45-70 Lever Action Carbine from Henry Repeating Arms

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

October 28th, 2014


Click pictures for a larger version.









The Henry 45-70 wears a checkered American walnut stock with a soft synthetic rubber recoil pad.





Magazine tube makes loading and unloading the Henry very simple.







The lever action rifle is as American as it gets. Nothing in the firearms industry is as truly American as is a good lever action. From the deep woods of New England, to the swamps of the Gulf coast, to the wilderness of Alaska, and to the great expanses of our Western states, the lever action has served hunters and shooters for generations, and continues to do so today. While many hunters have taken to bolt guns and autoloaders, the lever action continues to do the job in the hands of hunters and other outdoorsmen who recognize the reliability and easy-handling that a good levergun delivers.

Personally, I have always loved lever action rifles. Like many folks my age who grew up watching TV Westerns as well as Western movies at the show in town, the levergun instills a feeling of another time in our hearts and minds. Putting nostalgia aside, if possible, the lever action rifle is as practical as it is beautiful, and is an efficient and effective arm for hunting and sport shooting, as well as for defense from both human and four-legged predators.

Henry Repeating Arms has been in the lever action rifle business for several years now, making lightweight and affordable rimfire leverguns, pistol-caliber lever action rifles, the beautiful Original Henry, and now this handy and practical 45-70 carbine.

Instead of the brass frame that Henry uses on most of its other centerfire rifles, the 45-70 has a receiver made of matte-finished blued steel. The Henry 45-70 is built to be a hunting/defensive rifle, and for that intended purpose, the matte black steel frame is a better choice. Also, there are many commercial 45-70 loads available on the market now, and the steel Henry is built to contain the higher pressures of such cartridges. The Henry wears an XS Sights adjustable aperture rear sight, and combined with the front post, makes for a quick and efficient sight picture. The XS is rugged and reliable, and is an excellent choice for such a rifle that might be used for hunting, as well as bear defense at close range.

Henry lists the magazine capacity of the 45-70 as four, but I had no trouble loading and cycling five cartridges from the tube. With one chambered, that gives the owner six powerful cartridges at his disposal, which is more than most bolt action rifles will carry, and for most shooters, a lever gun can be cycled much faster than can a bolt gun. Loading the Henry 45-70 will be familiar to anyone who has experience loading a tubular magazine on a rimfire rifle, but might seem odd at first to those accustomed to loading a centerfire levergun through the side of the receiver. With this Henry, the inner magazine tube is slid forward, and the cartridges dropped into the loading port machined into the outer magazine tube, allowing the cartridges to slide towards the receiver. When the tube is filled, the inner mag tube is pushed back into place, and turned clockwise to lock into the outer tube. This, to me, is as quick if not quicker than stuffing cartridges through a loading port in the receiver, especially with long cartridges using heavy blunt-nosed bullets, such as the 500-grain class of 45-70 ammunition. If the weapon is run empty and a cartridge needs to be loaded quickly, one can always toss one into the open ejection port much quicker than stuffing a cartridge into a loading port in the receiver and then cycling it into the chamber, so having no loading port in the receiver is of no consequence to me.

The Henry 45-70 levergun wears an eighteen and one-half inch (18.43 inches exactly) blued steel barrel. The magazine stops about three-eights of an inch short of the barrel, and again, as mentioned above, Henry lists the magazine capacity at four, but I had no trouble at all loading five cartridges into the magazine, for a loaded capacity of six. Thankfully, there is no manual cross-bolt nor tang safety on this rifle, and none is needed. It also has no traditional half-cock notch for a safety. Instead, the Henry has a hammer-mounted transfer bar safety. The hammer does not make direct contact with the firing pin, but the hammer transfers the blow through the transfer bar, which rises into position as the trigger is pressed. The weapon cannot fire from being dropped onto the hammer, nor can it fire if the hammer slips while thumb-cocking the hammer. The trigger must be in the rearward position for the Henry to fire. The trigger releases crisply and cleanly with just under four pounds of resistance. 

The buttstock and forearm are made of checkered American walnut, and are very well fitted and finished. The lines of the stock are very tasteful, and the slight fish-belly of the forearm adds a classic touch. The pistol grip portion of the stock is very comfortable, and follows the curvature of the blued-steel lever. Very well done. The inside of the lever as well as the trigger guard have plenty of room for a gloved finger. The lever operates the action easily, and the action is one of the smoothest that I have ever felt on a new lever action rifle. The Henry is fitted with sling studs, as should be any hunting rifle.

The Henry 45-70 handles very well. Weighing in at seven and one-quarter pounds on my scale and measuring just a hair over thirty-seven inches (37.125 exactly) in length (Henry lists the OAL at 39 inches), it is quick to the shoulder and points very naturally.

I fired the Henry 45-70 for accuracy at fifty yards, using the excellent sights provided. As mentioned above, the Henry is drilled and tapped for a scope mount, but I love the way this carbine handles with the XS Sight and front post combo, so I did the accuracy testing with those. Mounting a scope does not make a rifle more accurate, but I can fire a rifle more accurately with a scope attached, and I am positive that much tighter groups would have been fired with the aid of a good scope sight. However, I am very satisfied with the performance of this rifle using the sights provided. Henry could have saved a few bucks by going with a traditional barrel-mounted open sight, but the XS Sights were a great choice, and well worth the premium. The XS is adjustable for windage and elevation correction, yet is very rugged and reliable, and also very fast to get on target. Perfect. Group sizes measured center-to-center varied from well under one inch to slightly over two inches, but again, the shooter was the weak point in the accuracy achieved.

Velocities were recorded at a distance of twelve feet from the muzzle, and are listed in the chart below. Velocities were recorded at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of seventy-nine degrees and relative humidity of fifty-five percent. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second (fps). Bullet weights are listed in grains. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint. Barnes X is a homogenous copper hollowpoint. JFN is a jacketed lead flatnose bullet. Hammerhead is a hard-cast lead bullet.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Buffalo Bore JFN   300 2263
Buffalo Bore JFN   405 1906
Handload Barnes X 300 1501
Garrett Hammerhead 420 1257
Remington JHP 300 1502

Reliability was excellent with every load tested. The cartridges cycled flawlessly from the magazine into the chamber, and ejection was smooth and predictable, with the empty cases falling to the shooter's right, about two feet from the rifle. There was one failure-to-fire, but the primer had a perfect imprint from the firing pin, so it was the fault of the cartridge, and not the rifle. The Henry has the strength to handle all factory 45-70 ammunition that is made for modern lever action rifles, such as the premium ammo from Buffalo Bore, Double Tap, and others. Recoil was easy with most ammunition, and while brisk using the powerful Buffalo Bore ammo, recoil was not painful at all. The soft recoil pad and the excellent stock design of the Henry handled the recoil very well.

The Henry 45-70 carbine exceeded my expectations, which were high already. The smoothness of the action, the quality of the wood, and the attention to detail in the fit and finish, along with the excellent accuracy and easy handling make the Henry 45-70 rifle an excellent choice as a hunting rifle or as a handy but powerful rifle for defense in bear or big cat country.

The Henry 45-70 carbine, as of the date of this review, has a suggested retail price of $850 US, but doing some checking around on Gallery of Guns with gun dealers within fifty miles of my home, I found the Henry for sale with prices varying from $629 up to $680, plus sales tax. Like all Henry rifles, the 45-70 is "Made in America, or not made at all".

Check out the extensive line of American-made Henry firearms and accessories online at www.henryrifles.com.

For the location of a Henry dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.

To order the Henry 45-70 carbine online, Click on the GUN GENIE at www.galleryofguns.com.

To order quality 45-70 ammunition, go to www.buffalobore.com, www.midsouthshooterssupply.com, www.luckygunner.com, and www.doubletapammo.com.

Jeff Quinn

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Click pictures for a larger version.







The matte-blued steel receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope mount.





XS Sights adjustable rear aperture and Henry post front sight.



A few of the loads tested in the Henry 45-70 levergun.



The Barnes 300-grain X bullet is one of the author's favorites.



Accuracy at 50 yards, using the aperture / post combination sights.