Many people, when they look at a .45-70 Government cartridge envision bears and dangerous African game as the only realistic target, but the .45-70 round is one of the most proven and most versatile cartridges in the history of hunting. Sure, you can’t take small game with it, but just about everything else can be handloaded (and now, even factory loads are moving this way) to give variability in the use cases and ultimately the ability to hunt more and different game gets into the mix.

.45-70 Govt. rifle

Some of the attributes of the .45-70 round are as follows:

·         Heavy, rolling recoil that feels more like a shove than a tackle on your shoulder – it is among the most consistent recoil profiles of any gun

·         It may not shoot flat over longer distances, but it can be very effective in densely forested areas

·         The round was used in the late 1800’s by snipers to kill officers at more than 1000 yards and often approaching a mile

·         The trajectory is predictable and easy to compensate for

·         The grain weights for the round go from 300 grains to 560 grains; with specialty cast bullets available commercially at 150 grains and 190 grains – a hand loader could easily tailor a .45-70 to take anything from small deer to cape buffalo without too much trouble

·         The heavier 300 grain weight bullets (which happen to be light for this caliber) are suitable for deer because of the unique characteristics of the round

·         The effective range of the round is at least 100 yards on any day in any situation, and combined with the versatility of the bigger projectiles, you can easily take a deer and a bison with the same gun on the same day with the same load

·         The recoil profile can be altered drastically through handloads or specialty loads from factory

·         It is more than enough gun for virtually any animal you would reasonably be hunting on this continent and several others with normal factory loads

·         The guns that use the cartridge are varied and within reach of the average consumer

·         The casing is robust, can be tinkered with and enjoys being pushed to its limits

·         Most commercial manufacturers provide components or firearms for the platform

·         The guns that shoot it are equally amenable to hard cast bullets as they are commercial jackets or lead cast bullets

The game that can reasonably be taken with a .45-70 load are as follows (note that these animals would each be taken with a different load style usually):

·         Deer

·         Elk

·         Moose

·         Antelope

·         Ram

·         Bear

·         Caribou

·         Muskox

·         Mountain goat

·         Bison

·         Big Horn Sheep

Some of the dangerous game animals in Africa can legitimately be taken with the .45-70 round but it will require specific circumstances for the longer distance shots.

A rebirth of the classics


Recently the .45-70 has enjoyed a renewed interest on the market thanks to the availability to some interesting custom guns and the widely distributed handguns and lever actions that just make sense for wilderness backup in dangerous country – namely the big bore revolvers and the Marlin 1895’s among others that are suitable in Alaska and slowly making their way down to other parts of the country.

Some of the trapdoor-round loads are able to get down to around the 1300-1600 feet per second velocity range and the 1600-1900 ft. lbs. range of energy at the muzzle. This puts it down into much milder territory for those animals that cannot take the crazy velocity and energy of a bigger projectile and a larger powder charge for the caliber.

The hotter loads can achieve well in excess of 2100 feet per second velocity and in excess of 3750 ft. lbs. of energy at the muzzle. With the right mix of components this is Big-6 game territory easily.




With the increased availability of the rounds now made for the .45-70 and the improvements in propellants, projectile design and materials, as well as the reintroduction of classic rifles and now pistols in the caliber, the .45-70 has effectively become as relevant as it ever was.

It is often said the .45-70 has been chambered for and killed everything from birds to elephants. If that isn’t a perfect encapsulation of the information provided above, we don’t know what is.

-Benjamin Worthen