Ammo for Lever Guns: .45-70 and .35 Remington

Box of Hornady Leverevolution .45-70 ammunition with two loose cartridges

It seems we all love lever guns, and they’re available in so many calibers. I tend to think of them as mostly .30-30s or one of the pistol calibers such as .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum. However, it’s just because that’s what I have. My first contact with a lever gun was a Model 92 in 32-20. It was an old family gun in which the bore was so worn I couldn’t hit a bucket from across a country road.

Yes, I know we don’t shoot across roads. However, that was then, and things were different. Besides, it was a country road, and you could hear a car coming from a couple of miles away. Hearing protection in those days? What hearing protection?

300-grain Hornady .45-70 cartridges
300-grain Hornady .45-70 cartridges

One thing that is common among cartridges developed for lever-action rifles is that they have a blunt tip. I know there’s one exception and that’s Hornady’s LEVERevolution ammo, which has a pointed tip, but it’s made of plastic. The reason for the blunt tip may not be obvious for any who hasn’t shot a lever action, but it’s because the cartridges feed from a tubular magazine where they’re stored end-to-end, and you don’t want a sharp metal point on one cartridge pushing on the primer of another.

I’m going to cover two cartridges that many of us may never have had a chance to shoot. The first is the .45-70 Government and the second is .35 Remington.

.45-70 Government

The .45-70 is 150 years old and was developed during the black powder days for use in the U.S. Army’s Springfield Model 1873. It was originally identified as the .45-70-405 with .45 being the nominal diameter of the bullet in inches, 70 being the volume of black powder measured in grains, and 405 being the weight of the lead bullet measured in grains. The 405 has been dropped because modern bullets are available with several different bullet weights from 250 grains to 500 grains.

Powder volume for modern smokeless powder cartridges varies greatly depending on the brand of powder and the weight of the bullet. My reloading charts have some as low as 28 grains and none higher than 67.5 grains. Please consult a competent reloading chart for specifications.

The Army considered the .45-70 a long-range bullet. Being a heavy, somewhat slow-moving bullet, it dropped considerably over a few hundred yards. This required a shooter to be cognizant of drop rates and target distance — if they were going to hit a man-sized target. They trained to hit 6×6-foot targets at 600 yards, but I’m willing to bet there weren’t that many qualifiers at that distance.

Henry Brass Lever Action .45-70 Side Gate
Henry Brass Lever Action .45-70 Side Gate

In addition to the trapdoor Springfields, the Army and the Navy used the .45-70 in several Gatling gun models up until around 1873. The Navy also used the .45-70 caliber in the M1873 and M1884 Springfield, Model 1879 Lee Magazine Navy contract rifle, and Remington-Lee. The last two were magazine-fed turnbolt repeating rifles. The Marine Corps used the M1873 and M1884 Springfield in .45-70 until 1897 when it switched to the M1895 Lee Navy rifle in 6mm Lee Navy.

All this history is well and good. Notice, however, I haven’t mentioned a thing about lever-action rifles yet. The first lever-action rifle chambered in .45-70 was introduced by Winchester in the John Moses Browning-designed Model 1873. John Marlin built the 1881 Marlin around the .45-70.

When the Marlin 1895 came out it was chambered in .45-70, but that Model 1895 isn’t the same as the one Ruger recently reintroduced for us to drool over. The original was side loading and top ejecting like the Winchesters. The side loading, side-ejecting model like the one Ruger recently reintroduced to represent the Marlin line came about in 1972 when Marlin reintroduced the 1895.

Marlin 1895 Trapper
Marlin 1895 Trapper

Today, .45-70 lever-action rifles are available from Marlin, Winchester, Henry, Taylors & Co., and Uberti. Heavier bullet .45-70 cartridges are considered adequate for any North American big game, including the great bears, and it does not destroy edible meat on smaller animals such as deer due to the bullet’s low velocity. It is very good for big-game hunting in brush or heavy timber where the range is usually short.

The .45-70 has been used to hunt African game. And as we know from the movies, it is perfect for hunting Jurassic Park’s most dangerous dinosaur, the Velociraptor. For hunting, the .45-70 is a rather short-range round because of its steep trajectory. It can be a long-range caliber for shooters with knowledge of windage and elevation and able to estimate or measure distance.

Henry Side Gate .35 Remington Rifle
Henry Side Gate .35 Remington Rifle

Ammunition for .45-70 shooters is currently being manufactured by Barnes, Buffalo Bore, Federal, Fiocchi, Grizzly, Hornady, HSM, Remington, Sellier & Bellot, Underwood, and Winchester in weights from 225 grains to 460 grains with lots of 405 grains in the mix. Reloading dies for .45-70 are available from Hornady, Lee, Lyman, RCBS, and Redding. Just about every source I know to go to for brass or bullets has .45-70 products in stock.

.35 Remington

The .35 Remington, introduced in 1906, was originally chambered for the Remington Model 8 semi-automatic rifle in 1908. It is also known as 9×49 mm Browning and 9mm Don Gonzalo. Over the years, the .35 Remington has been chambered in a variety of rifles by most firearms manufacturers. It is currently available in the Marlin Model 336 lever-action and Henry Side Gate Lever Action.

For hunters looking for a medium-power rifle with moderate recoil, the .35 Remington is popular alongside the .30-30 Winchester. The .35 Remington is considered a good round for deer, elk, and black bear at reasonable ranges.

.35 Remington Ammo
.35 Remington Ammo

Factory loadings normally consist of a 200-grain round-nosed bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2,080 feet per second. This 200-grain bullet is heavier than the .30-30’s 170-grain bullet and has a larger frontal area. This gives it a substantial increase in power over the .30-30. Buffalo Bore, Federal, and Remington load .35 Remington ammunition. I found reloading dies from Hornady, Lee, RCBS, and Redding. Brass by Hornady and by Remington is available. I found three companies who make .35 caliber bullets for reloading.

How about you? Do you have experience with the .45-70 or .35 Remington cartridges? Let us know what you like or dislike about them in the Comment section.

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (26)

  1. I have owned 4 35 Remingtons I love the gun .I have killed more deer with them than I have my 30.06.its actually my go to gun . I would love to find a pump I’ve seen 9ne and the older gentleman wouldn’t sell

  2. How about the Winchester Model 71 that’s chambered for .348 Winchester (the cartridge was made for that rifle and the 71 was not made in any other cal although many have been converted to.50 cal). The last of the Winchester big bore lever actions and probably the best!

  3. I have been searching for a tear now. I was told they make it once a year but am not sure if that is even true. Thank goodness for reloading!!

  4. I have a Marlin model 336 R.C. Cal. 35 Remington, I’ve been hunting with it for about thirty years and love it, it’s great for hog hunting and deer hunting. It’s getting harder to find ammunition for it now

  5. You are incorrect
    The 45-70 was never offered in the 1873 Winchester
    The Marlin 1881was the first lever gun to have that caliber
    The 1873 action was not strong enough for that load
    I enjoy reading your articles but you need to research your history a little better
    This is not the first time your history is incorrect

  6. The Winchester 1876, a beefed-up version of the 1873, was the platform for Winchester’s first lever-action 45-70 offering. The Model 73’s action was for pistol cartridges only.

  7. Why don’t people (Gun writers) talk about the 356 Winchester? Better than both the 30-30 and 35 Remington. Opinion? No, I have one. Great gun for Colorado elk or deer. Impossible to find ammo except at $4.00 per round, maybe. It’s a 250 yard lever. Sad day.

  8. i have 3 marlin 35rems and love them also a 444 and a guide gun 45/70 love them also old at its best

  9. Funny, we now have the 350 Legend and the 360 Buckhammer that basically recreate the 35 Remington level of performance. In a strong action, like the Ruger #1, a 45/70 can be loaded to near 458 magnum levels with modern powders. Just because those cartridges are old, doesn’t mean that they are ready for the trash pile.

  10. What is terrible is i have a Marlin 308 express and can’t find ammunition for it. Hornady makes it supposedly but cant find any. Love the rifle but it would be nice to find ammunition

    1. Ed,

      THat’s a tough one. I just did a search, and you are right. No one seems to have any. ~Dave

  11. Why leave out the 32 Winchester spl? Very popular in the 50’s I have my dad’s lever Winchester in the caliber……but no one thinks it exists anymore…sure can’t find amno….except very od rounds on Gunbroker…anyone going to make any that you know of.

  12. Why leave out the 32 Winchester spl? Very popular in the 50’s I have my dad’s lever Winchester in the caliber……but no one thinks it exists anymore…sure can’t find amno….except very od rounds on Gunbroker…anyone going to make any that you know of.

  13. I have a 33 caliber Winchester lever action rifle that I love. I have reloading ability, but brass and correct bullets are hard to find. If anyone has any suggestions about where I can purchase brass and bullets for this caliber, please email me.
    Thanks, Jim Driver

  14. First deer rifle was Marlin 336C in 35Rem. Flawless. Perfect fit. Always right on target when pulled to the shoulder to aim. Dead on up to maybe 120-140 yards. After that you’re on your own. Drops like the economy when a Democratic gets ahold of it. After 200 yards prayer is your only hope and you must ain like shooting g a mortar. In other words it is useless past 150 yards. But so sweet under 150 yards. Also have the Marlin 1895 45-70. What a beast. Use it in thick brush and close quarters hunting just like you’d also use the 35Rem. It too is useless at long distance (over 150 yards.) But at 100 yards mine is sighted in nicely – 5 shot group you could almost cover with a quarter. I love both rifles. Our family motto has always been ‘never sell a gun.’ And I won’t. Because there is always regret. So I will have both these rifles the rest of my life. I just wish you could find .35Rem ammunition on the shelves. Haven’t seen it in a very long time.

  15. You tailed to mention what to many is the most visually appealing lever ation and capable of utilizing pointed spritzer bullets from its creation.

    I inherited my Grandfather’s Savage 99 in .300 Savage purchased just after his return from Service in WW1.

    I’ve used it since the mid 70’s. The 99 in .300 may just be the perfect East Coast deer rufle. I’ve never considered replacing it, and it’s where I’ll “draw the line” when ordered to surrender it.

  16. I have been around Firearms all my life, and know a thing or two. The .35 os like an old friend that knows what he is doing. Brush, reasonable Distance and wind. You will not be disappointed.

  17. The Winchester model 1873 original was not offered in .45-70, unless I misunderstood your statement in the article.

  18. I hunt deer in the Missouri Ozarks. Hilly timber country,,, the longest shots I’ve ever killed deer are
    with my Marlin in 35 Remington. It was about 135 yards from one ridge to another. I’ve hunted for
    over 50 years and have hunted deer with ever cartridge from a .375 H&H Magnum down to a 300 Blackout. I love hunting with my different guns,,, but always love to go back to my lever guns which
    was the first guns I deer hunted with. Last year took my buck with a 30-30 on the last day of the hunt. It had been 55 years since my first hunt and I killed my first deer on the last day of the hunt
    that year with a 30-30 too. I love hunting with my 45-70 guns too. Love that big ole cartridge and
    have multiple guns chambered in that calibre from lever actions to bolt guns. With all the new stuff
    out there, I still love the ole time cartridges and think they are hard to beat for midwest deer hunts.

  19. I have hunted with a 35 as my Main gun for years,I love that gun you heard of people say they have a comfort food well my 35 is my Comfort gun,you get comfortable with a gun when you shoot it enough at different ranges and know what it’s going to do,I have several firearms but I hunt with my old trusted 35.

  20. Having grown up on western movies I’ve always been a huge fan of the lever guns. In my late teens I started hunting with a 336 Marlin in .35 Rem. Used that gun for close to two decades and loved it. Perfect for the deer and hogs here in East TN. Unfortunately in the 90’s it got tothe point .35 ammo was impossible to find.(pre internet) so I sold it. At current I only have 2 lever guns a H010 Henry in 45-70 which is one of the prides of my collection and an 250 Winchester. 22 S,L LR.

  21. I would love to find some rem. .35 cal on the shelves @ a reasonable price. I’ve had one in Marlin 336 since early 70’s. For anything 200 yards are less this is a Very powerful round . underestimated by many on my Option. I have shot it thru a v8 engine block before. Every deer I ever shoot with it never ran away. P.W.D.

  22. I had a 35 caliber at one time. I loved that gun. Wish I had it back. Shot a dear once in the head with one hand while it was running under the tree I was in. Great gun.

  23. You state “The .35 Remington is considered a good round for deer, elk, and black bear at reasonable ranges.’
    I am curious. What is considered to be ‘reasonable ranges’?
    I say that because not everyone’s reasonable range is the same. About 20-25 years ago, someone asked me if I had gotten a deer. I said I had, a nice little 7 or 8 point (don’t remember for sure) that I shot at 285 yards with my Remington .270. Another co-worker called me out, questioning how anyone could hit anything at that distance. I told him that some 20 plus years before that time, in the Army, we were shooting man-sized silhouette target out to 300 meters (328 yards) with iron sights and I scored expert marksman. When that conversation took place, I was using a either a 3-9X or 4-12X scope so anything at the under 300 yard range was not a problem. I have killed deer out past 400 yards with that rifle.
    I have no experience with the .35 Remington. What would you consider to be the outer limits of its effective range for whitetail deer?

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