The .45-70 lever-action rifle is the quintessential “brush gun," and the combination of its short-range wallop in a compact, fast-shooting platform have made it the go-to for close-range bear hunting and dangerous-game defense for many years. The Henry Lever Action X Model .45-70 is a smooth operator, with useful features that aren’t overdone.
All of Henry’s new X Model rifles, including the X Model .45-70, the Big Boy and the X Model .410 Shotgun, display the classic lever-gun design and quality that Henry is known for, albeit with an undeniable tactical flare. That might have a negative connotation for some, but the carefully chosen and limited “tactical” features on the X Models serve a purpose and improve the versatility and function of the rifle. The black synthetic furniture is built to be lightweight and tough and features non-obtrusive sling studs molded into the plastic.
The fore-end also features a small length of Picatinny rail molded into the front as well as M-Lok slots on either side. The receiver is also drilled and tapped to accept scope bases or a Picatinny rail. Some may scoff at the rails and attachment points but let me tell you, from someone who considers Alaska's backcountry his home turf, it’s extremely useful. On a bear rifle, camp gun or truck gun, the ability to attach a flashlight is an extremely valuable and often overlooked feature. Bears are most active in the darker hours, and many of the uncomfortable situations I’ve been in over the years involving bears have occurred in the dark. Mounting options, in addition to robust fiber-optic sights (protected with steel out front), give the X Model a significant edge on more basic .45-70 lever-action brush guns.
The .45-70 lever-action rifle was welcomed into the world of suppressors with the design of the SilencerCo Hybrid a few years back. The Hybrid is a modular suppressor with .46-caliber baffles, and one of the standout features of the X Model .45-70 is, of course, its ⅝x24 factory-threaded muzzle (and it's shipped with a knurled thread protector). This rifle is very pleasant to shoot suppressed, and subsonic loads like Hornady’s new 405-grain Sub-X hit hard downrange with minimal recoil and sound. The attachment of a flash suppressor or muzzle brake would aid the thick recoil pad in taming the significant thump of hot loads. My SilencerCo ASR brake cut down on recoil, and its suppressor-ready design allowed me to quickly attach my suppressor if I so desired. One thing of note: With certain brakes or suppressors installed, you may not be able to remove the inner four-round magazine tube for loading and unloading. But don’t worry, this Henry sports a side loading port, a much-appreciated feature the company has recently added to numerous rifles within its current lineup.
The Henry X Model functioned with the flawless consistency you would expect out of a robust lever gun. Though it doesn’t wear the largest lever I’ve seen, its loop is bigger than a standard lever, and I found it to provide plenty of clearance for gloved hands without allowing for the excess movement some larger-looped rifles exhibit. Another feature I noticed almost immediately in the X Model is its transfer-bar safety, which is similar in function to many revolvers. There is no half-cock and no crossbolt safety on the X Model .45-70, but I find lever actions with those redundant safety features to be problematic anyway, as it can be very easy to forget to disengage one and not the other in the heat of the moment. Instead, letting the hammer down slowly de-cocks the rifle and the firing pin remains protected from any accidental impact.
Regarding accuracy, this rifle proved perfectly adequate for any hunting I would be doing with it. As it stands, I’m more interested in maximizing velocity and muzzle energy from a rifle like this than its accuracy. For most hunting applications, 100 or 150 yards is going to be about the limit of how far you really want to shoot a .45-70. If we’re talking about stopping large, toothy critters, or hunting in tight brush, that distance is probably going to shrink to less than 50 yards. Overall, the loads I put through the Henry X Model .45-70 averaged three-shot groups of 2.45 inches at 100 yards. Brush guns aren’t designed to be precision rifles, and their applications don’t require it.
To take full advantage of the .45-70’s potential in modern lever-action rifles, I am a strong proponent of handloading your hunting ammunition. At the same time, modern ammunition manufacturing has provided some great factory options that are solid critter stoppers. The limiting factor for factory ammunition is, of course, the pressure at which the cartridge can be safely loaded.
The Henry Lever Action X Model .45-70 is a smooth operator, with useful features that aren’t overdone. I topped my test rifle with a Leupold VX-6HD 1x-6x riflescope, which I found to provide fast target acquisition and a magnification range ideal for hunting applications. For use as a backup and bear-tracking rifle, where things can get real up-close-and-personal in short order, I think I’d run a reflex sight like the Leupold DeltaPoint Pro or a contained, zero-magnification red-dot in addition to a flashlight attached to the fore-end. The Henry Lever Action X Model .45-70 can handle them all.