Hunting Bullet Guide – 45-70 Government

Some cartridges just seem to live forever. Thankfully the 45-70 Government is one of them. It began life in the days of black powder and has evolved over time into the cartridge we know today. After owning and shooting several guns chambered for it it’s easy for me to see why. It’s accurate, easy to reload for, and hits like a freight train.

SPG4570 - 45-70 Government

  • Ballistic Coefficient: 0.160
  • Product Symbol: X4570H
  • Description: Rapid, controlled expansion. Penetrates thin skin, light muscle and bone. For antelope, deer, black bear.

Rifle Ballistics

Distance (yds) Muzzle 50 100 200 300 400 500
Velocity (fps) 1880 1650 1425 1235 1105 1010
Distance (yds) Muzzle 50 100 200 300 400 500
Energy (ft. lbs.) 2355 1815 1355 1015 810 680
Distance (yds)   50 100 150 200 250 300
Short Trajectory (in.)   0.0 -2.4 -8.2 -17.6 -31.4 -51.5
Distance (yds) 100 150 200 250 300 400 500
Long Trajectory (in.) 0.0 -4.6 -12.8 -25.4 -44.3 -95.5

300 gr. Super-X® Jacketed Hollow Point

From the muzzle to 150-200 yard range this old cartridge is hard to beat. To really see the true performance of this round you do need to hand load for it though. Factory ammunition lacks the true performance the 45-70 is capable of producing. It seems almost any load will shoot accurately in a rifle or handgun. If you are willing to endure a little punishment, the old 45-70 Govt. will show you the love. Recoil can be heavy but it’s well worth it. Since the 45-70 is a low pressure round the strait walled cases will last for a very long time. The large rim makes it a natural for single shot rifles and handguns. A heavy roll crimp is a must to keep bullets in place under the heavy recoil of a repeating firearm.

I recommend separating bullet seating and crimping into two steps to insure the crimp is solid. Be sure to follow the loading data recommended for the firearm you are using. Most manuals have several levels for the 45-70. Light loads for the old or antique guns, a little heavier level for modern guns such as the Marlin 1895 lever actions, and heavy loads for guns like the Ruger No. 1’s and the Browning 1885. Care should be taken to insure the proper data is being used for your gun. The results of improperly hand loading the 45-70 can deadly. Be careful! The best powders I’ve found so far are Reloader 7 and IMR 3031. As far as bullets, I’ve tried from 300-grain up to a hard-cast 510-grain flat nose. Firing the 510-grain bullets form a 14” Thompson/Center Contender is an experience not soon for gotten. The 300-grain hollow points are common among deer hunters and offer higher velocities than heaver bullets. I’ve used them in the past with good luck in T/C Contenders. They are accurate and hit hard. For deer the 300-grainers are probably the best choice. I used Sierra’s 300-grain hollow point with IMR 3031, in both the 16” and Super 14” Contender barrels I’ve owned. Accuracy from a scoped T/C Contender is phenomenal. Last fall I started using a 350-grain Hornady flat-point in my Marlin 1895 “Guide Gun” with Reloader 7 and now prefer it to the lighter bullet. This load kicks like a mad mule but hits just as hard. I truly believe it will take any game in Texas, or the world for that matter with authority, excluding truly dangerous game. At the time I’m writing this I’ve not tried the 400-grain or heaver bullets in my rifle but plan to try them soon and will update this article once I have a good load. A hunter looking for this type of cartridge but who prefers to shoot factory ammunition, the 450 Marlin is the one. It was developed as a joint effort between Marlin and Hornady to duplicate the performance of heavy loads in the 45-70.

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