Confused 45-70 or 45-55

I was at the Little Big Horn battle field a couple of years ago and was told that the military used the 45-70 gov round for their carbines. Saw a documentary that was made after the fire there where they found 45-70 casings and unfired 45-70 cartridges. I also have in my collection of a 45-70 cartridge that is marked C= carbine, F =Frankford and the date March 1880. Yes I know that it is 4 years after the battle but it’s the closest cartridge I could find to 1876. I have read on this site and others that the army used the 45-55 cartridge. Can anyone please unconfuse me? Thanks.

It is the same cartridge, but with a 55 grain powder charge and a 405 grain bullet for the carbines as I understand it.

Joe - you are correct. The load for carbines was lightened, both in the charge of black powder and the bullet weight, due to the severe recoil of the carbine when fired with .45-70-500 rifle loads. That is likely the reason they started with the “R” (Rifle) and “C” headstamp markings, since both loads, as you note, are in the identical case.

John Moss

Thanks guys, I am no longer confused.

It’s not a simple answer, and you aren’t alone in your confusion. What we have come to call the 45-70 is more of an on-going system than a specific cartridge, as there are several variations of primers, powder charges and bullet weights through the years from 1872 - 1903, many of them overlapping years.
The 45-70-405 Benet IP was the version used in both rifles and carbines in the mid-1870’s including LBH, probably the one you saw on the documentary. Used in carbines It whomped shoulders painfully, so the reduced carbine charge of the late 1870’s-1880’s was the .45-55-405 used the SAME bullet as the rifle charge, visibly the same, and the headstamp indicated C or R. The 500 gr. bullet for rifle didn’t come in until about 1886 (.45-70-500), visibly very different, so the C and R were dropped.
Please check out Dick Hosmer’s for even more variations.
Lee T.

Guy Hildebrand’s overview of .45 Government cartridges:

Again, thanks guys

Note that per Guy’s account the 55 gr. carbine powder loading and the 70 gr. rifle charge were in parallel production from the outset of production of this caliber by Frankford Arsenal. Once out of their original packaging separating the light kickers and the heavy kickers was impossible, hence the eventual adoption of headstamps. Jack