45-70 Ammo

.45-70 Government Ammo: In Depth

The .45-70 Government, often simply called the .45-70, is a cartridge that has stood the test of time. First introduced in the late 19th century, this powerful round continues to captivate shooters and hunters alike with its impressive stopping power and versatility. Known for its substantial bullet diameter and hefty powder charge, the .45-70 has found enduring popularity among big game hunters, cowboy action shooters, and firearms enthusiasts who appreciate its rich history and formidable performance.

History and Development

The .45-70 Government cartridge was developed by the U.S. Army's Springfield Armory in 1873, during a period of significant firearms innovation following the American Civil War. The nomenclature breaks down as follows: .45 refers to the bullet diameter in inches, 70 denotes the black powder charge in grains, and "Government" indicates its official adoption by the U.S. military.

Originally designed for the Springfield Model 1873 "Trapdoor" rifle, the .45-70 was intended to replace the .50-70 Government cartridge. The goal was to create a round with improved long-range performance while maintaining substantial stopping power. The U.S. Army officially adopted the cartridge in 1873, and it remained in military service until 1892.

Throughout its early years, the .45-70 saw action in various conflicts, including the Indian Wars and the Spanish-American War. Its effectiveness against both personnel and light materiel made it a versatile option for the military.

As smokeless powder began to replace black powder in the late 19th century, the .45-70's military role diminished. However, its popularity among civilian hunters and shooters ensured its survival. Ammunition manufacturers continued to produce the cartridge, adapting it for use with smokeless powder and developing new loadings to enhance its performance.

In the mid-20th century, the .45-70 experienced a resurgence in popularity, particularly among handloaders and big game hunters. This revival was fueled by the cartridge's ability to handle heavy bullets at moderate velocities, making it ideal for taking large and dangerous game at closer ranges.

Today, the .45-70 continues to evolve, with modern loadings pushing its performance beyond what was possible in its black powder days. It remains a popular choice for hunting large game in heavy brush or timber, and has found a niche in cowboy action shooting and metallic silhouette competitions.


The .45-70 Government is renowned for its impressive ballistic performance, particularly at short to medium ranges. Its large bullet diameter and substantial mass contribute to its reputation for delivering devastating terminal ballistics on game.

Velocity: Traditional .45-70 loads typically propel a 405-grain bullet at velocities around 1,330 feet per second (fps) from a 28-inch barrel. However, modern loadings have significantly increased these figures. Some contemporary offerings can push a 300-grain bullet to velocities exceeding 2,000 fps, dramatically improving the cartridge's long-range capabilities.

Trajectory: Due to its large, heavy bullet and moderate velocity, the .45-70 exhibits a relatively arched trajectory compared to many modern, high-velocity cartridges. This characteristic requires shooters to have a good understanding of holdover for longer shots. However, within its effective range (typically 200 yards or less for most hunting situations), the .45-70 delivers excellent accuracy.

Energy: The .45-70's forte is its ability to deliver massive amounts of energy on target. Even with traditional loads, the cartridge can transfer over 1,500 ft-lbs of energy at 100 yards. Modern, high-pressure loads can nearly double this figure, rivaling the energy of some magnum rifle cartridges.

Recoil: The .45-70 is known for producing substantial recoil, especially in lighter rifles. However, the recoil is often described as more of a strong push than a sharp snap, making it manageable for experienced shooters. The perceived recoil can vary significantly depending on the specific load and firearm used.


The versatility of the .45-70 Government cartridge has contributed to its enduring popularity across various shooting disciplines:

  1. Big Game Hunting: The .45-70 excels in taking large game such as elk, moose, and bear, particularly in heavily wooded areas where shots are typically at closer ranges. Its deep penetration and substantial energy transfer make it a favorite among hunters pursuing dangerous game.
  2. Brush Hunting: The large diameter and heavy weight of .45-70 bullets allow them to punch through dense vegetation with minimal deflection, making this cartridge ideal for hunting in thick brush or timber.
  3. Cowboy Action Shooting: The historical significance of the .45-70 has made it a staple in cowboy action shooting competitions, where participants use firearms typical of the American Old West.
  4. Metallic Silhouette Shooting: The .45-70's ability to deliver heavy bullets with precision at moderate ranges has found favor among metallic silhouette shooters, particularly for the larger targets at longer distances.
  5. Home Defense: While not a common choice, the .45-70 can be an effective home defense round when loaded in a lever-action rifle, offering substantial stopping power in a manageable platform.
  6. Target Shooting: Many enthusiasts enjoy the challenge of mastering the .45-70's unique ballistics for long-range target shooting, often using single-shot rifles for maximum accuracy.

Available Firearms

The .45-70 Government is available in a variety of firearm platforms, each catering to different shooting needs and preferences:

  1. Lever-Action Rifles: Perhaps the most iconic .45-70 platform, lever-action rifles like the Marlin 1895 and Henry All-Weather offer a blend of classic styling and modern performance.
  2. Single-Shot Rifles: Precision-oriented shooters often opt for single-shot rifles such as the Ruger No. 1 or various falling block designs, which can offer superior accuracy.
  3. Double Rifles: For dangerous game hunters, double rifles chambered in .45-70 provide quick follow-up shots and reliability in critical situations.
  4. Bolt-Action Rifles: While less common, bolt-action .45-70 rifles like the Ruger American Ranch offer modern ergonomics and optics compatibility.
  5. Revolvers: For handgun enthusiasts, large-frame revolvers such as the Magnum Research BFR are available in .45-70, offering unprecedented power in a handgun platform.
  6. Modern Sporting Rifles: Some manufacturers have introduced AR-style rifles chambered in .45-70, combining modern ergonomics with classic big-bore performance.

Available Ammunition

The .45-70 Government is available in a wide range of loadings to suit various applications:

  1. Traditional Loads: These typically feature 405-grain lead bullets at moderate velocities, replicating the original black powder performance.
  2. Hunting Loads: Modern hunting ammunition often uses jacketed soft point or polymer-tipped bullets in weights ranging from 300 to 400 grains, optimized for expansion and penetration on game.
  3. Lever-Action Loads: Designed for use in tubular magazines, these feature flat-nosed bullets to prevent primer detonation under recoil.
  4. Cowboy Action Loads: Low-recoil options often using lead bullets, designed for competition use.
  5. High-Pressure Loads: Some manufacturers offer high-pressure loadings for modern, strong actions, significantly boosting the cartridge's performance.

Popular bullet weights include:

  • 300 grains: Often used in higher velocity loads for flatter trajectories
  • 325 grains: A versatile weight balancing velocity and energy
  • 350 grains: Popular for general-purpose hunting loads
  • 405 grains: The traditional bullet weight, still favored by many hunters
  • 500 grains: Heavy bullets for maximum penetration on dangerous game

Velocities can range from around 1,200 fps for low-recoil loads to over 2,000 fps for high-pressure offerings.


When comparing the .45-70 Government to other calibers, it's important to consider its unique characteristics:

vs. .30-30 Winchester: Both are popular lever-action cartridges, but the .45-70 offers significantly more power and better performance on large game, while the .30-30 typically has a flatter trajectory and less recoil.

vs. .444 Marlin: The .444 Marlin was designed as a modernized version of the .45-70, offering similar performance in a shorter case. However, the .45-70 remains more popular due to its wider variety of loadings and firearm options.

vs. .458 Winchester Magnum: While the .458 Win Mag offers higher velocities and energy, the .45-70 is available in a wider range of firearms and is generally more pleasant to shoot due to lower recoil.

vs. .300 Winchester Magnum: The .300 Win Mag offers superior long-range performance and a flatter trajectory, but the .45-70 delivers more energy at close ranges and is often preferred for heavy brush hunting.

45-70 Gov Ammo FAQ:

The effective range depends on the load and the shooter's skill. For most hunting applications, it's typically considered effective out to about 200 yards, though skilled shooters can extend this range significantly.

Yes, when loaded with appropriate heavy bullets, the .45-70 can be suitable for African dangerous game at closer ranges. However, many professional hunters prefer more powerful cartridges for added safety.

While manageable, the .45-70's recoil can be challenging for new shooters. It's often recommended to gain experience with lighter-recoiling cartridges first.

It's crucial to use only ammunition specifically designed for older firearms in antique .45-70 rifles. Modern, high-pressure loads can be dangerous in these guns.

The .45-70 IMP (Improved) is a wildcat cartridge based on the .45-70 Government, featuring an altered case shape for increased powder capacity and performance.

Yes, the .45-70 is popular among handloaders due to its versatility and the wide range of bullets and powders available.