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Posted By FFL Dealer Network on 05/20/2019 in Reviews

Henry v. Marlin: The .45-70 Debate



Henry v. Marlin: The .45-70 Debate

Which is better in the big bore lever action, the Henry or the Marlin? Let's take a deep look two rifles, the Henry Steel Carbine and the JM Marlin 1895G. You decide. For this review, an NIB Henry and a JM Marlin were used.

HENRY .45-70

Barrel - 18.43", round blued steel
Twist - 1:20
Overall length - 37.5"
Weight - 7.08 lbs.
Rear sight - Fully adjustable semi-buckhorn with a diamond insert
Front sight - Brass bead
Safety - Transfer bar
Pull - 14 inches
MSRP - $893

MARLIN .45-70 (new)

Barrel - 18.5, round blued steel
Twist - 1:20
Length - 37"
Weight - 7 pounds
Rear sight - Folding adjustable semi-buckhorn
Front sight - Brass bead with "Wide-Scan" hood
Safety - Push button in the receiver, half-cock on the hammer, transfer bar. After-market blank safety buttons are available so this feature can be removed.
Pull - 13 3/8"
MSRP - $811.25

Note - The Marlin used in this comparison is JM Marlin 1895G. It comes with a heavier barrel than the Henry and so weighs a bit more. The 1895G barrel is also ported, which is not offered in the current Marlin line. The Marlin was also scoped.

The receiver in both is also tapped for a rail. If you mount a scope, be aware the screw holes go all the way through the receiver. Overset the screws and you lock the bolt down. Overset by just a hair and you can work the bolt, but the screws can scrape the top of the bolt. A thumb bar can be added to either rifle's exposed hammer to make cocking easier.

When pulled slowly, the hammer's engagement click is identical in both rifles.

.45-70 AMMO
Ammo used in this test was factory 300-grain cast ball in Starline brass loaded light. Remington factory loads in 300-grain Semi JHP and 405-grain soft point and 300-grain lead HP hand loaded hot in assorted brass. Ammo was shot in that order. On the range, the Henry had a failure-to-feed with some of the Remington loads, even when loading a round by hand into the breech. The bolt would not completely close. Everything else worked perfectly. The Marlin digested everything run through it.LOADING

The rifles are both tube-magazine fed. The Marlin .45-70 has a loading gate in the receiver. The Henry .45-70 has a removable rod and loading port in the tube near the muzzle.

The Marlin loads faster. Just push a bullet into the gate and then through until it seats. At the same time, the Marlin has a very stiff load gate spring. Loading can be done with one hand, but is easier with two. Push the round down with one hand to move the gate aside and push the round in with the other hand. The Marlin can also shave a tiny bit of lead off the projectile as it goes in. While this is not enough to affect bullet performance, it is a tiny amount of lead shaving that could get into the works. Lighter after-market springs are available.

The Marlin also loads easier under tight quarters. Just push a round in. Lay the gun on the seat of a vehicle, barrel pointing down, and load. When loading, except for reaching for rounds, your hands can stay on the receiver. Less motion is needed to load the Marlin, something deer hunters might appreciate.

With enough space, the Henry loads easily. Space is needed because of the magazine push rod. You do not have to remove the rod all the way because of the port in the tube. Inside a vehicle, this means moving the gun around, finding space to pull the rod and so forth. On a deer stand this is less of an issue. On horseback, if the horse is still, also less of a problem. Loading is definitely a two-hand operation. One hand to hold the gun and rod and one to feed rounds.





The Henry tube has a reinforced ring at the end that goes to the very end. This protects the thin metal of the tube. The rod locks firmly into place. The push rod will not shave lead off any of the loaded rounds. The rod has a heavily checkered cap. Even with winter gloves, removing the cap is easy enough.

Loading while wearing winter gear definitely separates the two. The Marlin gate will trap glove fingertips. Removing the glove is not just a yank it free move. The glove could tear. Bits of glove inside the action is a recipe for disaster. A glove tip could wedge in much tighter. Removing a stuck glove is a two-hand operation, one hand to push the gate down while the second hand pulls the glove free. With the tube and generous cut-out, loading the Henry is easy if you can pick up the ammo wearing gloves.

According to the company, the Henry is a four-round rifle. The magazine tube effectively holds five rounds. That does not put one in the chamber. The Henry has no external or half-cock safeties so the company advises to not put one down the pipe until the shooter is ready to fire. Putting another round down the mag tube with one in the chamber is not advised. The tube will hold six rounds, but pushing the rod home and locking it down forces the first round out. It partly engages the lever. The one round must be chambered or removed for the lever to close.

The Marlin holds four in the tube and one in the breech.

SHOOTERS

The range crew was gun journalist Ben Baker, law enforcement firearms instructor Richard Purvis, Chief of Police Bill Ryder and firearms expert, trainer and former police chief Joseph Saxon.

SHOULDER

Both rifles went from carry to the shoulder equally well for all four shooters. Getting a sight picture was easier with the Henry because the Marlin was equipped with a scope. If both had iron sights or scopes, target acquisition is the same.

If your rifle is a brush gun for tight quarters and fast reaction times, do not use a scope. If you plan to use it from a stand and have time to line up a shot, shooter's choice. Ben, who owns the Marlin, scoped it because his eyesight is not what it used to be.

TRIGGER & LEVER

The Henry trigger is tight and snaps cleanly. The Marlin has a lot of slop in the trigger; it will flop back and forth about a quarter-inch with the hammer drawn. The Marlin trigger is also heavier and does not pull as clean.

Both have the standard lever-action lock feature. Unless the lever is tight against the stock and tang, neither will fire.

At the range, the Henry action was stiffer than the Marlin. Shooters attributed this to the Henry being NIB and the Marlin used. With time, the action on the Henry should ease up.

The Henry is a semi-pistol stock and so the lever is curved. The Marlin has a straight or English stock and squared lever. After-market big-loop levers are available for both models. Bigger loops are recommended for people who need to wear heavy gloves when shooting or hunting.

If you want to wrap the lever with leather, a bigger loop is advised.

STOCK

Both come with American black walnut furniture and are tapped for slings. Both have a rubber recoil pad.



ON THE RANGE

Of the four shooters, only Saxon said he could not tell a significant difference in recoil between the two guns ammo-to-ammo. He did notice a difference between the three rounds. The other three noticed a difference, especially with the hot handholds. The Marlin was appreciably lighter, they said. This is likely attributable to the increased weight of the Marlin and the ported barrel. Standing a few feet away to shoot video, the Marlin's report was also a bit louder than the Henry."It's essentially the same rifle," Purvis said. "But the Marlin (with hot ammo), it doesn't hurt."

Ryder had a different opinion on the hot loads. "It's not that bad," he said. "I liked all three loads. With the first (the light lead ball) it was like shooting a .22."

Baker said the hot loads definitely thumped more in both rifles, but the Marlin was tamer. Slide another decent recoil reducer on either gun and even the hot loads behave.

Accuracy was acceptable for in both rifles and showed little difference. This is a .45-70 carbine. If sub-MOA groups at 100 yards is a requirement, this is not the gun for you. If putting five rounds into the chest of a deer at 100 yards is what you want, either gun will do that every time in the hands of a good shooter.

OPINIONS

Two of the four shooters, Saxon and Ryder, preferred the Henry because of the more traditional look, i.e. no external safety and no scope. Purvis was equally happy with either rifle. Baker likes the external safety and half-cock measure on the Marlin. If shooting iron sights, Baker preferred the Henry because it was more easily adjustable.

WARRANTY

Both big bore lever action rifles come with a warranty. The Marlin warranty is good for five years. Henry comes with a lifetime warranty.

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