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Old January 11, 2019, 03:31 PM   #1
stagpanther
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Henry 45-70 Brass Big Boy--first impressions

Although the weather outside is less than ideal--18 degrees with winds gusting to 30 and windchill right around 0--I could't resist going out and banging some shots out of my new gun. Since I'm waiting on my reloading components; I bought a box of the cheapest stuff I could find--Federal's 300 gr powershok SP--and even those were a cool $40 a box at my lgs--or two bucks a shot. all the rest of the ammo was $50 to $80 a box.

First task was to get the stock iron sights zeroed. I never shoot stock buckhorn iron sights anymore since I have 60+ year old fading eyesight, not to mention double astigmatism--but with the 22" barrel the sight radius is just long enough that the front sight starts to come into focus for me. I'm pretty happy about that.

Unfortunately the irons were completely out of whack and I had to expend a lot of shots getting on paper. Since Henry test fires their guns before sending them out the door--my guess is that the sights have suffered the mishandling that happens with legions of zombies handling the gun during it's year long stay in Wally world's display case. Lots of drifting the rear sight back and forth--it became sort of a game of windage ping-pong after a while so I finally said the heck with it and loaded up 5 cartridges and shot the group below at 100 yds. For me--that's outstanding--and I hope it's uphill from here once I start using better tuned ammo. Even with the small brass bead it still covers the entire bull's red area. My take on the stock sights--they're very serviceable for people with sharp eyes in bright day-time conditions, but they get progressively harder to use as the ambient light gets dimmer. I also got a bit of glare off the bead when sunlight was hitting it. In other words--sort of like a mil spec stock AR trigger--they work, but you're likely to want to replace them if you get serious about target shooting or hunting. Nonetheless--even with my poor eyesight the group below is outstanding for me.

The action smoothed up nicely, and although you can single-shot feed directly into the chamber through the ejection port--I found the action does not work well doing that and tended to jam. Feeding from the magazine however, using the same cartridges that jammed, was smooth and easy with no hiccups. A minor irritation which hopefully has a simple solution.

Some of the things that stood out as big plusses to me. The thick octagonal barrel never seemed to even got warm when I shot in fairly quick succession, though some of that I'm sure was due to the cold. Another big plus which I think is due in part of the long and hefty barrel is the gun has little muzzle-flip and recoil tends to come back--impressive for an uncompensated big banger. Speaking of recoil--I barely felt it but that was certainly because I was wearing a down parka over a sweatshirt.

But the one thing that separates this gun from all other lever guns I've shot--is the trigger. It is IMO far and away the best trigger I've ever encountered on stock equipped lever gun. I'm not talking a trigger with such a light pull that it breaks just by looking at it--but one that is at once safe without a safety but performs fantastically when you're out in the cold wearing thick clothes and gloves--which is exactly how I used it today.

More testing and development to do--but I could very well have a serious contender for "best lever gun" I've ever had.

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Last edited by stagpanther; January 12, 2019 at 12:17 PM.
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Old January 11, 2019, 05:27 PM   #2
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Did some more "forensic analysis" on why I can't get a single feed through the ejection port into the chamber and I think I might have a "lead." It appears to me that the extractor on the bolt isn't designed to actually "pop over" the rim of the case when you close the bolt--but instead the rim slots into the bolt face from underneath extractor when cycled from the magazine. I'm going to confirm this with Henry as soon as I can (unless you already know the answer Dennis). Given the rather thin material on the bolt--I don't want or advise forcing anything--looks like it wouldn't take much leverage to break something.

I just found that if you drop a cartridge into the port so that it falls down directly onto the carrier--then it will feed no problem. Sticking the cartridge directly into the chamber or simply holding in front of the bolt--no go, won't get a bolt lock-up.
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Last edited by stagpanther; January 11, 2019 at 05:54 PM.
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Old January 11, 2019, 10:01 PM   #3
CLYA
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It should single feed easily. Mine does. At least the 2016 models did.

edit: Just pulled mine out, and loaded a dummy cartridge over & over with no problem through the port.

another edit: BTW , my buckhorn sight is set the 3rd notch down from the top of the hill. That centers mine at 100 yrds.


3rd edit: I do usually feed the bullet tip part way in. The extractor rides over the casing rather easily, and the bolt locks in place.

Last edited by CLYA; January 11, 2019 at 10:22 PM.
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Old January 11, 2019, 11:21 PM   #4
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Quote:
It should single feed easily. Mine does. At least the 2016 models did.

edit: Just pulled mine out, and loaded a dummy cartridge over & over with no problem through the port.

another edit: BTW , my buckhorn sight is set the 3rd notch down from the top of the hill. That centers mine at 100 yrds.


3rd edit: I do usually feed the bullet tip part way in. The extractor rides over the casing rather easily, and the bolt locks in place.
Thanks for that. The problem arose with literally the very first shot I attempted. When I removed the bolt, I noticed that there seems to be quite a bit of machining chatter on the inside of the receiver--and quite a bit of resistance to getting the bolt in and out and after less than 20 shots the black (nitrided?) coat is wearing off on the bolt.

STOP PRESS, the plot thickens.

I bought two boxes of the same federal powershok (only shot one box yesterday) and just tried closing the bolt by inserting the cartridges all the way into the chamber by hand--all but 5 out of twenty failed to get the bolt to lock up. I measured the cases of the ones that successfully chambered vs the ones that couldn't--and couldn't really come up with a significant difference between the two. Of the 15 cartridges that failed to get the bolt closed--if I simply dropped them into the chamber so that they fell onto the carrier--then they would chamber and close the bolt freely with no issues (!)

Going back to my lgs will be useless--once ammo goes out the door that's it. Looks like I'll be logging some phone time to figure out what the problem is. Once again, Murphy is my co-pilot.
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Last edited by stagpanther; January 11, 2019 at 11:36 PM.
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Old January 12, 2019, 12:04 AM   #5
DPris
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Every time I've direct loaded a Henry it's worked.
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Old January 12, 2019, 01:03 AM   #6
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Quote:
Every time I've direct loaded a Henry it's worked.
Denis
I appreciate that--but it doesn't give me much to go on in figuring out my problem--it's happening. Maybe the Henry Gods do not smile down upon me. I'm not dissing the gun, but it's a problem I need to get to the bottom of.

The ammo itself looks kinda old--so who knows, maybe some odd expansion in case is causing the problem--as soon as I get my reload components in I'll see if the problem repeats itself.
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Old January 12, 2019, 02:32 AM   #7
DPris
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Analytically, it's the best I can do for you.
Having not run into the problem, I can offer nothing further than calling Henry & discussing it.
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Old January 12, 2019, 06:46 AM   #8
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Spent most of the night trying to figure it out--I think I have finally found a "cause and effect."

Because the cartridges that won't chamber straight in will chamber without any resistance when fed from below the extractor, I figured the issue had to be with how the bolt extractor was lining up with the case rim.

Since I'm limited to 3 pictures per post--here's a close-up of the extractor--there is a slight lip that is machined into the angled face which I've circled in red. I'm pretty sure what is happening is that if the edge of a case rim is sharp enough--it can hang in that lip preventing the extractor from riding over it. It doesn't happen when fed from the magazine or when otherwise the case is slightly angled--in other words the "lip edge" doesn't engage the case rim straight-on.

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Last edited by stagpanther; January 12, 2019 at 07:03 AM.
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Old January 12, 2019, 06:57 AM   #9
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Here is a close-up of one of the five cartridges that chambered with no issues:



and one of the 15 cartridges that would not get the bolt to close on it when fed directly into the chamber by hand:



I could not find any substantial differences between the two in terms of cartridge dimensions--but what I eventually figured out was that the the radiused edge from the rim side to face had a slight bevel on the cartridges that would work that wasn't as much of a "right angle" transition that the cases that wouldn't slip easily over the extractor have. If I took one of the "problem" cartridges and beveled the edge between the rim face and outer edge; the bolt closing problem vanished when doing a straight-in single-feed. Here is one of the "problem" cartridges that I beveled down the rim edge--you can see it as the brighter brass region:



Functionally, I'm not sure what that slight lip in the extractor is there for.
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Last edited by stagpanther; January 12, 2019 at 08:22 AM.
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Old January 12, 2019, 08:40 AM   #10
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Quote:
another edit: BTW , my buckhorn sight is set the 3rd notch down from the top of the hill. That centers mine at 100 yrds.
If I drop the bead into the rear buckhorn notch and line it up with the top of the diamond--I have to put the leaf into the second notch from the top for 100 yds. That's not to say my bad eyesight may not be a factor in the difference between your settings and mine.
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Old January 12, 2019, 01:08 PM   #11
CLYA
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Just looked at mine again. The extractor is around a 45 degree angle, that doesn't have a lip. Just the straight face of the angle, and then a slightly rounded edge, as it sits parallel to the bolt. Basically, no protruding lip, as it appears in your pic.


As to my sight setting, as I remember, it was set to the flatter shooting Hornady cartridges. I write the variances down, between ammo types, because unlike someone with less guns or better memories, I'm just to old to remember it all.
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Old January 12, 2019, 01:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
Just looked at mine again. The extractor is around a 45 degree angle, that doesn't have a lip. Just the straight face of the angle, and then a slightly rounded edge, as it sits parallel to the bolt. Basically, no protruding lip, as it appears in your pic.
I figured that was likely the case and will let Henry know about it--I'll call them Monday.

Quote:
I'm just to old to remember it all.
What did you say?
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Old January 12, 2019, 02:14 PM   #13
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Quote:
Lots of drifting the rear sight back and forth--it became sort of a game of windage ping-pong after a while so I finally said the heck with it and loaded up 5 cartridges and shot the group below at 100 yds. For me--that's outstanding--
Excellent 100 yard group, especially given the weather conditions and the primitive sights. Another pong or two to the right and those sights should be dead on.
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Old January 12, 2019, 04:13 PM   #14
stagpanther
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Excellent 100 yard group, especially given the weather conditions and the primitive sights. Another pong or two to the right and those sights should be dead on.
Thanks--but truth be told luck had a lot to do with it as I could barely see the target. But if I can consistently keep the groups together at around 3 to 4 inches--I would be thrilled to death to be able to hunt with irons and no optics at all--something I've never been confident enough to do with anything else (except a long-barreled shotgun) out to 100 yds.

Now THIS is impressive!!
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Last edited by stagpanther; January 13, 2019 at 06:02 AM.
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Old January 14, 2019, 04:23 PM   #15
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I tried to get through today but had problems connecting with an engineer--one eventually did call back but I missed the call and called right back but still couldn't get through, so I decided the heck with it and lightly dremmelled off the offending lip. All cartridges feed and eject smooth as silk now when direct fed into the chamber.
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Old January 16, 2019, 02:22 AM   #16
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A Henry representative did contact me and I was able to relay the info--he was very responsive and; as they are known for, offered to do whatever it took to make things right including sending out a new extractor--I just wanted to let them know about it--and verify that it wasn't a "normal" feature and that I had ground it down. One other thing, I also found out that while Henry does do a test fire of a cartridge, they do not do any zeroing sight adjustments.
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Last edited by stagpanther; January 16, 2019 at 07:38 AM.
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Old January 16, 2019, 03:10 AM   #17
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Nope.
They may fire up to 20 rounds if necessary to test for final function, but none of that's for sight regulation on any of their guns.
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Old January 16, 2019, 07:48 AM   #18
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Congrats on the new Henry, sorry for some teething issues with the rifle, not to fret Henry has excellent customer service. I have the 30-30 Brass and just LOVE it. I bought this as a 50 and 75 meter steel silhouette rifle and I load mild cast loads in the vicinity of 1600 fps. I can single load but like your 45-70, my 30-30's ejection port is very thin and with my skinny fingers I can slip a single round in the port and load. The Henry's are excellent quality for the money.
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Old January 16, 2019, 08:16 AM   #19
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I did buy a couple of boxes of cast lead stuff with the intention of using them for lower velocity plinking fun. My components and dies still haven't come in--delayed for some unknown reason. Can't seem to find any 405 gr bullets available anywhere.
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Old January 16, 2019, 08:34 AM   #20
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Am liking levers and have found most marlins/winchesters were not even close to being sighted in, even from factory. A consideration is to visually center the front and rear sight on top of barrel before sighting it in, as it seems factories don't even bother with this. This can help keeping you centered from 25 yards on out. Due to vision, tried a much larger spray painted circle for a target (like 6 inch dia). Then used the top of the front bead placed at bottom of the spray painted circle. This seems to make it a lot easier to sight in the buckhorn sights, especially as my eyes get worse.

Sometimes factories make it even more difficult, when the front and rear sight cuts not being on the same plane. Then elevation adjustments can throw you off center.

Just considerations, not anything "bestest". 45-70 can be very accurate, and Henry is just about 30 miles south. They are getting more popular every year.
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Old January 16, 2019, 08:42 AM   #21
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I'm considering getting a tang or skinner peep, though previous expeditions down that road didn't work out for me due to my preference for shorter barrel lever guns--they generally are far easier and handier for me to bring to bare freehand. The 22" barrel on this one gives me just enough distance to make out the front iron.
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Old January 16, 2019, 11:29 AM   #22
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I have a Marlin Trapper 1895 SBL. The sights (peep) on it were really close to being on the money. I put a Vortex Viper HD 2.5-10x42mm on it and it is the cat's meow on a lever gun. 4" of eye relief and very fast target acquisition. My rifle has a Picatinny rail on it from the factory so I put a Leupold cantilever mount on it like most AR's use. I tried other rings but didn't like them. The nice thing about the Leupold mount is that I can take the scope off and put it back on without having to re-zero the rifle.

Also, mine loves the Remington 405g CoreLokt ammunition and it's easy on the shoulder.
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Old January 16, 2019, 12:34 PM   #23
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The nice thing about the Leupold mount is that I can take the scope off and put it back on without having to re-zero the rifle.
Thanks for that--I have quite a few scopes that use the Leupold mounts. All my other lever guns I had to "give up hope" of using irons on due to my poor sight and the short barrel length--but the 22" barrel on the big boy gives me a glimmer of "glory days hope" that I may be able to use them. Nothing wrong with a scope on a lever--but nothing more aesthetic than a lever without them IMO.
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Old January 16, 2019, 01:10 PM   #24
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I've left the buckhorn sight on my Henry 45/70 too, and I'm (almost) sure it will stay that way. I put a Skinner on the Marlin 45/70. Went from a Skinner to a scope on the Marlin 30-30, and then to a RPP clover leaf sight, to try one of them. The Skinners and the RPPs are great. The Henry does well (enough) with the stock buckhorn, which is made a bit more stout, than the Marlins. Never did plan to leave the scope on the Marlin 30-30 SS, as I like the wood & metal looks without. Would have to get a Trappers type for a scope.
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Old January 16, 2019, 01:38 PM   #25
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I'm currently looking for a rear long range ladder type set-up--but can't seem to find one that has both windage and elevation adjustments and will go on the rear dovetail. A tang sight--I don't know how well that would work since the tang has only one screw hole.
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