Historic Beauty: Henry Big Boy Carbine .357 Magnum

Henrys are very special guns generating smiles every time they are pulled from the case. Even among a ton of other custom rifles, these off-the-shelf Henry rifles still pull me in like no other gun. They are a joy to own, display, handle and shoot.
Historic Beauty: Henry Big Boy Carbine .357 Magnum

Damn, just look at it — that stunning brass receiver, lustrous-blue barrel and deep-rich American walnut stock captivates you and draws you in. The next thing you remember is around $799 went missing from your bank account and your wife is giving you that look as you slink into the house.

Henrys are very special guns generating smiles every time they are pulled from the case. Even today — more than four years after I published my first Henry Big Boy article — my most perfect days shooting involved one of my Henry rifles. Even among a ton of other custom rifles, these off-the-shelf Henry rifles still pull me in like no other gun. They are a joy to own, display, handle and shoot.

I have noted before that when it comes to Henry Rifles, there are only two types of people — those who have yet to shoot a Henry and those who have and now lust after them. Just as Ruger has arguably made one of the best updated single-action cowboy revolvers, Henry has updated the Henry design to deliver something so refined that Benjamin Tyler Henry himself would have only dreamed it was possible back with the original design.

The best part is Henry now offers the Big Boy rifle in a short 16.5-inch-barreled carbine version that’s 3.5 inches shorter than the original Big Boy rifle. This might not sound like much, but at nearly a full pound lighter, it feels shorter, smaller and faster.

Refined Design

The fit and finish of the Bog Boy is impeccable. When I say impeccable, I don’t mean good for a factory gun, but one of the best I have seen on any factory rifle under $1,000. Every aspect — from the stunningly crafted, polished and blued lever and hexagonal barrel, to the solid-polished brass receiver, barrel band and butt plate — is perfect. The American walnut stock is so beautiful I feel compelled to wrap the gun before slipping it into my safe to avoid scratches. Even the little details like brass color-matched lettering on the barrel are superbly executed. The newly updated receivers are still milled from a solid billet of brass, but are now also drilled and tapped for a scope mount if your eyes need some help.

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If you do want to add a scope, consider Hi-Lux Leatherwood’s reproduction optics that deliver the historic look with current optical clarity. Henry didn’t just leave rough-tapped holes in the receiver scope mount threads — the company tapered the holes and then polished them to match the receiver. There are buckhorn-style iron sights that are fast and do the job.

Furthermore, Henry didn’t just top this stunning rifle with any old sight set. They used premium Skinner sights befitting the beauty of this great rifle. The shooting speed and accuracy of the Skinner Peep sights was worth the $100 upgrade, and they offer many different options.

As much as I like my original .357 Magnum Henry Big Boy, the nearly 1-pound weight reduction is felt quickly, and although 3.5 inches shorter isn’t a huge difference, it feels like a rifle a quarter the length due to the weight reduction. My older Big Boy didn’t have a drilled and tapped receiver, but all the newer Big Boy models do, including this carbine model.

The only real feature difference you will see between the full size and the Carbine is the inclusion of the large loop. Many folks envision they will start spin-cocking the rifle, but the gun might be a bit too heavy to execute “The Rifleman Reload.”

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The larger loop is a nice looking addition to this rifle to give it a little different appearance, but it can be swapped with a more streamlined version. Beyond the loop, barrel length and shorter magazine tube, it is an identical rifle to the other Big Boy models.

Like all the other Henrys, the Carbine features a built-in safety — the “hammer.”

Just like any revolver in the world, the Henrys are free of superfluous safeties. If you have a round in the chamber and the hammer is back, the rifle is “off safe.” If the hammer is down, the gun is “on safe.” Henry has updated the hammer to a completely automatic transfer-bar style safety that doesn’t allow the hammer to contact the firing pin unless the trigger is all the way back. This makes for safe decocking when the hammer can be released and then lowered safely with the finger off the trigger.

Functionally, I didn’t have any surprises, which means it works like any lever action. Work the action with authority and you don’t have problems. Pussyfoot around with extraction and you will have a case left in the chamber. The Henry rifles are buttery-smooth and get better and better every shot you take.

My original Big Boy now feels like the action is made of glass after thousands of rounds. This already extremely smooth action will get there — and getting there is the fun part. The .357 Magnum cases cycle just as well as the .38 Special rounds, however, I have found the .357 Magnum brass do seem to eject harder and thus a bit more reliably. Just like my full-sized Big Boy, I need to be a little snappier on the downstroke of the loop to get the shorter empty .38 Special rounds out.

Punching Paper

As I expected, the Henry Carbine was “minute of golf ball” accurate out to 50 yards. The really cool part about a Henry rifle is the amazing natural pointing ergonomics. They have the design from back in the day — with the lever action. All you do is point the gun and the bullets seem to magically hit your intended target.

There is nothing more amazing to me than cycling through and hitting four or five golf balls on the 50-yard line with the seven-round capacity of the Carbine. With the full-sized model you can sneak an extra round of .38 Special into the magazine tube. However, with the Carbine, I found it is capable of seven rounds either way.

I had a chance to shoot a friend’s scoped Big Boy .357 and I wasn’t shocked to see 1-inch groups at 100 yards. It can be a shockingly accurate gun, however, my preference is to use it as a 50-yard game and fun gun with iron sights.

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I have a friend who owns almost every Henry rifle made and collects them as show pieces, but he’s never shot any of them. What a shame. They are without question some of the most fun guns to shoot.

The design brings back those kid-like nostalgic thoughts of old Westerns, John Wayne and cowboys. The look of the Henry rifle is undeniably amazing. I would venture to guess they are the most-handled firearm in any store. If you put one of the Henry Rifles in your hand you will need one, too. It’s 100 percent American-made and executed with precision and beauty.


Henry Big Boy Carbine

  • Action Type: Large loop lever-action repeater
  • Caliber Options: .44 Mag/.44 Special; .45 Colt; .357 Magnum/.38 Special
  • Capacity: Seven rounds
  • Length: 35 inches
  • Barrel length: 16.5 inches
  • Weight : 7.76 pounds
  • Stock: American Walnut
  • Sights: Marbles fully adjustable semi-buckhorn rear and brass beaded front sight
  • Finish: Brass receiver, brass barrel band, brass buttplate and blued lever and barrel
  • MSRP $899
  • www.henryrifles.com


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