45-70 Government

45-70 Government

The 45-70 Government is one of the oldest American sporting cartridges in use today and possibly one of the only cartridges to make the transition from Black Powder to Smokeless powder AND not become obsolete nor lose its popularity almost completely. However, because there are so many different makes of rifles with variations in “Strength of action” most factory loads are quite anemic and the true potential of the 45-70 is only realized with a strong action rifle and hand loaded ammunition.

When one digs into the 45-70’s history and applications, it is quite interesting, almost fascinating. The 45-70 Government gets its name from being a 45 caliber projectile pushed by 70 grains of black powder, and it was the government standard issue rifle & cartridge. Therefore, the name is 45-70 Govt. At the time of its christening its fully “punctuated & proper” name was 45-70-405 Government (45 caliber, 70 grains of powder, 405 grain projectile, Government Issue/Use). There were all kinds of variation like 45-70-500, 45-70-350 etc.

Two interesting bits of trivia about the 45-70 Govt. are that; it had a multi-ball load and had a 25 caliber wood sabot load issued to the troops for harvesting game… Yup! Multi-ball (3, round, 45 caliber balls), and a wooden sabot with a 25 caliber conical bullet. In the 1870’s!!! To Cool!

Quick Ballistics (modern):

Bullet Weights: 250 – 535 Grains
Bullet Velocities: 2,600 - 1,500 ft sec
Optimal load: 400 grains @ 2,185 ft/sec = 4,240 ft-lbs Energy & 125 lbs-ft/sec Momentum

Comparative Ballistics:

450/400 N.E. 400 grains @ 2,125 ft/sec = 4,010 ft-lbs Energy & 121 lbs-ft/sec Momentum 
416 Rigby 400 grains @ 2,370 ft/sec = 4,988 ft-lbs Energy & 135 lbs-ft/sec Momentum
404 Jeffery 400 grains @ 2,325 ft/sec = 4,800 ft-lbs Energy & 133 lbs-ft/sec Momentum
45-700 Govt 405 grains @ 2,050 ft/sec = 3,779 ft/lbs Energy & 118 lbs-ft/sec Momentum
458 Win Mag 400 grains @ 2,250 ft/sec = 4,496 ft-lbs Energy & 129 lbs-ft/sec Momentum
458 Win Mag 500 grains @ 2,050 ft/sec = 4,664 ft-lbs Energy & 146 lbs-ft/sec Momentum

The 45-70 is often an under appreciated or overlooked round. That is, except by those who use it. They usually appreciate it plenty. If a round of ammunition is going to last for over 140 years on the American market of hunters and sports shooters and still have a commanding share of the market, it must have some serious quality to it.

I look forward to your comments.

Good hunting, Be Safe!