The upstart .450 Marlin vs the revered .45-70? Yes… yes, yes! Now THAT’s a topic worthy of a microbiologist? An astro-engineer perhaps? A professor of chemistry? No… just kidding around, of course! But, you’d have thought it must have demanded many sleepless nights and the mind-boggling, scrupulous attention to finite details by ballisticians in engineering such a marvelous invention as the .450 Marlin… That is, to hear some writers tell it!
Let’s make the story shorter! In essense, it’s a .45-70 case wearing a belt instead of a rim to obviate chambering it in some relic .45-70s. That was supposedly because the folk at Marlin and Hornady came up with the “brilliant” idea of boosting psi in factory loads for the .45-70 by giving it a new name and adding a “belt”, just like the magnums!
It was a marketing ploy for both companies, NOT a ballistic one! How do I know that? The answer is simple…
1) The “factory” loads by Hornady still do NOT equal good handloads in an 1895 Marlin, 1886 Winchester, 1885 Browning, etc. Nor can they because the ONLY case available is Hornady’s and it lacks the capacity of plain-jane .45-70 cases, of which there are numerous manufacturers: Remington, Winchester, Federal, Star, etc.
2) Nor do they come close to the “smash” of +P loads from CorBon, Garrett, Buffalo Bore, etc.
3) 350gr and 325gr hunting bullets in .458″ do NOT premium loads make! Not only is the construction of those two from Hornady lacking in “premium” qualities, but their sectional densities (SD) are barely adequate: .238 and .221 respectively.
4) Plus the fact that in factory guise they do NOT make the advertised velocities! Especially from the 18.5″ GG.
Now, lest I’ve insulted your cherished .450 Marlin, it does have a saving grace! Remember, it’s a .45-70 with a belt! Handloaded, while it still falls short of a handloaded .45-70 in a MODERN rifle, it is NEARLY it’s equivalent in the Marlins of equal barrel length, other things being the same. And, even with it’s best handloads it falls far short of the Ruger No.1 when handloaded, or even the 1885 Browning. (The Ruger is the best of those two, by the way.)
To confuse, and convince potential shooters of their stellar performance, Hornady has done a great job of muddying the whole picture by claiming, in their reloading manual No. 7, that the Marlin in .45-70 is loaded to 40, 000 CUP whereas the .450 Marlin is loaded to 43,500 PSI! AND… get this dear people… the .450 Marlin is shown with an 18.5″ tube and the Marlin .45-70 with a 22″ while granting LESS velocity than the upstart .450!!!! Needless to say… they’ve had to back down on those claims more than a few times! And one of those times was from yours truly!
I hate it when companies… that’s the top brass… are plain DISHONEST in promoting their stuff, knowing there are gullable and vulnerable clients out there in Never Never Land! Or, potentially so.
That’s my rant against the .450 Marlin… it’s a pretender to the crown! It’s Runner Up, that’s all! Nothing more! BUT, that’s not a bad place to be as a concession. But I’ll never own one. That’s based on principle, NOT ballistics. Actually, the ballistics of the .450 Marlin, when handloaded, are very good. Good enough to easily take on any big game on this continent and most others as well. Just not quite as good as the .45-70 in a modern rifle, which has more rifles and components to work with. But my “rant” is not so much against the .450 Marlin, but the marketing “strategy” that caused it to happen in the first place. Purportedly, shooters, including handloaders, can’t discern plain information on loaded boxes of ammo that clearly states: “THIS AMMO IS INTENDED FOR STRONG ACTION .45-70’s, SUCH AS MODERN MARLINS, RUGERS, BROWNINGS, ETC. IT IS NOT TO BE USED IN VINTAGE RIFLES SUCH AS SPRINGFIELD TRAPDOORS, ROLLING BLOCKS, ETC.” On the other hand, we ARE expected, as handloaders, to read and understand similar instructions in reloading manuals regarding the various models of .45-70s.
The pic above is of some bullets in .458″ that I’m currently working with, left to right: 600gr Barnes Original, 480gr DGX, 350gr Speer Hot Core and 325gr Hornady FTX.
This pic is (L to R): 450gr-X in .458 Lott, 450gr-X in .458WM, 500gr Hor. RN in .458WM, 350gr Speer in .45-70 IMP and 465gr hardcast for the Marlin in .45-70. That final load (465gr) leaves the muzzle of my 22″ Marlin at just over 1900 fps average. That has the momentum of a 300gr from a .378 Weatherby at 2945 fps and makes a bigger hole!
Why do I like the .45-70? Well, there you have one “solid” example.
‘Till next time, (That’s a rifle case in the background)