The rifle was removed from its case long before dawn. The rich, walnut stock showed the wear of a 146-year-old gun. The U.S. Springfield 1873 Trapdoor is not what many would consider a good whitetail gun. Indeed, the 400-grain, .45-70 caliber, bullet is a bit heavy for most hunters, with small, fast projectiles all the rage.

But in its day, this version of the U.S. Springfield was the go-to gun for long-distance hunting. The flip-up sight made it capable of hitting targets out to 1,000 yards. 

There is a joy in hunting with big-bore guns, be it an antique U.S. Springfield or Sharps, or one of the modern lever-action guns offered by Winchester or Marlin. Big-bore guns are fun to shoot and effective on deer at modest ranges, and they’re making a comeback with many hunters and shooters. 

When discussing big-bore guns, you really begin talking about guns shooting .40-caliber bullets. These would exclude the big-bore guns used for dangerous game that are far bigger than those that would be at home in the whitetail woods. Mostly, we’re looking at the .44 Remington Magnum, the .444 Marlin, .45-70, and the .45-70 Government. Marlin dominates this market with lever-action rifles chambered in these calibers. 

A few years back, they increased the ante, partnering with Hornady to bring to the market the .450 Marlin, which carries a 350-grain bullet in a .45-caliber casing. The introduction of their “Guide Gun” series in these calibers was a big hit. Its carbine size and large capacity of enormous bullets piqued the interest of more than a few sportsmen. 

The one mainstay is the .45-70, so named for its .45-caliber bullet, originally pushed by 70 grains of black powder. Whether you are a classic gun fan, cowboy-action shooter or a hunter who just enjoys shooting big bore guns, the .45-70 provides a lot of options to enjoy. Bullet weights range from 300 to more than 500 grains. 

With the advent of the LeveRevolution bullets, pointed bullets can safely be loaded into tubular magazines. Their increased accuracy and range has helped spur the interest in these rifles by increasing the accurate range from 150 to better than 200 yards, and with recoil akin to that of a 20-gauge shotgun. The heavy bullet absorbs much of the force, and that makes shooting these guns a real joy and gives bucks plenty to worry about.