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Old October 19, 2014, 04:36 PM   #1
ckpj99
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I'm buying a Springfield Trapdoor Model 1884. What should I know?

So I was in the local shop the other day. I decided I wanted to start looking for something a little more accurate and less fussy than my 30-30 Marlin lever gun. I was just going to bite the bullet and get a bolt-action of some type with nice iron sights. I don't shoot with scopes because I'm rarely in a place I can shoot more than 100 yards away.

The guys at the shop know me, so once they saw I wasn't too interested in the Ruger American they had in stock, they said, "what about a trapdoor?" Being a sucker for old steel, I was immediately interested.

It's a Model 1884. It's the full size gun, not the carbine. It's chambered in 45-70 obviously. It's a shooter and has had some parts replaced over the years. It is priced accordingly. The bore isn't spotless, but it has good rifling. It has a nice vernier tang sight attached with a globe front sight with replaceable inserts. So I'm almost definitely going to buy it.

So what should I know? What type of accuracy can I expect with a good reload? I'm considering starting out by working up a 300gr lead load with Trail Boss, or maybe a 405gr lead load with 4198, but I'm open to suggestions.

What can I expect when shooting groups? Are these guns known for walking when their barrels heat up? Are they fussy about the ammo they like? Is there any reason to stick with jacketed bullets over lead? Any suggestions for factory ammo?

Thanks! Looking forward to my next purchase.
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Old October 19, 2014, 04:45 PM   #2
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What do you intend to do with a new gun?
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Old October 19, 2014, 04:55 PM   #3
ckpj99
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I intend to shoot targets, that's about it.
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Old October 19, 2014, 05:43 PM   #4
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You should purchase a copy of Loading Cartridges for the Original .45-70 Springfield Rifle and Carbine by the late Spencer Wolf. Read it several times to absorb all the points. It includes some pointers on buying the gun.
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Old October 19, 2014, 11:38 PM   #5
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Fudd that I am, I fire only black powder in mine. I confess I am not familiar with many of the newer powders but I that old metal and fairly weak action should not be pushed past its limits. My references are not handy, I do recall reading that magnum rifle primers work best, the original were pretty hot.
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Old October 20, 2014, 09:28 AM   #6
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I've heard that all complaints begin with improper bullets

Using anything modern with a jacket might be a problem. You might have to dicker around with casting your own bullets to get optimal results.

Caveat: My personal experience with the old trapdoor is absolutely ZERO. So, the appropriate grain of salt is suggested.
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Old October 20, 2014, 10:09 AM   #7
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Check (at the very least) for tight hinge & tight lockup.
Check for hammer push-off when cocked.
Check (carefully, while holding the hammer, don't dry-fire the gun) for trigger pull.

If hinge and/or lockup is loose or wiggly, pass.
If hammer can be pushed off the notch, it'd require work & possibly one or more parts replacement.
Same with very light trigger.

Sounds like you've looked at bore & so on.

DO NOT SHOOT JACKETED.
The steel was relatively soft on those, you'll accelerate wear on any rifling left.
Stick to 405 lead.
Smokeless is not a problem, as long as you keep charges down to the mild levels listed in the manuals for .45-70 Trapdoor loads.

A 300-grain bullet won't shoot very close to the sights, they should be regulated for the 405 or 500 weight.

It'd take some experimentation to determine where it'd shoot relative to point of aim, and impossible to predict what kind of groups you could expect.
Condition varies, and your bore would be a big factor.
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Old October 20, 2014, 01:32 PM   #8
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Thanks for the tips. I've done some more reading on other sites as well, and I went ahead an purchased the rifle. We (as in the gunshop owner and myself) believe that the gun was rebarreled at some point and we think the door itself may have been replaced as well. The parts all lock up tight. The hammer and trigger mechanism seem just about perfect. Cosmetically, the gun it's going to win any awards, but I wanted a shooter anyway.

Someone installed a tang peep rear sight and a modern-looking globe front sight on it at some point, so that may help with adjusting for different loads.

I do plan to reload 405 lead eventually, but I need to get all the components and dies together. That will take a bit. I plan to buy brass at some point, but for the time being I got some Remington jacketed ammo. It's only pushing 1300 fps, so I can't imagine it being too damaging, especially if I only plan to shoot a box or two for the brass. It says on the box that it's safe for all rifles, so it must be true, lol!

I plan to use 4198 powder and get a load that's running around 1200 fps. 4198 keeps the pressures pretty low, like under 20,000cup.

The only thing that I want to work on with the rifle is that I don't think the front sight insert is the proper size. It shakes around slightly. And I'd like to get a set of inserts to have different options like a post and different size circles. Once I get that sorted, I may try to find a different size peep disk for the rear sight. It's a little too large a hole for my liking. All that being said, I have no clue what type/brand any of those parts are, so finding replacements may be difficult.
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Old October 20, 2014, 01:48 PM   #9
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As long as you use the Trapdoor data of Hodgdon's site and not the other .45-70 data you'll be fine. 1200 fps is below minimum velocity for a cast 300 and IMR4198 though. Starting load is 33.8 grains at 1,649 fps. Look at H4198. Gives slightly lower velocities.
The front sight blade is just a piece of brass bar. Gunparts likely has the proper blade, but so will a Metal Convenience shop.
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Old October 20, 2014, 09:49 PM   #10
ckpj99
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O'Heir - This gun has been modified. It has a globe front sight that take inserts. It was clearly set up as a target gun. I need to figure out what type of sight it is so I can get a proper insert for it. The aperture insert it has now doesn't fit quite right.
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Old October 20, 2014, 09:57 PM   #11
Jim Watson
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Get the Wolf book mentioned in post #4.

Forget 300 grain bullets and don't get too hyped up on 405s except for short ranges.
The gun was built for the 500 grain bullet introduced in 1881 after the Sandy Hook ultra long range trials of 1879.

What are the I.D. and O.D. of the front globe? What is the diameter of the insert that doesn't fit?
A picture would help.
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Old October 20, 2014, 11:33 PM   #12
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Hi Jim - I've actually had time to sit down and do some research on the sight. It has a small metal latch on the top as opposed to any type of screw-in mechanism. There aren't many out there, and the gun shop owner said it was modern. After looking around it appears to take Sharps-style inserts, so I ordered a set from Track of the Wolf. The sight pretty much looks exactly like this - http://www.trackofthewolf.com/Catego.../2/FS-SHARPS-2

The rear sight is much older, so it doesn't look like a complete mess, lol. Can't wait to shoot it!
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Old October 20, 2014, 11:42 PM   #13
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Again, I'd avoid jacketed bullets. They wear the rifling harder than lead.
If you have to use them, do it as little as possible.

It's not a matter of being "safe in all rifles", it's a matter of being hard on old metallurgy.
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Old October 21, 2014, 05:31 PM   #14
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Thanks for all the advice. I went ahead and got what I needed for reloading. I need to place an order for bullets as no place locally has anything. I have sourced almost everything else I need.

A couple of questions pertaining to reloading, and mods feel free to move this if it's too far off topic:

What are your thoughts on IMR 3031? It seems to be more common than 4198 and offers the low (sub 20,000cup) pressures and velocities I'm after. I picked up a pound today just to have it. I can trade it or use it for something else if I don't use it for the 45-70? I already have some IMR 4198.

Also, what are your thoughts on Trail Boss? I noticed that it produces higher pressures than 4198, but lower velocities. I assume this is due to it being a faster burning powder. I'm familiar and comfortable with Trail Boss, and it initially seemed like a nice fit for this rifle, but I'm not sure it's a very good choice for pushing 45-70 out of a 32" barrel.

Last question: the only rifle caliber I have a lot of experience reloading is 30-30. My process there was to trim the brass after every use so I could get a consistent crimp on the case. Is crimping 45-70 (with the intention of using it in a trapdoor) necessary and/or recommended? And therefore is case length and case trimming required as frequently as it is with bottlenecked cartridges? I reload .38 special and I get several reloadings before the cases become long enough to worry about, and even then it's not every case in a batch.
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Old October 21, 2014, 05:38 PM   #15
ckpj99
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Also, here's a few pictures of the rifle. It has a Model 1884 stamp on the trapdoor, but according to the serial number and a very short Google search of serial numbers, it may have been made in 1888.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg trap1.jpg (49.5 KB, 25 views)
File Type: jpg trap2.jpg (97.3 KB, 23 views)
File Type: jpg trap3.jpg (91.3 KB, 21 views)
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Old October 21, 2014, 05:46 PM   #16
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I shoot a Ruger #3 and a Marlin 1895G (both 45/70) and use 300 grain hardcast LRNFP over 14.0 grains of Trail Boss. Its the only reason I still have the #3, which is a brutal little bugger with full power loads. I figured Id try a light lead bullet load before I got rid of it, and Im glad I did.

I find the load is very pleasant to shoot, even in the light #3, and is accurate enough for me. Fist sized offhand groups (using the factory iron sights on both) at 50 yards, about double that at 100.

As far as I know, both my rifles have a 1:20 twist (albeit, shorter barrels), and I believe the Trapdoor has the same. Unless Im missing something peculiar to the trapdoor, I would think they would shoot similarly using the same load.
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Old October 21, 2014, 06:12 PM   #17
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Handsome rifle. Mine, unlike yours, had the infantry stock and barrel shortened.
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Old October 21, 2014, 06:32 PM   #18
Jim Watson
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Old timers like Elmer Keith and Ken Waters favored 3031 for standard .45-70.
Waters liked 4198, too.
You will be ok with them.

Trail Boss is kind of a plinking powder in .45-70. I don't have much use for it in rifles although it does work well in .44-40 and .44 Special.

The only remaining powder made for moderately light loads and nitro-for-black in rifles is 5744.
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Old October 21, 2014, 07:56 PM   #19
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That trapdoor has been reblued, but since it is not a collectible that doesn't matter much.

Jim
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Old October 21, 2014, 08:21 PM   #20
ckpj99
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James K - the shop owner said that he thought the gun was probably rebarreled at some point. It's definitely not a collector piece and wasn't priced as such. I'm a shooter, and wanted a gun I wouldn't feel guilty about shooting. I just hope I can get some solid accuracy out of it.
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Old October 22, 2014, 03:06 AM   #21
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Sounds like you probably have a newer barrel, so shoot jacketed if you choose and don't worry about it....pressure is your only real concern, not barrel wear. It's hard to know your barrel twist, so you might be able to shoot lighter bullets, but the 405's are a good middle of the road weight for one of them. I have shot them for years and still do occasionally and have found that IMR 3031 works nicely in that caliber for the pressure levels you need.
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Old October 22, 2014, 09:03 AM   #22
Jim Watson
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The barrel may not be original, but it has a Buffington rear sight.
So it is probably still a period Trapdoor barrel and should be spared the wear of jacketed bullets.


ETA: I don't crimp .38-55 and .40-65 for my single shots. I think/hope the residual flare acts to center the round in the chamber. But I am loading black powder which doesn't need any resistance to get well ignited. YMMV with white powder.

Last edited by Jim Watson; October 22, 2014 at 10:20 AM.
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Old October 22, 2014, 09:52 AM   #23
DPris
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3031 should be fine, I worked with it in .45-70 loads a while back.

No need to REGULARLY trim straight-walled .45-70 brass, just check length every 20 or 30 firings (in those light loads) & trim if necessary.

Light pressures won't stretch the brass much.

Even if re-barreled, unlikely to be a modern barrel, more likely to be a period (as in still old) replacement & advice against jacketed bullets still holds.

Why would you even want to shoot jacketed anyway, if you're going to reload?

Brass is easily found, same with lead bullets from a number of sources.
Jacketed, in a plinker, or even a hunter, won't gain you anything in that rifle & jacketed's more expensive.

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Old October 22, 2014, 11:13 AM   #24
ckpj99
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Thanks for all the help folks. I do have one more question. I'm looking at the lead bullets available online because I am definitely not going to start casting my own. I'm generally finding three types.

1) Hard cast lead with gas checks - I'm ruling these out because it seems silly to pay a premium for gas checks when I'm running the bullets so slow.

2) Hard cast lead - it seems that the majority of bullets available are hard cast lead with a Brinell hardness ranging from 15-18. These bullet are plentiful and affordable, but if I'm trying to get the best accuracy and preserve the rifling, are these bullets too hard? Here's what I'm looking to buy - http://www.midwayusa.com/product/796...ose-box-of-250

3) Softer cast lead - there are a range of bullets that seem to made specifically for making black powder loads that use softer lead and a SPG lube. These have a Brinell hardness of about 9. I would think these would fill out the rifling better and be less hard on the barrel, however, I'm not loading black powder. Here's an example - http://www.midwayusa.com/product/751...ProductFinding

So should I go with #2 or #3?
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Old October 22, 2014, 11:28 AM   #25
DPris
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Hardcast lead.

It'll still be softer & less abrasive than jackets & the BP lubes are for BP.
You don't need gaschecks at those lower velocities, waste of money.
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