What are the Differences Between .308 Winchester and .45-70 Government Ammo?

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The .308 Winchester and .45-70 Government Ammo Comparison

Are you confused about deciding between the .308 Winchester and .45-70 Government when selecting a cartridge? After all, they are two of the most popular hunting cartridges used in North America.

Both chambers have pros and cons, depending on use and situation. In this blog post, we’ll look at an unbiased comparison between the two iconic cartridges to better understand each one so that you can make an informed decision when it comes time to purchase your next rifle.

What is .308 Winchester?

.308 Winchester
.308 Winchester

The .308 Winchester, often simply referred to as “.308” or “7.62x51mm NATO,” is a popular centerfire rifle cartridge. It was introduced in 1952 by Winchester, a prominent American firearms and ammunition manufacturer. The .308 Winchester cartridge is known for its versatility and is widely used in both military and civilian applications.

Specification .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm NATO)
Caliber .308 inches (7.62mm)
Case Type Rimless, bottlenecked cartridge
Overall Length 2.75 to 2.81 inches (70.0 to 71.9mm)
Bullet Weight 150, 165, 168, 175 grains (varies)
Muzzle Velocity 2,500 to 2,800 feet per second (fps)
Muzzle Energy 2,500 to 2,800 foot-pounds of energy (ft-lbs)
Rifle Compatibility Bolt-action, semi-automatic, single-shot, various firearms
Effective Range Several hundred yards
Recoil Manageable, moderate recoil
Common Uses Hunting (deer, elk, boar), target shooting, precision shooting, military and law enforcement

What is .45-70 Government?

.45-70 Government
.45-70 Government

The .45-70 Government, often simply referred to as the .45-70, is a rifle cartridge with a long history and a reputation for power and versatility. It was first introduced in 1873 by the United States Army for use in the Springfield Model 1873 rifle, and it has remained popular among hunters and shooters ever since.

The .45-70 cartridge is characterized by its large caliber (bullet diameter of .458 inches) and relatively low-pressure design. It originally used black powder as a propellant, but modern versions typically use smokeless powder. The “70” in its name refers to the 70 grains of black powder used in its original military loading.

The cartridge is known for its significant power and is capable of taking down large game animals at moderate to long distances. It has been used for hunting a wide variety of game, including deer, bears, and even some African big game. The .45-70 is versatile because it can be loaded with a range of bullet weights and styles, making it suitable for different types of hunting and shooting activities.

There are various loads available for the .45-70, including those with heavy, hard-cast bullets for deep penetration on large game and lighter, expanding bullets for faster expansion on medium-sized game. It’s also used in single-shot rifles, lever-action rifles (like the iconic Marlin Model 1895), and some single-shot pistols.

In recent years, the .45-70 Government has experienced a resurgence in popularity among both hunters and firearm enthusiasts. It remains a classic and respected cartridge in the world of firearms.

Specification .45-70 Government
Caliber .45 (0.458-inch bullet diameter)
Case Type Rimmed, straight-walled
Case Length 2.105 inches (53.47mm)
Overall Length (OAL) Typically around 2.55 inches (64.77mm) for most loads
Bullet Weight Common bullet weights range from 300 grains to 500 grains or more.
Muzzle Velocity Typically ranges from 1,200 to 2,200 feet per second (fps).
Muzzle Energy Can deliver anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 foot-pounds of energy.
Bullet Types Round-nose, flat-nose, hollow-point, and soft-point bullets available.

The Differences Between .308 Winchester vs .45-70 Government

The .308 Winchester and .45-70 Government Ammo Comparison
The .308 Winchester and .45-70 Government Differences

Long-Range Accuracy

.308 Winchester:

  • The .308 Winchester, also known as 7.62x51mm NATO, is a popular and versatile rifle cartridge. It is widely used for both hunting and target shooting, including long-range precision shooting.
  • It typically fires a smaller, high-velocity bullet compared to the .45-70 Government. Common bullet weights range from 150 to 180 grains.
  • The .308 Winchester is known for its flat trajectory and relatively low recoil, making it well-suited for long-range accuracy.
  • With the right rifle and ammunition combination, the .308 Winchester can be accurate at extended ranges, often reaching out to 800 yards or more.

.45-70 Government:

  • The .45-70 Government is an older cartridge with a larger, heavier bullet designed for big-game hunting and military use in the late 1800s. It typically fires bullets in the 300 to 500-grain range.
  • Due to its large bullet and relatively low velocity, the .45-70 has a much more pronounced trajectory arc compared to the .308 Winchester. It drops significantly at longer distances.
  • While the .45-70 can be accurate at moderate ranges for big-game hunting, it is not typically considered a cartridge for long-range precision shooting.
  • The recoil of the .45-70 can be substantial, especially with heavy loads, which can affect follow-up shots and shooter comfort.


The .308 Winchester is known for its excellent long-range accuracy. It typically has a flatter trajectory and higher muzzle velocity compared to the .45-70 Government, which means it exhibits less bullet drop and drift over long distances, making it a preferred choice for precision shooting, target shooting, and long-range hunting.

🥇 The winnner: .308 Winchester

Short to Medium Range Hunting (Large Game)

The .45-70 Government excels in short to medium-range hunting, especially for large game. Its larger, heavier bullets deliver substantial stopping power, making it ideal for taking down big game animals like deer, bear, and even moose at moderate distances. The cartridge’s reputation for “brush-busting” ability makes it a favored choice in dense woods and heavy brush.

🥇 The winnner: .45-70 Government

Versatility (Overall Use)

.308 Winchester:

  • Versatility: The .308 Winchester is renowned for its versatility and is often considered a “jack of all trades” cartridge. It can be used effectively in a wide range of applications, making it a popular choice among hunters and target shooters.
  • Hunting: The .308 Winchester is commonly used for hunting various game species, including deer, elk, and even larger game when appropriate bullet choices are made. Its flat trajectory and moderate recoil make it a great choice for hunting at moderate distances.
  • Target Shooting: This cartridge is widely used in target shooting disciplines like long-range precision shooting and tactical competitions. Its accuracy, manageable recoil, and availability of match-grade ammunition make it popular for this purpose.
  • Military and Law Enforcement: The .308 Winchester has a military history and is still used in some military and law enforcement sniper rifles. Its long-range capabilities and effectiveness against soft targets make it suitable for this role.
  • Self-Defense: While not as common as smaller handgun rounds for self-defense, the .308 can be used in semi-automatic rifles for home defense and personal protection, especially in rural areas.

.45-70 Government:

  • Versatility: The .45-70 Government is a versatile cartridge, but it’s more specialized compared to the .308. It excels in certain applications while being less suited to others.
  • Hunting: The .45-70 is known for its hard-hitting power and is excellent for hunting large, tough game at short to moderate ranges. It’s often used for hunting bears, wild boars, and other heavy game, especially in dense woods where shorter shots are common.
  • Lever-Action Rifles: The .45-70 Government cartridge is closely associated with lever-action rifles like the Marlin 1895 and the Winchester 1886. These rifles are popular for hunting and have a classic appeal.
  • Recoil: Due to its significant recoil, the .45-70 may not be the best choice for high-volume target shooting or tactical applications. Shooters should be prepared for stout recoil when using this cartridge.


The .308 Winchester is highly versatile and can be used for various purposes, including target shooting, hunting a wide range of game, and tactical applications. It offers a balance between power and recoil, making it suitable for a broad spectrum of shooting activities.

🥇 The winnner: .308 Winchester

Recoil (Lowest Recoil)

308 Winchester:

  • The .308 Winchester is a popular centerfire rifle cartridge used for hunting and target shooting.
  • Recoil for the .308 Winchester is considered moderate, but it’s generally manageable for most shooters.
  • The level of recoil can vary depending on factors like bullet weight, powder charge, and the weight of the rifle.
  • Using lighter bullet weights and reduced recoil loads can help reduce the felt recoil significantly.
  • The .308 is commonly used in bolt-action rifles and semi-automatic rifles, and recoil can differ between these firearm types.

.45-70 Government:

  • The .45-70 Government is a large, rimmed rifle cartridge designed for use in lever-action rifles and single-shot rifles.
  • Recoil for the .45-70 Government is typically higher than that of the .308 Winchester, especially when using full-power loads.
  • The .45-70 is known for its “thump” and can produce significant felt recoil.
  • However, you can manage recoil in .45-70 rifles by using lighter loads or even cowboy action loads, which have significantly reduced recoil compared to full-power loads.
  • Lever-action rifles in .45-70 are often more compact and lighter than many bolt-action rifles, which can increase the perceived recoil due to the firearm’s design.


The .308 Winchester generally produces lower recoil compared to the .45-70 Government. This lower recoil can be advantageous for shooters who want to minimize the effects of recoil on accuracy and shooter comfort, especially during extended shooting sessions.

🥇 The winnner: .308 Winchester

Ammunition Availability

.308 Winchester:

  • .308 Winchester ammunition is a popular cartridge commonly used for hunting and target shooting. It is often readily available at most gun stores and online ammunition retailers. However, during periods of high demand or ammunition shortages, availability may be limited, and prices can fluctuate.

.45-70 Government:

  • .45-70 Government ammunition is used in firearms such as lever-action rifles and is popular for hunting large game. Like the .308 Winchester, availability can vary depending on location and demand. It is generally less common than more popular rifle cartridges, so it may not be as readily available as common pistol and rifle cartridges.


.308 Winchester ammunition is widely available in many regions and comes in a variety of loads, making it easier to find and suitable for a broader range of firearms.

🥇 The winnner: .308 Winchester

Stopping Power (Close-Range Big Game Hunting)

At close ranges, the .45-70 Government’s larger, heavier bullets and higher energy levels provide significant stopping power. This makes it highly effective for taking down large game animals quickly and reliably.

🥇 The winnner: .45-70 Government

Brush and Woods Hunting

The .45-70 Government is well-suited for hunting in dense brush or woods. Its heavy bullets are less likely to be deflected by obstacles like branches, making it a popular choice for hunters pursuing game in close quarters.

🥇 The winnner: .45-70 Government

Historical and Classic Firearms

The .45-70 Government has a rich historical heritage, having been used in iconic firearms like the Springfield Model 1873. This historical association makes it appealing to collectors and enthusiasts who appreciate classic firearms and their historical significance.

🥇 The winnner: .45-70 Government

.308 Winchester and .45-70 Government FAQs

Q: What is the typical use of the .308 Winchester?

The .308 Winchester is used for a wide range of applications, including hunting various game species (deer, elk, etc.) and target shooting. It is also a popular choice for military and law enforcement snipers.

Q: What is the ballistics performance of the .308 Winchester?

The .308 Winchester typically fires a .308-inch diameter bullet and is known for its relatively flat trajectory and good long-range accuracy. It has moderate recoil, making it suitable for a wide range of shooters.

Q: What rifles are chambered for .308 Winchester?

Many firearms manufacturers produce rifles chambered for .308 Winchester. Popular choices include bolt-action rifles like the Remington 700 and semi-automatic rifles like the AR-10.

Q: Is the .308 Winchester suitable for long-range shooting?

Yes, the .308 Winchester is often used for long-range shooting, although it may not have the extreme long-range capabilities of some other cartridges. With the right rifle, ammunition, and shooter skill, it can be effective at extended distances.

Q: What is the typical use of the .45-70 Government?

The .45-70 is often used for hunting big game, especially in North America. It is a popular choice for hunting large and dangerous animals like bears and moose. It’s also used in some single-shot and lever-action rifles.

Q: What is the ballistics performance of the .45-70 Government?

The .45-70 Government fires a heavy, .458-inch diameter bullet at moderate velocities. It is known for its stopping power and ability to deliver substantial energy on target. However, it has a pronounced trajectory arc at longer distances.

Q: What rifles are chambered for .45-70 Government?

Many lever-action rifles, such as the Marlin 1895 and Henry H010, are chambered for .45-70 Government. Some single-shot and falling-block action rifles are also available in this caliber.

Q: Is the .45-70 Government suitable for long-range shooting?

The .45-70 Government is not typically used for long-range precision shooting due to its trajectory characteristics. It’s more suited for shorter to medium-range hunting applications where heavy bullets and stopping power are needed.


In conclusion, I’ve explored the characteristics and applications of two iconic rifle cartridges, the .308 Winchester and .45-70 Government. These cartridges offer distinct advantages and are favored by hunters, marksmen, and enthusiasts for various reasons.

The .308 Winchester is celebrated for its accuracy and versatility, making it a go-to choice for long-range precision shooting and hunting. On the other hand, the .45-70 Government stands as a powerful and time-tested round, well-suited for big game hunting and lever-action rifles.

As firearm enthusiasts, it’s essential to continue expanding our knowledge of ammunition and firearms. To delve deeper into the world of weapons and ammunition, I encourage you to explore other informative articles and resources available at Weapon Specialists. There, you’ll find a wealth of valuable information to further enhance your understanding of firearms and related topics. Happy shooting!

Last Updated on November 21, 2023 by

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