The Henry .30-30 Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The much anticipated Henry .30-30 has arrived. B. Tyler Henry's toggle-link, lever action design formed the basis for the series of lever action rifles that established Winchester as America's premier rifle manufacturer. The best known of these are the original Henry Rifle, Winchester Model 1866 and Winchester Model 1873 ("The gun that won the west"). B. Tyler Henry also invented the .44 Henry Flat rimfire cartridge and Winchester rimfire ammunition bore an "H" head stamp for over 100 years to honor Henry.
Contemporary Henry rifles are modern designs manufactured in New York state, USA. The Henry steel framed .30-30 that is the subject of this review has a rather heavy 20" round barrel complemented by a blued receiver. A two-piece walnut stock and forend completes the traditional looking package. The butt stock has a straight hand and a shotgun style, black plastic butt plate. No sling swivel studs are provided. The forend is too thick in cross-section and we would like to see the Henry's forend slenderized. This would reduce the rifle's weight and make this carbine feel more petite in the hand.
Externally, the receiver bears a vague resemblance to the shape of an original Henry. Inside, the solid top, right side eject action bears no resemblance to B. Tyler Henry's old toggle-link action. Rather, it is based on Marlin 336 design principles. The top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope bases and accepts bases made for Marlin 336 rifles. We used a Weaver scope base for the Marlin 336 and it fit perfectly.
Cleaning is the same as for a Marlin lever action. You can clean the bore from the muzzle, or remove the screw holding the lever in place, remove the lever and slide out the bolt to clean the rifle from the breech end. The ejector rides in a slot in the left side of the receiver and is retained in place only by the bolt. It is a good idea to remove the ejector whenever the bolt is removed to prevent its being lost.
The Henry .30-30 action uses a transfer bar between the hammer and firing pin to render the gun safe until it is fully cocked and ready to fire. This is a much more elegant solution to protecting damm fools from themselves than the crossbolt safety adopted by Marlin.
Out of the box, the Henry's trigger was heavy (over five pounds), creepy and gritty. Unfortunately, this is typical of modern mass produced rifles. This can be ameliorated, to an extent, in traditional lever action rifles like the Henry by plenty of use to "wear in" the parts.
Like all previous Henry rifles, the blued steel under barrel tubular magazine is loaded by sliding the inner brass magazine tube most of the way out and dropping the cartridges into a cutout in the outer tube, just like a tubular magazine fed .22 rimfire rifle. This system works fine, but is more time consuming than the loading gate in the side of the receiver used in Winchester Model 94 and Marlin 336 .30-30 rifles. Unlike those rifles, the Henry is out of service while being reloaded. On the other hand, the magazine holds six cartridges, so the hunter is unlikely to need to reload on the fly.
To unload, cartridges in the magazine need not be worked through the action. Just completely remove the inner brass magazine tube and dump out the cartridges. The cartridge in the chamber, of course, must still be ejected by operating the lever.
The Henry lever action operates and feeds perfectly with either traditional flat point bullets or Hornady LeverEvolution (boat-tail spitzer) bullets. The Henry Instruction Manual pointedly states that the .30-30 is designed to function with all factory loaded .30-30 ammunition..
Here are the specifications for the Henry .30-30 rifle:
After mounting a Weaver Classic K-4 scope on our Henry .30-30 for the purposes of this review, Guns and Shooting Online Managing Editor Chuck Hawks and Technical Assistant Bob Fleck took our Henry .30-30 to the Izaak Walton rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon to see how it would perform. All shots for record were fired at 100 yards from a Caldwell Lead Sled weighted with 25 pounds of lead shot. Groups consisted of three shots on Hoppe's 100 yard "Crosshair" sighting targets. It was a damp day in March when we got to the range, but at least the wind was negligible.
We used Hornady LeverEvolution ammo with 160 grain Flex-Tip (FTX) spitzer bullets for our test shooting. The catalog muzzle velocity of this load is 2400 fps from a 24" test barrel and it has given good accuracy in a variety of .30-30 rifles.
The smallest groups measured 1.0" at 100 yards and the largest 1.9". The average group size was right at 1.5", good performance for any big game hunting rifle. The Henry functioned perfectly throughout our range session.
Due to the Henry's relatively heavy weight, recoil is not a problem. We found it an enjoyable rifle to shoot and the exceptionally smooth action makes fast follow-up shots easy. Single cartridges can be loaded directly into the chamber when the magazine is empty. We felt that we could have shot better groups with a better trigger and this rifle is definitely accurate enough to make a trigger job worthwhile. Its short overall length would make it handy for use in ground blinds and tree stands. The still hunter will probably want to add sling swivel studs and we wish Henry had provided them.
Our primary criticism is that the Henry .30-30 rifle is unnecessairily heavy for the cartridge, a criticism voiced by everyone on the Guns and Shooting Online staff. For example, Chief Technical Advisor Jim Fleck's comment was, "This thing weighs a ton!" after we got a scope, mount and rings on the Henry. Overstatement to be sure, but it makes the point. A .30-30 carbine with a 20" barrel should have a (bare) catalog weight in the seven pound region. Of course, a reduction in weight would increase the rifle's recoil, but the addition of a good recoil pad would soften the blow to the shooter's shoulder and the result would be a more desirable rifle in the marketplace.
For big game hunting, we preferred the blued steel, round barrel Henry Model H009 reviewed here to the fancy, brass framed version (Model H009B) previously reviewed, although the latter's flashy good looks are hard to deny. However, the steel version is less conspicuous and lighter, making it easier to carry in the field. The Winchester Model 94 and Marlin Model 336 now have a serious competitor in the traditional .30-30 hunting rifle sweepstakes.
Note: A full review of the brass/octagon Henry .30-30 can be found on the Product Reviews page.
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