Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

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Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Lever-n-wheel »

As the title says I'm having a hard time deciding on the cartridge for my next levergun. I have been deadset on 45/70 for a while but then I have been doing some reading on the 444 Marlin and I am intrigued. I currently reload for 44 mag in my Henry color case bigboy and Ruger Super Blackhawk so the 444 seems like it would get along well with it's safemates. Anyone have experience with both and can provide some insight I'd appreciate it.

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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by crs »

Skip them both and go to the Winchester 1895 in .405 WCF!
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by piller »

Just for the easier time of obtaining brass, I recommend the .45-70. The .405 is really nice, and I would like one. Tried to get one when they were made again about 2 years ago.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by AJMD429 »

I have both, and for no particularly 'scientific' reason, always prefer the 444 Marlin. Perhaps just to be 'different'.

After seeing the factory load from my 444 Marlin with the 'puny, non-penetrating pistol-bullet that will blow-up on the hide of a deer' make perfect paper-punch holes in a 3/8" [soft] steel gong at 100 yards, I was sold. How much more power or penetration can I need in the U.S....?

My research into the dimensions of the chamber and receiver area of the Marlins in both chamberings led me to a FIRM conviction that there is enough more steel in places that matter that the smaller base diameter of the 444 Marlin is far better suited to that 'modified 336' action than the 45-70.

I still have both, but the 'draw' for the 45-70 is nothing 'ballistic' - just nostalgia, and I use 'cowboy' level loads in my Marlin 45-70's. Plenty of power there anyway, but if I wanted to 'hot-rod' and push things, I'd either get a Ruger No.1 in 45-70, or just do what I wound up doing, and get a 500 S&W levergun so I can throw even heavier, half-inch diameter projectiles, from a Big Horn Armory model 89 - a modern-steel design based on the 1886 Winchester, and proven able to handle the highest-PSI factory loads out there.

The 'draw' of the 444 Marlin is that it is plenty-good for what I wanted (better ballistics for the 240-300 grain weight bullets than I could get with a 44 Mag). I saw no reason that an extra 0.025" or so of bullet diameter (get out your machinists ruler and find the 1/100th's inch lines and count two and a half of them) would make any meaningful difference. Also - my first 444 Marlin was a used one with a nice Lyman receiver sight on it, and you could tell it was owned by a serious shooter and hunter. Plenty of 'cosmetic' wear, but perfectly lubed and maintained innards. Consistently three shots on the lid of a regular soup-can at 75 yards with ordinary Remington factory ammo using the aperture sights it came with - nothing I could see a 45-70 doing 'better' so for years it was my only 'powerful' rifle-caliber levergun.

Besides, the other option was to similarly 'bump up' my 45 Colt caliber bullets to higher velocity, but of course unlike the 44 Mag and 444 Marlin, 'pistol' and 'rifle' are different in 45 caliber, so the way to do that would be via the 454 Casull, so I could still use the same caliber (and yes I know bullet construction should be different if you are buying fancy partitioned jacketed bullets, but hard-cast gas-check bullets work FINE in velocities from '45 Colt cowboy' to '454 Casull moose' loads). Still, for me it isn't about "power" - I just wanted to lob big chunks of lead at fairly decent velocities, not set records.

Order a couple hundred cases or so for a 444 Marlin, and you'll likely never live long enough to wear even half of them out, or if you do, you'll have had a bunch of fun shooting way more often that most of us get to.

Eventually, whichever you get, you'll probably wind up getting more guns, and having BOTH eventually.... :lol:
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Ray Newman »

When I read threads such as this, I always think "What the ammunition availability like?" Of course if you are a hand loader the availability of components becomes a factor. Now as I have 18 .45 calibre rifles, the choice would be easy for me -- the .45-70.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Twodot »

Starline lists .444 Marlin so brass availability shouldn't be a problem.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Old Savage »

Well, I have had multiple examples of both and ... if you want a big slow bullet get a big slow bullet. 45-70 wins no question. Range ??? ;-) not that different. If you want more range with punch get a .338 or 30-06. Oh, you already have one.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by piller »

Notice that not one person has said anything bad about either caliber? We seem to be trying to talk you into buying both calibers, plus a few more.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by AJMD429 »

piller wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 10:23 pm
Notice that not one person has said anything bad about either caliber? We seem to be trying to talk you into buying both calibers, plus a few more.
Shhhh....

Maybe he hasn’t caught on yet...!

...although I did mention how nice the BHA Model 89 in 500 S&W is.... :lol:
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by fordwannabe »

I have both. I have killed deer with both...the deer do not seem to have a preference. Either, both, can’t really recommend one over the other. Seems to me know fmyou are in a situation that you think requires a big heavy slow bullet then your backup should have a big heavy slow bullet also. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. I also have 458 Socom but I like big heavy slow bullets.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by 6pt-sika »

I had multiples of both and several 450 Marlins for good measure . Killed plenty deer with All three cartridges . Killed a great many deer with the 45-70 and 444 using cast bullets . Both the bear I’ve plunked were done in by a 444 shooting my cast bullets . At present I’m down to three 444’s two Marlin Ballard rifled levers and a Ruger #3 thst was a 44 MAG and is now a 444 . I’ve shot a veritable pile of targets with various cast bullet 444 loads , no not reduced loads but rather loads I’d have no qualms killing deer with . And to be honest I enjoy working up 444 cast loads . But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy what I did with the 45-70 or the 450 Marlin .
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Scrumbag »

crs wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 6:56 pm
Skip them both and go to the Winchester 1895 in .405 WCF!
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by FWiedner »

.

It's really an issue of personality.

Men who use a .45-70 are generally experienced woodsmen who know that it is a proven round that has been getting the job done for over 100 years.

There are some .444 users who accidentally picked one up and found it to be a workable firearm, but most are embarrassed by their choice of caliber. They lack self-confidence, cry, and complain to a moderator whenever anyone compares it to the .45-70.

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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Bill in Oregon »

FW, ya'll gave me a welcome chuckle this morning!
I have had several Marlins in .45/70, and one Ruger No. 1 in .444 that did not speak to me.
I think what initially turned me off on the .444 was the 1:38 twist Microgroove barrel that Marlin put on their rifles from 1964 to about 1999. When they went to the 1:20 twist Ballard-rifled barrels about 2000, I got more interested, but never bought one. An old Oregon friend, Pete Thorniley*, likes to push cartridges to the edges of their envelopes, and did excellent work in Africa with his Marlin in .444 using heavy cast bullets and blended propellants.
If I didn't have the .400 Whelen in the gun safe, I'd be very tempted to try the Marlin at long last, again with heavy cast loads.
I think Doc makes a good point about the extra margin of strength where barrel meets receiver in the 1895/336 in the .444 vs. the .45/70.



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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Streetstar »

piller wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 10:23 pm
Notice that not one person has said anything bad about either caliber? We seem to be trying to talk you into buying both calibers, plus a few more.

This is the correct answer
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Rockrat »

I had the 45-70 and little brother had the 444. You will be happy with either one. The 265 Hornady, which I believe was (is?) loaded in the 444 has worked well for me on elk at about 165yds. I was pushing it about 2200fps out of a wildcat cartridge and found the perfectly mushroomed bullet on the opposite side against the hide and IIRC, was about 237gr retained weight.

Back when, when we bought our guns, I loaded for the 45-70 and there were so many more 45 rifle moulds available vs. 44 rifle moulds. So much better selection on 44cal moulds nowadays.


405 is a good cartridge, I have a #1 in it, but I am not so sure brass is available nowadays.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Scott Tschirhart »

I absolutely love the .45-70. But either cartridge will do the job.

The .45-70 has just been a good friend for too many years. Now, if I could get a levergun chambered in my beloved .50-70, I would jump on it fast!
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by piller »

Just because there are too few who know about that caliber, I wouldn't expect it to be a factory offering. A model 1886 or something like a modern one like an 1889 in that caliber might be a lot of fun.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by piller »

I sort of had a brain cramp. Did anyone make a model 1886 in .50-90 or .50-110? The .50-70 Government has the same rim diameter and thickness as the Sharps cartridges. You could easily use a .50-70 in a .50-90 chambered rifle.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by 6pt-sika »

While I like the 444 mostly as a cast bullet gun I also liked the 45-70 with cast . I will say it's far easier to load and chamber heavy for cartridge bullets in the 45-70 over the 444 . I've loaded 550 grain GC bullets in the 45-70 easy enough and chambering was never an issue .

But with the 444 once one moves above about 390 grains chambering can be an issue . Some folks like to open the loading port and ejection port . I went another route , I seat deeper which eliminates the need to open those areas of the rifle . It however gives an issue as it takes away powder capacity and slightly bulges the case walls to the point where chambering isn't easy at best , to remedy that situation for my own use I load the cartridge same as any other , then after I have "finished" rounds i rub sizing die wax on the outside of the loaded brass remove the depriming rod from the sizing die and run the loaded round in the sizer a ways . Remove it see if it chambers easily if not repeat the process . This is a good bit of trouble especially if a persons in a hurry , but I load a lot of things that are a slower process so what the heck . Following this practice I've been able to get bullets up to and including 450 grains chamber and shoot very well in the Marlin Ballard rifled 444's .

There used to be a fellow in Michigan that had a small mold making company BPR I think it was called anyway he cut my RD Hybrid 432-375GC and 432-400GC both solid nose and HP versions . He also made a 462-465GC mold that was the pooh for the 45-70 or atleast several of the Marlin 45-70's I was messing with . I also had a BallistiCast 462-550GC mold that shot very well in 45-70 levers .

But like most things you get tired of fooling with it or enough however one wishes to say it . Now I'm more intrested in shooting the cast in the Ruger #3 , that thing in original form with the chamber run out would be a brute if someone hadn't put a pad on it before I purchased it . With the kinda ugly pad thats on it , it shoots quite comfortably .
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Lever-n-wheel »

Thank you all for the great responses. I must say I am very happy I've stumbled across this forum. I'm seeing a trend in the responses and I have to say I think I agree that it's in my best interest to just get both. Besides I already have a shell holder for the 45/70 so that seems like enough justification to get a rifle in that caliber as well. Thanks again for the replies and I really look forward to being a member of this forum.

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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by AJMD429 »

Lever-n-wheel wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 12:22 pm
. . . . Besides I already have a shell holder for the 45/70 so that seems like enough justification to get a rifle in that caliber as well. . . .
......he’s one of US now..... :mrgreen: :D :D :D

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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Sixgun »

Old Savage wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 10:17 pm
Well, I have had multiple examples of both and ... if you want a big slow bullet get a big slow bullet. 45-70 wins no question. Range ??? ;-) not that different. If you want more range with punch get a .338 or 30-06. Oh, you already have one.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by FLINT »

probably a lot more flexibility with the 45-70 but for me personally, I'd for sure get a 444. not sure why, I just think its cool. I'd have one already if my shoulder wasn't junk.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by jeepnik »

No way am I getting into this. I got booted off MarlinOwners for not following the party line and insisting that the 45-70 had better terminal ballistics than the .444. After all a heavier longer bullet at a the same or higher velocity can't possibly do more. :D
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by 6pt-sika »

jeepnik wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 4:24 pm
No way am I getting into this. I got booted off MarlinOwners for not following the party line and insisting that the 45-70 had better terminal ballistics than the .444. After all a heavier longer bullet at a the same or higher velocity can't possibly do more. :D
Sounds like you had a difference of opinion with the same Little Hitler that I didn’t particularly care for (hint the clown that started the 444 club on MO).
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Lastmohecken »

I have owned both and killed deer with both. But now days, I just own a few 45/70's, but I wouldn't have a problem with a good 444. Personally, i think the 45/70 is the best choice and so many more rifles are chambered for it. And if you do not handload, the 45/70 is easier to find ammo for and has more choices. I like the 300 gr Hollow point loads for deer and hogs in the 45/70.

I had a 444 back in the 80's and killed a few deer with the factory 240gr Remington load, available then. I also handloaded for the 265 gr bullet, but I never could get the old marlin to shoot the 265gr bullet all that well, and I suspect the older micro groove barrel didn't stabilize the heavier bullet as well. What shocked me at first was how the 265 gr bullet loaded pretty maxed out, would hit 2 ft low and about a foot left when the rifle was sighted in for the 240gr factor Remington load at a hundred. That's a heck of a difference!
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by 6pt-sika »

Lastmohecken wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 11:35 pm
I had a 444 back in the 80's and killed a few deer with the factory 240gr Remington load, available then. I also handloaded for the 265 gr bullet, but I never could get the old marlin to shoot the 265gr bullet all that well, and I suspect the older micro groove barrel didn't stabilize the heavier bullet as well.
By no means do I think I’m an expert , however I’ve worked with close to three dozen 444 rifles of which over twenty five were Micro Groove . And in that time period I went all the way up to 375 grain cast bullets in the Micro Guns and got acceptable hunting accuracy . I will say they need to be big enough to fill the bore , pushed hard and once you got above 310 grains I needed to water quench to make them slightly harder to hold the shallow micro groove rifling . I will say the 375 grainers were right at the edge at 100 yards , while they shot with acceptable accuracy quite often you could see a slight tail where the punches a hole in the paper target causing one to think they were starting to yaw just a slight bit . I had 375 grain molds cut by LBT , BRP , MM and NEI . And for what it’s worth I got them all to shoot well enough and killed deer with each . Incidentally I had three or four boxes of the Remington factory 265 grain load for the 444 . I bought them more as a collectible item and I don’t think I ever fired any . I sold all but a box I think , I did pull a bullet on one round to see if I could determine if it were the Hornady 265 FP . Never did make a definitive conclusion .
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by piller »

Not too long back, I got a Winchester Model 94 in .32 Win Special just because I wanted one. Brass and bullets are easy to come by, and it uses several different powders well. The .444 seems easy enough to find components for loading it. Sort of seems like a similar idea to me. Not the most common, but it works just fine. The .45-70 is one I do have and have taken game with. Loaded to Trapdoor levels, it is easy enough on the shoulder. Loaded to the upper end of modern lever action loads with 405 grain bullets will push you quite a bit.
Get both and try them out. You might like one better than the other, or they both might be as accurate and effective as you could want. Both can throw a heavy bullet that is over .40 caliber. That should be pretty effective.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by jeepnik »

6pt-sika wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 9:32 pm
jeepnik wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 4:24 pm
No way am I getting into this. I got booted off MarlinOwners for not following the party line and insisting that the 45-70 had better terminal ballistics than the .444. After all a heavier longer bullet at a the same or higher velocity can't possibly do more. :D
Sounds like you had a difference of opinion with the same Little Hitler that I didn’t particularly care for (hint the clown that started the 444 club on MO).
Yep. A bunch of us ended up at another forum Levergunluvers. Sadly it sort of faded away. There was one character in particular that seemed to be the glue. He passed and things sort of died with him. Many of those guys are around on other forums, but that one was pretty much wide open (hence our nickname "Outlaws"). Still it was a polite and friendly place.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by Tycer »

45-70
The 1886 is the sweetest machine. Just saying.
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Re: Having a hard time deciding between 444 Marlin or 45/70

Post by marlinman93 »

Both great cartridges, and especially so if you're a reloader and can build ammo your particular gun likes. But i will always lean towards the .45-70 in this choice for it's availability of brass and ammo everywhere, and the edge in knockdown power.
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