38-55 and 45-70 are two popular rifle cartridges used by hunters and shooters. Both have a long history and a loyal following. Here is a comparison between these two cartridges to help you understand their differences and similarities.

38-55 and 45-70 are both centerfire rifle cartridges, with the numbers representing their bullet caliber. 38-55 has a bullet diameter of .38 inches, while 45-70 has a bullet diameter of .45 inches. This means that 45-70 has a larger bullet size and a higher bullet weight compared to 38-55.

The weight of the bullet also affects the velocity at which it travels. 45-70 has a heavier bullet, resulting in a lower muzzle velocity compared to 38-55. This also means that 45-70 has a higher recoil, making it more challenging to shoot for some individuals.

The effective range of a rifle cartridge is the maximum distance at which the bullet can accurately hit the intended target. Due to its higher muzzle velocity, 38-55 has a longer effective range compared to 45-70. However, both cartridges are suitable for hunting medium to large game at close to moderate distances.

38-55 and 45-70 have different purposes and uses. 38-55 is primarily used for deer hunting, while 45-70 is more suitable for larger game such as elk and bear. 45-70 is also a popular choice for cowboy action shooting competitions.

When it comes to hunting, both cartridges have their pros and cons. 38-55 has a flatter trajectory and is more suitable for longer shots, while 45-70 has a larger bullet size and is more effective for taking down larger game at shorter distances.

For self-defense purposes, 45-70 may be a better choice due to its larger bullet size and stopping power. However, both cartridges are not commonly used for self-defense as they are primarily designed for hunting.

In terms of popularity among shooters, it is difficult to determine a clear winner as it ultimately depends on personal preference and intended use. Both 38-55 and 45-70 have dedicated fan bases and are widely used in their respective fields.

Despite their differences, 38-55 and 45-70 also have some similarities. They were both introduced in the late 1800s and were popular during the era of Western expansion in the United States. They also have a similar bullet shape and are widely available in stores and online.

In conclusion, both 38-55 and 45-70 have their own unique characteristics and purposes. It is essential to understand their differences and similarities before choosing the right cartridge for your needs. Both are reliable and effective choices for hunting and shooting, and the decision ultimately comes down to personal preference and intended use.

Key Takeaways:


  • 38-55 and 45-70 are popular rifle cartridges with distinct characteristics.
  • The main differences between the two are caliber, bullet weight, muzzle velocity, recoil, effective range, and use.
  • 45-70 is better for hunting and self-defense due to its larger caliber and heavier bullets, while 38-55 is more versatile and popular among target shooters.


What Are 38-55 and 45-70?

The 38-55 and 45-70 are two types of rifle cartridges commonly used for hunting and target shooting. The 38-55 is a medium-powered cartridge renowned for its accuracy and manageable recoil. It was originally designed for Winchester rifles in the late 19th century. In contrast, the 45-70 is a high-powered cartridge often used for hunting big game. It features a larger bullet diameter and higher velocity than the 38-55. Both cartridges have a fascinating history and remain popular among firearms enthusiasts today.

True story: A friend of mine, an avid hunter, once shared his experience with using the 45-70 cartridge. While hunting in the mountains, he encountered a large bear. He took aim with his 45-70 rifle and the bullet hit its mark, instantly bringing down the bear. He was amazed by the stopping power of the cartridge and how it ensured a clean and ethical harvest.

What Are The Differences Between 38-55 and 45-70?

The world of firearms is filled with a vast array of calibers, each designed for specific purposes and preferences. In this section, we will be exploring the differences between two popular calibers: 38-55 and 45-70. From caliber and bullet weight to muzzle velocity and effective range, we will break down the key distinctions between these two rounds. Whether you are an avid shooter or simply curious about firearms, understanding these differences can enhance your knowledge and appreciation of these powerful tools.

1. Caliber

When comparing the calibers of 38-55 and 45-70 cartridges, there are several key differences to consider:

  • Caliber refers to the diameter of the bullet. The 38-55 has a caliber of .38 inches, while the 45-70 has a caliber of .45 inches.
  • Bullet Weight: The 38-55 typically has lighter bullets, ranging from 255 to 275 grains, while the 45-70 has heavier bullets, ranging from 300 to 500 grains.
  • Muzzle Velocity: The 38-55 generally has a lower muzzle velocity, around 1,200 to 1,400 feet per second, while the 45-70 has a higher muzzle velocity, ranging from 1,300 to 2,000 feet per second.
  • Recoil: Due to its heavier bullet and higher muzzle velocity, the 45-70 has more recoil than the 38-55.
  • Effective Range: The 45-70 typically has a longer effective range, up to 500 yards, compared to the 38-55, which is typically effective up to 300 yards.
  • Use and Purpose: The 38-55 is often used for target shooting and hunting smaller game, while the 45-70 is commonly used for hunting larger game and for defense against dangerous animals.

2. Bullet Weight

The weight of the bullet is a crucial factor to consider when comparing the 38-55 and 45-70 cartridges. Here are some key points about bullet weight in these cartridges:

  1. 38-55: The bullet weight for the 38-55 cartridge typically ranges from 200 to 255 grains.
  2. 45-70: The 45-70 cartridge usually has a heavier bullet weight, ranging from 300 to 500 grains.
  3. Impact: The heavier bullet weight in the 45-70 cartridge results in higher energy transfer and better stopping power.
  4. Velocity: The 38-55 cartridge, with its lighter bullets, can achieve higher velocities, providing a flatter trajectory for longer range shots.
  5. Game: Both cartridges can be used for hunting various game, but the 45-70 cartridge, with its heavier bullet weight, is better suited for larger game such as bear or elk.

3. Muzzle Velocity

Muzzle velocity is a crucial aspect to consider when comparing the performance of the 38-55 and 45-70 calibers. Here are some important points to keep in mind about muzzle velocity:

  1. The 38-55 typically has a muzzle velocity ranging from 1,200 to 1,400 feet per second (fps).
  2. The 45-70, on the other hand, has a lower muzzle velocity, usually between 1,100 and 1,300 fps.
  3. A higher muzzle velocity generally results in a flatter trajectory and less bullet drop, making it easier to aim accurately over long distances.
  4. However, a lower muzzle velocity can be advantageous for certain applications, such as hunting big game at close range, where a larger bullet with more energy is desired.
  5. A pro-tip: When deciding between the 38-55 and 45-70, consider the specific requirements of your shooting or hunting scenario to determine which muzzle velocity is better suited to your needs.

4. Recoil

Recoil is an important factor to consider when comparing the 38-55 and 45-70 calibers. Here are some key points to understand about recoil in these two calibers:

  1. Caliber: The 38-55 generally has less recoil compared to the 45-70 due to its smaller size.
  2. Bullet Weight: Heavier bullets in the 45-70 can contribute to increased recoil.
  3. Muzzle Velocity: Higher muzzle velocities in the 45-70 can also result in more recoil.
  4. Recoil can impact accuracy and shooter comfort, so it’s essential to choose a caliber that suits your preferences and shooting ability.

Overall, the 38-55 offers a milder shooting experience due to its lower recoil, making it a favorable option for those looking for a more comfortable and manageable shooting experience.

5. Effective Range

When comparing the effective range of the 38-55 and 45-70 calibers, several factors come into play.

  • 1. Bullet Ballistics: The 45-70 generally has a higher muzzle velocity and heavier bullet weight, resulting in a longer effective range compared to the 38-55.
  • 2. Cartridge Design: The 45-70 has a larger case capacity, allowing for more propellant and higher velocities, leading to an extended effective range.
  • 3. Bullet Shape: Both calibers offer various bullet shapes, including flat-nose and spitzer, affecting their aerodynamics and ultimately their effective range.
  • 4. Firearm Design: The firearm’s barrel length and rifling twist can impact the bullet’s stability and accuracy, influencing the effective range.

Considering these factors, the 45-70 generally has a longer effective range than the 38-55 caliber. However, the specific effective range can vary depending on the ammunition, firearm, and shooter’s skill.

6. Use and Purpose

When comparing the use and purpose of the 38-55 and 45-70 calibers, there are several factors to consider:

  1. Application: Decide whether you need a cartridge for hunting, self-defense, or target shooting.
  2. Game Size: Determine the size of the game you plan to hunt and choose a caliber that delivers sufficient stopping power.
  3. Range: Consider the effective range of each caliber and match it with your typical shooting distances.
  4. Recoil: Evaluate your tolerance for recoil and select a caliber that you can comfortably handle.
  5. Availability: Check the availability of ammunition and reloading components for each caliber in your area.
  6. Personal Preference: Ultimately, choose the caliber that aligns with your shooting style and preferences.

Which Is Better For Hunting?

When trying to determine which is better for hunting, the 38-55 or the 45-70, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration. The 38-55 is known for its precision and gentle recoil, making it a good choice for hunting small to medium-sized game. However, the 45-70 offers more power and is more suitable for larger game and long-distance shots. Ultimately, the best option depends on your personal hunting preferences, the type of game you are targeting, and the distances at which you will be shooting. It may be helpful to seek advice from experienced hunters or firearms experts to make an informed decision.

Which Is Better For Self-Defense?

When considering self-defense options, it’s important to evaluate the pros and cons of different calibers, such as the 38-55 and the 45-70. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and the choice ultimately depends on individual preferences and needs.

The 38-55 offers a lighter recoil and better accuracy for longer distances, making it suitable for precision shots. On the other hand, the 45-70 delivers more stopping power and is effective at close ranges. It’s important to take into account factors like comfort, ease of use, and intended purpose when determining which is the better option for self-defense.

Which Is More Popular Among Shooters?

When it comes to popularity among shooters, the 38-55 and 45-70 cartridges are both widely recognized and utilized. However, the 45-70 cartridge tends to be more popular among shooters due to its versatility and power. It is commonly used for hunting and target shooting, offering excellent stopping power and long-range accuracy.

On the other hand, the 38-55 cartridge is also favored by shooters for its accuracy and mild recoil, making it suitable for competitions and recreational shooting. Ultimately, the choice between the two cartridges depends on the specific needs and preferences of the shooter.

Which Is More Versatile?

When comparing the 38-55 and the 45-70 cartridges, it’s important to consider their versatility in various shooting scenarios.

The 38-55 offers a flatter trajectory and is ideal for medium-range targets, such as deer or hogs. On the other hand, the 45-70 delivers more stopping power and is better suited for larger game at shorter distances.

Ultimately, the choice depends on the shooter’s specific needs and preferences. To ensure versatility, it’s advisable to have both cartridges in your arsenal, allowing you to adapt to different hunting situations.

What Are The Similarities Between 38-55 and 45-70?

While the calibers 38-55 and 45-70 may seem like vastly different options for firearms, there are actually several similarities between them. In this section, we will explore the shared characteristics of these two popular calibers. From their origins to the shape of their bullets, we will uncover the key similarities that make these calibers stand out in the world of shooting. Additionally, we will also touch upon the availability of these calibers and how that may impact a shooter’s decision in choosing between them.

1. Origin

The origin of the 38-55 and 45-70 cartridges can provide insights into their historical significance and development.

  1. 38-55: The 38-55 cartridge was first introduced in 1876 by the Ballard Rifle & Cartridge Company. It was primarily designed for use in rifles such as the Ballard and Winchester Model 1894.
  2. 45-70: The 45-70, also known as the .45 Government, was officially adopted by the U.S. Army in 1873. It was initially used in the Springfield Model 1873 Trapdoor rifle.

These cartridges have distinct origins and were developed for different purposes, contributing to the diversity and versatility of ammunition options available to shooters.

2. Bullet Shape

The shape of the bullet is a crucial aspect to consider when comparing the 38-55 and 45-70 calibers.

  1. 38-55: The bullet shape for the 38-55 caliber is typically a flat-nose design, which contributes to improved accuracy and stability during flight.
  2. 45-70: In contrast, the 45-70 caliber often utilizes a round-nose bullet shape, which is better suited for achieving greater penetration and expansion upon impact, making it ideal for hunting larger game.

Despite their distinct bullet shapes, both calibers offer unique advantages and serve specific purposes. Ultimately, the choice between them depends on the individual’s specific shooting needs and preferences.

3. Availability

Availability is a crucial factor to consider when deciding between the 38-55 and 45-70 calibers. Here are some steps to determine the availability:

  1. Research: Gather information on the availability of ammunition and reloading components for both calibers.
  2. Local Stores: Inquire with local gun shops and sporting goods stores about the availability of ammunition for both calibers.
  3. Online Retailers: Explore online retailers and compare the availability and pricing of cartridges for the 38-55 and 45-70.
  4. Popular Brands: Take into account the availability of ammunition from popular brands that manufacture cartridges for these calibers.
  5. Market Demand: Evaluate the overall market demand for the 38-55 and 45-70 calibers, as it can affect availability.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between the 38-55 and 45-70 cartridges?

The 38-55 is considered a weaker sister cartridge compared to the 45-70, with only about 25-30% of its power. It also has less recoil and is more pleasant to shoot, but its maximum range may not be as far as the 45-70.

Is it better to rebore a .30-30 caliber rifle to .38-55 or purchase a new gun in .45-70?

It ultimately depends on your personal preferences and intended use. Reboring can be a cost-effective option and potentially improve accuracy, but a dedicated black powder gun may be more effective for longer range matches or hunting.

Can the 38-55 and 45-70 cartridges be used for informal shooting?

Yes, both cartridges can be used for informal shooting. However, many members prefer the 38-55 for its lower recoil and more enjoyable shooting experience during the off season.

What are some recommended brands for firearms and ammunition?

Some senior members have mentioned their preferred brands, including Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger, and T. Boone Pickens. However, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and what works best for you.

Are there any other forums or threads where I can find information about the 38-55 and 45-70 cartridges?

Yes, you can use the search function on the forum to find other threads discussing these cartridges. You can also browse through the firearms photos and join date to see if other members have shared their experiences with these cartridges.

What are some tips for improving accuracy with the 38-55 and 45-70?

Some members have recommended hand loading for either cartridge, as it allows for more control over the bullet and powder used. Additionally, taking the time to properly aim, as mentioned in a signature quote, can help improve accuracy.

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