Lever fever continues to rage amongst TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia; we’re doing our best to cool your collective brow. A couple of Marlin 1894c’s are headed are way; one for Mr. Dumm’s expert appraisal and one for our Cowboy Assault Rifle project gun. There are other examples in the editorial pipeline, including a lever gun that fires the Smith & Wesson .500 cartridge (to accompany a .500 snubbie in an upcoming Extreme Carry feature). Put it all together and I’m still not going to be out-of-pocket tens of thousands of dollars. As one would be if one (not me, one) purchased this New Haven Arms Company Engraved .44-caliber Henry Rifle, set to be sold by rockislandauction.com at the end of May. Obscure? Check . . .
Most of the approximately 9000 Henry rifles manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company between April 1862 and May 1865, were standard rifles intended for sale to individual soldiers or purchased by the Ordnance Department. Relatively few factory engraved Henry rifles were manufactured during the Civil War and surviving examples are rare.
Desire? Well, that’s down to personal preference, of course. But even those of you who consider fancy scrollwork on a gun about as classy as a velvet Elvis above a Tikki bar should note that this work is exceptionally . . . restrained. Here’s an example of Mr. Hogdson’s work on a similar, less expensive Henry.
While the dandified version of “that damned Yankee rifle” is a beauty, collectors are advised to heed Wiki’s words of wisdom: “As it was designed, the rifle was not a very safe weapon. A Henry rifle, when not in use, would either have the hammer cocked or resting on the rim of the cartridge. In the first case, the rifle had no safety and was in firing position. In the second, an impact on the back of the exposed hammer could cause a chambered round to fire.”
Is that enough to put a collector off? Hardly. Despite the Henry’s high estimate and the usual blather from the auction houses, vintage gun prices are as soft as a cavalry man’s saddle. Personally, I’d prefer a 19th century Henry that saw action, or at least looked like it saw action. But I understand the desire for a bit of firearm frippery on a deeply desirable classic design. This gun’s like Angelina Jolie—back when she only had one tattoo and decided to enact a multi-ethnic version Cheaper by the Dozen in a French chateau. If you know what I mean. If you do, hide your checkbook.