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The Best 45-70 Ammo For Hunting & Target Shooting: Tested By Ammo.com Experts

The Best 45-70 Ammo For Hunting & Target Shooting

The 45-70 Government cartridge has been around for over 100 years because it gives shooters the versatility they need for target shooting and big game hunting.

However, not all 45-70 Gov ammo is created equal.

You must use the best 45-70 ammo for the task at hand to ensure your rifle performs at its best. Hornady LEVERevolution 45-70 Gov is our top pick because it’s ridiculously accurate and pushes the limits of lever-action rifles.

Don’t worry. There are still plenty of other factory loads if you don’t think this ammo is right for you. Let’s get into it!

Our Top 3 Picks for 45-70 Ammo in 2024

  1. Hornady LEVERevolution - Best Overall & for Lever-Action Rifles
  2. HSM Cowboy Action 405 Grain HCFN - Best for Target Shooting
  3. Barnes VOR-TX 300 Grain TSX FN - Best for Hunting

Testing Procedure

We tested this 45-70 Gov factory ammo against several factors, including (but not limited to):

  • Accuracy
  • Reliability
  • Ballistics
  • Price

No one brags to their buddies about how inaccurate their rifles are, but not all ammo is accurate in all firearms. This is why we’ve combined customer reviews with our tests to ensure consistency in accuracy in a new Marlin 1895 SBL or a Trapdoor Springfield reproduction rifle (always ensure the ammo you’re loading into your firearm is safe to use in that specific gun, as some older guns were only designed to fire black powder).

You wasted your money if the round doesn’t go bang when you pull the trigger. You also need it to cycle when chambering it in a lever action. This is why our tests include a reliability portion.

45-70 ballistics will vary from firearm to firearm. However, getting a general understanding of how the round should perform in specific instances will allow you to purchase the ammo that will perform best for your situation.

Lastly, budget is always a factor when buying guns and ammo. While it’s not my primary concern, I factor it into the equation.

Recommended 45-70 Ammo Selections

Hornady LEVERevolution 250 grain MonoFlex - Best 45-70 Ammo for Lever-Action Rifles


  • Bullet Type: MonoFlex
  • Bullet Weight: 250 grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 2,025 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 2,276 ft-lbs
  • Case Type: Brass


  • Trusted brand
  • Designed for lever-action rifles
  • Superb ballistics
  • Reliable
  • Insanely accurate


  • Expensive

Why We Chose It

Hornady LEVERevolution 250 grain MonFlex is the best 45-70 ammo overall and for lever action rifles because it’s accurate, reliable, and offers shooters unmatched ballistic performance.

As a hunter and shooter, I trust Hornady ammo in the field and at the range for many reasons, the biggest of which is that it simply works as they say it will. I’ve been a big fan of Hornady Ammunition for a long time, and the LEVERevolution product line proves that Hornady continues to push the limits of what is believed to be possible with factory ammo.

As we know, spitzer bullets are extremely dangerous in tubular magazines. However, Hornady designed the MonoFlex bullets to eliminate the pointy bullet problem (the rounds going off inside the magazine because the pointed bullet sets off the primer of the case in front of it) without reducing their increased ballistic performance.

Speaking of ballistics, these rounds have a flatter trajectory thanks to the lower-drag performance of the polymer-tipped bullets. Those bullets are designed to deliver excellent terminal ballistics as well.

I couldn’t believe the increased accuracy I saw when I first started firing Hornady LEVERevolution ammo in my lever gun. While soft point projectiles have excellent terminal ballistics, they often jam or become malformed when chambered, drastically reducing their accuracy capabilities. The polymer-tipped rounds won’t do that because they feed so smoothly into the chamber.

This also means they’re much more reliable because you’ll experience fewer malfunctions in your lever-action rifle. When I pulled the trigger, I’ve never had these rounds not go boom.

The only drawback I’ve found with these rounds is the price. They’re expensive, so they’re not something I regularly take to the range and shoot. I save them for hunting season.

If you’re still uncomfortable loading a spire point bullet into your tubular magazine, I recommend checking out Remington Core-Lokt. It’s cheaper, fairly reliable, and uses a soft point projectile.

Federal HammerDown is another round worth looking into for lever action lovers, as it was designed alongside Henry Repeating Arms for use in their lever guns.

When you purchase Hornady LEVERevolution 250 grain MonoFlex, you won’t have any regrets because you’ll have the most accurate 45-70 Govt rifle at the range or in the woods. Don’t hesitate to grab a couple of boxes before they’re all gone, and you’re sure to have a trophy whitetail hanging on your wall by the end of next season!

HSM Cowboy Action 405 Grain HCFN - Best 45-70 Ammo for Target Shooting


  • Bullet Type: Hard Cast Flat Nose
  • Bullet Weight: 405 grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1,300 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 1,520 ft-lbs
  • Case Type: Brass


  • Inexpensive
  • Reasonably accurate
  • Designed for multiple applications
  • Reliable


  • Availability

Why We Chose It

HSM Cowboy Action with a 405 grain bullet is perfect for target shooters because it’s inexpensive, accurate, and reliable.

Many American shooters love HSM ammunition because it uses high-quality components without skyrocketing in price. Even though these rounds are very reasonably priced, they’re incredibly reliable because HSM doesn’t skimp on ammo production quality.

The heavier bullets also aid in accuracy because they’re less affected by the wind, but I’m uncertain that they will be as accurate as Hornady LEVERevolution at long range. The lead bullet used by HSM is still plenty accurate enough to make your buddies jealous.

I also like that these rounds can be used by hunters wanting to keep in touch with tradition. While better hunting projectiles are on the market, you won’t have to worry about sighting in different ammo after taking these to the range.

The biggest drawback is finding a box of these rounds. It’d be great if we could stock up on them with a bulk order, but they’re rarely in stock.

Fiocchi Cowboy Action 405 Grain Lead Round Nose Flat Point rounds are another inexpensive option, but once again, I struggle to find them available.

While the original black powder 45-70 Govt wasn’t intended for target shooting, there are still many excellent options available for target shooters today. However, HSM Cowboy Action 405 Grain HCFN is among the best you’ll find.

Barnes VOR-TX 300 Grain TSX FN - Best 45-70 Ammo for Hunting


Barnes VOR-TX 300 Grain TSX FN
  • Bullet Type: Triple-Shock X Flat Nose
  • Bullet Weight: 300 grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1,925 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 2,469 ft-lbs
  • Case Type: Brass


  • Trusted brand
  • Designed for hunting
  • Accurate
  • Reloadable


  • Expensive

Why We Chose It

Whether you’re hunting hogs in Texas, mule deer in Colorado, moose in Alaska, or African dangerous game, Barnes VOR-TX 300 grain TSX FN is a must-have in the field because it’s accurate, designed for hunting, and produced by a trusted manufacturer.

Many other ammo makers use Barnes bullets because Barnes has proven over the decades that it manufactures some of the best projectiles for hunting and target shooting. Barnes ammunition is also known for being very reliable because it uses high-quality components.

The high-quality components also mean these rounds are very accurate, so you can trust that where you’re aiming is where the bullet will strike on your elk hunt.

TSX bullets are not only designed for accuracy but penetration and expansion as well. This means you won’t worry about wounding an animal with good shot placement because the bullet will quickly do its job and humanely kill any mule deer or black bear you pull the trigger on.

The copper projectile is also legal in states that restrict hunting with lead bullets, meaning you won’t have to worry about accidentally using these rounds somewhere that restricts lead projectiles.

Since Barnes uses brass cases, reloading the spent shells is an option for saving some money. Handloading will help reduce the high price of ammo and allow you to craft the perfect round for your hunting rifle.

As impressive as Barnes Ammunition is, it’s expensive, so be prepared for your wallet to lighten with each trigger pull.

Some hunting might think that a 300 grain bullet just isn’t going to cut it in bear country. I don’t blame you. I want the round that will put the biggest, baddest bear down the fastest. Buffalo Bore 405 grain JFN is the best 45-70 ammo for grizzly bear defense because its heavier bullet won’t have a problem punching through thick skin and dense bone to stop an attacking bear in its tracks at close range. But Buffalo Bore ammunition should only be used in modern 45-70 rifles such as the Ruger No. 1 and No. 3, Christian and Pedersoli Sharps, Browning 1885, amongst others.

Whitetail deer hunters should check out Federal Fusion 300 grain Bonded Soft Point for a slightly less expensive option. Thanks to solid terminal ballistics and a reasonable price, these rounds have proven to be the best 45-70 ammo for deer hunting on a budget.

However, if you want the best 45-70 Govt ammo for hunting, go with Barnes VOR-TX 300 grain TSX FN because it can ethically take a wide variety of game animals with accuracy and dependability.

Sellier & Bellot 405 Grain SP - Honorable Mention


Sellier & Bellot 405 Grain SP
  • Bullet Type: Soft Point
  • Bullet Weight: 405 grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1,509 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 2,048 ft-lbs
  • Case Type: Brass


  • Decent price
  • Wide range of shooting applications
  • Solid ballistics


  • Lesser known brand in the USA

Why We Chose It

Sellier & Bellot 405 Grain SP is well worth mentioning because it’s reasonably priced, can be used as target or hunting ammo, and offers shooters good ballistic performance.

The soft point bullet used by Sellier & Bellot keeps the price within reason and performs well as a hunting round and target shooting round in bolt-action rifles or lever-action rifles. It also gives hunters good stopping power for various game animals (not bears or moose).

The drawback is that Sellier & Bellot isn’t as popular in the U.S. as other brands like Hornady, Federal, Remington or Winchester.

If you’d prefer a better-known brand, Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 300 grain is another polymer-tipped round similar to Hornady LEVERevolution, designed for black bear, elk, and deer hunting. It’s also more expensive, so if you’re looking for something in a similar price range, then Super-X, which uses a jacketed hollow point, is your best option from Winchester.

Sellier & Bellot is gaining popularity in the U.S., and for good reason: it’s solid ammo. I haven’t had a problem while firing Sellier & Bellot ammo, so if you find a box, I suggest buying it!

How to Choose 45-70 Ammo for Your Needs

I understand that the best ammo for my needs might not be the best ammo for your needs. This is why I’ve created this short guide to help you decide what matters most.

Selecting 45-70 Hunting Ammo

When buying 45-70 hunting ammo, my primary considerations are accuracy, knockdown power, and reliability.

Your round must be accurate. Otherwise, you risk only injuring the animal and leaving it to suffer.

Your hunting ammo must also be capable of ethically killing the animal. Some bullets are not designed for hunting, meaning they don’t always cause enough damage to quickly kill the animal.

Lastly, your 45-70 Govt ammo should be reliable. It should go bang when you pull the trigger and jam or malfunction as little as possible.

Best 45-70 Lever Action Ammo Compatibility

Choosing the right lever action ammo is critical because getting the wrong ammo will cause a catastrophe.

Most spitzer or spire point bullets are incompatible with lever-action rifles, so you need to use hollow points, soft points, flat nose, or MonoFlex bullets, whether you’re hunting or target shooting.

Choosing 45-70 Revolver Ammo

If you own the Magnum Research Biggest, Finest Revolver (BFR) or another 45-70 Govt handgun, you should take special considerations when buying ammo.

Remember, when firing a handgun, you don’t have as much weight to absorb the recoil as you would with a rifle. A heavier bullet or round with more muzzle energy probably isn’t the best option unless you enjoy massive recoil.

HSM and Black Hills offer some excellent 45-70 Govt handgun ammo deals, but you’ll likely have to test several to see what works best in your firearm.

Competition/Target Shooting

When target shooting, accuracy and reliability matter most. While the 45-70 Govt will never have as flat a trajectory as the 6.5 Creedmoor, the increased challenge still makes for some fun long-range competition shooting.

In order to compete in any competition, you’ll likely need a 45-70 bullet with a high ballistic coefficient. A higher BC means the bullet is more aerodynamic, allowing the shooter to be more accurate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, the team at Ammo.com has gathered and answered some of the most commonly asked questions regarding the best 45-70 ammo.

How many yards is a 45-70 good for?

With a bit of practice, the 45-70 is good for about 300 yards in the hands of an average shooter.

What is the highest grain 45-70?

The highest-grain 45-70 bullet is a 500 grain bullet for factory loads, but 525 grain projectiles are available to handloaders.

What is the best 45-70 bullet for bear defense?

Buffalo Bore 405 grain JFN bullet is the best 45-70 bullet for bear defense.

Is 45-70 or 30-30 better for deer?

30-30 is better for deer hunting than 45-70 because the lower-recoil, less-expensive round can achieve a similar effective range, and 30-30 ammo is often more available than 45-70 ammo.

Wes Littlefield
Written by
Wes Littlefield

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