The 450 Marlin is the child of convenience between the 45-70 Gov’t cartridge having great potential with pressures well in excess of the SAAMI pressure standard and manufacturers that had no modern standard to use as the basis for warranting their current firearm designs. While maturing at eighteen years of age, it is still teething in comparison to the one hundred fifty plus year olf 45-70 Government. The high performance 45-70 round below left, alongside the 450 Marlin.
The maximum chamber pressure for the 45-70 is 28,000 psi. The maximum pressure for the 450 Marlin is 48,000 psi. Modern non SAAMI standard high performance 45-70 ammunition falls between 35,000 psi and 45,000 psi depending on load and manufacturer.
The 450 Marlin has the same casehead and rim diameter dimensions as the litany of popular H&H belted magnums, 0.532″. The purpose of the 450 Marlin’s belt is as it was when it showed up in 1905 on the original belted commercial cartridge, the 400/375 H&H Belted Nitro Express*. The belt maintains proper headspace where a very shallow angled shoulder, crimped case mouth or imprecisely cut chamber would not be effective in accomplishing the same. In fact, a belt is nothing more than a compact rim which allows its chambering in firearms that can’t handle the 0.608″ 45-70 Gov’t rim.
The 45-70 Gov’t case is taller, 2.105″ to the Marlin’s 2.080″ and the 45-70 Gov’t holds a bit more powder at 79 grains compared to the Marlin’s 74.0 grains. In SAAMI standard pressure forms, the 450 Marlin will out perform the 45-70 Gov’t… easily. Compared to modern high pressure, high performance 45-70 ammunition, performance is the same or, in several cases, the 45-70 will marginally out perform the 450 Marlin. From a handloaders standpoint, the both cartridges can scoot with the right motivation and we are happy with our own handload development with the 450 Marlin.
450 Marlin factory ammunition performance
There are currently four readily available factory loads for the 450 Marlin, one from the creator of the cartridge, Hornady and three heavy hitters from Buffalo Bore. The Hornady is a well balanced 325 grain FTX bullet load, suitable for medium size game from 50 through 300 lbs and larger species 300 through 1500 lbs. No, I don’t know why Hornady doesn’t just say 50 through 1500 lbs, but it is a valid question.
The thing is that the 325 grain Hornady bullet is fairly slick for this caliber and weight. Rated at 2225 fps from a 24″ barrel… a barrel length available from no production manufacturer, the round cruised to 2088 fps from the Ruger No.1’s more typical 20″ barrel. With a calculated best zero of 166 yards, the bullet does not go above or below line of sight by more than 3″ for 177 yards. At 200 yards, drop is a bit more than 9″. Kinetic energy at the muzzle is 3146 ft-lbs, retaining 1584 at 200 yards.
Buffalo Bore makes a harder hitting 405 grain jacketed flat nose 450 Marlin load at approximately 50% premium. If you need to put a hole through a 4′ diameter oak tree to hang your hammock, they also offer a hard cast flat nose 430 grain load at 1900 fps and a 500 grain full metal jacket load at 1500 fps. All are 22″ barrel specs… also not a typical length.
Actual 450 Marlin Ruger No.1 performance
The Ruger No.1 was taken out of the box and a clean patch was run through the bore to check for critters. An 8x Leupold scope was mounted using the included Ruger rings and the scope was laser boresighted as a starting point. These are the first three shots out of the gun at 100 yards; center to center farthest holes 1 1/16″ from a rest. No, putting pressure on the firearm while shooting from a rest did not scatter groups or shift point of impact. Again, chronograph reading were 2088 fps +/- with screens 10′ from the muzzle. For a little more flexibility, the 450 Marlin is an easy round to handload through a board range of power.
What to do with a Ruger No.1 450 Marlin
Pictured left to right: 45-70, 450 Marlin and 460 Weatherby dangerous game cartridge. The 450 Marlin with the appropriate bullet and skill can easily be an all Americas cartridge and the Ruger No.1 a more than suitable rifle. The combination is powerful enough, more than accurate enough and a little proficiency training makes calmly taken, multiple shots in quick succession routine.
I realize the 450 Marlin, as is the case with the high performance 45-70, has taken the world’s largest and most dangerous game. However, that is in the hands of highly skilled hunters and under well controlled circumstances and I don’t think that was Ruger’s intention. Moose, elk, bear? I believe so.
The Ruger No. 1 is light to carry, built like a tank and the stock has comfortable geometry. It does not kick like a mule… perhaps a small pony, but the recoil pad is a good one and the buttstock deflects away from the face.
The only issue I encountered for short necked Neanderthals like myself, is that a short tube scope mounts relatively far forward and it takes some stretching to get inside usable eye relief. Picky, picky, picky.
The rifle is very well made, delivering absolute reliability. Excellent wood to metal fit, deep black finished metal pieces and cleanly checkered gripping surfaces. The Ruger No.1 in 450 Marlin is a gun to own, especially if put to work.