Henry Big Boy .44 – Americana Defined

All American, versatile, hard-hitting and definitely deserving of praise.

pic courtesy of Google

All American, versatile, hard-hitting and definitely deserving of praise. pic courtesy of Google

All American, versatile, hard-hitting and definitely deserving of praise.

The first time I heard of a Henry rifle was on a Louis L’amour book on tape probably 25 years ago, while my family and I were on a road trip. A character in the book was meting out frontier justice on whomever. The imagery of circled wagons defended by lever-action Henrys will forever be in my mind. Henry began making lever-action rifles in 1860, when they were first patented by Benjamin Tyler Henry. There is an infamous pic from the Civil War showing a group of Union cavalrymen posing with their Henry rifles, shown below. The story of the Henry rifle is the stuff of legend and is inseparably connected with American history. Henrys found themselves on both sides of the Civil War and both sides of the Indian Wars.

pic courtesy of Google

7th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

Most, if not all of you, are familiar with lever-action rifles. That lever mechanism revolutionized shooting and helped usher in the era of “repeating arms”. So, I won’t bore you with its storied history, although it is very much worthy of study. Likewise, I doubt any of you are unfamiliar with the performance and abilities of the .44 cartridge, which between 600 and 1600+ ft/lbs of energy depending on your load preference, hits like the Hammer of Thor. The combination of these two are found in the Henry Big Boy Rifle, which I had the pleasure of reviewing.

In writing a review, I want to tell you what you can’t find out by looking online. I’m going to spare you from merely showing pictures of the groups I can shoot (which are amazing, by the way). I want to tell you, inasfar as I can, what it’s like to own one and the reasons why you should – or shouldn’t.

Henry Repeating Arms   Fine Rifles Made in America and Priced Right

After experiencing this rifle – and I intentionally didn’t say own, possess, shoot, hold, etc. because handling it is an experience – I have an incredible urge to own one. Here’s why:

Appearance: The gun is beautiful in every way. The attention to detail and craftsmanship are truly remarkable. The brass butt plate is perfectly fitted onto a flawless straight-grip American walnut stock (which is perfectly stained and without blemish), which seamlessly transforms into the brass receiver, polished to a mirrored finish, giving way to a pleasantly heavy octagon barrel. The barrel and magazine tube are, of course, couched in another flawless walnut hand guard, held together with a polished brass band. At the receiver, the rifle is perfectly balanced. The blued octagon barrel hearkens back to an earlier era, which despite the incredible attention to detail makes the gun look as though it could have been manufactured in any of three centuries. The trigger is incredibly crisp and the lever mechanism is very smooth and makes for fluid operation. The craftsmanship of this rifle cannot be overstated or adequately described. Needless to say, on looks alone, the Henry Big Boy .44 would be a jewel in any collection.

The beautiful wood, brass and octagon barrel are a heck of a combination. courtesy of Google

The beautiful wood, brass and octagon barrel are a heck of a combination.
pic courtesy of Google

Functionality: Assuming you know how a lever action works, the real question that will predominate among all that don’t already own a lever-action is relevance. In this age of abundance, bolt action rifles and semi-autos are readily available. In this context, how and where would this particular rifle fit in? What niche would it fill? Here are a few of the scenarios I think the Henry Big Boy .44 is good, great or perfect for.

Hunting: (especially hog hunting) – Did I mention the gun is a .44? A .44 to the dome will drop a hog in a hurry, I’m here to tell you. There aren’t that many rifles I am aware of that carry 10 rounds of .44. I’d like to mention, at this very moment when writing the article, I spent no less than five minutes thinking about bacon, which I’d like to harvest with this very rifle. The receiver is drilled, tapped and ready for a scope. I would have no issues whatsoever with mounting a red dot to this gun and taking it into the woods to shoot anything this side of a whitetail.

h006-bigboy-wscope

Home Defense: For similar reasons to hunting, the Henry Big Boy .44 would be great for home defense in many situations. Hear me out for a minute, because I know just about everyone currently using other weapons for home defense is already racing to the bottom of the page to post a comment about how inadequate this rifle would be compared to their weapon of choice. For the record, I have an M4, a Benelli m2, a Sig 229 and a Judge by the bed for home defense, but after having the opportunity to experience this rifle, I’m rethinking. With 10 rounds readily available, and a median of 1000 ft/lbs of energy per round, you could rapidly and accurately lay down 10,000 ft/lbs of energy, which is the equivalent of saying “Get off my property” in every language – simultaneously. This alone demands respect and makes the Big Boy worthy of consideration as a home defense weapon. It would be a great addition beside the nightstand or above the fireplace.

Cowboy Action Shooting: I’m going to defer to the experts on this one, because I’m not involved in this particular shooting sport. However, as previously mentioned, the lever is incredibly smooth and the trigger is very crisp. This certainly isn’t going to hurt if shooting a match. The ammo compatibility is also a factor, considering the Big Boy is chambered in .44, .45LC and .357. Plus, there’s a video on Henry’s Big Boy page of a Cowboy Action shooter nailing 10 targets in approx. 13 seconds. Combine that with the energy any of the available rounds produce and you’re definitely knocking steel targets down with the first hit.

Recreational Shooting: The Great Ammo Famine of 2013 is down-right disheartening and frustrating. However, of the few calibers I see that always seem to be in stock (where I am it’s 10mm and .44), .44 always seems to be defiantly standing out on the otherwise empty shelves. I’ve considered getting guns that match whatever ammo is available. Regardless, the point is that in my neck of the woods, .44 remains available, which would certainly allow for recreational shooting. After experiencing the Big Boy for the time that I have, I’d feel comfortable using it in almost any shooting environment.

Conclusion: There’s a couple of things this gun isn’t. Among other things, it’s not semi-auto and it doesn’t have a detachable magazine. The beauty is it isn’t trying to be. The Henry Big Boy isn’t masquerading as something it isn’t. Trust me, as soon as you pick up this rifle, you know exactly what it is: a quality American-made rifle, the kind that has won battles and by its mere presence discouraged others. It’s the kind of rifle your father and his father would be proud to own. It’s been there and done that before you and I were ever born and will still be there a long time after we’re gone. This rifle sets a standard. With the Big Boy, Henry got it right – as close to perfection as you can get. Rarely do you see a masterpiece that possesses such versatility. Henry did it. If you’re in the market for a rifle, the Big Boy deserves your attention and consideration.




GD

GD Crocker is a proud Southerner who has been shooting for decades. He is a competitive shooter, armorer, instructor and collector. He recently passed the bar exam and deals primarily with securities law. GD’s proudest moments are seeing his kids shoot and get excited about their 2nd Amendment rights. He’s no Rick Taylor, but then again, who is?


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  • John

    *is not fed by a detachable magazine….(it is magazine fed…a tubular magazine)

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      He meant it doesn’t use a detachable magazine—-

    • GD Crocker

      Good catch. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=779775130 Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    One of my favorite firearm types by far is ANYTHING chambered in .357mag and .44mag due to the insane amount of versatility. I’ve got an EMF Hartford .357mag lever action (1892 clone) and a .44mag bolt-action gun (Ruger 77/44), but sadly have not added a .44mag levergun (yet). A .44mag levergun with a forward mounted low-power optic that can double as a reflex site is one of the most versatile firearms on the planet.

  • totenglocke

    My only gripe with Henry’s is the way they load. Sure, it’s fine for hunting, but it’s a death trap in a self-defense situation.

    • Ben Russin

      For your sake I hope you never need to use a lever action in a self-defense situation! I’ll stick to my 870 :P Although ventilating a home intruder with a .44 Henry would be quite the experience.

      • Davef

        Having carried two different configurations of 870’s for two different law enforcement agencies & having hunted with one, I’ll take my Henry for defense any day. But, my AR would be my first choice. An 870 would not be anywhere near the top of my list.

    • Nicks87

      Did the original Henry load the same way?

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

        Yes it did. The same as the Marlin Golden 39 .22 we had as kids.

      • totenglocke

        Yes, it did. Sadly Henry never caught on to the whole “innovation” thing and kept the same design despite every other lever action switching to side-loading.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jgerlica John Gerlica

        No, the “Real Henry” did not load in the same manner. An original henry has no forearm, because the follower has a tab that rides in a slot on the underside of the mag tube. To reload, the tab is grasped, and the follower retracted. It is locked, and the section of tube containing folllower and compressed spring is rotated to allow rounds to be dropped in.

    • FourString

      Totenglocke, is your avatar a Cylon machine from Battlestar Galactica?? O: :D

      • totenglocke

        Yes, it’s a Cylon Centurion.

        • FourString

          Frakkin awesome man.

  • Black_Viper

    Love mine, goes well next to the .22lr Goldenboy. Just waiting for more funds to round out the collection with the 30-30 and 45-70

  • steveindajeep

    it might not be historically accurate but i prefer the loading gate on the receiver like the winchester. Why cant they make it like that? its not like it has to be accurate after all its chambered in 44…its already not historically accurate.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      They’ll never vary it from the original. If some is set on a side gate you’ll have to go with a Winchester.

      • Komrad

        Or Marlin if you want something a bit cheaper.

        • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

          Yea Marlin—well used to make a fine rifle

      • schizuki

        Vary it from the original? It already looks far closer to the side-loading 1866 than it does to a Henry. They should have either made it with no forearm like a Henry or with a side gate like an 1866. Actually, they should have made a straight 1866 copy as far as they could have, at least externally. This looks like not much of anything.

      • totenglocke

        And that is why I will probably never own a Henry, sadly. Devotion to a flawed design isn’t something I admire.

        • http://www.facebook.com/jgerlica John Gerlica

          The action is an almost direct copy of the Marlin ’89, with the addition of the $hitty modern .22 tubular magazine design. There is no flawed design to be devoted to, this Chimera is all Henry Inc.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jgerlica John Gerlica

        A Winchester 66 is more a Henry than this modern thing. Hell, a ’66 is a “REAL HENRY” with the incorporation of King’s patent.

  • Frosty_The_White_Man

    Henry, you’re killing me! Just make one that loads through the receiver an I’ll buy three.

  • Mr. Fahrenheit

    I’ll echo the author’s sentiments. There is nothing quite like holding a Henry lever action.

  • John184

    She’s a beauty. My dilemma is to save for one of these and some boxes of .357 or .44, or a can for my AR-15. This gun scare needs to die down fast.

  • MadMonkey

    Sorry, quit reading after you said you have a Judge for home defense :/

    • BaconLovingInfidel

      That’s pretty close minded, MM.

      If attacked by a very small flock of very angry birds or a very small herd of water moccasins, there are only dozens of superior handgun options for the scenario.

  • bbmg

    I love the way none of the members of the 7th Illinois Volunteer Infantry are looking at the camera, making the photo look like a publicity shot for a latter day hipster band.

    • Oldgabe

      in that day you sat for minutes for the camera, not milliseconds, as a consequence, your subjects were instructed to strike a pose they could hold without movement. Many chose to face away from the camera, so as to keep movement of lips, eyebrows, eyelids, etc. from ruining the photograph. it was basically necessity. Just an FYI

      • Joe

        No. Not minutes. A few seconds. As low as a second depending on light.

        And those are not cavalrymen in the photo, they are infantrymen.

        I wish the new Henrys looked like the old Henrys and not like a modern version of a Winchester. There shouldn’t be any wood forward of the receiver.

        • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

          And a longer barrel. A higher capacity as well because of that longer barrel. In the most common caliber I believe it held 17 rounds.

          • BaconLovingInfidel

            Wow, what caliber was that?

          • Cymond

            It was an anemic 44 caliber rimfire round.

            “It uses a 200 or 216 gr (12.96 or 14.00 g) grain bullet […] The round had a muzzle velocity of approximately 1125 feet per second, with a muzzle energy of 568 foot pounds.”
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.44_Henry

          • BaconLovingInfidel

            That’s some serious firepower.

      • bbmg
      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

        That and nobody ever smiled which was the norm then

        • BaconLovingInfidel

          A smile makes for a pi$$ poor war face.

  • Kent

    The Henry big boy .44 Magnum was my first time firing a gun. I fired 10 shots with it at a 25 meters paper target. 8/10 shots hit bulls-eye. The instructor said that is really good, suppose that it was my first time firing a firearm. But I think that mainly it was the gun that did most of the work and the instructor’s instructions. It was surprisingly easy to hold and aim but loading it and pulling the lever takes more strength then I thought.

    Sadly, this was the only time i ever get to fire some guns…as you know the cost of going to a firing range is bloody expensive in Australia…

  • schizuki

    Sorry, but it looks like a Spanish non-firing wall hanger vague interpretation of an 1866 Winchester.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      The thing is this one is affordable while I Henry authentic copy cost a good deal more. Something like $1800 I believe.

  • allannon

    I’ve kinda wanted a matched lever/revolver set for a while. This is not helping.

    (Kinda also thinking about a matched auto/carbine set, maybe a Cx4 which with simple mods can take my XD magazines.)

  • J.T.

    “Henry began making lever-action rifles in 1860, when they were first patented by Benjamin Tyler Henry.”

    No, they began making rifles in 1996. They are in no way related to Ben Henry, who designed the original Henry rifle, or the New Haven Arms Company (now WInchester) who made it.

  • Duane Hakala

    Or save a few Hundred $ and get a Rossi R-92 in .44 Mag. 24″ Octagonal barrel, 12+1 rounds, sidegate loading.

    • Cymond

      Are the Rossi leverguns good? I was tempted by their stainless steel models a few years ago.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-E-Horning/100001604603107 Mark E. Horning

        My old Rossi (before the lawyers added the stupid safety) is quite nice.

  • Trevor Shepherd

    It is absolutely unbelievable to me how many “writers” keep repeating the propaganda lines put out by this rifle’s manufacturer that try to tie them to the company that made Henry rifles in the 1800’s. This company making these Big Boy rifles stole the name Henry and they have absolutely no connection AT ALL with the Henry rifles of the Civil War era and if the writer had taken just a few moments to do some very basic research he would have found that out. To blindly “publish” the lies told by the manufacturer betrays the poor excuse for “journalism” that pervades the Internet. Besides that, these rifles are basically a copy of the Marlin mechanism, including the fact that they are prone to the famous “Marlin Jam”. They have no innovation or unique features other than the annoying fact that you have to remove the mag tube follower rod to load the rifles. Comparing these to a Henry lever rifle from the 1800’s is like comparing your toaster oven to a Model T Ford. Do some actual research before pretending to “write” reviews.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jgerlica John Gerlica

    Just out of curiousity, how does the brass stand up to .44 mag pressures? I would think the shoulders for the locking block would set back pretty darn quick.

    • Bic Parker

      The receiver is actually made of a brass alloy that is supposed to have the same or better tensile strength than most steels used in rifles and is spec’ed to handle maximum SAAMI pressures. In practice, that certainly seems to be true. I have run around 800 rounds through mine and haven’t noticed any problems (I try to do a close check on the receiver each time I clean the rifle after a range session). The Big Boy receivers are different than the Golden Boy receivers (which are .22/.17 caliber rifles). The Big Boy receivers are solid alloy while (as I understand it), the Golden Boy rifles have stainless steel receivers inside a brass casing.

  • GD

    I just wanted to clear up what I see as a mischaracterization of both the review I wrote and reviews themselves. And I’ll try to do it without sounding belligerent, since I am generally appreciative of feedback. First, I don’t pretend to be a journalist or a writer. I don’t get paid to do this by either TFB or Henry, so I don’t have any incentive to use anyone else’s information.

    As for the review itself, it is my first review. I wrote what I thought would be helpful for someone to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to own a Big Boy, not to understand the history of the ownership of the Henry name, which would ultimately not be beneficial to anyone reading a review on this gun. As far as the review process itself goes, I don’t have the time or the space alotted to completely chronicle the entire history of lever-actions, from Volcanic to the myriad offerings of today. The review is just that – a review. It isn’t supposed to be a comprehensive history. I appreciate your opinion, but to assume I’ve done no research is untrue. Also, I didn’t say it was the same company then and now. A closer reading will show that I referenced the Henry’s of the 1800′s initially, to set the stage for a review of the Henry’s of today.

    A single opening paragraph about the origin of the name and lever mechanism was detached and separate from the rest of the review, so I’m a little puzzled by your critique as well as what seems to be a gross overuse of quotation marks.

    My purpose in the review, as I stated, was to show that the gun is relevant today. It does have practical, modern applications. I’m not suggesting everyone go out and buy one for the reasons I wrote about, but the rifle can be used effectively in those applications – in my opinion.

  • Guest

    I own a Rossi M92 in .45 Colt that’ll compete with this Henry all day long. I can load the .45 Colt so that it’ll keep pace with the .44 Magnum, be able to use the side loading gate all day long (even between shots if I want to) and it’s much handier, being lighter in weight and shorter overall. I think the Henry is OK but the Rossi is just too much easier to tote/use and being stainless steel, great looking (IMHO) and weather tolerant as well. That it only cost about half what the Henry costs doesn’t hurt one bit either! Without a horse or pack mule to carry the Henry for you, you’d be exhausted in no time at all in the field with it.

  • idahosd

    Henry Big Boy 357 and 45 colt
    taking on steel plates.

    It is of 2 Henry rifles in a 20
    degree cross fire verses hanging steel plates.
    We have installed low power scopes (1.5 X 5) and that does bring
    out the accuracy for aging eyes like mine.

    These are great for teaching new shooters. This is just my girl friends first year
    shooting and half of those shots are hers.
    The video covers the first 50
    rounds of my Henry colt 45. The action
    sure does smooth up with use.