Developed for the US Army. Back in the year 1873, the 45-70 Government cartridge has survived up until present day because of one thing. It is a very good cartridge and it has remained so for all these many years. If this is any level of truth to a cartridges ability to do its job, the 45-70 is a classic example of just such a round.
In terms of effectiveness and my background with the cartridge living here in the American West. I have hunted deer and buffalo with the round as applied to a Sharps 45-70 rifle, and as such have produced the most noted results of the cartridge’s history when once removed from military applications. What would seem to be the case regarding the 45-70 is that being its early origins were military it never has or is likely to ever go away. Military rounds just tend to be that any regardless of how old they are.
Today the 45-70 is continually being upgraded with new components and performance standards. This is one reason the buyer of a rifle chambered in 45-70 Government needs to be aware of how old the rifle is and as to what power level in terms of ammunition it is capable of firing safely.
Selecting a 45-70 rifle is best undertaken when knowing exactly what you are intended purpose is going to be with the rifle. As an example, you could choose a Sharps rifle which is a single shot action design if you are shooting antelope or buffalo on open ground with time to reload if necessary. However, if you are hunting dangerous game ( bear ) or even deer in timber country, the use of a lever action would be a better choice.
The fact is that not everyone is a “Quigley Down Under” kinda of guy. Actually, Quigley shot a 45-100 on the classic move set. “Experimental” at the time I believe he stated in the film.
Basically what the 45-70 is all about is a straight walled case that retains a 45 caliber bullet being pushed by 70 grains of powder. All that information stated here are some choices when buying a 45-70 Government chambered rifle.
Best 45-70 Rifles On The Market
1. Henry Lever Action 45-70 Brass Receiver
With a barrel length of 22 inches, overall length of 42 inches, and a total weight of 8.10 pounds. The Henry 45-70 lever action is a handful but carries good balance and it’s a nice swing when shooting at moving targets or getting a quick second round into a wounded animal.
The receiver on this gun is polished brass on dark steel. Both rifles are much alike save for the materials used to build the receivers.
The rifle uses a rear sight that is semi-buckhorn with a diamond insert, and the front sight is a brass bead.
This Henry is also drilled and tapped for scope mounts. The mount used would be the Weaver 63B series.
The stock on the rifle is American walnut and the butt plate is brass. The stock retains a length of pull measuring 14 inches. Safety is a transfer bar system unlike the rifles of old.
This rifle is manufactured to withstand modern 45-70 loads like those offered by the major manufacturers today.
This rifle is suggested by the manufacture for hunting very large game as in moose, elk within 100 yards, and also deer, bear, and hogs at longer ranges. In terms of power, the 45-70 has harvested almost every animal in Africa at one time or another.
Note: Rifle also offered in a steel receiver model
2. Marlin 1895 Lever Action Rifle. 45-70 Government
The Rifle that was made famous in the film Wind River as used by the government hunter taking out bad guys at long range is featured as the next 45-70 offer.
This rifle is patterned after the old school 1895 rifles and a black steel walnut dressed package that is an American classic design.
This rifle is offered in several styles but in this case we will center on the standard field dressed model set up for big game hunting.
This rifle mounts a 22-inch barrel with an action and pipe that are blued.
Stock on the rifle is walnut and the rifle carries 4+1 rounds in the magazine, rifle weight is 7.5 pounds. This rifle is built of machined forgings ( six parts ) and with CNC today the tolerances are outstanding.
The action on the rifle is smooth and fast. With the flat receiver that is clean of anything distracting from the sight picture, the rifle is quick to get on a moving target. Like other lever guns, these are turned to form hunting rifles with a classic history of performance. With side ejection and the flat receiver, top mounting a scope is not issue whatsoever.
3. 1873 Springfield Trapdoor 45-70 Government
As offered by Brownells the Uberti Springfield Trapdoor is an outstanding reproduction of the original short carbine carried by the American Army during the Indian fighter era throughout the western United States.
At one point many years ago I owned one and sold it. At the time it was no big deal, but today an original Springfield trap door is worth a small fortune. The one company that has solved the problem in terms of owning a very high grade and modern materials and production Trapdoor are the folks at Uberti.
In terms of this brand, I know my business well as I own several handguns and rifles built by these folks. And to the last screw, the guns are top of the line in quality and performance.
This Uberti 45-70 as designed carries a single round by way of a drop-in guide through the upper side of the swing out trap door action. The carbine carries a 22” barrel, blued finish with a total length of 41,3 inches.
This rifle carries a walnut stock ( high grade ) and mounts ladder military long-range sights, leaf style mid barrel. The rifle offered in two barrel length being the army full-length 32-inch and the 22-inch illustrated here the sale rifle at Cabela’s is the 22” carbine model. However, Cabela’s Gun Library can assist you in obtaining the full-length army model as well.
Now to the fine art of 45-70 shooting. This is my rifle the Sharps long-range buffalo gun. In this case, it is the Uberti once again and as offered the outstanding Sharps rifle.
Uberti offers the rifle in four different models starting with the 1874 Special, followed by the Deluxe, and the last two being the Down Under series, and my favorite the Buffalo Hunter. All of these rifles are based on the same action and barrel but the dressing is different as are the sights and fixtures as well.
All use very high grade walnut stocks, steel butt plates, case hardened receiver, and lever, with ladder sights on the first two models and the classic ultra long-range tang sight on the Buffalo Hunter, and Deluxe. The rifles are rear loading sidle open hammer rifles exactly like the original 1874 buffalo rifle models.
5. Uberti 1885 High Wall 45-70
This rifle comes in a variety of barrel lengths and stock designs. The barrels are offered in 32”. 30”, 28”, and 22”. Stock are also straight or pistol grip designs and the receivers are cases hardened with blued barrels.
This high wall design makes use of a falling block breech system and a straight in chambering of a single round at a time.
The rifles are set up for both hunting and target work depending on the needs of the shooter.
Walnut stocks are select grade wood and checking as well as metal to wood fit is perfection. I shoot the High Wall Uberti in my selected 303 British cartridge and my rifle is nothing less than perfect in every respect.
In most cases, you will find that the 45-70 Government is offered in Sharps style rifles or lever guns as has been noted in the proceeding review. This is because the straight walled cartridge fit the levels well as it does those falling or rolling block single shot rifles.
5. Davide Pedersoli 1874 Sharps
In this model 45-70 that is available through Cabala’s and also Brownells, we find a rifle that is a classic in Sharps rifle design, shoots the full power smokeless 45-70 buffalo hunters round and based on my own rifle that has in effect been used for commercial buffalo hunting.
The rifle carries several clean long-range kills on 1300 pound Animals, I can say that this double-set trigger long range Sharps that uses an octagon barrel blade front sight with a ladder extension sight for 600 through 1000 yard shooting is a well built big game rifle.
This is an outstanding piece of rifle making art as my rifle has a case hardened receiver as well as hammer and loading lever. Wood to metal fit is outstanding as applied to the Walnut high-grade stock.
With a factory zero at 200 yards and shooting Hornady Leverevolution 325 grain bullets, I have taken buffalo up on the Triple U, being the ranch that the free range buffalo were hunted and filmed in the movie Dances With Wolves ( here in South Dakota ). And the 45-70 in this my Sharps rifle design produced all one-shot kills inside 170 yards by way of the old school buffalo hunters trade shot.
Being one inch behind the ear and two inches low for a cerebral impact shot that drops the animals in their tracks. Why shoot so precisely? Because the Sharps rifle can and the USDA will not certify meat that has been run to death by mounted drovers and finished with 30-30 Winchesters, because some foolish hunter was not skilled enough to take the animal down with a straight on heart or neck shot.
Hunting in a full blown blizzard we harvested nine buffs by stalking and using shooting sticks from a sitting position at all times. The government USDA agent was at our side during every animal take down and none were rejected.
6. Pedersoli Kodiak
This is the final 45-70 in my review of possible offerings in the big gun. This is the Pederosoli side by side rifle that is a remake of the old 1860 African models used by the very rich when hunting Africa on safari.
There are a number of manufactures building side by side rifles around the world but this is about as good a bargain in a 45-70 double gun as you are ever going to find.
This rifle uses open hammers just like the original models, It is regulated ( where both barrels bullets meet at 100 yards) and is accurate to about 300 yards if required.
These are open-sight models and as such are relegated to shorter range limits than the Sharps rifles and others.
This rifle is offered in a nice walnut stock with cheekpiece right handed and carries nice wood-to-metal fit all around.
What About A Bolt Action 45-70?
Currently, there are no production rifles being built in 45-70. The work involved in getting the feeding correct as applied to the very large straight wall cartridge is massive and the problem is that this round is not a good fit for such rifle receiver/action designs.
Over the years some have been built on British Enfield actions and Mauser action as well. I have a close friend that hand built one on a German 98 ( Large Ring ) Mauser and it worked out well. This is not the norm however, we can’t located any rifles save for Gun International and the like, that once in a while come up with used or collector grade custom bolt gun chambered in the 45-70. Government.
I have owned double rifles in 45-70 and other calibers but I have found them not to be very workable out here in the American West. We have very long-range shooting here and this rifle can’t quite cut it downrange.
I have been writing firearms and outdoor material of over 50 years to date. I have hunted across the world including Russia and a great deal of time professional hunting in Australia. I currently live in the American west and hunt all across the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the Big Horn mountains. I have specialized much of my work as a load developer in shotguns and rifles. I have run a small company that builds suppressor barrels of my design, and load tests for writing purposes and consulting. My commercial names include Ballistics Research & Development / Metro Gun Systems.TM.