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Old November 23, 2022, 01:07 PM   #1
Willie Lowman
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45/70 vs .444

I am planning on getting another barrel for my TC Encore next year.

I am torn between 45/70 and .444. The best (hottest) loads for 45/70 are just knocking on the door of what .444 does. The .444 gets 200 or so FPS higher velocities for similar bullets. But the thing is .444 ammo is rare. 45/70 is available in many loadings, bullet weights, bullet designs... All I can find for the .444 is Leverevoltion.


So do I go with the higher performance of the .444 or the ammo availability and versatility of the 45/70?


I don't reload. I used to but I sold all my equipment when my daughter was born as we needed my reloading room to be her bedroom.... I have switched from a desktop PC to a laptop so I could use my old computer desk for a reloading station. I figure if I go with .444 I will have to roll my own for the most part.

What are your thoughts? I really don't know which to choose.
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Old November 23, 2022, 02:03 PM   #2
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I had both, in Encore, and reloaded for them. 16" Katahdin barrels. Same weight bullets, there was not a lot of difference. My purpose was to compare the two rounds in the Encore before I bought a Lever Action. I went with the diversity of the .45-70 over the .444 even though I only reload for it.

IMHO, with the 250 class bullet, yes, you get more velocity with the .444, but with the 405g from Buffalo Bore, um, you are not really losing anything to the .444. If velocity was all there was to the equation, the .444 wins. But the SD and frontal area of the .45-70, plus the range of bullets (I shoot 300 to 500g) for the .45-70 in a variety of factory loads, still think the .45-70 is better overall.

All that, the difference is really not huge, I reload, and I would have been just as happy with the .444 as the .45-70 if it came in the rifle configuration I wanted.
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Old November 23, 2022, 02:04 PM   #3
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I have, reload for and shoot both. My 45-70 is a Henry lever gun and I simply love the thing, the best Henry I've ever owned. My 444 Marlin is a single shot CVA scout--before you laugh remember Bergara makes their barrels and they are generally outstanding for commercial volume-production barrels. I don't think there is all that much difference between to the two performance wise--if I didn't have the 45-70 already and I had to make a one-or-the-other choice, I'd probably go for a Marlin lever gun in the 444 but it's really splitting hairs to me. I got some excellent results in the 444 with hornady interlocks; right after which, pissing me off to no end, Hornady decided in their wisdom to discontinue them I suppose to force people to buy their FTX. I have had very good results with alternative solids in .429/.430 for the 444 Marlin like the cutting edge maximus and Lehigh extreme penetrator. The FTX is a very good bullet though in hunting applications I've read you need to be aware of its peculiarities depending upon distance and velocity. 45-70 has the advantage in greater availability of both factory ammo and reload components plus the sex appeal of bigger is better.

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Old November 23, 2022, 02:40 PM   #4
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I've got a Marlin in .444. I load a 280 hard cast bullet over 42 grains of RL7. My bullets are sized to .432". I'm satisfied with this. About 2000 to 2100 FPS. I tried loading 43 grains of RL7 to bump up the velocity to 2300, but the recoil was much greater. I didn't think a deer would mind the reduced charge.
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Old November 23, 2022, 06:20 PM   #5
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The best (hottest) loads for 45/70 are just knocking on the door of what .444 does.
I have to disagree with this. But then, I'm not limited to factory ammunition.

THE GUN is a limiting factor. The Encore is stronger than the Contender, so should be able to handle loads heavier then my .45-70 Contender does.

But, is it capable of handing the heavy .45-70 loads my Ruger No.3 can? Because those loads are heavier than anything in .444.

My Hornady manual shows the .444 launching a 300gr up to 2000fps from the Marlin rifle. Same book shows a top load .45-70 (Ruger rifle), launching a 350gr bullet up to 2200fps. That beats the .444 in BOTH bullet size & weight, AND velocity.

But that is possible only in a gun made to take it. Since .45-70s have been around since 1873 in rifles ranging from safe with BP pressures only up to modern ones capable of modern high pressures, it is the gun you are using that determines the top level of load possible.

The .45 caliber has a much broader range of available bullets than the .44, and in also in much heavier weights. For that reason in particular I chose the .45-70 over the .444.
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Old November 23, 2022, 09:29 PM   #6
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When loaded hot the 45-70 can be BRUTAL. I like the 444 a lot more because it doesn't knock the snot out of me every time I pull the trigger.
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Old November 23, 2022, 09:48 PM   #7
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I have to admit that my henry--which has a metal plate for a buttpad--is a sadomasochist's dream par excellance in an extended range session.
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Old November 23, 2022, 09:50 PM   #8
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This used to be a common topic for discussion on the old Marlin forum. From what I could tell, the people who had the .444 loved it and thought it was best. Same with the people who had the .45-70.

One big source of ongoing disagreement was generated by comparing apples to oranges when looking at ammo. I.e. comparing .444 loads for a strong modern gun to .45-70 loads for a Trapdoor Springfield. Ruger No1 only .45-70 loadings to .444 loads suitable for use in a lever action rifle, etc.

There was some wrangling about the fact that a lot of the bullets used for .444 loads weren't really designed for .444 velocities, but it didn't sound like anyone was losing game from bullet failures.

The only two real points that seemed to stand out:

Ammo availability/variety is way better for the .45-70. This was back before LeverEvolution and during a time when there was more than one brand of .444 available, as I recall, so the ammo availability issue favors the .45-70 even more these days.

Trajectory is noticeably flatter for the .444.
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Old November 23, 2022, 10:52 PM   #9
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Everything but the most common is hard to find right now. I would think back or ask before 2000 was there a problem finding either. In the long run I would go with the one you like. My dad has a 444 marlin and it isn't bad. Some day it will be mine and I have the reloading dies ready for it.

Up until 2 weeks before Wisconsin's rifle deer season I hadn't been able to find a box of Winchester power points or deer season in 30-06 with 150 grains. I found two boxes and hid them away. I had just enough ammo but was in the same boat with should I buy a 308.
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Old November 24, 2022, 12:33 AM   #10
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Over the years I've had several .45-70s, experience with a few more, from Trapdoors and Sharps to Winchesters, Marlins, Ruger and T/C Contender, even a Siamese Mauser reworked to .45-70, as well as with a friend's .444.

If you were going to hunt deer/elk and were only going to have one rifle, a lever gun, either .444 or .45-70 will give fine service, within their limitations.

If you're going to be a big bore rifle enthusiast, the .45-70 offers much more versatility in both guns and ammo than the .444.

And, then there is the nostalgia factor, which doesn't matter to some people, but does to others, even when shooting from modern guns, the "old west" .45-70 has a charm and a history the .444 doesn't.
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Old November 24, 2022, 09:29 AM   #11
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I'm not one for nostalgia nor am I a big bore enthusiast. My primary goal with this rifle is deer hunting. The occasional pumpkin shoot and perhaps just to say I have one...

Reading the replies here makes me lean toward the 45/70 now as ammo is (theoretically) more plentiful and varied in load.
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Old November 24, 2022, 09:36 AM   #12
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There is so much in this thread that is deserving of hitting the like button on. I thank all of y’all for your input.

As far as the 45-70 vs 444 Marlin, I think it’s a moot point & comes down to what you the shooter want. Both have a bore size that begins in .4, both absolutely knock the snot outta whatever you shoot with it.

It’s true that 45-70 has the old west appeal, but Mack Bolan didn’t use a 45-70 to whack bad guys with. He used a Marlin chambered in .444.

My grandson recently purchased one of the new Marlin trapper lever action in 45/70 and it is a great little rifle. I am currently teaching him how to roll his own for it.

As for me, I think I would opt for a Marlin in .444 simply because it was one of my grail guns I wanted as a teen but just never purchased one.


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Old November 24, 2022, 11:20 AM   #13
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Happy Thanksgiving
Being on your Grail List is a good enough reason for getting a .444, you already reload, get one and enjoy it.
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Old November 24, 2022, 01:11 PM   #14
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In a handgun I'd say its more about preference. Heavy bullets are less of a consideration.

If it was a rifle...I'd pay attention to the twist rate of the barrel. At least the early 444's had trouble stabilizing bullets over 300 gr.
Actually original 1886 Winchesters chambered in 45-90 were twisted to be a (relatively) Hi-Vel ,light bullet "Express Rifle"

While the 45-70 was happy with 405 gr bullets, the 45-90,not so much. It was happier with 300 gr.

I don't know what your target will be. I'm guessing ,due to recoil, either cartridge would likely be shooting 300 gr bullets. Not likely you'll be shooting African Big 5 or Big Bears, or Long Range Competition..so 400 + gr bullets are not a great advantage.

Early days of loading 444 met with the challenge of most bullets available were constructed for 44 Magnum . The 444 over drove them, which could actually reduce penetration.

I still have a box of .035 copper jacket 265 gr bullets from Barnes made for the 444.

Whether true or false,folks had concerns about cast bullets and Micro-Groove. I don't know the answer.

I'm of the school I'd shoot cast bullets in either cartridge and which cartridge does not matter much. For no reason I can make an arguement,I'd probably go 45-70.
But you do you!
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Old November 24, 2022, 03:18 PM   #15
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Mack Bolan didn’t use a 45-70 to whack bad guys with. He used a Marlin chambered in .444.
Only in the very first book, or perhaps two. After that he used a .460 Weatherby, with a 20x scope (shooting golf ball off a tee from several hundred yards out from a boat on Lake Michigan, and "riding the recoil" to keep his target in the scope's field of view, before shooting the mafia boss playing golf...

Never could duplicate that feat, myself...not even close..

His .44 Auto Mag also worked better than mine ever did....damnit
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Old November 24, 2022, 06:18 PM   #16
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Reading The Exectioner series of books (Mack Bolan) got many of us GIs through the long days of “hurry up and wait” back in the day. There was always two or three laying around every day room I ever visited. Always wanted a 460 till I shot a 45-70, and that was enough recoil for me.
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Old November 24, 2022, 08:41 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by THE OP
"...I figure if I go with .444 I will have to roll my own for the most part....
Since you have to set up for reloading if you get the 444 anyway,
you might as well go for/reload for the more advantageous 45-70 options.
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Old November 24, 2022, 09:24 PM   #18
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3 4's

Shooting the triple 4 for 30 years taking everything from Eastern deer tp Maine black bear.
Never needed a second shot and appreciated the knockdown power and flat trajectory.
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Old November 25, 2022, 02:47 AM   #19
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At the end of the day I can't imagine anything that you could reasonably harvest with the 45-70 that likewise couldn't be taken with the .444.

I do want to try a 460 Weatherby just out of curiosity. I keep trying to convince my friend who is a big 5 safari hunter (and has proven susceptible to "bigger is better" arguments in the past) to get one, but he is content with the 416 which has filled his trophy room.
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Old November 25, 2022, 03:52 AM   #20
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Whether true or false,folks had concerns about cast bullets and Micro-Groove. I don't know the answer.
I believe Marlin moved away from the microgroove rifling for their centerfire leverguns some years ago.

It seemed, based on the discussion, that the old microgroove rifling worked fine with cast bullets as long as the bullets were sized exactly right for the bore. So a careful handloader could use cast bullets with the microgroove and get good results. Someone who wanted to buy/shoot cast bullet ammo from a commercial source, or who didn't want to slug their bore and size bullets was better served with Ballard rifling.
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Old November 25, 2022, 10:13 AM   #21
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My Marlin has microgroove rifling. My bullet mold is custom made to cast bullets to .432 and my sizer is also .432.
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Old November 25, 2022, 05:02 PM   #22
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"I believe Marlin moved away from the microgroove rifling for their centerfire leverguns some years ago.

It seemed, based on the discussion, that the old microgroove rifling worked fine with cast bullets as long as the bullets were sized exactly right for the bore. So a careful handloader could use cast bullets with the microgroove and get good results. Someone who wanted to buy/shoot cast bullet ammo from a commercial source, or who didn't want to slug their bore and size bullets was better served with Ballard rifling."

A lot of truth there. One day at the range I was running .310" cast bullets in a Marlin 336 and getting 1.5" to 2.)" groups. A fellow next to me had just gotten into cast bullets and was also shooting a Marlin 336. Groups were almost nonexistent. Roughly 8" patterns was more like it.
We talked for a bit and he asked me what was ai doing to get those groups compared to what he was doing. First thing I suggested was let's clean the barrel. It was badly leaded. I carry spare brushes and a Chore Boy pad in my kit when I shoot cast. Usually no trouble with leading but sometimes stuff happens. I asked what size bullet was he using and he said .308" as recommended by a friend. I told him mine were sized at .310". He was using a flat nosed bullet that looked like the Lyman #31141 or #311941 as they now call it. I was shooting a Lyman #311291. Both bullets are in the 170 gr. range. I let him shoot a group with my loads and he got a nice 2.5" groups and the widest grin I've seen in a long time. I told him that I have the same mold as what he was using and had never gotten any kind of groups worth spit. I also told him that I seat ,y bullets so they are slightly engraved by the rifling. Dunno how it all worked out for him and I never lucked out into seeing him again. Too bad. Seemed like a nice guy.
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Old November 25, 2022, 05:08 PM   #23
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Disclaimer, I'm not a fan of either.

But I had various 45-70's over the years and can't think of a single reason to choose 444 over it. Marlin introduced the 444 in 1964 and initially it did poorly. As said above bullets designed for 44 mag were not working at 444 speeds.

The 45-70 cartridge had been dormant and all but unused since the 1890's, but Marlin introduced a modern version of the 1895 in 1972 chambered for 45-70 with plans of dropping the 444.

But bullet and ammo makers did eventually get around to producing better 44 caliber bullets and the 444 refuses to completely die.

The 444 tops out with bullets around 300 gr; the traditional load for a 45-70 is 405 gr and you can go up to 500 gr. With lighter bullets 45-70 does the same thing and 45-70 and is much more common, especially if you handload. If you're handloading 444 you still have to stay away from bullets meant for 44 mag.

Traditional 45-70 loads are adequate for deer and black bear but are underpowered for larger game. 45-70 was never a commonly used round for bison. It wasn't potent enough to kill them reliably for one thing, and most of the bison were dead before it was introduced. I'm sure it killed a few, but the old-time buffalo hunters used bigger, more powerful cartridges. Recoil with these loads is very tolerable. Comparable to 30-06.

With modern loads and bullets the 45-70 is a legitimate cartridge for larger game such as elk, moose, and bigger bear. There is a wide range of loads, with accompanying recoil. The hotter loads recoil is brutal. In a nutshell 45-70 does everything a 444 does, plus a lot more.

I'm not sure where the TC falls as to what 45-70 loads it will take. If you look at load manuals, they show 3 different levels. Older guns and reproductions are limited to old black powder levels. The Marlin lever guns are suitable for the mid-range loads. Bolt guns, and maybe the TC, will take the hottest loads. But even those loads are considerably less powerful than 458 WM. Fired from a lever action 45-70 is nowhere near 458 power levels.
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Old November 25, 2022, 06:50 PM   #24
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I built a M98 in 444 a few years back, and I can actually say I prefer the 444 to the 45-70. Flatter trajectories and higher energy are the main reasons, but making rimmed cartridges feed out of a box mag versus a semi-rimmed cartridge is a big deal. Can you reach 2,300 fps with a 45-70 with 405 grain bullets? Probably, but who wants to? Everybody spouts the same bs about being able to reach 80% of 458 Win Mag energy with a hot 45-70, but nobody wants to try. This is the same reason target shooters in the late 1800s switched from 45 caliber to 40 caliber cartridges, recoil with the heavy 45 cal bullets is terrible.

So I load my 265 gr Hornadys to 2,400 fps and the 300 gr Cutting Edge bullets to 2,100 fps, and that kicks plenty hard enough for me. I look at it as a poor man's 425 Westley Richards or 404 Jefferies, with that big of a hole you don't need a lot more energy. This is like the discussion of 308 Win vs 30-06, it's too close to call for most people and all their arguments are based on "I think", which doesn't hold water.

Ammo availability? In the age of COVID? Make me laugh! It's hard enough finding 22-250. let alone 444! But I did score a Remington bulk pack of 250 444 Marlin 240 grainers a couple years back. Since I'm unlikely to take on a Cape Buffalo or a rhino, those will work just fine on deer and pigs and the occasional ground squirrel, and I reload so I can make my own witch doctor home brews if I need to.
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Old November 26, 2022, 01:42 PM   #25
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Traditional 45-70 loads are adequate for deer and black bear but are underpowered for larger game. 45-70 was never a commonly used round for bison. It wasn't potent enough to kill them reliably for one thing, and most of the bison were dead before it was introduced.
There's a lot of dead "larger game" that would argue with this, if they could. .45-70 has been used for bison and other game since its introduction in 1873. It is ABSOLUTELY potent enough to kill them reliably.

The MARKET hunting slaughter of the bison herds was winding down and essentially ended shortly after the .45-70 was introduced, so few of them made it to the hands of the market hunters, who already had rifles that worked and weren't terribly interested in replacing them at the time...

The ARMY shot buffalo, cattle, horses, people and every thing else they shot with the .45-70 and had NO issues with its "potency" if anything, they REDUCED some of the original loads, over time.

Quote:
Everybody spouts the same bs about being able to reach 80% of 458 Win Mag energy with a hot 45-70, but nobody wants to try.
ITs NOT BS, Scorch, some of us have done it. And yes, the recoil is up there, there's no free lunch. Just because we don't regularly shoot the really heavy loads for plinking and recreation doesn't mean its BS. I have a .458Win Mag, too, but I don't shoot 500gr elephant loads from it for fun, either. I COULD, but I choose not to, for both my own comfort, enjoyment, and the savings on my wallet.

The speedometer in my car goes to 140, (probably overly optimistic) I've had it to over 100...the fact that I almost never drive it that fast, that most of my driving is done at 80 or slower doesn't make the fact that it can do 100 BS. Not in the least.

The T/C CONTENDER is stronger than the trap door Springfield, but not quite as strong as the 1886 Win lever gun or the modern Marlin. Top loads for those rifles are just a bit too much for the Contender. I run mine at Trapdoor load levels or just slightly over with no trouble.

I do not know what strength level a T/C ENCORE .45-70 would be grouped in, but I wouldn't put it in the same group as my Ruger No.3.
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