Henry’s Brass Frame 45-70 – Cutting Edge 1866 Tactical is Now Heirloom Rifle

Henry 45-70. Wagon train not included

The Henry 45-70

While I normally cover the tactical and CCW guns, I do have one other group I always snatch up if the opportunity presents itself. I guess you could call them 1866 tactical guns, and be correct. I’m talking about lever actions of course, including this week’s Henry in 45-70.

From a practical standpoint, I find that lever actions still have a place. They are so well balanced and handle so quickly, it would surprise you if you grew up on an AR. I didn’t shoot one more than a handful of times until I was already full-grown, and a soldier to boot. But I still came away impressed. With some practice, they also provide a remarkable rate of fire.

If you unable to use a magazine fed semi-automatic rifle where you live, you have to think about effective alternatives. This whopper of a lever gun would absolutely be my choice of a defensive tool. It also has the advantage of not looking particularly scary to the neighbors, though it should. These are the guns that won the West. They are also an excellent choice for hunting, offering a viable alternative to bolt actions in several regions. They will throw a monstrous bullet if need be, as illustrated by our 45-70 model this week.

Hornady LEVERevolution 45-70, monstrous rounds

But practicality aside, I tend to like lever actions for altogether different reasons. For me, and I’m sure many of you, they inspire a nostalgia I don’t get from anything else. You physically can’t pick one up without thinking about Rio Bravo. No matter how old I get, a handy lever blaster makes me feel like a kid again. And that alone is worth the price of admission.

Handy in bear country

Henry is by far the leader in lever-action rifles today, if not in volume then certainly in quality. The company’s motto is one I can absolutely get behind. Made in America. Or not made at all. This is of particular importance in this type of firearm, besides supporting the economy of the home team. A great many “Cowboy Guns” of new manufacture are cheap overseas junk. No disrespect to foreign guns, I own many. But there is a massive difference between “German Engineering” and “Paki pot metal firing pin.” Sadly, as popularity has declined, many guns in this category are made to be looked at.

Henry, however, doesn’t play like that. These guns come with a lifetime warranty, and they are meant to be used. While they also make a few single shots and the AR-7, the lever-action is a way of life for them. The guns might be beautiful, but they aren’t supposed to be safe queens. This company wants you to not just own the guns, but shoot them.

Brass receiver

And the 45-70 in for review reflects that. While in the past Henry has stayed true to the original tubular magazine loading system, this year they switched it up. By customer request, they now offer side loading gate models. I’m not a lever gun purist, so I like this change a lot. It means when I’m pretending to be John Wayne, I can load like John Wayne.

Stock checkering and lever

The rifle itself is a beauty, with well thought out checkering on the wood furniture. Not only does it look good, but it offers just the right amount of grip for less than ideal field conditions. Something I did not know prior to this review, the receiver is actually brass to match the butt pad. Not brass over steel. Just brass, tempered in a proprietary hardening process. This gives it the same strength as steel, with a deep touch of class.


The sights are a semi-buckhorn rear, adjustable for elevation and windage, with an ivory bead front. The 20-inch barrel offers an excellent mix of capacity and handling, holding 4 in the tubular magazine in this caliber.

Rear Sight

The action is smooth, right from day one. No break-in required here, though I’m sure it actually improves with time. The trigger is crisp and clean, with a break weight on par with most bolt actions. The new load gate system works well and is sure to be a hit. The one reminder you aren’t in the Old West is the orange follower in the tube, to show with certainty when it is empty. But I find that a happy bit of modern, so no harm no foul.

Front sight

When it comes to rifle caliber lever actions, I only turn to one place to feed it. Hornady Ammunition, of course, with the famous LEVERevolution. First introduced in 2006, LEVERevolution gave the older rifle rounds a new lease on life.

The only problem with lever-action rifles, from a ballistic standpoint, was the tubular magazine. Due to the rounds stacking one in front of the other (like a shotgun), you couldn’t use pointed bullets. You might get away with a pointy nose bullet resting on the primer of the round in front of it for a while, but it’s generally a bad idea. Therefore, lever specific calibers always before had rounded or flat-nosed bullets.

Receiver drilled and tapped if you prefer a scope

Flat-nosed bullets are fine across the room but don’t fly quite as well at range. 3rd-grade aerodynamics is pretty hard to miss with that one. Hornady, however, solved this problem with gusto. The LEVERevolution line features a soft flexible tip. It negates the problem of setting off primers in the tube but still has enough rigidity to make the bullet fly like a modern rifle bullet.

Tube loading port

For testing, Hornady sent both the 325-grain FTX and 250-grain Monoflex. 325 grains moving at over 2000 fps is nothing to sneeze at. We first set out to do some accuracy testing, which is about the only thing sketchy in our review. I am always going to do an accuracy test. But I also know enough about myself to tell you that the group I can shoot with irons, is not the mechanical absolute of the rifle.

To get the best group possible, I did set conditions up in my favor. I shot off my Eberlestock backpack, with new attached rifle rest. Also, Hornady is my gold standard for accuracy, especially in lever gun calibers. But still, it isn’t exactly like using bipods and a 30 power scope. The Henry turned in just over 2 MOA average, which is, in my opinion, is plenty for hunting or defense. And I’m also sure that it would do better if you happen to practice all the time with these type of iron sights.

On a more fun front, we blasted a pile of 45-70 at some paper. While the recoil in this caliber is stout, especially with a full-power factory load, it isn’t unpleasant. I would direct the recoil sensitive to something a bit smaller though, like Henry’s 30-30. The 45-70 is manageable, but you aren’t going to be at the range all day with it.

I am a fan of this new Henry, and I think you will be too. If you need a bear stopper by the back door, the 45-70 model is hard to beat. This heirloom-quality rifle is a bargain at $1045, and your great-grandchildren will still be using it.

For more information visit Henry USA website.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • George Davies March 16, 2020, 7:00 pm

    I prefer the octagon barrel. Would like to try out the side load. Henry has always made a beautiful weapon. One day I’ll be able to afford one.

  • Cathy Porter February 16, 2020, 4:54 pm

    I’d like a new catalog Please send me one. My address is 79 Saratoga Road, Glenville, New York, 12302-4112

  • Carl Lucci February 12, 2020, 8:27 pm

    Great Video. Henry Rifles are A True American Master piece of Our History. Also in 45/70 . 147 Year Old Cartridge.
    Great Job. Thanks Carl Lucci

  • mike February 11, 2020, 8:46 pm

    I’m writing a short distance away from the building where BJ Henry first developed his Henry rifle in Windsor, VT. The Golden Boy rifle that hangs in that museum building looks a lot like this new model because of the brass receiver.

  • Andrew N. February 10, 2020, 11:39 pm

    I love my Marlin 1895 45-70. After 6 shoulder surgeries, I just don’t shoot it much anymore. Maybe if I reloaded rounds for it like a sane person it would help? I need to load some 45-70 Gov’t. equivalent rounds and see how that goes. I did buy a Henry Big Boy in 327 Federal Magnum, and absolutely love it. It have the “Brass” receiver as well, so it’s beautiful as well as functional. It shoots .32 H&R Magnum as well, feeding both without a hitch. The “secret” for those new to Lever Actions is to work that lever like you’re mad at it. I highly recommend Henry Rifles.

  • John February 10, 2020, 8:33 pm

    Like their guns a lot. Good to see a caliber I like. They need to offer a BIG Loop lever for their rifles. The brass is beautiful when it’s new, but scratches easily because it’s soft.

  • Pete Migale February 10, 2020, 7:48 pm

    As always good info and review-were you at 100 yds at when you shot prone 2” group. I e got one if those Eberlestock shooting pads, they’re worth every penny – smoked a black bear at 348 yards off a tree stump by placing that pad on the stump to shoot up hill and across a draw

  • FRED TUCKER February 10, 2020, 6:43 pm


  • Mike Young February 10, 2020, 3:23 pm

    I have the 45/70 in the Marlin brand. Love th gun, easy to shoot and faster than a bolt action. Nor really useful for hunting over 200 yards. Have had good luck with the Hornady 300 grain ammo.

  • TIM ROBINSON February 10, 2020, 3:12 pm

    It’s a personal preference, I know, but the checkering is overdone. I’d prefer something a little less ostentatious. It reminds me of the giant billboards that used to adorn the slide on some 1911s.

  • Jack February 10, 2020, 11:47 am

    $10450.00 I spend that rebuilding or restoring old single shot rifles. This might be the 1 modern rifle I buy. I would have to let the brass age some. I do prefer caseharding to brass.

  • Joe Landers February 10, 2020, 10:43 am

    I just read the .22 statements. But I’ve had a Marlin 39A for years now, and what a reliable shooter and it’s a takedown so it’s easy to take places. There’s nothing like wood and steel!! I respect the polymer, but they just don’t have the sentimental value that the older versions have, maybe in the future, but for me not yet! Joe

  • Windell Peacock February 10, 2020, 10:34 am

    One of the benefits of having the side load and magazine load is that in unloading, one need not cycle all the rounds through the action, rather, just remove the magazine tube and slide all the remaining rounds out of the magazine. A great safety feature and could reduce the risk of an accidental discharge while unloading, kudos to Henry.

  • Joe Landers February 10, 2020, 10:21 am

    I like Henry, But I’ve got 5 original Winchesters, 3 73’s (2 in 44-40, 1in 38-40) and they only hate Hornady? All the other makers are ok, go figure? My 94’s will take any body but sometimes Hornady will be a problem, but no where near the rejection the 73’s do! My 94’s are 38-55 and 30-30 made in 1949, they are beautiful to shoot, but I sure admire the Henry’s. If I ever want another lever action, Henry is the only way to go. Joe

  • Dale O Hays February 10, 2020, 8:52 am

    I have a Marlin 45-70 Guide Gun . . . love shooting it (and all lever actions) and I agree that the Hornady ammo is by far the best out there. I will have to check this gun out – as I have a .22 cal Henry . . . they make really nice stuff!

    • Phil February 10, 2020, 12:11 pm

      I like the Hornadys, but my current favorite is a Barnes 300 grain tsx.

  • aaron matteson February 10, 2020, 8:33 am

    the world was a better place when everyone including you and your neighbors kids had one of these

  • Pete 145 February 10, 2020, 8:07 am

    Another “gotta get ” Henry for me

  • JJ February 10, 2020, 7:22 am

    I was scrolling to the bottom looking for a $2,000+ price tag. But at an MSRP of $1045.00, it is going on the wish list.

  • triggerpull February 10, 2020, 7:18 am

    I have the 22″ octagonal barreled tube-fed 45-70 Brass Big Boy, that extra barrel length makes a difference on delivering that wallop further out, the rifle you review looks like a kowtow to the trapper crowd while incorporating the “massive demand” for a side gate loader (which I personally can live without, I have many lever guns of both styles). I wonder why they still put the tube feed option on along with the side gate, I’d just make it one or the other since the purchasers are likely going to be significantly biased if they want a side gate IMO. This model leans just a bit on the “gosh she’s a Purdy one” too far for me to go bashing around in the woods with it, but it’s nice to see that it too preserves the brass buttplate ensuring the masochist self-flagellation crowd will remain happy. 45-70, like the 458 socom which it shares many of the same bullets with, is one of the few calibers that I can shoot a one-hole group with and still measure over MOA. LOL

    • ray February 10, 2020, 8:17 am

      Clay didn’t wear eye protection when he shot the first few rounds. Setting a very bad example!

      Love the gun.

    • Seagull February 10, 2020, 8:22 am

      I think they may have left the tube loading so you can dump out the cartridges instead of having to jack all the unused ones through the chamber.

      • triggerpull February 10, 2020, 1:09 pm

        So I’ve been told. Doesn’t bother me one way or the other, but I’d still opt for my brass big boy over this. ; )

  • Hill Creekmore February 10, 2020, 6:43 am

    If they make one in 444cal it would be in my safe nice gun

    • Jeff February 10, 2020, 10:40 am

      They do, just not the side gate. $972.00 MSRP

      • Jeff February 10, 2020, 10:42 am

        Oops ! My bad, read it wrong !

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