.45-70 vs .30-30: Which is the Better Round?

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Shooters that are worth will swear by the lever-action .45-70 Government, despite the reported recoil that makes many see this cartridge as overkill. Though some may write it off, the .45-70 is a capable big game hunting round, much like the popular .30-30 as a comparable cartridge.

When comparing the .45-70 vs. .30-30, you have to look at ballistics, size, weapons compatibility, and hunters’ availability.

A statistical comparison also means that you must delve into each cartridge’s attributes, identifying where each round has an advantage over its counterpart. 

A Brief History of the .45-70 vs. .30-30 Rounds

A definitive cartridge, the .45-70 has been in service since the last part of the 19th century. Designed in 1873, this round was meant for use by the US army with their Springfield rifles during and after the American Civil War.  

Naming conventions for cartridges are from the bullet’s diameter and the weight of black powder grains in the cartridge. Slightly smaller than those manufactured before it, the .45-70 was the military’s answer for a more accurate round.

The new cartridge wasn’t, however, used as intended, being replaced within the first 20 years of service. A century and a half later, the round is still popular, especially as a hunting cartridge.

This popularity stems from the fact that despite the cartridge being of a large caliber, the slug fired is slower moving. Large enough to provide firepower for downing big North American game, the low velocity is vital in preserving the animal’s meat. 

The .45-70 is also favored for plowing through brush effortlessly.

Shortly after the .45-70 was designed, the .30-30 Winchester cartridge was released in 1895. This round also has a slow-moving slug that’s effective for hunting close range big game.

What stood out about the .30-30 round is that it was marketed for use with smokeless powder, the first of its kind.  There are 30 grains of the originally intended smokeless powder, as denoted by the last 30 in line with naming conventions. 

The 45-70 Government Hunters Round

Many false anecdotes and myths surround the capabilities of the .45-70 Government round, mostly fueled by misunderstandings regarding its capabilities. This has seen the decline in hunting use with this round, a far cry from its late 1800’s and early 1900s popularity. 

Still utilized by loyal hunters and a segment of shooters, the venerable .45-70 cartridge’s applications pale in comparison to other modern rounds. 

The 45-70 Government happens to be one of the earliest centerfire cartridges designed for use with black powder propellant. The performance of the round has been improved by modern loads using smokeless powder, though its ballistics remains inferior to newer options. 

In view of its anemic ballistics on paper, hunters become skeptical of the 45-70’s capabilities, despite being as American as pumpkins. In comparison to the .30-30 Winchester, the .45 Colt and .30-06 Springfield, a relatively low number of hunters still pledge loyalty to the 45-70 government.

To enable you to make an informed decision whether you should hunt with the .45-70, here’s an analysis of its capabilities.

Nomenclature of the .45-70 Cartridge 

The 45-70 cartridges were initially manufactured at the US government’s Springfield armory, receiving the designation .45-70-405. After the start of commercial applications, vendor catalogs and gun publications referred to the round as the .45-70 Government.

One of the powerful rounds available, the cartridge pushed a lead bullet at velocities exceeding 1,350 ft. per second with a black powder load. The US army used the 45-70s muzzle velocity of 1,600 ft. pounds during the Indian Wars and limited use was seen throughout the Spanish-American war.

Many trapdoor Springfield rifles were used with the .45-70 Government, and early models of the gatling gun also fired thus round.

Its excellent service reputation with the army, navy, and USMC saw the .45-70 bullet become popular with hunters and sports shooters. Significant demand for better cartridge chambered rifles had manufacturers building .45-70 compatible lever actions, specially designed for civilian shooters and hunters.

Innovative single shots, lever action and repeater rifles from the early incursion of .45-70 government use include;

  • Remington-Keene
  • Winchester-Hotchkiss
  • Sharps 1874 Buffalo Rifle 
  • Winchester High Wall Model 1885 
  • Winchester Model 1886

An extremely effective hunting cartridge, the .45-70s solid cast lead slug was particularly popular with black bear, whitetail deer, and even moose or bison hunters.

Most Popular Ammunition Accessories

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The .30-30 Round 

A centerfire rifle cartridge, the .30-30 Winchester, was initially designed for Winchester model 1894 lever action. This was the US Army’s first small-bore rifle round intended to be used with smokeless powder.

The thirty-thirty cartridge appeared first in the manufactures 1895 August catalog, and is also known as the.30 Winchester centerfire. Rival gunsmith Marlin soon picked up the round for their Model 1893 rifle, designating it the .30-30 smokeless.

Naming the .30-30 was based on 19-century conventions of American black-powder cartridges, as the round features 30 grains of smokeless powder.

The original version by Winchester repeating arms and Later Union Metallic Cartridge Company features a 160-grain metal jacketed lead bullet. UMC later designed a .30-30 round with 170 grains, and both versions are popular with hunters to this day. 

Considered entry-class munitions for big game hunting, the .30-30 is effective for deer and black bear game due to limitations in range. Further usefulness limits are set by the lever-action rifle capabilities, whose range is effective at 200 yards.

.30-30 Characteristics and Recoil 

Rifles that are chambered for light bullets like the .30-30s projectile have less recoil and are thus favored by deer hunters. Typically, the recoil for a 7.5-pound rifle shooting a 150-grain load is 10.6 pounds/foot when the load travels at 2,390 ft. per second.

The force you’ll feel at your shoulder when shooting the .30-30 is nearly half of the .45-70s recoil when shooting a trapdoor Springfield rifle. 

Round nose or flattened bullets are typical of the .30-30 round, due to being chambered most commonly in lever-action tubular magazine rifles. This alleviates the potential for shooter injury, or firearm damage should the spritzer-point rounds set off the next bullet’s primer within the magazine.

To avoid such occurrences, rifles like the 1899 Savage Model 99 had a rotary magazine. Shooters hand-load the .30-30 cartridge when hunting with single-shot firearms, including popular Thompson Center Arms’ Encore series or Contender. 

Attributes of Firearms Chambered for the .30-30 Cartridge

The most common lever-action chambering for hunting is by far the .30-30 ammunition. From the Winchester model 1894 to the savage model 99 and marlin model 336, many late 1800 and early 1900 rifles were chambered for this cartridge.

Mossberg introduced lever actions for this round as recently as 1983, mostly sold under the Western Field brand as the Montgomery Ward M72. A clone of the marlin 336 series chambered in .30-30 is also available from Brazil’s Rossi. 

A Winchesters Model 94 clone, an economical and simplified version, exists under Ted Williams and Revelation labels by either Sears or Western Auto. 

Featuring a rimmed design, .30-30 ammo is most suited to single-shot action rifles, but bolt-action varieties are uncommon. A bolt-action repeater for the .30-30 was at one time released by Winchester, but the model 54 didn’t gain traction. 

Even though rimmed cartridges don’t factor in well with bolt-action box magazines, the .30-30 proved a decidedly accurate round for the category. Remington’s 788, Winchester’s Savage 340, and Stevens 325 are other examples of bolt-action .30-30 rifles.

The .45-70 ammo vs. 30-30: Comparison

Size of the Cartridge

With a total cartridge length of 2.55 inches, the .45-70 round has a projectile that’s .458 inches in diameter. There’s plenty of powder space with the casing’s 2.1 inches, containing 405 grains in most variations of this round.  

While Federal and Winchester make ammunition with 300 grains, the .45-70 by Hornady LEVERevolution has 325 and 250 grains.  

The .45-70 Govt. suits lever actions with slot-loaded or tubular magazines. Many variations of the round are either flat or round-tipped. This stacking of cartridges one after another can cause accidental primer detonations due to recoil or handling.

On the other hand, .30-30s have slugs with a diameter of .308 inches and have a cartridge length of 2.039 inches. The .30-30 ammo is essentially the first generation of modern Winchester .308 rounds, with common projectiles at 130, 150, or 170 grains.

As is evident, the .45-70 round is wider by an additional 15 inches. A significant difference where game tissue damage is concerned. The wider the bullet, the more you are bound to kill what you are targeting. But the same is correct for the potential of damaging meat. 

.45-70 vs. .30-30 Ballistic Comparisons

Both cartridges show similar performances in terms of ballistics, displaying a range of around 300 yards. If you have gone past the challenges faced by most modern shooters, you shoot a .45-70 round at a further range than the .30-30. 

Depending on the variation round used, a .45-70 slug has a muzzle velocity that’s in the neighborhood of 2,100 ft per second. For .30-30 bullets, muzzle velocity stands at approximately 2,350 ft. per second, also dependent on the round variant you are shooting. 

At 1850 ft. per second, a Federal Premium .45-70 round fires 300-grain power shock, generating 2,280 ft. pounds of muzzle energy.

Due to the low downgrade and reduced ballistic coefficient of the traditional .45-70 round or flat-tipped bullets, designers have had to come up with solutions. The LEVERevolution line by munitions manufacturers Hornady produces rounds with flexible pointed polymer tips.

This innovative ammo improved the aerodynamics of the .45-70, making the powerful cartridge safer to use with tubular rifle magazines.  Enhanced loads have dramatically enhanced the .45-70 Government on aspects of game species selection, allowing for long-range, quick, and ethical kills.

The 30-30 slug has more speed, seeing as it’s lighter than its slower counterpart. Due to the .45-70 projectile’s heavier weight, it’s more likely to tumble upon impact, damaging game meat tissue. 

Notwithstanding, the .30-30 is still a large cartridge, and is a common prefernce for North American big game hunting. The conventionally sized .308 bullet, though smaller than the .45-70, will do plenty of tissue damage.

Comparison Table

As excellent hunting ammo, these two rounds have ballistic designs that will perform superbly.

For your pretty typical .30-30, 150-grain load, the comparison infographic representations versus the .45-70 Government with 325 grain looks like this;

Cartridge  Muzzle velocity ft./sec100 yards Trajectory Inch/energy200 yards TrajectoryInch/energy300 yards TrajectoryInch/energy400 yards TrajectoryInch/energy500 yards TrajectoryInch/energy
.45-702,050/ 3,0330/2,159-10.3/1,519-37.2/1,083-87.3/827167.7/683
.30-303,000/29980/2,535-3.1/2,125-11.7/ 1,771-26.8/1,465-49.8/1,202

Both Cartridges Price and Availability

For the .45-70 round, availability is limited. 405-grain ammunition is available from Remington Core-Lokt, with a price tag of about $2.25 each round. 

Federal Power-Shok has cheaper .45-70 ammo, going at $1.80 for every round, and with a 300-grain projectile. These two cartridge offerings expand on impact, greatly motivating your shots-on-target, 

Another 45-70 variant is the Hornady LEVERevolution round, available in 250 and having 325 grains. Due to the aerodynamic design of this slug, you can expect increased shot range distances.  

A price tag of around $1.80 per round accompanies this cartridge. Any other limited availability of .45-70 ammo is sold at this range. 

The .30-30 cartridges are less limited than the .45-70 round and way cheaper. A .30-30 ammunition with between 150 and 170 grains is available from Remington Core-Lokt, costing around $0.90 each round. 

Another 150 or 170-grain cartridge for $0.85 is available from Federal Power-Shok. On the other hand, the Hornady LEVERevolution .30-30 variant will cost you $1.20 per round. 

However, more options are available for the .30-30 vs. 45-70 round, and its variants are cheaper despite being from the same brand. Browning, Winchester Power Max, BXR Rapid Expansion, and Hornady American Whitetail are some of the popular hunting cartridges available in .30-30. 

Gun Compatibility for Both Rounds

Both the .45-70 and .30-30 are compatible with some high quality firearms, with the vast majority being lever-action rifles. Winchester, Henry, Marlin, and Rossi manufacture weapons for these cartridges.

The 45-70 round has more options due to the highly regarded marlin 1895, which you can get in this caliber. An excellent hunting option but expensively priced, the Uberti Sharps rifle can also be had in .45-70. 

Lever action rifles for .30-30 ammo are popular and available, augmenting your modern hunters kill power. Perfect examples include the classic Henry or the Mossberg 464 SPX, a contemporary lever action featuring a Picatinny rail and adjustable stock. 

Making a Case for the Definitive .45-70 Hunting Cartridge 

Munitions makers are currently producing various loads of ballistics power for the .45-70 Government when compared to its initial black powder loading. You should select the weapon that compares to your chosen .45-70 ballistics, in view of what you’re planning to hunt.

When hunting with vintage weaponry such as the Winchester, avoid variants of modern ammo, especially Magnum or those labeled +P. Chose instead low-pressure rounds, which sufficiently mimic the performance characteristics of your .45 caliber rifle.

You can experience a significant ballistic improvement with high pressure handling rifles and handguns.

What is their Advantage over the 30-30 Rounds?

The advantages of using the .45-70 munitions in hunting situations include the delivery of bone-crushing power and flesh penetration. Tough-hide animals like bison, moose, or grizzly bears will require a more extended shooting range. Ethics dictate that your round should fall prey with a single shot.

Most lever-action rifles built for the .45-70 are short-barreled, making them extremely portable, quick to mount and to shoot. Rifles like Model 1895 by Marlin are easy to carry, whether you are hunting on horseback, boat, or on foot.

Some of the hottest .45-70 loads are made by Buffalo Bore, with rounds that feature a 405 grain that produces 3,597 ft. pound of bone ratting muzzle energy. A flat-nose jacketed bullet is propelled at 2,000 ft. per second, ideal for hunting feral hogs, brown bears, or even deer.

Heavy hitting, modern .45-70 guns are popular with hunters where cover shortens the range to less than 100 yards. You’re more assured of handling a charging brown bear with a lever-action .45-70 ammo than having another rifle in your hands.

For the thin-skinned animals like deer, you should use the .45-70 Government, as the low velocity of this bullet will not ruin or blood-shot meat.

Hunter’s Recommendations

The .30-30 is the best deer hunting round to take along with you, an enjoyable shot with less recoil. It is advisable for the small frame shooters to use this bullet, as the .45-70 cartridges recoil can be tough to contend with. 

However, the .45-70 round is better for use on bog game, acting as a deadly punch that guarantees a kill. The .30-30 will work fine, but for bears, elk or bighorn rams, you may require an extra shot to finish off the animal.

This definitive round will also suit your hunting on a budget, as .30-30 bullets are cheaper, and so is the weaponry. When shooting for fun, or practicing for the hunt, use the less expensive and speedier.30-30 lever action rounds.

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