Henry Golden Boy .17 HMR Rifle
By Chuck Hawks with Bob Fleck
As part of our ongoing series of reviews of .17 HMR rifles we requested the consignment of one of Henry Repeating Arms Company's Golden Boy rifles (Model H004V). This is the same model of rifle that became the first rimfire ever to win the "Rifle of the Year" award back in 2001.
In due course our Golden Boy rifle arrived. It was nicely packaged and well protected from the rigors of shipping. The rifle's gleaming receiver was even covered by an elastic black felt sock for transport, a nice touch. Included with the rifle were the usual items, along with an easily understood Owner's Manual.
When we removed the new Golden Boy from its box, the entire Guns and Shooting Online staff was impressed with its beauty. All that glitters is not gold, but the Henry's "Brasslite" receiver certainly makes it stand out in a crowd. We were also impressed by its excellent feel. It balances between the hands (right beneath the ejection port) and has enough weight to hold steady without being a burden to carry in the field.
This eye-catching .17 sports a shiny receiver (whatever Brasslite is, it looks like brass) and solid brass buttplate, set off by a select American black walnut stock and a blued hammer, lever, trigger, bolt, barrel and magazine tube. The octagon barrel is equipped with a Marble's adjustable buckhorn rear sight and a post front sight with a flat-faced brass bead. The only slightly jarring feature is the shiny black barrel band that secures the front of the forend. It is made from an alloy and its finish doesn't match the rest of the rifle.
We are probably not the first people to notice the shiny barrel band, as a brass replacement barrel band is available from Henry RAC. If this were my rifle, I'd definitely order the replacement brass barrel band. If I owned Henry RAC, I'd make the brass band standard on the Golden Boy.
In order to preserve the beauty of the Brasslite receiver, the top of the Golden Boy's receiver is devoid of the usual 3/8" dovetail scope rails. This is a departure, as the regular (blue/black finish) Henry Lever Action rifles do have grooved receivers. These "tip-off" scope mount grooves make scope mounting a simple and inexpensive operation. The top of the Golden Boy's smooth Brasslite receiver is pretty, but we would have preferred a grooved receiver and convenient scope mounting.
Here are the basic specifications of the Henry Golden Boy .17 HMR rifle:
Operationally, the Henry is a traditional, external hammer, lever action rifle. The safety is a "quarter cock" hammer position. With the hammer in the safety notch the trigger cannot be pulled. The bolt is equipped with dual extractors, and a fixed ejector flips the fired case from the action near the forward end of the long throw lever's travel. The trigger does not move with the lever. The Golden Boy is a modern rifle, but it looks and operates like a classic 19th Century lever action.
One thing that should be mentioned is the smoothness of the Henry action. It is exceptionally smooth and tight. There is no lever wobble in any position. A person familiar with lever action rifles can fire a Henry very rapidly, as I demonstrated to my own satisfaction at the range.
The trigger was initially commendably light, but gritty with a lot of travel before let-off. I measured the weight of pull at 3 1/8 pounds by my RCBS Premium Pull Gauge. However, with use it smoothed and lightened dramatically. By the end of our testing the grit and most of the travel had disappeared and the pull weight measured only 2 1/8 pounds. This is extraordinary for a modern production rifle.
To mount a scope on a Golden Boy, one must order a Henry cantilever scope base, which mounts to the barrel forward of the receiver. This rather ungainly mount puts the scope higher than would otherwise be necessary and definitely detracts from the otherwise clean lines of the rifle. It is available directly from Henry, but not at my local dealer. So, for the first time, we decided to test a .17 HMR rifle with its supplied iron sights.
That turned out to be unfortunate, because it made it impossible to compare the Henry's shooting results with the other .17 HMR rifles we have reviewed on Guns and Shooting Online. I say unfortunate because the Henry did so well with its simple iron sights that Bob and I regretted that we were unable to see what it could do with a proper telescopic sight. We both felt that it would be in the "upper division" of all .17 HMR rifles in accuracy.
Our shooting was done at the Izaak Walton outdoor rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility provides 25, 50, 100, and 200 yard target positions, along with sturdy bench rests and covered firing positions. The weather was typical of autumn in Western Oregon, with high temperatures in the upper 50's to low 60's and gray skies. Wind was not a factor on the days we were shooting the Henry.
Due to the fact that we were shooting with the inefficient and hard to see factory supplied iron sights, all test shooting was confined to 25 and 50 yards. The front sight is fine, but the tiny rear notch of the buckhorn rear sight was especially difficult for our middle-aged eyes to make out, and the useless "ears" of the rear sight tended to obscure the surrounding area.
I have never understood why buckhorn style sights are still supplied on modern rifles. The Patridge (square front blade/square rear notch) type open sight is better, and an aperture (peep) sight is far more accurate as well as faster and easier to use. The folks at Henry, Marlin, Winchester, et al should meet with Buck Hibbard of One Ragged Hole sights, who offers a neat peep sight replacement for buckhorn sights.
We used a Caldwell Lead Sled weighted with 50 pounds of bagged shot for stability from the bench rest. Needless to say, recoil from the little .17 HMR cartridge was practically non-existent.
We used standard NRA 100 yard small bore rifle targets, because they provide a big and relatively easy to see black bull. Old eyes and an inefficient type of rear sight made these high visibility targets desirable.
Guns and Shooting Online regular Bob Fleck and I did the shooting. Two brands of ammunition were used, both loaded with 17 grain bullets. These were CCI (Speer TNT JHP bullet at an advertised MV of 2525 fps) and Remington Premier (Rem. AccuTip-V bullet at an advertised MV of 2550 fps). Groups were 5-shots each, and because we were using iron sights we did not score flyers. Here are the 25 yard shooting results.
AVERAGE GROUP SIZE FOR ALL BRANDS OF AMMUNITION = .4375" (1.75 MOA).
Frankly, I think that these are excellent results with iron sights. At 50 yards the groups widened due to the increased demands on our Mk. 1 eyeballs and the increased aiming error, but the results were still very good. I shot a 1 1/8" 5-shot group from the bench rest, and a 2 1/8" 6-shot group from a mixed variety of field positions (3-shots standing, 2-shots sitting, 1-shot prone). The Golden Boy handles as good as it looks, a product of its nearly ideal weight, balance and slender lines.
The Henry Golden Boy is a deadly rabbit and squirrel rifle just as it comes out of the box, and the shooter who prefers open iron sights simply could not go wrong with one of these beautiful rifles. Those who want or need to mount a scope on their .17 HMR rifle would do well to purchase the special Henry Varmint Express model and forego the beauty of the brasslite receiver in favor of a grooved receiver and a Monte Carlo stock designed to align the shooter's eye with a telescopic sight. For scope users, the Varmint Express more than makes up in function what it sacrifices in aesthetics.
While not dirt cheap, the Henry Golden Boy is certainly not expensive, either. Based on its MSRP, I'd call it a medium priced rimfire rifle. But very few rimfire rifles offer its combination of classic good looks, reasonable price, smooth operation, superb handling, and deadly accuracy.
Henry's company motto is, "Made in America and priced right." We completely agree. The Golden Boy is a terrific value.
The Henry Golden Boy reviewed here ended up staying in our possession and we decided, with the kind permission of the nice folks at Henry RAC, to make it something of a project rifle by fitting a Henry cantilever mount and a Leupold VX-II 3-9x32mm EFR rimfire varmint/target scope and making other modifications (including installing an adjustable comb in the stock) that we felt necessary to make the Golden Boy into a first string varmint hunting rifle. You can find the resulting article, "Henry Golden Boy .17 HMR Varmint Rifle" in the Rifle Reviews and Articles section of the Rimfire Guns and Ammo Page.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2005, 2015 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.