One thing is for certain—the .45-70 has a much longer history than the .308. The former was officially incorporated into the US Army back in the 1870s, so it’s safe to say that rifles chambered in .45-70 have given the round a thorough vetting.
Like most rounds with a lot of history, the .45-70 went through tweaks and subtle alterations—mostly concerning the powder behind the round—but the round used today is largely the same.
The .308 is to the 7.62 what the .223 is to the 5.56. Winchester decided to follow NATO’s adoption of the 7.62 with the .308, back in 1954. Since then, the .308 has been enormously popular both for its power and accuracy. When you stack the two side by side, however, it’s not so easy to tell which is best.
.45-70 versus .308
Once upon a time, the .45-70 round was pretty versatile—including breech-loaded cartridges, Gatling guns, lever-action rifles, and even as a 49 gauge shotgun round for small game. Today, it’s primarily used in hunting rifles and competition shooting.
Technically, it’s a .45-70-500, with the 70 representing powder charge and the 500 representing the weight. The diameter of the bullet is .458.
The range on the .45-70 won’t blow your socks off. The round will drop over 13” at 200 yards. At 300 yards, you might as well aim at the sky, because you’ll get a 4’ drop on the round. All of the range is based on a rifle that is zeroed at 100 yards.
What Game is .45-70 good for
Big game. While you can hunt whitetail with a .45-70 (thanks to its low velocity, you won’t absolutely obliterate the meat) but is truly designed for big game hunting, including bears. It’s great for hunting in heavy brush, as the bullet will simply pulverize any twigs between itself and the target.
Is the .45-70 an elephant round
While no round is an “elephant” round, though some 8-gauge shotguns have carried that moniker, the .45-70 is perfectly capable of dropping an elephant. However, the most common rounds used for elephants are 7mm and 6.5mm. Occasionally, the .303 is known for taking down elephants, especially when attributed to D.M. Bell.
- Powerful round for big game
- Great as a collectors item (rifle, not the round)
- Useful in heavy brush
- Slower velocity leaves it open for smaller game as well
- Inaccurate at long distances
- Slow velocity
- Hard to find rifles chambered in .45-70
The .308 is easily the smaller cartridge of the two, but it enjoys far superior popularity for hunters and competition shooters alike. The bullet’s diameter is.308 and has an exit velocity of 2,620fps.
When zeroed at 100 yards, the .308 drops around 3.5” at 200 yards and 15” at 300 yards. The grain behind the .308 is anywhere between 125 and 180, which makes a little bit of difference, as well. With the right adjustments, you’ll hit targets at 1,200 yards, but the round is not purely designed for that.
What game is ideal for a .308
The .308 is far more versatile than the .45-70, and you can use it for a wide variety of game, including whitetail, moose, elk, hogs, mule deer, and even mountain goats. It’s underpowered for black bear but will get the job done. Don’t waste your time with grizzly or polar bears.
- More range and higher velocity
- Flatter trajectory
- Useful for a wide variety of game
- Popular and numerous, which makes it an inexpensive round
- Solid stopping power
- Not meant for really big game
- Won’t turn any heads hanging on your wall
Bottom Line – Which is best overall
If you want something that is a collector’s rifle—something you can take down and polish while watching Quigley Down Under, the .45-70 was made just for you. However, the .308 is the superior round in most aspects.
It has a larger variety of uses, including better range, better kinetic energy, better velocity. It’s also more easily accessible on the market and far cheaper than .45-70 rounds. Unless you’re pining for the old days of Custer’s Last Stand, the .308 is an all-around better cartridge.