Handloading the .45-75 WCF
Date: Feb 12 2009
The first cartridge offered in the Winchester Model 1876 rifle (aka Centennial Model due to its being manufactured 100 years after the Declaration of Independence) was the .45-75 WCF, which to me is the most interesting of the four cartridges offered.
The Model 1876 action limited overall cartridge length to around 2.25 inches and prevented it from being chambered for the .45-70 Government or cartridges of similar length. As a result, Winchester designed the .45-75 WCF as a bottleneck, to help get a bit more powder in the case. The shoulder was gently sloped and the neck long, presumably to assure the base of the bullet would seal correctly against the case wall and prevent lubricant from contaminating the powder. As its name indicates, it held around 75 grains of black powder and pushed a 350-grain lead bullet around 1,383 fps. It became a favorite of the period with big game hunters wanting a powerful repeating rifle.
For the past year or two, Uberti (imported by Cimarron Firearms and Taylor’s & Company) and Chaparral Repeating Arms (imported by Charter 2000) have been offering reproduction Model 1876 rifles in the four original cartridges: .40-60 WCF, .45-60 WCF, .45- 75 WCF and .50-95 WCF. Unlike original rifles that were designed for black powder, these reproductions are built of modern steels and are suitable for smokeless powder loads. As a result, it is not recommended to use the accompanying loads or data for original Winchester Model 1876 rifles.
As of this writing, the only company offering factory-loaded .45-75 WCF ammunition is TEN-X Ammunition. For reference, the 350- grain cast bullet “smokeless” load clocked 1,251 fps from a 26-inch barrel.
Handloading the .45-75 WCF
There is no industry or SAAMI pressure standards for the .45-75 WCF, but like many other blackpowder cartridges from this era, 28,000 CUP was generally considered maximum. Since this cartridge has been obsolete since the 1930s, there is virtually no load data. I started with a large dose of experience mixed with a little common sense to develop a variety of loads that would prove safe, accurate and reliable. Factory smokeless loads from TEN-X Ammunition do not exceed the above pressure figure, and neither do the handloads in the accompanying table.
Lyman dies were used in assembling handloads, but it may be interesting to note that Lyman changed the specifications of the sizer die to better accommodate the chamber specifications being used in the reproduction rifles. Original Winchester.45-75 WCF rifles are reported to have a rather broad chamber specification tolerance. With the new Lyman dies, there were no issues in assembling excellent loads.
The bore of the Chaparral Repeating Arms Model 1876 slugged .457- inch (groove), and cast bullets were sized .459 and .458 inch with the latter diameter being suggested.