The .45-70 Government may be the perfect hunting round.
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 all the way back in 1873 at the equally iconic Springfield Armory, the round was first used by the U.S. Army in the trapdoor Springfield single-shot rifle. It was first known as .45 Gov until the 70 designation was added later.
Firearm and ammunition manufacturers quickly realized that the large .45-70 cartridge was great for hunting North American big game animals, especially 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.
Part of what makes this round great for hunting is the fact you can use a large flat nose or soft point lead bullets and still reach muzzle velocities over 1,300 feet per second. You can get even faster speeds, up to 2,200 feet per second from jacketed hollow points. Bullets like the Hornady 325 grain 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. It has led many people to joke: ".45-70 is the only government I trust!"
Today we will look at some of the top hunting rifles on the market still chambered for this iconic round, proving that a good rifle cartridge design stands the test of time.
Marlin 1895 Trapper
The .45-70 Govt platform has led itself well to lever action rifles and the Marlin 1895 has taken off as one of the top choices. They make a few different variations of this rifle. The "Trapper" model is a gun design out of the old west, but with modern features. The stock and forend are a laminate black while the rest of the gun has a stainless steel finish. This lever gun features an oversized loop to make it easier to operate and it holds 5+1 rounds. This would be a great option for both hunting and as a bear defense brush or guide gun. The 16.5-inch barrel has a 1:20 rate of twist. The skinner peep sight makes for fast target acquisition and shots at a moment's notice. At only seven pounds, it is also easy to lug far into the backcountry in pursuit of that elusive trophy.
Thompson Center Arms Encore Hunter
Most of the time, with a hard hitting round like the .45-70, you will only need one well-placed shot to down most deer. If you are firm believer in "one shot, one kill," the T/C Arms Encore Pro Hunter may be the rifle for you. At only seven pounds, this rifle will be easy to lug up and down deep canyons as you pursue your quarry. It has a stainless steel finish on the barrel and receiver to help protect from the harsh elements. The barrel length is 20 inches and it has a 1:20 rate of twist. They made this rifle compact at just 34 inches overall length, which makes it easier to carry through heavy brush and vegetation. It comes fitted with peep sights standard. Some ammo for this rifle can have a serious kick, especially with a shorter barrel like this, but the T/C helps tame it with a generous recoil pad on the flex-tech stock.
Winchester 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.
.45-70 Government Henry
We could not make a list about .45-70 Govt without also including a rifle from Henry 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. Most users report this rifle does a real number on everything from deer to moose. Plus, it is just a beautiful firearm. How can you go wrong?
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 without taking 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 backountry hunt. The 25-inch barrel has a 1:20 rate of twist and it comes fitted with a KonusPro 3-9x40 scope. Just take the range and sight in and you will be ready for that next hunt.
Ruger No. 1 Medium Sporter
If you are planning an African safari for medium-sized plains game, the single shot Ruger is a solid choice. With a brushed stainless finish and a gorgeous walnut stock, it is also quite the looker. This rifle weighs in at just 7.31 pounds and features a 22-inch barrel. You can use the attached open sights, but it is also drilled and tapped for your choice of optics. Either way, you should not need more than one shot to bring down most game animals with this one. It is also a very safe rifle with its two-position top tang safety. It is not cheap at $1,600, but if you are planning the trip of a lifetime, it is worth adding a gun like this to your wish list.