with a 100 yard Ďzeroí there is almost a 30 inch drop at 300 yards. And that accounts for the brush gun label the 45-70 has gotten over the years. That and the old slow velocities of commercial ammo does make for a rainbow curve...but times have changed.
I feel the great all around weight for the 45-70 bullets should be 350 grains...that will do everything the 400s will do and yet give higher velocities and better down range ballistics. Speerís very fine 350 grain jacketed soft nose could hunt all of the game of this hemisphere without a problem. With a ballistic coefficient of .232 it flies well. With 61.5 grains of A2520 I get 2120 fps with this bullet. With a 100 yard 3 inch high aiming point it is on at 200 yards and down 21 inches at 300 yards. The accuracy from this new Marlin was surprising...using a scope for testing they went into less than an 1 and Ĺ at 100...3 inches at 200 which I though was outstanding...and 7 inches plus at 300 yards.
And the surprise of surprises there is a cast bullet mould that has almost the same shape, so practice wonít break the bank on jacketed bullets. An inexpensive LEE mould...#457340-F...drops .4581 and 344 grains in my alloy, and over the same A2520 load 61.5 grains it gets 2170 fps and the accuracy is very good. I got my mould from MidwayUSA.
The traditional 400 to 405 grain bullet seems to still be the top choice of most shooters of the 45-70. There is lots of them to select from....both jacketed and cast. Speerís 400 grainer is a flat nose beauty and over 60 grains of H335 my Marlin was just getting under 2000 fps. Man does this bullet hit hard! I imagine that H322 or A2015 will give even better velocities than that.
McPhersonís book lists 57 grains of A2460 and 1926 fps for 28,000 psi. But I havenít tried that powder in this 45-70 and canít comment on it....but it does show that pressure is not a problem. Using RCBSís 500 grain cast bullet over 54.5 grains of H4895 gave 1701 fps, and a lot of recoil, with excellent accuracy...if you want to play with 500 grainers be my guest...But I am going to shoot very few elephants again in my life...so Iíll hold the 500s till that time comes. Lyman makes a 500 grain roundnose that at 1700 fps would probably go thru several elk in a row....but I prefer a flat nose for more shocking power. Besides with a tube loaded rifle and 500 grain bullets I donít want a round nose against the primer in front of it.
Hornadyís 350 grain round nose (I file a small flat on the nose for the tube) is really made for the .458 Winchester Magnum and is a stout bullet...it was made to give the Win Mag that express loading level we were talking of before..in the 45-70 this bullet will penetrate exceptionally well and is the slug I would use if I went for the big bears of the north. It would certainly smash thru heavy bones and break down the big bears efficiently. Also LEE makes a hollow base flat nose .457\8 mould that weighs out around 290 grains...itís for black powder but donít let that stop you...itís the berries for deer and small game....30 grains of 2400 gives about 1600 fps and it is a blast.....
I donít like scopes on leverguns...as I have said probably too many times...it ruins the aesthetic appeal like bras on the Dallas Cheerleading Gals....they just donít go together. But under certain conditions...like very long shots over barren ground, bullet and accuracy testing..or when you really need to place a shot exactly or you will find a big bear in your face, they are needed. The Marlin of course with itís enclosed bolt is made for scopes...I set them up so they can quickly detach. And I use a 4 power, small and compact...all the best manufacturers make them....choose the one that you dislike the least on your levergun....
Marlin has a winner with this new DL-IV 45-70....I think you will like it as much as I do...will it replace my beloved Winchester 444.....ahhh....I donít think so.......