30-30 vs 45-70

  • Jack Collins
Image courtesy of Waltherppx.

When it comes to powerful cowboy guns, two calibers reign supreme. We’re talking, of course, about the 30 30 (aka 30-30) and the 45-70 govt, two of the most popular rounds for lever action rifles. While they may be old-school cartridges, both of these high-powered rounds have plenty of applications in lever action rifles today. We’ll look at the 30-30 vs the 45-70 in this post.

30-30: One of the Most Popular Lever Action Rifles Today

The 30-30 round is nearly synonymous with lever action rifles these days. While they weren’t the original cartridge used in Winchester’s ubiquitous lever action guns dating back to 1894. The cartridge gets its moniker from an old naming convention: the first “30” comes from its caliber, while the second “30” refers to the 30 grains of smokeless powder the round uses.

The 30-30 has seen continued use into the present day. It’s still an extremely popular cartridge for hunting deer in the US, and it can successfully drop any big game in North America. Some of today’s much-beloved 30-30 lever action rifles include Henry, Smith & Wesson (under the “Marlin” name), and the Winchester Model 94. It’s 


Bullet Size

150 grains

Bullet Diameter

.308 in (7.8 mm)

Muzzle Velocity

2,390 ft/s

Bullet Energy

1,903 ft*lbs

Max Range

About 150-200 yards


45-70 Govt: The Most Powerful Lever Action Round

Image courtesy of Hmaag.


Think of the 45-70 as the 30-30’s big brother. It’s a bigger, more massive bullet with more powder behind it, capable of going a considerable distance and transferring a lot of energy. Like the 30-30, it derives its handle from archaic naming schemes: “45” for its caliber and “70” for how much powder is in its cartridge. 

In spite of what you might think, the 45-70 actually came around before the 30-30. It traces its origins to the 1870s and ‘80s when the US Army ran tests to improve on its 50-70 cartridge. The trimmer, slimmed-down 45-70 bullet had better terminal ballistics than its beefier brother did, and the US Army adopted it officially in the early 1870s. Some US Navy ships even employed Gatling guns chambered in 45-70.


Bullet Size

300 grains

Bullet Diameter

.458 in (11.6 mm)

Muzzle Velocity

2,069 ft/s

Bullet Energy

2,852 ft*lbs

Max Range

About 200-300 yards


Legendary Lever Actions: 30-30 vs 45-70

So, out of the 30-30 vs the 45-70, which is the better cartridge? As usual, you can’t really make that kind of value judgment. Instead, each cartridge has some advantage over the other, making it better for certain applications.

For example, if you’re hunting deer, 30-30 is by far the round of choice. It’s smaller and lighter than the 45-70, making you more mobile and letting you carry more ammo. But for bigger game like moose or bear, the 45-70 is a better choice, since it can transfer more force into the target. 

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