Henry AXE Lever-Action .410

Just plain shooting enjoyment ... maybe more!

Henry Lever Action Axe .410 is a Mares Leg-type of lever-action. The shotgun is great fun to shoot.

When I was just a pup one of my favorite TV shows was Wanted Dead or Alive starring Steve McQueen as bounty hunter Josh Randall. McQueen carried a Model 92 Winchester Mares Leg (shortened barrel and stock cut off just behind the pistol grip area). Although the Model 92 was chambered for pistol cartridges, McQueen’s belt held .45-70 shells — apparently for dramatic effect.

One of my first cap guns was a replica of the TV gun made by Marx toys. Many a desperado was brought to justice on the family farm.
Not all firearms need to fit neatly into categories like hunting, home protection, tactical or plinking. One category often overlooked is plain, old fashioned fun — and the Henry Lever Action Axe .410 defines fun. However, if you prefer a bit more usefulness don’t start looking elsewhere quite yet.

Fit and finish is what has come to be expected by Henry. Side-loading gate makes the Axe easy to load.
A Sling swivel stud is located on handle.

What It Is — And Isn’t

The “axe handle” pistol grip gives the firearm its name. Per the BATF, the Lever Action Axe .410 is classified as a non-Class 3/NFA “firearm.”

The Axe has a five-round capacity of 2 1/2″ (only) shells. Like other Henry Lever Actions the .410 Shotgun has a tubular magazine and can be unloaded or loaded through this magazine. The addition of a side-loading gate, however, means you can keep the capacity topped off at all times without needing to remove the tubular magazine. The receiver is tapped for an optic if desired.

One advantage is its size. With a barrel length of just under 16″ and an overall length of just over 26″ the Axe can be stored in far more places than your average long gun. Weight is approximately 6 lbs.

If desired the Henry Lever-Action Axe can be loaded and unloaded from the end of the
tubular magazine. Brass bead front sight is standard. Sling swivel stud is attached to the forend cap.

Chopping It Down

The “axe handle” pistol grip and forend are made from American Walnut. The Henry Cowboy logo is engraved at the rear of the handle for the unmistakable touch of Henry class.

The barrel is finished with a brass bead front sight and Invector-style threads fitted with a removable full choke right out of the box. A choke wrench is included. A sling swivel stud is attached to the forend cap and a second stud is located on the handle. My sample had an average trigger weight of 9.5 lbs.

The Axe can be fired from the hip and with enough practice and ammo, one can become fairly good using this technique out to about 10 yards. It’s also a blast (pun intended) peppering hostile soda cans and watching them explode. A better way to fire the Axe is to bring it up to eye level and use the bead sight. This is not only more effective, but does not require a large expenditure of ammunition to get good results.

Practical Uses

If using birdshot, the Axe would be capable of taking game and dispatching poisonous snakes. With a larger shot size, say #4 or #6 shot, small game such as rabbits would be reasonable. When throwing fewer pellets into a small area, stalking skills are very important — the closer the better.

Buckshot is available for self-defense. The 2 1/2″ shells contain three 000 (.36 caliber) buckshot pellets at an advertised 1,300 fps. This is like three simultaneous hits from a .38 Special. Since factory velocity figures are based on a longer barrel the actual velocity is probably slightly less and round balls being less aerodynamic, they will lose velocity faster than a pistol bullet.

I tested the Axe with some Winchester 000 buck. At 30 feet I was rewarded with a pattern of three inches. Moving back to 45 feet the pattern grew to 12″ with one pellet completely off the target.

While a .410 slug (left) at 88 grains is paltry compared to a 1-oz.12-gauge slug, it still packs a wallop at close ranges.

Slugging It Out

The legendary stopping power of slugs does not apply to the .410. Slugs for the 2 1/2″ weigh a mere 1/5 oz. (87.5 grains). Compare this to the 1 oz. (437 grains) 12-gauge slug.

Moving out at around 1,800 fps the slug’s flat, light projectile bleeds velocity quickly and offers minimal penetration. It’s never recommended to shoot a slug — regardless of gauge — through a full choke so remove the choke tube with the included choke wrench before shooting slugs through the Axe.

My results using Winchester slugs at 25 yards was somewhat dismal with the average of three, five-round groups measuring 6″. Whitetail deer can be taken with a .410 slug, but with the Axe I would limit it to common bow hunting ranges of 30 yards or less to ensure an ethical kill (in states where .410 slugs are legal)

Iconic Henry Cowboy logo engraved at the rear of the handle for an unmistakable touch of Henry class.

Running The Gun

With the Axe, it’s fairly easy to manipulate the lever quickly from the hip but not while holding it at eye level because there is no stock to brace it against the shoulder while doing so. I found it requires upper pressure on the forend to compensate for the downward motion of the lever. As you might expect with a lever gun, functioning was flawless.

As mentioned at the beginning, the Axe can be unloaded through the end of the tubular magazine. I never used this feature because the Axe was simply too much fun working the lever and firing it until it was empty.

The Axe might be a good choice for a backpacker, but I cannot honestly recommend it for self-defense or hunting anything except small game — but if you want an addition to your gun safe for pure, unadulterated fun, the Henry Lever Action Axe .410 might be just the ticket.


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