Photo by Tom Claycomb: I do a lot of bear hunting, but what made this a special hunt is shooting this beautiful cinnamon bear with a classy Henry's 45-70. What could be cooler than that?
By: Tom Claycomb
Some inventions never get old, and the lever action rifle is one of them. So when Henry Repeating Arms Co. asked if I wanted to test some of their rifles, I jumped at the chance.
They say the Colt six-shooter won the West, but the lever action rifle wasn’t far behind. Nowadays, they have so many cool choices that it was tough trying to decide which ones to test.
Their Golden Boy .22 is neat. I’ve always wanted a lever action .22. It was a killer choosing, but I finally decided on the All Weather 30-30 and the Brass Octagon 45-70. I had to include a 30-30 in the mix, didn’t I? I mean not doing that would be like disrespecting John Wayne, The Rifleman, or not flying your flag on Independence Day. You get my drift? We’re talking a big transgression.
All Weather 30-30
After what seemed a lifetime, the guns finally arrived. For ammo, I decided to go with Hornady. For the 30-30, I tested two types, LEVERevolution 160 gr. FTX and Full Boar 140 gr. Monoflex.
I set up a target at 25 yards to get it on paper. Whoa! Same bullet hole with two shots. This thing was going to be a shooter. I’m sure it probably kicks, but compared to the 45-70, it felt like a .22. I then moved the target out to 50 yards and still obtained a decent group.
The All Weather has a stained hardwood stock, hard chrome plating, and is all-in-all a beautiful-looking rifle. In this day and age in which we’re inundated with ARs, you may have made the mistake of relegating a lever action to the storage cave along with slingshots, spears, and flip-top cell phones. If so, you’ve made a mistake.
Benefits of a Short Lever Action
Years ago, I was living in Colorado, but was doing a job in Kansas. I had a bear tag in Colorado, and on the weekend ran back to Colorado to hunt. I didn’t want to take my good rifle on the job in case I had a burglary, so I’d taken an old Winchester 30-30. I was hunting in rolling brushy hills and a long shot would have been 40 yards.
I suddenly changed my view of a short lever action rifle. For hunting in thick brush and needing to make fast shots, I suddenly discovered that it was the ticket. You can swing them around fast, and they aren’t as likely to get hung up in the brush as a longer rifle is. They’re also lightweight and a lot easier to lug around.
Another scenario: In college I was cowboying for a ranch in Texas, and the rancher had a 30-30 alongside the seat in every ranch truck to shoot wild dogs and coyotes that chased his cattle. They’re handy to carry.
Brass Octagon 45-70
For the 45-70, I decided to use Hornady 325 gr. FTX ammo. If you’re used to shooting your little .30 cal. rifles with a muzzle brake and butt pad, get ready to hold onto your pants. The 45-70 with the brass butt plate will get your attention in a hot second.
While out shooting a video lately with Ron Spomer Outdoors, I shot the 45-70, and the kick wasn’t really that bad. Then after the filming, I went out shooting to complete this article, and it was kicking like a mule. Shooting from a bench slightly hunched over intensifies the recoil.
I was planning on getting me a bear with my bow this year, but after receiving the Henry’s 45-70, I decided that I had to shoot my bear with it. What could be cooler than that?
After shooting a bit, I quickly discovered I needed a sight with a little smaller bead…and brighter. And then I really realized it while hunting. I had a bear come at dusk (which is the norm), and missed him.
But, deliverance was on the way. It just so happened that while sitting in my bear blind and glancing through some outdoor magazines, I noticed in the American Shooting Journal that Skinner Sights offered some nice aftermarket sights for Henry rifles. I ordered one for each rifle and installed one on the 45-70. I’ll do a follow-up article next on how to install one and the results. It definitely helped.
To conclude, the 45-70 is a fun gun to shoot, and I got lucky and shot a bear with it. That added a different flavor to the hunt and made this bear hunt extra special.
What’s better than shooting a big game animal with an octagon lever action?
Tom Claycomb III is a product tester for outdoor manufacturers, hunter, and outdoor writer, writing from Idaho.