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

My grandpa swore by his old lever action .45-70. I shot it once growing up, and the recoil was so bad I swore I’d never go back again. My uncles would always give my grandpa a hard time, because they thought that .45-70 was big time overkill.

These two factors combined lead me to write off .45-70 at a young age. However, as time went on, I became more and more interested in the cartridge. After all, this is a very capable big game cartridge. At this time, I was set in my ways with a lever action .30-30, so I decided to compare the two.

In this article, we’ll go over my comparisons. I’ll talk about the size, ballistics, availability, and weapons availability for both cartridges. After that, we will make some recommendations for when each round has an advantage over the other.

However, before getting too deep into the comparison, we will talk about the long history of both rounds.

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.45-70 has been around since the late 19th century. It was designed in 1873 to be used in one of the Springfield rifles for the United States Army following shortly after the Civil War. For those that are unfamiliar, the naming convention comes from the diameter of the bullet and the weight, in grains, of black powder in the cartridge.

The round is slightly smaller than its predecessor, because the military was looking for a round that would be more accurate. It got a little use in the military, but was pretty quickly replaced within the first two decades.

However, the round has remained popular to this day, a century and a half later. It’s a popular hunting cartridge due to the fact that it is a larger caliber, but fires a slower moving bullet. The low velocity preserves the meat of the animal, but the bullet is large enough to drop North American big game. The bullet also plows through brush really well.

.30-30 Winchester was designed shortly after .45-70, in 1895. Similar to .45-70, it is a slower moving cartridge that is commonly used for hunting big game at closer range.

The cartridge is somewhat well known for the fact that it was the first round marketed to be used with smokeless powder. The second 30 in the naming convention actually stands for the 30 grains of smokeless powder the cartridge was originally designed for.

Comparison Chart: 45-70 vs .30-30





​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)


.45-70 projectiles are .458 inches in diameter. The cartridge as a whole is 2.55 inches long, while the casings are a little over 2.1 inches long, which allows for plenty of space for powder. The most common projectiles weigh 405 grains, but there are also some available in other weights. Hornady LEVERevolution .45-70 is available in 250 grains and 325 grains, while Winchester and Federal make ammunition that is available in 300 grains.

.30-30 projectiles measure .308 inches in diameter. They are essentially the grandfather of modern .308 Winchester. The cartridge measures 2.039 inches long, with a case length of just over 2 inches. The projectiles are commonly 150 grains, but they are available between 130 and 170 grains.

As you can see, the .45-70 projectiles are significantly wider. While it may not seem like much, that additional .15 inches is actually pretty significant. Wider bullets mean that the bullet is able to damage more tissue. On the one hand, this means you are more likely to kill whatever your target it is. On the other hand, you are also damaging more of your potential meat.

5.56x45NATO, 30-30 Winchester & .308 Winchester

5.56x45NATO, 30-30 Winchester & .308 Winchester


In terms of ballistics, the two rounds perform similarly. Both rounds have a range of somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 yards. However, .45-70 is capable of being used at a further distance, it is just pretty difficult for the modern shooter.

.45-70 bullets have a muzzle velocity of somewhere in the neighborhood of 2100 feet per second. It depends on the specific round used, but it is generally near 2100 feet per second.

.30-30 bullets have a muzzle velocity of approximately 2350 feet per second, depending on the round.

As we already talked about, the .45-70 bullet is much heavier than the .30-30 bullet. What .45-70 lacks in speed, it will make up for in weight. The larger, slower bullet is more likely to tumble on impact and damage much more tissue.

However, the .30-30 is still a decently large bullet that will damage plenty of tissue. Keep in mind that this is the size of a .308 bullet, which is commonly used for big game hunting. Just because the .45-70 is larger, don’t think that the .30-30 is nothing.

Both rounds perform well in terms of ballistics, and there are excellent ammunition choices for hunting for each.

45-70 Modern Trajectory

45-70 Modern Trajectory

30-30 Trajectory

30-30 Trajectory


Speaking of ammunition….

.45-70 ammunition is somewhat limited. Remington Core-Lokt ammo is available, and it has a 405 grain projectile. The price works out to somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.25 per round. Federal Power-Shok is available with a 300 grain projectile. It costs around $1.80 per round. Both of these are great hunting cartridges that will expand upon impact.

Horandy LEVERevolution is available in 250 and 325 grains. These projectiles have a more aerodynamic shape, so the range will be increased. These also work out to around $1.80 per round. What limited other ammunition is available is somewhere in the same price range.

.30-30 ammunition is still limited, but not quite as bad as .45-70. For comparison’s sake, we will talk about a few of the same brands of ammunition.

Remington Core-Lokt is available with either a 150 or 170 grain projectile in .30-30. These cost about $0.91 per round. Federal Power-Shok is also available in 150 or 170 grain. It costs around $0.85 per round. Hornady LEVERevolution works out to around $1.20 per round.

However, it is also worth mentioning that there are more options available in .30-30. Popular hunting rounds, such as Winchester Power Max, Hornady American Whitetail, and Browing BXR Rapid Expansion, to name a few, are available in .30-30.

In terms of ammunition and availability, .30-30 has an edge on .45-70. The ammunition is cheaper, and there are some excellent hunting and shooting cartridges available.

About Guns

For both cartridges, there are quite a few high quality weapons available. The vast majority of weapons are lever action rifles, and there are some great weapons to choose from. Both cartridges have weapons available produced by Henry, Rossi, Winchester, and Marlin.

However, we give a slight edge to .45-70 due to the fact that you can get the Marlin 1895 in .45-70. This weapon is thought of extremely highly, and is an absolutely excellent option. You can also get the Uberti Sharps rifle in .45-70, despite how expensive they are.

Rest assured though, the rifles available in .30-30 are excellent as well. The classic Henry lever action is always an excellent choice. One other interesting option is the Mossberg 464 SPX. It is a modernized lever action rifle, with an adjustable stock and a picatinny rail system. It’s not my style, but it may be worth checking out.


With all of these factors in mind, it’s time to make some recommendations.

If you are only planning on deer hunting, we recommend .30-30. It is plenty of bullet to take down a deer, and will be much more enjoyable to shoot, since it has significantly less recoil.

Similarly, if you are a smaller person, we recommend .30-30. The recoil of .45-70 would be tough on a smaller person.

If you are planning on hunting big game, such as bear, we recommend .45-70. While .30-30 will work, .45-70 is a deadly cartridge for big game. Having the extra bullet certainly won’t hurt.

If you are on a tight budget, we recommend .30-30. The weapons seem to be slightly cheaper, and the ammunition is much cheaper, which will save you money over the long run.

If you’re just looking for a lever action to shoot for fun, we recommend .30-30. It’s less expensive and more enjoyable to shoot.


As you can see, there’s a lot to like about both cartridges. Each of them has their advantages, and it would be pretty difficult to choose between the two. Hopefully, seeing all the comparisons laid out here has helped guide your decision making.

Overall, .30-30 is more enjoyable to shoot since it has less recoil. It is also much less expensive, and there are some excellent hunting cartridges that are commonly available.

.45-70 is a large, deadly cartridge, and there are some slightly better weapons available. In terms of sheer big game hunting, there really aren’t many better cartridges than .45-70.

Hopefully this has answered all of your questions about the primary differences between the two cartridges!

23 thoughts on “Rifle Cartridges: 45-70 Vs. 30-30?”

  1. John,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. The in-depth data was very informative in comparison to YouTube posting.
    Thank you ,

  2. Thank you for presenting your knowledge of these two rounds, and for taking the time to do so. Respectfully, I must comment that this article didn’t really provide any useful insight regarding either caliber. The average person can find any of this information just by reading the box of most factory-loaded ammunition available for either round. What can you tell the world about you and your friends’ and your neighbors’ own experiences to help people decide which cartridge is more useful?

    Hamway Grande

    • I agree with you, the article starts with “In this article, we will review both cartridges in depth.” then doesn’t really say anything.

  3. Allow me to enter the debate, albeit from the point of “meat damage“ versus calibre versus bullet weight (mass). I am a South African hunter and qualify as a senior citizen. I have hunted most seriously from the winter of 1973 (Southern hemisphere), admittedly mostly plains game; However, I have also been privileged to hunt as a participant of the One Shot Antelope Hunt in Wyoming, an altogether unforgettable experience!
    Having accounted for a few hundred antelope over the many seasons, ranging from the iconic Springbok through Gemsbok, Kudu and Eland, I can attest to some interesting facts and statistics- which are worthy of a veritable treatise. In short, though, may I put forward the following: my findings have led me to the conclusion that the higher the velocity the greater the meat damage irrespective of bullet weight; nevertheless bullet weight / mass is an integral factor. It has also been my experience that the lighter the bullet the more susceptible it is to the effect of cross winds over distance. Furthermore, when taking a shot upwards of, say, 180 yards, it is not always possible to see the tops of long grass within your line of sight; and should these grasses be a factor then heavier bullets are more stable should they come in contact with the said grass tips. It goes without saying that a tumbling bullet, should it reach its target, causes immense meat damage. I hope that my contribution is useful to advancing the debate.

    Kind regards,

    Ted Sweetnam.

  4. I would also like to add that in states such as mine (Ohio) you cannot hunt deer with bottleneck ed cartridges. So this can also be the final decidino factor

  5. You mentioned in the article “However, the round has remained popular to this day, a decade and a half later. ” I am pretty sure you meant to say Century and Half. Other than that pretty good article.

  6. Great article! Exactly the information I was looking for without a lot of technical jargon to confuse me.

  7. Great article the two choices,I am not a big time hunter.Just a USMC Viet Nam combat vet that has seen lots of carnage. Never been to tango-mango, e-i-e-o killing animals.just trying to learn about the ammo comparisons and price is all I need.
    Thanks Eric,
    Paisano USMC

    • If you’re not afraid to buy a box of cartridges for around $48 bucks , and you’re hunting grizzlies regularly, then the 45-70 is for you . If you hunt for deer , and like to find your ammunition at the local grocery store , then the 30-30 will be your best choice . Find someone with a 45-70 and take a shot or two . That should end the debate !

  8. Well done, Johnny. The first rifle over a 22 that I shot was a Marlin 30 30. So I have a soft spot for those. I think a I like my 45 70 just a little bit better though.

  9. I own both the 30 30 Marlin and the 1895 45 70 Gov. And could not ask for a better weapon. They strive on producing the Best Quality weapons on the market.

  10. One thought on 45/70 vs 30/30.
    In many states, until recently, it has been illegal to use anything other than a shotgun firing deer slugs during “Gun Week” of hunting season (Or Black Powder, which has an additional season). The rest of the time, it’s bows only.

    These states have loosened their sphincters a little, to allow for a limited number of calibers to be used. These calibers MUST be straight walled. This means .357 Mag, .450 Socom and 45/70. Because the 30/30 has a bottle-necked cartridge, it is not legal for hunting in these states. As a result, many hunters have bought Marlins, Henrys and various other rifles chambered in 45/70. This should account for the resurgence in sales of both guns and ammo.

    Furthermore, it is possible for a shooter to reload 45/70 WHILE IN THE TREESTAND with minimal equipment. Because this is a straight walled cartridge, the process is very easy (I’ve done it, while on business trips, during evenings where I was cooped up in my hotel room).

    For these reasons, I am partial to 45/70. To seal the deal, my son and I went bear hunting in Manitoba. I was able to take my bear down with a single shot. My son, in his impatience, fired 5 times, instead of allowing the bear to fall from blood loss, which would have happened, because the first shot was in the animal’s X-ring. As a 19 year old on a hunt that was, for both of us, a first hunt, he was unaware that an animal could have a bullet through the heart and lungs, yet still make it into the bushes.

    Unlike performing military or police house raids, one is not supposed to hit the quarry in the head. My son and I are both capable marksmen. Either of us could have done so, under the circumstances. I don’t understand why this is frowned upon, when it would be more humane. The animal’s brain would have been disconnected at that moment and the bear would have dropped in place. I know the skull would have to be reassembled, for Boone & Crockett. There would have been no such need, if the bear wasn’t that big or the objective was filling the freezer. As I understand it, taxidermy entails stretching the skin over a prefabricated form, anyway.

  11. Some years back my first rifle wa.s a marlin 35. I had just gotten out of the Army and was used to firing an M1 Garrand the M1 did kick , was pretty accurate and fun to shoot. the Marlin 35 kicked like an oversized camel and really gave me fits at the range.I can’t imagine the 45-70. The Marlin action was great and it was a very well built rifle.today I mostly fire hand guns mostly revolvers .My favorite is my colt Python with a six Inch barrel . The Python is like shooting for dummies.I kind of just keep it clean and look at it .My todays Favorite for plinking is my Canik TP9SFT really fun gun. Great trigger very accurate easy to maintain.My other favorite and recent addition to my stash is S&W 686-6 performance center competitor a little weighty but very accurate and easy to fire and clean

  12. A friend of mine and myself got in a tight on night with some black rushing hogs one ,. In full charge Ricky only had time to squat as well as myself to make sure we didn’t miss our Target, this couldn’t happen. As he placed his mark pulled the trigger striking the hog point blank, causing the hog to turn on me as I preform the same action. No room for missing the target this is a life and death moment…as I’m in a full squatting position I also hit dead center.. the last we saw was the ass of the hog disappear into the dark… So in this situation I’m thinking the 45 70 would have more of what hour looking for. It may have more kick but in the pinch you will be thankful .

  13. I shoot metallic black powder rifle matches with a 45/70 It is a very capable cartridge for that out to 1000 yards and a 500 grain bullet yes recoil can be a little stout over time , but the cartridge is up to the task i have used it on white tail deer up to 250 yards with excellent tesults my plans are to use it (probably in my sharps) for a future elk hunt do not over look the 45/70 for big game use

  14. I have a Marlin 30-30 336cs and a Marlin 45-70 1895G and love them both. I do carry the 45-70 in bear country tho…

    I have 2 marlin 30=30s, (because I have two boys) and an 1895 to extend my ‘collection’. The 30-30 has a reduced recoil that allows for practice without too much shoulder brusing when young. I’ve always told them “don’t worry about the recoil, your first shot should be the only one you need”. Given that line of thought they still prefer the 30=30 over the 45=70, which is fine. We reload everything and keep ballistic info on all loads, otherwise we would only be shooting 22 rimfire based on finances.
    Thanks for a nice ‘light’ write-up.

  16. I enjoyed your article very much. I have two 30-30’s. Both are Winchester Mod. 94’s. One is a traditional and the other is a saddle gun. I enjoy shooting them, but, I have always wanted an old trap door 45-70. I usually shoot 170 gr. bullets in my 30-30’s and they will really roll a Coyote.

  17. Great article and discussions. As I’m preparing for my first lever action purchase, couldnt have been more helpful. Thank you!


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