Gun Review: Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate Lever Action Shotgun (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Late last year, Henry Repeating Arms finally gave in and released several traditional lever action rifle calibers in a side gate loading platform. Now they’ve continued that line, but with their first side gate shotgun.

This is the same gorgeous gun I gave high praise last year, but instead of .45-70, Henry Repeating Arms has released it in a small smoothbore .410.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate .410 receiver (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The first thing about the Side Gate Lever Action .410 that gets everyone’s attention is the brass receiver. The gun comes right out of the box with an almost mirror shine. It’s polished enough to make photographs a challenge.  The good news is that if you are ever lost in the wilderness, your Henry could double as an aircraft signal mirror.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Courtesy Henry

I’ve experienced the same thing with this gun as I have other brass framed Henry repeaters. Set it down on a table and, no matter what other guns are there, everyone goes to the Henry first. They are beautiful firearms and just some of the best examples of large-scale American firearms craftsmanship available.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate front sight (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Like everything else but the caliber, the sights are the same on the .410 bore shotgun as the previous side gate rifle I reviewed. The front sight is a bright white bead, locked into the barrel with a set screw.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate .410 rear sight (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The rear sight is the excellent adjustable semi-buckhorn sight as the other rifles. It has a white diamond just below a cutout, and then wider ears above. Align the white dot at the 6 o’clock position in the small notch for accurate fire, and anywhere inside the big ears for fast close up shots on moving targets. It’s a great system.

The brass receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting optics. I’m sure this is simply a holdover from the rifle models, as there is little use for glass on a .410.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate receiver drilled and tapped (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The trigger pull on this particular shotgun measured a bit lighter than the previous side loading rifle in .45-70 I reviewed last year. This .410 shotgun’s trigger measured at 4 lbs. 10.8 oz. as an average of five pulls on a Lyman digital trigger scale.

Like the other Henry rifles, the shotgun employs a transfer bar to keep the hammer from engaging the firing pin until you pull the trigger. If you don’t want the gun to shoot, don’t cock it and pull the trigger. It’s that simple.

The hammer is well textured, and doesn’t fall particularly heavy. In the case that you change your mind about the shot, there was no troubling bringing the hammer back down carefully on a loaded chamber.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate .410 hamer (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

One of the biggest challenges with .410 firearms is ammunition availability and price. If your local guns stores are anything like mine, you’ll see shelves of boxes full of 12 gauge birdshot, maybe 4 boxes of .410 birdshot, and 10 boxes of .410 handgun defensive ammunition.

As this is the way of the world, I was only able to put together 120 rounds of birdshot from a few different brands for this review. This was #6, #7, and a #9 clay load. I also put 15 rounds of slugs and 10 rounds of the Winchester PDX defensive load through the gun.

As expected, there were zero issue in loading, firing, and unloading with the shotgun during the review. Everything fed just fine and I never had a hang-up with the lever. I’ve gotten pretty familiar with the Henry guns over the last 10 years, and reliability just isn’t a concern.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate .410 loading knob (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Like the Henry side gate loading rifles, the .410 side gate shotgun has the best of both worlds for loading and unloading. For fully loading or unloading, rounds enter and exit the magazine near the muzzle. Henry puts a large knurled knob style release there and a cutout in the magazine tube.

The spring assembly can be a bit delicate, and if you drop it on something hard and sharp, it could dent or bend. Just don’t take it fully out of the gun and that’s not likely to happen. If it does, new one’s are fairly inexpensive from the Henry website.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate .410 round in magazine (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I much prefer the magazine tube loading. It’s simple and safe. But if you only have to load one or two rounds, the loading gate is the quicker option. Customers clamored for a side loading gate for years, and now their wish has been granted, all the while keeping existing customers like myself happy by keeping the magazine tube loading function intact.

Unlike many of the previous rifles, the side loading gate Henrys all come with a well engraved buttstock and fore-stock. I’m once again impressed with how far machine engraving has come.

Machine engraving used to be shallow, without different depths in the pattern, and didn’t do well on curved parts. No longer. The engraving in the little smoothbore’s walnut is both beautiful and functional, and really sets off the brass receiver and accents.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate .410 engraving (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

When I got this gun out of the box, I thought the action wasn’t quite up to the buttery slick bar set by other Henry rifles I’ve reviewed. I tried it next to my older Henry .45-70, and it didn’t quite meet up. I then took into account that I’ve gone through quite of few of the 100-round ammo boxes in which I keep the .45-70 ammunition, and hadn’t fired a single shot yet with the .410.

After a little Lucas Oil and a couple dozen cycles, the lever worked more like I was expecting. There’s just something about the smooth workings of a good lever gun.

The Side Gate Lever Action shotgun sports the same brass fore-stock ring as well as a solid brass butt plate. Unlike the .45-70, the mild recoil of the .410 means that the metal never bites into the shoulder.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 butt plate (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

As it is a 7 lb. .410 bore, there’s very little recoil with this shotgun. Even the most sensitive shooter would have no difficulty firing a full 6-round magazine of shells without flinching.

Low recoil is one of the places the .410 really shines. This feature often relegates the .410 to a child’s gun. That wasn’t its original purpose.

One of the smallest shotgun bores, the centerfire .410 is almost 150 years old and the .410 as we know it now is well past the century mark.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate .410 bore (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Like many cartridges, this one was developed by the British and touted as a “garden gun.” Don’t let that fool you into thinking this was a matronly sidearm for snakes found in the tomato patch.

The .410 shotgun was widely carried around the farm and in the field as a small game getter, putting grouse and hares in the pot. When it came over to the states, the game taken expanded to squirrel, jackrabbit, dove, quail, and even occasionally larger game at short ranges.

Although suitable for the young and inexperienced shooter to learn on, the limited power and shot string of the .410 shotgun takes experience and talent to make the little bore shine.

On the shooting sports side, skeet is the game great shotgunners can play with the .410, and you’ll need to be awfully fast and sharp to compete in sporting clays with a .410 bore.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 shotgun

Henry Side Gate .410 loading gate (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The side gate lever action shotgun chambers only 2 1/2″ shells, not 3″.  That has nothing to do with the strength of the action, but the mechanism of a lever action gun. The action depends on the ammunition having relatively little change in length, and the 1/2″ between the two sizes is just too much for a lever action to function well. (Author’s edit: Although Overall Length does have a significant effect on lever action reliability, as Jeff the Griz points out in the comments below, the 2 1/2″ shell length restriction likely has more to do with the receiver’s length, which was borrowed from the .45-70 Government and the other original Henry side gate lever action rifle cartridges.)

Of course, if you aren’t paying attention to your ammo boxes, you can insert a 3″ shell into the loading gate. What you can’t do after that is cycle the bolt.

The shell will remain partially inside the magazine. Don’t fret, the gun doesn’t need to be disassembled. Simply turn and extend the tube loading nut at the muzzle end of the magazine, upturn the gun and the round will fall out. (Ask me how I know.)

Unlike the single-shot Henry .410 which ships with a full choke, the lever action shotgun comes in a cylinder bore. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, depending on how you want to use it. I have heard of folks shooting turkey using a .410 and a full choke, but I would find success with that manner unlikely.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

25-yard pattern group (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The birdshot spread was about what we would expect from a cylinder bore shotgun. As shown in the photo above, at 25 yards shooting #9 birdshot, the pattern measured 26″ at the widest points and the wad did not strike the target.

Moving closer to 10 yards, the pattern is not much larger than a handbreadth, and you can see where the wad hit the target below the point of aim and a bit to the left.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

10 yard group (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Finding .410 slugs in this crisis economy proved to be difficult. I visited three different stores and could only find a total of four boxes or 20 rounds. These were the Remington Slugger 1/5 oz. 2 1/2″ rifled slugs.

I’ve ordered more slugs from various internet sources, but in the meantime, I shot what I had. Mounting the Henry in a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest, I shot three strings of 5-round groups at a steel target at 50 yards. The average of all three groups equaled 5 1/4″.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Slugs at 50 yards (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I saved one 5-round box as a comparison to shoot in the .410 combination gun of my youth. Interestingly enough, it shot a single 5 1/2″ group, about the same as the Henry.  Given that the Savage has four more inches of barrel and a corresponding sight radius, I’m betting the limiting factor was the round itself.

As it is, 5-ish inch groups are good enough for the .410 slug. I’d put the maximum range for a slug like this on smaller pigs or our small Hill Country deer at no farther than 50 yards.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 shotgun in a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I say 50 yards not because of accuracy, but pure energy delivered. The slug above generates about 650 ft/lbs of energy at the muzzle. To compare it to something a little more modern, that’s a hot load from a 10mm handgun. On our 90 lb does, that’s good enough, and fine for coyotes and the average pig, too. Just don’t think of the .410 slug as just a smaller version of the 12 or 20 gauge slug. It’s a much smaller, much less lethal cartridge.

The Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 brings the small smoothbore back to a level of beauty and refinement it deserves. It’s a gorgeous gun, well made right here in America.  I’m seeing them on the market priced between $850 and $925. For a lot of people, that will feel like a lot for a “kid’s gun.” If that’s what it was relegated to, I’d agree.

But that’s not what this gun will be relegated to. The lever action .410 makes clay busting a challenge and the entire shooting experience fun. Within the limitations of the cartridge, it’s a capable firearm in the hands of an expert, and a great way to learn and shoot in the hands of a beginner.

And dang, it’s so pretty.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 shotgun (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Specifications: Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun

Action Type: Lever Action Shotgun
Caliber: .410 Bore
Chamber Size: 2 1/2″ Shells
Capacity: 6 Rounds
Barrel Length: 19.8″
Barrel Type: Round Blued Steel
Rate of Twist: Smooth/No Choke
Overall Length: 38.1″
Weight: 7.09 lbs.
Receiver Finish: Polished Brass
Rear Sight: Fully Adj. Semi-Buckhorn w/ Diamond Insert
Front Sight: Ramp w/ .062″ Ivory Bead
Scopeability: Drilled and Tapped
Scope Mount Type: Weaver 63B
Stock Material: American Walnut
Buttplate/Pad: Brass
Length of Pull: 14″
Safety: Transfer Bar
Embellishments/Extras: Regular Lever. Swivel Studs.
MSRP: $1,077

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * * * *
The most gorgeous new .410 on the market today.

Customization * *
There’s no choke system and no extras or embellishments offered from the factory at this time. Like the other side loading models, the receiver comes ready to mount optics.

Reliability * * * * *
Runs any 2 1/2″ shell just fine.

Accuracy * * * * *
I’m not sure how to measure the accuracy of a cylinder bore shotgun with rifle sights, but it performed to the highest extent reasonable for the ammunition loaded in it, regardless of shot size or slug.

Overall * * * * *
It’s hard to categorize this gun because the Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 is in a class all its own. Marlin makes a limited number of 1895 based shotguns in .410, but really, there’s just no comparing the two. The more expensive Marlin falls far short of the all-American made Henry’s appearance, round count, and overall quality. Henry set out to, in their words, make “the perfect .410 shotgun.” Perfect would (somehow) include an interchangeable choke set, but they got pretty close.

comments

  1. avatar Daniel S. says:

    As stated, Henry’s look and are quality built arms. I like the .410 side gate AXE too. This does look a lot snappier; wish it had the capability to shoot 3″ loads though.

    1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      Sadly my experience with a Henry was pretty poor. I had a 44 carbine that just shot itself to pieces. The recoil literally broke the scope mount screws off. Henry fixed that but then later the tube tore out under recoil; they fixed that with a redesigned tube that they’d maybe actually *tested* with 44 magnum. Finally the firing pin broke and I just fixed that myself and traded it off.
      Mind – this isn’t thousands and thousands of hot handloads, it was a few hundred white box. Their CS was stellar and their guns are damn pretty, but I’m definitely once bitten on their build quality.

  2. avatar Ing says:

    Man, those Henry leverguns are beautiful. And highly functional, too. I’d buy one of everything if I could.

  3. avatar KV says:

    Any thoughts on if they’re going to change their Mares Leg to have a side gate too? I’d love to turn one into an SBR. Be curious if they’d do a Mares Leg in .410 as well.

    1. avatar ShaggyDog says:

      Isn’t the Henry’s lever action axe in 410 essentially a Mare’s leg? It has a sidegate, too.

      1. avatar KV says:

        Yes it is. I didn’t know that existed. Thanks!

  4. avatar jwm says:

    I am of a different mind. Brass on a gun does not look good to me. And to pay 800+ bucks for a gun that will only shoot 2.5 inch shells seems a bit much to me. I know it’s apples and oranges but I can buy a mossberg .410 at half that price and get to use any and all shells.

    1. avatar Curious Creedmoor says:

      The only brass receiver I really am fond of is on the 1860 Henry. Having the contrast between bare barrel, brass, and the butt-stock wood makes for a semi-pleasing composition, but brass bands or a brass receiver, steel loading-gate/ejection port, and furniture in front of it turns me away every time.

    2. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      I tend to agree with you, jwm. Brass (if done well, such as with Henrys) is absolutely beautiful, reminiscent of “Yellow Boys”, and I have nothing but admiration for them. But for me, the choice of this finish is like a high end sports car…gorgeous and worthy of a hearty Atta Boy for anyone who chooses to own one, but I’d be a bit skittish about maintenance (fingerprints, scratches, et al).

      My personal favorite is case hardening. The pearlescent hues on some of them are breathtaking, and the non-uniform patterns mean you can handle them all day long without the same concern for marring, as you might with mirror-polished brass.

      My two cents. But Atta Boy to anyone who does choose this brass model.

  5. avatar Prndll says:

    I’m usually not into lever action but between this .410 and something in .357, I could be persuaded.

  6. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    they make a single 12 and 20, maybe a twenty lever will come along.

    1. avatar Nickel Plated says:

      I would be down for a 12ga, but doubt it. The reason you only see these in .410 is because it’s just a simple matter of rechambering an existing 45-70 and that’s it. A 12 or 20 would require a whole new design.

      1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        Now that’s a thought. A Henry lever action in 20- or perhaps even 28-gage. I’d take a look at it.

  7. avatar GS650G says:

    I think it would more practical in steel for field work but good on them for making side gate guns with tubular magazine. No one can complain about how to load it.

  8. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Interesting, but no. .410 shells are expensive and hard to find. 2 1/2″ only? Another drawback. I like .22 LR for small game. Head shots only. No meat distroyed. Snakes? That’s what a handy fallen limb is for. On the other hand I do like Henry lever actions. Just not this one.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      we learned six things.

  9. avatar Aven says:

    The writer said the gun doesn’t take 3″ shells because lever actions don’t tolerate different ammo lengths. I find that odd because mhy Henry shoots 22 shorts, longs and long rifles and hyou can mix them up anyway you want and they feed perfectly.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      I had a marlin and mossberg lever gun in .22 as a yute. I recall mixing ammo in them to. Maybe the overall short length of the rimfire ammo makes a difference? Never really thought of it before.

    2. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      The base gun was originally designed for the 45-70 cartridge. The 45-70 govt. has an overall cartridge length of 2.55-2.72 inches depending on bullet used. That’s why the Henry lever action .410 uses 2.75″ shells.

      1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

        Sorry I meant 2.5″ shells

      2. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Great point, Jeff.
        I’ve updated the article and credited you.

  10. avatar Tim says:

    .410
    It answers a question no one asked.

    1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      That’s fine leave it on the shelf for me. It’s a hell of a lot of fun!

      1. avatar jwm says:

        My first gun was a Savage Stevens .410. I was just a kid but it was a great gateway drug for me. I kept using that gun after I’d outgrown it because it was a great bunny killer in the thick stuff in WV and KY and Ohio.

        It was a single shot and I even got in a couple of quail hunts with it. I have nothing but fond memories of that little gun.

  11. avatar former water walker says:

    Beautiful gun. I shot a 410 as a kid and can assure anyone I don’t remember recoil at all! I don’t need a lever gun but I’m leaning toward one in 357/38…

  12. avatar Aven says:

    The shorter barrel shotgun does not have chokes but the longer barrel one does. The chokes are available in 4 sizes with the full choke tube standard. According to the Henry maintenance video, the H018 has a 24″ barrel with choke tubes and the HO18R has a 20″ barrel and no choke tube. However, the listing of their products only show the HO18R with the short barrel.

  13. avatar Kyle in Upstate NY says:

    This is a bit of a side question, but, is there any purpose to a lever action in modern times or is it just nostalgia? From what I can gather, levers are great fun to shoot and a part of American history, but they are more complex, less reliable, more prone to jam, less accurate, etc…than bolt-actions.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Faster shots, hold more rounds, lightweight.

  14. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

    I missed the .45-70 review. If there wasn’t a crisis on I’d consider the .45-70 or .30-30 just to have one pretty rifle. I do like the brass look. Unfortunately, I am in CYA mode for the time being. I hope we get to come out of it.

  15. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    I’m not interested in getting a Henry shotgun. But I love my Henry Lever 22 rifle. And after Sandy Hook with the Aguila primer only 22 ammo. I shot that gun for over a year. Because Aguila low velocity ammo was the only ammunition available.

  16. avatar Steve U says:

    I cannot attest for the NEW side-loading .410 however, I have one of the earlier Henry Model H018-410’s with a 24″ barrel and choke. It is probably the most reliable long gun I have ever owned. I have put over 1,000 rounds through it and I can consistently hit over 23 out of 25 clays from the autotrap. I got around the insane price of Winchester AA 2-1/2″ shot shells by reloading with a MEC 600 Jr Mark V. This is one-fun-gun!

  17. avatar Douglas Wylie says:

    For what it’s worth, I agree with the people that posted about the inability of the lever action to handle 3″ rounds. I honestly believe it would be in Henry’s best interest to develop the lever action to action shotgun that could handle 3″ rounds. That and interchangeable chokes they would definitely have a shotgun that could be used for deer , rabbit , upland bird hunting in all states.I know I would be first in line to purchase.

  18. avatar John Thompson says:

    Will the Henry 410 leaver action shoot a 45 colt shell?

Leave a Reply to Daniel S. Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email