.45-70 at Two Miles:
W. John Farquharson
The report of November 13, 1879, lists the results of firing tests made at 3,500 yards distance with two long range Springfields. One had a rifle barrel with a l-in-18 rifling twist, the other .45-80-500 had a 19 5/8-inch twist. Two different loads were used: .45-70-500, and .45-80-500. The Martini-Henry .45-85-480 and the service .45-70-405 Springfields were again tested against a Sharps-Borchardt using the same loads as in the long range M-1873 Allin-Springfields. After firing many rounds, the service Springfield and Martini-Henry rounds failed to reach the target at 3,500 yards.
In these firing experiments, two telephones provided with Blake transmitters were used for timing the bullet's flight. One was placed within a few feet of the rifle, to receive and transmit the sound of the shot. The other Blake unit was nearly two miles downrange in the shelterproof, which was located about 30 feet in front of the right edge of the target. At the instant the sound of the discharge was heard over the telephone, a watch ticking fourth-seconds was started. At the sound of the bullet striking target or sand, it was stopped. Average time of flight for the .45-70-500-grain load was 21.2 seconds, With the more powerful .45-80-500-grain cartridge the time-of-flight was 20.8 seconds.
For 3,500 yards distance, angles of elevation ran from 27 degrees to 29 degrees. This varied drastically from day to day due to the effects of head and tail winds. The quicker-twist rifles required less elevation than the others at the same range. The greatest distance obtained with the .45-caliber long range, 1-in-18 twist Springfield rifle was 3,680 yards. Angle of elevation didn't exceed 32 degrees on a day when an angle of about 25 degrees placed bullets all around the target at 3,500 yards range.
While these tests may be considered mere oddities today, they proved extremely useful at the time. The fact that the 500-grain bullet penetrated through the three-plank target and eight inches into sand meant that it could kill or wound enemy troops at extreme distances, even if they were partially protected and that was significant military information in a period when it was quite usual for large masses of troops to form up within view of defenders. Although no average infantryman could be expected to equal Mr. Hare's accuracy, a large number of defenders shooting from barricade rests and given the proper sight adjustments for the range could severely harass companies and larger bodies of enemy troops at previously unheard-of ranges. It may have been these tests, and this line of thinking, that caused military theoreticians to employ machine guns for indirect, high trajectory fire in the same manner as artillery during the earlier stages of World War I.
Since the tests showed that the 405-grain service bullet failed to perform as well as the 500-grain, and that the 500-grain bullet showed relatively little difference when propelled by either 70 or 80 grains of black powder, the .45-70-500 load in the service 2.1-inch case was adopted as standard for rifles. Thus those little-remembered Sandy Hook tests of 1879 had a lasting impact on firearms history without them, the gun companies might have recently resurrected the .45-80.