The .45-70 Whisper Cartridge

The .45-70 cartridge is created by SSK Industries. The company was founded and is run by famous cartridge designer J.D. Jones. Mr. Jones is the inventor of JDJ and Whisper families of cartridges. The .45-70 Whisper is made of .45-70 Government brass cut down to 1.6″ case length and loaded with long bullets fitting .45-70 Government’s overall length.

As with other Whisper cartridges, this round’s main feature is subsonic loads tailored for a certain weapon platform. Particularly, .45-70 Whisper relatively easily fits in lever action rifles requiring only a barrel change with different chamber dimensions and faster twist rate to stabilize longer bullets. Below is an image of Marlin Model 1895 chambered in .45-70 Whisper and equipped with a suppressor.

45-70 Whisper (1)

Images by SSK Industries

The round was initially designed for the Lehigh Defense 465 grain controlled fragmentation bullet. Maximum muzzle velocity of .45-70 Whisper cartridge with this bullet is about 1400 fps and manufacturer recommended sub-sonic velocity is 1040 fps. The cartridge also can be loaded with a number of other bullets weighing from 300 to 500 grains. For reloading purposes, standard 45-70 dies are suitable. However, a new seater die must be used.

I think the starting trend of suppressing lever action rifles will grow. Although it is nothing new considering that lever action rifles have been suppressed even with first Maxim silencers. As the saying goes: “Everything old is new again”. In fact, a lever action rifle is a good host for a suppressor. There are no moving parts of a self-loading mechanism to make their own noise as in semi-auto firearms. The manual operation also flawlessly works with any kind of reduced subsonic loads.

Hrachya H

Being a lifelong firearms enthusiast, Hrachya always enjoys studying design, technology and history of guns and ammunition. His knowledge of Russian allows him to translate and make Russian/Soviet/Combloc small arms related information available for the English speaking audience.
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  • No one

    I didn’t know Don Ward was a gunsmith.

  • Sam

    “requiring only a barrel change”. This might be one of the selling points for 300blk, but changing a Marlin 1895 barrel is a completely different animal than switching out an AR barrel. They are not common, I doubt they are cheap, and it’s not something most of us will be able to do on our own… which means “expensive”… likely prohibitively so in most cases.

    Additionally, why not just load subsonic 45-70 loads? Once again, the highlight of 300 whisper was compatibility with a smaller frame gun than subsonic 308, and more reliable cycling than subsonic .223. None of those benefits are present with this cartridge, which brings me back to the overwhelming: “why?”

    45-70 subsonic is a thing. Is there some compelling reason to pay a gunsmith to install an expensive barrel to shoot a niche round, giving up the ability to shoot traditional rounds, while maintaining the same size platform and capacity and no need for reliable gas operation – instead of just loading subsonic rounds and avoiding literally all of those things?

    • It doesn’t seem to make any sense as it is designed to fire existing weight 45-70 bullets but at slower velocities.

      The only difference being that it can fire the one specifically new, 465gr Lehigh Controlled Fracturing round. At 1040fps, that’s 1117 ft-lbs. This is a very expensive, CNC made bullet – likely $2 a round once loaded.

      But at subsonic speeds, I’d be very surprised if it performed all that much better compared to a 430gr swaged lead hollowpoint at the same speed out of a regular .45-70.

      Now, if this was shooting 600-700gr subsonics that might be a different story.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      This is typical JD Jones.

      Does 80% of the work, and doesn’t consider the real issues that would keep the cartridge from being successful.

      When people talk about 300blk he probably says how he was the real inventor (300whisper) but truth is before AAC came and did the rest of the work that round was going no where. I wonder if it actually eats him up inside?

      • boilermaker98

        I think this is like asking TV sitcom stars from the 60-70s if it eats them up that they don’t get royalties from reruns. Maybe, but could they have really foreseen that success?

        I get the impression from SSK Industries website that they are a custom gunsmiths, they offer high performance customized guns and cartridges that meet customers desires. I don’t get the impression that mass market viability is in their business plan.

        The Whisper line of cartridges was developed in the 1990’s, according to Wikipedia. Twelve cartridges in total, although the 45-70 Whisper is not included in Wikipedia’s list. One of those has reached mass market success.

        P.O. Ackley applied his philosophy of wildcating to many cartridges and I don’t think a single one reached mass market acceptance. However 280 Ackley Improved is popular enough that reloading companies make production dies.

    • gusto

      subsonic 45-70?

      isn’t that akin to calculating the trajectory of those anvils people blow up with TNT?

  • Anonymoose
  • Rocky Mountain 9

    I was interested until I read that it requires a barrel change. Complete no go for me.

  • Paint the scope brass colored and that rifle is the perfect steampunk assassin cosplay prop.

    • Tinkerer

      Um, y-yeah… for “cosplay”…
      *shifty eyes*

      • Cal S.

        Yes?… Is that… Problematic?

    • Alex Waits

      * I aim to misbehave*

  • Cal S.

    I don’t know that it’s gonna catch. Presumably, it would be unable to chamber standard .45-70 after the change? Not going to resonate well in the lever community.

    Aren’t cowboy loads already subsonic?

    • GrumpyCat

      Worst of all nothing appears to be preventing one from trying to chamber and fire the wrong round. How about that .300BLK in a .223/5.56 and vice versa?

      • Organgrinder

        Ummm, bad analogy. This leaves the weapon as a 45, so only the deep-freeze should hurt.

  • Charles

    I’m awaiting the gunsmith’s magic to modify my Berettta 45 Colt 1873 clone to sport a threaded muzzle. Since the magazine tube needs to be removed for machining the barrel I spoke to him about shortening the barrel also. I haven’t come up with a number for that yet, but I suspect it will revolve around magazine capacity rather than any arbitrary length measurement

  • Swarf

    Wow. Needlessly complicated, fairly expensive, requires new–very expensive– parts and modifications to my rifle, all in order to do a job that’s already easily and cheaply accomplished by existing technology! Where do I fail to sign up?!

    • William Sullivan

      The DNC….

  • El Duderino

    Still confused…it’s relatively easy to handload .45/70 subsonic and you can get bullets well north of 500gr…or make them yourself.

    Do you even +1 capacity with this setup?

  • Tom

    Thats what the De Lisle Carbine is for. Basically its a .45 ACP calibre LeeEnfield action with a massive suppressor made for sentry removal during WWII. By most accounts its ‘Hollywood’ quiet.

  • 1911a145acp

    Seems to be reinventing the wheel here. If it’s projectile is only every going to be subsonic, there are already suitable projectiles for that in 45-70. Most 45-70 loads fall into sub sonic velocity rather quickly and the wounding mechanism is the large heavy projectile and crush/penetration in most cases.Highly specialized bullets at 1040 to 1400 fps would seem problematic. I would always encourage experimentation but not at the cost of altering the ever dwindling supply of perfectly serviceable, classic JM marked Marlin lever guns.Although dropping the hammer on a suppressed lever gun with no action cycling sound ( until required) and hearing a 400 grn projectile whistle down range like a cannon shell and them impact like a major league home run is most satisfying. 458 SOCOM actually performs quite well in the subsonic realm if you need 10 in a row.

  • LetsTryLibertyAgain

    I’m not seeing how this is better than loading one of my powder coated 500 gr bullets down to subsonic. No expensive bullets, and no barrel swap for a new chamber so it can shoot any 45-70 load.

  • Nashvone

    This has nothing to do with the round but I just can’t get past the Pic rail on a lever gun. It’s like the park bench spoilers that the import car tuner crowd are notorious for.

    • Organgrinder

      The factory wing on ‘ru STI makes 500lbs down at 100mph, so . . .

      • Swarf

        …so the picatinny rail on a lever gun holds an optic.

        So they both do something. And they both look silly and out of place doing it.

        Next ellipses?

      • Nashvone

        That’s great on an AWD car. Explain the need on a Honda Civic.

      • Ben Pottinger

        Did the factory wing do that or the rally wing? Because the rally wing had a series of baffles along its length that most certainly imparted significant down force while the wing on my 06 wasn’t what I would call “robust” or all that impressive seeming from a functional level. It certainly did make finding the car in a busy parking lot *much* easier though!

  • Bret Brewster

    Aside from the shortened chamber not allowing for std length cartridges, the bullet seems very long. I have shortened std 45-70 cases to allow a 500+ gr bullet to be short enough to cycle through the 95 action before, I guess I don’t get it. Why not mod the feed to say a 45-90 to comp for the bullet oal and keep the ability to run std ammo also?

  • ToddB

    Just a barrel change in a lever gun. Sure those are cheap. And all so the longer, very expensive 465gr bullet can be used. Bet people will line up to get screwed over. Odd I have a 425gr bullet mold, the bullets fit in a standard 45-70 case and fire thru a standard barrel, and will fit in a factory lever gun. Powder coated you can load them hot, 2200fps all the way down to subsonic. Is that 40gr difference worth the additional cost and effort? Unlikely, and doubt anything on the receiving end would notice the 40gr. And if your really in the mood to hurt something down range, there are 510gr molds, some will even cycle thru a factory gun, no special barrel needed. I run mine thru a single shot H&R which cares little how long they are. Im gonna spend the cash this set up is gonna cost, Ill go with 458 SOCOM and can throw them down range as fast as you can pull the trigger AND the upper can be easily swapped out for another caliber.

  • valorius

    I have no interest in the cartridge, but the rifle itself is absolutely beautiful.