Henry Enters the Handgun Market

The Big Boy Revolver is the first offering in the burgeoning Henry handgun line.

Henry Enters the Handgun Market

No doubt about it: Henry Repeating Arms surprised more than a few people when it launched into the handgun market with the new Henry Big Boy Revolver chambered in .357Mag./38 Spl. Why would America’s top lever-action manufacturer add a six-gun to its manufacturing roster?

“We've made quite the name for ourselves in the lever-action space, and while we still have a lot up our sleeves in that category, we want to keep pushing our boundaries,” says Dan Clayton-Luce, Henry’s vice president of communications. “Wheel guns and lever guns go hand-in-hand, so this fits our brand and opens the door for many more iterations to come.”

What Henry has created with the Big Boy Revolver is a firearm with throw-back style reminiscent of the last century’s military and police service revolvers. The Big Boy is available with two grips: the Gunfighter square-style grips for maximum control, Model Number H017GDM; and the rounded, compact Birdshead-style grips with a definite Old West appearance, Model Number H017BDM. Both grip styles are made from genuine American walnut, with the Henry rifleman logo cut into each side.

The double-action Big Boy sports highly polished, blued steel throughout the medium-size frame, a quick-release cylinder, and a shiny brass trigger guard that runs from in front of the trigger to wrap around the revolver’s butt and then up, ending at the rear of the receiver.

Really, the walnut grips and the beautiful brass make the Big Boy a looker all by themselves.   

The revolver features a 4-inch barrel. For sights, it employs a fixed notch cut directly into the frame and a ramped-blade front sight, of which three sizes are included for regulating the point of aim to match the point of impact. A transfer bar safety keeps the firing pin from striking a loaded chamber unless the hammer is cocked back and the trigger is squeezed.

At about 34 ounces, the Big Boy Revolver I received for testing featured the Gunfighter grip and felt good and comfortable in hand. And I liked the overall look of the handgun. Poly-framed and optic-mounted pistols are extremely popular now and for very good reasons. But there is much to be said for a handgun made of steel, wood and brass, with both a nice heft to it and a crisp trigger in the single-action mode.

Range Time

At my outdoor range, I ran over 200 rounds of 38 Spl. and 357 Magnum through my test  model Big Boy. 

I began my shooting with 38 Spl. Loads to get a feel for the revolver. I shot at 5 yards offhand, and after some introductory rounds, saw what I could do accuracy-wise. 

My best five-shot group in this sequence came in at 1.1-inches using Remington Performance WheelGun and its 158-grain round-nose lead bullet. Other 38 Spl. groups, with the Remington and other brands, logged in at between 1.5- and 2.0-inches.    

Then, I switched up to 357 Mag. loads. Of course, recoil and muzzle flip increased with these hotter loads, but I was still able to make groups in the 1.1- to 1.3-inch range. With standard .357 range loads, my best groups on average were made with Winchester’s Personal Protection load featuring a 110-grain jacketed hollow point bullet.  

I also shot all the same loads at 10 yards offhand. My groups expanded by 1.0- to 1.3-inches.

A Self-Defense Option?

Plenty of people use a revolver for home and self-defense and while that may not be the prime reason customers consider the Big Boy, using the Winchester Personal Protection loads got me wondering how the revolver would handle other self-defense loads.

I first used Barnes’ Tac-XPD featuring a 125-grain all-copper bullet and it did well, with groups of 1.5-inches at 5 yards and 2.70-inches at 10 yards.

The Big Boy and Winchester PDX1 Defender round meshed really well. I was able to place five shots of this round and its 125-grain bonded jacketed hollow point bullets into a .80-inch cluster at 5 yards and a 2.1-inch group at 10 yards.

Actually, the PDX1 Defender was tops for all-around accuracy in my time with the revolver.

Features and Sights

The Big Boy’s cylinder swung out easily and loaded up effortlessly. Empty brass was quickly removed with the plunger-style ejector. The hammer spur was nicely grooved for good purchase in thumbing back the hammer for single-action shooting. The revolver’s trigger had a nice, wide face and the trigger guard was large enough to accommodate gloved fingers.

While I experienced zero malfunctions of any kind during my shooting, the Big Boy’s sights did present some problems for this shooter and my admittedly senior citizen-aged eyes.  

It was sunny and bright at my outdoor range, and this created noticeable glare that often obscured the rear notch. Likewise, the glare off the front blade made it hard for my eyes to consistently locate it.

So, I performed a “range expedient” fix to help the front blade pop better. I cut out a sliver of material from a florescent green target with a sticky back, cleaned off the front blade and affixed that green sliver to the blade. My “after-market” adjustment worked very well.

Of note, the Big Boy also comes with three front post options. My revolver came with  the highest front blade attached. There were also medium and lower-height blades in the box. The blades could be quickly switched out by removing a single screw.

One Fine Trigger

In double-action mode the Big Boy’s trigger pull measured a smooth 5.0 pounds on average. The trigger engaged almost immediately, and the pull was consistent throughout. The trigger did have to be fully released to reset.

In single action, the Big Boy’s trigger was nothing short of amazing, breaking at a very clean 1 pound, 14 ounces on average.  

Selling the Big Boy

Expect firearm collectors to have interest in the Big Boy Revolvers as the handguns look very similar to 20th Century military and law enforcement service revolvers.  Plus, just the fact that this represents a whole new line of firearms and direction for a major American gun manufacturer should give collectors very good reasons to eye the new Big Boy Revolvers.

Of course, those who use and collect Henry lever actions are also a natural customer base for the Big Boy six guns. 

“First and foremost, we designed this revolver to be the perfect companion piece for someone that already owns a Henry Big Boy rifle or carbine in the same caliber,” said Clayton-Luce. “It's made with the same materials as our levers and the two will look great together.”

He added that sales staff would do well to point out the premium materials and craftsmanship built in the Big Boys Revolvers.  While the overall design is relatively straight forward, there are some bells and whistles to point out like the quick-release cylinder for easy cleaning, the impressive triggers, and the high-quality finish of the metal parts.  

And don’t forget to mention that real American walnut grips. 

For additional sales, there are several holster options for the Big Boy, a number of which can be viewed on the Henry website. 

Marketing Help

As Clayton-Luce noted, “We have two major features coming up in Guns & Ammo and Shooting Times, both of which are also displaying the Big Boy Revolver prominently on the front cover. There are also many videos on YouTube from many channels including Small Caliber Arms Review, Classic Firearms, Gunblast.com, our own YouTube channel, and there's plenty more on the way!”

Henry only sells through distributors. The list of distributors is long and includes Bangers USA, Big Rock Sports, Chattanooga Shooting Supplies, Davidson’s Inc (AZ) and Davidson’s Inc (NC), as well as Lipsey’s, Sports South, and Zander’s Sporting Goods. Retailers can contact Henry directly for a complete list of distributors.

Henry can provide its dealers with packs of catalogs, and there is an e-newsletter available to any dealer through the Henry website. At this time, Clayton-Luce noted that Henry’s in-store offerings to help out retailers are what he termed “a work in progress.”

“We are very open to suggestions from our retailers as to what they feel would be the most helpful or beneficial in making Henry products stand out in their establishments,” he added. 

Those suggestions could also be along the lines of in-store or zoom training for sales staff, sales staff incentive programs, and co-op ad help. 

“These are all areas that we want to hear from our retailers about as we continue considering what [future] programs might look like,” he said.

More To Come

Big Boy revolvers in 22LR and 22WMR will be shipping out soon. Expect other caliber offerings in this line as 2024 unfolds.

“We can't get into specifics about what's to come, but we have a huge roadmap for this product category,” Claton-Luce promised. “It's important to maintain the context of this revolver being our very first offering in the space, and while this first iteration of the Big Boy Revolver is something we are incredibly proud of, we also can't wait to show the direction we're going with this category as a whole.”


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