July 21, 2015
Ever since Dirty Harry, the .44 Magnum cartridge has captured the imaginations of millions. At the time of film's release, .44 Magnum was considered the most powerful commercially available handgun cartridge on Earth. While it no longer retains that title, the .44 Magnum is still incredibly powerful, but, sadly, can be too punishing for smaller shooters to handle out of revolver. Thankfully, Henry Rifles has tamed the mighty .44 Magnum with their Henry's Big Boy Steel 44 Mag.
The Big Boy Steel 44 Mag is a lever-action, magazine tube-fed, repeating rifle chambering in .44 Magnum and .44 Special. Unlike its flashier cousin, the Golden Boy, this carbine forgoes a brass receiver for a blued steel one. It feeds from a removable brass magazine tube that holds either ten rounds of .44 Magnum or 11 rounds of .44 Special.
Hearkening back to the days of cattle rustlers, outlaws and six-guns, the Henry elicits a warm fuzzy John Wayne feeling when a shooter picks it up. Thankfully, it's more than simply a nostalgic wall-hanger, a fact reflected in the rifle's handsome, yet utilitarian, matte blue finish. Another departure from the flashier models is the omission of the heavy octagonal barrel. Instead, the carbine features a much lighter standard round barrel that greatly reduces shooter fatigue both during extended firing sessions and long treks through the woods.
It was on one of these woodland strolls that I had chance to truly appreciate the weight savings of the thinner barrel profile. My wife and I decided to take a moderate hike with the Henry at a friend's 200 plus acre ranch and help look for wild hog and coyotes. Since it was more than 80 degrees outside that day, we both brought plenty of water as well as some protein bars.
Long story short, the moderate hike ended up as a lengthy one, due to sudden severe showers and a dense blanket of fog. After a nine-hour hike with the Henry slung over my shoulder, my feet were much more sore than my back. A fact attributable to the Henry steel knocking nearly two full pounds of weight from the original, heavy-barreled design.
Handiness and weight aside, the Big Boy Steel 44 Magnum makes a great companion to a large-frame hunting revolver in the same caliber. This greatly simplifies the logistics of carrying two types of ammo into the field and makes a great combo for hunting. This is especially true when stalking wild hog, whose tough hide is often too much for common pistol calibers to defeat, effectively giving a stalking hunter a bit of insurance should a large sow decide to charge in defense of her young.
Unlike handguns chambered in the impressively powerful .44 Magnum round, the Henry has mild recoil with either full-powered Magnum or .44 special loads. Accuracy from the carbine was impressive, and more than enough for hunting large game within the cartridge's effective range. Though the carbine did present one problem. It's dangerously enjoyable to shoot, but the rounds it uses are prohibitively expensive to plink with. Thankfully, this cost can be significantly reduced by a reloading press and die setup.
Which opens the rifle up to all sorts of different possibilities. Since a shooter can load very hot rounds without worrying about felt recoil or very mild ones, knowing that the manual action of the rifle will still function. One of my favorite low-recoil recipes is one I learned from an article by fellow author Patrick Sweeney in a piece on the .44 Magnum. Basically, a 240 grain lead semi wadcutter is loaded to only 900 fps basically reproducing very hot .45 ACP loads. These are incredibly soft-shooting, and would make an excellent home defense or coyote round from either a pistol or rifle - without as much danger of over penetration as full-powered loads.
With the extensive amount of reloading data available for the cartridge, shooters can dial a perfect load for their Henry and turn it into a lever-action tack driver. The only thing standing in their way are the diminutive iron sights the rifle ships with. Patterned after traditional ones, the Henry features buckhorn post and notch iron sights adjustable for drop and windage. These are reminiscent of the stock iron sights on a Ruger 10/22 and, just like them, begs to be replaced by something more effective and forgiving to older eyes. I, personally, would have liked to see the same sights featured on Henry's 30/30 on this carbine, but, thankfully, the receiver comes pre-tapped from the factory for a weaver scope mount.
Topped with a personal favorite, the 50mm Leupold VX-1 scope, the Henry Big Boy Steel was capable of raining destruction on the countless tin cans set up at 100 yards. When half-filled with water, these cans spectacularly launch their contents airborne, giving a glimpse of the power of the .44 Magnum cartridge.
Retailing for well under $1,000, the Henry Big Boy Steel 44 Mag is an affordable option to hunters and cowboy enthusiasts alike who wish for the perfection powerful companion. Whether they're riding into the sunset, harvesting game from a treestand or helping defend the ranch from cattle thieves, shooters will love their experience with the all-American Henry Big Boy Steel 44 Mag.
If you'd like to see our coverage of another popular Henry rifle, as well as other lever-action rifles, pick up a copy of this month's newsstand issue today.