444 versus 45-70?


November 9, 2003, 08:08 PM
Looking at their muzzle energies there don't seem much difference to write home about. Why would one choose one cartridge over the other?

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November 9, 2003, 08:19 PM
It's all in your theory of what makes a bullet effective. .444 tends to be lighter and faster.

I believe the .45-70 is a better round for any number of game, vs just deer and smaller for the .444.


November 9, 2003, 08:31 PM
I'm still suprised that the 444 has lasted. When it first came out it was poor because they used pistol bullets which would break up and the twist was wrong for anything heavier. Today it's better but the 45-70 is superior.. The 45-70 is impressive with ordinary factory loads but some companies load very high performance ammo. After 130 years the 45-70 is still proving to new generations that it is a great hunting and target round.

Ken Cox
November 9, 2003, 08:44 PM
For a given bullet weight and pressure, the larger the diameter the faster the powder can accelerate the bullet.
So, a rifle can accelerate a 300 grain .45 bullet faster, at the same pressure, than it can a 300 grain .43 (.444 Marlin) bullet.
This comes under what they call internal ballistics.

When it comes to external ballistics, the 300 grain .43 bullet has a fractionally greater length and therefore greater sectional density, and it could arguably retain its velocity a little better than the .45 bullet of the same weight and general shape.

Terminally, the 300 grain .43 bullet, by virtue of its slightly greater sectional density, would penetrate a little deeper; whereas the 300 grain .45 bullet would create a slightly larger diameter wound channel.

Theoretically, given a modern rifle, one could develop slightly hotter loads for the .45-70 than for the .444 before he ran into pressure problems.
I say theoretically because so many other factors can enter into the equation.

If reloading and pressures don't matter, one should pick the caliber based on what matters most to him, such as the types of rifles chambered in that caliber.

One might want to remember or think about the fact that the larger the diameter or surface area of the base of the bullet, the less pressure it takes to push it out the bore.
This remains true of all straight-walled cases.
When considering bottle-necked cases, the diameter of the case becomes a factor: expanding gases in extremely large diameter cases do not push small bullets as efficiently as large bullets.
For example, the .30-378 and the .338-378 will produce very similar velocities for a given pressure, but the .338-378 will do it with a heavier bullet.

I hope I have all the above right.
I remember it from a book by P. O. Ackley I read about 12 years ago and so I might have some of it wrong. :)

November 9, 2003, 08:50 PM
There's a great article in the current American Rifleman on reloading the 444. One of the limitations with the 444 Marlin cartidge (according to the author, who is a fan) is apparently that most of the bullets are designed for expansion at handgun velocities.

November 9, 2003, 09:30 PM
Should be a helluva home defense round.

.45-70 300 grain GA arms SJHP at standard velocity (listed at 1800 fps, but from a Guide Gun, so slower) penetrated level 2 SBA, railroad tie, and other side of SBA, and kept going.

I imagine 200 or 240 grain .444 would be capable of lancing SBA, but less likely to overpenetrate.

Good to see you, Ken.


November 9, 2003, 10:04 PM
It comes down to choices. The .444 comes in only a few loads. You may handload for more effect, but not much. Deer and smaller hunting. The 45/70, on the other hand, has a conucopia of options. Cowboy loads pushing 405 grain lead at about 1,400 fps, commercial "safe" loads pushing 300 grain JHP at 1880 fps, or Garretts pushing 420 to 540 grain loads in the 2,000 fps range (they hurt). Some people realy like their 444 Marlin. However, doing unemotional research led me to the 45/70, even over the new .450.

On an emotional note, I think it is ubercool that we can make a 130 year old cartridge, with all of that history, still relevant. The 45/70 is still the king of big bores.

November 9, 2003, 10:06 PM
"Why would one choose one cartridge over the other?"

Well there are several things that come into play, pretty much all of them favor the .45/70.
First of all, if you are not a handloader, the selection of factory ammo in .444 Marlin is very slim pickings. Remington, for years, made the only factory load for the .444 and it wasn't anything to write home about. Today, Horandy makes the Light Magnum, and several semi-custom manufacturers manufacture factory ammo capable of taking anything North American has to offer along with most of what Africa has to offer. As a handloader, there are a number of premium bullets both jacketed and cast that perform far beyond the Remington factory load. For example, a 300 grain bullet at 2100 fps is a common big game load. 2200 fps isn't pushing it too hard, and if you have the Winchester, you can get more than that.
Second: If you are hunting Africa, or grizzlies you can shoot much heavier bullets out of the .45/70. You can shoot 500 grain bullets out of a .45/70. With the .444 Marlin, the heaviest bullets I have seen are less than 400 grains.
Third: The .45/70 is a more popular caliber. Guns, brass, factory ammo.... are much more readily available.

Why buy a .444 Marlin ? I don't know. I bought mine because I got it used. I wasn't even looking for one. I went to the guy's house to buy a .22-250, he mentioned that he was selling two other rifles; I ended up buying all three rifles along with ammo, dies, bullets and some other junk for $350. If I set out to buy a big bore lever action rifle, I would buy the .45/70, but the .444 is more than adequate for anything I am going to hunt with it. The biggest thing I have hunted with it is elk, and it is perfectly adequate for elk. I have actually read a post on-line from a guy that has taken a number of elk with the .444 who thought his handload was too much for elk. Basically, if a 300 grain bullet can do the job, the .444 Marlin can handle it. In reference to the comment about the .444 Marlin being limited to deer: If I am not mistaken, every game animal on the face of the earth has been taken by a .44 Mag handgun. The .444 Marlin shoots the same size bullet about 700 fps faster.

One internet myth you will run into is that the Marlin Micro-Groove rifle is unsuitable for use with cast bullets. This is pure bunk. Another myth is the thing about pistol bullets. As I mentioned previously, there are plenty of premium bullets out there designed specifically for the .444 Marlin out of a rifle.

November 9, 2003, 10:13 PM
Good post 444. Thanks.

November 9, 2003, 10:27 PM
The .444 Marlin is one of those calibers that you have to wonder why it was ever developed. You have to wonder why it has remained popular. It is a perfectly good caliber, the guns made in this caliber are perfectly good rifles. But it doesn't do anything that can't be done by calibers that were already in existence when the .444 Marlin was invented.
All that being said, the caliber seems to be holding it's own. In fact more guns exist today for it than ever before. There are the Marlin and Winchester lever actions. There are even handguns in this caliber: T/C Contender, and I believe the BFR revolver is available in .444. I think there was or is a derringer in this caliber. :what:

November 9, 2003, 10:49 PM
I bought my 444 as a teenager because I wanted to be just like my friends, who all had lever actions. But I found one in 444 so I wouldn't be just like my friends, who all had 30-30's. And now a 444 barrel for my contender is high on my need list. The old Marlin was my #1 hunting rifle for many years, it has 3 elk, a moose, a pair of black bear, and quite a few whitetails to it's credit. I don't know much about fancy bullets special for the 444, I always loaded 240gr handgun bullets, they worked fine as far as I could tell. My pappy taught me early to know what your cartridge can do, know what you can do, and know how to tell what range you're trying to do it at. Of course, if I had found a 45-70 lever before I found that .444, I might have never owned a 444. Both great cartridges. Ballistically, I'd probably give the edge to the 45-70, but you won't catch me trading my 444 for one anytime soon.

November 9, 2003, 10:56 PM
Between the two I will take the 45/70 every time.


I think I'll pass on the .444 Derringer !

November 9, 2003, 11:10 PM
Well don't let the .444 Marlin chambering hold you back, they make it in .45/70 also. I think it is called the Alaskan Survival Model.

November 10, 2003, 12:00 AM

American Derringer does not make a .444. So solly. :)

November 10, 2003, 12:09 AM
A can not picture anyone holding that little gun with a .444 in it.

4v50 Gary
November 10, 2003, 12:22 AM
Why, if the 45-70 was good enough for Lt. Col. Custer and the troopers of the 7th.... never mind.:o

November 10, 2003, 12:25 AM
penetrated level 2 SBA, railroad tie, and other side of SBA

JShirley, what is SBA?



November 10, 2003, 12:50 AM
I'll second the SBA question. I assume it's level 2 body armor, maybe wrapped around a railroad tie, but I'm not sure.

November 10, 2003, 01:01 AM

In this case, soft body armor, what some folks still incorrectly call a bullet proof vest. Ain't no such animal- body armor comes in increasing levels, each capable of stopping certain threats. A good make may give you a list of all the rounds the vest has proved capable of stopping.

With increasing usage of BA by the criminal element, unfortunately, penetrating body armor could be a factor in your determining your defensive armory. I really like the M1 Carbine, for instance, but it won't penetrate squat, basically, when it comes to body armor. :) 7.62x39mm, on the other hand, will penetrate Level II, as will .223.

Hm...I'm looking at several sites, and on the ones I've checked, they show .30 Carbine in the same class as the two other rifle rounds- taking Level III protection to stop. I must advise using this as a general guidline instead of hard fact, though, because 12 GA rifled slug is also shown in this category. In the same session, a 12 GA rifled slug was fired at about 5' at the vest. The old Second Chance vest was not penetrated by the slug. Significant deformation of the wood behind the vest did occur, though, leading me to believe anyone wearing the vest would have been stopped, if not killed.

Hope this helps!


November 10, 2003, 01:16 AM
John, thanks. I have recently exceeded my memory capacity on three letter acronyms (TLA's). I have to ditch one in order to learn/relearn/remember the next! Looking back at your post, it's now obvious from context.

Good explanation about penetration ratings. I would not want to be on the receiving end of a 12 gauge rifled slug, body armor or not.


November 10, 2003, 01:40 AM




November 10, 2003, 07:54 PM
Why has the .444 Marlin survived? It's the subconscious cool factor derived from its association with Mack Bolan, "The Executioner." Although I can remember as a 6th grader wondering why a sniper would use a scoped lever-action .444 when so many better tools were available for the job. I guess Don Pendleton knew something I didn't.

November 10, 2003, 10:07 PM
444Marlin... uses 0.429 diameter bullets
45/70... uses 0.458 diameter bullets

From what I have read, the 444Marlin loads are pretty much full power loads, while the loads for the 45/70 are the standard loads for use with older guns. If you handload, or get modern ammo that should only be used on stronger action rifles, the 45/70 goes past the 444Marlin.

Bill Hook
November 11, 2003, 12:56 AM
I believe the NIJ has standards on how much intrusion the vest can allow into the body cavity, even w/o penetration. I don't believe that it is more than 4 inches, before they would consider the injury to be life-threatening.
The vests are tested over clay models to check for intrusion.

November 11, 2003, 07:52 PM

4 inches sounds pretty fatal to me.:rolleyes:

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