Henry Repeating Arms began in 1996, their name being an homage to Benjamin T. Henry, who designed the original 1860 lever action repeating rifle. While they do not have a connection to the original New Haven Arms Company, they do make quality rifles at a quality price, and as their motto says, they are “Made in America or not at all!” Recently, they were kind enough to send me their Henry Big Boy Silver in .45 Colt. I was very enthused to receive the rifle for testing, as I have been trying to get into SASS shooting, and my current rifle that fit the requirements for SASS fires rather expensive ammo in comparison to the .45 Colt, and it would be nice to take only one caliber to the matches.
Specs (via Henry):
- Capacity: 10
- Length: 38.5″
- Pull Length: 14″
- Barrel Length: 20″
- Weight: 8.68lbs
- Stock: American Walnut
- Sights: Semi-buckhorn rear, brass bead front
- Finish: Polished
- MSRP: $990.00
Upon removing the Henry “Big Boy Silver” from it’s box, I was struck by the finish, and how it would somewhat change from a light bronze to mirror-like silver when I moved it under different lighting conditions. This was due to the silver color coming from a “solid aluminum-bronze alloy”, rather than silver plating over a bronze receiver. The blued, octagonal 20″ barrel had buckhorn rear and post front sights with a brass bead. The barrel band was also of the same material as the receiver. The action and barrel were clean and properly lubed. In fact, I did not have to lubricate the H006S or clean anything but the barrel despite firing 300 rounds through it, most of those relatively dirty “cowboy action” loads. Upon cycling the action, I noticed the conjunction of the straight stock and the smaller loop on the lever made things somewhat uncomfortable for my large hands (I wear an XL glove). I managed to adjust my grip to accommodate for this, but it should be noted that Henry does offer a larger loop that can take care of this issue.
The American walnut stock was nicely finished, though it has no checkering. It really is a good looking rifle, and received a few compliments from interested spectators at the range. The aluminum bronze alloy receiver is eye-catching and beautifully finished, though keeping it fingerprint and blemish free is a lot more difficult than with many other firearm finishes. I did not wipe it down after a range session, and took it out of the safe a few days later to find the blemish took a lot of care to buff out.
The trigger had no play at all when the action was cocked, and broke at 5lbs every time with just a hint of creep. From my prior experience with the Henry .45-70 rifle, I find their triggers to be the best factory levergun trigger that I’ve encountered on the market. Coming in at 8.68lbs/3.93kgs, The H006S had considerable heft, but balanced nicely just forward of the chamber. The rifle has no manual safety or half-cock notch, but uses a transfer-bar safety. The hammer has a channel inside of it, and if the trigger is not depressed, the bar will not slide up the channel as the hammer comes forward. Furthermore, there is a 2 piece firing pin assembly for a further degree of safety. The rifle will not fire when the action is closed due to a trigger lock that must be actuated by the lever.
Shooting impressions and range results:
Heading to the range, I opted to test the H006S for accuracy, reliability, and viability for SASS shooting. For the accuracy portion of the test, I shot 5 shot groups at 50 yards from a sandbag rest after an initial break in of 50 rounds. The main reason I tested at 50 instead of 100 yards was due to the fact that the H006S has an 8moa front bead, which aids in acquiring targets quickly but is difficult to use for accuracy testing when it covers an entire target grid at 100 yards. I should note that the H006S is drilled and tapped for mounting a scope or peep sights, but as most buyers will be using the buckhorn sights, I felt that it was best to assess accuracy using them.
The 50 round break-in went well. I was able to clear plate racks, dueling trees, and a Texas star at 25 yards, with every shot going where I aimed. I did have to get used to the throw of the lever, and bobbled a few cycles of the action, but I eventually got the hang of it. Moving to the bench, I tested 6 types of ammunition, 3 lead loads and 3 modern iterations of the .45 Colt. The barrel was cleaned between each group.
Accuracy Results (Best to worst):
5 shot groups at 50 Yards using a sandbag rest.
- Hornady Critical Defense 185gr FTX: 1.03″
- Lehigh Defense 250gr Xtreme Penetrator: 1.82″
- Black Hills Cowboy Action 250gr RNFP: 1.9″
- Hornady Leverelolution 225gr FTX: 2.5″
- Winchester Super-X 250gr LFN: 2.8″
- Buffalo Bore Anti-Personnel 225gr HCWC: 3.67″
I was impressed with the accuracy, all groups measuring smaller than the 4moa at 50yds that the front bead covered up. The rifle came zeroed quite well from the factory, I only had to adjust the buckhorn sight to the second notch on the elevator for 50 yards. The Hornady Critical Defense load was the clear winner of the modern loads, while the Black Hills RNFP was the clear winner of the lead loads, even beating out the Hornady Leverevolution load. I should mention that the Big Boy action had no issue with the higher pressure of the Lehigh Defense load. The action can handle .44 Magnum pressure with no problem. It also had no problem cycling the flat, short Buffalo Bore HCWC loads.
I originally was going to take the H006S to a SASS match to test its reliability and SASS viability, but a number of scheduling conflicts negated this endeavor. Instead, I ran the H006S through my own version of a practice match, firing a total of 300 rounds of Black Hill’s excellent “cowboy action” .45 Colt 250gr RNFP loads through the gun. I had zero failures to function, and every shot that was aimed correctly connected on steel and paper exactly where I was aiming. Due to the good balance of the rifle, the weight was not a hinderance for extended periods of offhand shooting.
The lack of a loading gate (the H006S is loaded via a forward port in the tube like most all Henry rifles with the exception of the “original” 1860 pattern guns) did make for difficult speed loading drills after the magazine ran dry. This was due to my sausage fingers struggling to deftly flick the smallish .45 Colt cartridges into the chamber for single loading. My fastest time for firing 10 aimed shots on steel from low ready with an empty chamber at 25 yards was 9.2 seconds, but I’m sure this could improve with practice and a little action polishing.
The Henry H006S displayed very accuracy with a wide variety of .45 Colt loads and was 100% reliable. I look forward to using it in future SASS matches, and for general fun and plinking with the .45 Colt cartridge. With a wide variety of ammunition available, it can handle home defense and medium game hunting as well. The aluminum-bronze alloy receiver takes some special care, and I know that shiny things aren’t for everyone, but it is eye catching if that’s your aesthetic. Objectively, it is a reasonably priced, accurate and well made rifle that fills the SASS requirement quite well. Subjectively, I find its standard lever a bit too small for large hands, and I prefer loading gates on lever actions, but I found the rifle to perform excellently in a competition role. If you shoot SASS or love lever-actions and have an eye out for an eye-catching new rifle, the Henry Big Boy Silver is ready to start ringing steel.
- 100% reliable with a number of different loads and bullet profiles
- Very accurate for a non free-floated barrel in .45 Colt
- Good price point vs its competition
- Excellent craftsmanship
- Finish is a bit hard to maintain
- A bit heavier than other rifles in its class
Thanks to Aaron Hughston Shooting School for logistical support, range time, and technical assistance
Thanks to Black Hills for Providing their ammunition
For more information, please visit Henry’s site