2022’s Must-Have .45-70 Guns, And They’re Not All Lever-Action Rifles
At a time when faster, flatter, and lighter seem to be all the rage, we’re still hooked on old-school, rock-‘em, sock-‘em rounds like the 150-year-old .45-70 Government. So, at this modern time, just what are the hottest big-bore firearms in current production? The options might surprise – especially since not all of them are lever guns or even long guns.
Best of all, they’re all made in America.
Marlin 1895 SBL
The newest-manufacture thumper on this list is also built on one of the oldest platforms. Ruger’s first Marlin relaunch is the Model 1895 SBL in none other than .45-70. The young rifle is a looker with polished stainless steel against gray laminate furniture built at Ruger’s Mayodan, North Carolina, plant and marked so on the rifle’s barrel. There’s a large loop lever, ghost-ring rear sight, tritium-fiber front, and extended Picatinny rail.
The 19-inch cold-hammer-forged stainless barrel is threaded at 11/16-24 TPI, a practical move for brakes or cans. The tubular magazine gives you 6+1 rounds. That nickel-plated bolt with the spiral flutes is money. Speaking of which, this model has been such a long-awaited and highly-desired one that specimens are selling for twice the retail price. In addition to the red and white stock bullseye, look for an “RP” proof mark as well as an “RM” serial number prefix.
New for late 2022 is the 1895 Trapper. This model marks the second official Marlin made under Ruger production. Like other Trapper styles, the newbie wears a shorter 16-inch barrel and has a lesser 5+1 capacity. A few other features set it apart from the 1895 SBL, including a bead-blasted satin-stainless finish and adjustable rear Skinner Sights peep in place of the rail and ghost ring combination.
Make no mistake, there have been some fine Marlin .45-70 rifles produced before the Ruger takeover, especially among the early JM-stamped guns. However, when we’re talking current production big bores, there’s none hotter at the moment.
Henry All-Weather Picatinny Rail Side Gate
The “made in America or not made at all” manufacturer of lever guns knocked it out of the park with their most recent All-Weather Picatinny Rail Side Gate model, aka H010GAWP. It features an 18.4-inch barrel, industrial hard-chrome finish, full-length Picatinny scout rail with rear peep, and a large loop lever. What looks like black furniture is actually dark-stained hardwood. From the rifle range and North American big game to African dangerous game found on safaris, our Henry All-Weather Picatinny Rail Side Gate has done it all – and done it well.
When you willingly stake your life on a gun in the face of Cape buffalo and other critters that would just as soon eat or flatten you, that says it all. Because of our past memories with this model, it sticks as a favorite. But quite honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of Henry’s .45-70 lever actions.
Dig blacked-out modern guns? Grab an X Model. Like more bling? Go with the Side Gate Lever Action with its polished brass receiver. Keeping it simple? Choose the utilitarian blued steel and walnut of the Steel Side Gate. If that’s not enough, there are color-case-hardened models or even a sweet, engraved Wildlife edition.
Magnum Research BFR
One of the biggest, finest .45-70 Gov’t guns isn’t a rifle at all. It’s Magnum Research’s heavy-built stainless-steel BFR. That’s right, a revolver, and it’s built in Minnesota. We’ve fired them in .30-30 Winchester, .375 Winchester, .38-55 Winchester, and even .45-70. Not only is recoil more manageable than you’d ever expect in a handgun, but the cool factor is off the charts. While the custom shop offers just about any options you can dream up for a big-bore .45-70 wheelgun, the stock models are no slouch.
There’s a choice of models with either a 7.5- or 10-inch barrel. Shoot the factory irons or add an optic with the included rail. The finish is brushed stainless steel, and shooters can dress the wheelgun in several grip choices. The cylinder spins – in either direction – like butter. Weighing in at 5.3 pounds empty, this thing is nearly as heavy as some long guns. Plus, there are five rounds at your single-action fancy. They’re sturdy, reliable, accurate, and about as hulky as you can find for a wheelgun.
Henry Single Shot
Many companies have produced single-shot .45-70 rifles over the years: Harrington Richardson, Thompson Center, Winchester’s venerable falling blocks, and New England Firearms. But it’s hard to argue that any modern builder ever did it better than Henry is doing it right now with their Model H015, the Single Shot. There’s a 22-inch round barrel, fully adjustable folding rear leaf sight, rebounding hammer, and a receiver that’s drilled and tapped for optics mounting.
In a slick engineering move, the top tang lever that opens the action can pivot either left or right, making the gun even more leftie friendly than other singles. We’ve seen many come through with off-the-charts fancy-grain American walnut. Buyers have a choice of either blued steel or polished brass.
Whether low key or flashy, what remains the same is the lights-out accuracy and reliability of the Henry. While several of Henry’s lever actions are still built in Bayonne, New Jersey, the singles and the bulk of the brand are now produced in Wisconsin.
The name that defined generations of lever-action rifles is still producing one of the quintessential .45-70 big bores — the Winchester Model 1886. The lever-driven 1886, a John Browning design, set the standard for big bores and was built around one of the strongest actions of the time. Though not its only original chambering, the .45-70 Government has certainly remained the most popular and capable.
While it was a boom over 135 years ago for the biggest and most dangerous North American game, like grizzly and bison, its success and longevity continue to this day. Current offerings include a Saddle Ring Carbine, Short Rifle, and a deluxe case-hardened rifle. All include Marble Arms sights, steel receivers, and various grades of walnut stocks.
The big fly in the buttermilk for our American-made .45-70 story? Winchester no longer produces the 1886 in America. In fact, they’re now built by Miroku in Japan. While that’s no slight to the quality of the rifles, they’re outside our list of U.S.-production guns. But the 1886 is simply too classic and longstanding to ignore.