Saturday, June 11, 2011

Henry Repeating Arms , Henry Big Boy Rifle Review .357 Magnum/.38 Special

Henry Repeating Arms .357 Magnum/.38 Special Big Boy Rifle Review

It's tough to find a really good detailed review of the Henry rifles and now I know why. About a year ago I stumbled on a Henry Repeating Golden Boy .22LR at a local gun shop for the first time and was blown away at the fit, finish and quality of the rifle. The Henry didn't go home with me, but the beautiful rifle stuck in my mind. I remember doing some research online, and thinking that a .357 Henry Big Boy lever action rifle would be about the handiest thing out there if only Henry made one. I remember most online reviews appeared to be ambiguous and unsubstantial that lacked any real content, and now I know the reason for that as well. Once you put a Henry rifle in your hand your mind goes to another time and place when times were simpler and a fine rifle was a necessity. Chances are the reviewers just forgot about the point of the article all together becuase of how enamored they became with the rifle ... and because the Henry rifle is truly one of the finest affordable rifles made and delivers a lot for the money.

Innocently enough I gathered a couple arms which seemed to have lost their luster and hobbled into my local gun shop for an appraisal thinking more in terms of cash out than cash outlay. While waiting for the appraisal, it caught my eye, something I thought didn't exist, a beautiful Henry Big Boy lever action chambered in .357 Magnum/.38 Special. I had sworn that if Henry ever introduced a .357 mag rifle I would buy it. OK yes several manufacturers make them including Henry, however me being captain oblivious on this occasion, I didn't realize that Henry had been making this rifle for several years... then again I hadn't really been looking. I guess I needed to page down a little on Henry's website, but this Big Boy was totally an emotional purpose and one that I now have zero regrets of. Suffice to say, the Henry Big Boy Rifle gauged in .357/.38 Special went home with me with that same conflicted "my wife is going to kill me again feeling" all while wearing a smile... ohh they just don't understand, it's like jewelry for us.

Utility of the rifle aside, the stunning looks of the Henry will suck you in. The mirror polished solid brass butt plate, receiver, and barrel band delivers real authenticity and stunning beauty. The American Walnut stocks feature perfect fit and finish and unions to the rest of the parts. I doubt the Henry's of old were this nice.
Moving down to the perfectly polished and blued heavy octagonal barrel, you really start to see where the Henry is truly unique. Sights are serviceable and perfectly finished and blued to match the barrel. Changing the sights at this point would only ruin the lines of the barrel and based on my shooting experience would serve little purpose.
I am sure the Henry Rifles that won the West were fine rifles, however today's new Henry Rifles are outstanding works of art with fit and finish that rivals rifles significantly more expensive. 

The ten shot tube feed lever action only missed a feed when it was at weird unnatural angles. That's it it just works. The brass butt plate is so beautifully mirror polished that you won't dare to stand it up and risk it getting scratched. Yes the Henry is build to take plenty of hard use, but I am really hoping to get a couple years out of it before any major scratches and gouges occur.
Many have complained about the sights, and initially I was already thinking about what sights I could swap out as I was walking out of the store. Sights are not especially complex or sophisticated, however the brass topped front bead seem to provide about the same visibility as some of the new fiber optic sights. The rear sight has a little to be desired, but has served it purpose with trooper like reliability. The reality is that I don't necessarily like it, but after a little range work and the realization that I was hitting everything I was pointing at there is no reason to replace it with something else.
The Henry may be very old school but the 10-shot magazine is high capacity even by current modern standard carbines and earned the Henry the Old West tag line of "Load your Henry on Sunday it will Shoot all week."
As fun as this gun is to shoot, 10 shots (11 - .38 special)
goes by quick and it's time for a reload. This is where I had the only problem I have had with the rifle. The o-ring that applied pressure to the key-ed tube lock was about .5mm too thick and nearly required a pair of vise grips to twist the tube top open for reloads. A little thinning of the o-ring with a razor and now reloads are painless.

The Big Boy went from gun shop, right to the range where I ran over 200 rounds through the Henry Big Boy shooting golf balls at 20-50 yards via off hand and bench rest shots. Don't let anyone tell you Henry rifles have OK accuracy, the Big Boy .357 is the best shooting most natural pointing firearm I own. The most accurate, probably not, but easiest to shoot? Absolutely. The only mis-feeds I had were results of operator showboating and incomplete levering and not the fault of the gun. As with any lever action, goofy un-natural angles can cause mis-feeds.
I found myself point shooting the gun with about the same impact point as when using the sights. This gun is a true joy to shoot, point where you want the bullets to go and you hit what you aim at. My rifle was dead on sighted in out of the box at 50 yards and was accurate enough to hit golf balls four out of five times from the bench and three out of five times offhand. This is as good as my stock Ruger 10/22 does, but with the Henry Big Boy .357 and .38 Special capabilities, I can humanely hunt nearly any typical game up to deer - no you don't  you need a 300 Weatherby for deer because you don't, a .357 Magnum with a heavier bullet is just fine and harvested more deer over time than any magnum rifle cartridge. The other feature I love of course is that the I am a 357/38 Special nut and all those lovely little rounds will fit in just as well in my Henry as my revolvers. Gee a rifle and pistol that can shoot the same round, seems both smart and handy to me.
From a hunting and plinking perspective a Henry .357Mag/.38 Special Big Boy is a seriously fun and handy rifle. Good deals on .38 Special bulk ammo are still to be had for perforating cans, and a heavy loads provide big game and even defensive level capabilities if tasked. Recoil from standard .38 special loads through the 6.5lb gun are akin to a hard hitting 22LR and even with the hottest 357Magnum loads minimal recoil is felt. That nice heavy barrel provides outstanding off hand standing shot accuracy and while on the bench 

The Henry Repeating Rifle is the rifle that won the West with its load on Sunday and shoot all week capabilities. Today the company is producing more than just a heritage or tribute rifle, they have elevated the original Henry Rifle design and capabilities to a custom level with better than modern performance which are as at home for plinking, hunting to a viable home defense rifle. Once I asked by wife what gun she would take if everything went sound and she say immediately the Henry .357 Magnum/.38 Special becuase of virtually no recoil and how easy it is to shoot. 

I agree the rifle is easy and fun to shoot accurately a great value at $700 for the custom level fit and finish and component of the rifle. The West may not need winning again, but this Henry Rifle has sure won a permanent place in my gun cabinet... I just wish they made a Henry Big Boy Rifle in 9mm as well which would hold about 15 rounds.

Video Review Here 

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