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45-70 vs .444 Marlin vs .454 Casull

19 Jan 2023
@ 08:32 am (GMT)

Marcos García

Hi guys,
If we compare apples to apples, and we use rifles/carbine in all three cartridges. Which do you think that have better terminal performance at ranges of up to 120 yards on medium animals like deer and wild boar?
Which do you think has better relationship of projectile weight-velocity-diameter-weight the game?
Apparently the .454 Casull is not in the same league, I haven't used it, but I've seen some videos which have impressed me, considering the size of the case.
What do you think??
Come on, cheer up!!


25 Jan 2023
@ 11:45 am (GMT)

Michael Seager

Re: 45-70 vs .444 Marlin vs .454 Casull
454 has impressive ballistics and you get a lighter kicking / cheap practice with 45 Colt. But the Casull runs at very high pressures. I have heard that the Rossi 92s have a habit of bending action bars if fed a steady diet of 454 Casulls.

45-70 can be a thumper but can be loaded soft. Perhaps the easiest to feed of the 3 and easiest to find.

444 is for me the sweet spot. If you reload you can shoot 44 cal pistol bullets. For “serious” hunting you can use 280gr Woodleigh, 265 Hornady Interlock and FTX plus up to 300gr FTX. Sierra do a 300gr JSP. I think it’s cool. As you can load plinker with cast boolits or up to punchy.

28 Jan 2023
@ 09:06 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: 45-70 vs .444 Marlin vs .454 Casull
Hi Marcos, I have been monitoring this for some time now. The .452 bullets are very good killers but there are some limitations. If for example one uses a 250gr conventional HP driven very quickly (carbine speeds / .460 / Bushmaster speeds), the bullet may display blow back such as 2 to 3" entry wounds. Wounding remains fairly broad thereafter but soon tapers off. The recovered bullet may remain intact to some degree (confirming that the bullet did not blow up on impact) but may be found flattened out against the offside hide or in bone etc. Depending on the impact velocity, the bullet may not go much further that 12" when used on light to medium weight game. So what does this tell us? Well, its pretty obvious. The 250gr driven at high speeds is adequate and yes sometimes a spectacular killer of lighter animals. But if one is looking for a good balance of wounding versus penetration / game weight versatility, a heavier 300gr bullet is a better choice. The simple fact is, the 250gr pills have a very low SD.

There are certainly a few ways to manipulate performance. A tough lighter weight bullet does of course enhance penetration compared to the baseline conventional bullet performance described. A heavy but soft bullet can also produce deeper penetration, not only as a result of the increased SD, but also the reduced muzzle / impact velocity. And of course we can always combine the two (tough construction + weight) to achieve even deeper penetration. Whatever the case, the key is to match the bullet to the job at hand. The .454 is certainly a good energy dumper. It also works very well after velocity falls away.

The comments I have made above should lead to obvious conclusions regarding the .444 and .45-70. The .444 has high SD options as well as soft point and bonded projectiles to choose from. The .45-70 can be loaded with much heavier 'off the shelf' projectiles. But going back to your question Marcos, a 300gr Hornady or Sierra HP is adequate for Red deer and boar in the .45-70. More info can of course be found in the Knowledge base.

A potent lever action is good in theory but these rifles can sometimes let us down. A poor fit, heavy triggers, a wandering zero under high recoil etc. A bolt action can be nicer to tune but then suddenly we find ourselves shooting a .458 Win Mag which is not exactly compact.

I suppose it really depends on what one is looking for, the type of game hunted, required rifle weight, expected accuracy etc. Terrain and expected ranges are important considerations. Close ranges do away with the need to worry about trajectories. Longer ranges are a bit of a concern. A higher speed may produce a flatter trajectory but can also place stress on some bullet designs when shooting at very close ranges.

I don't know if that helps any.
09 Feb 2023
@ 10:21 am (GMT)

Marcos García

Re: 45-70 vs .444 Marlin vs .454 Casull
Hi Michael,
I have heard the same thing about the Rossi 92s, you are probably right and the best compromise is the 444 Marlin.

Hi Nathan,
Thanks for your very long and comprehensive explanation. In the end I guess the most important thing is to match the SD, velocity and projectile structure to the animal.
I have even thought about buying a 458 WM just to experiment with terminal ballistics, I let a Remington 700 in this caliber slip through my fingers some time ago and now I regret it.

Thanks guys for your replies.
11 Feb 2023
@ 01:28 am (GMT)

Michael Seager

Re: 45-70 vs .444 Marlin vs .454 Casull
Welcome Marcos,

I have been developing hunting loads for my .44 mag lever action.

This is the best non-lead load I've tried - 180gr Peregrine Hog over N105 shot at 50yds.

And for lead loads (240gr Nosler JSP over N110)

Both those loads are shot with a 2.5x28 Scout scope (have to for the 1892 type rifle) and I doubt I could ring much more than 2 MOA out of the set up

I think it is fair to say that levers carry well in the field (good) but can be hard to tune for shooting further away. For walking round a wood where 100m is a long shot, probably 2MOA is adequate. The attraction I like with levers is the versatility in loads ~6 grains of powder and a ~250gr cast bullet for 25 yd plinking all the way up to capable of deer and pigs.

For a compromise, you could load you 454 Cassull lever action to 44 mag pressures (~40kpsi) which would still give you a fair bit of performance but not be too hard on the gun.

Other thing to think about when buying lever actions is optics mounting.

Marlin and Henry are easy to mount a scope in a conventional position (back over the receiver).

The WInchester clones (Rossi, Chiappa etc) tend to require mounting the scope / red dot forward of the receiver (Exception to this is the Winchester 94 AE (angle eject) versions that although they eject out the top, actually throw the case sideways.

Anyway, it's all good fun! Let us know what you decide on!

14 Feb 2023
@ 04:23 pm (GMT)

Rob Bird

Re: 45-70 vs .444 Marlin vs .454 Casull
Speaking of 45-70, I've been fantasizing about getting a 1873 Springfield for hunting in the areas around where I live that allow straight walled cartridges for deer. Any reasons to not do it, other than it being a one shot rifle?
15 Feb 2023
@ 09:04 pm (GMT)

Michael Seager

Re: 45-70 vs .444 Marlin vs .454 Casull
Speaking of 45-70, I've been fantasizing about getting a 1873 Springfield for hunting in the areas around where I live that allow straight walled cartridges for deer. Any reasons to not do it, other than it being a one shot rifle?

Sorry Rob, never shot one I'm afraid (Shot trapdoors, 1895 Marlins and 1886 Winchesters in it).

Are you sure you can get a Winchester 1873 in 45-70? I always thought they were for the 44-40 type cartidges?


17 Feb 2023
@ 07:48 am (GMT)

Rob Bird

Re: 45-70 vs .444 Marlin vs .454 Casull
Nope, not Winchester. Springfield. It's their first trapdoor 45-70. I'd also go for an 1884.
17 Feb 2023
@ 04:14 pm (GMT)

Scott Struif

Re: 45-70 vs .444 Marlin vs .454 Casull
Rob, when you say you want to hunt in areas that “allow straight walled cartridges,” do you mean they don’t allow bottle neck cartridges? That’s the only reason, outside of nostalgia, for using straight walled cartridges that I can see.
19 Feb 2023
@ 12:11 pm (GMT)

Rob Bird

Re: 45-70 vs .444 Marlin vs .454 Casull
Yep, it's pretty common in the eastern US. In my area, the greater Washington DC metro, it was shotgun or muzzleloader only during "rifle" season. Last fall was the first year they allowed straight-wall cartridges as well.

Mainly, I think the trapdoors are super cool and thought it'd be fun to use one to hunt. Obviously a lever gun would be a lot more practical, but since when is practicality the only consideration? :)


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