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30-06 vs 45-70 Government

Ballistics Performance Comparison of 30-06 vs 45-70 Government Cartridges

The .30-06 Springfield and .45-70 Government are both excellent cartridges for medium to big game and have been used to take a variety of targets. While both are classic cartridges, the .30-06 Springfield has persevered as a popular hunting cartridge into modern times, while the .45-70 Government is seen as an older cartridge that is only used by a select few hunters today. Still, advancements such as smokeless powder over black powder have improved the .45-70 Government since its invention in the nineteenth century, and it can hold up to many modern cartridges. We’ll explore the differences between these calibers across several key factors to help you determine which is right for you.

30-06 Springfield vs 45-70 Government

The following ballistics tables show a side by side comparison of the 30-06 vs 45-70 Government based on bullet weight and performance metrics including velocity, energy, usage and recoil.

30-06 Springfield 150 gr vs 45-70 Government 325 gr Cartridge Comparison Table.

30-06 Springfield 45-70 Government
Bullet Velocity (Muzzle) 3,080 ft/s 2,050 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 100 yds 2,848 ft/s 1,729 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 200 yds 2,628 ft/s 1,450 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 300 yds 2,418 ft/s 1,225 ft/s
Bullet Energy (Muzzle) 3,159 ft⋅lb 3,032 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 100 yds 2,701 ft⋅lb 2,158 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 200 yds 2,300 ft⋅lb 1,516 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 300 yds 1,948 ft⋅lb 1,083 ft⋅lb
Usage @ 0 yds Toughest Game Toughest Game
Usage @ 100 yds Toughest Game Toughest Game
Usage @ 200 yds Toughest Game Large Game
Usage @ 300 yds Large Game Medium Game
Recoil Energy 17.6 23.9
Recoil Velocity 11.9 14.8
Recoil Score* 3.16 3.89 (300gr)
*Cartridge ballistics, usage and recoil figures taken from Sportsman's Warehouse rifle ballistics and rifle recoil tables. Recoil score based on weighted average of recoil energy and recoil velocity normalized between 1 and 10.

Velocity

The .45-70 Government is very effective within 150 yards, and somewhat effective out to 300 yards, but then drops off rather quickly. We will therefore compare ballistics inside of 300 yards. It’s also worth noting that we are comparing a 150 grain .30-06 Springfield against a 325 grain .45-70 Government; this is a significant weight difference, and a heavier bullet will not fly as quickly as a lighter bullet.

Given these factors, it’s not surprising that the .30-06 Springfield is outstripping the .45-70 Government by a significant amount at every distance. Out of the muzzle, the .30-06 is flying a full 1,030 ft/s faster. By the 300 yard mark, that advantage has increased to 1,193 ft/s – and with the .45-70 traveling at 1,225 ft/s by 300 yards, that means the .30-06 is moving almost twice as fast.

Energy

The heavier bullet of the .45-70 Government works in its favor when it comes to energy and stopping power, and here we have more comparable numbers between the two calibers. But still, the .30-06 does take a lead. Out of the muzzle, the .30-06 has 127 ft-lbs more energy than the .45-70. By 100 yards, this advantage has already increased significantly to 543 ft-lbs, as the .45-70 loses more of its energy more quickly. By 300 yards, the .30-06 is traveling with an additional 865 ft-lbs of energy over the .45-70 Government, a significant difference. Here again, we see the .30-06 is the stronger round.

Trajectory

A bullet’s trajectory deeply impacts your ability to hit your target. While you may not be shooting the .45-70 Government over particularly long ranges due to its drop in energy, it is still important to compare even at short ranges and make sure that you are able to account for the difference.

The .45-70 Government is available in both its historical black powder form, and a modern factory load. Let’s compare a 405 grain black powder .45-70 Government, a 325 grain modern .45-70 Government, and a 150 grain .30-06 Springfield, all zeroed at 100 yards.

At 200 yards, the black powder. 45-70 will drop 22.9”, the modern .45-70 will drop 10.3”, and the .30-06 will drop 3.1”. That’s quite a spread. At 300 yards, the black powder .45-70 will drop 75.4”, the modern .45-70 will drop 37.2”, and the .30-06 will drop 11.7”. We can see that the .30-06 has a significantly flatter trajectory than either of the .45-70 loads, though the modern .45-70 has an easier time staying afloat than the black powder. This is why the .45-70 is rarely used outside of 200 yards.

Recoil

The heavier bullets of the .45-70 Government translate into quite a bit more recoil over the .30-06 Springfield. Recoil impacts your ability to shoot your gun accurately, so make sure you are prepared for this extra recoil before investing in this caliber. Additionally, some shooters may not see the extra recoil as worth it, since we are not seeing corresponding additional force in the ballistics. Remember, while the energy might be comparable, the heavier bullets of the .45-70 Government may give you some advantage in taking big and tough game.

Versatility

As we’ve already stated, the .45-70 Government is only effective within 150-200 yards, especially on larger game. The massive bullets of the .45-70 Government certainly provide the stopping power needed for this tough game at close ranges. If you’re hoping to shoot out to 500 yards and beyond, you’ll have to go with the .30-06 Springfield. However, if you’re planning to take large game such as moose and bear that often don’t call for longer distances, the .45-70 Government can certainly help you do the job.

Price

The .30-06 Springfield is a classic cartridge and among the most popular big game hunting cartridges in use today. This means that you will find plenty of ammunition readily available from a variety of manufacturers, and it is relatively inexpensive. The .45-70 Government is not as ubiquitous, so you may need to call ahead to make sure you can find it while traveling, and you may have fewer factory choices for slightly pricier ammunition.

Size Comparison

The .45-70 Government offers massive bullets that can be chambered in heavy weights. The bullet diameter of the .45-70 Government is .458”, compared to .308” for the .30-06. However, the case of the .45-70 is actually smaller, with a length of 2.105” compared to 2.494” in the .30-06. While the .45-70 Government offers heavier bullets, it can still be chambered in lighter rifles, as discussed in the next section.

Rife Type

Some shooters might be interested in the .45-70 Government for its historical quality, and even use older and vintage rifles for this caliber. If you are doing that, make sure you do not use modern ammunition, as many vintage rifles require lower pressure loads and are made to replicate the experience of shooting a historical rifle. However, many modern rifles can be chambered in .45-70 Government for use with modern magnum and other powerful ammunition. The .45-70 Government is popular in lever-action rifles and can be found with enhanced ammunition.

While there are several options for the .45-70 Government, the .30-06 is a significantly more popular cartridge. This means that you will be able to find a wider variety of rifles from more manufacturers chambered in .30-06 than .45-70. The .45-70 Government’s short barreled lever rifles will also be smaller than the standard/long action required for the .30-06 Springfield.

Which Caliber is Best?

If you’ll be hunting inside of 200 yards – whether that’s because you’re targeting larger game such as moose and bear that are typically taken at these distances, or working in heavy cover to target deer, hogs, and more – the .45-70 Government can offer a bigger bullet in a lighter rifle with a historical feel while still helping you get that clean, ethical kill. If you want to shoot past 200 yards, the only choice is the .30-06 Springfield.

Disclaimer: Sportsman's Warehouse assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions of the information on this page. Although we strive to provide the most accurate information as we can the information contained in this page is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.