January 04, 2019
By Dick Metcalf
The traditional .45-70 load put a 405-grain, .458-caliber lead bullet over 70 grains of blackpowder, hence the .45-70 designation, sometimes rendered .45-70/405.
Subsequent standard-power smokeless-propellant .45-70 405-grain ammunition paralleled that performance, providing a muzzle velocity of about 1,330 fps and 1,590 ft-lbs of muzzle energy at a Maximum Average Pressure (MAP) of 28,000 CUP, which will down any North American game at less than 100 yards.
Case Capacity: 81.1 grains of water
Primer: Federal 210
Case Length: 2.105 inches
OAL: 2.550 inches
More recently, several ammomakers have added higher-velocity 300-plus-grain JHP loadings at 1,800-plus fps catalog velocities to improve the .45-70's performance range out to as far as 200 yards, and some specialty-load manufacturers have even pumped up a variety of "+P" (35,000 CUP) .45-70 loadings with hardcast bullets as heavy as 540 grains at 2,500 ft-lbs that can be used with confidence in the face of any dangerous game on the planet, including Alaskan brown bear, Cape buffalo, or elephant. The modern Marlin Model 1895 can handle them all.
The .45-70's straight-wall configuration and large caliber make it extremely easy to handload. But buy a lot of powder; it's a big case. Handloading guides for the .45-70 commonly provide at least two different categories of loadings, one for 19th-century-design firearms and replicas, the other for stronger, modern arms like the post-1973 Marlin Model 1895 or Browning and Ruger falling-block-type single-shots.
My favorite loadings for modern .45-70s are shown in the chart. As their velocities indicate, you should not use these loads in an antique or replica gun unless you're looking to turn it into a metallic jigsaw puzzle.
|Metcalfs's Favorite .45-70 Handloads|
|Bullet|| Powder (type)|| Powder (grs.)||Velocity (fps)||Comments |
| Hornady 300-gr HP|| H4198||52.0||2073||Expanding load; deer/elk to 200 yds.|
| Hornady 300-gr HP|| Reloader 7||50.0||2011||Expanding load; deer/elk to 200 yds.|
| Sierra 300-gr FNHP|| IMR-3031||55.0||1932||Expanding load; deer/elk to 200 yds.|
| Sierra 300-gr. FNHP|| IMR-4895||60.4||2004||Expanding load; deer/elk to 200 yds.|
| Hornady 350-gr. RN || H322||52.0||1825||Good load for black bear/moose|
| Hornady 350-gr. RN || H4895||60.4||2004||Good load for black bear/moose|
| Speer 400-gr. FNSP || IMR-4198||43.0||1730|| Effective bison load|
| Speer 400-gr. FNSP || IMR-3031||58.0||2918||Effective BIG bison load|
|NOTES: Instrumental velocity is the average of five rounds measured 10 feet from the muzzle of a 22-inch-barreled Marlin 1895. Use these loads only in modern .45-70 firearms rated for high-pressure ammunition.|