Review: Henry .45-70 H010 “Steel”

A .45-70 in its natural habitat...

A .45-70 in its natural habitat...

I am an avid user of lever-actions.  I routinely carry them while on long hikes, and have used them to good effect while hunting in short to mid range situations where I know quick shots and follow ups will be necessary.  I have also used the .45-70 for a number of years for hunting and bear protection purposes in both lever action and falling block guns.  The .45-70 is an interesting cartridge.  Over 140 years old (its inception was in 1873 as a replacement for .50-70), it is still used widely in many commercial rifles, and ammunition is not difficult to source in the USA. The cartridge is also still issued and used militarily in blank form for line launchers used by the navy and coast guard!  While it has quite a lot of drop and is susceptible to wind deviation due to low velocities, I have used it to devastating effect on thick skinned, heavy-boned game, and it still can deliver one-shot kills to all North American big game within 200 yards.  I was therefore enthused when I heard I would be receiving a Henry H010 “Steel” rifle Chambered in .45-70 for testing.

Initial Impressions:

Despite having sold, appraised, and repaired numerous Henry rifles, this was the first one of their rifles I have had the opportunity to use myself.  The rifle comes in Henry’s cardboard box with a manual and not much else.  Upon opening the box, I inspected the gun and found no blemishes or burrs.  The action was properly oiled and clean from the get-go.  I was a little surprised to see that it had buckhorn sights, as previous iterations of this particular model, H010, had a ghost ring rear aperture sight.  The receiver is drilled and tapped for other sights or a scope mount base.  The bolt to receiver fit was very tight with no wobble.  The combination of an open ejection port and a Henry removable tube-style magazine certainly make for a very distinct look.   The pistol grip walnut stock was very nicely finished and checkered.  I prefer a pistol grip style stock on my lever actions for a more comfortable grip angle, so this was nice to see.  The buttstock also has a nice squishy rubber buttpad which negated the brunt of heavier loads fired later on, as well as kept the gun squarely in place when shouldered.  All said, a fine example of American craftmanship.  (For those of you unfamiliar with the company, Henry’s motto is: “Made in America, or not at all!”)

excellent bolt to receiver fit

excellent bolt to receiver fit

Field and Range Impressions:

Before heading out into the field, I weighed the rifle and tested the trigger weight.  Coming in at 7lbs,4oz/3.29kg, the Henry is the lightest weight .45-70 repeater currently in production.  Some of the weight savings can be found in the 18.34″ barrel length, but the Henry’s receiver is narrower and simpler, having no loading gate.  The trigger consistently broke at 5lbs.  It is not the best trigger I have had on a lever gun, being outclassed by Wild West Guns’ “Trigger Happy Kit”, but it was much better than a factory Winchester or Marlin trigger.  No creep, just a nice clean break at 5lbs with minimal wobble that lever gun triggers sometimes have.  The moderate weight was nice when taking the rifle on a pretty lengthy hike through late spring snow in the mountains.

Moving on to the range, I had some likes and dislikes about its operation.  The rifle is loaded by first closing the bolt, then twisting the knurled cap of the brass inner magazine tube a quarter turn, and either removing it to the point it exposes the loading port in the outer magazine tube, or removing it completely.  Thereafter, one just has to drop the cartridges in, and slide the inner magazine tube back in, turning it again to secure it in place.  Then one can work the action and fire, or render the rifle safe by pointing the rifle in a safe direction and then placing one’s thumb on the hammer and pressing the trigger, easing the hammer into place on the bolt.  Unloading is the simplest of all lever actions, simply open the action, ejecting whatever round is chambered, and then remove the inner magazine tube.  Any rounds left in the outer magazine tube can then simply slide out by pointing the muzzle to the ground, rechecking the chamber afterwards.

While I liked the ease of loading and unloading the rounds using the magazine tube, rather than pressing each round through a loading gate, I disliked having to have the muzzle pointed upwards or the rifle inverted to load rounds into the tube.  On another point, one can potentially muzzle oneself while removing the inner magazine tube.  At first, it took me while to to get used to the concept that I was loading a cartridge firearm with the barrel pointed upwards with my hand downrange of the muzzle while the bolt was closed. It is almost conceptually like loading a muzzleloader.  One should always be mindful to check that the rifle is totally clear in this respect, and do one’s best to keep hands clear of the muzzle when removing and replacing the inner magazine tube.  Also, certain ranges may have rules about muzzle direction, even during reloading, so a chat with the range officer might be a good idea if one is using this rifle at such a range.  I also disliked having my support hand so far out of my “work space” and having to disassemble the magazine tube during the loading procedure.  I do understand that emergency reloads can be achieved by loading directly into the firing port, but I’d rather use a loading gate or box magazine with a lever action.  I also disliked not having a cross bolt safety, and having to ease the hammer forward to put the rifle “on safe”.  I understand that safeties are mechanical devices that can and will fail, but given that arrangement, I’d certainly choose to keep the chamber cold until ready to engage in the field.

Range Results:

Ready to make some noise at the range

Ready to make some noise at the range

Accuracy testing was conducted using buckhorn sights at 50 yards off a sandbag rest with 5 shot groups measured center to center.  I used 50 yards rather than my usual 100 due to the brass beaded front sight covering a 8×8″ square target completely at 100 yards.  At 50 yards, it covered a 4×4″ square.  Results are as follows, listed from best to worst groups:

  1. Hornady Leverevolution 325gr FTX: 1.153″
  2. Federal 300gr TBBC: 1.3″
  3. Lehigh Defense 305gr Xtreme Penetrator: 1.6″
  4. Hornady Leverevolution 250gr Monoflex: 1.61″
  5. Lehigh Defense Controlled Fracturing: 2.2″
  6. Black Hills Cowboy 405gr FPL: 3.2″

    Ammuntion tested L to R: BH, Federal, Lehigh Xtreme Penetrator, Lehigh Controlled Fracturing, Hornady 250 Monoflex, Hornady 325 FTX

    Ammunition tested L to R: BH FPL, Federal TBBC, Lehigh Xtreme Penetrator, Lehigh Controlled Fracturing, Hornady 250 Monoflex, Hornady 325 FTX

I was very pleased with all the groups, being that they were all smaller than the are which the sight covered.  I am sure that groups would be tighter if I was using Henry’s optional ghost ring sight or an optic.  The faster cartridges tended to have less dispersion.  The 1:20 twist barrel preferred the Hornady 325gr FTX Leverevolution round, which has a straighter trajectory than flat pointed rounds and has performed excellently on game in my experience.  Recoil ranged from mild and pleasantly smokey with the Black Hills Cowboy loads to stout with a muzzle flash that was visible in broad daylight with the Lehigh loads.  I then ran some speed drills with the rifle using the Black Hills 405gr loads, as they had the least recoil.  I was able to get off 5 aimed shots in 7 seconds from the low ready position, and placed them all into a 4″ square at 25 yards.  Being that a charging grizzly can cover 50 yards in 3 seconds, a short stroke kit might be a good investment if one is carrying such a rifle in thickly vegetated grizzly country. At the range, I also noticed that the brass front sight was much harder to see in the shade than in the sun.  All said, buckhorn sights are not my favorite on a levergun, and I prefer a ghost ring arrangement on my personal leverguns.  The lever was smooth and the action ejected all rounds positively as long as I didn’t accidentally short-stroke.  The lever itself did not pinch or otherwise rap my hands on operation or recoil.  The Henry was utterly reliable, and I did not have one malfunction in over 200 rounds fired.

The brass front sight became much harder to pick up when in the shade

The brass front sight became much harder to pick up when in the shade

Front sight lit up and was easy to see when I stepped out into the sun

Front sight lit up and was easy to see when I stepped out into the sun

Conclusions:

The Henry H010 is a fine example of a reasonably priced, American made big-bore rifle.  It’s short barrel length makes it handy in closed in brush and dense woods, which is a real asset in dangerous game situations.  The craftsmanship in this rifle is rather remarkable for its price point as well, and I found it to be extremely well-made.  The .45-70 cartridge in which it is chambered is readily available and relatively inexpensive compared to other big-game cartridges.  If you are thinking about getting into big-bore leverguns, I would compare a few other options to decide if one prefers the Henry’s idiosyncrasies of operation, but for a short-to-medium range rifle in a hard-hitting caliber, it is well worth a look and nearly untouchable in its category at its price point.

Pros:

  • Well made with exceptional value at $850 MSRP
  • Handy, lightweight, and well balanced
  • Easy loading and unloading
  • Powerful, accurate and reliable
  • Easy to operate either right or left handed

Cons:

  • Loading procedure can cause one to muzzle oneself (cardinal rule #2)
  • Lack of manual safetyP4111609

Thanks to Aaron Hughston Shooting School for logistical support, range time, and technical assistance

For more information, please visit Henry’s site.



Rusty S.

Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


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  • USMC03Vet

    But is it Sheriff Longmire approved?

    • Rusty S.

      As long as you can pretend to surrender your rifle and then punch the bad guy in the face, I’m sure it is. I’m not so sure how well it would work in his antiaircraft lever action aspirations, however.

    • DaveP.

      You mean where you load a live cartridge in the rifle and then pull the trigger, in your office, with the muzzle a few feet away from your co-workers’ faces… to prove that the gun won’t fire because the barrel is leaded up?

      • Rusty S.

        People can watch a crime drama anywhere, they come to Longmire for the atmosphere and the attitude…In all seriousness they need a better dose of law enforcement/forensics/gun handling advice next season. They seem to never have heard of the concept of POST.

        • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

          Also most side characters have terrible technique (like holding pistols way too low on the grip and such)

          Its still not as bad a Walker Texas Ranger where not one person seems to know of the existence of sights on their firearms. I guess hip firing was the cool thing in the 90s. I wont even get into talking about how every car will blow up in the slightest fender bender.

          I still love both shows though.

  • Anonymoose

    After all the problems I’ve heard about current-production Marlin 1895s, and with the high price of Winchesters, this looks like a good candidate for my next durr rofl (.38-55, .45-70, and .50-110 are the only real rifle rounds you can use in Ohio currently).

    • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

      The Marlins made now are great guns. It was when they initially moved factories after Freedom Group bought them and merged them into Remington where they were having such issues.

      For the last 1-2 years those issues have been ironed out and they’re putting great guns out again.

      • El Duderino

        I agree they have improved. But stay away from the 2010-2012 guns on the used market.

      • ozzallos .

        I can verify my 45-70 bought less than 2 months ago is up to snuff. Loads, feeds and ejects without issue; even those persnickety Honady flextip rounds people a leery about. The wood is average, but nice. Fit and finish are on point.

      • I very much agree having a lot of trigger time with them.

      • Kevin

        Still haven’t seen one I’d be willing to buy.

  • Lance

    Awesome review I’d make this on my wish list.

  • Austin

    I just can’t get over the .22lr loading system

    • ozzallos .

      That’s nearly every .22 lever action in existence save the Ruger 96/22

      • StickShift

        Most people can live with it on .22LRs – after all, how do you fit a tiny .22LR through a loading gate? But on a centerfire? There’s no excuse.

        • rambo jones

          really? 5 rounds is not enough?

          • StickShift

            A loading gate allows you to top up, especially with a round in the chamber. It’s vastly more convenient regardless of capacity.

          • rambo jones

            once again… 5 rounds is not enough?? you must be one poor shot.

          • StickShift

            You must be a troll. Your arguments come straight from the Brady Campaign playbook

          • rambo jones

            what a stupid response. want to see a troll. look in the fricking mirror. And learn how to shoot!

  • Zachary marrs

    I’ll take a loading gate over some weight every day of the week.

    Is there any actual reason henry doesn’t fo a loading gate?

    • Drew Coleman

      Probably cost and complication.

      • ozzallos .

        I’m thinking more cost than complication. Even Rossi can do this.

    • Tim

      I emailed Henry last week about making their firearms with a loading gate.

      This was their reply:

      “There are pros and cons to both designs of lever actions, tube-loading and side-loading. At this time, there are no plans to change the design, but the idea is being studied.”

      I would buy one today if they made the gate a option.

      • StickShift

        That makes two of us, seeing as Marlin will is taking it’s grand old time re-expanding it’s lever action line. They’ll probably have .357 1894s back in production in time for my kids to graduate college*.

        *I don’t have kids yet.

      • Vanns40

        I’m with you 100%. I bought a Marlin 44 mag. Stop, all you Marlin haters, I’ve heard it all before. Mine does just fine and I really like it especially with Leverevolution ammo. IF Henry ever goes to side load I’ll buy one in a heartbeat.

        • Tim

          No Marlin hate here.

          My Winchester 94AE was a problem child. I sold it for a Ruger 77/357.

          I would buy a Marlin if they would make the stainless version.

          I did see that Henry has a stainless 30/30 and 45/70 now.

          My dream rifle from them would be a stainless .357 with a loading gate.

    • Rusty S.

      As Drew noted below, cost and complication is a factor. To address Tim’s point, if they do make one with a gate, I hope has a removable plate a la the 86/71

    • ozzallos .

      I quite literally just bought a new production Marlin 45-70 specifically because it has a load gate. I like the Rossi format with both tube and gate loading, but they cut too many corners for comfort.

  • >Implying the absence of a manual safety is a “con”

    • Bear The Grizzly

      This times a million. Henry uses a transfer bar safety device. A manual safety is a waste and an insult to lever action enthusiasts.

    • Jwedel1231

      Seriously. The lack of manual safety should be in the “pro” column. Also, I guess the author didn’t hear about how Henry’s have a half-cock notch?

  • tazman66gt

    Original Henry’s never had a loading gate, or a safety. When Henry and Winchester split Henry kept them the way they had always built them, if you want a gate then buy a Japanese made Winchester.

    • Kelly Jackson

      Or a Marlin Guide Gun…

      • ozzallos .

        Still made in America.

        • Jwedel1231

          “Made” is a generous term for anything coming from Freedom Grou, I’m sorry, Remington Outdoors nowadays. I’d rather have a Japanese made Winchester than current production Marlin.

          • Well having shot them a good deal the past couple of years they have improved a lot. The 45-70 Marlin was the last one I shot—nice gun.

    • Anonymoose

      They didn’t really “split.” They really have nothing to do with each other. Henry Rifle Co was a start-up by a guy who wanted to make a .22 lever-action sorta kinda patterned after the original Henry rifle. Benjamin Henry was the engineer at Winchester (then New Haven Arms, later changed to US Repeating Arms) who refined the original Model 1860 repeating rifle from the Volcanic pistol and carbine originally created by Smith & Wesson (the guys, before they formed a new company and focused on revolvers).

  • Blake

    Thanks for the review. More leverguns is good leverguns, & Henry always aims to please.
    “Recoil ranged from mild and pleasantly smokey with the Black Hills Cowboy loads…”
    Daddy likes :-).
    Always been curious to try some Blackhorn 209 in metallic cartridges; gotta get around to that one day…

    • Dan

      Only used Blackhorn in .45 colt. It was alright, satisfied my craving for smoke.

  • Hinermad

    Does this rifle not have a half-cock position for the hammer?

    • Rusty S.

      No half-cock position, just a transfer bar and a small recess on the hammer.

    • Jwedel1231

      My Henry had a half-cock, but it was a rimfire. Can’t say for sure on the centerfires.

  • VF 1777

    I can appreciate the heritage with Henry, and the loading tube – and this looks like a fine instance of lever action. I think I’d probably be lost without a loading gate, but I’d still prefer this over a Remlin.

  • El Duderino

    Remlin poor quality has birthed a competitor where none existed for a long, long time. I don’t count those 1886s which sold for big bucks and to my knowledge didn’t come with a short barrel.

    I’ve also found the Hornady 325gr to be the best factory ammo re: accuracy and drop. Perfect for hunting. As a true “Guide Gun” as defense against bears I imagine the 400+ grain flat nose bullets would be preferred…but we don’t have to worry about Kodiak bears in the Pacific NW.

  • Random quip – aftermarket goodies for henry rifles? Would love to swap trigger sets in my H001.

  • Marcus D.

    I get that the barrel is short–but the question is how short? I’d guesstimate it at 18″. Question for the pundits: isn’t the optimal barrel length for .45-70 24 to 30″? (Or even longer?) Or is that only true for black powder loadings?

    • Rusty S.

      18.53″ is the barrel length of the H010. “Optimal” depends on the intended use.

      • Marcus D.

        I was thinking of the late 19th Century long barreled long range buffalo rifles of the late 19th Century, and the people who engage in target shooting, often with black powder, at ranges out to 1000 yards. I simply assumed–wrongly as it turns out–that higher velocity meant greater range and greater terminal ballistics on the intended target. After I posted, I did some reading on the subject, and found a reloading article that talked about varies bullets, and various loads, and that article explained that bullet weight and construction, plus loading for a particular velocity, vary by the nature of the game being hunted. Pretty interesting stuff.

        • Jwedel1231

          Definitely interesting. Post a link?

        • iksnilol

          Could also be that in the old days they believed that a longer barrel was more accurate (+ it provided better sight radius).

          Might explain some of the why of long barrels.

          • NofDen

            Weren’t the rounds less powerful then our ammo now?

          • iksnilol

            That as well.

            Black powder works better with long barrels.

  • Amanofdragons

    Lack of a safety a con? Lmfao. Sorry, but a good amount of this article sounded like a fudd.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    I love lever guns but tube loading is just too slow and requires too much movement. Henrys are pretty and priced fairly well, but I would rather have a Marlin (Pre Remington of course). They are just as nice and actually have a proper loading system.

  • The Rifleman

    I absolutely love Henry firearms, and I think they are beautiful too. I’m hoping to get a Henry Mare’s Leg soon. However, much like most of you here, I do prefer the loading gate style over the tube feed. I can’t say that it would keep me from buying a Henry rifle because of that feature.

  • Paul White

    3 ish moa out of a big bore lever gun?

    I hate being broke. I’d take 2

  • Mike Lashewitz

    Too bad I will never be able to afford one.

  • Lyle

    “I used 50 yards rather than my usual 100 due to the brass beaded front sight covering a 8×8″ square target completely at 100 yards.”

    Have you heard of a bull’s eye zero? Your front sight, no matter how big it is, should never “cover” your target. If it does, you zeroed it wrong. Don’t use a poor sight picture and then complain that you have a poor sight picture. That’s all up to you. A round bead directly under a square target should be a perfectly acceptable sight picture, allowing for good accuracy.

    It’s like the old doctor/patient conversation;
    “Doctor, my front sight covers my target”
    “Stop covering your target with your front sight.”