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Henry’s .44 Magnum Big Boy Grabs The Brass Ring

by Mike Venturino   |  January 3rd, 2011 15

The Big Boy from Henry Repeating Arms is accurate, reliable, and smooth of operation. It’s right at home on the cowboy action range and in the hunting fields.

To enlarge this photo of Henry’s .44 Magnum Big Boy, please click HERE.

Since about 1997 the modern Henry Repeating Arms Co. has made lever-action, pump, bolt-action, and semiautomatic rifles chambered for rimfire rounds. A few years back it began offering the Golden Boy, a brass-frame, exposed-hammer, tubular magazine-fed .22 rimfire that has been well received among fans of that genre of firearms.

The Henry Big Boy was the company’s first venture into the centerfire rifle marketplace. As with the Golden Boy, the Big Boy lever gun has a brass receiver and classic styling. Let’s take a look at some of its features.

Traditional Yet Unique
Unlike most traditional centerfire lever guns chambered for pistol cartridge-size calibers, the new Big Boy does not load through a gate on the action’s right side. Instead, there is a slot in the front of the tubular magazine into which cartridges are inserted. To load, the magazine tube follower is rotated slightly and pulled forward to expose the loading port. Then cartridges are inserted and the follower pushed back and locked into place. This is the same magazine tube system that has been used on .22 rimfire rifles of all sorts for well over 100 years. However, the only big-bore lever action that I am aware of that loaded through the front of the magazine tube was the original Henry .44 rimfire rifle of 1862 to 1866 vintage.

Big Boy Lever-Action Rifle
Manufacturer: Henry Repeating Arms Co.
Model: Big Boy
Operation: Lever-Actoion Repeater
Caliber: 44 Magnum
Barrel Length: 20 inches
Rifling: 6 grooves, 1:38-inch twist
Overall Length: 38.5 inches
Length of Pull: 14 inches
Weight, empty 8.68 pounds
Sights: Brass bead front; Marble buckhorn rear
Stock: Two-piece American walnut
Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
Finish: Blued steel barrel, magazine tube, lever, trigger, hammer, sights; bright polished brass receiver, buttplate, barrel band; oil finished wood
Price: $799.95

Here’s a word of warning about loading magazine tubes from the front with centerfire cartridges: They must be inserted with the firearm lying level. Then they can be gently slid to the rear. If they are dropped from the front with the muzzle pointing skyward, a primer could ignite from the impact of cartridges hitting one another. This is not just an idle warning. Such has happened often with the replicas of the original Henry rifles imported from Italy and chambered for such centerfire rounds as .44-40 and .45 Colt.

Once the new Big Boy is loaded, it functions in the same manner as traditional lever guns. That is, the operator’s fingers are inserted through the loop lever and it is drawn downwards and then back up again. That movement does two things: a cartridge is inserted into the chamber and the hammer is brought back to its fullcock position. Then to fire the rifle the trigger is pressed.

Over the 140 years that lever-actuated rifles have been in production, two basic modes of ejecting empty cartridges have evolved. Winchester-designed versions throw their fired cases out the top of the action, and Marlin-designed versions throw fired cases from the right side of the action. The Big Boy follows the Marlin style. As the Big Boy’s lever is brought upwards, the bolt travels forwards and when closed is locked shut by the lever. There is also a disconnector behind the trigger that prevents the trigger from being pulled unless the lever is drawn completely upwards.

The Henry Big Boy loads through a slot in the front of the tubular magazine. Magazine capacity is 10 rounds.

Classic Styling
That covers the operation of the Henry Big Boy. Now let’s take a look at its cosmetics. As I said earlier, it has classic styling. The stock is two-piece American walnut. The buttstock has a straight grip with a brass buttplate. In its shape the buttplate closely resembles the Winchester and Marlin carbine-style buttplates of the late 19th century. That is, it has a slight curve without being crescent shaped, and it is fairly wide to help distribute recoil.

The Henry Big B
oy .44 Magnum ejects empty cases from the right side of its machined brass receiver.

On my sample Henry Big Boy the buttplate was 1 3/8 inches in width. The forearm is likewise of straight-grained American walnut and is 9 1/2 inches long. The forearm is secured to the barrel by means of a brass barrel band, which is also reminiscent of carbine barrel bands as used by Winchester and Marlin in the late 19th century. Length of pull on my test sample is 14 inches.

A point where the Henry Big Boy varies from 19th-century carbines is with its octagon barrel. The 20-inch-long barrel is fairly heavy, measuring .75 inch wide at the muzzle. It is rifled with six grooves with a twist rate of one turn in 38 inches. A lead slug pushed down the barrel measured .429 inch in diameter. The magazine tube is nearly the full length of the barrel, stopping about 1/4 inch shy of the muzzle.

Sights on the Big Boy consist of a Marble buckhorn rear and brass bead front.

Sights are classic Old West all the way. The front sight is a tall blade topped with a brass bead. It is set into the barrel by means of a dovetail. The rear sight is a Marble’s buckhorn style that is elevation adjustable by means of the usual notched slider. It is also set into a barrel dovetail and can be adjusted for windage by drifting laterally. There is no provision for mounting peep sights on either the receiver or tang, nor is the receiver drilled and tapped for scope mounting.

Shooting The .44 Henry Big Boy
Factory Load Muzzle Velocity (fps) Velocity Variation (fps) 25-Yard Accuracy (inches) 100-yard Accuracy (inches)
.44 Special Cowboy Loads
Hornady 180-gr. RN/FP 1014 65 1.50
UltraMax 200-gr. RN/FP 1033 24 1.63
Black Hills 210-gr. CNL 863 64 1.25
Winchester 240-gr. RN/FP 877 17 1.75
.44 Magnum Cowby Load
UltraMax 240-gr. RN/FP 975 16 2.25
.44 Magnum Hunting Loads
Federal 180-gr. JHP 2088 49 4.75
Hornady 200-gr. JHP 1580 22 3.63
Black Hills 240-gr. JHP 1572 71 2.88
Federal 240-gr. JHP 1610 134 3.46
PMC 240-gr. Starfire 1376 58 4.04
NOTES: Aa 25-yard accuracy figures are for a single 10-shot group. All 100-yard accuracy figures are for three five-shot groups. All shooting was done from a sandbag benchrest. Velocity is the average of 10 rounds measured six feet from the gun’s muzzle.

The walnut stock is oil finished, and the steel barrel, magazine tube, lever, trigger, and hammer are all given a nicely polished blue finish. Wood to metal fit is very nice. Of course, the brass receiver, buttplate, and barrel band are highly polished brass. The choice of brass in this day and age seemed odd to me so I called Anthony Imperato, Henry Repeating Arms Co. president.

He told me they chose brass to help identify with their namesake company of the 1860s. When I asked about the composition of the brass, Imperato said there are many different formulations for brass and that theirs is a special proprietary composition. He said they have extensively tested it and determined it to be strong enough to withstand the pressures given by standard .44 Magnum factory ammunition.

At The Range
After perusing the Henry Repeating Arms Co.’s catalog it is obvious that the company hopes to enter both the cowboy action shooting market and the short-range woods hunting arena with the Big Boy lever gun in .44 Magnum. Therefore in my test shooting I chose to use both full-house .44 Magnum factory loads with jacketed bullets and cowboy-type lead bullet factory loads. The high-velocity .44 Magnum loads that could be considered for deer hunting were test-fired at 100 yards in strings of five rounds. The low-velocity .44 Magnum and .44 Special lead-bullet “cowboy” loads were fired at only 25 yards but in strings of 10 rounds.

In addition to its distinctive brass frame, the Big Boy wears polished-brass buttplate and barrel band.

To be honest, in the beginning, I was not looking forward to doing much shooting with a .44 Magnum lever gun. About the worst I have ever had my right shoulder beat up during shooting came a few years back when testing several .44 Magnum carbines for an article. Fortunately, brass is heavy, which causes this particular .44 Magnum lever gun to weigh 8.68 pounds, about one to 11/2 pounds more than other comparable sized lever guns. And due to its relatively heavy weight, the Big Boy was pleasant enough to fire even with full-house .44 Magnum factory loads. With .44 Special low-velocity loads it was a plain pussycat.

Accuracy at 100 yards with the full-house .44 Magnum factory loads was very good, especially considering that the brass bead front sight subtends a full eight inches at that range. This sample Big Boy’s trigger pull averaged six pounds but was without creep. At 100 yards, groups averaged in the three- to four-inch range, which is just what I have come to expect from other lever guns sporting similar sights and chambered for pistol-size cartridges. At the close range of 25 yards, the 10-shot groups ran more in the 1.5 range. That sounds fairly large, but those big .44-caliber bullets were usually cutting large, ragged holes.

Functioning was flawless with the loads listed in the accompanying chart. In the past I’ve encountered feeding problems with several .44 Magnum lever guns when they were loaded with shorter .44 Special cases, and in the beginning I wondered if the Henry .44 Magnum also would present problems in feeding the shorter .44 Special loads. This Big Boy did not seem to care. I tried to go a step further and feed it .44 Russian ammunition, but those very short cases would not function through it.

(Left to Right) Hornady .44 Spl. 180-Gr. RN/FP, UltraMax .44 Spl. 200-Gr. RN/FP, Black Hills .44 Spl. 210-Gr. CNL, Winchester .44 Spl. 240-Gr. RN/FP, Federal .44 Mag. 180-gr. JHP, Hornady .44 Mag. 200-Gr. JHP, Black Hills .44 Mag. 240-Gr. JHP, Federal .44 Mag. 240-Gr. JHP, PMC
.44 Mag. 240-Gr. Starfire, UltraMax .44 Mag. 240-Gr. RN/FP

Let’s discuss the intended purposes for the Big Boy as envisioned by the Henry Repeating Arms Co. In the catalog the company discusses this new lever gun as being for hunters and cowboy action shooters.

The .44 Henry Big Boy achieved very good accuracy with both cowboy-type ammo at 25 yards and with full-house Magnum hunting loads at 100 yards.

Some hunters will balk at that shiny brass receiver, saying it will scare game away. And perhaps that is so. But the original Henry repeater and its follow-up, the Winchester Model 1866, were brass framed (actually, in those days, bronze) and popular among hunters for decades. Time will tell on that one.

Mike found the 8.68-pound Henry Big Boy to be comfortable to shoot even with full-house .44 Magnum factory loads.

As for use by cowboy action shooters, the Single Action Shooting Society (probably better known as SASS) has approved the Big Boy for use in all SASS events. The Big Boy has sired a couple of variations that might interest lever-action fans. The lever-action design is particularly popular with cowboy action shooters, and Henry has designed a version of the Big Boy specifically for them in .45 Colt. The Big Boy’s smooth operation should prove to be a benefit in those close competitive situations where performance counts. The most recent version of the Big Boy is chambered in .357 Magnum/.38 Special calibers. The .357 Magnum Big Boy would be ideal for close bush hunting.

The Henry Big Boy I tested was accurate, reliable, and smooth of operation.

  • donk3565

    Dont not buy a henry if you want a gun that looks good.I ordered a frontier from my local gun dealer. Wanted one just to put up I have other guns that i use. I looked on their website and loved the wood on this gun….when I got it ….it was nothing like the gun i seen.It was a darker stain and dull. I emailed them about it . He emailed me back and wanted to give me a gun case.I told them I didnt want their gun case i wanted to know if I got the right gun. I never heard nothing from them after that. I sent pictures of my gun the model number and a few more emails.No RESPONSE. So that was my first and last with henry arm.

  • Bob

    Mine is superb in all aspects!!!!!!!!

  • Joe

    I own two Henry rifles , a regular .22 lever action and a Golden Boy in .22 mag. The Big Boy is on my short list.
    As far as fit and finish, both are very well made , the more expensive Golden Boy is destined to become an heirloom. The fit and finish is superb.
    Regarding Henry's customer service, after 10 years of regular use my .22's receiver cover became deformed where the scope is attached. I emailed Henry asking for their advice , I included my name address and phone number. Three weeks went by, I never heard from them. One night when I got home from work I found a box from UPS sitting on my front porch. Henry shipped me a complete reciever cover with an invoice that said " no charge"
    So when I'm ready to buy my next lever gun , it will be a Henry.

  • Jeff UK

    I bought a Big Boy in October 2011, came with a ding in the butt plate where either the UK distributor or proof house had damaged it. Two emails to Jenry and I had a complete set of wood sent to me free of charge. I also have a Marlin 1894 and the fit, finish & operation of the Henry is so much better in every respect.

  • Frank

    I have a Henry Big Boy 44 mag and cannot say enough good about it. Purchased it November 2011 , took it to the range with a grandson for it's first firing. Grandson and the others at the range with him said WOW what a gun. After 30 rounds the target at 50 yrds. had a hole in it big enough to put my fist through. Grandson is an army vet and knows guns. Like the others, the weapon is perfect in fit and finish. This weapon will end up with a great grandson named Henry someday Lord willing. PS I am 74 .

  • Mark

    I special ordered the Big Boy .44 Magnum and immediately took it to the range and fired 100 rounds. The gun was a joy to shoot and dead on at 100 yards. The gun is just beautiful to look at and seems to be very well made.

  • Mike

    I bought a 44 mag Henry Big Boy in December 2011. I love this gun,it is a blast to shoot. Always functions well and is a very well made, beautiful gun as well. I own a model 94, 30-30 winchester and I would rather shoot the Henry any day.

  • Doug Meyers

    My Henry .44 Big Boy is one of the most beautiful weapons I've ever seen! I'm currently looking to put a vintage brass scope on it. Anybody have any suggestions on where to find one?

  • David

    I just put a Henry .44mag on layaway at my local dealer and truly lucked out, because this rifle seems to be in high demand. I've been absent from the gun hobby for over 20 years and due to a friends discovery of the hobby, and his passion (in 6 months he's collected 30 assorted guns) has fired me back up. I looked high and low for the "first" perfect firearm to get me restarted and I am confident that the Henry .44 Big Boy will do the trick. I must admit, that $750 is chump change to some, but for me, it's a massive investment and will hurt my budget and lifestyle considerably and due to this I struggled with just getting the much less expensive .22 Golden Boy instead… Yet, after holding both and feeling the weight, I went with the .44 mag. I hope I made the right choice.

  • Willy Sargent

    My wife just purchased a Henry .22 a few weeks ago. I fell in love with it and started researching what Henry had to offer. To my pleasant surprise I came across the Big Boy .357 mag. I have a .357 pistol so it was a natural for me. Today I came home with my brand new Big Boy. We took it out to the range and all I can say is WOW! What a perfectly balanced and firing rifle. The whole family could hit anything they wanted with it. Including my 13 yr old daughter that had never fired a rifle in her life. I will be a Henry fan for life.

  • BullDog

    I purchased a .357 Magnum Big Boy in Dec 2011 to go with a Ruger .357 Magnum "Police Service Six" revolver I've owned for many years. I must say that the Henry "Big Boy" is the finest rifle I've ever owned. My 12 year old son loves shooting it more than any other gun we own. I've just purchased the .44 Magnum Big Boy to go with my .44 Magnum "Desert Eagle" to duplicate ammo as i did with the .357…I have several modern style fire arms, but, the Henry's are my favorites to shoot and some day, pass on to my son. I believe probably 98% of folks that purchase Henry "Big Boys" fall in love with them the moment they put them in their hands. They bring a sense of the past, when things were much simpler. My next Henry purchase will be either the "survival-floating" .22 or a "Golden Boy". Happy Hunting!!

  • trapper rudisill

    i love the henry rifle have the big boy in 44mag and the 22 gloden boy only wish they would make one in a side load. that would be awsome. please please concider this.

  • Paul Quinn

    I bought a big boy 44 mag a couple of weeks ago and it looks so nice I havn't fired a round yet !

  • MRD

    I just redeemed two year's worth of Cabella's gift certificates collected specifically to help pay for a Henry's .44 Magnum Big Boy. After a convoluted process to locate and ship the rifle to the right Cabella's, My wife and I headed for the woods to test fire the new rifle. I was all over the target, but it was the same result with two pistols, too, so it was me, not the rifle. That's what happens when you don't shoot for a couple of decades, I guess. In the meantime, I couldn't be more pleased with the rifle. Wow!

  • Lenny Brooklyn

    Good Article. I was wondering what would happen if I tried to put a .44 Russian through my Henry. Now I know its too short to feed properly. Thanks!

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