45-70 Ballistics

45-70 ballistics tested with rifle and ammo

45-70 ballistic data for some of the most popular ammo in the rifle caliber.

Legendary for iconic lever action rifles, the 45-70 offers shooters more than just a good looking rifle for photos. Let’s explore all this caliber can do with a look at 45-70 ballistics, including velocity, energy and drop data for some of the most popular ammo loads available in the United States.

  • Even a cursory examination of the 45-70 will reveal its extraordinary attribute: its massive bullet, which weighs as much as 500 grains.
  • As the successor to the 50-70, the 45-70’s narrower bullet offered increased range, superior penetration, and heightened accuracy.
  • Although designed in 1873, the 45-70 remains popular among hunters to this day for its suitability for all North American big game. The caliber’s low velocity prevents damaging meat in medium game and it is historically significant.
  • Not limited to rifles, the 45-70 also chambers in handguns such as the Thompson Center Arms Contender and Magnum Research BFR. (Neither is for the weak-wristed.)

45-70 Ballistics Chart

Barrel LengthMuzzle100 yds.200 yds.300 yds.400 yds.500 yds.Muzzle100 yds.200 yds.300 yds.400 yds.500 yds.Muzzle100 yds.200 yds.300 yds.400 yds.500 yds.(G1)(G7)Sect. Density
Hornady - 325 GR FTX242050172914501225--3032215815161083-1.530-27.80.2340.1290.223
Black Hills - 405 Grain LFN24125014050.277
Fiocchi - 405 Gr. LFN24118512630.277
Black Hills - 325 Gr. HoneyBadger24177522730.223
Remington - 405 Gr. SP24160013891216108910029391903173513291067904792-1.518.9821.30.06-50.44-135.50.2870.1892
Winchester - 375 Gr. JHP Supreme24150018730.257
Hornady - 250 Gr. MonoFlex242025161612861071--22761450918636-1.530-
Winchester 300 Gr. Polymer Tip241880152312401056949872235415451023743600506-6.80-29.6-90.1-0.1950.1040.205
Barnes - 300 Gr. TTSX241925150511891008--24691509942676-0.90-14.7-540.1670.0950.205
Federal Power-Shok 300 Gr JSP241850161514081234110510162280173813201015814687-1.513.8615.780.05-38.52-105.510.2950.171
Hornady - 325 Gr LeveRevolution24205017351459123510799803033217215371101840693-1.512.3214.430.06-37.16-104.180.2340.129
Winchester - 405 Gr Super-X Cowboy24115010439699118638221190979844747671607-1.532.6734.880.09-76.56-199.810.2850.143
Remington - 300 Gr. HTP TSX24192515141200101590983224691528959687551461-1.517.4120.840.08-54.28-150.680.1670.095
4570G300SJHPRem-20">Remington - 300 Gr. SJHP241900158013131118998918240516631148833664561-1.515.217.770.04-45.42-125.690.2170.128
Hornady - 410 Gr. Sub-X2410759929318818377991052897789706638581-1.535.9638.090.1-82.71-215.10.2890.134
Federal Fusion - 300 Gr SP241850161614091236110710172280173913221018816689-1.513.8415.740.04-38.46-105.30.2960.172
Federal - 300 Gr. Trophy Bonded Bear Claw241850154112851103990912228015821100810653555-1.515.9618.580.05-47.02-129.530.220.118

History & 45-70’s Role

A 45-70 lever action rifle

The 45-70 Government was developed at the Springfield Armory for use in the Springfield Model 1873. Springfield intended it to effectively obsolete the 50-70 Government. (That cartridge was adopted in the year following the Civil War.)

The 50-70 certainly hit its target hard enough, but the government sought a .45 caliber cartridge with greater range and accuracy. The full name of their new cartridge, the 45-70-405, respectively referred to its bullet diameter, black powder weight, and original bullet weight. 45-70 proved capable of consistently hitting 4” targets at 100 yards or 6’ targets at 600 yards, making it useful for sharpshooting and volley fire alike.

Effective Range of the 45-70

Springfield deemed the 45-70’s effective range 1,000 yards, at which its bullet strikes a target at a 30 degree angle.

Trajectory of the 45-70

While relatively flat-shooting for its era, the 45-70’s bullet drop is extremely pronounced by today’s standards. As a long range cartridge, accurately firing the 45-70 demands careful consideration of distance, windage, elevation, and trajectory. Antique sights were calibrated to accommodate the 45-70’s “rainbow” trajectory, and flipped up to provide additional degrees of elevation when required. Today’s modern and compact telescopic sights are capable of handling those variables, but knowledge of the 45-70’s ballistics is still essential.

At velocities between 2,500 and 1,700 fps, the 45-70 consistently delivers an instant kill and is rather forgiving of shot placement. Between 1,700 and 1,500 fps wounding becomes less severe, yet still capable of felling most medium game quickly. Beneath that threshold, however, an animal struck by a 45-70 tends to make a lot of tracks before going down for the count.

The 45-70’s recoil is substantial, yet not as powerful as that produced by the big bore magnums. Hunters who employ the 45-70 for dangerous game often cite its lower recoil as a reason for their preference. We’d offer there are better bear cartridges out there for the uninitiated though.

Other Attributes

A box of 45-70 ammo made by Black Hills Ammunition

  • As a rule, manufacturers load factory 45-70 ammunition to a maximum pressure of 28,000 psi. That said, you can easily load to a pressure of 60,000 psi. Of course, such power could prove disastrous to riles with weaker actions such as the Springfield Model 1873 and its replicas, and lethal to their shooters as well. Today, ammo manufacturers exclusively produce the weaker rounds as a safety measure. This means only reloaders can take full advantage of the 45-70’s potential.
  • The 45-70 saw widespread use by the U.S. Armed Forces. To this day the Navy uses it as a line throwing cartridge. Still, the Spanish-American War was the last major conflict in which militaries widely used the cartridge.
  • Frontiersmen often gave old military surplus rifles to Native Americans. You might see their markings on antique firearms.
  • Available with classic bullets such as the LRN FP by Fiocchi, as well as modern ones such as Hornady’s FTX.

Useful information?

Share it with your friends!

Let your fellow shooters know – share this article using the Facebook, Twitter and other social media icons below. The more we all know, the better organized and stronger the shooting and hunting community will be.