The world of firearms is one of the few areas of modern society where old ideas never seem to go out of style if they work effectively. That is the case of the iconic round .45-70 Government. First developed back in the late 1800s at the equally iconic Springfield Armory, the .45-70 Government cartridge was first used by the U.S. Army in the trapdoor Springfield single-shot rifle, but was also used in the Remington rolling block and Sharps carbine. The .45-70 has come a long way since then. Ammunition manufacturers have effectively modernized the round with modern bullets, giving it ballistics our fathers and forefathers could only dream about. Today we will look at the capabilities of this round, and some of the top hunting rifles on the market still chambered for it, proving that a good rifle cartridge design stands the test of time.
Ballistics and Practical Uses of the .45-70 Government
After its military service, firearm and ammunition manufacturers quickly realized that the large .45-70 magnum-sized cartridge was great for hunting North American big game animals, especially feral hogs, deer and elk. It has also seen some use outside the United States in Africa. While the roughly .45 caliber bullet does not have quite enough speed and power for some larger and more dangerous game, like cape buffalo, it still works great for smaller plains animals. This rifle packs considerably more punch than .45 caliber handguns.
If you're old school, you can use flat nose or soft point lead bullets and still reach out to long range with muzzle velocities over 1,300 feet per second. For those who want more modern speeds, you can now squeeze up to 2,200-fps in muzzle velocity from jacketed hollow points. The Hornady 325-grain bullet FTX LEVERevolution deliver 2,000-fps speeds and a devastating 3,000-foot pounds of energy to the target, effectively dropping most big game where they stand. Hearing numbers like these, it's no wonder this iconic round has led many people to joke: ".45-70 is the only government I trust!"
We do feel compelled to tell you that the one drawback to the .45-70 is the effective range. While modern ballistics give rounds like that LEVERevolution ammo we mentioned earlier zero drop at 200 yards, this round falls off quite a bit after that. That same ammo has a -27.8-inch drop at 300 yards. Most hunters are going to want to limit their shots in the 100 to 150-yard range. We don't think that's a huge loss for the .45-70, but it does mean you'll have to get a little closer if you're spot-and-stalking game.
Marlin 1895 Trapper
We'll start things off with a classic. The Marlin Model 1895 is arguably the top choice for a .45-70. After Ruger bought out Remington for the Marlin name in October 2020, Ruger re-introduced the Trapper model with just a tiny amount of modern flair that makes an already great gun even better. For one, they threaded the 16-inch barrel for a suppressor, then added adjustable Skinner sights and a peep sight. The stock and forend are a laminate black while the rest of the gun has gorgeous stainless steel finish. This lever gun features an oversized loop to make it easier to operate and it holds 5+1 rounds. The MSRP for this rifle is around $1,349.
Traditions Outfitter G3 Cerakote
One major downside to the .45-70 is just the cost of a new centerfire rifle. Which is why we appreciate companies like Traditions building a budget single shot option. This rifle can usually be found for under $500. This rifle offers a 22-inch Lothar Walther Chromoly fluted barrel. The barrel has a 1:20 rate of twist and includes a muzzle brake. It also has a nice crisp break in the Elite XT trigger system. A manual cross block trigger safety allows you to break open the rifle with the safety still engaged. We also like this option for anyone who lives in a state that limits ammo capacity while deer hunting. Oh, it also has a Cerakote finish that's going to help protect it from the elements better than stainless steel. It's very hard to find a Cerakote big game rifle under $500 or $600, but Traditions found a way.
Winchester Model 1886 Short Rifle
If you were looking for a classic cowboy gun in this historic caliber, this Winchester is a solid choice. This lever gun has a great western look with the satin walnut stock and forend. The receiver and barrel are blued steel. This gun has a slightly higher capacity of 8+1 rounds thanks to the full-length tubular magazine. The side gate helps with easy reloading. The barrel is 24 inches and has a 1:20 rate of twist. It is slightly heavier at eight pounds, but that is to be expected to get a gun with this kind of classic look. The front sight is a bead while the rear is a semi-buckhorn. The gun is also drilled and tapped for those who want to mount a scope. Rifles like this were a staple of the American west and took down countless whitetails and mule deer back in the day, now you can use a modern-made one to do the same. The only real downside is the price at $1,649. The good news is, these rifles hold their value extremely well.
.45-70 Government Henry
We could not make a list about .45-70 Govt without also including a lever action rifle from Henry Repeating Arms on the list. They are one of the companies that helped popularize this round in lever action guns. Henry offers several different rifles in this caliber but the two most popular are either a blued steel or brass finish for roughly $70 more. Both guns offer a capacity of 4+1 rounds that will cycle effortlessly through the buttery-smooth action. The blued version has a slightly shorter 18.43-inch barrel compared to the brass version's 22-inch barrel. These rifles are drilled and tapped for a scope straight out of the box, but you can use the buckhorn rear and bead front sight if you are looking for a real challenge on your next big game hunt, even if it is almost too pretty to take into the field. Most users report this rifle does a real number on everything from deer to moose. Expect to pay around $1,000 for one of these brand-new.
CVA Scout V2 Takedown
If you spend a ton of time in the backcountry as a bush pilot or remote pipeline worker, maybe you are looking for an extra takedown firearm to stash in the plane or pickup. This is also for anyone wants a rifle that's not going to take up a ton of precious cargo space. The CVA name may be better known for muzzleloaders, but this single shot rifle is a solid deal at $500. Fitted with a black synthetic stock and forend, the whole package weighs just eight pounds. The stainless steel finish will help this gun stand up to the cold, rain and snows that are common with a backcountry hunt. The 25-inch barrel has a 1:20 rate of twist. Some stores sell an option already fitted with a KonusPro 3-9x40 scope. Just take the range and sight in and you will be ready for that next hunt.
Henry Lever Action Model X
We know a lot of people looking for a .45-70 are traditionalists, however one cannot deny the ultra-modern Henry Lever Action Model X isn't a cool option. This rifle has synthetic furniture which helps lower the weight down to 7.4 pounds. It has a 19.8-inch barrel with a 1:20 rate of twist. They also threaded the muzzle for a suppressor or brake. The tube magazine is also removable for faster reloading in the brush when you need it. They even included a Picatinny rail and M-Lok accessory slots for more versatility. It's fitted with fiber optic sights from the factory, but Henry also drilled and tapped the receiver in case you want to add an optic. These go for about $900 new. They're a very interesting twist on an old design that's perfect for modern hunters.
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