Gun Review: Henry Repeating Arms –Original Henry Rifle

Original Henry Lever Action

Original Henry Lever Action

Those readers who have been around TFB for any time know how much I enjoy lever action rifles. That said I’ve had the privilege to review my favorite lever action the Original Henry from Henry Repeating Arms.

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For simplicity sake from this point I’ll just refer to the Original Henry with brass receiver as the Henry. Before talking about the Henry I tested let me give you some history behind the rifle and the major contribution it made to the advancement in rifle design upon it’s release in 1860.

Working with other well known individuals in the firearms industry of the time Benjamin Tyler Henry was asked to design a rifle to handle the new ammunition coming out at the time as well as increase the rate of fire. In short Mr. Henry settled on the toggle link system first used in the Volcanic handgun. Mr. Henry changed the design a bit to handle the new and more powerful (for the time) round which became the .44 Henry rimfire. Of course the Henry receiver was enlarged to handle the new cartridge as well as strengthening the internal parts.

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When the Henry repeating rifle hit the market in 1860 it was just in time for the American civil war. The government purchased a few of the rifles for the troops but no where near the numbers to make a difference. Individual northern troops purchased Henry rifles with their own money and went to war. At that time the soldier had at his use a rifle that held 15 rounds of .44 rimfire which fired a 200 grain bullet at an average of 1200 FPS. After the southern troops met this rifle in combat they referred to it as the “Damn yankee rifle you load on Sunday and shoot all week”. In fact one squad of union troops could equal the firepower of an entire company using the standard issue rifle.

Once the war was over many of those troops who owned Henry rifles moved west to start settlements. Others purchased the Henry before setting out with their families to settle the western territories and protect their families as well as hunt game to support the families needs.

Original-closeup

All of the lever actions that came after the Henry owe the Henry credit for their internal workings and at least for the general way a lever action operates. If one looks at an 1873 Winchester action they are darn near identical in many ways. The 1873 was chambered in several calibers one of which was the brand new 44-40 cartridge. The Henry was modified to use this new round which increased it’s power and all around usefulness.

Original Iron Frame

Original Iron Frame

Let’s jump forward to the last couple of years and the current Henry Repeating Arms Company. Most of the readers are familiar with the 100% American made line of Henry rifles and the popularity they enjoy. I’d always wondered why Henry never made an Original Henry to compliment the extensive line currently offered. Well that changed not long ago and now the shooting public has an identical to the original Henry rifle in 44-40 centerfire. You actually have two choices now which is the specially hardened brass (as hard as today’s steel) receiver model and the Iron Framed Original both of which are chambered in 44-40.

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Most of you who aren’t involved in Cowboy shooting or just love lever actions like myself may not know very much about the 44-40 round. Let me say it has more power than you might think. Now the current Cowboy loads tend to be rather mild however for those that reload you can safely load a 200 grain lead flat point bullet to yield a speed of 2000 FPS and energy of 1777 foot pounds. Out to 150 yards the 44-40 can be used in the Henry rifle to take most any game in the US as long as you do your part and make a good shot.

The Henry Original I received for testing is just absolutely gorgeous. In fact I consider it just about the best looking lever action rifle there is. With well chosen Missouri Walnut buttstock, brass butt plate, brass receiver and the deep blue octagon barrel finish it really is a work of art. As you can see in some of the photos the Henry has two side plates so you can access the internals. Unless you get very close these plates are so well fitted you can’t even see the line between the plate and receiver body. All around the fit and finish is outstanding. I can’t say for certain how much hand work went into creating the Original but to get this kind of fit there must be a good deal of it!

Missouri Walnut Stock

Missouri Walnut Stock

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The Henry loads and operates much like the lever action .22 you may have had as a kid. The rifle is loaded by raising the brass tab in the magazine all the way to the top moving it over a short amount then turn the last few inches of the barrel shroud to the right. This action exposes the opening in the magazine. The shooter then drops each round base first in the magazine until the magazine is full which takes 13 rounds. The barrel shroud is then moved over to line up with the barrel then the brass tab is lowered onto the top round. As the rounds are fired the brass tab moves down giving the shooter a reference to how many rounds are left.

Loading chamber

Loading chamber

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The hammer has a half cock notch but none of the obnoxious new safety devices that have been so common on new guns. When you move the lever forward the carrier moves down a small amount and a round is dropped into the carrier. As you pull the lever back into firing position the carrier is raised along with the live round. Next the bolt moves forward pushing the live round into the chamber and engaging the extractor to the bullet rim. After firing the brass ejects up a couple of inches or more depending on how hard you work the lever and tosses the brass straight back and to the right in one handy pile.

Brass buttplate which holds a cleaning rod.

Brass buttplate which holds a cleaning rod.

At first I intended to do a few week test but that changed to a several month test after I had a couple of persons who informed me the action of the Henry was weak and wouldn’t hold up to much shooting especially handloads. I didn’t buy that for a minute so over the past few months I’ve shot many hundreds of rounds of factory rounds as well as handloads of my own creation. Let me just say the action is as snug as it was the first day on the range and the accuracy is very good indeed. I’ve run it fairly hard and the Henry has taken everything I’ve thrown at it.

Bolt and chamber

Bolt and chamber

On the range I’ve taken some sessions with several targets and shot fast from 25 yards to 50 yards. Other range trips I simply setup at the 100 yard bench and shot for accuracy on steel targets. As you may note in the photos the front sight is silver and easy to see. I was able to shoot 100 yard ten shot groups with these iron sights that I could cover with the palm of my hand. I consider that very good for iron sights at that distance without a rest. I also setup a steel target at 300 yards and using the Henry rear ladder sight also set at 300 yards. I was firing prone using a backpack as a rest. With some of the more anemic factory loads I had to move the sight to 350–400 yards. With my handloads I was hitting steel with the sights set at 300 yards. I was hitting steel nine times out of ten with a mild wind coming from 5 o’clock at approximately 10 mph. I honestly didn’t think the rifle would shoot so well at that distance but it did and it sure was fun hearing that target ring.

Silver front sight

Silver front sight

Ladder rear sight

Ladder rear sight

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Specifications:

The Original Henry Rifle .44-40
Model Number H011
Action Type Lever Toggle Link System
Caliber .44-40
Capacity 13 rounds
Length 43″
Barrel Length 24.5″
Weight 9 lbs.
Stock Fancy American Walnut Buttstock with Hardened Brass Buttplate
Sights Folding Ladder Rear, Blade Front
Finish Hardened Brass Receiver
M.S.R.P. $2,300.00

The Iron-Framed Original Henry Rifle .44-40
Model Number H011IF
Caliber .44-40
Stock Fancy American Walnut Buttstock and Case Colored Steel Buttplate
Receiver Case Color Receiver
M.S.R.P. $2,750.00

To sum things up I was very happy with the performance of this rifle as well as the 44-40 round. Again this is a beautiful piece of work and a rifle anyone who owns one should be very proud to have in their collection.

Henry Repeating Arms Website

For more history of the henry rifle I highly recommend this book. A search on Amazon or ebay should give you results.

3945C-URL



Phil White

Retired police officer with 30 years of service. Firearms instructor and SRU team member. I still instruct with local agencies. My daily carry pistol is the tried and true 1911. I’m the Associate Editor and moderator at TFB. I really enjoy answering readers questions and comments. We can all learn from each other about our favorite hobby!


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  • Tim Kienbaum

    Absolutely beautiful rifle! Our local Friends of NRA team has a specially engraved one on a 5 gun winner take all raffle. Got my ticket hoping to put this one in my collection.

    • That would be fantastic! In the book I made reference to there are a ton of photos of engraved models. They show some gorgeous engraving.. Good luck with the raffle:-)

  • codfilet

    Lately, I’ve been wanting one of these to go along with my SAA. I kinda like the steel-framed one better, I think.

    • I like both of them but the brass frame seems more in keeping with it’s history. I’m just glad they came out with the steel model so you have a choice. If I recall correctly there were only 4000 of the steel models made.
      I agree it looks good with a SAA:-)

      • codfilet

        It would be nice if these were also offered in .45 LC.

        • True I’d like to see that as well.

        • dltaylor51

          The it wouldn’t be a 44 Henry and they never made a 45 Henry,Uberti does make a very nice Henry clone in 45 LC but the 44 40 is a better feeding round due to being a slight bottleneck,they almost jump into the chamber by them selves,not so with the 45.

          • Good point—-

          • dltaylor51

            I did find one bullet design that does feed as smooth as butter and that’s the old 255gn.RNFP,avoid the 250 or 255 gn.Keith style bullet like the plague or you will be in tears,I do load them single shot and they shoot great but they just wont feed out of my Uberti 1873 long barrel sporting rifle,plus the crimp groove is in the wrong place so not going to get a good crimp and if you do get a crimp you balloon the case wall and lose neck tension.

          • I do like the RNFP bullet and you’re right it feeds very well. I’ve never tried the Keith style in a lever action. I can see how it might cause problems with some rifles.

          • dltaylor51

            The Kieth bullet works great in my 45 Colt but its a miserable SOB in my Uberti lever gun.I dont think Elmer ever intended for this style of bullet to be used in a 45 lever gun because i dont recall if anyone was making 45 lever guns when the Kieth bullet was designed or were they?I did use a 240 gn Kieth bullet in a 44-40 and no problemo but that slight bottleneck is the difference.

  • MelR

    The only thing I didnt like about the henry, and i didn’t see it touched on was for the amount of workmanship that went into the rifle, then to have a Plastic piece at the very end under the muzzle, when there is no other plastic on the rifle, and its prominently at the muzzle end.

    • Are you talking about the plastic piece that shows when you’re reloading?

      • MelR

        No, the one that is right under the muzzle. It’s just a small vertical piece of plastic.

  • codfilet

    The best period photo of Henry Rifles in use during the civil war: Google “7th Illinois Color bearers” These men carried the flag out front, and they brought some serious firepower with them.

  • Evan

    Lever actions are more fun than they have a right to be. I want one of these.

  • Geo

    How many Winchesters 73’s were made and Stamped in 44-40? Thought they were 44WCF? Wasn’t it Colt that made 44-40 years latter?

  • The movie Silverado showed the Henry being used many times throughout the movie.

  • Jason

    Beautiful rifle, but since when does 200gr @ 2,000fps = 500 ft lbs?

    • Seems low to me but those numbers I had access to. Now my figure is 1,777 ft lbs.

      • Tassiebush

        Phil i don’t think the update worked. it’s still reading as 500ftlbs when I’m looking at it.

        • Thanks I’ll check it again.

        • Thanks for letting me know. I tried to change it but right now it won’t save changes. I’ll just post the change.

          • Tassiebush

            Cool these things can be cantankerous!
            That’s impressive with that rifle putting out that power with that famously fast toggle action. I’ve never had the pleasure. How does that action feel compared to a 1892 action?

          • They sure can be. Hey as far as the action the 92 has a bit shorter stroke. It’s not a lot shorter but noticeable. The Henry action is smoother and a little faster. I’d like to compare an original of both. My 1892 was made in 1912, then as was popular in the 1950s, it was converted to 38 special. That may have some bearing on how the action feels and of course the age of the rifle.
            If you compare the Henry to a current model 92 clone there really is no comparison the Henry is far smoother than the clone. I tend to think that has more to do with the workmanship of the internal parts. My original 92 is very handy to carry and pretty lightweight.

          • Tassiebush

            Sounds like a really nice action. I definitely want one based on your description

          • It really is a sweet rifle:-)

          • I wish they still made the Winchester 94.

          • maodeedee

            There’s some nice used ones out there, and they don’t hardly wear out and the 30-30 round isn’t exactly a barrel burner either.In spite of all the hype about pre-64’s being better I have a 1972 manufacture ’94 that has beautiful grain to the wood and it only cost me $350 bucks.

            Many of the cost cutting measures implemented In 1964 were later abandoned and guns made in the 70’s were more like the pre-64’s. some of the changes were things like roll pins instead of machined pins or replacing a leaf spring with a coil spring that in no way effected function, durability or longevity. And yes, some MIM parts were used but I’ve never heard of an MIM part breaking, have you?

            If Winchester still made them today. they’d probably sell for a grand and wouldn’t be as good quality as a use one made in the seventies that you could get for half that price, and would have a stupid s add-on safety besides unless they follow Henry’s example with their 30-30’s that have a hammer block passive safety instead of an external on/off safety.

          • I wish they did to. The retired Chief of police here collected 94’s most of his life and had at least 50 of them. He sold a fair number of them to finance a Safari to Africa when he retired. When they auctioned that group off there were some heavy hitters in collecting there so I couldn’t get close to the one I had an eye on.
            He still has some very rare older ones though. At least I’ve been able to shoot some of them:-)

  • Tassiebush

    Wow that looks so awesome!

  • I’ve tried to correct an error in the post. WordPress isn’t cooperating and saving changes.

    This is how the line should read.
    “Now the current Cowboy loads tend to be rather mild however for those that reload you can safely load a 200 grain lead flat point bullet to yield a speed of 2000 FPS with muzzle energy of just under 1,777 foot pounds.”

  • Tim Barrera

    I’ve been wanting one of these for years, Henry finally comes out with it again…. and since I live in NY, this thing is NOT NY SAFE LEGAL!!!!! 160 year old rifle…. illegal!!!!! WTH!!!!!

  • michael franklin

    There’s no way in the world you’re going to get 2000 fps out of a toggle link rifle in 44-40, although I’d like to watch you try (from behind a barrier)

    • Even the old 44 Henry rimfire made 1200 plus FPS. These new rifles have hardened brass frames and other much stronger materials than the 1860 models.

      • michael franklin

        It’s not the frame but the inherent design of the toggle links holding the bolt closed. A hot load that would be safe in a different design like the 1892 is not safe in a toggle link gun.

        • Like any load you have to use some caution. I was also making reference to the stronger materials used in the internals.
          No you can’t shoot as hot a load in a Henry as you can in a 92, 94 etc.
          Besides I think I’d be ill if I damaged the Henry!

          • dltaylor51

            When i was younger and could only afford a few guns i had to magnumize some of my guns out of necessity and pushed the envelope to the max and even though i never had any catastrophic failures its not doing the guns any favors.Now that i have guns for every occasion i just reach for a bigger gun if i want to go faster and leave the older guns to fire only what they were originally intended.I bought an old El Tigre model 92 Spanish clone made in 1915 that someone had converted from 44 Largo to 44 spl.,i cut 44 mag cases back to the same length as the 44 spl.and have hot rodded this one for years and its has never let out so much as a whimper,if you ever see one for cheap dont hesitate because I’ve tested it to the max and its one hell of a good little gun.

          • Good to know thanks!

  • michael franklin

    There’s no way you can safely load a 44-40 in a toggle link rifle to 2000fps. Look it up

    • Modern materials and I did a lot of checking prior to loading. So yes I looked it up in several reloading manuals. They caution it’s for rifles only not handguns.
      I wouldn’t shoot a ton of these loads but for hunting it works.

  • Len Jones

    I got one for my grand daughter and same for the grand son but my grand daughter loves the thing. She shot auto’s but loves the Henry so I got it for Christmas and we shoot whenever I visit and I finally got me one also because they are fun.

  • dltaylor51

    I bought on of these new original Henry’s in 44WCF and it has more than exceeded my expectations in every way.I loaded a max charge of unique with a cast 44 40 200gn bullet and at 35yds off a bench it put five rounds into a single ragged hole in center of bulls eye,the action cycles as smooth as butter and have never had a hang up.I moved out to a hundred yards and rung a 10” cast iron skillet 13 times in a row and the sights have not been touched because the factory had it dialed in perfect.I paid 1735 for mine so dont be shelling out 2700 for one.You have to move your hand hold when the brass follower moves down the bottom of the mag tube or it will stop feeding but that’s just part of the original Henry experience.

    • dltaylor51

      Remember that the 44 Henry takes a .427 bullet not a .429 or 430 like other 44s,it will pass a 429 cast bullet but the pressure will be higher and it may or may not feed as well with the larger dia. bullet.Overall loaded cartridge length is critical and to long or to short and it wont feed up through the brass lifter,to short will let the waiting round try to get into the lifter also.I trim my brass after each firing and load to the standard 44 40 OAL and everything is fine.

      • True you don’t want to use a larger bullet. Not only the pressure increase but I imagine it would be hard to chamber a round like that as you mentioned. I normally don’t load a huge number of rounds at a time so I just take that extra small amount of time and measure each rounds OAL.
        I haven’t had to trim my brass much at all. I just make sure I get a good crimp so the bullet doesn’t back up. Not likely it would since it’s almost a straight line into the chamber. I have had an 1873 back a bullet up one time.

        • dltaylor51

          I have an original Winchester 44-40 200gn.mold that makes the perfect bullet only they come out about .425,still shootable but it needs more girth but i found and old well used Lee 44-.427 aluminum mold that throws them out at almost .428 and its an exact copy of the old Win.bullet.I can run them through a 427 sizer to true them up or i can shoot them as cast and they work just fine either way.I put as tight of a crimp as i can without sacrificing neck tension and just go for the upper part of the crimp groove,i shoot my cast bullets without sorting by weight and the Henry is so accurate its almost boring but its a good type of boring.I also have a Uberti model 1866 carbine in 44-40 and its right up there with the Henry and the action looks the same to me but a heck of a lot lighter to carry.

    • That sounds just like my experience with it. That is true you need to change the grip a little until the brass follower moves again. No big deal though.

  • At least there not made in China. Henry started in Brooklyn and I believe they are in Bayonne now.

  • What I said was the other lever actions that came after were based off the lever action of the Henry. I didn’t say the actions were totally the same. I mentioned the 73 because the carriage that lifts the rounds and the bolt are the same and operate the same way a Henry does.

  • Alex A.

    This here is the passage I was referring to.

  • Alex A.

    I only mentioned it because I care about presenting the facts of something as accurately as possible.

    • I understand no problem here.

    • Alex A.

      The lever-action Winchester is one of my favorite designs. I have an octagon barrel second model M1873 rifle in .44 WCF with a single set trigger which I assembled from parts. Everything except for the magazine tube and some minor screws are all original. I’m working on a second model saddle ring carbine now.

      • Ok now I’m jealous! I really enjoy the 73 as well. There’s a lot of history there also. Saddle ring carbines just look good and handle so easily.

  • Mr Silly

    Looks very well executed.

  • Eric B.

    I like lever action rifles too. My first was a Marlin 30-30 inherited from my grandfather. Next was a Browning BLR (Belgian made) “lever-actuated bolt” and then the even more rugged Savage 99C, both rifles in .308 Win. Last I got a Ruger 96/22 in .22 WMR. It is a “little brother” to the Savage 99 in that it has the same style of lever and falling breechblock design. Now I “need” a Henry lever gun in .22 WMR. ;o)
    The Savage design, with its breechblock design, is very simple and thus very durable. Generations of hunters, particularly in the East, have used Savage 99 rifles to take millions of deer.