Henry Lever 45-70/MCM Custom

Range testing day

My mentor back in Mother Corps was fond of saying, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you oughta.” This is probably the advice traditionalist of the lever-action fan club would have given me prior to the start of this week’s project. You may remember about 18 months ago when we took the newest of the Henry lever actions for a test drive. I found the gun an absolute winner, a joy to shoot. And for features, it was lacking in nothing one would expect to find on a high-end rifle circa 1886.

Custom shell holder

However, I also tend to favor modern equipment. As much as I like the look and feel of a good lever action or wheel gun, I find myself always drifting back to the present day. Which started me thinking- could we add some modern twists to this rifle, without losing its soul?

Custom Suppressor wrap? Oh yes, we did.

Fortunately for me, I happen to know some custom gun builders that can both appreciate heritage, and not be afraid to slaughter the sacred cow at the same time. It’s the essence of Idaho distilled into firearm form. Maybe it comes from having both a Type 7 FFL Manufacturing License and bear hunting in the mountains. Maybe its creativity spawned directly from all the potatoes in the soil. I don’t know. Either way, I found some psychos willing to play ball with my vision for the Henry. MCM Firearms of Nampa, Idaho.

Earmuffs optional, it turns out.

Henry, for their part, was also very cool about this project. I mean, not everyone will let you take the proverbial chop saw to their newest design. Willing at least. Henry saw the direction we wanted to go and graciously volunteered the 45-70 for a long-term loan/experimental surgery.

Improved big loop lever

The key goal to the Henry modernization was to keep it looking mostly period correct while adding the most useful upgrades of a modern weapon. With some help from a local custom leather shop, I believe we met that standard.

Muzzle brake? A necessary evil to aesthetics.

First and foremost was a change to the sighting system. Iron sights are very dependable, and you can do amazing things with them. No argument here. But, it is also a fact that a red dot has a shorter learning curve to use effectively. Not to mention, a red dot is VERY helpful for those of us with aging eyes. We could’ve opted for a straight-up Picatinny top rail, in fact, Henry makes one. But with the hardened brass receiver, it just didn’t feel right. We also had to make a decision on an optic. An Aimpoint or EoTech, while useful, just felt like too much. As in, they are so large as to be glaringly obvious as out of place.

In all its glory.

Therefore, we opted for what I think was a brilliant two-step solution. We chose an RMR, for the small footprint it has. From any kind of distance, you have to look hard at our Henry to even notice the electronic sight on top. The smaller sight also helped with retaining the excellent balance inherent to a good lever action. I have often said, a lever gun points and shoots like nothing else. I would reasonably say it is faster than an AR or anything else, from a low ready position. The RMR helped us keep that quickness while offering a modern aiming solution.

RMR mounting plate

For a mount, MCM really brought out the big guns. Lead machinist Brock Sampson drew up a completely unique Henry height mount, and cut it out of brass. Since the program was already written for the CNC machine, and you can’t buy just a two-inch cube of brass, MCM opted to carry the mount in their store. If you want just an electronic sight mount that matches your brass receiver, you are in luck. Doubly so since RMR footprint is basically at this point an industry standard for micro red dots.

Front view of RMR optic

Next was addressing the factory loop. Henry ships with a period correct loop for cycling the action, but some of us watched entirely too much of “The Rifleman” on Nick at Night. It’s a minor thing, but I really wanted to be able to chuck that lever fast. And in my limited experience, a bigger loop helps do so. So MCM built a new one, much closer to Chuck Conners style.

New loop close up

Finally, we wanted something to tame the monstrous recoil of the 45-70 cartridge. 45-70 is a dinosaur killer, no doubt about that. But you feel it a bit from something as light as the Henry, at all of 7.09 pounds. We were going to have to thread the barrel and install a muzzle brake. Two issues came up. One, a muzzle brake REALLY looks out of place on a lever action. And two, if you are going to bother threading the barrel, why not suppress it as well?

We chose the Silencerco Hybrid 46, both for versatility and ease of mounting. While it looks a bit odd, the Silencerco ASR muzzle brake is very effective. And the Hybrid 46 is rated for almost anything, including 45-70 down to 16-inch barrels. Also handy, since we shortened the barrel while we were at it.

Scratches mean character. This rifle hunts.

Check out the VIDEO of the Henry 45-70 below.

All in all, I was very happy with how the project turned out. Our hybrid Henry retained all of the features we liked to start with while allowing us to use a cheater sight and leave our ear muffs at home. Most important, it wouldn’t look out of place in a saddle bag or hanging above the mantle. If you have a Henry, but you want to get the absolute most out of it, this is a set of modifications worth looking into.

MCM custom RMR plate in brass

To learn more about the model of Henry used in this build click HERE

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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

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Glenn July 13, 2021, 7:17 pm

    I wanted the big loop lever on my Henry Big Boy wrapped and Hellhound Leather did a great job. While I am not going to trick out my Henry (at least not yet) I did enjoy your thinking outside of the box on your gun. Please keep up your warts and all reviews.

  • Elmer July 12, 2021, 7:40 pm

    Nice work! I think you achieved your goal of applying modern conveniences without besmirching the aesthetics.

    Your loading technique made me a bit nervous. Once a cartridge is in battery, it’s good practice to set the hammer to half cock before adding more to the magazine. A loaded lever action should always be in half cock whenever it leaves your hands, such as when setting it on equine carrion.

  • James Spangler July 12, 2021, 5:34 pm

    With all that hardware, that would look awesome in the rear window of my 1946 Dodge PowerWagon.

  • Patrick July 12, 2021, 1:01 pm

    The Henry is not the Holy Grail. Nor is it a valuable antique Winchester. People are free to modify them as they want. I really like the suppressor.

    • Tj July 12, 2021, 5:09 pm

      Well considering your point of value, I would bet that since Henry produced the lever action rifle six years (1860) before Winchester that if someone had an original first run of the Henry, it would be a bit more valuable than the Winchester.

  • Randy Allen July 12, 2021, 12:05 pm

    Nice! My shoulder could never take the abuse from such a gun, even with the muzzle work, but the Silencerco wrapped in leather looks awesome. I would have the loop a little bigger and wrapped the lower part of it with leather to bring the whole thing together.

  • Er July 12, 2021, 10:25 am

    Really enjoy your reviews Clay and this one is no exception. I do have a question. You refer to the noise suppressor also as a “muzzle break”. How can a muzzle brake work if it’s encapsulated in a leather wrap? Doesn’t a muzzle break work by diverting some of the hot gas in the opposite direction of the recoil, thus reducing the rise of the barrel? I would seem that a leather wrap preclude that gas breaking action.

  • Stevo July 12, 2021, 10:13 am

    I have a 45-70 octagon barrel, and a beautiful color hardened finish. All I’ve done is put a traditional sling on it and a simple 4x Leupold (bought used). It’s way to big for game in GA, but who knows, some might give me an invite to Kodiak Island before I pass on to heaven!

  • Michael Greene July 12, 2021, 10:00 am

    I absolutely enjoyed you conversion update to the Henry Rifle. I have several old Winchesters and am a fan of all lever actions. I watched original Roy Roger programs when I was young (now you can age me and my love for lever actions). Thank you for your brave service to our country and your love of firearms. A great lever action museum is near Bartlesville, OK, put together by the Phillips Petroleum family. You will be star struck at the collection on display. Thanks.

  • TERRY FISHER July 12, 2021, 9:58 am

    It is called, Running Out Of Gun Things To Do.

  • Tenbones July 12, 2021, 9:57 am

    I’m Irish! I’d like to know where I can get the T-shirt.

  • JEFF MYKEL July 12, 2021, 9:55 am

    WHERE CAN I GET THE HENRY 44 70 RIFILE

    • Big Al 45 July 14, 2021, 9:40 am

      Yeah, good luck

  • Mad Mac July 12, 2021, 9:53 am

    Steampunk never looked or worked better. Congratulations.

  • Phillip DeWitt July 12, 2021, 9:34 am

    Why not reengineer a 50 round drum magazine in brass no less or just leave it alone? If it were mine I might add a sling. The modern concept of throwing money needlessly modifying a perfectly good gun ,throws me.

  • Ej harbet July 12, 2021, 9:26 am

    I like it! But this being designed to be a free nation.that don’t matter.

    Wonder how many rounds outbound before you get a whiff of leather cooking?

  • Frank July 12, 2021, 8:47 am

    “To each his own”… “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”… (insert your own axiom here).

    IF… however, you wanted to ugly-up a beautiful lever gun to make it more modern, why not start with the Henry X model. It already has a short threaded barrel, and your mods wouldn’t look so atrociously out of place on the all black “tactical” lever gun. Just saying.

    • GREG July 12, 2021, 9:48 am

      I think it is a beautiful way to make a modern practical gun out a lever action while still respecting the heritage of the rifle.

    • Big Al 45 July 14, 2021, 9:42 am

      OK, you asked. Opinions are like a*******, everyone has one, and they usually stink.

  • Griffendad July 12, 2021, 8:27 am

    Skinner sites, done.

  • Pete July 12, 2021, 7:44 am

    Ty- is that what brought u to the article? 😀
    Interesting gun bling Clay! The leather barrel wrap looks cool.

  • Dr Motown July 12, 2021, 7:32 am

    Why pay for the front sight to be repositioned when it’s non-functional with that suppressor in place?

  • triggerpull July 12, 2021, 5:36 am

    I have the same rifle with 22″ octagonal barrel. True it’s a bruiser with the brass buttplate alone, but it’s plenty fine with a decelerator pad fitted over it. I did switch the irons to Williamson fiber optics which helps a lot (longer sight radius on the barrel). Messing with a lever gun is like insulting someone’s religion. LOL

  • Ty July 12, 2021, 4:15 am

    Boredom leads to stupidity like this.

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