Henry .410 Lever Action Shotgun H018-410R
By Chuck Hawks and the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Perhaps the most exciting new shotgun introduction of 2017 was the Henry .410 Lever Action. The new lever action shotguns and the new break-open single shot shotguns are both made in the new Henry factory in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. The lever action .410 sales took off like a rocket, dominating the production schedule to the extent they delayed the availability of the Henry H015B20 break-open guns.
A Very Brief Lever Action Shotgun History
The long but thin history of lever action shotguns is kind of interesting. The first commercially successful repeating shotguns of any type was the Winchester lever action Model 1887, designed by John Browning for Winchester. Intended only for black powder loads, the Model 1887 was offered in 12 and 10 gauge with 30.25" and 32.25" barrel lengths, respectively. However, the 1887 was also offered in riot gun configuration with a 20" barrel and was popular with prison guards, railroad security, watchmen, express messengers and for home defense. I believe a limited number of modern Model 87 reproductions are still being made, most notably by Chiappa of Italy.
The Winchester Model 1901 was a smokeless powder version of the 1887 and it remained in production until 1920. It was offered in 10 gauge only with a 32" barrel and was primarily a waterfowl gun.
Ithaca offered their Model 66 lever action, single-shot shotgun from 1963 until 1978. It was made in 12 gauge, 20 gauge and .410 bore. Being a lever action rifle fan, I though these were pretty neat in the 1960s.
Winchester introduced a new lever action .410 shotgun, the Model 9410, in 2001. It was based on their Model 94 rifle action adapted for .410 bore, 2-1/2" shotgun shells. I remember it created quite a stir at the SHOT Show that year. However, it was too little and too late to save the old New Haven factory, which was closed in 2006 by the Belgian FN Herstal Group that had purchased Winchester a few years previously. Shells were loaded into the tubular magazine through a loading gate in the right side of the receiver in a manner similar to a .30-30 Model 94 rifle. This caused difficulties loading the fat, blunt .410 shot shells. The trigger was reported to be very heavy and the lever had to be held tight against the bottom tang to allow the gun to shoot, but otherwise the Model 9410 apparently functioned okay.
Adler Arms (Adler Silah Sanayii) makes a modern 12 gauge lever action shotgun in Turkey, which has become popular in Australia since the Aussie government banned the average shooter from owning pump and autoloading shotguns. The Adler 110 receiver looks rather like a Browning Silver and the gun loads from the bottom and works essentially like a lever operated pump gun.
The latest lever action shotgun, and the best, is the Henry H018-410 that is the subject of this review. Introduced in 2017, Henry has corrected the faults that drew shooter complaints in the Winchester Model 9410 design and, like all Henry lever actions, the H018-410 is smooth, strong and reliable. This is an adult shotgun experienced shooters will like.
The .410 Bore
.410 shotguns are often sold as beginners' guns, due to their mild recoil, but they throw so little shot that they are very difficult with which to bring down flying birds and clay targets. One must be fast and accurate to score with a .410. .410 field guns are mostly useful for ground sluicing brush bunnies and squirrels at short range. The .410, unlike other shotguns, is named for its actual bore diameter. The .410 bore would be a 67 gauge in conventional shotguns terms. (For comparison, a 12 gauge is a .729 bore.)
Back in the 1960s I owned a couple of .410 shotguns. The first was a used 1940s vintage Stevens/Savage combination gun with a .22 LR rifle barrel over a .410 bore shotgun barrel. I discovered a combination gun is neither fish nor fowl; by which I mean it is neither a very good rifle nor a good shotgun and I got rid of the Stevens.
A year or two later I bought a used, 1960s vintage Noble long recoil action (Browning A-5 type) autoloading .410 shotgun. Like most .410 field guns, this had a full choke bored barrel and I discovered I was simply not good enough with its small, short range pattern to reliably kill flying birds. I also found the "double kick" of the long recoil action distracting, so sold it and gave up on .410 shotguns in general.
Like any shotgun with a full choke barrel, a .410 throws a small, tight pattern at short range. Because there are only half as many pellets in a 1/2 ounce .410 shell as in, say, a one ounce 12 or 20 gauge shell, by the time the .410 pattern opens to a 30" circle, it is thin and much less likely to bring down a game bird or break a clay target.
Most of us here at Guns and Shooting Online have long regarded .410 bore shotguns as specialized guns for expert shooters. If you are fast enough and accurate enough, you can bring down ariel targets with a .410 shotgun. At the 2017 Poco Loco .410 Skeet Shoot, hosted by the St. Joe Valley Conservation Club of Indiana, the High Overall winning score was 397 (out of 400 targets). Second place was 386x400 and third place was 385x400. That is pretty good shooting with any shotgun, although top 12 gauge skeet shooters often break 400x400 targets.
Skeet shooting is a short range game, which is why .410 guns can be used successfully. The typical skeet choke is designed to throw a 30 inch diameter pattern at 21 yards. Number 9 lead shot is the popular choice for skeet shooting, as it means more pellets (about 292) in a 1/2 ounce .410 shell and they deliver enough energy to break the fragile clay targets.
For upland bird hunting, 2-1/2" .410 shells with number 6, 7-1/2, or 8 lead shot are the usual choice. I/2 ounce of lead shot is about 205 #8 pellets, 175 #7-1/2 pellets and 112 #6 pellets. For comparison, a typical high brass, 1-1/4 ounce 12 gauge shell holds 281 #6 shot. Bear in mind that most standard target and field loads, regardless of gauge, are loaded to about the same velocity (around 1200-1300 fps), so each individual pellet of a given size has the same energy and killing power, regardless of the gauge gun from which it was fired.
However, the Henry lever action that is the subject of this review also has a more serious application, as a home defense gun. The traditional .410 rifled slug weighs 1/5 ounce (87 grains) and has a catalog MV of 1830 fps. The traditional .410 buckshot load launches three 000 buckshot (.36 caliber) at a MV of 1300 fps. (Winchester figures for typical shotgun barrels.) Both of these loads can be safely fired in choked barrels, although cylinder bore barrels usually provide the best accuracy performance.
Oddly, the commercial success of the unwieldy Taurus Judge .410/.45 Colt revolver (and the Smith & Wesson Governor copy) has resulted in new .410 2-1/2" shells intended specifically for defensive applications. These new loads are, of course, more effective from a true shotgun, such as the Henry, than from a 3" rifled revolver barrel.
The Henry Lever Action .410 Shotgun
The Henry H018-410 shotgun is based on the Henry .45-70 lever action rifle. This is an all steel and walnut gun. There are no plastic or aluminum alloy parts. Like all Henry firearms, it is "Made in America or Not Made at All" and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
The Henry lever action shotgun is available with a 20" carbine length, cylinder bore barrel with rifle sights (Model H018-410R), or with a 24" plain barrel threaded for screw-in choke tubes of the Browning Invector type (Model H018-410). The latter is supplied with a Full choke tube installed. Most owners will want to purchase additional choke tubes to increase the guns versatility. Briley offers a complete range of Invector type extended choke tubes in .410 bore.
The 24" barrel comes with a typical shotgun bead front sight and no rear sight. The 20" barrel comes with standard Henry rifle sights, a semi-buckhorn adjustable rear sight and post with bead front sight. (See photo at top of page.) There is a contrasting white diamond directly beneath the rear sight's fine notch. With either barrel length, the action and under barrel tubular magazine are the same.
For most hunting and clay target shooting, the 24" barrel would be superior, while the 20" barrel should be just the ticket for a home defense gun, or for shooting buckshot and Foster type rifled slugs at javelina, small predators and the like. The rifle sights make it easy to sight-in with whatever load you prefer. We chose the 20" barrel H018-410R for this review, as we were curious about its utility as a home defense gun.
If you want to use the H018-410R for wing shooting with bird shot loads, you will probably find the rifle sights slow and distracting. After all, when wing shooting you are supposed to focus on the target and not even see the gun's sights. Fortunately, both the front and rear sights are dovetail mounted on the barrel. It would be a simple matter to remove them and replace the front sight with the shotgun bead from the Model H018-410.
The action design is an improved Marlin type with a solid top receiver, round bolt, external hammer and right side ejection. It eschews a receiver mounted cross-bolt safety in favor of a more elegant rebounding hammer with a transfer bar in its face.
The round bolt is secured closed by a falling block that engagers a deep, square notch in the rear underside of the bolt. The short, rear part of the two-piece firing pin is forced out of alignment with the long forward part when the lever is operated, preventing an accidental discharge with the action unlocked. The extractor is a long claw-type spring mounted on the right side of the bolt and the spring loaded ejector is mounted in a groove on the left side of the receiver.
The magazine holds five shells and is loaded by partially removing the brass inner magazine tube and dropping the shells into an appropriately sized cutout in the outer steel magazine tube, much like a .22 rifle. This magazine system completely eliminates the loading difficulties associated with the earlier Winchester Model 9410 shotgun. It also allows unloading any shells remaining in the magazine by completely removing the inner magazine tube and simply dumping out the unfired shells; no need to cycle them through the action. However, if there is a shell in the chamber you will need to operate the lever to eject it, after dumping the magazine.
The single stage trigger pull of our test gun measured five pounds on our RCBS pull gauge. It has a tiny bit of creep with a barely perceptable hitch in the middle of the pull, but it is entirely satisfactory for a shotgun and as good as the triggers in most new rifles.
The solid top receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting optical sights. This is an interesting alternative, especially for an H018-410R intended for shooting buckshot or slugs, whether in the field or for home defense. Mount a compact red dot sight, such as a Leupold Delta Point Pro, and you would have a precise, illuminated aiming point, day or night, with an unlimited field of view.
The receiver and forearm tip have a fine matte blued finish, while the barrel, magazine, lever and trigger have a standard polished blue finish. The bolt is left in the white with a blued extractor.
The genuine American black walnut stock has a gently curved pistol grip. There is single border, two panel, laser cut checkering on the pistol grip and three panel checkering on the forearm. The wood to metal fit is generally good. Blued steel detachable sling swivel studs are mounted on the forearm tip and near the toe of the butt stock. A black, ventilated rubber recoil pad is provided, although it is not necessary on a .410 shotgun that weighed 7 pounds 6.8 ounces on our digital scale. The length of pull is 14" and the gun's overall length is 40-1/2".
We took our H018-410R test gun to the Cottage Grove - Eugene Sportsmen's club in Walker, Oregon to use their patterning board. We did our patterning at 16 yards, which seemed reasonable for a cylinder bore .410 carbine. Guns and Shooting Online staffers Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck, Bob Fleck and yours truly (Chuck Hawks) handled the shooting chores. We fired Winchester AA skeet loads using 1/2 ounce of #9 shot, as well as two buckshot loads and the specialized Winchester Defender home defense load loaded with three thick copper-plated lead Defense Discs (approximately .36 caliber) and 12 copper-plated lead BB (.17") shot (S410PDX3).
The traditional Winchester Super-X buckshot load (XB41000) contains three copper-plated lead 000 pellets at a MV of 1300 fps from a shotgun barrel. The Federal Premium Personal Defense buckshot load contains four copper-plated lead 000 pellets. It was actually developed for .410 handguns (Taurus Judge) and claims a MV of 850 fps from a 3" revolver barrel. This load worked fine in our Henry and undoubtedly the MV is substantially higher from a 20" shotgun barrel.
It is worth noting that 000 buckshot are .36 caliber round balls, the same diameter as used in the Civil War vintage Colt Navy revolver. Wild Bill Hickok carried a pair of Colt Navy revolvers and did most of his gunfighting with them, ending most fights with one or two shots. These .410 buck loads slam the target with three or four similar lead balls, simultaneously, with every shot!
Our test gun came with the rear sight in its lowest elevation notch. Our first shot at the patterning board hit about 3" low at 16 yards. We moved the sight up one notch in elevation and the next shot was centered on the point of aim.
The Super-X #9 target load threw a reasonably uniform, but rather thin, shot pattern at 16 yards, as you would expect from a cylinder bore .410 shotgun. Nevertheless, is was adequately dense to shatter a clay target centered in the pattern. However, if clay targets and upland game are your primary reason for purchasing a Henry .410 shotgun, we suggest the H018-410 with its 24" barrel and interchangeable choke tubes.
The Winchester Super-X 000 buckshot load spread about 8-1/2" and hit the pattern board hard. The Federal Premium personal defense 000 buckshot load only spread about 2" at 16 yards, blowing the center out of the target. These buckshot loads were absolutely devastating and impressed all of us.
The hybrid Winchester Defender disc load was equally impressive. The three Defense Discs (DD) hit the center of the target approximately 3-1/2" apart, while the 12 BB shot spread about 10" across the target. This load is intended to simulate a big bore slug that fragments violently inside the target body, causing tremendous internal damage.
We were all very impressed by these .410 buckshot and Defender loads. None of us had expected a lot from a .410 defense shotgun, but our results patterning these loads changed our minds. We now consider the H018-410R a serious home defense tool.
Based on ballistic gelatin tests we have seen, we would expect the 000 buckshot loads to penetrate deeper than the Defender disc load. In bare gelatin blocks, the Federal Premium Personal Defense 000 buckshot load penetrated about 15" (from a 3" Taurus Judge!), while the Defender disc load penetrated about 10" in Winchester demos. The 000 buckshot loads probably have too much penetration for use in an apartment or duplex.
In addition to bird shot and buckshot loads, Foster type rifled slugs are available in .410 bore. The traditional 2-1/2" rifled slug load, exemplified by the Winchester Super-X load (X41RS5), launches a 1/5 ounce lead slug at a MV of 1830 fps and ME of 651 ft. lbs. Here are the Winchester ballistics for their Super-X .410 1/5 ounce rifled slug slug load.
We also purchased a box of Herter's 1/4 ounce (109 grain) rifled slugs at a catalog MV of 1200 fps at Cabela's. These Herter's shells are made in Italy. Both of these rifled slug loads shot accurately from the test gun at 25 yards and substantially extend the gun's reach.
We found the Henry .410 action to be smooth and reliable. The action can be operated swiftly by anyone used to shooting a lever action rifle. No one complained about the shotgun's relatively crisp, five pound trigger pull. The magazine is easy to load or unload and single shells can be loaded directly into the chamber if the magazine is empty. There were no malfunctions of any kind during our test shooting.
The stock fit our adult male shooters just fine. With an empty magazine, the gun balances about 1-1/4" behind the front of the receiver. With a full magazine it shoulders quickly, swings smoothly and shoots where it points. The rubber recoil pad keeps the butt from slipping when the action is levered rapidly at the shoulder. With its short 20" barrel, the H018-410R carries easily in the field.
The recoil is very mild. This is one shotgun you can enjoy shooting all day long.
The Henry Model H018-410R is a serious, adult size, .410 shotgun. We were especially impressed by its capability as a home defense gun, but whether purchased for hunting or protection, it is a handsome solid steel and walnut gun that will last indefinitely with proper care and can proudly be handed down to future generations.
Note: An version of this review incorporating expanded shooting results is located on the Product Reviews index page.
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.