Running With The Big Boys

A Henry Big Boy .44 Magnum, That Is

By John Taffin

Sometimes progress can be a wonderful thing. Fifty years ago it was difficult to find a levergun chambered in a centerfire pistol cartridge. Now we have a long list to choose from chambered in .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, .38-40, .44-40, .32-20, .32 Magnum, .38 Special, and .44 Special; and for the stout of shoulder even .454, .460 S&W, and .500 S&W. The Henry Big Boy .44 Magnum joins the sixgun/levergun offerings.

Its roots go all the way back more than 150 years to the ill-fated Volcanic of the 1850’s where we find such names as Harold Smith, Daniel Wesson, and Oliver Winchester. Winchester bought all the rights, and formed the New Haven Arms Company, while Smith & Wesson went on to other endeavors.

Winchester hired one B. Tyler Henry to work at making the Volcanic a working firearm. The result, in 1860, was the Henry Rifle, the first truly workable rifle using fixed ammunition. This first true levergun and first .44 cartridge provided firepower beyond the wildest imagination.

The 1860 Henry had a bronze-alloy frame, and loaded from the front much like many of today’s .22 leverguns. Today, Henry Repeating Arms offers not only a replica of this original Henry rifle, but ups the ante in power considerably with the .44 Magnum Big Boy.

The Henry Big Boy, although it has a brass-alloy frame, is not a copy of the original Henry and it is also quite unlike any other leverguns out there. Two things make this .44 Mag much easier to handle if you’re going to shoot long strings. First is the weight. Normally we look for a levergun chambered in a sixgun cartridge to be light and easy to handle. This is fine with the .357 Magnum, however if you shoot a lot, the accumulated felt recoil really begins to talk to your shoulder. Instead of an easy handling 6-pound carbine, the Henry weighs nearly 9 pounds.

By adding a Weaver K-4 scope the weight comes up to nearly 10 pounds. This .44 Magnum does not beat me up when used with heavy Magnum loads. For those wanting less weight, Henry’s steel-framed .44 Magnum comes in just under 7 pounds.

The Henry .44 Magnum with its brass, blue, and beautifully
grained walnut is a most attractive rifle.

one really appreciated by my fingers especially in cold weather. When shooting a sixgun-cartridge-chambered levergun, I often employ a wooden dowel to help push the cartridge past the loading gate to avoid winding up with a sore finger.

Now Henry Repeating Arms has changed the game. The Henry Big Boy .44 Magnum does not have a loading gate but rather loads just like the conventional .22 levergun through a slot under the barrel. To load, the head of the inner magazine tube under the barrel is turned until it releases, then pulled forward to expose the cartridge-shaped slot. Cartridges are loaded base down, the inner tube is then pushed back in place in the magazine tube and locked.

Never in my wildest nightmares as a kid did I ever think we would reach a time when Winchester lever actions were no longer made in America and Marlins would shrink to a few models. Henry Repeating Arms is a totally American company and all their lever actions produced in New Jersey. Currently, they offer the largest lineup of leverguns seen in my lifetime including 7 rimfire versions. In sixgun cartridges, you have choices in .357, .41 and .44 Magnum and .45 Colt. There is a larger version chambered in .45-70 and .30-30, as well as models chambering .223, .243, and .308, in addition to the replica of the original Henry chambered in .44-40.

I will say without fear of argument the Henry Golden Boy is the most attractive production lever action rifle it’s been my good fortune to ever shoot. The frame, of course, is a brass alloy as is the barrel band on the forearm and the buttplate. These are nicely set off by a deeply blued octagon barrel, magazine tube, and lever. The wood in the forearm and buttstock are both beautifully grained walnut. Markings on the Henry are gold filled on the right side and the company name is on the left. Altogether a most attractive package.

As John shot the Henry, his groups with the 300-grain Black Hills
.44 Magnum loads just got better and better. The final group
measures just a 1/2-inch at 50 yards.

SIG’s new .44 Magnum load shot just fine out of the Big Boy.

Sights on the Henry Big Boy are a traditionally-styled Buckhorn rear sight adjustable for elevation matched up with a gold bead front sight in a dovetail. I used a Henry scope base and the drilled and tapped receiver to mount a Weaver K-4 scope. The trigger pull on this Henry .44 Magnum measures 4-3/4 pounds, smooth with no creep. I was able to shoot some exceptionally (at least for me) good groups. This Henry lives up to its reputation for smooth operation and performs flawlessly if the lever is operated firmly. Being too gentle—as with most lever actions—will jam it.

Even at my age with nearly 70 years of shooting behind me, I still look forward to learning new things with every shooting session. While shooting the Henry I once again found out how important the composition of the rest is when being employed to shoot groups. We’ve been shooting over a very handy rectangular solid-shaped shooting rest formed of reclaimed rubber. Just by moving it we get different heights and it also has cutouts for resting the forearm and we placed a small sandbag in one of the grooves. When we started shooting, my friend Denis was checking my results. At 50 yards, shots were all over the place. Then we noticed the sandbag had too little sand—the result being the depression in the sandbag was basically without sand and the Henry was bouncing off the rubber rest. A better bag and holding the fore-end in front of the scope changed everything. If you’re having trouble getting groups, the first two things to look for are the scope and the composition of the rest.

Ammo shooting exceptionally included Winchester 250-grain Partition Gold Hollowpoint clocking out just under 1,600 fps delivering 3 shots in a 5/8-inch group at 50 yards. Both the Winchester 250 SXT Hollowpoint and the new SIG SAUER 240-grain JHP V-Crown grouped in 1 inch with muzzle velocities of 1,574 fps and 1,548 fps respectively.

Winchester .44 Magnum Ammunition delivered stellar
accuracy in the Henry Big Boy .44 Magnum.

Most of my shooting was done with Black Hills .44 Magnum ammunition. The Black Hills 240-grain JHP is my most used load for whitetails and it has accounted for 24 straight 1-shot kills as well as a 1-shot mountain lion, all from a Freedom Arms .44 Mag. Compared to other loads, the Black Hills 240 is relatively mild clocking out at just over 1,300 fps in a sixgun. In the Henry .44 Magnum this load clocks out at 1,425 fps. The Black Hills 300-grain JHP is also relatively easy shooting with a muzzle velocity from the Henry of 1,260 fps.

The more I shot the Black Hills .44 Magnum ammunition the better the groups became. My first group with a 240-grain load was 1-1/4 inches at 50 yards and is totally respectable. However, it got better. Groups soon shrunk to 1 inch and the last 4 shots I fired grouped in 3/4 inch. With the 300-grain load results were even better. My first group was a sastisfying 1-1/8 inches. However, the morning was good and I was doing fine, so I kept shooting. The last group I shot at 50 yards from this Henry .44 Magnum using the Black Hills 300-grain bullet saw 4 shots going into one hole measuring 1/2 inch. I don’t think it’s possible, at least for me, to get any better than this.

Big Boy

Maker: Henry Repeating Arms
59 E. 1st St., Bayonne NJ 07002
(201) 858-4400
https://gunsmagazine.com/company/henry-repeating-arms-company/

Action Type: Lever Action
Caliber: .44 Magnum
Capacity: 10, Barrel Length: 20 inches
Overall Length: 38.5 inches
Weight: 8.68 pounds
Finish: Brass frame, buttplate, and barrel band, blue barrel
Sights: Semi-buckhorn rear, gold bead front
Stock: Walnut
Price: $899.95

K-4

Maker: Weaver Optics
1 ATK Way
Anoka, MN 55303
(800) 379-1732
https://gunsmagazine.com/company/weaver-optics/
Magnification: 4X
Objective Diameter: 40mm
Eye Relief: 3.43 inches
Reticles: Dual-X
Price: $244.95

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