The .45-70 is known by several names including .45-70 Government, .45 Government, and .45-70-45. The cartridge, developed by the US Government, is one of their greatest cartridges. Even today, the cartridge retains the respect of hunters and shooting enthusiasts. The .45-70 is one of the very few cartridges that continued to thrive after being converted from using black powder to smokeless powder. The .45-70 was developed at the historic Springfield Armory in Massachusetts to replace on a short term basis the .50-70 which had been adopted just over a decade before.
In 1873, the .45-70 was adopted for use in the 1873 Springfield trapdoor action rifle, after which it was improved in several important ways. Seven years after being introduced, the cartridge was effective against point targets out to a range of 300 yards, and had the capability of area effect fire out to 600 yards. The cartridge was used in military service until being phased out soon after the Spanish-American War.
The end of service in the military actually marked the real beginning for the .45-70 as civilian big game hunters flocked to the cartridge. The heavy 405 grain FP bullet left the barrel travelling at 1,330 feet per second and a muzzle energy of nearly 1,600 foot pounds, easily harvesting bear, moose and bison at ranges inside 200 yards. Reloaders appreciate this cartridge for the ability to accept bullets weighing between 300 and 500 grains for a broad spectrum of uses. Some shooters have even used the .45-70 to take animals of the African "Big Five." Ammunition manufacturers today continue to produce this great cartridge, Hornady offering their FTX bullet in this caliber, and several others sell ammunition from their specialty JHP lines to hunters.
Today, Thompson Center Arms and Marlin manufacture single shot rifles and lever action rifles chambered in .45-70, as do several other manufacturers. This cartridge is also chambered in what may safely be called the ultimate in handguns, the Biggest Finest Revolver from Magnum Research is sold in .45-70. The cylinder has five shots and allows the hunter to experience the challenge of vintage cartridge handgun hunting, yet still have the ability to take quick follow up shots if necessary.
The .45-70 became an important cartridge in the world of firearms when first introduced, and it remains today a great hunting cartridge for even the most dangerous game.