Consumer Information

Review: Henry .45 Lever-Action Rifle

Man holding henry lever-action rifle

Among the first rifles many of us own is a lever-action rifle.

A good .22 or .30-30 lever-action rifle will bring home the meat, either small game or deer-sized game.

By the same token, the lever-action rifle in a pistol caliber is an attractive proposition for some of us.

The handgun cartridges — .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt and a few others — offer greater leverage.

With the short handgun cartridges, the design of the lever-action rifle allows for fast bolt travel.

Work the lever vigorously, press straight forward, not down, and you may be surprised how fast you can get with the lever-action rifle.

With proper loads, especially carefully thought-out handloads, the pistol-caliber carbine offers excellent performance.

The shooter whose personal scenario means shots inside of 100 yards may make good use of a pistol-caliber carbine.

I like the .45 Colt because I own several quality .45 Colt revolvers.

It is nice to have a revolver and rifle combination if the shots needed from the rifle are not long range.

For medium game and personal defense, the .45 Colt makes sense. The .45 Colt is a hard-hitting cartridge.

Originally intended to give western troopers a fighting chance against long odds, the .45 Colt was designed to offer sufficient power to drop an Indian war pony at 100 yards.

The cartridge earned an excellent reputation for effect on both four-legged and two-legged threats.

Henry .45 Lever-Action Rifle
The Henry lever-action rifle in .45 Colt is a great all-around rifle.

Background Information

An important difference between my Henry .45 Big Boy Steel lever-action and most lever-action rifles, is that the Henry design isn’t based on the Winchester 1892.

Nothing wrong with the ’92, but the Henry offers a stronger action and greater accuracy than most lever-action rifles.

The U.S.-made rifle is similar in operation to the Marlin lever action. It handles much the same, with some differences.

The steel-framed rifle is so named to differentiate it from the original brass-framed Henry.

The Big Boy Steel weighs about eight pounds loaded with its 20-inch barrel.

The receiver is drilled and tapped for optics. A special rail is available from Henry for mounting optics.

The rifle also features a modern transfer-bar system that makes the Henry Big Boy Steel safe to carry fully loaded.

Overall, the Henry centerfire rifle offers excellent value and is a thoroughly modern lever-action rifle.

Henry Lever-Action Rifle
Leverage with the .45 Colt rifle is excellent.

Features and Specs

An important difference between the Henry and most lever-action centerfire rifles, is that the Henry .45 loads through a loading gate under the barrel.

Rotate the magazine tube out of its notch and move it outwards, then drop cartridges into the magazine itself and replace the spring-loaded tube.

For many shooters, this makes loading easier.

It is a trade-off, as the rifle cannot be easily topped off with a round or two during firing as a side gate may be, but on the other hand, the magazine tube is easily unloaded.

The sights are pretty standard fare at first glance, but offer a closer sight picture than some.

The front post sight features a brass bead and the rear of the front post is nicely serrated.

It isn’t difficult to properly sight the rifle in at 50 yards, even 100 yards with proper loads.

Leverage is excellent and the rifle stays on target with modest recoil as the rifle is operated.

Cowboy-action loads breaking 700 to 900 fps are a joy to use and fire, but not the most accurate loads.

A hard-cast 255-grain semi-wadcutter at about 1,100 fps is a sweet spot for accuracy in the rifle.

A stout charge of Titegroup powder is a good starting point.

As for factory loads, most are intended for use in modern double-action or single-action revolvers, but are not loaded to the cartridges full potential.

Full potential means Ruger Blackhawk or Redhawk. As an example, the Remington 230-grain jacketed hollow point averages 850 fps in a revolver.

This load gets a jump start to over 1,050 fps in the Henry rifle. The powder burns more completely, resulting in greater velocity.

A 250-grain bullet at 1,000 fps is nothing to sneeze about in a handload.

Buffalo Bore offers a hard-cast 255-grain SWC at 1,160 fps from the carbine.

Recoil is stout in a revolver, but nothing but pleasant in the Henry rifle.

While hard-cast bullets at modest velocity are a lot of fun and these are the loads that I most often use, for serious use, such as hunting medium game, a heavier load is needed.

Either a hard-cast SWC or the Hornady 250-grain XTP is ideal for this use.

As for personal defense, there is nothing wrong with a reliable hard-hitting lever-action rifle.

As an experiment, I mounted a TRUGLO red dot after ordering the Henry accessory rail.

This results in a very fast sight picture at typical defense range. I also mounted a set of XS Sights backup sights.

Originally designed for the AR-15, these sights may be mounted on shotguns and lever-action rifles as well, providing they have rail space.

The XTI DXW sight offers an emergency sight, particularly in dim light.

If you keep the rifle at home ready for personal defense fully loaded, you may make the rifle ready with a quick lever throw.

If you have light, the red dot is fine. If not, the XS backup sight is a wonder.

It is also useful if the red winks out on you. Quite a few folks keep a lever-action rifle around the ranch or house.

The lever-action pistol-caliber carbine has been called the Brooklyn Special.

This is because the rifle is easily obtained in jurisdictions where AR-15 rifles or handguns are not easily obtained.

I prefer to use my Henry rifle for more sporting purposes.

It is good to know it will do what is needed in personal defense against home invaders or dangerous animals as well.

Red Dot Sight
While unusual, the TRUGLO red dot and XS sights backup make an excellent combination for personal defense and even some types of predator hunting.

Henry .45 Specifications:

  • Caliber: .45 Colt
  • Length: 38 Inches
  • Barrel Length: 20 Inches
  • Weight: 7 Pounds 4 Ounces (Unloaded)
  • Stock: American Walnut
  • Sights: Semi-Buckhorn Rear with Diamond Insert and Brass Bead Front
  • Finish: Blued Steel

Accuracy and Firing

As for accuracy, with a good quality loading, the rifle will practically make a one-hole group at 25 to 50 yards.

Some of the recreational loads have put five bullets into less than two inches at 50 yards.

.45 Long Colt Shotshell Loads
CCI offers effective shot loads in .45 Colt. They perform well from the Henry rifle.

What do you think of the Henry .45 lever-action rifle? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (10)

  1. I just bought on about a month ago.
    Big boy x model in 45 colt.
    Love the fiber optic sights.
    Gun feels as smooth as my 75 year old marlin 30-30.
    Took me a while to zero the open sights because of the rear being a slot adjustable left or right type sight.
    I’ll most likely add a scope later.
    Group at 25 yards with open sights laying across my hood is about 2 inches, and i know thats just me.
    Great rifle, and it handles plus P ammo.

  2. Henry 45 Colt Big Boy, steel, rifles are hard to get. Dealers get one, if you aren’t fast enough, you miss out. I live in S. Oregon and found one at a dealer in Fort Wayne, Indiana…(it came with a great story) I’ve got 2 other Henry Rifles and have been dying to get my hands on this Big Boy 45Colt. Was target shooting today at 30 then 50 yards. I’ve got a photo 5 shot group less then 1 5/8″ at 50 yards. I Love this rifle… and it goes well together with my Taylor made Army Colt 1865 “Peacemaker: with 7.5″ barrel (what Matt Dillon carried in Gunsmoke). The accuracy was Far Better with the 7.5” barrel then what must gunslinger carried, the standard 5″barrel.
    Now.. I’ve got the Only possible 45 Colt Lever Rifle (I ordered the large loop for mine) and 45 Colt Revolver combo that works best together!! Thank you Henry!! I’ll let you know how my custom reloads do… for now I’m having some fun with the factory loads.

  3. I have a Henry 45 caliber lever action rifle. What type of ammunition should I purchase? I have been told that the 45 Cowboy rounds should be used but have a problem in finding the ammunition. A little guidance would be appreciated.

  4. I have one of these. Works great for SASS shooting, I’ve only broke the firing pin once at a match. it lacks the accuracy needed for pistol caliber silhouettes.

  5. Really like this rifle, thanks for the review. I only have one .45 Colt but three .44 mag pistols, so I might be more inclined to get the .44. That 255 grain SWC bullet at 1100 FPS is impressive. By my math that’s 685 ft. lbs at the muzzle, plenty to do the job, and I really like that bullet. But I figure I could easily get 1350 FPS out of a 240 grain .44 JHP in that longer barrel for nearly 1000 ft. lbs. Seems like there’s a better selection of bullet weights for the .44 as well.

  6. Love my HENRY “BIG BOY” .44 and “X” .357. The .357/.44/.45 HENRYs are an ideal balance for “brush hunting” or home defense. Only problem is – How do I get my wife to let me get a .45 HENRY???

  7. You’re limited in the lever actions to bullet weight and length.In a Redhawk one can use 320gr cast bullets.Those won’t feed or be stabilized in a lever action.
    What does the Henry cost vs a Marlin?

  8. I like Henry rifles, but I would like them even more if they came standard with a Hi-Viz front post and a Skinner rear peep sight with protective wings. The newest X model with the Hi-Viz sights, threaded muzzle, synthetic stocks, Picatinny rail, and side-loading gate is a great improvement. Now if only they could shed a few pounds and a few dollars.

  9. The instructions that came with my Henry All-Weather in .357 said not to use aluminum ammo. I noticed the CCI shot shells in the article which have aluminum cases.

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