Obsolete Arms and Ammo
By Bob Shell
Apache Junction, AZ --(Ammoland.com)- The 45-70 has been around for 140 years, starting out as the US military round until it was replaced by the 30-40 Krag.
There are a lot of shooters that think that the 45-70 is obsolete.
There is nothing further from the truth. With a modern strong rifle such as this Marlin New Model 95 Rifle in 45-70, ammo can be used that is powerful enough to hunt almost anything.
It has been used successfully for every species hunted on every continent. Most of the ammo manufacturers that make rifle ammo produce modern ammo for it so you are in luck there. Just be sure to avoid using it in Trapdoor models. I have shot quite a few Marlins in everything from 30-30 to 45-70 and I have always found them strong and accurate.
Prior to a fire, I had last year I had a nice little collection of Marlins.
Marlin has an extensive line of fine rifles and to get more info you can go to www.marlinfirearms.com They have been around a long time and I expect that their future is bright.
To enhance the potential of the Marlin I mounted a Hawke scope, which is a brand that I have used in the past and have had good results on various hunts. The Hawke has very clear optics, which are necessary for successful hunting under less then optimum lighting conditions.
The Hawke scopes have been used on quite a few of my rifles and I can recommend them for someone who wants a good quality scope at a reasonable price. For info, you can go to www.hawkeoptics.com for their line of optics. The optics on the scope are great which helps you get the most out of the rifle. A scope can make or break a hunting trip and I would take this scope without hesitation.
I let a beginning female shooter handle and comment on the Marlin. While she didn’t shoot that day because we didn’t have any light loads she liked the looks and thought that the scope is user friendly. She did say it is a bit heavy for her taste. The weight of course is necessary because of the potential to use powerful loads though it is handy to carry.
I am not a big fan of porting but it is an option to cut down the recoil. The tradeoff is the excess noise it produces especially in bottleneck magnum rounds. The factory recoil pad isn’t much good for absorbing the kick but you can buy an aftermarket item that may help out. I plan on her shooting with a 300 grain cast with a light load of Unique which has the recoil of a .243 which she can handle.
Like most new guns, it was tight until we fired it a number of times. It also has a button safety while making it politically correct it is usually not necessary. Safe and proper gun handling is the best safety available.
There is a good selection of factory ammo and some was used in this report and if you want info on them for Double Tap Ammo you can go to www.doubletapammo.com/php/catalog/index.php. They produce a full line of good hunting ammo for many calibers. Another fine brand of ammo comes from Hornady.
They sell loaded ammo, brass and bullets and you can go to www.hornady.com/ammunition for further info. Barnes is a leader in lead free bullets and they have some great bullets that have a lead core. To contact them you can go to www.barnesbullets.com
I have tried various loads and here are the results. For us reloaders there are a lot of options including cast bullets of various weights. With the Ballard, type of rifling cast bullets should be very accurate though I usually have good luck with the micro groove type. The 45-70 is much more versatile then many shooters believe especially if you handload your ammo. You have the hi-tec bullets such as those made by Barnes but the Winchester ammo also shot well. With a large caliber such as this 45-70 hi-tec bullets are not usually necessary. In fact, one of my clients shot a huge grizzly bear in Canada using a 400 grain WFNGC that I loaded to 1800 FPS. The bear weighed 1200 LBS. and one shot did the trick. On the other hand a 300 grain cast loaded to 1500 FPS will handle any deer at close range and won’t kick the stuffing out of you. Factory ammo can be pricey so reloading is a viable option.
Lead bullets are a great option for hunting because of the large caliber and heavy weight bullets. Also due to the large caliber and heavy weight expansion isn’t as important as with smaller caliber rifles.
Accuracy is also good with cast bullets. In fact, except for some narrow circumstances jacketed bullets are not necessary. Another viable option with the 45-70 is shot loads. I have made those and harvested some small game including rabbits and squirrels. I have shot doves and quail out of the air with these loads. They are relatively easy to make once you get the procedures down. Size as normal, put powder in and put a cork wad in the correct size but should be tight. Then shot is loaded to the top and I crimp in a gas check which holds everything in place. It is as effective as a .410 gauge.
In the Marlin, you would have to use them as a single shot but that is no issue. I have used round ball loads mostly for experimenting but they would work well against two legged predators. I have also shot three balls with the middle one being a smaller caliber usually a .375 in diameter.
Most reloading manuals have three different levels for the .45-70. The first are the light loads meant for a trapdoor or something similar, meaning weak and black powder actions. You can safely use these loads in the Marlin. The middle loads are meant for the Marlin and similar rifles of that strength range which is 40,000 PSI. The top loads are for Ruger single shots and Siamese Mausers and similar rifles and should not be utilized in a Marlin. While there is a good selection of factory ammo, it can be hard to find especially now with the buying frenzy going on with anything that goes off. I browsed through some catalogs to get an idea of retail prices of ammo for the 45-70. You can generally expect to pay from $30 to over $50 per box of 20 depending on bullet type and area. For comparison, I can load a box of 20 with cast bullets for about $5.00 and with the very best premium bullets my cost will go from $15 to $20 a box. It doesn’t take much thought to realize the advantages to reloading.
If you want modern high performance loads and bullets you are in luck with the 45-70. Barnes and Hornady makes bullets as light as 250 grains up to 350 that is pointed so you will have an extended range. Some of those bullets are not suitable for a tubular magazine so keep that in mind. Barnes also has some nifty flat points in 300 and 400 grain weights. I have shot these are they would be a favorite for woods hunting. The 400 is heavily constructed so would be a good pick for bear and moose. They have a 300 grain TSX FN for those who are required or choose to hunt with a lead free bullet. Some areas in the US including California require lead free bullets and at some point, I would think that will spread. Hornady makes some bullets and loads that are suitable for the Marlin. They include a 300, 325, and 350 grain slugs. The 325 is pointed called an FTX but with the flex tip is safe in a tubular magazine. However if you load your own the case has to be trimmed to 2.040 in order to feed. That is because of the bullet design and the location of the cannelure. The normal length for a 45-70 case is 2.105 making it too long for the FTX. The 350 is a heavy duty slug meant for bigger game while the 300 will work fine on deer.
Both Sierra and Speer makes nice bullets and they work well at moderate velocities. I have shot some 500 grain bullets specially made for a Marlin but the recoil was excessive and there is no need for such a heavy bullet. I do not recommend using them. The one problem with a 45-70 is heavy recoil with the top loads but the nice thing is they are very seldom necessary. With the pointed bullets you should have an effective range of 200 to 250 yards before drop becomes a problem. For shooters down under Woodleigh makes a 405 grain FP for the 45-70 and if it works as well as other bullets of this brand I have tried then you have a winner. In other words, the 45-70 is a lot more flexible then many shooters realize. When you handload ammo for the Marlin keep in mind that the loaded length has to be within specs in order to feed through the magazine. Different bullets will require different seating lengths so it is a good idea to run them through the magazine before going hunting or to the range. It is a lot easier to fix it at the shop rather then the field. Another thought that will save you some money if you decide to use 300 grain Barnes bullets for hunting, why not shoot 300 grain cast for practice and sighting in. They will not shoot the same but they should be close enough to get you on paper then you can tweak the sighting.
The Barnes bullet may cost nearly a buck each while the cast will go for 15 cents or so depending on your source. If you cast your own bullets cost will go down even further.
LOAD BULLET VELOCITY COMMENT
- 12 X Herco 265 grain shot 1248 small game
- 15 X Unique 2 balls-@ 135 grain 270 grs &1@ 65 1149 defense load
- Winchester 300 grain HP 1741 ok
- Double Tap 300 grain Barnes TSX 1882 deer load
- Miwell load 300 grain 1517 ok
- 30 X 5744 300 grain cast 1386 good load
- 51.8 X IMR 4198 300 grain Sierra 2163 accurate
- 38 X H-4198 300 grain cast 1608 mild
- 15 X Unique 300 grain cast 1265 accurate
- 50 X IMR 4198 300 grain Sierra 1988 hunting
- 17 X Unique 300 grain cast 1548 Trapdoor
- 45 X Blackhorn 209 300 grain cast 1492 consistent
- 20 X Trail Boss 300 grain cast 1421 very consistent
- Hornady Leverevolution 325 grain 2059 consistent
- Hornady 325 grain FTX 1863 accurate
- 40 X 5744 325 grain FTX 1864 consistent
- Double Tap 400 grain WFNGC 1740 decent load
- 52 X RL # 7 400 grain Speer 1894 powerful *
- 55.5 X H-322 400 grain Speer 1887 accurate *
- 35 X Blackhorn 209 400 grain cast 1325 consistent
- Black Hills 405 grain cast 1208 mild, nice
- 15 X Trail Boss 405 grain cast 1093 slow
- 42 X H-322 500 grain cast 1731 heavy
- 45 X H-322 500 grain cast 1832 punishing
Accuracy is quite good with the Marlin. If you take, your time 1” groups can be obtained at 100 yards with loads that it likes. Like most efficient cartridges, it usually isn’t hard to develop good loads. Such accuracy makes it a useful hunting round well past 100 yards with drop being the main problem. Of course the flex tips will extend the range.
I did find that the trigger pull is too heavy for my taste and that made bench shooting more difficult. According to my gauge, it breaks at 10 to 11 LBS. which is about twice what I would like. It’s probably an easy fix and that would be done prior to me taking it on a hunting trip. I did return it to the factory for a fix. When I inquired they were prompt in responding and sent a label for shipment. In this day of poor service, it is good to see that someone cares about their customers.
There were no malfunctions during the firing sessions, a trait that I always get from the many Marlins that I have shot. I give the Marlin a thumbs up especially when the trigger is fixed.
- Caliber: 45/70 Gov’t.
- Capacity: 4-shot tubular magazine
- Action: Lever action; side ejection; solid top receiver; deeply blued metal surfaces; hammer block safety.
- Stock: American black walnut pistol grip stock with fluted comb; cut checkering; rubber rifle butt pad; tough Mar-Shield® finish; swivel studs.
- Barrel: 22″ with deep-cut Ballard-type rifling (6 grooves).
- Twist Rate: 1:20″ RH
- Sights: Adjustable semi-buckhorn folding rear, ramp front sight with brass bead and Wide-Scan™ hood. Solid top receiver tapped for scope mount; offset hammer spur (right or left hand) for scope use.
- Overall Length: 40.5″
- Weight: 7.5 lbs.
I guess to sell more guns Marlin introduced the .450 Marlin caliber. It is essentially a .45-70 with a special belt instead of a rim. The belt is wider then normal to prevent it from being fired in a rifle such as a 300 magnum. Such an action would result in a disaster.
Anyway, case capacity between the two rounds is virtually identical, making them ballistic twins with the same loads. If I had a choice I would go with the 45-70 round because brass would be easier to get and the 450 with all of its attributes might become extinct in a few years making it difficult to get brass or ammo. Also since it has a wider then standard belt brass would be very difficult to make from something else.
About Bob Shell
A Custom Reloader of Obsolete and Antique Ammo, Bob Shell, writes about the subject of Guns, Ammo, Shooting and Related Subjects. Visit: www.bobshellsblog.blogspot.com