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450 Marlin vs 45-70 Government

Ballistics Performance Comparison of 450 Marlin vs 45-70 Government Cartridges

While the .45-70 Government has been a staple of big game hunting since the nineteenth century, the .450 Marlin is newer to the scene and less known to hunters, even though they share many characteristics. The .450 Marlin improves on some of the .45-70 Government’s ballistics, offering a very similar bullet that shoots a bit faster and harder, and can be used safely with factory loads in any rifle chambered for it. In order to understand the differences between these two very similar calibers, we’ll analyze several key factors to help you decide which is the best fit for you.

450 Marlin vs 45-70 Government

The following ballistics tables show a side by side comparison of the 450 Marlin vs 45-70 Government based on bullet weight and performance metrics including velocity, energy, usage and recoil.

450 Marlin 325 gr vs 45-70 Government 325 gr Cartridge Comparison Table.

450 Marlin 45-70 Government
Bullet Velocity (Muzzle) 2,225 ft/s 2,050 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 100 yds 1,887 ft/s 1,729 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 200 yds 1,585 ft/s 1,450 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 300 yds 1,331 ft/s 1,225 ft/s
Bullet Energy (Muzzle) 3,572 ft⋅lb 3,032 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 100 yds 2,569 ft⋅lb 2,158 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 200 yds 1,813 ft⋅lb 1,516 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 300 yds 1,278 ft⋅lb 1,083 ft⋅lb
Usage @ 0 yds Toughest Game Toughest Game
Usage @ 100 yds Toughest Game Toughest Game
Usage @ 200 yds Large Game Large Game
Usage @ 300 yds Medium Game Medium Game
Recoil Energy 33.6 (350gr) 37.9 (350gr)
Recoil Velocity 16 18.7
Recoil Score* 4.89 5.42
*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 .450 Marlin was designed as a competitor to the .45-70 Government, so its ballistics are highly similar. However, it does make a small improvement over the .45-70 Government that may be appealing to some shooters. Out of the muzzle, the .450 Marlin is flying 175 ft/s faster than the .45-70 Government. By 100 yards, that advantage is holding steady as the .450 Marlin flies 158 ft/s faster than the .45-70 Government. As we leave the effective range at 300 yards, the .450 Marlin still boasts an advantage of 106 ft/s.

Energy

The increased velocity on bullets of the same weight means that the .450 Marlin is going to hit a bit harder than the .45-70 Government as well. Out of the muzzle, it’s moving with an impressive 540 ft-lbs more energy than the .45-70 Government. At 100 yards, that advantage holds strong at 411 ft-lbs. By 300 yards, the advantage narrows to 195 ft-lbs over the .45-70 Government as both calibers leave their effective ranges.

Trajectory

Here again, the two calibers have similar records, but the advantage goes to the .450 Marlin. Let’s compare two bullets, each 325 grains and zeroed at 100 yards. At 200 yards, the .450 Marlin will drop 8.4”, while the .45-70 will drop 10.3”. At 300 yards, the .450 will drop 30.7”, while the .45-70 will drop 37.2”. This can be a significant difference if you are planning to shoot to the end of these calibers’ effective ranges, but if you are using a gun for bear defense or other very close range applications, trajectory may be less of a factor.

Recoil

With very similar ballistics and similar weights, it’s not a surprise that the .450 Marlin and the .45-70 Government have similar levels of recoil. However, the .450 Marlin grabs a bit of an advantage here as well, impressive considering it is hitting with more energy at the other end of the rifle. The difference in recoil is small enough that it may vary based on the rifle used and the perception of the shooter, but the advantage does go to the .450 Marlin here. Both calibers have a fairly significant recoil that you will need to learn to manage in order to shoot the gun accurately.

Versatility

Because both of these calibers have such similar ballistics, they also have very similar applications. Both are most commonly used in lever action rifles for big game hunting at close ranges (within 100-150 yards). This means they are well-suited for hunting in thick woods or other cover, or as bear defense guns. The range of bullet weights makes them more versatile for hunting smaller and larger game within these close ranges, but neither is appropriate to hunt anything outside of 200 yards.

Price & Availability

The .45-70 Government can be purchased in modern smokeless powder loads, or in black powder loads that replicate its historical roots. The black powder loads are significantly less powerful than what we have analyzed here, and you should never shoot a modern smokeless powder load in a vintage rifle meant for black powder. While the .450 Marlin does have ballistic advantages, the .45-70 Government has a long, established history and is already in use by many hunters. This means its ammunition is much more readily available; if you switch to .450 Marlin, you’ll have scant options in terms of brands and in-store availability at retailers. However, both are good for handloaders as reloading components are readily available.

Size Comparison

Size is another of the major similarities between the .450 Marlin and the .45-70 Government. Both calibers use .458” bullets, and both can typically be found from 250-500 grains. They share a case length of 2.55”, and the overall length of the .45-70 is just .005” longer than the .450 Marlin. However, the .450 Marlin uses a belted case (making it appealing for bolt action rifles), while the .45-70 Government uses a rimmed case for lever action rifles.

Rifle Type

The .45-70 Government and the .450 Marlin are both very commonly used in lever action rifles. Lever action provides a smaller rifle that is easier to carry through the backcountry, and can be easily handled to get off a shot quickly. However, the belted case of the .450 Marlin means it can be shot in bolt action rifles as well. Still, the ballistics of the .450 Marlin don’t quite hold up to other popular bolt action big game hunting cartridges; the advantage of the lever action rifle seem to be a primary draw to these calibers for many hunters.

Which Caliber is Best?

Looking at ballistics, it’s clear that the .450 Marlin does everything the .45-70 Government does just a little bit better. It avoids the issue of unwitting shooters loading modern loads into vintage rifles and causing catastrophes, while shooting the same bullets just a bit harder and faster. But if we zoom out to look at the industry as a whole, the .450 Marlin has not offered enough of an improvement over the .45-70 Government for most hunters to justify making the switch, meaning it is far more of a niche cartridge with fewer ammunition and rifle options available.

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.