Henry .45-70 Lever Action Carbine
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The new for 2012 .45-70 represents Henry's third foray into the centerfire rifle field. Like all Henry rifles, it is made in New York, USA.
Previously, Henry has introduced the brass H006 Big Boy short action for the .44 Mag., .357 Mag. and .45 LC revolver cartridges, the H009 .30-30 action in either brass or blued steel and now the H010 (steel only) in .45-70. The .45-70 reviewed here is a "guide rifle" style gun, with an 18" barrel and weighing about seven pounds. It is equipped with an XS Ghost Ring rear sight and a barrel band mounted front sight blade with a white line on its face to increase visibility in dim light. Unlike the seminal Marlin Guide Gun, the Henry version has a plain (not ported) barrel, a significant improvement for use in the field; particularly since many guides and outfitters will not allow their clients to use rifles with ported barrels or muzzle brakes.
Internally, these Henry centerfire rifles use what are essentially Marlin 336 pattern actions sized to their respective cartridges and bear no resemblance to the old B. Tyler Henry toggle-link action, which is not strong enough for modern smokeless powder cartridges. The .45-70 is a solid top, right side eject action with a pivoted shell elevator. Like other modern lever actions, the trigger cannot be pulled or the rifle fired unless the bolt is closed and locked. The top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope bases and accepts bases made for Marlin 336 rifles. Like previous Henry lever action rifles that we have reviewed, the H010 operates more smoothly than its Marlin counterpart. It is suitable for use by both right and left handed shooters.
One appreciated departure from current Marlin practice is the deletion of the crude cross-bolt safety. The Henry .30-30 uses a transfer bar in the face of the hammer to render the gun safe until it is fully cocked and the trigger is pulled. This is a much more elegant solution to protecting damn fools from themselves than the crossbolt safety adopted by Marlin.
Cleaning is the same as for a Marlin lever action. You can clean the bore from the muzzle, or remove the screw holding the lever in place, remove the lever and slide out the bolt to clean the rifle from the breech end. The ejector rides in a slot in the left side of the receiver and is retained in place only by the bolt. It is a good idea to remove the ejector whenever the bolt is removed to prevent its being lost.
The H010 has a round, satin blued, 18" barrel. The receiver has a matte black blued finish. The black walnut stock and forend wear five panel, laser cut checkering and are finished with a rather dark stain. Overall, the rifle presents an understated, beefy, but handsome appearance.
The walnut buttstock features a pistol grip hand and terminates in a ventilated rubber recoil pad. The forearm is a semi-beavertail type secured with a steel cap, rather than a barrel band. Both are too thick for our taste, much as are Marlin 336 pistol grip stocks, and should be slimmer. In fact, the buttstock would be improved if it had a straight grip, eliminating the pistol grip entirely. This would shave off a little weight and make this guide rifle a bit sleeker. Detachable sling swivel studs are provided, as a sling is necessary for any rifle carried for protection in the field.
The comb height is a good match for the supplied XS Ghost Ring rear sight, which sits rather high on top of the receiver. The stock design should also work well with low mounted telescopic or red dot sights. Our staff found the supplied iron sights nicely aligned when the rifle was snapped to the shoulder. It should be excellent for fast shooting at close range, the very situation for which this rifle was apparently designed. Empty, the Henry balances about 1.75" behind the front of the receiver, right between the hands. Loaded, the balance point moves about ½" forward, not enough to materially change the rifle's feel or handling.
Out of the box, the Henry's trigger was better than average for modern, mass produced hunting rifles. It released cleanly with a pull weight averaging 4.5 pounds. With some use, the trigger pull will lighten somewhat. The wearing-in process can be accelerated in a new rifle by increasing the load on the trigger/hammer engagement. This is done by simply inserting a screwdriver blade under the hammer spur and lifting gently while pulling the trigger. You can gauge the force required on the hammer spur by the increase in the effort required to pull the trigger. Pry upward too hard on the hammer and it will be impossible to pull the trigger at all. After a little dry firing and the application of a screwdriver under the hammer spur, we measured the Henry's trigger pull at four pounds.
Like previous Henry rifles, the blued steel, tubular magazine beneath the barrel is loaded by sliding the inner brass magazine tube most of the way out and dropping the cartridges into a cutout in the outer tube, just like loading a tubular magazine fed .22 rimfire rifle. This system works fine, but it is more time consuming than loading via a gate in the side of the receiver, as used in Winchester 94 and Marlin 336 rifles. Unlike those rifles, the Henry is out of service while being reloaded.
The magazine capacity is given as four rounds and the instruction manual warns not to overfill the magazine. However, our rifle would easily accept five cartridges and functioned perfectly when so loaded. To unload the magazine, remove the inner brass magazine tube and dump out the cartridges. (Something you cannot due with a Winchester or Marlin centerfire.) The cartridge in the chamber, of course, must be ejected by operating the lever. Operate the lever several times after unloading to ensure that the rifle is completely empty.
The rifle is designed to function with all factory loaded .45-70 ammunition and all major US ammo makers offer .45-70 loads. However, not all ammunition produces equal results. As with any rifle, you must experiment with different loads to find the one your individual rifle prefers. For hunting CXP2 (deer size) game, we like standard 300 grain JHP bullets, which are offered by most manufacturers at a nominal muzzle velocity (MV) around 1800 fps. For CXP3 (large) game or protection in the field, we prefer controlled expansion 325-405 grain bullets for their superior sectional density. (Most .45-70 cartridges loaded with 500 grain bullets are intended for use in single shot rifles and are too long in overall length to work through the magazines of lever action rifles.)
Its between the hands balance and potential for quick repeat shots make this .45-70 an excellent choice for running shots on large game. Its flat, trim receiver and short overall length make it comfortable to carry in the hand or slung over the shoulder, muzzle up or down. The same characteristics, plus the Henry's moderate weight, ghost ring rear sight and the short range stopping power of the .45-70 cartridge, make it an equally good choice for protection in the field. The absence of barrel porting makes it somewhat less deafening to shoot than its primary competition in the market place, the Marlin Model 1895 .45-70 Guide Gun.
Since we feel the Henry .45-70 will often be chosen for protection from large predators in the field, we did our shooting with the supplied iron sights, which are a good choice for the purpose. Guns and Shooting Online Managing Editor Chuck Hawks, Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays and Chief Technical Advisor Jim Fleck did the test shooting, which was accomplished at the Izaak Walton outdoor rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon. All shots for record were fired at 50 yards, our usual test distance for iron sighted rifles, from a bench rest using a Caldwell Lead Sled weighted with 25 pounds of lead shot. Groups consisted of three shots on Caldwell Orange Peel 8" bullseye targets. Our first day at the range was chilly and overcast, but the second day was sunny and warm. The wind was negligible on both occasions.
We requested ammunition for this review from our friends at Winchester, Remington and ATK (Federal/Fusion), who were kind enough to provide us with their factory loads. Winchester supplied their Super-X 300 grain JHP load (MV 1880 fps) and their Supreme 375 grain Dual Bond load (MV1500 fps). Remington sent Express loads using a 300 grain JHP bullet at a catalog MV of 1810 fps and a 405 grain Soft Point bullet at 1330 fps. Federal supplied Fusion ammo loaded with their 300 grain Fusion JHP at 1850 fps. These test velocities were all taken in 24" barrels. We estimate about 1750 fps for the 300 grain bullets from the Henry's short barrel. We appreciate the efforts of the U.S. ammunition companies on our behalf, without which many of our gun reviews would be impossible.
In addition, Rocky provided some of his .45-70 reloads for testing. These used a 325 grain Hornady FTX spitzer bullet in front of 49.0 grains of IMR 4895 for a MV of 1600 fps.
This time out, Chuck recorded our smallest group. The often substantial differences between our largest and smallest groups was due to our aging eyes and their lack of accommodation necessary for shooting with iron sights. Either the target was so fuzzy as to almost disappear, or the front sight was too fuzzy to precisely align on the sharp target, depending on whether we used our reading glasses or our distant vision glasses. We are certain that the rifle is intrinsically capable of delivering 1 to 1.5" groups at 50 yards. The Henry's good trigger pull is a definite plus for accurate shooting.
All of our test factory loads, as well as Rocky's 325 grain handload, are moderate pressure loads safe for use in Trapdoor Springfield replica rifles and their recoil in the strong, seven pound Henry rifle did not bother any of our (admittedly experienced) shooters, whether fired in a Lead Sled on the shooting bench or from the standing offhand position. The Henry's soft recoil pad helps. However, maximum pressure reloads or +P factory loads (a 350 grain bullet at 1900 fps, for example) would greatly increase the recoil energy to about 38 ft. lbs., which most shooters would find detrimental to accuracy. Remember that accurate bullet placement is the most important factor in stopping power and this is never truer than when facing a deadly predator.
The Henry's smooth lever action makes fast follow-up shots easy. Single cartridges can be loaded directly into the chamber when the magazine is empty. There were no malfunctions of any kind in the course of our test shooting.
This rifle's short overall length will make it handy for use in ground blinds and tree stands, as long as the anticipated shooting distance does not exceed about 100 yards. It is also an easy rifle to carry, as any guide rifle must be. For hunting CXP3 game in heavy cover and especially for protection from large predators in the field, we think the Henry .45-70 is a winner.
If, for example, you live in rural Alaska, Canada or sub-Saharan Africa and need to carry a powerful rifle on midnight walks to the outhouse (or anywhere else), when fishing, or you work as a trapper or hunting guide in areas frequented by dangerous predators, the Henry .45-70 may be exactly the rifle you need. For delivering hard blows quickly at short range, we give it high marks.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
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