Facing its 15th birthday this year is the Hornady inspired and Marlin developed "modernized" .45-70 that is known far and wide as the .450 Marlin. This straight-walled bruiser, which is capable of providing a vehicle for bullets up to 500-grains in weight, is a new take on a big game cowboy guns.
What is .450?
Debuted at the year 2000 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Hornady and Marlin introduced a round developed by ammo genius Mitch Mittelstaedt. Although similar to a .458 Win Mag (or its parent, the 375 H&H), it was actually an entirely new development.
(450 Marlin, left and .458 Winchester Magnum, right. Photo via wiki)
Shorter overall when compared to the classic .45-70 it was soon likened to that venerable loading. Firing a 325 grain bullet with a maximum chamber pressure of 43,500psi, much higher than the old .45-70, it could propel that projectile at an extremely fast 2,225fps which in turn generated a massive 3,572 ft/lbs of energy downrange.
As noted in Ballistic Studies, "Facts and figures aside, the .450 Marlin is a versatile short to medium range cartridge, ideal for light through to large medium game and adequate for large heavy game with due consideration. The .450 produces excellent hydrostatic shock and broad wounding on medium game down to velocities of 1700fps, providing of course, that suitable expanding projectiles are used. Using 300 grain bullets at 2300fps, this translates into a fast killing range of around 110 yards, the 350 grain Hornady at 2100fps equates to 100 yards, and 400 to 405 grain bullets at 1900fps give a fast killing range of around 70 yards."
Taking a page from the .45-70 turned .450 Marlin story, in 2007 Marlin and Hornady teamed up to create the .308 and .338 Marlin Express rounds based on the nearly century old .307 Winchester and 9.3x64mm Brenneke respectively.
Since its debut over a decade ago, the round has proven popular with experienced hunters taking non-dangerous large game, as well as any number of sportsmen harvesting medium game of all kinds ranging from whitetail to moose, elk, and black bear. The round's dimensional envelope has allowed it to be accepted in a number of state's that ban other high velocity loadings, falling under exemptions for vintage caliber.
The .450M just missed out on Michigan's new Limited Firearm Deer Zone ruling that mandates a .35 caliber or larger rifle loaded with straight-walled cartridges with a minimum case length of 1.16 inches and a maximum case length of 1.80 inches. The .450 has a case length of 2.1. However, future rulings in the Wolverine State could modify this.
Ohio is looking at adding the chambering to the narrow list of legal straight-wall hunting rifles allowed in the deer-gun and youth deer-gun seasons in that state.
In the past few years other rifle makers including H&R, Browning (who is making a BLR lever action under license to Miroku in Japan) and Winchester (a Model 94 also made by Miroku) have jumped on the .450M bandwagon, ensuring the round will continue forth for at least another generation. Heck, ASI even makes a .450 upper for AR-10 style semi-auto rifles.
Hornady currently makes cartridges in a 325-grain FTX Leverevoluton offering that currently goes for about $45. For those who want something heavier, Buffalo Bore produces a 405-grain JFN, 430-grain LFN and massive 500-grain FMJ-FN but beware that these can run up to $90 a box.
With that in mind, reloading may be the logical road to hoe on these rifles-- just in case they shut the line down one day. Specs on .450 are readily available as are dies if you look around from Hornady, RCS and Lee. With states such as California pushing for lead-free hunting ammo, hand loading your own copper rounds can keep you in the game (pun intended).
Getting your own
Marlin currently makes the rifle in two variants, both modeled on the classic 1895 line.
The Model 1895MXLR has a stainless 24-inch barrel and receiver fitted to a laminated stock making it almost impervious to weather and, at just over 7-pounds, is still packable despite its 42.5-inch overall length.
The Model 1895M is a compact "Guide Gun" with a 18.5-inch barrel with a hooded front sight and an overall length of just 37-inches. This 7-pound beast packs a punch and holds 4-rounds in its tubular magazine so obtaining additional recoil protection and a stern attitude when firing are all-important.
Previous JM made versions of this last model included ported barrels.
Street price on new Remlin guns, judging from the past 90 days of online classifieds sales from FFLs, runs about $800-900. However used guns, if you look around, can be had for as little as $500.
Although the guns have been hard to get in recent years, Marlin keeps mentioning them on social media and elsewhere lately, which are sure signs that an increase in production is on the way. With their renewed vow to expand Post-Remington quality, something truly remarkable could be on the way.