Henry Big Boy Rifles

By Chuck Hawks

Henry Big Boy Rifle
Illustration courtesy of Henry Repeating Arms Co.

The lever action Henry Big Boy was introduced in 2001 as a .44 Magnum caliber carbine. It was widely acclaimed for its beautiful brass receiver, octagon barrel and smooth action. That year the Big Boy was awarded the Guns and Ammo "Gun of the Year Award."

The .44 Magnum Big Boy was followed by a .45 Long Colt version, appearing identical except for caliber. In 2006, the .357 Magnum Big Boy was introduced. All three share the same basic features, including a select walnut stock, octagon barrel, mirror polished brass receiver, brass "carbine" style butt plate and brass forend/barrel band.

They also share an exceptionally smooth lever action. This action has much more in common with a Marlin 336 action than with anything designed by B. Tyler Henry. Key features include a round breechblock, rear locking bolt, two piece firing pin, Marlin type ejector, side ejection, and solid top receiver. The mechanics of the lever system are very similar to a Marlin 336, including the lever plunger and trigger lock system that requires that the action be fully closed and locked before the trigger can be pulled.

While the Marlin action uses a hammer half-cock notch and a crossbolt safety, the modern Henry action uses a transfer bar located in the hammer face to keep the rifle "safe." The transfer bar positively prevents discharge unless the hammer is first fully cocked. That can be accomplished by thumb cocking if the chamber is loaded or working the lever action if it is not.

The rifle automatically returns to a safe condition after firing or if the hammer is manually lowered. Be sure to remove your finger from the trigger as soon as the hammer is released, so that the gun cannot fire accidentally if your thumb should slip while lowering the hammer.

Henry stocks their rifles in select black walnut. If you notice the photos in the Henry catalog you will see that most of the rifles pictured are stocked in handsome walnut and a few are exceptional. The Big Boy rifle that we reviewed (that article is on the Product Review Page) came with spectacular walnut, far better than average.

Here are the basic specifications of the Henry Big Boy rifle:

  • Type - Lever action repeater
  • Calibers - .357 Magnum/.38 Special, .44 Magnum/.44 Special, .45 Colt
  • Magazine capacity - 10 rounds
  • Barrel - 20" octagonal
  • Sights - Brass bead front, Marbles adjustable semi-buckhorn rear
  • Finish - Brass receiver, buttplate, and barrel band; polished blue barrel, magazine, loading gate, lever, hammer, trigger, and all screws
  • Stock - Select walnut buttstock and forend with satin finish
  • Overall length - 38 1/2"
  • Length of pull - 14 1/8" (to center of buttplate)
  • Weight - 8.68 pounds
  • 2013 MSRP - $899.95

Henry RAC offers a cantilever scope mount that attaches to the barrel (rather than the top of the receiver) for the Big Boy. Unfortunately, they don't drill and tap their barrels to receive it. This makes mounting a scope something that requires a trip to the gunsmith, with the attendant delay and extra expense. Henry RAC really needs to rectify this oversight.

The .357 Mag. and .45 LC versions of the Big Boy are really pleasant to shoot, generating only about 4 ft. lbs. of recoil energy when shooting full power factory loads. They are fun guns for informal target shooting and plinking, so much so that I couldn't resist buying our .357 test rifle for my personal use. The .357 Magnum is a viable 100 yard deer cartridge with appropriate ammunition, such as full power factory loads with 158 or 180 grain bullets, both of which our test rifle shoots very well.

The .44 Magnum Big Boy is a somewhat different story, as the more powerful cartridge exacts a considerably higher price in recoil. The .357's approximately 4 ft. lbs. of recoil energy becomes approximately 10.3 ft. lbs. in a .44 Mag. Big Boy shooting full power 240 grain loads. That is comparable to the recoil of the .30-30 rifle cartridge in a gun of similar weight, and the .30-30 is a 200 yard plus deer cartridge instead of a 100 yard plus cartridge like the .44 Mag.

Note: A complete review of the Henry Big Boy .357 Rifle can be found on the Product Reviews Page.

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Copyright 2006, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.