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It’s The Ultimate Survival Cartridge (Because It Won’t Ever Be Banned)

It's The Ultimate Survival Cartridge (Because It Won't Ever Be Banned)

Image source: Flickr. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Developed for use in the famous Model 1873 “Trapdoor” Springfield rifle, the 45-70 cartridge has managed to remain popular and in regular use for nearly 150 years. While commonly regarded as a big-game load – it has been used on African safaris to take elephants — it can serve as the ultimate survival round with a little care in loading and understanding, thus making any .45-70 firearm into a one-gun-does-it-all game-getter.

It originally was issued with a 405 grain bullet over a 70 grain black powder charge, but later versions included rounds with a lighter 55 grain powder charge for carbines, and a 500 grain bullet over 70 grains of powder. Any of these loads would be devastating on large game, and the full power loads suitable for even buffalo or large bear. These loads, developed with black powder pressures, are commonly referred to as “Trapdoor” loads, indicating their suitability for guns that cannot handle higher pressures. These include the many original and replica Springfields running around, and certain older Harrington and Richardson single shot rifles, and such.

However, stronger actions have been developed, and many modern .45-70s can take higher pressure loads made with smokeless powders — typically Marlin and Henry lever-action rifles, and .45-70 pistols. These loads are sometimes called standard or intermediate loads, and should never be shot in Trapdoors or old black powder rifles. Moving on up are loads for strong-action rifles, such as the Ruger Number 1, and the NEF Handi Rifle. When shooting these high-pressure shoulder bruisers, it is important you only shoot them in guns warranted by the manufacturer of the ammo or gun as suitable for high-pressure loads.

After the .45-70 was invented, it didn’t take long for the Army to issue so-called “forager rounds.” These are .45-70 cases loaded with a shot-filled wooden bullet and issued for hunting game, and also where we start exploring the world of the .45-70 as an all-around survival cartridge. We are probably familiar with “snake shot” or “rat shot” rounds for the .22 and some common handguns, and the same concept can be scaled up for the .45-70, and will successfully take game out to a few yards. While it’s no long-range game-getter, it is suitable for taking small game at realistic ranges. Since these sorts of shells have to be made by hand, some experimenting with powder and shot charges will be needed to find the right load for your gun. While not a substitute for a traditional small-game gun, these will work, and are the first step into creating a survival loadout for your favorite .45-70.

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It's The Ultimate Survival Cartridge (Because It Won't Ever Be Banned) We also have the “collar button” bullets. Developed to allow troops to practice marksmanship indoors with a low-recoiling round, these 150ish grain bullets are easy to shoot, accurate and more importantly, can be used to hunt all sorts of game, saving both powder and lead. This is another case where the patient handloader will have to get molds, cast their own bullets and work up a load suitable for their rifle and their needs.

Beyond this, there are a huge array of 300-500 grain bullets suitable for the .45-70, and depending on the powder charge, suitable for literally any living creature walking the face of the earth. With a little care and effort, a person with even a trapdoor Springfield can have a survival weapon that will harvest everything from small to big game.

The .45-70 firearms have been made for a century and a half in this country, and the popularity of this round shows no signs of abating. It is not only a classic American cartridge, but it is rich with the history and romance of the Old West and has proven itself in combat and survival situations. The well-equipped homesteader or prepper gains another advantage with the .45-70, in that it was originally a black powder cartridge. If you have a supply of lead and primers, you can make your own powder, and turn your big bore rifle into the ultimate off-the-grid shooting iron.

As an added bonus, nearly every .45-70 made falls into some sort of “traditional” looking form, be it single shots or lever-action rifles. These are commonly seen as “safe” in the eyes of anti-gunners, and are rarely targeted for increased regulation or confiscation. It is possible that in some horrible future, your old buffalo gun might be the only firearm you can openly own or discuss, and combined with the huge array of loads for it makes it an excellent under-the-radar gun.

While not as sexy as an AR-15, or cool as a modern tactical bolt-action rifle, with the right loads, the .45-70 has been feeding and fighting for America for generations. It is an unbroken line of culture and defense handed down from our ancestors to the present day, and if you listen closely, you, too, can hear the wisdom of keeping that big boomer around for another generation.

Do you agree or disagree? Are you a fan of the .45-70? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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14 comments

  1. One thing you’ll need to do if you’re going to depend on this round is realize that a 500g bullet traveling around 1300fps, the ballistics of the original loading, will have a very pronounced trajectory. That means you’ll need to develop good range estimation skills and the ability to take ‘Kentucky windage’ or make quick accurate adjustments to your sighting system.

  2. Hip, Hip, Hooray ! I LOVE the Ol’ .45-70 – My Old 1895 Marlin is Rated for Medium pressures with “Smokeless” Powders (Say 1600-1750 fps MV) and I can hit MOA with a 21″ “Holdover” at 250 Yards and a 44″ “Holdover” at 350 Yards. You’All will Love it too.

  3. Love that 45-70 precisely for the reasons mentioned. I have a different survivalist strategy however on ‘banning.’ I don’t think any cartridge is safe from consideration. The strategy then should be to pick a cartridge for which brass will be readily available. That means it needs to be current military, something you could forage for in the ruins of Walmart, on the battlefield or find in the wreckage of military convoys. For that reason, I would prefer .308, a cartridge that can be loaded heavy or light, with lead bullets, black powder, pistol and shotgun powder, duplex loads, buck shot, etc. Bullets and brass will always be available. Almost every nation on earth uses a 30 caliber cartridge, which means bullets will be available. Still…love that straight case and that big bullet.

    • I agree “Rogue”. I pack a 1917 Enfield 30-06 in great shape! The .308 bullet/caliber components are largely compatible, excepting the brass case. It is up to each rifleman to choose whatever caliber
      they prefer, but the ammo/reload statistics remain a glaring vulnerability. All my firearms are with highly
      common compatibility and parts availability. Finally-LONG LIFE TO THE 45-70 GOVT!

  4. This author speaks well of the virtues of the .45-70 as a cartridge for survival uses as well as the fun of just shooting such an old cannon. However, his political comments of saying that this may be one of only a few calibers not taken from us by the anti-gunners through legislation are the bleetings of a good sheep being subservient to his masters. The whole notion that to be a “good law-abiding citizen” we must surrender our firearms because a group of traitorous SOB’s print a piece of paper that says so shows a level of cowardice that is hard to stomach. We the People should be bringing these traitors before a trial by the people and either deported after revokiing their citizenship or dealing with them as you would any enemy of our Constitution and nation. Right to arms is our birthright and anyone who attempts to eliminate that should be executed as a traitor. Period. If just a few of these villians were dealt with as they should be, the rest would run back to their holes like the cowards they are and we could go back to the barbeque.

  5. Imagine a scenario where all bullets except this one are banned? I can’t!

    I’d expect to see a civil war before such a scenario could develop!

  6. If you are going to use this cartridge as your survival or SHTF weapon, and it will make a very good one, you will most certainly want to lay in a very good supply of powder and lead and learn to cast your own bullets.
    The 45-70 Springfield is a well known cartridge to bullet casters and a whole gaggle of bullet moulds are available from a multitude of good mould makers. Just make sure you have a LARGE supply of powder and a LARGE supply of lead to cast as these big heavy projectiles burn a LOT of powder & throw a lot of lead..

    But as the author points out, this cartridge can handle every thing from close range pigeons to long range buffalo.

  7. Article avoids the reality that components: powder, primers, cases, projectiles may be further legislated against/prohibited entirely.
    And if you think, “I’ll just cast my own bullets”, you better have ALOT of lead because we have no more mining and smelting of lead in the U.S. (Thank you EPA )-:

    I have heard similar wishful thinking from muzzleloader shooters that think they will somehow miraculously be exempt from persecution by liberal totalitarians.. Mebbe so, but how about your “galena”(lead-“hazardous to ‘chill-ren’!”) and black powder, (the latter as “bomb-making material”), percussion caps and gunflints for flintlocks?

    Face the fact that the liberal/control-freaks want ALL weapons, and even kitchen knives have been legislated against in some places.

    I loaded for .45-70 off & on for 50 years, and there are way better cartridges for most of us/most “missions”. (.38-55 kills deer and blackbear equally as well as .45-70, w/o as much recoil. .32-20 or .357 or .357 MAX are better suited to small game and close-range medium game.)

    Straight cases w/rims don’t need to be crimped if they are used in a single-shot, and the crimp is a primary wear area on cart. cases.
    OAL cart. length is not very important in single-shots so you do not need to trim cases.

    A Lyman Tong Tool handloader & components will fit in a shoe-box & can load .45-70, or if you buy a .38/.357 one and use the LARGE handles, can load .357 MAX as well (There are a few NEF single-shots in MAX still around, and they will shoot the shorter cart.s like you use in your pistol very well :-)

    I am still shooting what’s left of a case (5K rds.) of .22 WMR I bought more than 40 years ago. (One mis-fire and one damaged at factory cart case in the bunch.)
    I bought some more on close-out pre-obamanation innaugeration, and if that lasts as well, my children and (hopefully! ;-) grandchildren will still be burning it up on the occassional varmint and to put meat on the table long after I have popped my clogs.

    The Curmudgeon

  8. The sub-title “because it won’t ever be banned” got my attention because what was this ammo that an overreaching and oppressive government would never ban? Please note I like the article but the idea that if any government chooses to express its enforcement ability over the public ownership of ammo I would not count on any ammo free from its control.

  9. Article avoids the reality that components: powder, primers, cases, projectiles may be further legislated against/prohibited entirely.
    And if you think, “I’ll just cast my own bullets”, you better have ALOT of lead because we have no more mining and smelting of lead in the U.S. (Thank you EPA )-:

    I have heard similar wishful thinking from muzzle loader shooters that think they will somehow miraculously be exempt from persecution by liberal totalitarians.. Mebbe so, but how about your “galena”(lead-“hazardous to ‘chill-ren’!”) and black powder, (the latter as “bomb-making material”), percussion caps and gunflints for flintlocks?

    Face the fact that the liberal/control-freaks want ALL weapons, and even kitchen knives have been legislated against in some places.

    I loaded for .45-70 off & on for 50 years, and there are way better cartridges for most of us/most “missions”. (.38-55 kills deer and blackbear equally as well as .45-70, w/o as much recoil. .32-20 or .357 or .357 MAX are better suited to small game and close-range medium game.)

    Straight cases w/rims don’t need to be crimped if they are used in a single-shot, and the crimp is a primary wear area on cart. cases.
    OAL cart. length is not very important in single-shots so you do not need to trim cases.

    A Lyman Tong Tool handloader & components will fit in a shoe-box & can load .45-70, or if you buy a .38/.357 one and use the LARGE handles, can load .357 MAX as well (There are a few NEF single-shots in MAX still around, and they will shoot the shorter cart.s like you use in your pistol very well :-)

    I am still shooting what’s left of a case (5K rds.) of .22 WMR I bought more than 40 years ago. (One mis-fire and one damaged at factory cart case in the bunch.)
    I bought some more on close-out pre-obamanation innaugeration, and if that lasts as well, my children and (hopefully! ;-) grandchildren will still be burning it up on the occassional varmint and to put meat on the table long after I have popped my clogs.

    The Curmudgeon

  10. I kind of like the idea of snake shot for larger caliber guns but when you say good up to a few yards that means 12 to 15 feet and it is very hard to get that close to small game, it is note worthy though, I don’t think any ammo would be safe from anti gunners radar so what I would recommend is hoard ammo and learn to reload, hoard all the cases, primers, bullets and gun powder you can for every round you use including shotgun , it is also a good idea to have the capability to load calibers you don’t shoot you never know when you may have the necessity to do some reloading to barter with

  11. Well, I’d love to get a 45-70 but old shoulders and 20 other guns are going to stop me. I also agree that this won’t be some miracle round that gets excluded. When they ban, you’ll be lucky to own a 20 gauge single shot.

    For now, it’s cheap and plentiful. What’s that adage? Make hay while the sun is shining? Yeah, stack it deep, stack it cheap.

    Got into reloading post [email protected] H00k and found that I could stack a case of factory in no time (that worked) and by the time I invested all the tools, FOUND the materials and spent hours prepping everything it was cheaper to buy it. Yes, reloading big stuff like the 45-70 may be good but overall not a fan. Not against it, just not for me.

    And really – over 5K rounds is going to be plenty for anyone. Yes, yes, ‘practice'; but like a genny, that practice is going to attract those you don’t want attracted.

  12. That looks like it would kick like a mule. How severe is the recoil? Any round with a lot of noise and recoil can spell failure for a shooter under stress. A 22LR in the target is worth a hundred .44s in the bushes

  13. TO KEVIN . . . Hey, Buddy! The kick (recoil) really ain’t that bad. My Ol’ 1895 Marlin weighs about 10 lbs. and that’s 6 lbs. lighter than the old “Rolling Block” Remington. Remember that these old “Low” Velocity cartridges have a Much Flatter (gentler) Pressure Rise (curve) than say a .30-06. But then, I am used to shooting .338 Lapua Oy and RUMs – and the .416 Ruger. Enjoy, and Good Hunting.

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