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1860 iron-framed Henry lever action rifle (courtesy

Major Van Harl USAF Ret writes [via]:

In today’s world of modern “black rifles” which have magazines that hold 30 rounds of military grade ammunition, we do not think of the venerable old lever action firearm as a front line battle-rifle.

If you step back in history to the US Civil War, you’ll find that the 1860 Henry lever action rifle chambered in 44 Henry rimfire [above] was the first truly modern (and most desired by the troops) repeating rifle used on the battlefield.

The biggest drawback to the Henry rifle in the Civil War: they couldn’t make them fast enough to meet demand.

Winchester Model 1866 (courtesy

In 1866, the Henry rifle production was controlled by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and some changes were made to the original Henry. Make no mistake – it was still a Henry rifle.

In the early days. the Winchester Model 66 lever action rifle was marketed as the “Henry improved rifle.” The Model 66 was manufactured to continue chambering the Henry 44 rimfire cartridge. Back in the day, nobody knew who Winchester was. But everyone knew what a Henry rifle could do for a shooter in a crisis.

The Plevna Delay (courtesy

The Turkish Ottoman Empire contracted to have Model 66 lever action rifles built for their army. In the months of July through December of 1877, the Turks held off the massive Russian and Romanian armies at the town of Plevna, Bulgaria.

The Turks were outmanned, undersupplied, and had poor leadership, but they had American-made 44 caliber repeating rifles using the improved 1860 Henry action and lots and lots of 44 Henry rimfire ammunition. This was the same combination that the US 7th Illinois Infantry Union forces employed to stop the Confederates every time.

The Turks did not defeat the Russians at Plevna. What they did was delay the Russians at Plevna for almost six months. According to British historian J.P. Taylor, the Plevna Delay was one of the few military engagements which changed the course of history.

The Plevna Delay introduced the American repeating rifle to the European makers of future wars, and they wanted desperately to have these (then) modern repeating battle-rifles for their armies.

Henry Big Boy .44 (courtesy

There should be no plans on charging headlong into a current 2016 battlefield with a Henry lever action rifle. It is not about the quality or the capability of the different calibers in which Henry produces their rifles.

Have you ever heard the phrase “never take a knife to a gun fight?” I would suggest that taking a Henry lever action rifle up against a trained squad of terrorists who are armed with the latest Russian make AK style battle-rifle could get you hurt.

If you are an American soldier or policeman responding to evil, you are not carrying a lever action rifle. You have “our side’s” current self loading battle-rifle in your hands.

But what if, you are the average Wisconsin hunter who has headed out each November for years to take a white tail deer with your Henry lever action rifle, and you don’t own or feel the need to have a “black rifle?” Perhaps you live in one of the states in our Union that have restricted or even banned the AR-15 style “black rifle.”

And then the second question: what if you have evil show up on your front porch and it wants to harm your family? You either run, hide or fight–which will you be prepared to do?

Henry Repeating Rifles .30-30 (courtesy Jon Wayne Taylor for

As a civilian you need to remember you do not have to stop the evil if you can avoid it. Cops and military are trained to stop evil, but you may someday be required to delay evil. If you hide, but cannot be guaranteed your survival from evil, you may still have to run or fight, or run and fight at the same time.

Assuming there are Henry lever action rifles present in your home, might I suggest you grab your Henry Big Boy rifle chambered in one of the four pistol cartridges they are manufactured in, and in doing so find yourself with eleven rounds of evil delaying power.

If you have extra Henry rifles and family members to assist, then spread the Henrys around and increase your odds of thinning the herd of “walkers” who may be trying to eat you out of house and home literally. You need to create a Henry Delay and slow the tide of godless crime that comes to destroy your family.

I do not believe dialing 911 will always save you, but as you dispatch rounds down range to delay the evil, someone needs to call the good guys and invite them to help clean up the mess.

Buffalo Bore HEAVY 357 MAG OUTDOORSMAN Pistol and Handgun Ammo

But the Henry rifles do not have a loading gate like a lot of the lever action rifles. If you truly cannot re-group for a few seconds behind cover to reload, then turn your Henry rifle in to the slickest and fastest shooting single shot on the market. I can load and shoot single rounds of ammo and reload and re-shoot again faster with a Henry lever action rifle than I can with a break open single shot shotgun.

The point is you are not out of the fight until evil wins and you no longer have the ability to resist. Throw in a handgun chambered in the same caliber as your Henry rifle and you have a force multiplier to enhance your Henry Delay.

Everyone knows the good guys in the cowboy movies all use their lever action rifles to stop evil and save the schoolmarm from harm. The un-suspecting non-gun owning public does not seem to get as upset if you have a “cowboy gun” instead of a “black rifle.” Think ‘hide in plain sight.’

Henry makes their Big Boy Steel and Brass lever action rifles in four calibers: 357 mag, 41 mag, 44 mag and 45 Long Colt. Any one of these will stop evil. The 357 Magnum Ammunition will be the least expensive to shoot and, along with the powerful 44 mag, the easiest to find replacement ammo for in a crisis.

Buffalo Bore Ammunition ( makes good and warm ammo in all four of these cartridges that will stop almost anything in the lower-48 (within reason). Always remember those handgun ballistics you read about will be increased 400-500 FPS when you shoot the above ammo out of a Henry rifle. More energy means more “walkers” don’t get in.

A Henry Delay could mean the difference between life and death and for my family, I choose life, I mean their life.

Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
[email protected] 

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

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  1. My anti home invasion tool is a shotgun. In CA any msr that we can legally have is neutered to the point of not being worth the effort.

    • I agree that the shotgun is the way do go for home defense, especially since you can’t use normal AR’s or AK’s.

      Regarding semiautomatic rifles: The stock Saiga’s with 10 round detachable mags are ok aren’t they? The Garand and SKS are ok as well I think.

      If I were to ever live in California (God forbid), I’d still want one of those above options as a civil defense/homeland security rifle (not home defense).

      • My son had one of those 10 round saiga’s. It was better than ok. But i haven’t seen any in a long while at the stores.

        I still regret trading off my sks. It was a dandy. I shot it better than any ak style I’ve used.

  2. Why not? They work. Yeah, not so good against a squad of people with AKs, but that’s not likely to be what you run into at home, as pointed out.

    It’ll do, if YOU will do.

    • I see no reason why not, particularly if the owner already has a revolver in a matching caliber.
      In an emergency- which a home invasion certainly is- any loaded firearm at hand is what one should reach for.

  3. Henry barrels are big, thick and heavy. Which is to say, if you run out of ammo, a Henry barrel upside some ne’er-do-well’s head may help him rethink his plans.

    Slower burning powders can make better use of the long barrel and improve velocity. My wife’s Henry .357 loves him some handloads made with Blue Dot and love.

    • I’ve cracked 1800 fps easily with a 125 grain hornady xtp and a liberal dose of Accurate No5. I think I can hit 2000 with number 9 and my 20 inch barrel.

    • Any barrel upside the noggin will make a person rethink their plans. A Henry barrel is stout enough that I won’t worry about hurting the barrel 🙂

    • Loading singles from a source into the ejection port will work in a pinch to keep you in the fight. Pretty quick with practice.

      • …just because a guy is good at a particular technique doesn’t mean it is useful.

        Point stands: the loading gate is the only reason many guys avoid the Henry.

        You can’t top up the gun quickly on the move. It really hobbles the platform.

        With a market of pre-fail Marlins and Winchesters… why choose a Henry?

        • BLoving:

          Yeah, no. At least not in my case. Brand new Big Boy in .44 Mag, ordered through Davidson’s to the LGS. Would not go into battery, clunky lever that “caught” at multiple places in the throw, right out of the box.

          I declined delivery, and am waiting on a replacement from Davidson’s.

        • I don’t have Henry on my list because they don’t do side loading gates. At least not on their .30-30s and .45-70s. They are nicely built, for sure, but I want a side loading gate.

    • I prefer this style over the reloading gate on the side, so much that I sold a Marlin 1894C and bought a Henry.
      But then I only use mine for plinking and staring at (it’s very pretty). In an emergency, I’d have to reach past a suppressed 9mm CZ Scorpion SBR and suppressed 300BLK AR-15 SBR to get to the Henry.

  4. I used to keep a .22 Golden Boy by the back door (pre-kids) loaded with subsonic rounds. I used it to pick off racoons, snakes, and possums bothering my wife’s chickens. Extracted them perfectly, and even shooting from inside the house it didn’t require ear-pro. I wouldn’t have hesitated to use it for two legged invaders either, although I’m sure there are better choices…

  5. A lever action rifle (especially in .44 mag) could be a very effective defensive firearm. A .44 mag hollowpoint out of a rifle length barrel would hit harder and do more damage (at short range) than a 5.56/5.45/7.62X39. Also, unlike a 12 gauge, it wouldn’t have a lot of kick, so weaker shooters could still use it (using .38 or .44 special if needed).

    I wouldn’t pair this gun with a .44 mag revolver for home defense however (would for bear defense). I’d just pair it with some other defensive pistol in 9/.40/.45/10mm or a revolver in .357/.38sp.

    I’ve got an AR, AK, SKS, and a HP 4095 carbine, so I don’t need a pistol caliber lever action rifle. I still WANT one! I’d probably prefer a .357 to pair with my Security Six.

    • You might want to rethink that. You have the option of .44 Specials, and those are basically the same as .45ACP. Personally, I’d go with the .357 Henry rifle too.

    • Well, I have an AK, AR, SKS, and HP 995TS, and still would like a .357 Henry or Rossi, even though I don’t have a matching revolver. They look pretty, the stock and LOP fit my arm, I am used to the Russian leaf sights so the sight picture does not bother me, the Rossi version weighs next to nothing, and Hillary is not after lever action rifles (it won’t be Australia here for quite some time.) If I were in a state that restricted black rifles, I would likely have one now.

    • I shot a lever action 44mag and a 30/30 consecutively on one occasion and the kick was about the same for both guns. We were shooting watermelons that day. I don’t think the watermelons could tell the difference either. 😉

      we also had a couple 12ga shotguns that day. And an AR. And several pistols. The 12ga ruled the watermelon contest. There was no competition.

    • Art out West, out of a 20″ barrel, the .44 magnum really shines. It’s not equal to the rifle calibers, but it’s not too terribly far away either. Here’s some data I have from my own hand loads, none of which are max pressure.

      This is the energy delivered at 25 yards:
      1259ftlbs – 68gr 5.56NATO (16″ barrel)
      1428ftlbs – 150gr .30-30 (16.25″ barrel)
      1399ftlbs – 123gr 7.62X39 (16″ barrel)
      892ftlbs – 300gr XTP .44magnum (7.5″ barrel)
      1104ftlbs- 300gr XTP .44magnum (20″ barrel)

  6. My lever action Henry would be my last choice of the guns I have. I would choose my 12 gauge pump shotgun, one of my 9mm semi autos or one of my 38 special revolvers.

    • Given a choice, I can’t think of a reason to grab a revolver rather than an identically chambered lever gun in a home defense situation.

      • You choose the revolver because it is far better in close quarters as it is short with less chance of it getting caught by a door or being grabbed by the intruder and you just keep pulling the trigger rather than having to reload with the lever.

  7. If this article was a treatise on the home-defense capabilities of lever-action rifles in general, it would feel a lot less like an ad for Henry rifles…

    I’ve got a Rossi 92 in .357 that spends a lot of its time leaning against the wall in my bedroom, just in case. The Winchester 92 design lends itself to the job better than a Henry, in my opinion. The loading gate, as I’m sure many will point out, makes for better “tactical reload” ability, and the top-eject is easier to single-load rounds if it’s come to that. Not to mention, the 92 in carbine configuration is lighter and handier than the Henry Big Boys.

    But if I only had a Henry, I wouldn’t feel undergunned.

    • I have a Rossi 92 in .357 as well. Shooting 38spl, it’s as quite and low recoil as my .22LR Marlin 60. As such, my daughter loves shooting it and it makes it almost impossible to miss when shooting “8 steel plates at 25 yards as fast as you can work the lever. It would not be my go to gun if something went bump in the night but I also would not feel uncomfortable if it was the gun in my hand.

  8. In your average home defense situation you will run out of bad guys before you run out of ammo.

  9. I have a 20″ Rossi 45 Colt for my HD rifle. I prefer the HD lever action for several reasons.

    Semi-autos make it easy to send lead flying, and that lead won’t stop at drywall.

    Sound- my 20″ 45 Colt sounds like a 22LR. I think the FPS gets pushed up to 1200-1300, but it is not nearly a AR-loud.

    Holds 10+1 rounds of man-stopping 255 grain bullets that my wife can handle with ease. Barely any felt recoil.

    Safety. The hammer is half cocked or down on an empty chamber.

    The Rossi has a loading gate. Reloading is easier than pulling the rod on the Henry.

    Its stainless with a beatiful wood stock. Looks awesome mounted on the wall.

    If I had to ever use it, I think it would be a more forgivable evidence-item to jurors who may have anti-gun leanings.

    Heavy weight with a steel buttplate. When the gun runs dry it becomes an absolute club.

    Its fun to shoot. Cycle that lever and send that lead down range. Ear pro is unnecessary when outside.

    45 Colt. I love this round. It got me into reloading due to cost, but it is an awesome and versatile caliber.

    Nice article! Thanks!

    • I have a ’92 Winchester in .45 Colt waiting for me at my friendly neighborhood FFL that I picked up off of GunBroker for a good price used, a pile of lead reloads, a few hundred FMJ RNFPs, and an 1873 in the same caliber. All I need to do is find the time to go fill out the paperwork, pay the fees and taxes, and wait another ten days to pick it up.

      Personally, I’ll take the Browning designed ’92 action any day over the ’66 or the famous ’73. It’s simpler and stronger.

    • I’ve got a 20″ stainless Rossi in .454 Casull,
      It’s everything you said about the .45 Colt version with a little (or a lot) of added horsepower. I liked it so much I bought a 16″ .357 too. For the money I don’t think you can beat those Rossi 92s in the pistol caliber lever gun game

      • I got mine from either Buds or KyGunCo on a “blemished” price. Blemish: a small scratch on the receiver that might buff out. But it hasn’t bothered me in the least and dropped a great price by another 20%!

        I took it all the way down and sanded the pivot points to smooth out the action. I also put some 10/22 style red/green night sights on it. My buddy put down his 336 to pick up my R92, then had a hard time letting go! He kept talking about how smooth the action was.
        I also have a Henry 22LR lever. There is no beating the smoothness of that lever-cycle. But I chose the R92 due to price and loading gate.

        • That .454 I have is a tack driver too, I had to replace the original butt stock because it split and getting a replacement was problematic but it now sports a red and black laminate from Boyd’s with a nice recoil pad to soak up some of the beating 10 rounds of heavy casull will put on you. It doesn’t look traditional but I think it’s pretty cool that the stock on my Rossi matches the grips on my Raging Judge Magnum. And besides, at 50 yards I can shoot cloverleaf groups with it all day long.

  10. Sure why not. “Have a gun”. Good to see mention of Rossi lever guns. I’ve been looking at “em lately. So many different directions to go when you get a little $…

    • Not so much in lever guns any more, especially in pistol calibers. The choices are Rossi, Henry, and Winchester. Marlin, as far as I can tell, has discontinued its pistol calibers, so you have to buy used, and there is competition among buyers such that they cost as much as new ones.

      • Marlin has sort of half-assed resumed making the 1894 pistol-caliber rifles. I say half-assed, because it’s currently only available in .44 Magnum, but hopefully they’ll return to making ’em in .357 and .45 Colt eventually.

  11. You would be much better armed with almost anything else besides a lever action rifle
    The buckhorn style sights on most lever actions are awful and there is no way to mount a red dot
    An AR, AK or even a Mini 14/30 is a far better choice for home defense and hunting
    The msr is becoming more and more popular for hunting and lever actions are less popular for good reason
    For home defense, a new fad is the modern sub gun like the the CZ Evo

    • Compared to a revolver (favored by many for its simplicity and reliability), a lever gun would be superior for all the reasons people recommend rifles for home defense (stopping power, accuracy, ammo capacity).

      And at home defense distance, you won’t be trying to line up a front bead in the notch of a buckhorn rear sight. You’ll shoulder it, point and fire, as you would with a shotgun.

    • Why on earth would I need a red dot on my .45 Colt lever gun to hit a target that is, at most, 40 feet away?

      Corollary: why would I want to eff up the look and feel of a lever gun by mounting a red dot on it?

      • And if you did want to. There are plenty of ways to do it.

        I “effed up” my Pre-Fail Marlin 1894c by mounting a little section of rail using the scope ring tap holes so that I could have a quick-detach scout scope in addition to the Skinner peep rear and Williams Fire Sight front sight I have on it.

        I can sight stuff with my lever action, is what I’m saying.

    • “You would be much better armed with almost anything else besides a lever action rifle”.

      That is a bit of a silly exaggeration.

      You surely don’t think that the following firearms would be preferable for home defense to the lever action carbine.
      (1) Mosin Nagant 91-30 (although it makes a pretty good spear)
      (2) Cricket or other single shot .22lr rifle (or even regular .22 bolt action rifles)
      (3) Single action .22 revolver (like Heritage Rough Rider)
      (4) NAA mini .22 revolvers
      (5) Micro .380 pistols like LCP, TCP, P3AT etc.
      (5) Full power bolt action hunting rifles (like a Savage 110 or Remington 700 in 30-06)
      (6) Crappy handguns (like Jiminez, Jennings, etc.) in .25 or .32 acp

      What you really meant was that an AR/AK/Mini-14 or other MSR is better. A shotgun, or higher capacity modern defensive pistol may be better as well, but that is a long shot from “better armed with almost anything else”.

    • You probably won’t need the sights on a rifle at home-defense ranges, but if you want a quick-to-acquire sight picture on a lever gun, Skinner Sights sells peep sights that go in the rear sight dovetail and replace the factory rear sights. I’ve got one on my ’92, and if you take out the screw-in aperture, you get a pretty open ring that’s fast on target but still plenty accurate for close-range shooting. Not quite a ghost ring, since it’s mounted too far from your eye for that, but still a very effective sighting system.

      Quite a few options exist for mounting optics, too, if that’s your thing. The Rossis come drilled and tapped to mount a rail (though the top-eject Winchester design means any optic is going to have to be forward in a “scout rifle” type arrangment), and a couple of companies sell rail add-ons for Marlin rifles. Sure, it’s not quite as simple as just bolting a red dot to an AR. But there are some advantages to using a levergun over an AR, such as popping off a .357 in a rifle-length barrel indoors is a lot less unpleasant than doing the same with a 5.56. Heck, you can put .38 +P rounds in it and get pretty good terminal ballistics in a relatively quiet, no-flash, no-recoil package.

    • I can only assume you’ve never shot either a lever gun or a rifle with buck-horn sights. Standing I can dump 7 rounds in a 12″ target at 50 yards in about 2 or 3 seconds with my .30-30 with buck-horn sights. From a rest I can put 20 rounds within 3″ of the bulls-eye at 100. The only area where the lever gun is really lacking is if you happen to need more than 7 rounds (or 11 with .357, .44 or .45LC), which is actually extremely rare in civilian self defense shootings. I might mention too that either .30-30 or (at closer ranges) the .44 mag from a rifle will carry about 2/3 more energy to the target than 5.56. Even full pressure .357 will give you nearly a 50% boost.

    • I have the Henry Mare’s Leg in .45 Long Colt. While I will admit that there are better guns for home defense, the first rule of a gun fight is “Have a gun”. The Mare’s leg has the added bonus of a fore grip, which gives you an edge on handling without sacrificing the maneuverability of a pistol. Sure, it’s unorthodox, and it’s not my go to home defense gun, I sincerely doubt the home invader I point it at will laugh sat the fact that it’s a lever gun. Sure, the loading pipe is a bit cumbersome, but as state above, first rule=HAVE A GUN!

  12. A standard pressure .38 special out of a lever gun has got to be one of the quietest guns out there unsuppressed. Low flash and smoke signature too.Put a can on it and you (I only imagine) have a gun so quiet it is “scary”. I have asked before but I will ask again now: TTAG please shoot one of these suppressed and unsuppressed using a wide range of ammo. It would be even better if you used a sound/noise meter 🙂

      • Yeah, it would need to be a gunsmith job. However, this platform screams suppressor to me. Manually operated and has “natural” sub sonic ammo available. Maybe, someone could manufacture a pump or lever gun in pistol caliber that comes threaded from the factory? Even unsuppressed these things are quiet.

    • Judging by the tone of the rest of the article, I’m going to take a wild guess that the author would not approve of civilians owning any form of supressor.

      I can’t be the only one who picked up on that?

  13. Would love to have a Henry. Have a pre-80’s Marlin .44mag and a Ruger Deer Slayer .44mag along with two .44 handguns and I reload. Spouse handles a .44 mag handgun just fine and loves the Marlin. No “black” rifles here – but do have M1 Garand. Retired, post 70 age, one new knee and another on the way and fixed income preclude any more than standing my ground Just going to do the best I can and hold out for local sheriff – really good guy.

  14. Arguably the Spencer was a better weapon during the Civil War and it was far more widely used. It may have had a much smaller capacity magazine, but a .52 caliber Spencer packs a better punch than the weak .44 Henry rimfire (more than double the power by some measures), was faster to reload, and still offered a far higher rate of fire than all other rifles on the Civil War battlefield aside from the Henry.

  15. If you already have one, or have yet to buy a rifle and prefer to own a Henry, then why not? It’s probably totally adequate for long gun home defense. However, if you can have both, the AR15 provides more firepower in a smaller and lighter package that’s easier to handle for people of all sizes, and can also be configured to anyone’s preferences. As for hunting, I can’t think of anything I’d shoot with a pistol caliber carbine that I wouldn’t also shoot with a 5.56. If you’re not comfortable with the terminal ballistics of 55 grain ball, there are all manner of expanding rounds available.

    • Juice,

      I agree that an AR/AK platform rifle is better for home defense than a lever-action rifle.

      When facing “dangerous” game in North America (such as moose, brown bears, or huge black bears), I would take a rifle in .44 Magnum over a rifle in .223/5.56 every time.

      Full power .44 Magnum cartridges launch a .43 caliber, 240 grain bullet at 1900 fps. That is far more devastating to a large animal than a 5.56, 69 grain expanding bullet at 2800 fps.

      • If you need a Henry for dangerous four legged game they make a .45-70 version. I like the .44 mag but if I was in bear country I’d want my rifle in .45-70 instead.

        • Most definitely, .45-70 Government is “more better” when it comes to really large animals. And that is exactly what I would choose if I were going hunting for browns in Alaska and could afford any rifle that I wanted for the task.

          A lever-action rifle in .44 Magnum should be able to do the job even on a brown bear if you use heavy hardcast lead bullets like BuffaloBore’s 305 grain hardcast lead bullet with a muzzle velocity of about 1800 fps for a total of 2,194 ft-lbs energy. That is the same energy at the muzzle as a 12 gauge shotgun slug. (Yes, I know 12 gauge slugs are usually 437.5 grains [1 ounce] which is heavier than a 305 grain bullet … and they have a muzzle velocity of around 1500 fps which is slower than a 305 grain bullet at 1800 fps.)

          At any rate a lever-action rifle in .44 Magnum will immediately STOP a human attacker if you can put a round anywhere near the middle of their body.

        • Boing! That’s me popping a woody at the thought of a .45-70 lever gun. I want one sooooo bad! Damn, now I have to go 1) change shorts, and b) check Bud’s Guns versus my bank account. Thanks JWM and uncommon_sense!

  16. Art Out West and Phil LA covered the significant advantages of a lever-action rifle for home defense. Aside from the possibility of having trouble operating the action under stress, I believe lever-action rifles (in a proper caliber) are second only to AR/AK platform rifles for home defense.

    I would steer people to a lever-action rifle chambered in .44 Magnum which allows you to shoot both .44 Special and .44 Magnum ammunition. Both should be relatively plentiful / easy-to-find. The significant velocity boost that you get from the long barrel (compared to revolvers) means devastating terminal ballistics for your attacker if you can hit your attacker anywhere close to the center line of their body. And lever-action rifle tube magazines, which hold at least 8 rounds, should be decent for most scenarios given the terminal ballistics that come with that long barrel.

    If you shoot .44 Special, you can launch a 200 grain hollow point bullet at something like 1100 fps (and well up to 1300 fps with hand loads) and it will be amazingly quiet while still having substantial “stopping power”. Or, you can move up to .44 Magnum 180 grain hollowpoints that exit the barrel at something like 2,100 fps. Those loads make spectacular wounds on human attackers that WILL STOP a human attacker immediately if you hit them anywhere close to the middle of the torso or head. And even the Magnum loads are relatively quiet coming out of a long barrel … much quieter than a shotgun blast.

    To put the “quietness” of .44 Magnum out of long barrels in perspective, I had to take a shot at a deer shooting 240 grain soft point bullets at 1900 fps without hearing protection. Even though I have pretty sensitive ears and hearing, there was basically no immediate loss of hearing and no ringing. On a different occasion, I shot a deer on a friend’s property. Their home was 160 yards away and about 30 degrees off-axis of the barrel in the same general direction as the muzzle (meaning sound was projected toward their home rather than away from their home). They did not hear the shot with their windows and doors closed.

    For these reasons, I much prefer a lever-action rifle over a shotgun.

    • All of which is made moot when the Henry jams up like a SOB after the first round.

      It’s fun to play Chuck Connors on the range. When there’s real danger, though, play time is over. It’s time to break out the shotgun.

      • My comment assumed that your lever-action rifle is not a jam-o-matic.

        I have heard about a minority of lever-action rifles that have trouble loading cartridges which have no taper in the case (e.g. .357/.38, .44, and .45 caliber handgun cartridges). I have also heard that those rifles are defective and the manufacturers are supposedly able to correct the defect to the point that they operate reliably.

        Needless to say, a rifle that is prone to jamming is a really poor choice for home defense.

      • I have introduced a lot of newbies to shooting and have not had issues with leverguns jamming, but a lot of them shot stroke a pump shotgun. both are good, nothings foolproof

        • Short-stroking a pump-action firearm and improperly operating the lever of a lever-action firearm are always a risk. Of course semi-auto firearms can jam as well.

          The best remedy for those risks are:
          (1) Practice a fair amount
          (2) Verify that your self-defense firearm is reliable
          (3) Maintain your self-defense firearm

          Practicing is of paramount importance with pump-action and lever-action firearms. Once you commit proper operation to “muscle memory”, you should (hopefully) be good to go even under stress.

  17. While the Henry is not my favorite lever rifle….it would do well.

    I prefer the 16inch barrel Marlin (real Marlin) or Winchester guns.

    I have one in 357 and one in 45 LC.

    I don’t choose a shotgun due to precision, noise, and recoil (my wife uses it as well).

    The shotgun with #1 or larger penetrates walls pretty well and with solids is only stop by brick.

    The 45 colts shoots Silvertips at 1000 fps and Corbon 200gr at 1350.

    The 357 shoots 125 grain 38+p at 1250, 357 125 grain at 2100, and Silvertip 145s at 1950.

    Good enough for me.

  18. I found out on the fly, that long guns in the confines of a building suck. (Think dark garage with cars, bicycles, trash cans ect.)

    My experience leads me to choose a handgun for dwelling and a carbine for perimeter protection. Your milage may very.

  19. Absolutely NOT.

    The Henry lever rifles sound great in theory, but don’t work out so well im practice. The pro-Henry crowd here appears to consist primarily of people who don’t actually own one, so their opinions are based on theory.

    My Henry in .357 is the only gun I’ve ever owned that I would characterize as a gross disappointment. It’s the worst jamming, most unreliable piece of junk ever, and that’s with abiding by its picky ammo requirements.

    You can’t use aluminum cases. You can’t use anything but flat nose ammo, for risk of chain firing rounds in the magazine tube. (Expensive flex tipped LeveRevolution rounds are available, which I have not tried because they’re pricey.)

    You can’t use .38 SPL, at all. Must use .357 magnum, but only in 158gr. Even if you follow every mandate, you will never shoot through the entire magazine without jamming. Those jams are a witch to clear, too, and are guaranteed to chew up much of your range time and all of your patience.

    Henry lever rifles are very pretty, though, and best suited for guarding the fireplace mantle against dust. For defense against actual invaders? Save the seven bills and just go buy yourself a Mossberg Maverick in 12 gauge, or better yet, a Mossberg Bantam shotgun in .410 bore for about 200 bucks. Best home defense weapons ever invented.

    • I actually bought my wife a Henry Big Boy in .357 Magnum. It’s her favorite gun. I have shot it, I have watched my wife and others shoot it.

      Various brands of .357 Magnum with bullets of various weights, as well as handloaded plinking rounds of .38 Special. I chronographed some factory .357 125 grain bullets at 2,000 fps.

      Cycle the action like you mean it (don’t baby the lever or work it slowly). Keep it properly maintained and it runs great.

      Maybe there’s something wrong with your gun? I don’t know, but I would count on my wife’s Henry like I count on my Glocks.

    • I’ve read of your justifiable disappointment with your rifle before. But I’ve had many Henry rifles, and have hunted with them quite a bit. That means they haven’t been laying over mantle, but behind the seat in the truck for years at a time, walked around and shot in all conditions. Your gun has clearly served you poorly, but mine never have. I’d bet my life on them any day.

  20. I wouldn’t grab a rifle if someone was breaking in or already in (that’s what pistols are for), but if I had to keep Very Bad People away from the house and make them shy away from my property, a Marlin .30-30 would be doing the persuading for me.

    With ghost-ring peep sights it’s quick to target, plenty accurate, and the 150-grain soft point bullets hit pretty darn hard. 6+1 capacity isn’t a lot, but it can be topped up on the fly if needed. Plus, the manual of arms is dirt-simple and everyone in the house knows how to use it.

    While I see the advantages of an AR-15 (and plan to build one), I don’t feel undergunned at all with a lever-action at my disposal.

  21. I’m not familiar with Henry Rifles gear.

    I do agree on some points though. When I travel to certain areas my car gun is a Marlin 336. .30-30 will deal with most two legged predators and it doesn’t make the locals restless if they see it.

    Most of the time though it’s my scoped and suppressed AR.

  22. If you had to go with a lever gun, a Winchester Model 94 with it’s side loading port would be much faster to reload on the go. But I wouldn’t choose a lever gun in any case.

    Let’s say you have one hand on a phone talking to the 911 dispatcher, or on a doorknob, or reaching for a light switch, or holding a flashlight, and you get surprised and need to fire multiple shots in a split second. A handgun, either semi-auto or revolver, will allow this one-handed. Maybe even an AR would if it isn’t too muzzle heavy and you are a smooth tactical operator. With any rifle though, firing one handed will be unwieldy, and with a lever action in particular, the follow up shot isn’t happening quickly without dropping the phone or flashlight first to bring your support hand to the rifle foregrip to firmly grasp it, since your trigger hand is coming fully off the grip to cycle the lever.

    Is anyone going to mount a weapon light on a Henry? Or night sights? I consider either a weapon light or flashlight to be a must-have for home defense. I suppose you could buy a light to put on your head with a strap, but that is slower to deploy and takes both hands to put on, which means you aren’t holding a gun while you do it, vs. grabbing a flashlight one-handed with a pistol in the other.

    Yeah, I’ll take a Henry over no gun anytime, but it would never be choice #1 if I owned one. First thing I grab is my SR9c with 17-round mag and Trijicon HD night sights, then my Surefire light, both of which are on the nightstand. If I have time for 911, I can put the flashlight down, grab my cellphone and dial 911 on speakerphone, then put the phone down for the call so both hands are free for light and gun again. I can do all of this without taking my hand off the pistol, and I can fire it sufficiently well with one hand in a pinch. Couldn’t do that with a lever gun.

    • Frank in VA,

      You just discussed the classic home defense conundrum: flexibility versus “stopping power”. Carbines/rifles have FAR superior “stopping power” over handguns. Handguns are WAY more maneuverable than carbines/rifles and allow you to do something with your support hand.

      There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches and I believe the ultimate choice is a matter of personal style/preference. Your chosen approach and rationale sounds rock solid to me. I have heard and imagined other approaches with a carbine/rifle that is equally rock solid.

      Note: I recommend that you reconsider your notion of trying to talk on the phone with one hand during an actual attack. That phone will block one ear and part of your peripheral vision which impairs your ability to hear/see a rush from your attacker/s. Furthermore, your attention is focused on your conversation with your dispatcher and that could also impair your ability to recognize a rush from your attacker/s. Third, you cannot hold a flashlight, phone, and handgun. Of those three items, I believe the handgun and then the flashlight are the most important.

      Personally, I would take care of business without phone in hand. If you have time to call for help while attackers are mulling around outside great. Once they are inside, it is time to set the phone down and apply all of your faculties to the attackers who could rush you at any instant. If they decide to rush you, you will need both hands available to defend yourself.

      • Yeah, I tend to agree about the phone, but I know some people are going to want to take it with them. I’m not going to be holding the phone any longer than it takes to dial 911 and hit the speakerphone button, which takes a few seconds. Then the phone goes down on a table or whatever is close by and I can talk to the dispatcher if I want to, or the dispatcher can just listen to me yelling at and/or shooting at the intruder while the phone sits on the table. Either way, they’ll know to send the cops in a hurry.

  23. If you have ever worked a Marlin Cowboy slicked up by someone who knows what they are doing, well at home defense ranges, a fast Mozambique drill with full power ammo is as fast as any AR. For home defense it will do the job every bit as well. Not nearly as good in a firefight or at ranges beyond 100 yards, but you already knew that.

  24. Lever action rifles have a genuine place in almost any self defense or hunting situation. Henrys are great guns, but I prefer my old Marlin 30-30 with a loading gate. It’s reliable, accurate and I can top off on the fly. Plus the 30-30 is a solid and proven cartridge for medium sized game or people intent on doing you harm. I have lots of modern sporting rifles and carbines in a variety of calibers, but there will always be a lever gun in my inventory.

  25. Inside the home I prefer a handgun. You could find yourself rolling around the living room floor with a knife wielding naked man who’s high on jenkem. Long guns just won’t do at very close range, you need a free hand. But I keep ready access to a Marlin .30-30 loaded with 125gr. hollow points just in case the fight needs to be taken outside.

  26. Everyone’s home defense needs will be different, I have 2 younger daughters so if someone breaks in the main priority is grabbing a gun and getting to the kids. Normally I will grab a pistol either a CZ SP-01 or Walther PPQ both with mounted lights. I prefer a pistol as I can still shoot it with one hand should I need to grab a child or something. It’s also much harder for someone to grab a pistol as I can hold it close to my body. I have a shotgun a Mossberg 930 SPX but I’ll be honest it’s heavy and long and not what I really want to move a round the house with, now if I was hunkering down waiting for someone to come to me yes.

    I have other long gun options that I think fit the bill a little better like my VZ-58 or an AR but I do think a lever gun in a pistol caliber has a place as a defensive firearm. In the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane down here inFL and I had to go out I can carry my Rossi 92 much easier and better concealed than I can an MSR, plus if I grab a pistol in the same caliber I now have 2 guns that can share ammo. Too many people it looks a lot less threatening than an AR or AK and given the ever changing political climate if you live in a state without a SYG law or Castle Doctrine and had to defend yourself in court after shooting someone it may be easier to sway a jury your way with a lever gun the same kind grampa used to have.

    I have several lever guns (a Rossi and a couple Marlins all in pistol calibers) I guess being 50 I still remember all the cowboy shows on TV growing up and they have a place in my heart. Personally I would probably go with a 357 mag over .44 mag as I can pair with with my S&W 686 and it easier to shoot that that a .44 mag. I really think there isn’t a right or wrong type of gun use what you have that’s reliable and comfortable for you.

  27. I keep a Rossi 92 in 45 Long Colt as a truck gun and four others in my rifle rack at home. Having shot cowboy action for many years I can tell you that some CA shooters here in Texas can unleash those ten rounds in less time than you can shoot the same number in an AR-15. If you don’t believe me, just Google it.

    Lever action rifles are light weight and deadly accurate to 100 yards without a scope. My 1973 Winchester ’94 can knock down a good size mule deer, feral hog or mountain lion with a single 30-30 shot. Doing the same with an AR-15 takes several shots in my experience. My Browning BLR can put a .308 downrange at 500 yards without any trouble at all. Honestly, there’s not much a good lever action rifle can’t do. But then, I am a wee bit prejudiced.

  28. I live in Chicago and own a rossi 92 in 38/357. because of chicago’s AWB its about the only rifle you can own that would be viable for home defense.

  29. Check out the SASS (Single Action Shooting Society), and other Cowboy Action Shooting groups on youtube. They can lay down some fire with their lever guns, side by side shotguns, and single action revolvers that would put some people here, shooting modern firearms, to shame. And accurately too. As said before, it’s all about shot placement, and training on your chosen platform. I would venture to say that it is possible for a squad of well trained individuals with leverguns to overcome a squad of poorly trained folks with modern “sporting” rifles. As for home defense, a carbine chambered in .38 sp/.357 mag or 44 spl/44 mag will do the trick just fine. And, just like a shotgun, top off the tube every chance you get.

    • Why do you have sporting in quotation marks? I’ve only done target shooting with an ar15, which is what the overwhelming majority of people use them for, which is considered a sport. Same thing I’ve used a Winchester 92 in 30-30, or a Marlin in 38spl, although those are hardly modern. What term would you apply to rifles used for sport?

      • Personally, I call rifles used for sport “rifles”. It’s the same term I use for rifles used for hunting, self-defense, battle, wall decoration, or any other purpose. Making arbitrary distinctions based on use is what gets you things like “sporting purpose” criteria for imported guns and “remanufacturing” an arm-brace equipped pistol into a rifle if you hold it a certain way.

        A rifle is a rifle, whether it looks like granddad’s meat-getter or something straight out of a Special Forces armory.

  30. A modernized version of the Winchester Model 1895 with a stripper clip loaded 10-round fixed box magazine would clear most AWB rules. With a 16″ barrel it would be handier than a Henry in close quarters. Picatinny rails would allow accessories like lights and sights. In .223 caliber it would be as powerful as an AR, although probably not as fast to shoot.

    Now we just need someone to make it.

  31. Two areas of possible disagreement with some of the comments above. One, not all Henry rifles are big and heavy. The recent Big Boy Steel is available with a 16″ barrel in .357 and weighs only 6.5 pounds.

    The second concerns reloading. while it’s theoretically handy to be able to use a side loading port with the rifle in a near ready position, once the gun is empty I think most owners could fill the tube faster on a Henry than on a rifle with a side port. Putting rounds through a side port on some lever guns is unpleasantly difficult.

  32. IF cops must be armed, citizens would be better served having them use a lever action Henry than any semi automatic that allows the cop to do a mag dump. Make them think about each and every round they fire.

  33. It’s not a Henry, but I’ve got a Rossi 92 around for when I absolutely need someone or something stopped right now. 454 Casull hollow points from a 20 inch barrel and it holds 10+1 of them.

  34. I wish someone would manufacture a lever gun in .327 Fed Mag. A good round, not much recoil for those averse to to such, it would complement a couple of revolvers I have in that caliber, and if desired will also shoot .32 H&R Mag, .32 S&W Long, .32 S&W, and in a pinch .32 ACP (although the star extractor isn’t effective on the latter and spent shells have to be removed one at a time). I like that versatility of multiple round capability in one caliber. When the SHTF and people are fighting over .38 Spl, 9mm, .40, .45, .223/5.56, 7.62×39, or any of the other popular calibers I SHOULD be able to find something in .32 if need be. Just sayn….

  35. You people sound like little children talking about your big bad firearms. Most of you would probably pee your pants in a high stress situation and start crying for your dad or grandpa to save your silly ass with their lever action or bolt action firearm. The only time I would fell under powered with my lever action would be in time a war. But if that happens I will put my scope on the rifle and take out just as many as you with your AR’s etc. Oh, maybe even more because I can carry more ammunition than you because revolver ammo is a lot lighter.

  36. I love my 22 caliber Henry. It is a great firearm.
    Ida B. Wells would also recommend it just as she recommended the winchester to black people for self-defense in the 1880s.


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