Your Complete Guide to 45-70 Govt Ammo

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Video 45-70 govt vs 223

The History of 45-70 Govt Ammo

As popular as the 45-70 Govt is today, it might surprise you that in the early 1970s, it was almost extinct. Initially designed in 1873 for use in the Springfield single-shot “Trapdoor,” the original 45-70 Govt cartridge fired a 405-grain bullet propelled by 70-grains of black powder in a copper case.

The original black powder load pushed a cast lead bullet at a velocity of about 1350 FPS and had more than 1,600 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

The 45-70 cartridge was one of the most powerful loads available at the time and was frequently used by the Army through the Indian Wars in the late 1800s.

As we fast-forward back to the 1970s, many firearm experts agree that the lack of innovation led to the ammunition’s decline in popularity.

*This was because most 45-70 ammunition of that time mimicked the cartridge’s initial loading of a 405-grain bullet at around 1400 fps.

Re-Popularizing 45-70 Govt Ammunition

Seeing an opportunity to expand their market, the Marlin Firearms Co. took a gamble and began offering their 1895 lever-action rifle in 45-70 Govt ammo.

After Ruger acquired Marlin in 2020, it was the first new Marlin they introduced.

However, the 45-70 would have likely died without supporting ammunition, and Marlin’s new rifle would have gone with it. Marlin was not the only company to introduce a new 45-70 Govt in the 70s.

Harrington & Richards, and Ruger joined in. Ammo manufacturers got creative and got on board with the new 45-70 ammunition that bore little resemblance to what the cartridge had been for a century.

With the stronger Marlin, Harrington & Richards, and Ruger actions, 45-70 Govt ammunition could be loaded to higher pressures. These new rifles and new loads significantly increased the appeal of the cartridge.

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45-70 Ballistics Information

While I’m not a ‘true’ believer that muzzle energy is the best/definitive method of classifying rifle cartridges, I agree that it provides a sort of bandwidth division.

Keeping that in mind, let’s dive deeper into the ballistics and cartridge power of 45-70 Govt ammunition.

Your standard 45-70 ballistics with modern factory ammo produces a 300-grain bullet at roughly 2,350fps, a 325-grain bullet at around 2,050fps, and a 405-grain bullet at around 1,330fps.

Using modern, smokeless powder, most ammunition manufacturers can produce various loads with varying power for 45-70 ammo. In addition, several 45-70 Govt ammo options provide vastly improved ballistics compared to the original black powder loading.

The 45-70 Govt is very effective out to around 150 yards with minimal bullet drop. Still, it’s capable of great accuracy and longer-range shooting as well.

Popular Rifles Chambers in 45-70 Govt

Marlin Model 1895The Marlin 1895 is a lever-action rifle known for its reliability and robustness. It has been a popular choice for hunting and sporting purposes.

Henry Repeating Arms Model H010The Henry H010 is a lever-action rifle designed for heavy-duty use. It features a solid brass receiver and a 22-inch barrel, making it a great option for both hunting and target shooting.

Ruger No. 1The Ruger No. 1 is a single-shot, falling block rifle that offers excellent accuracy and strength. It has a classic design and is highly regarded by enthusiasts and collectors.

Winchester Model 1886The Winchester 1886 lever-action rifle is an iconic firearm known for its strength and reliability. It has a solid reputation and is commonly used for hunting large game.

Browning BLRThe Browning BLR is a lever-action rifle that combines traditional design with modern features. It offers a smooth action and is often favored by hunters for its versatility.

Pedersoli SharpsPedersoli offers a variety of Sharps rifles in .45-70 Government. These single-shot rifles are renowned for their accuracy and have a strong following among long-range shooters.

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45-70 Cartridge Power Levels

In the first power level, which covers the 1,000 to 2,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy range, you have cartridges like the .223 Remington, .30-30 Winchester, and the original 45-70 load.

Between 2,000 and 30,00 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, you move up to second power level cartridges like the 243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .30-06 Springfield.

The next/third bandwidth of power runs between 3,000 and 4,000 foot-pounds, and it’s where you’ll find cartridges like the 7mm Remington Magnum and .338 Winchester Magnum.

Finally, beyond 4,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy are cartridges like the .375 H&H and .458 Winchester Magnum.

With most cartridges, you must select which powerband/power level you want to live within. Sure, some cartridges have reduced/low recoil loads, and of course, you can hand load.

Still, for the most part, you’re stuck in a bracket of a certain level of muzzle and recoil energy. This is where the 45-70 separates itself from other rifle cartridges.

With 45-70 Govt ammo, you can purchase factory ammunition to deliver energy in power levels one, two, and three. Again, this is something no other rifle cartridge offers.

Power Level 1: Original 45-70 Load

Here we have factory ammunition that replicates the original 45-70 loading. Remington offers a 405-grain bullet at an advertised 1,330 fps, which is a soft shooting, low-recoiling load that should do well for deer and black bears.

Several manufacturers are also offering what is known as “cowboy” 45-70 ammunition loads that fit within this power range. Hornady even offers an expanding subsonic 45-70 load.

Power Level 2: Potent Deer and Elk Load

Here you’ll find the best big game loads for the 45-70, and they offer impressive performance.

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Barnes Bullets offers a 300-grain 45-70 load in their VORTX ammunition line. It has a muzzle velocity of 1,905 fps with 2,418 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Hornady has their line of LEVERevolution loads that launches a 250-grain MonoFlex bullet at 2,025 fps with 2,276 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Lastly, the Federal Fusion and HammerDown loads push a 300-grain bonded bullet to 1,850 fps with 2,280 foot-pounds of energy.

*All these loads are suitable for non-dangerous big game animals worldwide.

Power Level 3: 45-70 for Dangerous Game

Finally, we have level 3. These 45-70 loads can generate between 3,000 to 4,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy and a genuinely noticeable/comparable amount of recoil.

These loads are most definitely NOT for the faint of heart. Buffalo Bore offers a 430-grain hard-cast load at 1,925 fps with 3,537 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Underwood Ammo has a 305-grain penetrator load with 3,740 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, and Grizzly Ammunition offers a 300-grain bonded hollow point bullet at 2,300 fps with 3,525 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

These modern 45-70 loads are why this cartridge offers a triple threat that other cartridges cannot. Granted, none of these loads will allow you to reach out to long distances, but that’s not what this cartridge is about anyway.

If you can hunt and know how to close the distance to inside 200 yards, there’s a 45-70 ammo load out there that will allow you to successfully bring down anything walking this earth.

The best part about 45-70 Govt ammo is that unlike other cartridges with a similar amount of power, the 45-70 can match the recoil and power needed to bring down critters as small as feral hogs or as large as African buffalo.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>