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Premium big-bore, big-game bullets.

Mention was made in this space recently of a new firm making super-premium big-game bullets for handloaders. Since writing that column, I've had the chance to do some extensive testing of the products of Trophy Bonded Bullets, Inc., (Dept. GA, P.O. Box 262348, Houston, TX 77207) in the .375 Magnum and .45- 70, and the results are worth reporting.

Although the old .45- 70 Government cartridge has enjoyed a lively revival in recent years, especially among handloaders, most jacketed bullets of the correct diameter available have fallen into one of two categories. One group was intended for low-pressure (and thus, low-velocity) loads in the older, weaker rifles and replicas thereof, such as the "trapdoor" Spring-field. These include the Hornady and Sierra 300-grain slugs. If driven as hard as safely possible in the much stronger Marlin 1985 lever action, much less the Ruger #1 or #3, these bullets tend to overexpand, and sometimes even blow up. The other group consists mostly of lighter bullets jacketed for the .458 Win. Magnum, and they may not expand enough at .45-70 speeds. The exception was the Speer 400-grain flat-point, which performs nicely at the higher .45-70 velocities. However, the reloader who is looking for lighter bullets which can be driven faster for flatter trajectories and which still penetrate well and expand fully in heavy game has been hard pressed to find them.

These Trophy Bonded bullets are the answer. Those I've been working with are especially designed for the toughest game, and it is not an exaggeration to state that they simply give the old .45-70 in these rifles an entirely different dimensions. They make it into a new round.

The secret is in the fact that their pure-lead cores are soldered into their pure coper jackets. Thus far, the construction is not different from that of the great Bitterroot bullets, but Bitterroot does not make comparable weights and styles for the .45-70. Also, jacket thickness is selected for maximum .45-70 velocities, and the mouths of the jackets are thinned--not tapered, but reamed to a thinner wall thickness at the nose in order to promote and control expansion.

Three bullets were tested for penetration, expansion, and weight retention, using totally saturated telephone books for a recovery medium at an impact range of 85 yards. Two of them weigh 350 grains. One of these is a spitzer, for use only in the single-shot rifles, and it delivers a remarkably flat trajectory over hunting ranges, effectively making the .45-70 into a 250-yard big-game cartridge. The other is a protected-point flat-nose for use in the tubular magazine of the Marlin, with the crimping cannelure located well forward. The third bullet is a 403-grain round-nose which I shot (at different velocities) in both rifles.

The 350-grain flat-nose, by the way, makes up into a round which exceeds the overall-length specifications for the Marlin rifle. In the past, I've found this weapon to be a little finickly on this point, but these Trophy Bonded bullets feed as slick as grease in my specimen, presumably because of the bullets' shape.

I drove the 350-grain FN to a chronographed velocity of 1,925 feet per second (fps) in the Marlin, and do not believe my load was maximum. With careful load development it can probably be given another 100 fps safely enough. Penetration in the wet phone books was 16 inches, final frontal diameter was .76-inch (165 percent of original diameter), and the average weight retention of recovered slugs was 99.1 percent! That's right--99.1 percent! With a muzzle energy of 2,880 foot-pounds (ft/lbs) energy, that is a bear, moose, elk, or hog load, friend! Sixteen inches, by the way, was better penetration, on the average, than the .375 H&H Magnum bullets I was testing in the same medium on the same day delivered, and the .375 had always been famed for its penetration.

The 350-grain spitzer, fired from the Ruger #1 at almost 2,100 fps (3,395 ft/lbs) muzzle energy) penetrated 15 inches and came out of the sodden paper pulp measuring .852-inches across the mushroom and holding 96.1 percent of original weight. It shot so flat that my first shot flew completely over the recovery box. That's a fairly fierce game load, too. For comparsion and control, I tested the excellent Hornady 350-grain RN with the identical loading; penetration of this bullet was 14-1/2 inches, and weight retention averaged 61.5 percent.

The 403-grain round-nose, from the Marlin at 1,925 fps (3,316 ft/lbs) went 15-1/2 inches into the wet paper and was recovered miking .850 inches and weighing 401.5 grains--a full 99.6 percent of unfired weight. From the Ruger, traveling 2,155 fps (j,ukj ft/lbs!), the same bullet penetrated 15-1/2 inches, expanded to .936 inches (that's more than double original diameter), and retained 99.3 percent of original weight. The photograph shows what all these bullets look like, but it does not reveal the beautiful, round, uniform mushrooms produced by this heavy bullet.

You simply cannot ask any bullet to do more than these did in my testing. Especially in the Marlin 1895, they make the handloaded .45-70 into a serious Alaskan guide's rifle, for example, where a light, handy, fast-shooting powerhouse is needed against grizzly and even brown bear.

The drawbacks? Yes, like all custom-made super-premium bullets, they're expensive. Use of Trophy Bonded bullets might even add as much as $10 or $15 to the cost of a major hunting trip. At present, they're in short supply and available only by mail-order (FFL required, of course), but I have been assured that availability will be continuous, once full production status is reached.

For the heaviest American game, especially the potentially dangerous species, these are the bullets for a handloader feding a new Marlin or Ruger rifle.

Oh yes, one more thing: in the two rifles in which I've tried them, at least, all three Trophy Bonded .45-70 bullets grouped as well or better than any other slugs I've ever fired. Now you know why I said above that they add a new dimension to the modern .45-70 cartridge.
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Title Annotation:new .45-70 bullets for handloaders
Author:Wooters, John
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:column
Date:Dec 1, 1984
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