View Full Version : Myth-busting the 45-70

January 25, 2010, 07:58 PM
When I was about 13 years old or so, an old guy in my neigborhood took me out shooting. He had an old side lock 45-70 rifle and told me "this is what General Custer used when he went after the indians."
The rounds that he had were obviously old also, and a small lead ball protruded from the case. What he told me was that the shells had "3 lead balls in 'em. One for the indian, and the other two to take down his horse."
I weighed about 55 pounds at the time, and the rifle kicked me so hard I seen stars.
Was or is there such a round for the 45-70 with 3 balls loaded in them, or was that old man pulling my leg? I've been a shooter and collecter for 15 years now and have never seen such a thing.

January 25, 2010, 08:10 PM
I have no doubt that at some point, some person loaded some 45-70 cartridges with 3 balls, but that was not the load issued to Custer's 7th Cavelry or any other unit in active service in the Indian wars to my knowledge. Never even heard of such a critter being fielded at the time.

Double Naught Spy
January 25, 2010, 08:19 PM
Yeah, he was pulling your leg, whether he knew it or not.

January 25, 2010, 08:22 PM
Custer's troopers were susposedly armed with 1873 45-70 Springfield Cavelry Carbines. There were two loadings for 1873 Rifles, a 500 grain bullet for infantry rifles and a 350 grain bullet for carbines. I seriously doubt that there was an issue load of three lead balls.

January 25, 2010, 08:41 PM
FWIW, The US Frankford Arsenal started loading .45-70 multi-ball loads for the GI .45-70 cartridge in 1901, followed by Remington/UMC's 2 million rounds.

They are/were referred to as "Federal Guard loads".



Reference: History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition, Vol. 1 (revised), Hackely, Woodin and Scranton. p. 215


January 25, 2010, 09:19 PM
PetahW, that's very neat thanks for sharing that, I'd beat that would get your attention if your were on either end of it.

James K
January 25, 2010, 10:30 PM
The U.S. Army issued "guard" ammunition up to and through WWII, but AFAIK it has long been discontinued.

Guard loads were low power, short range loads. The reason for them was that many military posts were in built up areas, even in the middle of cities (Ft. McNair in D.C. being an example), and it was feared that if a guard fired his rifle the bullet could kill or injure some innocent person or damage civilian property. Guard loads were intended to reduce, but could not eliminate, that possibility.


January 25, 2010, 11:02 PM
A slight difference in data.
The first cavalry carbine load for the 45-70 was a 405 grain bullet over 55 grains of "musket" powder. These were produced from March to July of 1874. The adoption of the 500 grain bullet for general use in the 2.1 inch case came in 1882, the end result of testing with a slightly longer 2.4" case.
Multi-ball and "picket" bullets were produced in the 1870's. Hoyem in his Volume II mentions that three ball loads were produced earlier than 1877; similar two ball loads were made in 1877. Given the date of Little Big Horn in 1876, it is possible but not likely that such rounds were issued.
Reference: The History and Development of Small Arms Ammunition, Volume II by George Hoyem
Pages 59-64.
Note: The data about the 405 grain carbine load can also be found in Hackley and Woodin on page 212. There is a note also about early production of the three ball load at FA in 1878 on p.219.

January 26, 2010, 11:50 AM
Hoyem in his Volume II mentions that three ball loads were produced earlier than 1877

I'll be danged....so the old guy probobly had the load right just his info on its use wrong. I know it knocked me for a loop... Shot an old TV with it, it left one hole in the front and blew out an 8 inch hole in the back.

You guys are awesome, where else could you get information like this! Thanks for the education!!!

James K
January 29, 2010, 05:13 PM
Issue of guard cartridges was very limited, and each unit would have had only a few. One or two were issued to soldiers going on guard duty, then turned in as soon as the duty was over. They were not normally loaded into the guard's rifle unless there was a threat.

It is possible (though unlikely) that Custer's units could have had some, but they would certainly not have been issued for use in combat.


January 30, 2010, 09:15 PM
I think you need one that shoots square balls to take out the new digital TV's.

James K
January 30, 2010, 11:20 PM
Maybe so. Square bullets would be for Muslims, round bullets for Christians.


January 31, 2010, 12:08 AM
Remington also produced multi projectile 45acp bank guard rounds ,Discontinued in 1918 IIRC. Winchester made a few different sporting loads one was a 300 gr at 1825 which matches their modern load . I use Win Partition which is the Nosler bullet , for deer .Works very well !!