Henry Lever Action Rifles
- By Pete Moore
- 4 Comments
- Last updated: 27/01/2017
To any historically-inclined gun buff the name Henry means only one thing – the first commercial lever-action rifle! Based on the old Volcanic system B Tyler Henry turned it into a practical solution that even served in the American Civil War. The design was unusual in that it used an under barrel tube magazine that loaded from the muzzle via a rotary trap system and offered the choice of a brass or iron frame. The build with its external follower precluded the fitting of a forend and speaking from personal experience there’s not a lot to get hold of and they do get hot quickly. Good for its day, the design was acquired by Oliver Winchester and morphed into the 1866 (Yellow Boy) with its brass frame and the latter iron-framed 1873 models. Both incorporated a more practical loading gate in the right side of the receiver.
So what has the modern Henry Repeating Arms Company got to do with this? Well not a lot, as they use this iconic name and offer two models in a staggering number of options that actually have only one thing vaguely in common with the original and that’s filling the magazine! However, what are on offer is a pair of lever-actions offering a number of rimfire and centrefire chamberings as we shall see.
Chalk & Cheese
The importers (Viking Arms) sent me two rifles; the 22 rimfire H001 and the unusually named Big Boy H006C in 45 Colt. The rimfires are also available in 22 WMR (22 Magnum) H001M and 17HMR H001V (Varmint Express) models. The centrefires also offer 44 Magnum H006 and 357 Magnum H006M. In terms of layout the two versions differ a bit, let’s start with the 22.
If I did not believe the Made in America legend on the box then I would say the H001 was the old Erma Werke EG 71 Wagon Master, a German design that goes back to the 1970s. None the less a slim and elegant rifle with an aluminium receiver with integral 3/8” dovetail and an adjustable, semi-buckhorn rear sight and a fixed, ramped blade up front. There’s some reasonable walnut too with a straight-hand butt with plastic plate and forend.
Feed is by an under-barrel magazine with a twist-off/pull out spring/follower tube. To load you rotate the tube out of its locked position and pull it forward to expose the loading port, which is at 6 o’clock and 5” from the muzzle. Rounds are placed in base-first and load to a capacity of 15 in 22 Long Rifle (LR). The real beauty of this system is that you are not restricted by cartridge overall length (COL) as you are with a box magazine system. So though pointless you could load any combination of 22 rimfire types – LR, Longs and even Shorts and the gun will reliably feed this mixed bag. Capacity varies accordingly with 17 Longs and 22 Shorts, not bad at all…
With its 18 ½” barrel and weighing just 5 ¼ lbs the H001 is a nice rifle. The trigger is wide and grooved and offers a decent 4 lb break. Typically there’s no safety though the hammer offers a half cock facility, which allows a safe carry with one up the spout! All you have to do is thumb the hammer back and pull the trigger. The tube magazine precludes the fitting of a moderator, but as a plinker or short range game getter there’s little to fault here. Put on a scope and you should be able to push out to 100-yards too.
Hey Big Boy!
Hmm I wonder who thought up that name? Though looking similarish externally the Big Boy, which is the in-house design, is different. Most notable is the brass receiver, which has been shaped cosmetically to look not unlike the Henry and 1866 actions. The brass theme continues with a curved butt plate and barrel band at the front of the forend, which does look a bit OTT! However, inside is a Marlin 1894-style action with a cylindrical, rear locking bolt. There’s no separate safety catch and most unusual is the lack of a half cock facility on the hammer, so a 100% safe carry would mean an empty chamber.
The rifle is noticeably heavy at 8.68 lbs, due in the main to its big, octagonal 20” barrel. The magazine tube is secured by a ring up front much like the Winchester 1873 Sporter. As before it’s a twist & pull out system that in 45 Colt loads to 10-rounds in all three calibres. Sights consists of a Marbles-type semi buckhorn, elevator wedge with white diamond insert under the U-notch. Up front a tall, brass-tipped blade offers windage adjustment. Here line-up and acquisition are excellent.
Timber is decent walnut, with a straight-hand butt, though here the forend has a bit more belly, which fills the hand better. The action is smooth and overall build quality and presentation is good. The only thing Henry have missed off is drilling and tapping the top of the receiver for scope mounts. This does seem an oversight certainly when compared to the Marlin 1894. Likewise the magazine system, as the rifle will have to come out of action to reload, as there’s no way of topping up through the receiver.
Flat Nose Only
Ammunition went to MagTech’s Cowboy load using a 250-grain RN/FP lead bullet. These are specially made for the job and give a speed of around 750 fps, so nice and smooth. The flat nose ensures safety in tube magazine where bullets are stacked nose to tail, so negating the possibility of a pointed nose detonating a primer under recoil. Though I would caution you about dropping the rounds down vertically, safer to keep the gun at a low angle and slide them in! If you are reloading ensure the primers are seated below the pocket too! Rimfire was from Lapua and SK.
Feed and function were good, which is one of the advantages of a tube magazine system. Given the Big Boy was running on iron sights it was capable of grouping into an inch at 50-yards, which is good enough. However, it is slower to load and top up than a comparable gate-loading system like the Marlin or Winchester 94. Plus the lack of a scope mounting ability does not do it any favours if you were looking for a general use, pistol calibre, lever-action. A pity as overall it’s a solid and reliable design.
The H001 is a little peach, fun to use with an admirable capacity even in 22 Long Rifle it fills the roles of fun gun, plinker, bunny buster and even Action-type competitor. It’s easy to fit an optic too and the only down side is its inability to mount a moderator without major surgery to the foresight/barrel clamp block. However, with something like 22 Short sub-sonic hollow point the report is less than a comparable 22 LR sub, so a partial solution and a surprisingly good performer on rabbits too.
From what I can make out in the USA the Big Boy is more aimed at the Cowboy Action shooter, where features like the lack of safety and no optical mounts are of less or no importance. With little change from a grand this is not a cheap lever-action for the British Western shooter and firmly in Uberti Winchester 1866 and 1873 territory. The HOO1 is more niche as 22 rimfire lever-actions are thin on the ground with Marlin’s 39A being probably the only competition.
MagTech 250-grain 45 Colt ammo £52.00 (per 100)
Contact Viking Arms Ltd, 01423 780810
Big Boy well built and reliable but a little basic and flashy looking
Front-loading tube magazine loading system not for everyone
The HOO1 is a cracking little rimfire, though will not mount a moderator without some modification
PRICE: (Henry H001 )£372.00, ( Big Boy HOO6C) £991.00
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