30-30 vs 45-70: Which Is The Best Lever Action Cartridge?

30-30 vs 45-70


For decades, hunters have relied on lever-action rifles to take down big game. 

And when it comes to selecting the right cartridge for the job, two popular choices are the .30-30 and the .45-70.

These two cartridges have become increasingly popular among lever-gun enthusiasts over the last century and have a proven track record in the field. 

Nonetheless, despite some similarities in their capabilities, they are better suited for different hunting scenarios.

30-30 vs 45-70

Both cartridges have been in use for over a century and have a proven track record of success in the field. However, there are notable differences between them that hunters should consider before making a choice.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the .30-30 and the .45-70 cartridges, comparing their key features and discussing their strengths and weaknesses. 

What is the difference between 30-30 and 45-70? The main difference between 30-30 and 45-70 is in their cartridge specifications. 

Specifically, 30-30 refers to a .30 caliber rifle cartridge with a case length of 1.906 inches, while 45-70 refers to a .45 caliber rifle cartridge with a case length of 2.105 inches. 

These differences in cartridge size and caliber result in variations in bullet weight, velocity, and trajectory, which can impact the performance of the ammunition for different purposes and in different shooting contexts. 

Therefore, it’s important to choose the appropriate cartridge for the intended application, taking into account factors such as range, accuracy, and power.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of which cartridge is best suited for your specific hunting needs.

The .30-30 Cartridge

The 30-30 Winchester is a hunting cartridge that has been around for over a century. The Winchester Repeating Arms Company created it, and their August 1895 catalog served as its initial release. 

The round was designed to be used in the Winchester Model 1894 carbine and was marketed as a cartridge for sporting purposes.

What makes the 30-30 unique is that it was the first small bore cartridge to be developed using smokeless powder.

The 30-30 Winchester has several names, including .30 Winchester Center Fire, 30 WCF, and 30 Winchester Smokeless. It was the first small bore cartridge to use smokeless powder, and it was designed for deer hunting and target shooting. 

The 30-30 has been popular since its debut, and when Marlin adopted it for their model 336 lever action, they dropped “Winchester” from the name to differentiate themselves from their rival. 

The name “30-30” comes from an older naming convention where the first “30” refers to the bullet caliber and the second “30” refers to the 30 grains of smokeless powder used in the original design.

The .45-70 Cartridge

This is an insanely devastating round, there is no doubt about it. The 45-70 lever action is a piece of Americana; it tamed the West; it conquered the West.

In the years following the American Civil War, there were significant advancements made in metallic cartridge technology. One of the greatest cartridges to emerge from this period was the 45-70 Government.

The U.S. Army’s Springfield Armory created the 45-70 and released it in 1873 for their brand-new Model 1873 rifle, also known as the “Trapdoor Springfield.”

The 45-70 cartridge’s popularity among big game hunters has continued to the present day due to its excellent terminal ballistics and the availability of firearms chambered in the cartridge.

Many firearms manufacturers produce rifles chambered in 45-70, including Marlin, Henry, and Ruger. Additionally, the 45-70 cartridge has been adapted to modern powders, allowing for greater accuracy and reliability in modern firearms.

The “45” in “.45-70” refers to the caliber or nominal bore diameter of the bullet, which is .45 inches or 11.43mm in diameter. The “70” refers to the weight of the black powder charge in grains, which was the original propellant used in the cartridge when it was first introduced in 1873.

Is 45-70 enough for grizzly? The 45-70 Government is a popular cartridge for big game hunting, especially for hunting large and dangerous game such as bear and buffalo.

While it is true that many of the modern hunting cartridges may have better ballistics or a flatter trajectory than the 45-70, there is still something unique and satisfying about carrying a lever gun chambered in 45-70 while out hunting. 

The 45-70’s hard-hitting power and historical significance make it a favorite among many hunters, and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down.

30-30 vs 45-70 Ballistics

It’s no surprise that the variations in the physical dimensions of the .30-30 Winchester and the .45-70 Government cartridges result in notable differences in their ballistic abilities.

The table below compares the HOP Munitions 150-grain 30-30 TSX and the 300-grain 45-70 JHP.

Velocity @ Muzzle2,300 ft/s1,880 ft/s
Velocity @ 100 yards1,874 ft/s1,533 ft/s
Velocity @ 200 yards1,507 ft/s1,254 ft/s
Velocity @ 300 yards1,219 ft/s1,068 ft/s
Energy @ Muzzle1,762 ft/lbs2,355 ft/lbs
Energy @ 100 yards1,170 ft/lbs1,567 ft/lbs
Energy @ 200 yards757 ft/lbs1,048 ft/lbs
Energy @ 300 yards495 ft/lbs760 ft/lbs

The .30-30 cartridge is known to have a higher muzzle velocity compared to the .45-70 cartridge in terms of external ballistics. 

However, the .45-70 cartridge uses heavier bullets and has a significantly greater muzzle energy than the .30-30. Although the energy difference between the two cartridges reduces as the distance increases, neither cartridge is ideal for long-range shooting. 

Within 150 yards, where both cartridges are most efficient, the .45-70 cartridge has a clear energy advantage over the .30-30.

It is worth mentioning that the .30-30 Winchester cartridge has a trajectory that is flatter and experiences less bullet drop compared to the .45-70 cartridge. 

30-30 vs 45-70

While the .30-30 is not typically regarded as a suitable option for long-range shooting, it still holds an advantage over the .45-70 in this aspect.

30-30 vs 45-70: Ammunition Selection

When considering your next hunting rifle, it is important to take into account the cost and availability of ammunition for the chosen caliber. 

Both the .30-30 Winchester and .45-70 Government cartridges have a rich hunting history, and most ammunition manufacturers offer options for both calibers.

However, when it comes to price, the .30-30 ammo is clearly the more affordable choice. As of the time of writing, hunting ammo is priced at $3 per round and above. 

On the other hand, due to the larger size of the .45-70 round and the need for more powder and material, it is more expensive. For practice ammo, you can expect to pay no less than $2.75 per round, with premium hunting loads priced at $5 per round or more for factory ammo in the .45-70 caliber.

30-30 vs 45-70: Which One Should You Use?

The 30-30 Winchester and 45-70 Government cartridges are both highly effective choices for hunting. They have been in use for over a century and continue to be popular among shooters.

The 30-30 Winchester has low recoil, making it a great choice for black bear or deer hunting. It is also a more affordable option for those who enjoy target shooting or range practice.

On the other hand, the 45-70 Government is a powerful big game cartridge that can take down some of the most dangerous game in North America. 

Choosing the best cartridge for you will depend on your intended use for the rifle. If you plan to hunt big game or venture into bear territory, a Marlin or Henry lever-action rifle chambered in 45-70 is the way to go. 

But if your hunting will primarily involve hogs, whitetail deer, or target shooting with a lever gun, the 30-30 will be sufficient.

In Summary

If you’re seeking to hunt within a range of 150 yards and require a cartridge with great stopping power, then the .45-70 Government cartridge is an excellent option to consider. 

This particular caliber is highly effective for hunting large game in close quarters, especially when traversing dense forests or safeguarding against bears. 

On the other hand, if you intend to hunt medium-sized game like deer within the range of 200-250 yards and prefer less recoil with the ability to shoot at longer ranges, then the .30-30 Winchester cartridge would be a better choice.

Regardless of the type of round you decide to use, it is important to ensure that you have an ample supply of ammunition. 

You can purchase ammunition from HOP Munitions, which will enable you to flex your Second Amendment rights and display your love for lever action rifles.

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