I asked my Dad to write up a little piece on a rifle project that he and I worked on in the off season this past year. We had a lot of fun communicating back and forth as he and my Mother now live in Florida and I am here in Indiana. My Dad is the most knowledgeable person on firearms and ballistics that I know. He’s been a gun buff since he was a kid and when I was growing up we were always visiting our friends at gun shops and gun shows. If you read my bio on this site, I stated that I pretty much grew up with a gun in my hands. That’s absolutely true. My Dad was a competitive trap shooter as well and we still get out and shoot when we are together. I suppose it’s no wonder that both Richard and I shoot Sporting Clays competitively to this day. It runs in the family you could say and three generations later, Richard is the 2012 Indiana Junior Sporting Clays State Champion…..and he has a state class title as well. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t had the Dad that I have. Thanks Pop!! Enjoy the story everyone.
In the fall of 2011 my son Rich gave me a call and informed me of the new cartridge regulations the state of Indiana had put in place for the 2012 deer hunting season. The section of the regulations that he was most interested in was the part that specified an extension of the maximum cartridge case length to 1.800 inches.
Rich said he always wanted a special one-of-a-kind rifle for his wife Cindy so she could get the most out of the one thing she looked forward to more than anything else all year long…..that crisp, frosty, pre-dawn walk through the tall hardwoods to her favorite tree stand on the family property. What Rich wanted me to do was to come up with a cartridge matching the cartridge criteria that would have plenty of knockdown power and be capable of taking a big Indiana whitetail up to 200 yards. Even though the shots in the dense woods would most likely be inside 100 yards, he still wanted an all-around cartridge that would take care of all chores. I was only too happy to oblige.
At my tender age of seventy one years, these magnum zappers don’t interest me anymore. Realizing the restrictions my son must adhere to, my thoughts went back to the rifles and cartridges of old. For me, these capable but forgotten calibers in today’s hunting circles still held a classic mystique. Admittedly, there are plenty of existing cartridges that would conform to the new regulations that would more than get the job done. Now days, a modern shotgun using state of the art sabotted slugs, rifled bores, and a good scope are perfect for Indiana whitetails as well. However, Rich wanted something custom and unique to his own preferences.
I have always had a fondness for the large calibers of the old single shot and lever action rifles of the buffalo hunting days. As such, I settled on the venerable .45-70 Government cartridge for this project. I shortened the long .45-70 case to 1.79 inches to conform to the new regulations to start with. The large .45-70 case was designed to hold 70 grains of black powder. Its capacity is too large for most modern smokeless powders thus leaving a void in the case when loaded to safe pressures if intended to be used in older rifles. When trimmed to a length of 1.79 inches and loaded with a Hornady 300 grain jacketed hollow point bullet crimped in the cannelure ring, the shortened case holds 43.5 grains of my choice of IMR-4198 smokeless powder. This load fills the case to capacity with a slight compression. I have always believed that any cartridge loaded as close to 100 percent powder capacity, with an appropriate powder of course, burns its powder more consistently. My own personal opinion is that this aids in accuracy.
For testing, I used a Marlin 1895. I tried a variety of powders and bullets from different makers before selecting the bullet and load that performed the best. As stated, this turned out to be a 300 grain Hornady JHP bullet and 43.5 grains of IMR-4198 propellant. I only used Winchester large rifle primers for ignition in all loads. Out of the Marlin’s 22 inch barrel I was getting 1,940 feet per second velocity checked on a Chrony chronograph. While I was developing a load for our new cartridge that had promise of being both accurate and potent, Rich had settled on a Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter action as the base component for a new single shot rifle he would be putting together for the new cartridge.
Rich put in a call to Bullberry Barrel Works in Hurricane, Utah and discussed the project with them. As always, they were very customer friendly and agreed to build the barrel of his choice. I immediately put together a dummy round and sent it off to Bullberry so they could chamber the barrel for the new cartridge. Per Rich’s specifications, the barrel maker started with a stainless .458 barrel blank. The barrel would be 28” in length and have a medium varmint taper. The barrel would also have an integrated muzzle brake and would be drilled and tapped with the four hole T/C pattern to accept a scope base. We decided to call our new cartridge the ‘458 Hoosier’. The barrel maker also nicely engraved ‘.458 HOOSIER’ on the side of the barrel for the finishing touch. While they were at it, Bullberry completed the rifle by crafting a beautiful custom walnut stock and forend. An ebony tip was added to the forend for that classic look. Their work is world class to say the least. Rich mounted a semi-custom Leupold VXIII 3-9×40 rifle scope using Leupold bases and rings that matched the blue T/C action. This rifle shoots as good as it looks. Click on the Bullberry logo on this site and give these folks a visit.
Next was brass. Since Rich had a one-off rifle, why not go all the way and have our own brass custom made as well. Rich put in a call to Rocky Mountain Cartridge in Cody, Wyoming. (RMC has since been purchased by Tom and Cheri Outland and has moved to Worland, Wyoming.) RMC specializes in making custom brass for obsolete and antique rifles. They actually lathe turn their brass instead of drawing it. It’s a classy look and the quality is top notch. Rich had RMC make his brass and they engraved the ‘458 Hoosier’ caliber on the case heads for him. The brass is beautiful and 100% custom made. You can visit Rocky Mountain Cartridge by clicking here.
This past spring, Rich brought his family to Florida for a visit and had the new rifle and new brass in tow. We couldn’t wait to shoot it. We loaded the new brass and when we test fired the new rifle for the first time, we were surprised how soft the recoil was even though we were getting 2,000 feet per second velocity with the 28″ barrel. Accuracy from the bench with the aforementioned load was superb. We’re talking 1.0″ 3-shot groups, center to center, at 100 yards. This fun project was now complete and it was a complete success as well. Cindy will have her new rifle in hand for the season opener here in a couple days. Whitetails beware!
Not everyone wants to go to this length for a rifle to put venison in the freezer, but owning and using a one-of-a-kind rifle of your own creation puts a little more thrill into the hunt. This rifle is forever a keepsake that will be passed down to the next generation of whitetail hunters. When we look back at this rifle, we’ll always have memories of the project and all of the fun we had in completing it. Who knows….there may be another project in the future!
Before attempting a project like this, be sure you have an adequate knowledge of reloading. Even though we have reloaded for years, we still worked closely with the powder and projectile companies every step of the way on this project. We worked closely with our barrel and cartridge makers as well. These companies have wonderful resources. Don’t be too proud to use them. Regardless of your experience, take advantage of the expert resources who are more than willing to have your back. Safety is always #1!!
Good luck to everyone this season and good luck with your new rifle, Cindy!!