Trying to decide between the 450 Bushmaster vs 45-70 Government cartridges? Here’s what you need to know about them.
Both the 450 Bushmaster and the 45-70 Government are fairly popular .45 caliber centerfire rifle cartridges these days. While there is definitely a lot of overlap in their capabilities, there are some significant differences between the 450 Bushmaster vs 45-70 Government cartridges you should be aware of though.
While they’re popular and effective centerfire rifle cartridges for many hunting situations, it’s still easy to overlook some important details about their performance and best uses. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how many people get confused about the strengths and weaknesses of the 450 Bushmaster and the 45-70 Government.
In fact, despite their big differences in outward appearance, the two cartridges are very similar in performance. Even so, there’s some important differences to keep in mind and each is better suited for different hunting tasks.
In this article, I’m going to investigate the 450 Bushmaster vs 45-70 debate in detail and provide some insight into which cartridge is better suited for common hunting situations so you can make an informed decision on which one will work best for your individual needs as a hunter or shooter.
Before we get started, I have an administrative note for you.
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History Of The 45-70 Government and 450 Bushmaster
The American Civil War and the years immediately following the conflict saw a surge in development of new breech-loading rifles and cartridges using metallic cases for both civilian and military use in the United States.
With this in mind, the United States Army began the search for a new cartridge and breech-loading rifle to replace the muzzleloading rifles and paper cartridges most American Soldiers still primarily used at the time.
The Army temporarily adopted the .50-70 Government cartridge and the single shot Springfield Model 1866 breech-loading rifle as a short-lived improvement over the more primitive muzzleloading rifles used during the Civil War.
They chose an even more improved rifle/cartridge combination as a replacement in 1873: the Springfield Model 1873.
Better known as the Trapdoor Springfield, the single-shot 1873 Springfield rifle served as the primary service rifle cartridge used by the United States Army until the .30-40 Krag came along near the end of the 19th Century.
The Trapdoor Springfield rifle debuted with a new .45 caliber cartridge using a powder charge of 70 grains of black powder in a copper case. The Army used a couple of different loads firing either 405 grain or 500 grain bullets for the cartridge.
These performance specifications are where the name of the cartridge comes from.
The standard naming convention in common use at the time that consisted of the caliber of the cartridge followed by the standard load of powder in grains. Since the new cartridge was designed at the United States government operated Springfield Armory and used either a 405 grain or a 500 grain, .45 caliber bullet (.458″ diameter) propelled by 70 grains of powder, the cartridge received the designation “.45-70-405” or “.45-70-500” depending on the exact load.
Commercial publications and catalogs from that time period also soon began referring to the cartridge as the “.45-70 Government” (.45-70 Govt or .45-70 Gov for short).
This original black powder load pushed a cast lead bullet at a velocity of about 1,350 feet per second. Producing more than 1,600 foot pounds of muzzle energy, this cartridge was one of the most powerful loads available at the time and the Army used that loading through the Indian Wars in the late 1800s.
The U.S. Army continued to use various models of this rifle and cartridge in limited numbers through the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection in the late 1800s and early 1900s until the Springfield 1892 “Krag–Jørgensen” rifle eventually supplemented and then finally replaced the Trapdoor Springfield.
In addition to the many variations of the Trapdoor Springfield rifle and carbine the Army used, several early Gatling Gun models fired the .45-70 Government cartridge. The US Navy and Marine Corps also used the cartridge in a few different rifles as well.
The .45-70 Govt also quickly became popular among sportsmen in the United States due to excellent reputation the cartridge earned while in use with the Army. In response to significant demand for good rifles chambered in the cartridge, it didn’t take long for the major manufacturers to begin building .45-70 Govt rifles specifically marketed and designed for civilian hunters.
Soon, hunters had access to a number of high quality lever action and single shot rifles and repeaters such as the Remington-Keene, the Remington Rolling Block, the Sharps 1874 “Buffalo Rifle,” the Winchester-Hotchkiss, Winchester Model 1885 “High Wall,” and the Winchester Model 1886.
Even when using the relatively simple solid lead bullets available at the time, the .45-70 was an quite effective on game ranging from whitetail deer and black bear all the way up to the larger, tougher, and sometimes more dangerous species like moose, grizzly bear, and bison.
The use of modern smokeless powder has further improved the performance of the cartridge and it remains a very popular and effective hunting cartridge to this day.
Want to learn more about the .45-70 Government cartridge in detail? Read the article below.
Now we’ll switch gears and talk about the .450 Bushmaster.
That story begins almost a full century later with the .223 Remington and the AR-15.
The US military again began the search for a new rifle and cartridge just a few short years after replacing the M-1 Garand and the .30-06 Springfield with the M-14 battle rifle and 7.62x51mm NATO in the 1950s.
The military eventually settled on the high velocity 5.56x45mm cartridge and the M-16 rifle, a military adaption of the civilian AR-15, which was itself a scaled down version of the AR-10.
Derived from the .223 Remington (also known as the .223 Rem), the original M193 ball load for the 5.56x45mm fired a .224″ 55 grain full metal jacket bullet at 3,250 feet per second (1,290 foot pounds of energy). Unfortunately, the rifle and cartridge suffered through some major teething problems during the Vietnam War, but modifications to the rifle and the propellant used in the cartridge eventually solved most of those issues.
NATO conducted extensive testing after the Vietnam War in an effort to supplement the 7.62x51mm NATO with another standardized rifle cartridge for the members of the alliance.
They ended up selecting the Belgian SS109 variant of the 5.56x45mm. Known in the US military as the M855, the new NATO ball load fired a 62 grain full metal jacket bullet at 3,025 feet per second (1,260 ft-lbs of energy). Often referred to as “green tip ammo” because of the green paint on the bullet, the US Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps formally adopted the M855 along with the updated M-16A2 rifle during the 1980s.
The M855 bullet incorporated a steel penetrator, which markedly improved the penetration capabilities of the round compared to the old 55gr M193 load. By and large, those who used the M193 in combat considered the terminal performance of the bullet adequate. However, many Soldiers and Marines who used the M-16A2 in combat during the 1990s and early 2000s complained about the poor stopping power of the M855 ball round though.
Civilian interest in the AR-15 and .223 Remington cartridge steadily grew during the second half of the 20th Century, particularly for varmint hunting and target shooting. However, many big game hunters had concerns similar to those shared by many in the military regarding the effectiveness of the .223 Remington cartridge on deer sized game.
These issues led to the development of several larger caliber cartridges featuring heavier bullets designed to function in AR-15 rifles like the .300 Blackout, 6.5 Grendel, the 6.8 Remington SPC (also known as the 6.8 SPC), the .458 SOCOM and the .50 Beowulf during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Well, the .450 Bushmaster was yet another bigger bore AR cartridge resulting from those same concerns.
Colonel Jeff Cooper described a rifle he called the “Thumper” in some of his writings. Basically, he thought an ideal hunting firearm was a semi-automatic rifle .44 caliber or larger that was capable of taking large game out to 250 yards.
The little .223 Remington obviously did not fill the need for a heavy hitting big bore cartridge.
However, Tim LeGendre of LeMag Firearms decided to build a hard hitting .45 caliber cartridge designed for use in the AR platform that he developed using a cut down and necked up .284 Winchester case.
He called the new cartridge the .45 Professional.
LeGendre licensed the cartridge to Bushmaster, who in turn collaborated with Hornady in bringing the project to market. Hornady and Bushmaster made some slight modifications to the .45 Professional and released the new cartridge as the .450 Bushmaster (sometimes called the .450 BM for short) in the early 2000s.
The new straight walled cartridge functions in the AR-15 platform and, pushing a .452″ 250gr bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,200 feet per second (2,686 ft-lbs of energy), delivers the bone crushing performance out of an easy to handle semi-auto rifle like Colonel Cooper originally envisioned.
Interestingly, while the .450 Bushmaster is used all over the United States, it’s one of the more popular rifle cartridges that met the relatively strict definition of a “straight-walled” cartridge as required by hunting regulations in certain states.
In particular, states like Iowa and Ohio require hunters to use a straight-walled cartridge during the modern firearm deer season. This also applies on public land in Indiana as well as in parts of southern Michigan.
Those states have more restrictive regulations on what constitutes a legal cartridge to hunt with ostensibly because they’re more densely populated and they want hunters to use handgun cartridges with a shorter effective range.
For this reason, lots of hunters use shotguns, handguns, muzzleloaders, and rifles chambered in straight-walled cartridges like the .450 Bushmaster and sometimes the .45-70 (as well as the newer 350 Legend) in those states.
Since the .450 Bushmaster offers significantly better ballistics than rifled shotgun slugs, and since it’s available in a number of reasonably priced deer rifles, the cartridge has really caught on in that part of the country.
450 Bushmaster vs 45-70 Cartridge Sizes
You can see differences between the 450 Bushmaster and the 45-70 Government in the photos below.
First, the 45-70 Government is physically larger than the 450 Bushmaster.
Both are straight walled cartridges, but the 45-70 has a longer overall length, a longer case length, and a larger diameter case than the 450 Bushmaster.
Specifically, the 45-70 cartridge has an overall length of 2.55″ and a 2.105″ long case. The 450 Bushmaster has an overall length of 2.25″ and a 1.7″ long case. The 45-70 Government has a case diameter of .504″ while the 450 Bushmaster has a .500″ case diameter.
That said, the 450 Bushmaster will easily fit in a standard AR-15 style rifle while the longer 45-70 will not.
Furthermore, the 45-70 Government is a rimmed case that’s .608″ in diameter while the 450 Bushmaster uses a rebated rim that’s .473″ in diameter.
For those reasons, the 45-70 has significantly more case capacity than the 450 Bushmaster.
Bullet size and bullet weight are other important differences between the 450 Bushmaster vs 45-70. The .450 Bushmaster uses .452″ diameter bullets while the 45-70 uses slightly larger .458″ bullets.
Most .450 Bushmaster ammo typically has bullet weights in the 158gr to 300 gr range, with 250gr and 260 gr bullets being the most popular.
On the other hand, while it’s possible to find .45-70 ammo shooting bullets weighing as little as 250 grains and as heavy as 540 grains (possibly even more in some cases), most .45-70 factory loads use 300 grain, 325 grain, 350 grain, or 405 grain bullets.
Finally, the 450 Bushmaster is also loaded to a higher SAAMI maximum average pressure of 38,500psi vs just 28,000psi for the 45-70 Government.
These pressure figures can be somewhat misleading though.
This is because the 450 Bushmaster was designed from the start to use smokeless powder and function in an AR-15, while the .45-70 Govt was originally designed for black powder before being adopted to use smokeless powder.
The 45-70 is an older cartridge and there’s a wide range of rifles manufactured in that chambering. For this reason, ammunition manufacturers will often manufacture ammunition in different power levels for use in different rifles.
For instance, like many other reloading manuals, my Lyman 50th Edition reloading manual has 3 different categories of 45-70 levels: those safe in a Trapdoor Springfield (maximum pressures in the 15,000-18,000psi range), those safe to use in 1886 Winchester and Marlin 1895 rifles (maximum pressures in the 22,000-28,000psi range), and those safe to use in the Ruger No. 1 (maximum pressures in 30,000-39,900psi range).
We’ll cover this in more detail later in the article, just realize that the SAAMI standards for the .45-70 can be artificially low because of all those older rifles.
Even so, the 450 Bushmaster is still designed to operate at higher pressures than the 45-70 Government in general.
Note: while the powder capacity figures listed below do give a good indication of the differences between the two cartridges, exact case capacities vary slightly according to the brand of brass used.
450 Bushmaster vs 45-70 Ballistics
Despite the differences in the external dimensions of these cartridges, their ballistic performance is closer than you might think. This is illustrated in the table below comparing Hornady Black and LEVERevolution, Federal Power Shok, Winchester Power Point, and Remington Core Lokt factory ammunition.
The 450 Bushmaster loads use 250gr FTX (.210 BC), 260gr Power Point (.191 BC), and 300gr Power Shok Soft Point (.225 BC) bullets.
Specifically, the 45-70 Government loads use 325gr FTX (.230 BC), 300gr Power Point (.283 BC), 300gr Power Shok Soft Point (.289 BC), and 405gr Core Lokt (.281 BC) bullets.
Notice that, while all the bullets used in this comparison aren’t very aerodynamic, the various bullets used in those 45-70 Government loads all have a higher BC than those used in the comparable 450 Bushmaster loads.
The Hornady ammunition options are higher velocity loadings, the Power Point loads are medium power loadings using lighter for caliber bullets in the 450 Bushmaster and heavier bullets for the 45-70, the Power Shok loads are also medium power loadings that use the same weight bullets for each cartridge, and the Remington Core Lokt loading for the 45-70 is a very low powered loading that mimics the original ballistics of the cartridge and is safe to use in a Trap Door Springfield.
All seven loads used a 150 yard zero.
As you can see, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the two cartridges in terms of energy and trajectory.
The 450 Bushmaster handily outperforms the old “Trapdoor Springfield safe” 45-70 Core Lokt load, but can’t quite reach the performance of the higher octane 45-70 LEVERevolution load. However, the 450 Bushmaster also has a small edge over the run of the mill Power Shok and Power Point 45-70 loads at closer range since it fires a lighter bullet at a faster velocity.
Those lighter 250gr and 260gr 450 Bushmaster loads have a slightly flatter trajectory than the 300gr 45-70 loads out to 250 yards, but this is honestly a very small difference.
Interestingly, the modern 45-70 loads all have more retained kinetic energy out at 200-250 yards since they use a slightly more aerodynamic bullet.
All things considered, it’s pretty much a wash and both cartridges have very, very similar performance at the shorter ranges they’re both most effective at. The 45-70 does have a bit of an edge in terms of trajectory and retained energy with that LEVERevolution load, and that lower powered 45-70 load is outclassed by everything, but I think it’s safe to say that they’re otherwise almost identical in terms of performance.
The chart below compares how much a 10 mile per hour crosswind impacts those same 450 Bushmaster and 45-70 loads out to 500 yards.
Once again, there’s quite a bit of overlap here and both cartridges have very similar performance.
The 45-70 has a small edge here because it uses higher BC bullets, but there’s still not a tremendous difference at the shorter ranges the cartridges are most effective at.
Now let’s talk about recoil.
The table below compares the recoil produced by handloads that approximate the performance of the 250gr 450 Bushmaster load to 45-70 both the lower pressure 405gr 45-70 load and the higher pressure 325gr 45-70 load when fired from identical 7 pound rifles.
Felt recoil will vary from shooter to shooter and rifle to rifle, but free recoil energy is still a useful way to compare cartridges.
As you can see, the 450 Bushmaster is right in the middle: it has about 23% more recoil than the low pressure 45-70 load, but the higher pressure 45-70 load in turn has about 47% more recoil than the 450 Bushmaster load.
For reference, the 405gr 45-70 load and the 450 Bushmaster load have recoil more or less on par with cartridges like the 270 Winchester and 30-06 Springfield in rifles of similar weight.
All things considered, most hunters should be able to handle recoil from the 450 Bushmaster without too much trouble.
That higher powered 45-70 load is getting up there in terms of recoil, but it’s still not terrible and can be further mitigated with the use of a muzzle brake or a suppressor.
I wouldn’t say the 450 Bushmaster is a light recoiling cartridge, but it still has an advantage in this respect, especially for hunters who don’t tolerate recoil that well.
Don’t underestimate the impact that recoil has on the ability of a person to shoot accurately either.
Some people do handle recoil better than others, but all other things being equal, they will absolutely shoot more accurately with a milder recoiling cartridge.
What about 450 Bushmaster vs 45-70 accuracy?
It’s tough to pick a winner here. Both cartridges are capable of good accuracy, but neither one is really known for precision shooting.
The .45-70 is still used by many black powder silhouette shooters and cowboy action shooters, but that’s about the extent of its usage for competitive shooting. The 450 Bushmaster isn’t really used in competition shooting at all.
Additionally, it’s unusual to encounter rifles chambered in either cartridge that are exceptionally accurate. As we’ll cover here shortly, the 45-70 is most commonly available in lever-action rifles.
For a number of reasons, lever-action rifles are generally not quite as accurate as bolt action rifles. However, this isn’t really that big of an issue for most hunters and good lever-action rifles are usually still accurate enough.
Christensen Arms also specifically excludes the 450 Bushmaster from their accuracy guarantee.
You probably won’t be shooting sub-MOA with a rifle chambered in either cartridge, but a rifle that shoots 2 or 2.5 MOA is still plenty accurate for just about anything you’d be using a rifle in either cartridge for.
Like I said, that’s not to say that these cartridges aren’t capable of great accuracy at times or are strictly limited to short range shots. Indeed, the .45-70 was a “long range” cartridge back when it first came on the scene.
Buffalo hunters back in the late 1800s, used “tang” or “ladder” iron sights with Vernier scales that allowed for very precise elevation adjustments. As long as he estimated the range correctly, a skilled marksman using a high quality rifle and sight could accurately hit targets out past 1,000 yards using the .45-70. That said though, hitting a target at 1,000 yards is a far cry from taking a shot on an animal at that range.
Due to these constraints, while the .45-70 Govt is popular among black powder silhouette shooters, few modern hunters use the cartridge at ranges past 200 yards.
The same is true to a certain extent with the 450 Bushmaster. That cartridge does have an advantage with a flatter trajectory and less recoil (with certain loadings), both of which facilitate better shot placement.
So, it’s possible that the .450 Bushmaster may have a tiny edge in accuracy potential at typical hunting ranges, but it’s not a big edge.
Additionally, there are a couple of other factors that are also worth discussing.
First, the 45-70 Government uses larger diameter bullets than the 450 Bushmaster.
Specifically, the larger diameter .458″ bullets used by the cartridge have about 3% more frontal surface area (also known as cross sectional area) than the .452″ bullets used by the 450 Bushmaster (.1647 vs .1604 square inches). All other things being equal, a bigger bullet will make a bigger hole, cause more tissue damage, and result in more blood loss.
This is a small advantage in favor of the 45-70, especially on bigger game.
At the same time, the 45-70 also has a small edge over the 450 Bushmaster in bullet sectional density.
Sectional density (SD) is a measure of the ratio of the diameter of a projectile to its mass.
All other things equal, a heavier bullet of a given caliber will be longer and therefore have a higher sectional density and consequently penetrate deeper than projectiles with a lower mass and sectional density.
As an example, 250 grain, 260 grain, and 300 grain .452″ bullets have sectional densities of .175, .177 and .211 respectively.
Compare that to 250 grain, 300 grain, 325 grain, 350 grain, 405gr and 500 grain .458″ bullets which have sectional densities of .170, .204, .221, .238, .276, and .341 respectively.
While the lighter 45-70 bullets are outclassed by the heaviest 450 Bushmaster bullets, the 45-70 has the edge with heavier bullets and also has the edge with the most common bullet weights for each cartridge (like 250gr bullets for the 450 Bushmaster vs 300gr bullets for the 45-70).
So where do we stand with each cartridge?
450 Bushmaster vs 45-70
The 45-70 Government fires a larger diameter, often heavier, and usually more aerodynamic bullets at a slower velocity than the 450 Bushmaster. Trajectories and retained energy are similar, but the 45-70 is better suited for use on really big game and in lever action rifles.
45-70 vs 450 Bushmaster Ammo
Both the 450 Bushmaster and 45-70 cartridges are fairly popular among hunters and shooters in the United States. Neither is anywhere close to the level of cartridges like the .223 Remington or .308 Winchester in terms of raw ammo sales though.
I’d say it’s pretty close, but the 450 Bushmaster is probably more commonly used of the two, but the 45-70 is by no means rare though and also has a pretty dedicated base of support.
So, they’re both in pretty common use and ammo is usually not too hard to find for both. Availability also likely varies regionally though.
For instance, more people tend to use the .45-70 Government up in Alaska where its hard hitting characteristics are useful on creatures like moose and brown bear. Likewise, the 450 Bushmaster is more popular in the mid-west.
In general, 450 Bushmaster ammo is often a little cheaper than .45-70 ammo though. This is especially true with cheap FMJ ammo for use at the range (which is available in 450 Bushmaster, but not 45-70).
There are some other important differences in the types of ammo available for each cartridge though.
First, the 45-70 tends to use heavier and more solidly constructed rifle bullets while the 450 Bushmaster uses smaller diameter, lighter, and less tough pistol bullets.
This means that in general, 45-70 ammo choices are better suited to larger and/or tougher game than is the case with the 450 Bushmaster.
There’s some overlap there though. For instance, many ammo choices for both work great on deer and the Barnes VOR-TX line is an example of an ammo option loaded with tougher bullets that’s available as a factory load for both cartridges.
Like I said though, that’s a general trend for both cartridges at this instant though.
The big ammunition manufacturers like Barnes, Buffalo Bore, Federal Premium, Hornady, Remington, and Winchester all produce a decent selection of .450 Bushmaster and .45-70 Govt ammunition.
During normal times, it’s usually easy to find ammo for both cartridges and most gun or sporting goods stores will have a some 450 Bushmaster and .45-70 ammo in stock.
Ammo availability is also usually excellent online and the bigger retailers typically have a good selection of quality factory ammo for both cartridges as well.
Both cartridges are offered in most of the really popular hunting ammo lines: Barnes VOR-TX, Federal Power Shok, Federal Fusion, Hornady Subsonic, Remington Core Lokt, and Winchester Super X (just to name a few).
Additionally, there are some isolated cases where one cartridge is available in a certain ammo line, but the other isn’t. This reflects both the performance characteristics and the common uses of each cartridge.
For instance, since the .45-70 Govt is most common in lever-action rifles with tubular magazines, most loads feature a round nosed or flat-tipped bullet. This is because bullets are stacked one in front of the other and recoil could potentially cause a bullet with a pointed tip to detonate the primer of the cartridge in front of it.
Unfortunately, those round or flat nose bullets have a low ballistic coefficient and poor downrange performance. The upside is that those flat nosed bullets do tend to perform really well on game and deliver excellent terminal performance.
Designers at Hornady attempted to remedy the problem with those low BC bullets with their “LEVERevolution”, line of ammunition for cartridges like the .30-30 Winchester, .35 Remington, and .45-70 Govt (but not 450 Bushmaster) that are popular in lever guns. This ammo is loaded with bullets that have a pointed, flexible, polymer tip.
This ammunition doesn’t bring those cartridges up anywhere close to the level of stuff like the 7mm Rem Mag or 300 Win Mag, LEVERevolution ammunition does use more aerodynamic bullets and generally has a higher velocity than typical ammunition for those cartridges. As a result, this ammunition does have a slightly flatter trajectory, a slightly increased effective range, and retains more energy at typical hunting ranges.
Those polymer tips also help initiate expansion upon impact and they also tend to deliver devastating terminal performance on all manner of game.
The situation is a little different with the 450 Bushmaster though. Since it’s more common in bolt-action rifles and the AR-15 platform, most 450 Bushmaster loads use pointed bullets.
Additionally, Hornady offers the cartridge in their Black line of ammunition, which is designed for use in modern sporting rifles. This ammo is intended to deliver reliable performance with different barrel lengths, with different gas systems, with piston driven rifles, and in suppressed as well as unsuppressed rifles.
Those scenarios all present different challenges for designers than those presented by bolt-action or lever-action rifles, which is why Hornady Black ammo is available in cartridges like 223/5.56, 6.5 Grendel, 300 Blackout, and 450 Bushmaster (but not 45-70).
During the 2020-2022 ammo shortage, the difference between the two cartridges has become pretty scrambled and (at least where I live and shop) 450 Bushmaster ammo is usually easier to find than ammo for the 45-70.
Ammo availability is also usually decent online and the bigger retailers typically have a good selection of quality factory ammo for both cartridges as well (but the 450 Bushmaster will likely still be easier to find, even online).
If you’d like to learn more about some of the various hunting ammunition choices for the 450 Bushmaster and 45-70 Government, read these articles:
Handloaders will appreciate the fact that reloading components for both cartridges are somewhat widely available and there’s an excellent variety of bullet choices for each cartridge. So, you should not have much trouble working up a good custom load for either one if you like to handload.
The .45 Colt, .454 Casull, and .460 S&W all use .452″ bullets like the Bushmaster
45-70 vs 450 Bushmaster Rifles
There is also a pretty good selection of good hunting rifles chambered in both 450 Bushmaster and .45-70, though once again, there is a big split in the types of rifles available for each.
Indeed, this is another major difference between the 450 Bushmaster vs 45-70.
Since it’s a rimmed cartridge, .45-70 Government is most commonly, though not exclusively, chambered in single shot and lever action firearms (with the notable exception of the Browning BLR).
In addition to the various rifles and carbines originally chambered in .45-70 from the late 1800s that are still floating around out there, there are several different firearms in current production chambered in that cartridge.
First, the Marlin 1895 lever action (which is the bigger brother to the Marlin 336) is likely the single most popular rifle manufactured in .45-70. Those Marlin rifles are available in several configurations with different barrel and magazine lengths and styles as well as various finishes.
In particular, the Marlin Model 1895G Guide Gun is one of the most iconic .45-70 rifles in current production and is a favorite among hunting guides in places like Alaska who need a fast pointing and hard hitting rifle in case they must deal with an angry moose or brown/grizzly bear at close range.
In addition to the Marlin lever action, the various Henry .45-70 rifles are also very nice and are continually growing in popularity. Winchester also continues to manufacture the legendary lever action 1886 in .45-70 as well.
Additionally, though it’s no longer in current production, the Ruger No. 1 single shot rifle was manufactured in .45-70 for a time and those rifles can be found occasionally on the secondary market. Ruger has produced that rifle in darn near every centerfire cartridge at one point or another over the years, but not 450 Bushmaster (at least not yet anyway).
Finally, a number of Siamese Mauser bolt action rifles were converted to .45-70 over the years, so they’re an option as well for someone who wants a bolt action .45-70.
On the other hand, the 450 Bushmaster is much more common in bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles.
Bushmaster was the first gun manufacturer to produce firearms in .450 Bushmaster and the cartridge is still available in various semi-automatic rifles produced by that company.
In addition to Bushmaster, Ruger also produces their semi-automatic AR-556 in .450 Bushmaster. CVA produces their single shot Hunter and Scout rifles in the cartridge. The same goes for Savage, Howa, and Ruger with their bolt-action 110, Mini, American Ranch, and Gunsite Scout rifles.
Heck, you can even get a Christensen Arms Mesa or Ridgeline or a Bergara B-14 in 450 Bushmaster as well.
450 Bushmaster vs 45-70: Which Is Right For You?
Do you primarily hunt medium sized game like whitetail deer, feral hogs, or black bears at ranges within 200 yards? Both the 450 Bushmaster and 45-70 Government are outstanding deer hunting cartridges and will work on great deer sized game with good shot placement.
Don’t let anybody try to tell you that the 450 Bushmaster or the .45-70 is overkill on deer. Lots of deer hunters use these cartridge each year and there’s not a darn thing wrong with using either cartridge on deer sized game (I certainly have), but it’s really more gun than you need for that sort of work though.
Go with the 450 Bushmaster if you want to hunt with a bolt-action rifle, a modern sporting rifle, or if you’re required to use a straight wall cartridge.
Likewise, go with the 45-70 Government if you want to hunt with a lever-action rifle or if you just want to use a cartridge with a little more history.
Are you looking for the cartridge better suited for long range hunting for game like mule deer or pronghorn in open country where you might need to take a shot at several hundred yards? While both have a much longer effective range than a shotgun with slugs or pistol cartridges like the .45 Colt and .44 Magnum when fired from a carbine, neither the 450 Bushmaster nor the .45-70 is a good choice for hunting situations where you might need to take a shot at ranges over 200 yards.
Of the two, the 45-70 Government does have a flatter trajectory and a little bit longer effective range, when using modern ammunition like Hornady’s LEVERevolution line. You might be able to make a shot on a deer out to around 300 yards or so under ideal conditions with the 45-70, but I think that’s pushing it if we’re being honest. Something like the 7mm Rem Mag, the .30-06, or even the 6.5 Creedmoor is a much better choice for that sort of hunting at longer ranges.
Do you want a hunting cartridge that’s well suited for use on bigger game like bison, moose, or elk hunting? The .450 Bushmaster will certainly get the job done on those bigger creatures with good shot placement and under ideal conditions. That said, the .45-70 Govt is a much better choice for use on really big game because it uses larger diameter, heavier, and often tougher bullets.
Additionally, ammunition suitable for that sort of hunting is really limited for the 450 Bushmaster. Remember: that cartridge uses slightly modified pistol bullets and they aren’t ideal for deep penetration on really big game (especially compared to the options for the 45-70).
Regardless of which cartridge you choose, realize that your effective range is fairly limited with these cartridges, especially on really large game. They’re both certainly capable of cleanly and ethically taking bigger game, but you should only take shots within 150 yards or so (100 yards is even better).
Are you specifically hunting brown or grizzly bear? What if you hunt in Alaska or Canada and need a heavy hitting cartridge just in case you find yourself on the wrong end of a grizzly/brown bear attack? Once again, the .45-70 Government is the best choice here hands down and is one of the best bear defense cartridges available. After all, there’s a reason why the Marlin Guide Gun is so popular among hunters and outfitters up in Alaska.
There are few other rifles I’d rather have in my hands if I had to deal with a charging brown bear!
Do you need a really heavy hitting cartridge ideally suited for hunting thick-skinned dangerous game like cape buffalo or water buffalo? While both may technically be big bores in the broadest sense of the word, I strongly recommend against using both cartridges for hunting thick-skinned dangerous game. Not everybody agrees with me on this and there are a few hunters who have successfully taken cape buffalo with the .45-70.
I think the .45-70 Govt is great cartridge, but there are good reasons NOT to hunt cape buffalo with it and I’ve written a comprehensive article explaining why I think hunting cape buffalo with the 45-70 is a bad idea.
Are you sensitive to recoil and in need of a lower recoiling cartridge? Neither is really a low recoiling cartridge. The 450 Bushmaster has the edge here when compared to typical 45-70 loads, but the various really low pressure 45-70 loads that are safe to use in the Trapdoor Springfield also have surprisingly low recoil as well.
Realize that those 45-70 loads and the 450 Bushmaster in general might still be too much for extremely recoil sensitive shooters to handle.
The 350 Legend is an option for hunters like that who need a straight wall cartridge and the 30-30 Winchester is a good alternative for those who want to hunt with a lever gun.
Do you just like lever action rifles in general? What about if you prefer a bolt action rifle or a modern sporting rifle? The choice here is easy: get a 45-70 if you want a lever action rifle and get a 450 Bushmaster if you want a bolt action rifle or a semi-automatic rifle of some sort.
What about if you want a heavy hitting truck gun of some sort? Go with the 450 Bushmaster. There’s nothing wrong with using something like a Marlin 1895 as a truck gun, but a rifle like the Ruger American Ranch in 450 Bushmaster is a really compact rifle that’s also inexpensive. To me, that’s the sort of rifle that’s ideal for carrying around in my truck or side-by-side in the event I run across something like a coyote or a feral hog that I want to shoot.
As I’ve stated before: the 450 Bushmaster and the 45-70 Government are both solid rifle cartridges. However, while there’s a lot of overlap in their performance and ideal uses, they’re not identical. In some areas, the differences between them (450 Bushmaster vs 45-70) can be pretty big and there are certain personal preferences and certain hunting situations where one is definitely a better choice than the other.
Carefully evaluate your needs as a hunter based upon the circumstances you foresee using the cartridge in, get a good hunting rifle chambered in the cartridge you select, learn to shoot it well, use quality bullets, and it should serve you well afield.
NEXT: BEST GIFTS FOR HUNTERS
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The Lyman 50th Edition (p348-349 and p352-360) and Hornady 10th Edition (p751-753 and p754-764) reloading manuals were used as references for the history of the 450 Bushmaster vs 45-70 Government cartridges. I obtained the data used to compare the trajectory of the cartridges from Hornady (here and here), Federal (here and here), Remington, and Winchester (here and here). Data used to calculate recoil was obtained from the Hornady 10th reloading manual (p752 & p759) and the Lyman 50th Edition reloading manual (p354). Case capacity information for the 450 Bushmaster and 45-70 were obtained from Backfire TV. Maximum pressure and data to compare cartridge sizes for the 450 Bushmaster and 45-70 Government were obtained from SAAMI (p34). I used ShootersCalculator.com to compare trajectory and recoil for the cartridges.