Handloading the .45-60 WCF
Date: Oct 05 2008
In the last issue of LoadData.com, we offered loads for the .40-60 WCF chambered in a reproduction Model 1876 rifle. Now let’s take a closer look at the .45-60 WCF.
The .45-60 WCF was first offered in 1879 and chambered in the Winchester Model 1876 rifle, which was essentially a larger version of the Model 1873. In spite of its size, the action of the Winchester rifle was not long enough to accommodate the .45-70 Government cartridge. The .45-60 was created by shortening the .45-70 case from 2.10 to 1.89 inches. Bullet weight was listed at 300 grains, and when shot with around 60 grains of black powder, muzzle velocity was advertised at 1,315 fps.
In the past couple of years, Uberti (imported by Cimarron Firearms and Taylor’s and Company) and Chaparral-Repeating Arms (imported by Charter 2000) have been offering replicas of the Winchester Model 1876 and are available in the four original calibers, including .40-60, .45-60, .45-75 and .50-95 WCFs. These guns are crafted of modern steels and are suitable for loads containing smokeless powders. It is not recommended to use accompanying smokeless data (with the exception of IMR Trail Boss and Hodgdon Triple Seven powders) in original Winchester Model 1876 rifles.
As of this writing, TEN-X Ammunition is the only company offering factory loads for
the .45-60 WCF. A sampling of the smokeless loads was tried in the 22-inch barrel of the Chaparral-Repeating Arms rifle, which clocked 1,367 fps.
There are no SAAMI specifications for the .45-60 WCF cartridge, but like many black-powder cartridges from this era, 28,000 CUP is considered maximum. While no pressure barrel was available, it is believed that no loads exceeded 21,000 CUP, which is way below the destruction limits of the imported Model 1876 rifles.
Handloading the .45-60 WCF was relatively easy, but there are a couple of items to be aware of before sitting down at the bench. For instance Lyman mould 457191, a 292-grain cast bullet, is a natural choice for this cartridge, but to allow proper function through the Model 1876 action, the overall cartridge length must be limited to around 2.250 inches. With a case length between 1.88 and 1.89 inches the bullet must be seated so the case is crimped over the front driving band and on the ogive (and is how it was originally designed). When using a case full of black powder, the powder supports the base of the bullet, effectively preventing it from being pushed deeply into the case when subjected to tubular magazine pressure and recoil On the other hand, most smokeless powders leave space in the case and do not support the base of the bullet. As a result, bullets were observed being pushed deeply into the case, which can cause function issues, but worse, can cause pressures to spike.