H&R’s Big Bore Handi Rifle

H&R .45-70 Handi Rifle right side

Most of us remember the simple inexpensive break open (hinged frame) firearms used by many hunters. I saw quite a few when I first began hunting and used more than a few as well. While I could not wait to obtain my first pump-action shotgun, as time goes by I appreciate these firearms more and more.

H&R .45-70 Handi Rifle right side
This is a neat, inexpensive and powerful go anywhere do anything rifle.

As an example, recently I obtained an H&R 1871 Handi Rifle in .45-70. I have used others in .223 and also the famous H&R shotguns in .410, 20 gauge, and 12 gauge. But this one appealed to me. When hunting, it is rare I use a self-loading rifle. The lever-action rifle has a place in my rack and the Savage 99 is the ne plus ultra of hunting rifles. But I have not owned a .45-70 in some time.

H&R Handi Rifle broken open
Loading and unloading the rifle is simple.

As a handloader, I realize that the single shot is much easier to load for than the lever-action rifle. Feeding and crimping just isn’t as important, and you can experiment more in seating bullets forward to meet the lands. The .45-70 responds well to a careful handloader. As for the rifle, this rifle is a good teacher and simple to operate.

Manipulate the release lever, tip the barrel down, and load the chamber. Close the rifle and then cock the hammer to fire. Best of all there is nothing to go wrong with the H&R design. Let’s face it, after 150 years or so, you tend to work the bugs out.

If you have an old Topper or a shotgun branded by some line such as Western Auto, you can use the modern Handi Rifle. Harrington and Richardson went out of business for a few years but H&R 1871 revived the name and the product, with updated machinery, material, and designs. The parent company today is Remington.

An important update is the transfer bar ignition system. With this design there is a bar that rides between the hammer and the firing pin. When the hammer is at rest, it cannot touch the firing pin. When the rifle is cocked the bar rises. The hammer falls and smacks the transfer bar which strikes the firing pin. This is the system used on modern Smith & Wesson, Taurus, and Ruger revolvers.

Hornady’s FTX ammunition and box
Hornady’s FTX load makes the most of the cartridge in the Handi Rifle.

Older H&R products relied upon a rebound spring. The modern safety is more positive. I think, teaching young people to work with this type of action is superior to beginning with a repeating rifle. Of course, another caliber—.223 Remington would be ideal—would be better suited to young shooters.

The sights of this rifle are fixed open rear and post front. The rear sight is fully adjustable and rides high over the barrel. Both windage and elevation adjustment are easily done with this rear sight.

To operate the rifle, simply press the barrel release button and the barrel tilts down for loading. The hammer cannot be cocked when the barrel is open, and the barrel cannot be opened with the hammer cocked. A shell or cartridge is then inserted into the chamber. The action is closed.

.47-70 cartridge
The .45-70 is a grand old cartridge that is inexpensive to fire and use with lead bullets.

There is no need to reset the hammer for the transfer bar safety to be effective, it is an automatic safety. To fire the rifle the hammer is cocked and the trigger pressed. There is no manual safety. If you cock the hammer and elect not to fire, control the hammer with the thumb as you press the trigger and carefully lower the hammer. This must be practiced with an unloaded gun, and it isn’t difficult. With the transfer bar ignition the H and R rifle is among a very few that may be kept at home ready without a danger of the rifle firing if dropped.

The Cartridge

The .45-70 Springfield was developed for use in the 1873 Trapdoor rifle. As such, factory ballistics are kept low just in case someone decides to light up their great, great, great grandfather’s rifle. A lead 405-grain bullet at 1200 fps or 300-grain JHP at 1400 fps is the norm. These are good loads that will take wild boar and deer at modest range. The drop is considerable at a long 100 yards.

Among the best combinations to come down the pike in a long time is the Hornady LeveRevoluton 325-grain FTX. This load breaks 2,000 fps from most .45-70 rifles. The H&R isn’t the rifle to experiment with in handloading heavy loads—get a .458 Winchester if you wish to do that. However, the LeverRevolution load offers a significant improvement in ballistics due to modern powder and bullet technology.

Hammer on H&R .45-70 Handi RIfle
Not transfer bar ignition system.

If you sight the rifle in for 3 inches high at 100 yards your drop should only be 4 inches below the point of aim at a long 200 yards. My rifle will be used at 50 to 100 yards. The .45-70 isn’t about long-range accuracy but about dropping the game in their tracks right now, and the rifle will do so without complaint. You can also eat right up to the bullet hole!

As for accuracy, for my purposes accuracy is superb. Recoil is simply a strong push even with the Hornady load, but feels harder off the bench. I have bench rested the rifle to sight it in. At 50 yards my own handloads using a hard cast 405-grain bullet at 1,000 fps will group three shots into 2.2 inches at 50 yards. I have enjoyed good accuracy with the Hornady 300-grain JHP and H4895 powder for 1500 fps and a 2-inch group. The Horandy FTX load also slipped into 2 inches—as good as I can hold with this rifle and iron sights. The H&R is a great starter rifle and also a good rifle that gives credible performance in a wide range of calibers.

What was your first rifle? Are you a .45-70 fan? Share your answers or tales about the H&R rifle in the comment section.


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Comments (16)

  1. I shoot a H & R Buffalo Classic and a Marlin 1895 in 45 70 – 420 Garret ammo. Sight in at 200 yards with open sights – No misses, and no animals running off. I purchased the H & R at a gun show with 2-1/2 boxes of ammo – Have had a lot of fun shooting the 45 70. Be honest – how many shots do you take over 200 yards – no many. I do shoot a 30 06 – 180 and 220 and a 300 win mag 180 they are for longer range shots. I received a 22 at age 5 and have been shooting ever since – now 78. What ever you do don’t ever give up the 10 Amendments and the Constitution and remember to change all congressmen out every two terms ( they are like under ware need a change. Don’t forget the People are their Boss. They all need to be reminded. Teach your Children or you will loose your freedom.

  2. Knew someone that had an old Winchester ’73 in .45-70. Beautiful gun, half round, half hex barrel. Was stamped U.S. Calvary, so I presume that at sometime it was owned by a Calvary trooper. The rounds that he shot in it, on the rare occasion that he shot it were ‘down-loads’ to the old black powder pressures. This was a long time before ‘ Cowboy Action Rounds’ in black powder, were available. Never shot it, but he said that it was brutal to shoot. It hung on his wall, mostly, with other .45-70s, including a ‘trap-door Springfield and a ‘rolling-block’ Sharps.

    1. As i said before they just starting allowing us to hunt with straight walled rifles in ohio bottlenecks are still not allowed for the money this rifle cannot be beaten as an all around brush buster rifle for the thick woods we have here in Ohio and around us in pa and WV in 45.70 cal . It is my go to rifle for hunting all my big game with now w/e state i may be in 1 round and down they go for the count best 250 bucks i ever spent on a rifle for the woods . Add good optics you can take most any big game with it from moose to buffalo to brown bear it will get the job done.

  3. I shoot .45-70 Handi-Rifle topped with 3-9 Nikon and subdued by Witt Machines, Inc. Clamp-on muzzle brake. I shoot hand loads with 325 grain Hornady FTX bullets. Zeroed 1 inch high at 100 yards. This is a great gun for heavy cover and easy to shoot well, once you have a gun smith fine tune the trigger to something more reasonable in a light gun.

  4. BROWNING #1 HAD A 45-70 OFFERING but that design of stock eas tertible, it kicke worse than if by a mule, and yes I was kicked twice by mules in youth thanlfully both times in rump area.
    New England and H&R have good design of stock and balance points of rifles.
    My Garritt loads 405 gr with rivets were given only after I told him I had a Marlin and a H&R, if Isaid I hadmother levers he would not of given rounds.
    In my Marlin Guide Hun there is but a dlight push and follow up sjots can be rapid and on target.
    Levrlution rounds at 3″high 100 hit almost point of sim @280 yards.
    Seen some breech locks firing Hornady way out beyond 800.
    I almostvhad 1of each Caliber HR but life sometimes kicks harder than a mule.
    Proud to say Grandson still junts with 30/30 Topper I bought for his dads first gun over. 40 years ago. FIRED mostly family pet hanloads of pointedbullets .

  5. I recently got one in 300 Balckout and mainly got it because I wanted to use the barrel accessory program to get more calibers.

    Nothing is available now.

  6. The .45-70 cartridge has to be my favorite caliber. I own a Marlin 1895 and it is, by far, my favorite firearm. Not too many sport lever guns, let alone take them to the range. They stand out among AR’s and AK’s.

    I also hand load for the .45-70 with 405 grain hard-casted lead so far, and it worked beautifully for a young spike. Like the article said, my family and I was able to eat right up to the bullet wound with only three ribs lost.

    I do not load to heavy of a load in terms of powder, so recoil is very manageable. I would like to try the Hammerhead or Exiter rounds from Garrett’s Cartridges Inc.. Never shot a 500 grain bullet at 1550 fps, but I bet it’s a hoot. Maybe some day!

    1. @Michael ,
      Try the WSM 460 grain bear load it will rattle fillings out ya head lol 460 grain hard cast moving at 1700 fps you know you fired a big bore after just 1 round lol. And on deer it is DRT not moving from the spot it was hit . Shoots right through the animal and drops them on spot .

    2. BTW i would not advise using the WSM 460 grain bear load in the lever gun too much pressure i was talking out of the H&R rifle like i own above .It is a very heavy load and suggested only be used in break open single shots but with that load you only need 1 you hit the animal it is not moving far .

  7. They are great rifles, but Remington stopped production about a year ago, laid off or re-assigned the line workers/staff, and scrapped the machinery.

    1. @ Dave ,
      YES the 45.70 took more buffalo than any round out there then sharpes started wildcatiiting to the 45.110,45-90 to the 50.110 that quigley used in the movie. Original 45.70 was a 45 cal bullet loaded with 70 grains of blackpowder made for the miltary breech loaders then sharpes took it to the next level for buffalo hunters .The 45.70 has taken big game all over the world now and is a fave for long range shooters at sillohettes and big game world over .

  8. I shot a big mule deer doe in the brisket with one of these. The bullet reamed our her spine, exited in the rump area, and flew off into the brush. She was DRT.

    I think it was a 300 gr JSP. . . long time ago.

  9. H&R has and still makes good, reliable, no frills guns. Had a friend that took many a ‘white tail’ deer with one. Never owned one myself, always been a ‘repeater’ kind of person, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything bad about H&R, or New England Firearms. Would love to try the gun in 45-70. Shot it once,(just once, in a revolver), never again, then in a very old ‘trap door’ rifle. The rifle’s weight controlled most of the recoil. Not sure what felt recoil would be like in a ‘light weight’ single shot, though.

    1. @DARK ANGEL ,
      It is brutal with the bear loads but with the winchesther 405 grain jsp it is not so bad just hold on tight it does let you know you are firing a big bore now but the recoil is not that bad my ol moss 500 kicks harder with 3 inch slugs.I expected recoil to be worse then it actually is for a lightweight big bore .

  10. Exact rifle i now use to hunt deer in ohio now that we are allowed a straight walled case only this rifle is light and the action is very strong .I use the WSM 460 grain lead bullet bear load at a sizzling 1700 fps on longe rage shots over 100 yards at under 100 i most times just go with the factory 405 grain jsp either one knocks a big whitetail out of its hooves and down for the count as well as it is a short ,lightweight ,hard hitting hunting rifle that is nearly indestructible in all weather and hunting conditions i call her my brush buster rifle it will bust right on through heavy cover for a 1 shot kill with the WSM bear load .Best 250 bucks i ever spent on a very easy to use and very light and short woods working rifle .It will take any north american big gamre from big bruiser hogs to big brown bear right on to any deer out there . I have yet to handoad for it as of yet but am collecting my bras for future use we shall load a box up this summer and range test it . I think the rifle can do far better than 200 yrds with right weight bullet and handloading it it has been very accurate for me with a high powered scope in very thick Ohio woods .I am anxious to really stretch it out to a possible 300 yards with hand loads time will tell .

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