The Henry Big Boy Steel carbine in .357 Magnum/.38 Special may the handiest little rifle in the history of the world ever. Weighing in at a total of 6.5lbs and two inches shy of three feet in length, it’s a breeze to carry all day, and maneuvers easily in the tight Dewberry thickets and cedars, where I find most of my hogs.
The carbine comes with swivel studs attached, which is much appreciated. And you’d do well to mount a shooter’s sling on this rifle because once on your shoulder, this little carbine virtually disappears on even the longest outings.
As I have mentioned before, there’s a good reason that our grandparents carried a revolver and a rifle chambered in the same caliber. St. Elmer Keith’s .357 Magnum is another point in favor of the practice. If the terminal effect of a .357 Magnum round is impressive in a pistol — and it is — then that same round from a 16” or 18” carbine-length barrel is absolutely spectacular.
To give you an idea of what the .357 Magnum will do from a rifle, that 158g round that you use in your Ruger Blackhawk with will now produce just barely over 1,000ftlbs of energy from the muzzle from this rifle. The M4 I used in combat firing the standard M855 NATO round will produce barely 100 ft-lbs more, and I’ve seen men killed at 400 yards with it. It takes a skilled marksman to take game at 100 yards with the .357 Magnum carbine, but it certainly can be done.
More likely are deer hunts in states that require a straight wall case, or deer and pig hunts all over the country where brush is thick and the ability to easily maneuver an effective weapon is more important than long range shooting capability.
This, the smallest of the Henry lever guns I’ve reviewed, is also the least adorned. There is no gleaming silver or brass, just a black-blued receiver and barrel, and a quality walnut stock.
The fit and finish is altogether good. The finish being a little better than the fit. The finish is the typical satin black found on most of the steel Henrys. There’s no high polish, but there isn’t meant to be. This is a working gun. Still, there are no sharp edges, no tool marks, and absolutely no unevenness in the appearance. As typical of Henry guns, it’s done quite well.
As for the wood to metal fit, the wood was slightly oversized throughout the gun, and there isn’t a flush fit to the wood/metal points.
The quality of the walnut stock is good, if not exceptional. Then again, I wouldn’t expect it to be at this price.
The barrel is round, not octagonal, and this particular model include the large cocking loop. If I were somewhere cold where I’d be wearing heavy gloves, that big loop would be very welcome.
Unlike many other lever guns, and most of the Henry Rifles, there’s no barrel band on the Big Boy Steel carbine, but a more traditional rifle-style end cap. As the barrel isn’t truly free floated, I doubt that this makes any improvement in accuracy, but seems to be more of an aesthetic choice. The rifle also includes a rubber recoil pad. Although welcome for comfort, I seriously doubt it is required for anyone but the most sensitive shooters. With commercial .357 Magnum loads, the adults I had shoot this gun laughed at the recoil, and even my 12-year-old son was surprised that it didn’t kick.
As with almost every other Henry rifle I have ever shot or reviewed, the action on this little carbine was buttery smooth. I can cycle the action with only my pinky. The trigger is also typical Henry with maybe a millimeter of pre-travel followed by a crisp break.
As with all Henry lever guns, save the Long Ranger, the Big Boy Steel is tube fed, without a loading gate. There’s no cross bolt safety, no half cock and there doesn’t need to be. With the time-proven patented transfer bar, he rifle will only fire if the hammer is fully cocked and the trigger is pulled. That means you can carry safely on a loaded chamber with the hammer down while you stalk.
The sight setup is also a familiar one for me by now, and one I’ve come to very much appreciate.
A bright brass bead front sight with an adjustable semi-buckhorn rear.
The white diamond insert is what seals the deal for me. On a fast-moving target, say a sounder after that first shot takes out the sow, the wide aperature of the rear sight gets me within minute of pig. But when I need that longer or more precise shot, I can use the insert to further align the front sight against, greatly diminishing my group size. It’s a great set up for this kind of rifle.
As usual, I shot this rifle a day after the reliability testing, without cleaning the rifle in any way. Although I like the sight set up, I had a hard time getting the sights into any kind of acceptable focus enough to shoot. Too much time reading Texas Ranger history for an upcoming article had ruined my eyes.
Not wanting to waste a day, I mounted a Weaver K6 scope — easy to do as the receiver is already tapped — and put out a few groups. Three five-round groups all measured under two inches, with the Hornady 125gr XTP round scoring 1.8”.
The next day, after giving my eyes at rest, I tried again and found it much easier to focus. This time, using solely the iron sights, none of my groupings were over 3¼” using any ammunition, and the inexpensive Magtech 158gr JSP printing the best scores at 2.5”. Not bad at all, and more than good enough to hit the vitals at likely distances.
I have heard some horror stories about the .357 Magnum in a lever action rifle as far as reliably loading different rounds. For this particular carbine, those stories proved to be fairy tales. I put 250 rounds through the rifle over four days prior to accuracy testing. Those included, Sellier and Bellot 158gr FMJs, American Eagle 158gr JSPs, Magtech 158gr JSPs, Armscor 125gr FMJs, Hornady 125gr FTXs and Hornady 125gr XTPs.
As a true oddball, I even threw in some old PMC Ultramag .38 Special +P J 66 grain Tubular rounds. As long as I fully cycled the action, there were no problems loading, feeding, or firing any of the rounds. As with all traditional lever action rifles I’ve tested and owned, if I tried to slowly cycle a round, I was able to induce a miss-feed. I lubed the gun prior to the first shot, and then at no point during my review did I clean or lubricate the gun again in any way. The result: no issues.
I had a buddy try the gun who hunts only occasionally, and shoots about as much as he hunts. He fell in the love with the Big Boy Steel. He was hammering plates with ease with at 15, 25 and 50 yards and tried to buy the gun from me. I pointed him to the Henry website.
He wanted one for his truck and the Big Boy Steel is an ideal truck gun. It’s enough gun for even novice shooters out to 50 yards on anything we have native to Texas, and probably enough for all but the biggest of black bears as well. Plus, on the off chance that you should need a firearm for self defense, eight rounds of extra-fast .357 Magnum should be more than enough for anything on two legs you might encounter.
Specifications: Big Boy Steel Carbine .357 Magnum /.38 Spl
Model Number: H012MR
Action Type: Lever
Caliber: .357 Magnum /.38 Special
Capacity: 7+1 rounds
Overall Length: 34 inches
Barrel Length: 16.5 inches
Weight: 6.5 lbs.
Stock: Checkered American walnut
Sights: Fully adjustable semi-buckhorn rear with adjustable white diamond insert and brass beaded front sight
Finish: Blued steel receiver, barrel and lever
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Customization * * * *
Fit and finish are good, if not great. I would have liked a better wood-to-metal fit. I’m a sucker for Henry’s shinier models. Still, you can swap the sights if you want, and it comes tapped for glass with quality swivel studs included. And if you should so choose, better wood is available.
Reliability * * * * *
With a more than fair variety of rounds, the gun loaded, cycled and fired over 300 rounds flawlessly for 310 for this review. That’s (sadly) more than most hunters may ever fire their rifle.
Accuracy * * * *
With iron sights or glass, if you miss the breadbasket on any game at 150 yards or under, it’s all your fault.
Overall * * * *
An absolutely spectacular hunting rifle for swamps and heavy woods. No pig will be safe in its presence. Other calibers available in the same model now include the .45LC, my beloved .44 Magnum. The .327 Federal and .41 Magnum will be available in the Spring of 2017.
Can’t use it. No loading gate.
“Can’t use it.” That’s pretty definite. Funny, JWT didn’t have any problems.
I used to have a Rossi M92 in .357. Loved the way it shot. Despised the loading gate. You had to push those rounds in hard and the gate edge would cut your fingers for your trouble.
Yes, it’s definite. Life’s too short to be wishy-washy.
You’ll be happy to know that since 2017, Henry released a rifle with both a loading gate and a tubular magazine. So you can even compare loading times on the same rifle!
Not too many other options if you want a .357 carb ine. Rossi with it’s hokey safety. Remlin’s still not making the 1894c. One in near new condition will set you back about a grand, and you might get one of the many lemons. Then if you want a large loop you’ll have to get a custom made one and probably need a gunsm ith to fit it. Winch ester is only making the 1892 in .44 magnum. Uberti makes some nice replica lever guns in .357 but they’re well over a grand.
And if you’re looking to reload a full magazine fast the Henry system would probably be faster anyway.
I thought Winchester also still made .45 Colt rifles in the 1892 pattern. I have an older one (from the time when the company was owned by the employees after it was spun off from the ammo company) in .45. And I could swear I cycled a .357 mag at a LGS (very slick, but about $1100). Miroku made, very slick, very nice rifle.
I checked their website because I was pretty sure they weren’t making a .357 but all they had under ‘current production’ was the .44. It’s possible the rotate the production – Ru ger does that with the No.1 with each model getting one caliber that changes every year. (Ru ger also sneaks out distributor exclusives that don’t ever get mentioned on their website.)
I verified that Winchester offers the model 1892 in .357, as well as .44 Mag and .45 LC. There are even models in .44-40. And don’t forget the sweet model 1873 is also in .357 magnum, thank you. MSRP of the 1892 is at $1069. I have one in .44 and love it.
It’s too bad that the Bullard rifle never took off, because it had a remarkably easy loading system. It’s a bit like a modern pump-action shotgun, where you load from the bottom. Just pull the lever down, and the action opens, so you can insert rounds without fiddling with the tube or with a loading gate. Forgotten Weapons has a brief video if you’d like to see how it works.
Maybe someone will make a replica.
“Can’t use it. No loading gate.”
Well that’s a dumb statement. With very little practice, you can fully load the tube on a Henry as fast or faster than you can load through the gate of a 73, 94, 92, etc. Also, you can side load rounds directly into the action of the Henry. Do it all the time in cowboy action. Try that with a 73 or 92. I’ll wait.
The only gripe I have with the Henry Big Boy is that it doesn’t eject with authority. Cases just sort of fall out of the receiver. Thought there was an issue with mine, but I’ve seen other Henrys do the same.
The gun’s not fast and there’s no way to slick it up for competition, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot. And it’s an excellent woods gun.
Well, you’re right that you can’t “side-load” rounds into the action of a ’92, since it’s top-eject. But I’ve never had any problems at all dropping a round into the open top. Is it not supposed to work that way? Is my gun broken?
Try keeping that Henry topped off while it’s snugged into your shoulder in shooting position and on target. I can’t use it because I’m not playing with my guns. You may have different priorities. That doesn’t make ME dumb.
You can hold the Henry in firing position and drop one into the chamber and fire it. Smoothest action of any lever action and the octagon barrel, brass receiver and wood stock are really nice. You seem to have a “turned-up nose” approach to a gun that is tube fed? Why you wanna be like that?????
You sound like a Henry hater. Oh wait I forgot you can’t use them because “you don’t mess around”….LOL.
Do you know how dumb that line of reasoning sounds???
I can. Thanks for saving one for me, Jeff, I wouldn’t trade it for ten lever rifles/carbines, loading gate or not.
Can’t use it or won’t???? REAL men have used bolt action 22 rifles and many of these are tube-fed and most have never had a problem with these. A tube fed can also be loaded really quickly and, you can also load one directly into the chamber through the ejection port if you have to.
Jeff, before you say you “can’t use it” due to a loading tube rather than a side gate (finger guillotine), you should try it yourself, as it may change your mind!
I own a Marlin 1894C (.357 Magnum) and just bought a Henry Big Boy classic in .45 Colt.
The Henry is much easier and even FASTER to load that I’m going to sell my Marlin and get another Henry!
I call the Marlin 1894C loading gate a “finger guillotine” for obvious reasons, and it’s slow, too. It took practice with the Marlin 1894C to figure out the best way to load it (shove one round in 3/4 of the way, leaving just enough outside to keep the gate open, then push another round in behind it), but it was still slow. With the Henry, though, you can drop 10 rounds in there really fast (I’m talking about the 20″ rifle. I know the carbine only takes 7 rounds)!
Won’t try to convince you to change your mind about the loading gate…just give you my 2 cents worth. I’m 63 years old and have hunted my entire life (since about 8 years old) on the frozen tundra of Minnesota and a short stint in North Dakota. As a kid I was constantly being admonished by my Dad to “Keep your damn mittens on!! You want your hands to look like mine?” (As he’d show me his gnarled up, arthritic fingers.). Well, whether it’s from not listening well or just being genetically predisposed, I’ve got those same gnarled up sausage fingers Dad warned me about all those years ago. I’ve also got his old Marlin 336 .30-30 that he bought with his mustering out pay after WWII…loading gate and all. I love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but when it makes its annual trek with me into the November Minnesota deer woods it always makes my fingers ache from the cold (twice per day) and almost always bites the hand that feeds it! My Henrys on the other hand (pun intended) load and unload so much faster and easier that my discomfort is minimized in comparison.
In closing, I respect your choice to stay with lever guns that utilize the more traditional loading gate, but tube feed rifles like the Henrys have their place…at least for Old Curmudgeons like me!!
I have one of em. 4 stars for customization? Don’t think so.
This is a lever action rifle, not an AR. It comes stock with swivel studs and the receiver is tapped. You can change the recoil pad and get different sights and wood from Henry, as well as a few other places. What else would you reasonably expect to change on the rifle?
I’m thinking I should get a dovetail cutter for my wood router, and I could rout some picatinny compatible grooves into the forearm on my Henry .44 mag! Then I could hang neat crap off the side of my lever gun – cool! Could even sell them – maybe call them woodmod, or wlok, or something like that.
There should be a special place in Califo… er, Hell for anyone who would do that to a Henry.
WLOCK…Jesus. You’re going to make millions.
“Warlok” – that’s the ticket! 🙂
Too bad Mooseburg already did it; http://www.mossberg.com/category/series/464-spx-lever-action-centerfire-rifles/
IF I get a lever gun it will be in 357. I seriously like this but I too wonder about Henry having no loading gate.
I thought that way too until I bought my Rossi with a loading gate.
The next lever gun I bought was a Henry without a loading gate.
Pros and cons to each; but if I’m behind an earth berm fighting off hipste … er, savages, I’ll likely have an AR, so being able to reload a tube magazine from prone position isn’t a large concern for me. And the Henry system, while arguably more fragile, is easier on the hands and easier to unload safely.
Must be nice to be able to make those assumptions.
I just picked up the same rifle in .44 Mag last week. It will become my go-to rifle to carry (with my S&W .44 mag revolver) while hiking and foraging for berries or mushrooms in the Cascades. Also, figured it would be a socially acceptable self defense firearm to take in our travel trailer to foreign countries like California, and perhaps British Columbia (need to check the regs on that….)
Not much availability of after-market iron sights. Skinner makes a set, and Williams says their peep sight for a Marlin 336 will fit it. You can also install a tang-mounted sight, but you’ll end up drilling a hole through the serial number.
+1 on the Skinner peep sights. I have a set on my 1894C, and they’re head and shoulders above the buckhorn setup. Excellent customer service, too. I buggered up the set screw on the sight, and emailed the owner asking for specs so I could buy one locally. He sent me a new set screw (including the little lead balls for in front of the set screw) at no charge.
And, spot on regarding the ballistics. The numbers I chronoed for one particular load across three firearms are:
Ruger GP-100 (4.2″ barrel) : 1167 fps / 478 ft-lbs
Ruger Blackhawk (9.5″ barrel) : 1405 fps / 693 ft-lbs
Marlin 1894C (18.5″ barrel) : 1755 fps / 1081 ft-lbs
I’ve only shot one deer with that 1894 so far (at 50 yards), but it pretty much dropped where it stood.
What was your bullet weight that you chronographed?
Sorry, that would have been helpful! It was a 158gr JSP.
Those were handloads using a 1gr less than max load of 300-MP.
I prefer my Marlin 1894C. It’s 1/2 pound lighter, holds more rounds (9+1 rounds of .357 Magnum, or 10+1 rounds of .38 Special for us Cowboy Action Shooters who need 10 rounds of .38 Special), has an 18.5″ barrel for more velocity and a better sight radius, is still only 36″ long, and has a loading gate for topping off the magazine in the midst of a gunfight with outlaws at the O.K. Corral! Yep, you get a lot for those two extra inches in length when you get the Marlin 1894C. My Marlin 1894C is old enough to be JM stamped, before Remington took over Marlin and started making Remlins or Marlingtons, and it feeds reliably, is easy to field-strip for cleaning, has side-ejection, and is drilled and tapped for scopes or red dot sights. I wouldn’t trade it for a Henry.
The older Marlin’s are great guns. I have had many, including the model you reference. I killed a lot of pigs with that gun. The new Marlins? Not so much. I prefer the tube feed as opposed to the loading gate. For shootouts at the OK Coral, maybe the loading gate has a place. For hunting and other likely real world applications, the tube feed is the way to go. It’s safer and far less time consuming to load and unload the full magazine, and you don’t end up picking your rounds up out of the dirt and mud when you unload it.
I bought a 336BL about a year ago and found the quality to be everything you’d ask for in a rifle in that price range. It took a while but I think Remington’s finally getting it right.
One other advantage to the Henry system is that you don’t mar the bullets when you load them, which could adversely effect both accuracy and terminal performance.
“It took a while but I think Remington’s finally getting it right. ”
Well that is very good news. I’ll have to get one and pull it apart to take a look.
The one gripe would be the trig ger still sucks, which as I understand it they always did. So I installed a Wild West trig ger myself. Not enough of an expert on the innards of a lever action to say if everything was kosher or not. Fit and finish was pretty nice though.
I’ve got a 336Y and an 1895 SBL. The 336Y (circa 2014) finish isn’t great, being some sort of parkerized looking matte blue, but it is very cheap and the laminate stock is beautiful. No complaints on function, cycles smooth and is easy minute of pie plate at 100 yards standing.
The 1895 (2016) SBL is absolutely lovely. The only thing I could fault if I really stretch is you can see tool marks inside the receiver. Its a work of art and made me fall in love with reloading the 45-70 with Unique w/ cast 405gr that copies the original BP load, magic.
I’d check it out before you accept it in case you get an early Remlin Lemon, but the new ones are good.
Too bad Remlin doesn’t make them anymore. (And they never did off one with the big loop.)
This is on my short list of firearms to buy, although I could opt for the .44 magnum.
According to Buffalo Bore they get 2150fps and over 1600ft/lbs out of an 18.5″ Marlin with their 158gr. I take their numbers with a grain of salt, but it’s fair to say that at close range with full power .357 loads you should get a little more pop out of it than an M4.
I have no problem with fitting the wood proud, but that pic of the butt stock to receiver fit is pretty bad.
“but that pic of the butt stock to receiver fit is pretty bad.”
I too, was disappointed.
Not that it takes it off my list. But it might be enough to send me to the LGS instead of ordering one online.
We run Buffalo Bores heavy .357 in a Rossi 16″ lever gun.
Velocities over chronograph were very close to what Buffalo Bore had advertised. They are some hot rounds, have dropped a couple Bambis with that combo so far, very pleased.
Having no loading gate means that loading is a slower process and that the rifle can’t be easily topped off.
Loading through the tube also means that the skin on the shooter’s thumb won’t be shaved raw by the vegetable shredder known as the loading gate.
The Henry Spee-D-Loader holds a full recharge of .22LR in each of its eight (eight!) separate chambers, and reloads are much faster than any loading gate. I’m hoping speed loaders will become available for hunting calibers.
Until then, I pay in blood for the loading gate on my Winchester.
“Having no loading gate means that loading is a slower process”
For two rounds, like topping off the rifle, absolutely. But for an entire magazine, I’ve tried it back and forth with my 94s and with Henry’s, and there is rarely even a 2 second difference.
I wish they could do both, but having to choose, I would take Henrys system. The reason is that if I need more then 8 rounds hunting, those are some dumb animals and/or I need to sight in the gun.
If it takes more than 8 rounds for self defense, those are also some dumb animals.
Push all but the last round half way in, then use the next round to push it all the way in. So only the last round can suffer a loading gate attack. Then take a fine needle file and lightly smooth the outside forward edge of the loading gate–just enough to take the sharp edge off. I haven’t been bitten yet by my Winchester.
You can make your own crude tube speed loader from pieces of 1/2″ CPVC pipe with end caps.
I’ve had no problem with the gate on my lever rifle. But they could make everyone happy by putting both systems on the same rifle. Top off through the gate and do everything else at the other end.
I’d like to see the .327 Federal on the chronograph, the round is a screamer out of a handgun much less with more barrel behind it.
According to Ballistics By The Inch website, American Eagle 100 grain jacketed soft point .327 Magnum would launch out of a 16 to 18 inch barrel around 2,150 feet per second … which is around 1,000 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
That is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
That’s only a hair faster then .30 Carbine, though you probably have more bullet choices.
I’m saving my money for the lever action .460 S&W/.454 Casull/.45 Long Colt/.45 Scofield model.
Other than Big Horn Armory’s Model 90, the least exensive of which runs about $3k, does anyone else make a .460/454 lever gun?
RF has one of their “Spike Drivers” and I love it. That Model 90 and a .45Linebaugh would be the only guns a hunter would ever need in the western hemisphere. That, some patience, and quiet boots.
Rossi does make 92 in .454.
If only the barrel were factory threaded…
Teddy Roosevelt used a suppressed Winchester ’94. That rifle has class.
You’ll be happy to hear that since your post in 2017, Henry released a lever action with a threaded barrel.
For those of you who roll your own ammo, it’s fun to experiment with different powders to get the most out of that long barrel. In other words, the best .357 powder for your Ruger LCR and its 2 inch barrel is certainly not the best powder for an 18 or 20 inch barrel. Forget the velocities listed in the recipe books, they don’t apply here.
Try a slow burning handgun powder. Blue Dot will put some serious kick behind a 158 grain pill in a .357 Magnum.
BD is a very interesting powder, I’ve been playing with it in 9mm. Certainly has a learning curve, but my 9mm AR likes it a lot better than the faster burning pistol powders like BE or Titegroup.
If you want to impress your friends, Blue Dot will produce a nice blue flame out the muzzle of a pistol, with a report to go with it. It’s still burning after the bullet is gone.
It would theoretically give you the same velocity boost in a 9mm carbine as it does in a .357 carbine.
One of my favorite loadings of Accurate #9 pushes a 158 grain projectile 1715 FPS from a 20″ Rossi 92. I cronographed it in very cold weather, without magnum primers. I need to do more shooting in the summer when it’s warm out.
I love the Henrys, but I’ve never been able to figure out why they’re so heavy*. My Rossi 92 is almost identical in size, has a longer magazine tube (holds 8 rounds instead of 7), and the Henry outweighs it by a full pound. I don’t think the cutout for the loading gate weighs that much 😉 , so what gives?
* “Heavy” being a relative term. a 6.5 lb rifle in this length is still very handy, but a 5.5 lb is even more so…
If that’s the case, then why? These pistol rounds are all relatively low-pressure, by rifle standards. Making the barrel heavier doesn’t seem necessary, nor does it seem to offer any real advantages.
Heavier barrel will have fewer problems with stringing rounds due to heat (a serious problem with my Marlin, not so much with my Taurus/Rossi). Also, heavier barrels tend to be a bit more accurate than skinny tubes (though the shooting results shown here are a bit spooky for ‘accuracy’, the potential is there).
If I didn’t have enough .357 rifles already, I might consider one of these, especially since Henry really does make a great rifle. Though $900 is a bit spendy for an occasional shooter.
The Brass/octagon rifles weigh a bunch more as well.
I like it, but I think I’m still leaning more toward the .44 model. The compactness sure seems nice though.
You can get the rifle in the exact same length but in .44. When it comes to pure ballistics, the .44Magnum in a rifle length barrel is really shocking. It is still producing 1,000ftlbs of energy at 100 yards.
That’s good to know. Really, really good to know.
My momma gave me $$ for my 50th birthday and I bought a Henry Big Boy Steel in .357 Magnum 20″ back in December. I’ve shot 300+ rounds of .357 158gr Blazer Brass, Geco and Federal without a single problem. I’ve shot 150+ rounds of various .38 through it with only one feed problem early which was probably a soft stroke.
The walnut on mine is good, nice and dark. Wood to metal fit is not perfect, BUT this is a working shooter, not a wall hanger. Length of pull was a little short for me (I’m a big boy) so I added a recoil pad to extend the stock. Great improvement and the little recoil previously is now “none.” I also added the large loop to use with gloves and for my large hands. I also put on a Picatinny rail and 1-4 X 24 scope for hunting. I’m getting reliable 2″ groups at 50 yds and 3 1/2 at 100 yds. Plenty good for bambi in the AL woods and my poor eyes.
It’s convinced my hunting buddy to save up for a Henry and a coworker wants one just from looking at pics on my phone and my recommendation. I couldn’t be more please with my Henry Big Boy Steel in .357. Its an heirloom quality shooter just like the Win94 my Grandad gave me. Problem is my boys are already arguing over who is getting it and I’m in good health. Only solution I can think of is to save to get some more Henry rifles, so they won’t fight!
One of these is on my ‘must buy’ list. But, it has to be in .44 Mag to complement my newly acquired 5.5″ Redhawk!
Waiting patiently for the Mare’s Leg review.
“I have heard some horror stories about the .357 Magnum in a lever action rifle as far as reliably loading different rounds. For this particular carbine, those stories proved to be fairy tales.”
Shill Alert! The only fairy tale is this review.
First, this is one rifle reviewed by one guy and his buddy. The numerous Henry horror stories come from numerous other guys and their Henry rifles. That’s their collective experience over numerous outings and has nothing to do with your one-time experience with this one rifle. Their experience is not a “fairy tale”, regardless what your experience was.
Second, the Henry horror stories center on use of .38SPL ammunition, which is allegedly compatible with this rifle. I see used one type of .38SPL and it worked fine (unless the caliber-silent mentioning of 125 gr. rounds were .38, too, and not .357). Nevertheless, even Henry advised against using anything but 158 grain rounds. So I’d say you got lucky. (They also proscribe the use of aluminized casings, but that’s another surprise you don’t learn until reading the manual post-purchase.)
Beyond that, .38SPL is shorter than .357 magnum. That’s not an issue in a revolver, nor in Ruger’s rotary magazine .357/.38 carbine, because the casing doesn’t have to go anywhere. It just sits until after firing until independently ejected into the open air. In a lever action, not so much. The casing must physically move through the mechanism before reaching open air. That length difference becomes an issue and causes jams.
My favorite was this gem: “As long as I fully cycled the action, there were no problems loading, feeding, or firing any of the rounds.”
That’s cycle-shaming. It’s the same as when some defends their jam-o-matic POS semi-auto pistol by claiming you’re just limp wristing it. Translation: quit being gay and you could operate it. Well.
To its credit, the Henry does cycle and fire…..adequately…..with brass cased .357 magnum ammo. With .38 SPL of any flavor, well, I hope you brought some tools. Even with .357, you must slam that lever like a SOB or else it, too, will jam. That’s a joy for about 10 rounds, then it’s behind ridiculous.
Other older lever rifle makes had a “toggle-link” design, which kept the cartridge parallel to the chamber. That’s more reliable for being less prone to variation. In the Henry , the cartridge moves from the mag to the chamber at an angle, rendering the action more susceptible to jams from variations in cartridge length, as with .38SPL.
Buy it or don’t. Just be informed and be prepared that your experience will fall somewhere between “works as advertised” view and the “highly finicky drama queen rifle best suited resting on display over the mantle” view. For me, this rifle has been the biggest (and only) disappointing firearm purchase I’ve ever made.
Hey, man, you be dissin’ JMB’s design??? I bet the sky will fall on your head! Actually, I think all Henry’s are toggle link designs, none are the latter JMB action.
My wife loves her Henry Big Boy .357. Hers is the regular one with the brass receiver and the longer, octagon barrel, but no doubt has the same action as the steel carbine.
She especially loves shooting .38 Special through it. For her, that’s all day, steel target ringing fun!
First, decaf dude. Look into it.
Second, I can only review what actually happened to the gun I’ve fired. I can even include my experiences with other guns I’ve fired. For this rifle, it cycled everything I tested just fine. If it doesn’t cycle anything I did not attempt to cycle, I wouldn’t know it and I wouldn’t write about it.
As far as the ease of cycle, I could do it with just my pinky. My 12 year old son could do it with his pinky, and my 8 year old daughter could cycle the rifle easily. There is no slamming of the receiver in any way. If you have trouble cycling your rifle, I won’t assume you are a liar or are just pathetically weak, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and just take you at your word.
Third, all the Henry owners manuals are online.
Finally, as far as accusing me of being a shill, you should apologize. Henry has paid me nothing. I get paid the same no matter if the review is good or bad, and the firearm or gear manufacturer doesn’t write the checks. They’re not even a TTAG advertiser. I notice that you did not call shill when I wrote about the loading and cycling problems I had with the Henry All Weather. Maybe you missed that one. I did get a call from Henry, who was surprised by my experience.
So I’ll tell you the same thing I told them. I write about what actually happened, not about what you wanted to happen.
“…Other older lever rifle makes had a “toggle-link” design, which kept the cartridge parallel to the chamber…”
I own two ‘other’ brands and neither has a toggle link to keep the cartridge parallel with anything.
As for the remainder of your screech…
The toggle-link design was mostly abandoned after the Winchester 1876 (it was perhaps most famously used in the Winchester 1873). The reason was because, while the action is smoother, it wasn’t strong enough for the more powerful cartridges coming along in the waning years of the 19th century. The much stronger 1886, 1892 and 1894 designs did away with the toggle link and most modern lever guns use designs similar to those (aside from ’66, ’73, and ’76 replicas).
One of your posts had no “reply” button on it so I comment here. You had said in that reply that $900 is pretty high for the Henry but keep in mind that’s MSRP. The Henry Big Boy brass, octagon barrel in .357 can be had for $658 (cash price) from Buds gun shop and there’s no tax and free shipping. The credit card price is $677 and both prices are PRETTY GOOD for a rifle that will last almost forever!
I agree with this statement. I bought my Big Boy Steel at a LGS. Out the door for $646. This is a fine rifle which has functioned flawlessly through nearly 300 rounds of .357. I would buy this rifle again.
Had a ‘JM’ Marlin 1894C that I wanted to love, but couldn’t. Too many issues, absolutely jammed solid with some rounds. And 38 Specials? Might as well throw a rock at the target. Got a Ruger 77/357 with a spare mag since I wanted a reliable gun to with my numerous Ruger .357 revolvers. This gun does not care what you put thru it. And accuracy is simply stunning. Also find the rotary mag design a total plus; they hold five without distorting the bullet & the spare loaded gives you a quick 10 shots if needed. Easier to reload the rotary mags too. The Marlin went to a new owner.
Were I to get another .357 carbine, it’d be the Ruger, that’s for sure. Not that it’s better than a lever, but it is a bolt and a whole new world of wildcattin’ my favorite bullet.
“Got a Ruger 77/357″… absolutely great guns. I had an integrally suppressed 77/44 that was just so murdery on the pigs I had to sell it to give them a chance. One night I dropped 7 in a group without any of them running. Live pigs were pushing dead pigs out of the way to get at the bait.
“Quit being gay and operate it.”, actually, yes. That’s exactly true. I’d Infact add “like a man” on the end. If you can’t handle using the firearm properly then you shouldn’t be using it. If you can’t handle cycling a light leber action like this, see a doctor for muscular dystrophy. Would you say blame a mosin nagant if someone not strong enough to operate the bolt, couldn’t operate it? No. It’s called operator error.
“…yet here you are.”
I’ve just recently tried out one of my coworkers’ Big Boy in .357. All we shot on the range was .38SPL. Not a single loading/feeding problem. I did recommend to him to reach out to Henry about the fact that his inner magazine tube couldn’t be removed by hand; we had to use a Leatherman. But nothing related to the use of .38 ammo.
Also, please no “-shaming” here. Pointing out that people might operate the firearm improperly is not shaming – what a buzzword that is. I’m a small guy and had no problem properly feeding a Henry lever action, ever (including my own).
And finally, if the length of the casing would be so crucial, the .22 Henrys would have lots of problem with shooting shorts. That isn’t the case though, you can even mix up Shorts with Longs or LRs, you get perfect feed every time.
It would be nice to see a Henry in .38/55. I have an old Marlin 1894 that is presently inoperable, but 50 years ago it was a sweet shooter!
For a truck gun, I’d prefer it in stainless.
(And a gate would seal the deal…)
You want a Rossi 92, then. 🙂 Rossi’s much lower price is another point in its favor as a truck gun. I’d be a bit less sad if someone stole my $400 Rossi than if they took a $700 Henry, and scratches and dings in the Rossi’s Brazilian mystery wood would pain me less than damage to good American walnut…
Getting one in 41 Magnum to go with my Ruger Blackhawk. Even better performance for hunting
According to Ballistics by the Inch, the best muzzle velocity for .357 mag comes from an approximately 18″ barrel, but other than Marlin, no one makes them that length. A 16″ barrel cuts a couple fps off the round. Still a heavy hitter–out to 150 yards. After that, accuracy suffers.
Henry sells the same rifle with a 20″ barrel.
My Taurus barrel is 19.5″, chronographs 158g semi-wad cutters at 1800 (+/- a few feet) using H110 or W296.
Love my little saddle guns!
Go back to BBI and read again in regards to MV for 16″ vs 18″. You will be surprised. Then you will know why I bought the carbine.
Henry rifles are great rifles.. this is a quality manufacturer. 1000 ft-lbs is nothing to sneeze at: for home defense, this will do the business.
End caps are traditionally found on lever action rifles while barrel bands are traditionally found on lever action carbines.
It is, oddly enough, the opposite on the Henrys.
Please sound test this thing! Lever guns like this in/with .38 standard pressure have to be seriously quiet. I am betting quieter than alot of suppressed rifles. Please let us find out.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but even 38s are loud through this barrel length.
Well its a gun yeah. How loud is the question. If you are saying this is loud then care to offer up a (somewhat) quiet, unsuppressed firearm?
Henry lever action .22 (or your favorite bolt-action .22) shooting CCI Quiet ammo. Not much energy, but about as loud as a pellet gun, and pretty accurate to 25 yards.
Also, you can handload very light loads for .44 Magnum rifles that are really quiet, and decent accuracy to about 40-50 yards or so. I haven’t been able to replicate the effect with light .357/.38 loads, though. For some reason, they’re either loud and accurate, or relatively quiet and all over the target. I haven’t been able to find a sweet spot in that caliber, and I don’t want to go too low and stick a bullet in the barrel.
“…How loud is the question. If you are saying this is loud then care to offer up a (somewhat) quiet, unsuppressed firearm?…”
It’s loud. If you want quiet, unsupressed, get a BB gun or pay the unConstitutional fee for a silencer, have your muzzle threaded to accept said silencer and go shoot quietly.
That’s how quiet it is.
As for the volume, that aspect will vary with the loading. Low-power loads boom. High power (usually most accurate) will CRACK!, thereby being perceived as being louder. Yes, they are louder. How much louder? I dunno: I wear ear muffs and don’t worry about the volume.
Besides, I like the sound of gunfire.
My Uberti 1873 has a 20″ barrel and 38 special sounds quieter than my Henry 22. Granted, this is with ear pro. Funny thing is I was talking about shooting 38 special out of it without ear pro last night. I wouldn’t be afraid to try it. As for the review, I handled one of these in 45 colt a couple of months ago. If it was in 44 mag I would have bought it. It’s a great handling rifle.
Put in a way to load the rifle without it being a pain in the ass, and you will get my money.
You mean make it a revolver? That never caught on.
Shame, a revolver carbine would be awsome!
As far as an emergency quick load you don’t need a loading gate, just open the action and drop one in the stove pipe, wash rinse repeat. (I hate unloading from my Marlin and Winchester).
I’ve enjoyed my .44 magnum Big Boy for a couple of years. My .44 feeds both magnum and special rounds with no problems – both loads are Keith style hard cast semi wad cutters or jacketed soft points. I also own a Rossi Model 92 in .38/.357 and it has problems with short OAL .38s such as target wad cutters although it does fine with 158 gr semi wad cutter .38s and all .357 rounds. I hear a lot of people gripe about the Henry’s lack of a loading gate. They complain that they can’t top up the rifle in a combat situation. With respect to those individuals who may be limited to a lever gun in certain communist states., I didn’t buy my lever actions for combat. If I want to operate operationally I’ll load up one of my ARs with all of the bells and whistles. I’ll load a 30 round magazine into the rifle and put on my operational operator’s vest with a dozen more magazines and start operating by killing zombies, mutant biker ninjas, terrorists or whoever else needs killing. On the other hand if I want to do some short to medium range deer hunting the rounds in my Big Boy are more than enough. If I’m going to go out and plink with my .44 I can stop and reload through the tube as necessary. It isn’t that big of a deal.
That’s a nice looking rifle; I’d love to give it a try. My constant use truck gun began life as a Rossi Mare’s leg in .357 mag. In that configuation it was a range toy, and I figured it could be a lot more. Being in Canada, adding a $55 Boyd’s hardwood stock was easier than buying it. One bolt removed, off with the hand grip, on with the shoulder stock, and I’ve got the shortest bush carbine going. 13in. barrel, neary 6 inches shorter than the Henry..
It’s taken more than a vew coyotes, plenty of bunnies & squirrels, and a nice plump little whitetail with 180 gr. hot handloads. I would be happy to have this gun along if I ever tangled with a black bear in the bush. The 180gr loads are smoking hot, and the action handles them just fine. It’s an odd looker compared to the Henry, but in terms of a short, light carbine for the bush, I’m pretty sold on the .357 mag in a nice, short, light lever gun that’s fantastic in te bush
Cabela’s has them on sale for $649, to $699 in 357,44 Mag, & 45 colt. Feb. 9-22.
I’ve heard that pistol caliber lever action rifles are very ammo sensitive and prone to jamming. Not true?
I have a Big Boy Steel in 44mag. Love it. I put a Skinner peep sight on it. I am not sure why people are so caught up on the lack of a loading gate. How many rounds do you need? My 44mag holds 10 rounds. 10. I am not fighting zombies in a video game. The rifle shoots great and looks very nice also. Great companion to my Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter in 44 mag.
Bought the Henry big boy 357 wish I hadn’t not a very good rifle. Will sell or trade as soon as I can and buy a BLR.
Try to dig up a Ruger 77/357 bolt action. Shoots the hell out of the lever guns. Will shoot anything you put in it without jamming. (Proper caliber of course).
A couple of friends of mine have recently bought Rossi 92’s and I want one too. They both are stainless 16″ .357’s and surprisingly, the loading gates on both, out of the box isn’t sharp enough to actually cut your fingers. One of my friends took some of those plastic sanding sticks and cleaned his up to the point it’s actually smooth now, and it loads slick as hell. He’s put about 300 rounds through it with only one jam, and that was due to the guy who was shooting with him working the lever super slowly. If you work it like you mean it, both .38’s and .357’s work fine. Both of them are very accurate and they look great.
Which brand name 357 magnum can a Henry rifle Feed
My 20″ .357 BBS feeds and shoots Blazer Brass 158gr HPs without any problems in 200 rounds. Groups about 2″ at 100yds. I’m heading to LGS this week to pickup 2 boxes for hunting season.
Yeah, just over 2 years late, but……
Here you go Jeff, problem solved; 😉
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