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Anthony Imperato (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

Lever fever is a particularly virulent strain of firearms fascination. In a country where highly-customizable “military-style” firearms dominate the market, lever guns continue to entrance buyers with their romantic appeal. “Lever guns represented a distinct break from European-designed bolt action rifles,” Henry Repeating Arms’ CEO Anthony Imperato told TTAG. “They’re still a quintessentially American design, a true American firearm . . . People who buy our lever guns are connecting with our common history. At the same time, they own a very useful firearm.” Yes there is that . . .

You’ll see plenty of Henrys in cowboy action shooting events – where owners dress-up in Wild West regalia and compete against each other with lever guns, single action pistols and side-by-side shotguns. While the frontiersman image remains a key sales driver, Imperato says cowboy action shooting forms a relatively small portion of his total business.

Roughly a third of Henry’s customers buy and use their lever guns for hunting. The .22-caliber firearms are a firm favorite amongst varmint hunters. Big game hunters depend on Henry’s large-caliber centerfire rifles to take everything up to and including monstrous Grizzly bears. Decorated “tribute series rifles” make up about five percent of sales. Plinking accounts for the lion’s share of his business. Self-defense doesn’t really figure.

All in, it’s a lot of guns. “We sold around 300 thousand lever guns last year,” Imperato says. To put that into perspective, Henry Repeating Rifles’ sales rose 20 percent in 2014. Imperato reports that sales are up 15 to 20 percent this year, as well. “It would have been even better if it wasn’t for the .22 shortage.” Which Imperato sees easing, gradually, eventually.

Meanwhile, Henry continues to manufacture its guns in . . . wait for it . . . New Jersey. Imperato has no illusions about the Garden State’s anti-gun agenda, or their tax regime’s impact on his bottom line. Despite overtures from gun and business-friendly states, Imperato won’t – can’t – move his main operation. “We have 225 highly-skilled employees working here. Some of them are 20-year veterans with the company.” Simply put, “We take care of our people.”

That said, Henry Repeating Arms has expanded out-of-state, in Wisconsin. Since opening its facility, the company’s workforce has grown from 17 to 175 employees. And will continue to grow, as Henry looks to expand its lever gun product line. “We’re looking into bigger caliber guns, maybe steel,” Imperato says. “And other firearms that tie-in with the brand’s appeal to Wild West history.”

Although Imperato played coy, the CEO admitted that he’s possibly interested in the double-action revolver market as a companion piece for Henry lever owners. What about a side-by-side coach gun? “It takes us three years to get from pen and paper to final production. We don’t talk about new guns until they hit the shipping dock.”

Current Henry Repeating Arms lever guns? Imperato will talk about those all day, every day, with anyone, anywhere, anytime. “I love meeting customers who tell me about how much they love and value their guns. We get a lot of proud grandfathers who buy Henry .22’s as their grandchildren’s first gun . . . Our guns are a part of people’s lives.”

Imperato says this trans-generational process helps keep Henry Repeating particularly safe from the aging demographic issue. But even without it, lever fever will continue to spread. “We don’t make salt shakers,” he says. “We make a gun with a strong emotional connection. Once someone shoots one our guns, they get it.” Literally.

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  1. Lever fever is a wonderful thing. I have one of the last American Made Winchester 30/30 Lever Actions, as they’re made in Japan now.
    Sigh. Cue John Wayne Spinning In Grave.
    Henry’s Big Boy Model is on the list though.

    • I have a like new condition 1960’s Marlin 336 30-30 with high degree walnut furniture and a brass trigger. It has the half-cock safety and no cross pin safety. Despite all of the modern guns I have it is by far one of my favorites.

  2. I can respect Henry’s decision to stay open in Jersey. When you have 200+ skilled workers in a facility for that long, you don’t want to just uproot them all and bail out. Strikes me as tossing the baby out with the bathwater.

    • You can do it pretty easily with a Bowers Vers 458. I’ve seen builds like that before. Just keep in mind the barrel must be longer than the magazine tube so you have room to thread it.

  3. I don’t care where they come from, I just love when they wind up in my hands! My Henry Golden Boy .22 for my son stands proud in the gun cabinet (yes, CABINET not safe) waiting for him to reach an age to take possession of it. In the meantime, it’s one of my very favorites to take out plinking and varminting, open sites and all. It’s soooo fun to shoot – that lever-action “snick-snack” is just a joy to hear and feel – and there’s nothing like it to get some conversations started at the range.

    • Good to see the cabinet model is still alive. Growing up guns were “locked up” in a cabinet and because we were raised to know what a real gun could do there weren’t issues. Now no one wants to teach anyone about guns and then of course they freak out when an accident happens. You don’t need a damn safe you just need some common knowledge.

      • I love gun cabinets, but a good safe does more than keep kids out. It also greatly reduces the likelihood of theft and damage by fire. This is pretty important if you have historical or heirloom firearms that can’t be replaced. I’d love to display them, but I’d be pretty upset if Grandpa’s deer rifle (a Winchester 1910) or Dad’s shotgun got burned up or stolen.

  4. And will continue to grow, as Henry looks to expand its lever gun product line. “We’re looking into bigger caliber guns, maybe steel,”

    How about a damn loading gate?

    • This +100.

      This is what is keeping me from buying more rifles from them. I have a .22 and a 1860 and would have several more of the other rifles if they would make them with a loading gate.

    • That would be a nice addition.

      Speaking of lever-actions, how about something like the Winchester 1895 or Savage 99? I wouldn’t mind a nice magazine-fed lever action with a more classic look (the BLR is a bit more modern).

    • But with a loading gate, every round that is not fired must be cycled through the chamber. With the tube magazine, it you don’t shoot all cartridges loaded, pull and dump. Much safer.

      • I’m not sure how much safer it is putting your fingers up by the muzzle and dicking around extracting a long-ass magazine plunger.

      • Why not just add a loading gate and keep the tube magazine as-is? Convenient to load in-between shots (loading gate), and convenient to unload when finished shooting (retractable magazine tube). Everyone gets what they like, no one is forced to use what they don’t like, and the more open-minded folks can take advantage of both.

  5. Replicas provide an opportunity to shoot antique firearms without spending a fortune on the real thing and risking its destruction. I just finished a book by western author Tim Champlin. The principal character’s personal weapons are a .32 caliber Merwyn-Hulbert revolver and a Colt Lightning pump action rifle. An attempt to make replica Merwyn-Hulberts failed. Uberti makes replica Lightnings which qualify for cowboy action events. I was interested in one until I saw the $1,300 price

    • Man, I would kill love to have a slide action carbine.

      Why are there not more pump rifles? It makes way more sense ergonomically than a bolt action.

      I know about the Remington line– I have a pre-68 760 in 30-06– but why are there so few other options?

      • pump action implies tube magazine where bullets not is touching next cartridge bottom a non issue in shotguns, older pistol rounds bullet nose were round, but most rifle rounds nose is sharp ( very general explanation(

        • Pump actions don’t require tube magazines. The Remington 7600 and the Browning BPR are two pump rifles with box magazines. Both are available in “pointy” calibers like .308 and .270. There’s even a pump-action AR-style rifle, made by Troy, that uses normal AR mags.

        • Not to get all sniffy, but it implies no such thing.

          The Remington pump action rifles are fed from a box mag.

  6. Anthony Imperato also owns the famous John Jovino Gun Shop in New York City. The shop deals mostly with the NYPD and other agencies.

    Henry Repeating Arms is known to be very customer-friendly and 2A supportive. The John Jovino store, OTOH, is probably the most unfriendly place in the known universe. If you go there, you will be treated like Al Sharpton at a Klan meeting. Or worse.

    Weird, no?

    • I can certainly vouch for their CS being helpful and friendly. There were some… issues… with some custom serial numbered Golden Boys I ordered and they worked very hard to get it all straightened out; including some free swag. I have 4 of their rifles now, and there will be more added to the collection soon.

      • Everybody that I know who has done business with HRA speaks of the company in glowing terms.

        • Add me to that list. Mr. Imperative and his people are among the most helpful CS staff I have ever met.

        • Ralph you’re completely correct. I own a Henry classic big boy 44 Magnum lever action. The Henry customer service department is one of the finest I have ever dealt with no matter what product. Almost every time I have ever emailed them or call them I ended up talking to the CEO himself who answers the phone. What company can say that besides Henry repeating arms? I love my big boy 44 Magnum and wouldn’t trade it for the world. In fact my next investment will be the 1860 Henry that they offer. Since all Henry repeating arms rifles are made in this country and every single part is sourced in this country I would never buy an import copy of it. It helps keep American workers in a job and that’s a huge important thing in itself

    • He got the shop from daddy, who got it from granddaddy – same with Henry Repeating. Guess it is just lucky who your daddy is sometimes. With a 100 years worth of store profits, I doubt they are too interested in retaining new customers.

    • I would imagine that running a gun shop in NYC and dealing with the NYPD all day would be enough to make anybody a bit unpleasant…

  7. Would love to see Henry make a Spencer Rifle large and medium caliber replica. .300 Win Mag to 45/70 Gov’t. to 30/30 to .300 Blackout. Hmmmm. 😉
    I’ll just leave that here to let the mind have wonderlust about.

  8. The Henry 22 lever gun was not my first gun purchase. But it is the rifle I shoot the most out the the five long guns I own. Its great!

    • A Henry .22 lever *was* the first gun I bought for myself. And it’s the rifle I shoot more than any others. It’s just so damn fun to shoot!

      I replaced the rear sight on mine with an inexpensive Williams peep sight, and it was a massive improvement. I had to have a taller front sight to compensate for the taller rear, so I epoxied a brass bead on top of the sight blade. The combination works really well.

  9. Sounds like a stand up guy, and Henry is a Stand up company. Rare to get a positive feeling when reading about the “higher ups” in a company.

    • It’s funny when you (if you’ve ever) watch his infomercials. His N/E accent is like Tom Carvel (minus a pack of Camels) and it’s like getting sold a gun by a taller Joe Pesci.

      But yes, HENRY, and the Imperato-hoard, long may your banners wave. GODSPEED.

  10. I have a .22LR “big loop” Henry to Match a Heritage Arms SAA in .22, including Magnum.

    I reckon I’ll take `em out to the range this weekend, hadn’t shot `em in a while.

    Need a center-fire lever, I just wish Henry made a .357 Magnum in stainless to match my
    nickel plated Smith Pre-model 10, circa 1923…

  11. Bought my wife a .357 Big Boy for her birthday. Helluva lot of fun to shoot. I love my AK, but there’s something about shooting a non-auto-loader that just gets to you. I would love Henry to make an affordable breach-loader. Mmmm, boy.

  12. They should market for “self defense”. They live in the perfect area for it. A short barreled, five shot 30-30 is perfect for the New York living “super storm sandy” crowd. And a short barreled 357 mag for other areas on the coast. Goes the same for Cali and the west coast too.

    • I agree with the comments about self defense lever guns. Please don’t go the way of the Mossberg lever gun with black furniture, keep the wood but have a way to attached a light.

  13. My dad and I bought a pair of Win 94s in 30-30 at a sporting goods store liquidation auction back in 1978. They are light compact rifles well suited for medium game (in this neck of the woods most deer are taken at less than 100 yds). Negatives are blue steel and wood furniture (absorbs moisture and rusts like mad), no provision for optics, and any attempt at stress re-load will make you the laughing stock of the deer camp.


  14. I just love the term “lever fever”. I saw mrgunsngear has one of the steel guns. Hope to see one of em in 357.

  15. It seems Henry will replace Marlin and Winchester as the dominant lever action gun manufacturer.

    • You may be right, but I sure hope not.

      Marlin has certainly shit the bed as a company, but as a design, I think their rifles are far superior to both Henry and Winchester.

      I keep hoping marlin gets it together, because I sure would like a stainless 1894c in .357 to go with my blued one.

      • As would I. Supposedly Remlin is to start production of the pistol carbines again this summer. I dont understand whats taking them so long. The demand for them is huge. Lets just hope the QC is better than some of the 336’s Ive seen in the last couple of years.

  16. My dad just bought his first rifle, a Marlin in .30-30. He’s planning on taking up hunting, too. It’s a lot of fun to shoot. Might get something for myself.

  17. I want one in 357/38. Probably can only afford a used Rossi(but I see Hickock 45 just reviewed Rossi so I guess it might not be so bad). I belong to a lever FB group and it is amazing to see the variety…

  18. Maybe they can buy the Colt name in the bankruptcy fire sale and start making Colt branded revolvers.

  19. I really gotta get me a Henry. Sweet action and first rate fondle factor. For some reason it stays on my wish list rather than my safe. Golden Boy in .22 win mag. That’s the ticket.

  20. I own a large loop henry carbine and I love it. For fit fit and finish it doesn’t quite stack up against my Marlin Mountie, but it shoots just as good and the action is just as smooth (or smoother). It is just plain fun to shoot.

  21. I got a brand new Henry lever Jam-O-Matic in .357 for Christmas. This thing jams so badly, so stubbornly, that it not only ruins every outing, but I believe it’s fundamentally unsafe. These hack manufacturers at Henry, in my personal opinion, should be bankrupt or imprisoned.

    Save your money, or else buy a modern rifle manufactured to a modern design by a serious gunmaker. Replicas of antiques are for hanging over the fireplace, or for tossing into the fireplace, but not for actually going out and shooting.

    • You are literally the first person I have heard of having a problem with a Henry.

      I may not personally care for them for reasons listed above, but I have always understood that you got your money’s worth.

      Give them a call and a chance to make it right, then come back and tell us about it.

      What kind of ammo are you feeding it?

  22. The weirdest thing I’ve seen lately are tactical (or tacticool) lever action rifles. They are usually a Marlin or Winchester rifle in .30-30, and sometimes .357 or .44mag, with a collapsable AR-15 stock and Picatinny rails where the forward handguard is. Uglier and more useless guns have only been seen by less-than-reliable witnesses.

    Since there has been no mention of them on the TTAG forum i am guessing they are a value-added product from local dealers and importers. Since they have only been seen on the magazine ads for some dealers I’m speculating they are a limited importer item.

    Tacticaled Remington 7600s in 5.56 and .300BLK are fairly common but who would do this to a lever gun?

    • It’s an ADJUSTIBLE</i< AR-15 stock – a very useful and practical item

      Picatinny rails (and associated accessories) are less useful on a grandpa shooter than on some other type of rifle/ Perhaps duct tape instead?

    • It is a dad’s beautiful pure-as-the-driven-snow teenage daughter went to the mall with some wild friends, and came back with a nose ring, purple hair, spiked heels, and a leather outfit.

  23. I just bought my first lever gun (16″ Rossi 92, .357 Stainless) and I’m so excited to go shoot it. I’m really impressed with the quality of the Rossi 92 and also a Taurus Tracker .22lr that I bought. I had previously avoided Taurus like the plague since I was of the impression that I would get a gun that would not function out of the box and would have god-awful machining. Happy to say that isn’t the case with either and the Tracker actually has very nice internals and a great trigger for a .22lr.

    I do love the small size and light weight of the 1892 but really wish there was more affordable options chambered in .357. I’d also like an 1894 down the road but my budget was $500 so Rossi was my only option.

  24. Just got a .357 Bigboy with the Brass receiver a week ago. Right out of the box using cheap “Perfecta” brand .357 ammo, drilled out the center of the target at 100′. Maybe I was just lucky that it was sighted in perfect. It now hangs on the wall in my living room as art.

  25. “We’re looking into bigger caliber guns, maybe steel,” Imperato says. “And other firearms that tie-in with the brand’s appeal to Wild West history.”

    Wish list: Henry version of an1886 Winchester in .50-95

  26. Honestly, I’d be happier if somebody would start making pump-rifles again. Lets see the Lightning or Timberwolf back (reliably and affordably).

  27. Bigger caliber?
    Don’t they make a 45-70 already? Can they be bringin back the 50-90? please dear sweet baby JMB let them make one of those!

    • Or the 45-90. I already love Henry, huge fan. But if they announced a .45-90 or the .50-90 I would be all “shut up and take my money” on that. I’d buy one for me and every child I have, and even some I just might have.

  28. I have seen a lot of new Henry rifles around – they look sweet! However, don’t forget the Italian-made replicas of Old West lever guns made for the Cowboy Action Shooter crowd. They aren’t U.S.-made but work fine, and Iike the originals, they take a lot of shucking in front of the TV to smooth out their actions. I have replicas of an Model 1876 carbine in .45.75 WCF, a Model 1886 in .45-70 Govt and a Model 1892 carbine in .45 Colt. I also have a Taurus replica of a Colt Lighting medium-frame in .45 Colt that I picked up second-hand. Italian replicas of most Winchester lever guns and medium-frame Colt Lightnings are out there (check Cimarron or Taylor’s), but they aren’t that cheap. I just wish they made the large frame Lightning (original calibers or bring it on in .32-40 or .38-55). I also wish I still had my Winchester 94 carbine (.30-30) that I bought new with $87.95 of my own money for a deer rifle when I was a teen in the mid-60’s! Now they are around $500-$600 (used) at gun shows…

  29. What I’d really like to see is a Henry Lever gun in .327 Federal Magnum. Just think, one gun for five different cartridges…..327 Fed Mag, .32 H&R Mag, .32 S&W Long, .32 Short, and last but not least .32 ACP. Could always find some ammo for it.

    • Yes!!! And just think of how hot that round would be coming out of a 16-18″ barrel.

      Can I also vote for a single-shot rolling block rifle in .327?

  30. I love my Henry .22. I slapped a Nikon 3-9x scope on the thing and it’s almost like cheating!

  31. Tony Imperato is a class act. I bought a Henry Big Boy in .44 mag three years ago to celebrate my recovery from prostate cancer. I sent an email to Tony expressing my appreciation for the fine rifle he’d made. He replied with a request for my snail mail address and sent me a Henry gun case and coffee cup. That’s humanity and appreciation for his customers. My Big Boy handles everything I run through it from 240 grain lead swc loads up to 300 grain hollow points that I worked up for my Super Redhawk.

    I’m a lever gun guy. Besides the Big Boy I’ve got a sweet 92 Rossi carbine in .38/.357 with the John Wayne lever loop, a 70s vintage Model 94 .30_30, a 70s era Marlin 336, and a Winchester model 200 .22. The real Winchester guys laugh at the .22 but it will shoot into a quarter size hole at 50 yards. Ever since I watched the Rough Riders I’ve wanted a model 95 carbine in .30-40 Krag or 06 but the ones I see are out of my price range unless I can come up with 6 good Powerball numbers.

  32. As was already mentioned it would be great to see some models with loading gates. I have a .22 cal henry and it’s awesome but for center fire I’m going to go with a different company. Maybe Rossi. I don’t know yet. Most of the leverguns on the market these days are either really pricey or from a crappy company.

    If they had models with a loading gate I’d buy from them for sure.

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