Gun Review: Henry Repeating Arms Golden Boy

Don’t tell my kids, but I toured Europe on a BMW K100RT motorcycle. The “flying brick” was utterly reliably and Germanically comfortable (tough yet firm). When I returned to base, I looked for something suitable for intra-automobile London commuting AND long-distance tours. I bought a series of motorcycles, from extreme sports machines to urban two-strokes. They were all great bikes, fondly remembered. None lasted more than six months. And then I bought a Harley Davidson Fat Boy. It was slow, loud, ill-mannered, unreliable and woefully lacking in the braking department. And it was the best donorcycle I ever owned. That two-wheeled dinosaur had charisma. Charm. Personality. Presence. It even had nickname. Ditto the Henry Repeating Arms Golden Boy, or, as my family has come to call it, Franny.

I’m not saying that the Golden Boy is a bad gun. Far from it. It’s a thoroughly modern piece in exactly the way that the Harley wasn’t; the gun’s well-made, well-finished and didn’t skip a beat in over 500 rounds of firing. It had no major idiosyncrasies that demanded attention or compromise. OK, one. But I am saying that the Golden Boy’s primary appeal is not rational. How could it be? It’s gold for God’s sake.

I’m not a fan of gold. At the risk of sounding like a snob, gold is for people with less taste than dinner at an English boarding school. Gold is trashy and flashy. It says, oi! You! Look at me! I’ve got money! Money that I made five minutes ago, that I’ll squander on an entire range of tacky, faddish, expensive and nasty crap. What are YOU looking at?

Did you know that NBA Wizards B-baller and firearm felon Gilbert Arenas brought a golden handgun to the Verizon Center locker room? Or that the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun was released in the middle of the Disco Era, and starred the worst of all possible Bonds (Roger “Death by Arched Eyebrow” Moore). Yes, the nickname we’ve bestowed in the Golden Gun refers to the movie’s eponymous villain, Francisco Scaramanga. But we were being ironic.

Need I say more? Why not?

Gold is for people who are paranoid about an economic collapse—and too stupid to realize that guns, bullets, defensible shelter, fresh water, 8000 MREs and enough batteries to power a Nintendo DS for ten years are the best “investment” in any Mad Max scenario. Gold is not a high tech material like platinum or carbon fiber; with a bit of heat and a hammer, you’re good to go. Although Gordon Murray used gold in the engine bay of the coolest car ever made, gold is old-fashioned. Which is, I suppose, the point of the brass-accented Golden Boy.

Lever action rifles are the quintessential “Wild West” long gun. In terms of history, suffice it to say, Wikipedia:

The Henry rifle, invented by Benjamin Tyler Henry, a gunsmith employed by Oliver Winchester in 1860, used a centrally-located hammer rather than the offset hammer typical of muzzleloading rifles, and this hammer was cocked by the rearward movement of the Henry’s bolt. The Henry also placed the magazine under the barrel, rather than in the butt-stock, a trend followed by most tubular magazines since.

For this engineering feat, may the Lord make us truly grateful. For lo, old Hank blessed firearm fanatics with a long gun that’s perfectly practical (unless you’re lying down like a soldier who’s trying to avoid getting shot) and endlessly satisfying. Well, almost endlessly: 15 rounds for the .22 Long Rifle (our test gun), 18 rounds for the .22 Long and 20 rounds for the .22 short.

Load on Monday, fire all week? Yeah, and I bet you can snort just one line of coke too. Anyway, Franny’s magazine capacity ain’t no small thang’, to use the western (Trenton) expression. Not only does she outlast her magazine-fed bolt action or semi-automatic cousins, but reloading the lever action rifle is a lot more fun. Listen to the sound of the bullets sliding in.

Bonus: sliding the magazine tube in and out feels like reloading a muzzle gun. Well, looks like it. If you squint and use your imagination. In fact, I bet the majority of the firearm’s fans fall in love with the Golden Boy because they contemplate the .22 through the rose-colored lenses of imprecise nostalgia. In other words, to consider the Henry Repeating Arms Golden Boy a historical piece of some sort, you have to do a major league suspension of disbelief thing.

For one thing, Henry Repeating Arms is out of Bayonne, NJ. You can’t get any less Wild West than that. (Or can you?) For another, what Westerner in his right mind would own a lever action rifle whose mid-section requires its own felt sleeve to keep it from getting scratched? Maybe somebody at the top of the food chain (whom no one would dream of calling a sissy boy) that wanted to impress his less-educated underlings with something glittery and blatantly impractical.

But definitely not Lucas McCain, the eponymous Rifleman whose working class hero shtick entranced millions of proto (if potential) lever action rifle lovers. In that sense, Franny is an ideal quasi-historical rifle piece for shootists who wouldn’t think twice about buying a retro-mod automobile (i.e. an old design with modern technology). Or engraving words on the back of a Rolex.

What the Golden Boy lacks in authenticity—a term reserved for the minority of gun owners who recognize or care about such things—it gains in operation. Levering the Golden Boy is far more satisfying than any antique lever action rifles I’ve ever fired. It’s as smooth as Carlos Santana’s guitar solo in the song of the same name. It’s as smooth as a river rock. It’s as smooth as the inner thigh of that girl I met when I was— It’s smooth.

Thanks to the mag capacity and first-class machining, levering Franny is endlessly, viscerally satisfying—in a way that Playstation warriors could never imagine. The trigger action matches the camber’s case ejection – reinsertion. It requires just the right amount of effort and travel. Though nose-heavy in the way of such guns, the Golden Boy is a joy to behold, a pleasure (to have and to) hold, and a delight to shoot.

Yes, but what is this thing for? Shooting things obviously, which it does easily and cheaply. But anything that requires a prone position would . . . scratch the gun. And there’s another bright shining fly in the ointment: the Golden Boy’s butt plate. It’s made of the same silky smooth brass that adorns the rest of the weapon. So it slips around on your shoulder. I like checkered butts and I cannot lie. If a rifle’s accuracy is important—which it is—you don’t want a stock that keeps slip sliding away.

It’s a deal killer for me. But then I’d lost me around the third paragraph (even though I now admit that I have a gold tooth). If it were my money, I’d own a cheaper blued-steel version with a scope. (Installing a scope on The Golden Boy would be like putting spinners on an Aston.) That’s a more “honest” and practical gun to my (ever-weakening) eyes, and more effective. While we’re at it, I’d rather something Henry in a larger caliber. But then I believe in the big bang theory of firearm fun, and I can afford the ammo.

That’s a consideration that takes us to an, perhaps “the” important fact: Henry Repeating Arms .22 lever action rifles are awesome youth rifles—as my daughter demonstrates in the video that begins this review. And I use the word “awesome” here in its original, standing mute in front of God’s power (rather than “that hair clip is awesome”). Watching said genetic inheritor learning to shoot on Franny was one of the most sublime moments of my life. I reckon a youth model Henry .22 lever action rifle would offer the real golden moments.

Then again, this.

The man with the golden gun. Sweet. If you like that sort of thing.

Specifications:

Model: H004
Action type: Lever action repeater
Caliber: .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle
Capacity: 16 rounds -.22LR
21 rounds
Barrel length: 20″
Overall length: 38 1/2″
Weight: 6.75 lbs.
Stock: American Walnut
Sights: Adjustable Buckhorn rear, beaded front
Finish: Brasslite receiver, brass buttplate and blued barrel and and metal barrel band
MSRP: $515.00

RATINGS
(Out of five stars)

Style * * *
Gold’s not my thing, but the basic lines define a classic lever gun.

Ergonomics (carry)  * * * *
Nose heavy, as these things are. Over the shoulder, militia style or hanging down. Bonus star for the feel of brass.

Ergonomics (firing)  * * * * *
No appreciable recoil (obviously). Trigger well-weighted, well-judged. Lever action as smooth as your favorite smooth metaphor, if not smoother. The most physical satisfaction you can get (in this genre) with your clothes on. Unless you shoot naked.

Reliability * * * * *
Hundreds of rounds without a catch. Except for duff ammo (listen to the sound of the last shot in the last video). Ejects crap cartridges with ease, although we did use a barrel light after that one.

Customize This *
Nope. Can be done, but don’t.

OVERALL RATING * * *
Great gun. Shame about the finish. Or not, depending on personal preference.

Summary
A “conversation piece” that you can take to the range and fire. And fire. And fire. Etc.

Henry Repeating Arms provided the weapon tested at no charge.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

21 Responses to Gun Review: Henry Repeating Arms Golden Boy

  1. avatarDonal says:

    AIUI, the advantage of gold is that it is resistant to corrosion and easily worked. I don’t dislike gold, but I hate watches and plumbing fixtures that mix gold with silver or chrome. Chrome is good for faucets, and gold and silver for jewelry, but I prefer satin-finished nickel or steel for working machinery.

    BTW, survivalist theory I’ve read is that in a collapse scenario, merchants can’t test and won’t trust the purity of gold bullion, so they won’t give full value. Supposedly therefore, jewelry grade gold is more useful for post-collapse barter than bullion coins.

  2. avatarMartin Albright says:

    I seem to recall that the reason for the “gold” (which is to say, brass) receiver on the old Henry rifle was that it was easier to work and machine than steel.

    I like checkered butts and I cannot lie.

    Great, now I have to clean coffee off my keyboard. Thanks a lot!

  3. avatarMartin Albright says:

    I was perusing the gun section of Gander Mountain the other day (nice thing about GM, the guns are on open racks, albeit tethered by trigger locks, which means you can see and handle the guns. Most other “big box” retailers keep them under lock and key which means you have to bother a sales clerk if you want to examine one.)

    Anyway, looking at the .22′s (which they keep in a section to themselves) I thought it was funny that in terms of types of actions, .22′s go the opposite of centerfire guns. That is, for centerfire guns, the bolt actions and the lever actions are cheaper than the semi-autos. But with .22′s, it’s the semi autos that are cheap and anything with a bolt or a lever you will pay more for.

    Most likely this is because semi auto .22s have a simple, straight blowback design, and are mass produced in large numbers, whereas bolt and lever guns require more fitting and are produced in smaller numbers.

  4. avatarRobert Fure says:

    I have an Uberti 1866 Goldenboy in .38Spcl. Beautiful gun, functions flawlessly. You have to be prepared to pass it around when you pull it out of the case, because everyone wants to get a look at it.

    Even non-gun owners and people who don’t really like guns marvel at it’s classic beauty. Any of the Golden-style rifles are worthy of being wall mounted between uses.

  5. avatarMartin Albright says:

    A bit OT perhaps (maybe worthy of another TTAG piece) but have you ever noticed how “American” the lever action gun is? Look around the world, you see plenty of single shots, bolt actions, side-by-sides, drillings (two shotgun barrels over a rifle barrel) and of course, since the end of WWII a plethora of automatic and semi-automatic rifles from all over the world. Yet, lever guns seem to be unique to the US and Canada. They just never really “caught on” anywhere else.

    • avatarRobert Fure says:

      I think that may have something to do with the lever action rifle never really being adopted for wide-spread military use. Other than the Spencer repeating rifle, I’m not certain any other lever action was officially adopted.

      While other nations didn’t come around on their own to developing a lever action, who knows? Maybe it was due to many other countries facing dwindling wilderness while America was still heading west and firearms were an absolute necessity. America needed guns that could dump ammo, the rest of the world perhaps moved away from sporting arms as they were becoming more of a hobby than a life-saving food-gathering device.

      This would make an interesting article, one I’d love to read.

  6. avatarDawayne W. Boyle says:

    I bought the 22 mag. version my son who is a semiauto fa said i was nuts until i put a center point 3×9 scope on it then after he put 50 rounds threw it he started to smile and now hes saving up for one in 17.hmr we have the blue models and like you say action and trigger pull smooth at 75 yards puts all shots dime size groups resting of course i like the old style things thats why i own a 1981 Harley FXB

  7. avatarPatrick says:

    “Henry Repeating Arms is out of Brooklyn…”

    Henry is not out of Brooklyn, New York. Actually, as evidenced in the barrel photograph in your review (among other places), Henry Repeating Arms is out of Bayonne, New Jersey, which is across the river but worlds away.

    And for the record, Bayonne has quite a lot in common with the old Wild West… at least if you read the police blotter.

    Other than that major geographical error, thanks for a good write up.

  8. avatarKendal Hemphill says:

    Henry Repeating Arms started out in Brooklyn in 1996. It moved to Bayonne, NJ in Sept. 2002. My Golden Boy says BKLYN NY on the barrel.

  9. avatarOnlyKetchup says:

    Great article, very humorous and informative.

  10. avatarVincent Rago says:

    Maybe a point a bit belabored on the brass.

    Some good peep sights for Lever actions from Skinner. If you like the brass, they have that too.

    To me the deal on a Henry Golden Boy is more like a Singer Porsche or an Icon Landcruiser than a Fiat 500 or Mini Cooper, to use an automobile analogy. A better executed traditional design leveraging modern manufacturing versus a modern design styled retro.

    I picked the brass Golden Boy over the octagon barreled Frontier because the lacquered Brasslite is a better finish than the powder coated steel of the “blued” receiver. I always feel like finishes on things we use should “wear in” rather than “wear out.” While I wish the Bras was not lacquered, I think its better than powdercoat in this area.

  11. avatarBurton says:

    Good informative and objective review. You’ve sold me. I’m gettin’ one…
    btw: Real gold is a solid investment but stay away from coins, ingots, bricks, etc. Raw gold, just as it is unearthed will always have appeal and if bought right it will always bring spot or better.

  12. avatarRobt. says:

    Good review once we got past the Gold Tirade (lol)
    I just wonder if the regular blued version has the same capacity.
    I am getting this soon, the S-L-LR flexibility is great and Aguila makes
    a very nice HV round in the Short. Nearly 1100 FPS and decent energy.
    If it holds 20 of these, it’s a nice long hunting trip.
    I would get the “GOLD” if it holds more, capacity is KING!

  13. avatarJohn says:

    Where are they now? Winchester, Browning, etc part made in China, Japan and home based in Belgin. Uberti is not made in the US. Where is the National Rifle of the National Rifle Association? China? Made in Russia, just where is it. Stop where you are look around and see what you have including your computer. Now there is our unemployment problem in the US. What do we make here? We have bought our own unemployment. Now that is just for starters. The Henry Repeating Arms is the real deal. For all you patrotic gun owners who have forign guns what can I say? In September 2013 the 1860 Henry will be released by Henry Repeating Arms. Yes 100% made in USA the quality is tip top on all Henry USA items and they back up everything with the best customer service. Good luck with your China, Japan, Europe, South America guns. I own a Henry Golden Boy made 2013 knowing that I have the finest rifle in it’s class. Made by workers from around the USA and sold by a USA gun shop. Who sells the USA short? the consumer. Buy USA when you can because it starts with me and you. Go Henry!

  14. avatarPhilip Viverito says:

    What ammo can be used in the Henry Golden Boy .38 special? Can I shoot .38 sp +P? in this model. 20 inch barrel length.

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      I’m pretty sure even a +P loaded .38 Sp. has chamber pressures equal to or less than the .357, so you should be fine.

  15. avatarBigdaddy says:

    You come across like an ass…a snobby ass. You stick your nose up over this rifles finish and you go on and on about gold, but yet I see you on youtube like a boy at Christmas time with the gaudy looking bigboy. You need to get over yourself Mr.

  16. avatarGary says:

    The ‘gold’ is what makes it a hommage to the historical Henry and it is why I am gunna get one.

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