Compared: Marlin 1895G and Henry H010 Lever Action .45-70 "Guide Guns"

By Randy D. Smith


The .45-70 cartridge has been around for 140 years and is certainly not what most would consider an example of modern ballistic performance. Most loads sighted 3” high at 100 yards will drop nearly a foot at 200 yards. Yet, in spite of its less than impressive performance, it is a popular choice among sport shooters and hunters. Nearly every historical single shot replica is chambered for the .45-70, but I believe that the .45-70 is at its best when chambered in lever action rifles and carbines. Carbines chambered in .45-70 are excellent, short range “knock-down” guns, ideal for deer, feral hogs, black bear and larger game.

By the mid-20th century, the .45-70 had nearly disappeared from the scene as a popular cartridge, but legend, reenactment and product promotion brought the round roaring back. Perhaps the most influential of the lever action rifles is the Marlin Guide Gun. Today, the Marlin Guide Gun is a popular choice for anyone wanting a short range, fast shooting, powerful, dangerous game defense gun. While most of us will never have to face the wrath of a charging grizzly in the alders of Alaska, the romance of the Guide Gun is addictive. In addition, as I have found over the years, the .45-70 Guide Gun speaks with such authority that it is often my first choice when other rounds would do just as well.

A feral hog hunter doesn’t usually need anything more powerful than a .30-30 or .243, but the .45-70 is just more fun to shoot and it anchors hogs like the hammer of Thor. Compared to just about any dangerous game rifle on the market, the Marlin Guide Gun is very reasonably priced. It is a popular hunting gun and will probably continue to be for decades.

I’ve owned and parted with three Marlin .45-70 rifles during several decades of quenching my thirst to experience hunting with different types and styles of rifles. The first was a Model 1895 equipped with a fixed power 1.5X scope. I took an excellent whitetail buck at 50 yards the first season I owned it.

My second Marlin was a stainless steel Guide Gun with ported barrel and I added XS Express sights. It remains one of the fastest on target hunting rifles I have ever owned. I could start a tin can at 40 yards and roll it along as fast as I could lever and shoot the next four rounds. I bought that gun brand new and sold it two seasons later for a $200 profit. I wonder what it is worth now.

My third was an impulse purchase during the closing of a sporting goods store chain. I bought a standard walnut and blue steel Guide Gun at a little over dealer cost. I carried it quite a bit backpacking and horse packing in the mountains. I sold it for what I originally paid to a Colorado horse packer guide who wanted it for his business. He probably needed it more than I did.

I was preparing for a Montana and Idaho camping and wolf calling trip. I decided that I’d like to have another Guide Gun to take along for camp and bear defense. That was when I ran across a new Henry H010 carbine in .45-70. I was impressed with the general fit, finish, and design of the Henry and it is American made, so I decided to give it a try. The price was higher than a Marlin, but the Henry came standard with XS Express Sights that made it very competitive.

Marlin Model 1895G Guide Gun

Marlin 1895G
Illustration courtesy of Marlin Firearms Co.

The Marlin Guide Gun Model 1895G is a traditionally designed lever action big bore carbine with a polished blue finish and standard grade straight grip walnut stock. It is a side ejection, solid top receiver, traditional Marlin 336 action with the hammer block safety button near the hammer. It has a short 18-½” barrel with standard barrel bands linked to the forearm and cartridge feed tube near the front sight. The open sights are traditional semi-buckhorn rear with a blade and bead front sight. It is equipped with detachable sling swivel studs on the butt and forearm band. The wrist and wide forearm have traditional and fairly rough machine checkering.

The example I bought at a gun show was new, but from a dealer’s old stock. It rested beside a pair of new Marlin Model 1895GBL rifles in .45-70 with big loop levers, pistol grip laminated stocks and matte blue finish. I was not impressed with the fit and finish or design of either of the newer rifles. I sighed and thought to myself, “Is this where Marlin is going under Remington ownership?” The 1895GBL is designed to sell at a competitive price to city slickers, but it is not the rugged, outdoor, dangerous game carbine that the older model is.

I use a new Model 336Y in .30-30 as a truck gun with the same finish and laminated stock design. It functions and shoots fine, but the finish is nothing less than a rust magnet and demands nearly constant attention. The heavy laminated stocks have all the appeal of a fence post. The GBL's were priced cheaper than the 1895G, but I gave them only a passing inspection before selecting the older, much better rifle. I felt it was best to get one of the good guns before they were gone.

SPECIFICATIONS:

  • Model #: 1895G
  • Type: Lever action repeater
  • Caliber: .45-70 Govt.
  • Magazine Capacity: 4 rounds
  • Sights: Adjustable semi-buckhorn rear, ramp front sight; tapped for scope mount; offset hammer spur included for scope use
  • Metal finish: Blued
  • Stock: Straight grip American walnut with recoil pad.
  • Overall length: 37”
  • Barrel length: 18.5”
  • Weight: 7 lbs (empty)
  • Country of origin: USA
  • 2013 MSRP: $680.00

Henry Model H010

Henry H010
Illustration courtesy of Henry Repeating Arms.

The Henry Model H010 .45-70 is a side eject, solid top lever action carbine that looks quite similar to the Marlin at first glance. The pistol grip stock and forearm are walnut with a smoother dark finish and shallower machine cut checkering than the Marlin. The forearm seems thin in the hand compared to the Marlin’s wide forearm. The butt of the Henry has a substantial vented recoil pad and sling swivel studs are provided.

There is no safety switch mounted in the receiver, as Henry is equipped with an internal transfer bar safety that prevents hammer contact with the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled. There is also no half cock hammer notch on the Henry. The exposed hammer is either fully cocked or resting against the receiver.

There is no side loading port cut into the receiver. Load is by means of a brass loading tube, similar to the under barrel feeding tubes of many .22 rifles. It is secured with substantial plastic bands and is equipped with sling swivel studs. Tube feed loading is a design feature common to all Henry rifles, I assume to remain similar to the original Henry rifle of 1860. The tube is opened by pushing down to free a short pin from a retaining slot then turned to allow the tube to be removed. A cartridge slot is cut midway down the loading tube housing to allow loading without fully removing the tube. The Henry is also equipped with standard XS Ghost Ring sights with a white strip clearly visible on the front sight post. The finish is matte blue on the receiver and barrel, less refined than the 1895G, but not as crude as on the 1895GBL Marlin.

SPECIFICATIONS:

  • Model #: H010
  • Action type: Lever action repeater
  • Caliber: .45-70 Govt.
  • Magazine capacity: 4 rounds
  • Sights: Adjustable XS Ghost Ring rear, blade front; drilled and tapped for scope mounting
  • Metal finish: Matte blue
  • Stock: Pistol grip American walnut with recoil pad
  • Overall length: 39"
  • Barrel length: 18.43"
  • Weight: 7 pounds (empty)
  • Country of origin: USA
  • 2013 MSRP: $800

The Comparison

I guess the initial topic for discussion should be the purpose for owning a .45-70 lever action carbine in the first place. Other than as a heavy knock down thick cover big game hunting rifle, the real reason for designing such a gun is for defense against dangerous predators. A dangerous game guide or outfitter needs a carbine style repeater chambered for a powerful cartridge that can be deployed very quickly at close range. The rifle needs to be light, manageable and foolproof. It should be a design that will ride well in a saddle scabbard or can be carried for long hours in the field in all weather conditions.

Both the Marlin and the Henry are reliable actions that feed and function very well. The trigger pull on both is adequate at about 4 pounds.

The Henry has a longer length of pull. I had some trouble getting the Henry into my shoulder quickly, as the heavy recoil pad seemed to hang up on my shirt and jacket. I had to purposely push the butt away from my shoulder and draw it back for quick shots. The Marlin was much smoother to get into shoulder alignment. Advantage Marlin.

The Henry’s recoil pad and pistol grip stock helped to significantly soften the recoil of heavy loads. I was quicker back on target after shooting with the Henry. Advantage Henry.

The Henry’s Ghost Ring sights are extremely quick on target. If you have never used a ghost ring sight, you need to try it, especially if you do a lot of close range, fast shooting. They are quite accurate out to 100 yards and I have never had any damage to any ghost ring sights in the field. I have damaged traditional open sights, such as are on the Marlin Guide Gun, in the field. Advantage Henry.

Marlin’s side safety button design is a joke, a lawyered up gimmick that never has and never will make sense on an open hammer, lever action with a hammer safety notch. I push the button to shooting position and leave it there on all my Marlins. Every once in a while, however, I try to make a shot and the hammer does not make contact with the firing pin, because the lawyer button got bumped into safety position. Hell of a thing to happen on a dangerous game carbine! I consider Henry’s transfer block system to be much superior. Advantage Henry.

I had trouble from day one with the loading tube of the Henry. I contacted the Company and they were perfectly willing to inspect and repair the gun under warranty with the cost of mailing both ways on them! That is impressive, especially if you’ve ever had any dealings with Remington’s crack pot warranty and repair program. On warranty service, advantage Henry.

However, the loading tube concept is an issue for me. The Henry can be loaded and unloaded very quickly. I’ve heard and read arguments that the Henry is fully out of service while the tube is being loaded, which is true. When things work right, however, loading can be done very quickly. In fact, the tube feed can be loaded quicker than the Marlin's side port feed.

The trouble is that the loading tube on my Henry would stick tight and I could not remove it without the use of pliers to free it from the tube housing. I tried everything I could think of to loosen the tube for quick reloading before contacting the company. It seemed that the heavy recoil of .45-70 loads was driving the rubber o-ring on the loading tube into the tube housing. I went back to the gun shop where I purchased the rifle and examined the tightness of the loading tubes of .44 magnum and 30-30 Henry rifles in stock. Some tubes were very tight and others were easy to work. I took the rifle to the dealer and one of his big, burly, sales staff with hands and fingers like slabs of meat had no trouble opening the tube. He then asked me if I knew that I was to push down on the tube to free it from the retainer notch. Duh! Teach your mother to suck eggs! I was probably hunting with my first .45-70 when he was being potty trained!

I recently read an article in a gun magazine where the author was demonstrating in a photo how a shooter could load the side port of a lever action while holding the butt of the rifle to his shoulder. This was being used as an argument for the advantage of a lever action rifle. I can just imagine trying to pull .45-70 cartridges from my belt and jamming them into a Marlin loading port with one hand while I kept the rifle carefully in shoulder position in case the dangerous critter I was after charged before I got another critical cartridge chambered into the rifle. Poppy cock!

The fact remains, however, that a side port can be reloaded quickly and I have been in situations where my shaking, nervous fingers were having trouble just holding onto the cartridge, let alone getting it into a rifle. It seems like no matter how much you’ve practiced, in truly dangerous or tense situations, nothing seems to work as planned. A loading tube, flopping around on the end of the rifle in thick brush while the nervous user tries to charge the rifle, does not appeal to me. Neither does a stuck loading tube in wet, snowy, or icy weather. So, on the loading issue, I have to say, advantage Marlin. (We had absolutely no trouble with the magazine tube of the Henry .45-70 we reviewed--see the Product Reviews page for details. -Editor.)

For me, this became the critical difference and why I chose to keep the Marlin over the Henry. Both are excellent shooters. Both handle smoothly without a hint of malfunction or misfeeding. The recoil of .45-70 loads, especially Hornady LeverEvolution rounds, is much heavier with the straight wrist stocked Marlin, but I don’t notice recoil when shooting in the field, especially in tense situations. The Henry is also a more bulky design than the Marlin 1895G and did not handle as quickly in tight conditions. The tables are entirely turned when comparing the Henry to the cheaply made 1895GBL. I’d go with the Henry every time.

A recreational shooter and sport hunter should have no trouble with the Henry H010 loading tube and I doubt it will ever be an issue. However, for me, when I’m jamming a .45-70 into my saddle scabbard for a ride into the back trails of Rocky Mountain bear country, it will be the Marlin 1895G.




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