In today’s shooting industry, it is easy to get caught up in lasers, lights, magazine capacity, tactical rails, etc. and lose sight of what makes shooting sports exciting in the first place. The skill, patience and discipline of using iron sights and making that first shot count are what hooked most of us the first time we fired a firearm or took our first deer. That feeling of accomplishment and purity of shooting is part of what makes Henry Repeating Arms Company an ever-growing name among new and experienced shooters. It’s no secret of my fondness for the classic American lever action rifle design and the family oriented business that makes Henry rifles so special, so when I had a chance to test their new All-Weather lever action chambered in the iconic 45-70, I jumped at the opportunity!
Last Cowboy Generation
Growing up in the south-eastern part of United States, shooting was commonly just as much a part of a child’s life as learning to ride a bike or climb a tree. As a product of the late 70’s through the 80’s, I have often stated my friends and I were the last of the “Cowboys and Indians” generation. I grew up watching reruns of the Lone Ranger, Have Gun Will Travel and Bonanza dreaming about fast drawing against the bad guy and hunting down outlaws with my trusty lever rifle. Fall and winter were spent out of bed before sun rise with a lever action rifle in my hands following my dad through the woods hunting squirrels and deer. One of my best memories in life was sitting beside my dad in a tree stand as a kid shooting my first white tail deer with a 32-20 caliber lever action.
This passion carried through to adulthood as a huge fan of the Cowboy Action Shooting clubs and the Single Action Shooter Society (SASS). About 10 years ago, Henry Repeating Arms released a single action competition legal rifle series titled the Big Boy. Sporting the same beautiful hardened brass receiver and heavy octagon barrel as the Henry .22 caliber Golden Boy rifles, the Big Boy was offered in .357 Mag, 45 Long Colt and .44 Mag / .44 Special. While it was a huge hit with the single action shooting crowd, it did not seem to get the wide spread exposure it deserved due to the revamped popularity of the AR-15 coming out of the Clinton era bans expiring. Now that the modern tactical rifle movement seems to have reached market saturation, more and more shooters are going back to their roots and rediscovering their love rifles like the Henry Big Boy.
I was among those who had to have one of these Big Boy Henry’s and managed to find one chambered in .44 Magnum. I remember the odd looks my fellow hunters gave me over the brightly polished brass receiver. Several comments were tossed about as to how the deer and hogs would easily see the shiny brass from a mile away and run. A year later and several deer in the freezer thanks to my father, Rick borrowing the rifle for a few weeks combined with the few trips I would be able to make that season and the only talk now about the rifle combined with the heavy .44 Magnum load from Buffalo Bore stops the deer in their tracks!
Flash forward to late last fall when Henry Repeating Arms announced the release of their new additions to their line up called the All-Weather Lever Action. This time around, Henry stepped up their game by beefing up their awesome Big Boy series and producing these rifles in a non-reflective hard chrome instead of the traditional brass. As a very strong plating permanently bonded to the steel underneath, the hard chrome doesn’t flake, chip, or peel, and its corrosion resistance is actually stronger than some stainless steels. The bottom line for the All-Weather series rifles is to be “rode hard and put away wet.”
Aside from finish, what really sets these rifles apart from the Big Boy series is the fact they are chambered in 30-30 and the massive 45-70. Having already been a fan of the pistol cartridge Big Boy rifles, you can imagine my excitement to check out of these new Henry rifles for myself! I immediately called my father up in North Carolina and told him the news. Within a couple of months of speaking with Henry representatives and waiting on a media sample to become available, a new Henry Repeating Arms All-Weather lever action rifle chambered in 45-70 arrived at my local shop for me to pick up and start testing.
Once I arrived home with my test sample of the All-Weather Henry officially known as the model H010AW, I decided to give it a closer look as I wiped the packing oil out of the barrel and off the surface. The hard chrome finish of the rifle had a uniquely attractive appearance set off by the black stained hardwood stock set. Given the large size of the 45-70 cartridge, the tube feed magazine located under the barrel is limited to only four rounds. Fortunately, if you hit what you are aiming for, most any animal on the planet can be dropped within that count.
Sadly, the 18.43” barrel profile of the All-Weather rifle was rounded instead of the beautiful octagon cut of my .44 Mag Big Boy. The overall weight and handling still felt nearly perfect at just over 7lbs. in a compact design built for hiking and close quarters hunting. While the receiver was drilled and tapped for a Weaver 63B mount for adding a scope, I would just assume draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa before ruining the good looks and smooth lines of the rifle. For the range and size animal this rifle would be used for hunting, the fully adjustable semi-buckhorn rear, and brass beaded front sight would work just fine.
At this point, I think all our readers can agree, regardless of how great a rifle looks, it’s nothing without good ammunition. When it comes to reliable lever action rifle hunting ammunition for large game, one of my most trusted sources has always been Buffalo Bore Ammunition. Who doesn’t take a company serious when their company slogan is “Strictly Big Bore – Strictly Business!”? This small company is based Salmon, ID focuses on hardcore hunting throughout the extreme elements for bear, elk, moose and mule deer. After conversing back and forth via email for a couple of days, the folks at Buffalo Bore sent several boxes of their all-purpose hunting 350 grain JFN loads for testing on the range and in the field. With a cartridge resembling a small magic marker with a velocity of 2150 fps / 3591 ft. lbs., I couldn’t wait to get the next stage in the review under way.
Specs Quick Reference
- Model Number H010AW
- Action Type Lever Action Rifle
- Caliber .45-70
- Capacity 4 rounds
- Length 39″
- Barrel Length 18.43″ Round Profile
- Length of Pull 14″
- Rate of Twist 1:20
- Weight 7.08 lbs.
- Stock Pistol grip stained hardwood with rubber butt pad
- Sights Fully adjustable semi-buckhorn rear, and brass beaded front sight
- Receiver Hard chrome plating drilled and tapped for a Weaver 63B mount
On the Hunt
As with most firearms we receive for testing, the All-Weather Henry made its way to our private training grounds known as “The Swamp.” This initial trip would be brief but effective given other testing planned. The first thing I noticed when preparing to shoot was the smoothness of the lever action. Compared to the many Henry .22 caliber rifles I own, the action had a noticeable hitch in it due to the long length of the cartridge. When more fairly comparing the large bore rifle to other lever actions rifles I own such as my Marlin chambered in 45-70 as well, the Henry’s action was nothing less than butter smooth and pleasant. The recoil of each shot was very manageable and much less abusive than my Marlin due to the All-Weather rifle’s thick absorbent rubber butt pad.
Measuring about 2 inches high on my first shot, it was almost directly above the bullseye at 75 yards while shooting off a sandbag. With a small adjustment on the ladder style elevation, my second shot landed only a half inch above the center mark. Shots three and four would land almost dead center in touching each other. The comfortable and easy to reach trigger on the All-Weather Henry had me dialed in quickly and painlessly.
As I mentioned my father, Rick Swanson earlier for a specific reason. Throughout my life, he has taken the advice of my late grandfather in going and doing whatever you desire today, before you’re too old to do it later. My father has been fortunate to chase some of his larger bucket list goals in hunting during my 41 years of life. Through stalking moose in spring hunts and taking a large wolf in the sub-zero temperatures of Canada, Dad has become one of the most accomplished hunters I know and one of my most trusted advisers in hunting. For this reason, I decided it was time to help him with another one of his bucket list goals.
I decided to reach out to the great folks at Bridge Creek Trophy Hunts located in Clarkrange, Tennessee. I spoke with Jeff Molands about the project we had in the works with the Henry All-Weather rifle and the fact my father was looking to kill a great American buffalo for his “bucket list.” After a few conversations between Jeff, my father and I, the hunt was booked for late January. Due to the timing of the hunt corresponding so close to the industry’s SHOT SHOW in Las Vegas, NV, I would not be able to attend the event. Much to my delight, my brother, Scot Grove decided to book a sheep hunt and go with Dad and fill in as the cameraman.
Once the time arrived for Scot and Dad to make the drive over for the Applanation mountains from North Carolina to Tennessee, it was near freezing temperatures. The hunters were met by snow flurries upon their arrival to the beautiful Bridge Creek properties. The next day, Dad and Scot dressed out in their new BullGator Camo attire from our sponsors at BullGator Outfitters and went on their first stalk. That day would land Scot a beautiful Texas Dali Ram. The rest of the day would be spent scouting the great American buffalo for the next day’s hunt with the Henry 45-70.
Once the heard was spotted and noted on the map, the next morning would start early as the guide, my father and cameraman Scot would be on the stalk to get a good shot. As the team of hunters approached the wood line, Dad could see the buffalo in the field ahead and slowly moved in to set up. Using a whittled down tree branch to secure the All-Weather Henry, Dad sighted in on the buffalo of his choosing. In my father’s own words, “I took aim and it was one of those moments that everything lined up immediately when I shouldered the rifle so I squeezed off a shot and down he (buffalo) went.” According to the guide, the shot struck the buffalo in the perfect kill zone area, just behind the massive shoulder and into the vitals. To go ahead and finish the buffalo off quickly, two additional well placed shots were placed.
When the staff hung the massive body of the buffalo on the rack and began to process it, one of the large 350 grain 45-70 projectiles was recovered from the exit side of the animal’s body, just under the skin. Judging from the mushrooming of the bullet half way down its length, it was clear it did exactly what it was designed to do. According to the box, that particular load is built to give approximately 50% expansion for a 3 – 4 ft. deep penetration with a high amount of weight retention. Looking at the recovered projectile, it’s fair to say it retained roughly 85% of its original mass. This is easily just as impressive as the rifle itself.
After 2 months of hard hunting use in North Carolina, the Henry All-Weather 45-70 returned home to Florida in time to get ready for Spring hog hunts. The muted hard chrome finish was spotless and the action was freshly oiled with a light coat of Modern Spartan Accurizing Oil which has yet to freeze, slush or gum up any of the firearm actions we use it on. While not specifically historically accurate to how the Henry design “was” in the early days, it is definitely a prime example of “how it should have been.” The 45-70 proved to be easy to carry during a large game stalk, easy to deploy into use and very effective in dropping an animal half the size of a large pick-up truck. There are very few names in the firearms industry who produce a top quality lever action rifle that I would send my father out to hunt such a large and potentially dangerous animal such as a buffalo with but Henry Repeating Arms is one I had no worries on performing as needed.
Retailing at $999 US, it rivals that of a modern rifle, but with much more care to craftsmanship, style and class than any polymer and aluminum firearm could achieve. If you hold quality, tradition and family high in your list of priorities, you will understand how the Henry All-Weather rifle ended up as a permanent fixture in my family’s gun trust to be enjoyed for future generations to come. Although I was not able to make it up north to go along on the hunts, I do feel like a new memory was made by sharing the testing process for this review. For the man who put the first lever action in my hands, I thank Henry Repeating Arms and Buffalo Bore Ammunition for allowing me to put a lever action back into Dad’s hands in order for him to enjoy one of his “bucket list” dream hunts. Special thanks to BullGator Outfitters for their patented BullGator Camo attire and the great folks at Bridge Creek Trophy Hunts who helped make the hunt a successful one. For more about Henry Repeating Arms Company and their great line of rifles, visit them at www.henryrifles.com and don’t forget to check out www.1800GunsAndAmmo.com to find the Henry rifle for your next purchase!