.45-70 Government

Favorite loads: Hot off the press...

The .45-70 Government cartridge was developed at the U.S. Army's Springfield Armory for its Springfield Model 1873 .45- caliber rifle, commonly known as the Trapdoor Springfield.

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.

.45-70 Gov't.

Case: Federal
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 H419852.02073Expanding load; deer/elk to 200 yds.
Hornady 300-gr HP Reloader 750.02011Expanding load; deer/elk to 200 yds.
Sierra 300-gr FNHP IMR-303155.01932Expanding load; deer/elk to 200 yds.
Sierra 300-gr. FNHP IMR-489560.42004Expanding load; deer/elk to 200 yds.
Hornady 350-gr. RN H32252.01825Good load for black bear/moose
Hornady 350-gr. RN H489560.42004Good load for black bear/moose
Speer 400-gr. FNSP IMR-419843.01730 Effective bison load
Speer 400-gr. FNSP IMR-303158.02918Effective 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.

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