The Henry Repeating Arms company keeps an American heritage alive, with the Big Boy rifle standing as one of the most appreciated lever-action rifles among modern shooters and hunters alike
Established in 1996 in New Jersey by Louis and Anthony Imperato, the Henry Repeating Arms has quickly grown to become one of the United States leading firearms manufacturers.
Focusing on classic lines for their hunting and sporting or recreational shooting firearms, the company keeps an American heritage alive having been christened after the name of Benjamin Tyler Henry – the designer of the original 1860 rifle that paved the way for the development of the Winchester lever-action repeater.
The Henry Repeating Arms line of lever-action rifles and carbines currently includes rimfire and centerfire models for hunting and sport shooting and the Big Boy rifle, sporting a ten-rounds capacity and fully SASS-approved in all chamberings, remains the Company's flagship product to date.
The Henry Big Boy lever-action rifle is a “modern” gun, meaning that, despite the name, it is not a 100% faithful reproduction of an historic lever action model – unlike, so to speak, the Italian-made Uberti rifles.
On the contrary, the Henry Big Boy is more akin to a Marlin 336. But far from being a downside, the inherently high quality level – boasted by a solid markeding campaign all through the years – contributed to the Big Boy's commercial success and to the establishment of its current status as a modern classic, mixing the appeal of a retro look and feel to the uncompromising quality offered by a Company whose guns are "Made in America, or not made at all".
The Henry Big Boy Classic is the more traditional version of this lever-action rifle, built around a very distinctive shiny mirror-polished solid hardened brass receiver. The choice was made to maintain more than just an ideal link between the modern Big Boy rifle and the original Henry design, but comes with the downside of a fairly heavy weight – something like 3,9 kilograms (8.68 lbs) empty.
Shooters and hunters looking for a lighter model may want to consider the Big Boy Steel version, built around a blued steel receiver instead.
The octagonal, blued steel barrel is yet another classic Henry feature retained by the Big Boy lever-action rifle design.
The Steel version comes with a round barrel instead – a more elegant choice, if you ask us. In either case, the barrel is 50,8 cm (20") long.
The rifling twist depends from the chambering: the Henry Big Boy rifle is available in .45 Colt, .357 Magnum, .327 Federal Magnum (sharing a 1:16" twist), .44 Magnum (1.38" twist) and .41 Magnum (1.18" twist).
Adding versatility, the .357 Magnum model can feed .38 Special ammunition, just like the .44 Magnum variant can feed .44 Special ammunition and the .327 Fed Mag model will feed .32 H&R Magnum ammo.
The Big Boy's 10-rounds magazine is loaded from a front port located at the bottom bottom of the magazine tube. To reload the gun, the shooter will need to hold the rifle in a semi-vertical position (muzzle up) and remove the brass plunger tube plunger at the front end of the magazine, which also hosts the follower and its spring.
Once the plunger is partially extracted – just a few inches, enough to open the loading gate – fresh rounds can be dropped down the tube through the bottom port, one by one.
Such a loading system is not nearly as fast as Winchester's classic side-loading port, and makes the Henry Big Boy rifle a little bit slower to reload, but it works.
As stated previously, the mechanical design of the Henry Big Boy rifle is more akin to a Marlin 336 than to a Winchester, and a quick glance at the action makes it immediately clear.
The Henry Big Boy rifle features a rear-locking bolt with a two-piece firing pin and a round breechblock. A Marlin-type side ejection window replaces the typical Winchester-design top ejection. And the lever-action system is pretty much Marlin-ish, offering features such as a lever plunger and a lock system that prevents the trigger from being pulled before the action is fully locked.
There is no manual safety on the Henry Big Boy: the company decided to rely on a transfer bar located at the hammer face to prevent discharge unless the hammer is fully cocked, either by cycling the action or by thumb. This allows the shooter to decock the hammer manually – an operation to be executed carefully, removing the finger from the trigger as soon as the hammer is released! – and carry the gun with a round chambered in full safety.
All Henry Big Boy rifles come with a satin-finished American walnut stock and forend. The stock on both the Big Boy Classic and the Steel models features a straight grip, but the Classic model comes with a brass buttplate and a brass barrel band on a smooth forend, whilst the Steel model features a rubber buttplate and a checkered forend with a steel tip.
Factory sights are simple: a brass bead front sight and a traditional adjustable (elevation only) semi-Buckhorn rear sight.
Among the features that make these Henry rifles similar to Marlin is the side ejection of the empty cases. This allows the Company to ship the Big Boy rifle with a receiver drilled and tapped for scope mounts – be it rails or rings. That's exactly the kind of feature that helped to build and consolidate the popularity of the Henry Big Boy rifle among shooters, plinkers and hunters.
97,7 centimeters (38.5") long overall, the Henry Big Boy rifle is a perfect mash-up between the traditional Henry lever action design and the current tendency to constant innovation prompted by the ever-changing demands and preferences of modern-day hunters and sport shooters.
There is no point in putting the Henry Big Boy in a head-to-head comparison with other existing historic replicas manufactured by other famous brands, because these are different things, dedicated to different kinds of users.
Under all points of view, the Henry Big Boy Iever-action rifle has something to suit the tastes of a vast portion of the gun owners' community, ranging from hunters to Cowboy Action Shooting enthusiasts, down to beginners and even seasoned collectors.