Rifle Cartridges: 45-70 Vs. 30-30?

Most hunters will agree that the first thing one need to consider when choosing a new rifle is the caliber they want to use. While there are several rifle cartridges supplied today, a good hunter needs to understand his needs and abilities and also be able to match them with the type of gun caliber they decide to buy. It is important that you pair your weapon caliber to your type of hunting as this will ensure you not only get the job done, but you get it done with optimal efficiency.

On choosing the right gun caliber, the good news is that most rifles today made right for deer hunting. Larger calibers are best preferred for heavier brush while smaller caliber is used for longer distances.

In the same regard, lever action guns are becoming a popular rifle action choice for most hunting enthusiasts. This type of action guns is chambered in larger calibers and slower moving cartages. A good example of lever action loads will be the 30-30 and the 45-70 rifle caliber. Well, lever action for hunting is fine and reliable. It is generally ideal for close cover hunting where fast follow up shots are often needed.

This type of rifles is available with short barrels making them an ideal choice for use in close quarters such as in thick brush.

We have compiled this article to help you make an informed decision choosing the 45-70 vs. 30-30 cartridges with both being common among hunters and sports shooters.

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Comparison Chart





​US Govt / 1873

Winchester / 1895

Case type

Rimmed, tapered

Rimmed, bottlenecked

Bullet diameter

.458 in (11.6 mm)

.308 in (7.8 mm)

Neck diameter

.480 in (12.2 mm)

.330 in (8.4 mm)

Base diameter

.505 in (12.8 mm)

.422 in (10.7 mm)

Rim diameter

.608 in (15.4 mm)

.506 in (12.9 mm)

Rim thickness

.063 in (1.6 mm)

.070 in (1.8 mm)

Case length

2.039 in (51.8 mm)

2.105 in (53.5 mm)


The 45-70 cartridge was developed at the US Army ‘SpringfieldArmory’ in 1873 as a replacement for the 50- 70 government cartridge that had also earlier been adopted in 1866. The replacement was due to the need for a bullet that would provide increased range, penetration and shooting accuracy. It is the need for a better cartridge by the US army that led to the adoption of the 50-70 as a temporary solution until the introduction of the 45 calibers.

The introduction of the 45 caliber cartridge with the Springfield ‘trapdoor’ rifle provided for a more accurate and flat shooting. The 45-70 cartridge comes with a 2.1-inch length and .48 inch base diameter. The original black powder 45-70 cartridge was loaded with 70 grains of black powder and with a 405 grain .45 caliber bullet. This is actually where the name ‘government’originated, and to date, these cartridgesare embedded with a ‘GOVT’ abbreviation on them.

As time went by and years passed, the development of new smokeless propellants was initiated which saw the US military phase out the 45-70 caliber out of service and replacing it with the 30-40 round. This saw the 45-70 round suffer a significant market decline but again came to regain momentum when it transitioned from black powder to smokeless loads. This made it a common rifle round for hunters and sports shooters.

Because of their excellent reputation as a US Army cartridge, the 45-70 has now become a popular hunting cartridge all over the world. Their rising demand has seen manufacturers build rifles chambered for the 45-70 rounds specifically.

The 30-30 round, on the other hand, was original developed and introduced into the market by Winchester. The cartridge was developed as a 30 smokeless propellant that carried the initials 30 WCF for 30 30 WinchesterCenter Fire.

5.56x45NATO, 30-30 Winchester & .308 Winchester

5.56x45NATO, 30-30 Winchester & .308 Winchester

After being advertised for the first time in 1895, MARLIN a competing firearm company decided to release its version of this cartridge chambered in the Marlin rifle model 1893. Since they were not producing ammo at the time, Marlin partnered with a different company to replicate this round but then came to give it a different name. Since only 30 grain was used in the 30 WCF, Marlin gave it the famous 30-30 name. Following this, Winchester also dropped their 30 W.C.F.designation and started naming it 30-30 despite being originally a Marlin name.

Through the years, this particular rifle cartridge has been made available in a variety of bullet weights and types making it a very diversified round. This together with velocities ranging from 1000 FPS to 2700 FPS makes the cartridge adaptableto a wide variety of applications. It also remainsa popular hunting and sports shooting rifle load all around the world.


The 30-30 caliber has been around for a while, but despite this, the 45-70 caliber seems to offer better terminal ballistics along with longer range. The 45-70 out kills the 30-30 at any range. Comparing rounds, you will find that the trajectory difference between this two guns is not enough to give up the hitting power of the 45-70. The ft.-lbs are within 60 or so at 300 yards, but the bullet hits the animal, the 45-70 and it's over double mass, and 1.5 diameters will penetrate further and kill larger game more efficiently.

30-30 Trajectory

30-30 Trajectory

With most hunters taking shots atunder 200 yards using a lever gun, the 45-70 provides more ft. – lbs. of energy at 100 yards and over 200 ft. –Lbs.at 200 yards. There again, you are hitting it with a larger diameter and more massive bullet.

It is worth noting that 30-30 shoots flatter while the 45-70 will kill larger game efficiently. If you have used a 30-30 before, you will agree that it kills game on its tracks. You don’t have to run after game aftershootingit.

Lovers of the 45-7- on the other hand, argue that this cartridge is pretty efficient for long range shooting and the larger game as a bear. Opinions indicate that the 45-70 is slow, but then again it does not damage meat, you can eat right up to the hole.

Out of the two, the 30-30 will be the easiest trajectory to manage for most people. The 45-70, on the other hand,has the opportunity for the rawest power. The 30-30, however, remains the most economical for thecost.

45-70 Modern Trajectory

45-70 Modern Trajectory

Expense and availability

When choosing between calibers, ammunition cost is something that often comes as a consideration to be taken into account. As an example, if you visit a firearm shop and compare the 150-grain cartridges from caliber to caliber you will release that there is an enormous spread in cost.

The matter of cost and expense all comes down to the popularity of certain gun calibers over others. In this comparison, the 30-30 ammo tends to be relatively cheaper than the 45-70 ammunition. Also, for such a cartridge as the 30-30, every small store in the remote towns will likely have aready supply. This is conversely not the case with the less often used calibers. Well, the 45-70 is not less used, but most hunters give the opinion that finding ammo for this is not easy unless in amajor town or online shops.

Another thing is that the 45-70 is pricey. This is a factor that you might want to consider if you are to settle for a 45-70. In comparison, the 30-30 is more economical to reload; the ammo is cheaper and easier to find too.


On the matter of recoil, the 30-30 rifle calibers tremendous popularity is as result of its lighter recoil. With lever action rifles being the most chambered in 30-30, their cartridges are loaded with round nose bullet for safety. Users who are recoil sensitive will find this feature useful and quite appealing of 30-30 rifle calibers.

The 45-70 on the other hand, used with 350-grain bullets produces a considerable amount of recoil almost double the recoil produced by a 30-30 using 150-grain bullets. This can be quite uncomfortable and a compromise to accuracy. Yes, the recoil is manageable, but then you can’t shoot with a 45-70 all day, its effects will be felt on your shoulders.

While recoil is somewhat dependent on the style and weight of the gun as well as the load fired, as a hunter you need to choose a weapon caliber that you can perfectly manageable. With some opinions indicating that 45-70 works for heavier built individuals, you might want to reconsider your decision if you’re of a small and lighter stature.


Whether you buy the 30-30 or the 45-70 or both, they are all great choices. Just choose what you most prefer and be comfortable with it. Better yet, get both guns, most hunters do. This will allow you to tailor your loads for the application you have in mind at a particular moment. If you are sensitive to heavy recoil, you will find the 30-30 more useful for punch paper and whitetail, or even light 45-70 loads. But if you need to run after black bear, then run heavier with a 45-70.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what you can handle and what works for the moment.

Rifle Cartridges: 45-70 Vs. 30-30?
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