45/70 Northfork Cup Nosed solids - 450 grain and 350 grain
The sheer design genius of the Northfork family of bullets has impressed me, especially their cup nosed solids which I was fortunate enough to test in two calibers so I could get a decent idea of what these bullets were capable of.
First off, the bullets I ordered for my 45/70 arrived in the wrong weight, 450gr instead of the preferred 350gr, and thus my first attempts at loading were not exactly perfect. The folks at NorthFork however apologized most profusely and sent me the correct bullets via overnight so I was very impressed with their service and professionalism. I was told that I should not try and load the 450grs in the 45/70 BUT I'm a PH and so did try. Of course they were too long to allow any reasonable amount of powder and there was no load data to work with so I simply stuck to the basics, used comparative load data for other jacketed bullets and headed off on my first hunt to Zambia without the 350grs.
Tests were done on Elephant feet / bones and the 450gr Northfork Cup Nosed Solids performed reasonably well given that they were probably only just reaching the 1400fps mark. Their penetration through Elephant hide, cartilage and solid bone proved to be similar to the hardcast lead bullets I was shooting - about 30 inches.
Below shows the penetration of the bullets fired into the sole of the elephant leg and recovered roughly at the point where the bullet is placed. Bear in mind that this penetration is mostly through a conglomeration of bones and heavy cartilage.
To be honest, I was impressed with the performance BUT I kept in mind what I was told by the Northfork folks, this bullet was designed to perform best at over 2000 plus fps. In my mind, with a bit of tweaking during the loading process and perhaps finding a 1600fps load for this bullet, it would take down an elephant given the shot was taken behind or on the shoulder at the heart.
Before my next hunt, I had the opportunity to load up the 350gr Northforks designed specifically for the 45/70 leverguns with some the choice of powders I had on my loading bench. These were H322 and IMR4198. The H322 (my 45/70 powder of choice for Africa) proved too bulky for the speed I wanted (as I do not like to overly compress my loads) so my forced choice was IMR4198
I have no idea what speed I was getting with this but the book suggested 1850fps which was enough for me but I knew these bullets preferred 2000fps.
Performance for these during penetration tests was a little disappointing for me, only because I had expected them to do better than the previous 450gr bullets. They performed about the same which I guess is an improvement given that these weigh 100grs less and heavier bullets tend to penetrate better even at slow speeds.
They were however the most accurate bullets of all that I tried on this trip to Africa - at 100 yards they were dead on consistently and I found I had more confidence in them as an all round carrying bullet than the heavier lead thumpers I designed for stopping power.
A friend of mine, Skip Bartram, introduced me to the Northfork bullets and as a favor he loaded some 400gr Cup Nose Solids for me in my backup rifle which is a .416 Rigby. They were travelling at the speed the Northfork techies wanted and I was blown away by their performance on the last Elephant hunt of my season. My client made a really bad shot on a massive bull walking away from us - basically a butt shot - which not only surprised me but meant I had to make my shots count.
I took one shot into the ribs as it was quartering away and then for some reason my rifle misfired on the second so I had a third BUT by this time the elephant was about 150 yards away and making haste. I aimed as you do when bird shooting, leading the shoulder and pulled - the elephant took a noticeable hit and the bullet cracked as it the bull. He ran off in a cloud of dust but I caught up to him when he fell into a creek bottom struggling to get up. Making my way around him so I was positioned directly behind his giant head, I took aim at the base of his skull and pulled - the effect was instant - he went limps immediately and that was it - just the thudding of his heart still beating.
The bullet had smashed through the heavy ball that holds his head to the spine, through the brain and entire skull and was recovered from the skin on the elephant's trunk. This bullet left a 1/2 inch wide wound channel through the solid bone which is astounding and definitely got my respect and loyalty.