Henry H015/H015B Single Shot Rifle Cartridge Suggestion: .25-35 Win.
By Chuck Hawks
Regular Guns and Shooting Online readers are probably aware of the Henry H015 series of single shot rifles, introduced in 2017. This is basically the same break-open action as used in the Henry single shot shotguns. (See Henry H015B20 Brass 20 Gauge Shotgun.)
The new rifle line includs the H015 Steel Frame model and the H015B Brass Frame model. Both are stocked in better than average grade walnut with cut checkering on the grip and fore end. The steel frame gun is supplied with a pistol grip stock and recoil pad, while the brass frame gun comes with a straight hand stock and a brass butt plate.
The steel frame version comes with a discreet matte finished receiver, while the brass frame version comes with a highly polished receiver. Both come with a fully adjustable, folding leaf rear sight and a brass bead front sight. They are also drilled and tapped for scope mounts. Barrel lengths are 22 inches in all calibers. The steel frame model was introduced in calibers .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .44 Remington Magnum and .45-70. The brass frame model was introduced in calibers .44 Rem. Mag. and .45-70.
These are relatively conventional break-open rifles, albeit of higher than normal grade. There is an ambidextrous top lever for opening the action and an external hammer with a transfer bar in the hammer face that eliminates the need for a manual safety. An under-bolt keeps the action closed, leaving a clean breech face. An extractor lifts cases from the chamber for easy removal when the action is opened. There is no ejector, although there should be, as an ejector greatly speeds a repeat shot.
These Henry Single Shot Rifles should not be confused with crudely finished, plastic or hardwood stocked economy rifles of the past (NEF, H&R, etc.). These new Henry's are high quality, nicely turned out, very accurate rifles that (with proper care) will last for generations. They are made entirely of steel, brass and walnut, without any aluminum or plastic parts.
The omission of the high intensity .223, .243 and .308 from the brass frame model is presumably due to their higher SAAMI specified maximum average operating pressure (MAP) of 52,000 CUP. The steel frame is presumably stronger than the brass frame.
However, the Henry brass alloy used in the H015B is much stronger than typical hardware brass. This is the same brass alloy used in the Henry .30-30 lever action rifle and the .30-30 cartridge is specified at a MAP of 38,000 CUP. The .44 Magnum has a MAP of 40,000 CUP, which is 3,000 CUP higher than the 37,000 CUP of the .25-35.
One would think, therefore, that the brass frame Model H015B could safely be chambered for any of the Winchester cartridges based on the .38-55 case (.25-35, .30-30, .32 Win. Special and .38-55), and in particular the .25-35 that is the subject of this article. All of these cartridges could, and should, also be offered in the steel frame Model H015.
The .25-35 Cartridge
An important advantage for use in a single shot rifle is the .25-35's rimmed case. A rimmed case gives the extractor of a break-open action better purchase to remove slightly oversize or stuck cases from the chamber. In addition, the .25-35 case has considerable body taper, which also makes extraction easier.
The .25-35 is based on a necked-down version of the .30-30 case and was designed for use with smokeless powder. It was introduced in the Winchester Model 1894 lever action rifle and became popular as a combination varmint/deer/antelope cartridge, much as the .243 Winchester is today.
The .25-35 was the highest velocity, flattest shooting cartridge offered in the Model 1894 and it was also offered in Marlin and Savage lever actions, as well as a number of single shot rifles. In Europe it is known as the 6.5x52R and it became reasonably popular in double barreled rifles and drillings.
The traditional ballistics of the .25-35 Winchester called for a 117 grain flat point bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2300 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 1375 ft. lbs. At 100 yards the numbers were 1910 fps and 945 ft. lbs. The mid-range trajectory over 200 yards was a reasonable 4.6 inches. This may not sound impressive today, but at the time it was regarded as quite adequate for deer and pronghorn antelope and, in fact, it still is.
Higher velocity .25 caliber cartridges, such as the .250 Savage and .257 Roberts, were introduced later and the .25-35 gradually fell from favor. It was eventually dropped from the Model 94 line, I believe around WW II. However, Winchester and others continued to offer factory loaded ammunition.
In recent years the .25-35 has been making a modest comeback. In 2005 it returned to the Winchester Model 94 line in the Trails End Hunter and it is now offered across the revitalized Winchester Model 94 Angle-Eject line. It would be a natural in the Henry H015 Single Shot Rifle series, as well as the Henry H009 lever action rifle series. Perhaps most important, Hornady has introduced a LEVERevolution .25-35 load that easily exceeds the performance of all previous .25-35 ammunition offerings.
The current, somewhat attenuated, Winchester Super-X factory load calls for a 117 grain Power-Point (flat point) bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2230 fps. The muzzle energy of this load is 1292 ft. lbs. and at 100 yards the remaining energy is 904 ft. lbs., making this a very light kicking woods deer cartridge, outstanding for beginning shooters.
According to the Hornady Handbook, 10th Edition reloaders can duplicate the original, more powerful, 2300 fps load with Hornady's 117 grain Round Nose bullet (BC .243) in front of 25.3 grains of Norma 202 powder or 25.7 grains of LEVERevolution powder. Hornady describes this as, ". . . a very deadly game bullet that will not only buck the brush well but will expand easily even at low remaining velocities."
At 100 yards this bullet is traveling at 1965 fps and retains 1003 ft. lbs. of energy. At 200 yards the velocity is still 1668 fps and the energy 723 ft. lbs. The trajectory of this load is as follows: 1.5" at 50 yards, +2.5" at 100 yards, +1.4" at 150 yards, -2.5" at 200 yards and -9.4" at 250 yards.
Clearly, with a traditional 117 grain flat point bullet the .25-35 is adequate for shooting deer and similar size animals out to beyond 150 yards, where the remaining energy is about 867 ft. lbs. Small deer species and pronghorn could legitimately be taken at 200 yards, which is within the point-blank range of a 25-35 rifle. The recoil of this load in a 7.5 pound rifle is a very low 5.8 ft. lbs.
Better than either the Super-X 117 grain FP factory load, or maximum reloads using similar bullets is the Hornady LEVERevolution factory load. This uses a 110 grain FTX boat-tail spitzer bullet (BC .340) at a MV of 2425 fps and ME of 1436 ft. lbs. At 100 yards the numbers are 2181 fps/1162 ft. lbs. and at 200 yards they are 1952 fps/930 ft. lbs. Zeroed at 200 yards, the mid-range rise is 3.3". The recoil energy in a 7.5 pound rifle is only about 6.0 ft. lbs.
Reloaders can duplicate this load using the FTX bullet and LEVERevolution powder, achieving muzzle velocities as high as 2500 fps from a 20" barrel, according to data from the 10th Edition of the Hornady Handbook. (Of course, reloaders with a single shot rifle can develop similar loads using any .257 spitzer bullet they like, as there is no tubular magazine to worry about.) The LEVERevolution factory load and equivalent reloads make the .25-35 an effective 200 yard deer cartridge in modern rifles.
Single shot rifles are not just the choice of experienced hunters. Because they are the safest of all action types, they are also an ideal choice for beginning hunters. This is particularly true for the high quality, yet moderately priced, Henry Single Shot Rifles. In addition, beautiful rifles never go out of style.
Offhand, I can think of no better combination for beginning or recoil sensitive shooters hunting Class 2 game than the .23-35 LEVERevolution load in a Henry H015 series rifle. I think a lot of experienced shooters and hunters would also see its advantages; I know I do.
Copyright 2018 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.