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Converting an original Henry or 66 to Centerfire.


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Just out of curiosity, has anyone ever bothered to check to see if the centerfire bolt from the modern reproductions would fit in an original Henry or Winchester 66?

 

It probably wouldn't drop right in, but maybe some minor "fitting" would allow it to work.

Or, maybe the dimensions are just so different that there's no way.   I am wondering if it is possible though.

 

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7 minutes ago, Rev Willy Dunkum, SASS # 61027 said:

I know you are asking out of curiosity but why would someone want to shoot an original rare Henry or 66 rimfire as a centerfire? 

 

Rev

Because the originals were made to be shot and centerfire is the only game in town.

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From what I've seen at auctions, you can't get an original Henry in firing condition (and even then, calling it firing condition is a stretch) for less than $25,000.  Modifying that valuable a collector's item for shooting doesn't seem like a great idea.  It's probably doable though

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55 minutes ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

 

Just out of curiosity, has anyone ever bothered to check to see if the centerfire bolt from the modern reproductions would fit in an original Henry or Winchester 66?

 

Find a centerfire bolt from an original Winchester.  They are around and should be a better fit.

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First off , The action length is different , the lifter block is Shorter , as is the Bolt,,, So short answer is NO ...

Secondly While building A NEW Centerfire bolt is entirely possible , it would be Costly ... And you would still be limited as to cartridge length ..

Further more there Were centerfire bolts and Duel Pin ( rim & central Fire ) Bolt guns out there ....

I have had  TWO of the duel pin guns in my shop and they are worth a bunch of money ....

 

Jabez Cowboy

 

 

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Do not destroy the value of the originals, just order the proper rim fire cases:

44 RF 1860 Henry ... https://www.rccbrass.com/product/44-henry/

44 RF 1866 ... same ... https://www.rccbrass.com/product/44-henry/

Next, buy some 6mm Flobert Primers, reload and shoot em

Or, skip the powder charge, just use a RimSet BROWN primer with the seated bullet

 

Edited by John Boy
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The chance to actually fire a real Henry, or a real Winchester 66, is just something that would be a great thing to be able to do.   I know that towards the end of the run of the 66, some were made as centerfire models, and there is documentation to say that some RF models were converted to centerfire at the factory by replacing the bolt, and no other changes were needed.   The Henry and the 66 used the same bolt, but so far as is known, there is no documentation to show that any Henry's were CF converted.

You can get .44 Henry CF brass to load up ammo for a gun so chambered.

Assuming that it is not just a drop in change with a modern bolt, and it looks like it is not, any mods would be done to the new bolt, not to the gun itself so that it could be swapped back.   Just like with my original RF Spencer.

 

All of that being said, yes, converting, or finding an already converted 66 would be FAR less costly and/or easier than getting a Henry ready to shoot again.    But if I actually win the PCH $5000 a week for life sweepstakes, well, I gotta do SOMETHING extravagant.   

Probably right after Mr. Spielberg buys the rights to my novels to turn them into major movies.

Hey, a man can dream, can't he?

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11 minutes ago, John Boy said:

Do not destroy the value of the originals, just order the proper rim fire cases:

44 RF 1860 Henry ... https://www.rccbrass.com/product/44-henry/

44 RF 1866 ... same ... https://www.rccbrass.com/product/44-henry/

Next, buy some 6mm Flobert Primers, reload and shoot em

Or, skip the powder charge, just use a RimSet BROWN primer with the seated bullet

 

 

Seems to me that it would be simpler to make empty .44 Rimfire brass and sell that for reloading.  Or even loaded ammo.

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Good info John Boy! 

 

Metallugy alone is one reason not to shoot an old rare expensive firearms.  I've seen first generation Colt SAA come apart on the firing line using lite black powder loads.  I'm not about to risk a 161 year old rare rifle for a SASS match or for fun even tho we have access to $100 each antique 44 rimfire ammo, new brass, and/or convert to modern ammo.  I'd leave this to my grand children and great grandchildren.   They don't make them anymore.  Shoot the repro.

 

Just because it can be done doesn't mean it should.  just my 2 cents.  It'll make mine worth more.  Wink! 

 

Rev

Edited by Rev Willy Dunkum, SASS # 61027
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Expert and author SASS life member Buffalo Buck has answers as to whether anyone has ever converted an origiainl Henry to centerfire.  He can also in all probibilty answer the original question as to the dimensions of the bolts vs centerfire.  Ill give him a call to join the discussion.  

 

I can't get my pics to post.  

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               H.K.U.

          At some point in the distant past someone converted the 66 to centerfire.  I have a 66 made according to the sn. 1869.

     It has  been converted to centerfire.  it has been in my family since mid 50's.

                                                                                         Moses #5964  life

                     

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13 minutes ago, Moses, SASS #5964 said:

               H.K.U.

          At some point in the distant past someone converted the 66 to centerfire.  I have a 66 made according to the sn. 1869.

     It has  been converted to centerfire.  it has been in my family since mid 50's.

                                                                                         Moses #5964  life

                     

Did you ever show it off at the Colorado Gun Collectors Annual Show.  I saw one there many moons ago, but don't recall if it was a Henry or a '66.  BTW, Winchester made a bunch of '66's in .44 Henry Central Fire for some South American government, before production stopped.  According to the measurements I took on both the .44 RF Flat and a .44 Evan Long (cf), the dimensions are very similar.   I believe you can find any number of repro '66's and IIRC, Uberti made a run of Henry's in .44-40!

Stay well and safe, Pards!

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I have handled several original Henry rifles even the two rare Japanese marked Henry rifles. I would love to shoot an original just one time. Would it be safe probably if you had the ammunition and possible convert to center fire or better yet have one that is already converted to center fire. I have shot original Spencer rifles and carbines with black powder and there is just something about shooting a 160 year old gun.  I have an original 1842 Springfield musket .69 caliber smooth-bore that I have even killed a pheasant with using a load of 7 and a half shot. A few Henry rifles and Winchester 1866 rifles were converted to Henry center fire around probably in the 1870s.  Cartridges of the World even mentions the .44 Henry center fire round. It would be great to say I shot an original Henry rifle at least one shot. Would it be a rifle you would run and gun with, no. My policy has always been I don't own a gun that wont shoot, there could be an exception to that i guess. With all of that said I have handled an early Henry rifle made in 1863 that was converted to center fire. The owner of the Henry had never opened the action. I asked if I could and he agreed. We were both surprised to find it had been converted too center-fire. I have owned several reproduction Henry rifles and the Henry is a lot of fun to shoot. I mainly have used mine in Civil War reenacting. Navy Arms made a very few rim fire Henry reproduction back in the 1980s. A friend of mine owned one and wanted to shoot it.  However there was no rim fire ammo. Navy arms used the same receiver for both their rim fire versions and center fire versions of the rifle. My friend order a center fire bolt etc. and it shot great with ,44-40 ammunition.

cart of world.jpg

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Henry rifles are indeed fun to shoot. Just think what a regiment armed with Henry rifles could do during the Civil War.  We had 50 Henry armed men at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville.

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1 hour ago, John Boy said:

Do not destroy the value of the originals, just order the proper rim fire cases:

44 RF 1860 Henry ... https://www.rccbrass.com/product/44-henry/

44 RF 1866 ... same ... https://www.rccbrass.com/product/44-henry/

Next, buy some 6mm Flobert Primers, reload and shoot em

Or, skip the powder charge, just use a RimSet BROWN primer with the seated bullet

 

Those cases look great however they are for a single prong firing pin much the same as what a Spencer uses.  The Henry has a two prong firing pin. What you would have is one prong hitting the priming while the other is hitting the brass rim of the case. Not good on the side hitting the brass. Just my observation.

1 firing pim rim fire.jpg

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What you would have is one prong hitting the priming while the other is hitting the brass rim of the case.

Buck, if the side of the rim was cut off so that prong missed the rim, believe that could be an easy fix.  Other option would be to constant Jeff Roberson, explain to him about the two prongs and have them modify the rim area ... just thinking out load

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Winchester actually made the Henry and the Winchester 1866 in .44 centerfire, in small numbers.  This photo from “Evolution of the Winchester” by R. Bruce McDowell shows the business end of some of these bolts (along with some RF ones).  So, you can find one in CF.  Personally, if it were my dream to shoot a real Henry or 1866 and I had the money to make it happen, I would seek out an original in CF.  I had a real 1866 carbine that I bought for $1000 25 years ago but I sold it when I was in graduate school.  I wouldn’t have converted it.  
 

for context, and because it’s a good story, I got the 1866 from a lawyer handling an estate who came into my shop with the 1866, a very clean 1892 rifle in 32-20, a gray but very functional 1892 carbine in 44-40, and two 1st gen SAAs in shootable condition.  He came in with a real bad attitude and said he wanted $1000 for the 1866 and $500 each for the other guns and wouldn’t take a penny less! So I said “ok.”  I sold the colts and the 1866 to make a buck but still have the 92s.  

D6C3C778-990F-461D-B3C5-9DE2C328E939.jpeg

Edited by Doc Coles SASS 1188
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Rock Island Auction just sold an original Henry for $75,000 , most other originals sell for around the same neighborhood.  If you can afford to spend five figures to have fun , enjoy yourself. Henry firearms sells an exact copy for around two grand, if you want a shooter, that seems like the thing to do.

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1 hour ago, Zach Taylor,SASS#14359 said:

Rock Island Auction just sold an original Henry for $75,000 , most other originals sell for around the same neighborhood.  If you can afford to spend five figures to have fun , enjoy yourself. Henry firearms sells an exact copy for around two grand, if you want a shooter, that seems like the thing to do.


The modern guns are not exact copies.  They are significantly larger than a real Henry to accommodate 44-40/.45lc length cartridges. The same is true for the modern versions of the 1866.  An exact copy of a Henry or 1866 in .44cf would be a much lighter and handier gun.

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            H.K.U.

      My gun has not been out of family hands since we got it. and has not been to any gunshows.

                                                                              Moses #5964 life

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/10/2021 at 12:22 PM, Rev Willy Dunkum, SASS # 61027 said:

I know you are asking out of curiosity but why would someone want to shoot an original rare Henry or 66 rimfire as a centerfire? 

 

Rev

Because of the History and excitement of knowing it was a part of history. I have shot my original 1842 Springfield.69 musket as well as both my original Spencer rifle and carbine. I know from just a strictly collector point of view a person would never want to shoot an original. With that said original collector firearms are shot all the time even original Civil War cannons. I got to pull the lanyard firing an original Napoleon cannon with a one pound charge. What a thrill. The Gatling guns that went with TR and the Rough Riders are routinely shot. 
To fire an original Henry once would a fantastic. 
Attached is a copy of a letter I received from Dillon about blanks in a Henry. 

 

 

95BA940B-521A-4C0E-AED2-760B5DAD8FA0.jpeg

Edited by Buffalo Buck 5042 LTG
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When I was still in business I did see/handle exactly ONE original CF 1866.  I have seen exactly one original converted to CF.  The last production run at Winchester, of 1866 rifles were Central Fire guns and none were sold domestically.  Those guns were all exported.  Only a handful have been repatriated.

 

A fine Suitable Substitute (stolen famous line from Sears Roebuck) is a Uberti replicant, chambered .44 Special, with a Smith Shop Carrier and running 44 Russian cases.  No antique to ruin and super fun to play with.

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