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Why not Henry?


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My friend that is going to shoot sass with me is wanting to buy a henry 45 colt lever rifle with case colored receiver, and a large loop lever. Is that the Big boy?

 

I read on these forums that henry rifles are not the top choice. I do not read what the actual reasons are. What is not desirable? I would like to know good/bad before we go to the gunshow this weekend where i know he is looking to find one.

 

 

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The original Henry Big Boy centerfire lever rifles without the side loading gate fall apart (literally - they spit out broken action parts) or otherwise are very prone to jamming.   If run VERY slowly and smoothly, they will usually last for a match or two, sometimes longer.  But as soon as the new shooter sees someone run 10 shots in 5 seconds with their toggle link gun or a Marlin or a 92, the new shooter tries to speed way past what the Henry can cycle without damaging internal parts.  And, the tubular magazine loading through removable inner liner and follower is a slow and cumbersome way to load at cowboy matches.

 

I have seen 5 new shooters come to matches at our own club with a new Henry Big Boy  (none of which have been the new side gate models), and EVERY ONE went home before the match was over in disgust because they tore up their new rifle.   And none came back.  I have seen NO SHOOTER come to any major matches and do well enough to make the awards stand.

 

Not only are they not the TOP choice, they really are NOT A CHOICE at all for cowboy action shooting games.

 

I have not seen enough comments on the newer side gate models to know if the same design weaknesses were carried over to those guns.  But at least they got rid of the nasty "plunger loading" magazine tube.

 

Now, the Henry .22s, that have to move a lot less cartridge, can run very well, and even better with internal smoothing and tuning.  For the price, they are probably a top choice for a .22 lever rifle any more.

 

good luck, GJ

 

 

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For me, consideration of a Henry started and ended when I found they did not have side loading gates. There is now one that does have a side gate, but I don't think it is SASS-legal.

 

Others can chime i no confirm or disagree on the legality of this rifle, along with other reasons they disfavor Henrys.

 

And some will pop in to say why they love their Henrys.

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I started with a Henry Big Boy, and yes the 45LC is a big boy.  The Henry isn’t a bad rifle per se, but it is not a great rifle if you want to shoot faster.   Note, contrary to other comments, I ran mine as hard as I could, and it help up for my matches.   However I had owned it for several years and already knew what case and OAL it likes/ hated. In my case it was 357 cases with a 1.52-1.54 OAL. 38 SPCL cases at the same lengths would jamb up and are probably what broke those other guns.  
Here are the issues with it are (based on my experience) 

1. The hammer spring is from a 70’s Chevy pickup.  It’s HEAVY. 
2. The safety spring is heavy

3. The worst part of the action was the lever latch spring.  In order to keep the lever latched against #2, this spring is needlessly heavy. 
4. The ejector on some people’s breaks easily.

5. In stock form the lever throw is 1/4” inch shorter than a stock 1873, but it can’t be short stroked like a 73. 

It is in stock form, a slow rifle.  Built for hunting, not cowboy shooting.   They are good looking, the tolerances are great, and the machine work is burr and crap free.  
If you want to improve it, the guts are mostly a Marlin 94 and you can drop in a Palo Verde Spring kit (except for the danged lever safety spring.  That you’ll need to buy a 0.3 x 4 x 10mm 304 ss spring.  Then pick up a Wild West Arms Marlin 94 bear proof one piece ejector.   The gun will feel and run better, but still won’t be as fast as an 1873.  
Bottom line, and I finally listened to my Sheriff, Sarge, skip the Henry and look for an 1873.  
My Henry is now my backup to the backup.  

 

 

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5 minutes ago, John Kloehr said:

For me, consideration of a Henry started and ended when I found they did not have side loading gates. There is now one that does have a side gate, but I don't think it is SASS-legal.

 

Others can chime i no confirm or disagree on the legality of this rifle, along with other reasons they disfavor Henrys.

 

And some will pop in to say why they love their Henrys.

Side loader is SASS legal BTW.   Depending on category...  

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Henry Big Boys are legal except for Classic Cowboy. 
 

just because you can does not mean you should! They are fine for hunting, or slow plinking, but if you try to run one fast it ain’t gonna work. And like Garrison Joe said, prone to start spitting out their innards. 
 

save your money. Best rifle for the game is a 73, then a 66. Then Marlin, then 92. 
I have an 1860 Henry (not same as a Big Boy) . Kinda fun to shoot every once in a while, but not overly practical either. 

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And if it means anything to ya, they are not "period correct", for whatever that's worth.

The 73s, 66s, 92s, Marlins and Henrys, although mostly clones now, actually existed pre-1899.

Yes, I know Rugers didn't either, but they are close enough APPEARING and well, they run like scalded dogs and are tank-tough so...

If ya really want a new Henry, by all means, but you will most likely have problems trying to run them fast and well, they just don't look the part.

Your choice. 

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A great gun for what it is intended.

Would work for a novice...for a short while. But not a 'race' gun.

If the price is right, and shooter is slow...but all in all, would need a rifle geared toward our sport sooner than later.

We love our .22 Henry.

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I do not own a Henry.   But I have used one at a match.   I went to a match once and the rifle I brought malfunctioned on the first stage.   I forget why.   Anyway, someone offered to let me borrow his "Henry."  I said sure.  I was expecting an 1860, which I have one of, and was dismayed to see it was actually a Henry Big Boy, which I have heard bad things about.

But I needed a rifle, so I used it.   It functioned flawlessly and I had no complaints about it throughout the entire match, other than that the escaping gasses that came out of the ejection port when the action was opened were kinda hot on my right wrist.  (I shoot rifles left handed, and this is the same reason why I don't care for Marlin's)  If I recall correctly, the gun's owner did say that he had had it tuned, so that may be why it gave me no trouble, but I don't remember exactly.  Lesky, if you see this post, it was your rifle.  Is it tuned or stock?

Anyway, apparently the Big Boy is capable of running correctly for CAS.   Is the the best choice?   Not for me personally, but I have to admit that the one I used was a very nice rifle.

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3 hours ago, John Kloehr said:

For me, consideration of a Henry started and ended when I found they did not have side loading gates. There is now one that does have a side gate, but I don't think it is SASS-legal.

 

Others can chime i no confirm or disagree on the legality of this rifle, along with other reasons they disfavor Henrys.

 

And some will pop in to say why they love their Henrys.

Why would the addition of a side gate negate their SASS eligibility?  

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As everyone before said it's not a good rifle for what we do. He'd be better off with a 92, or 94 Marlin and even better a 66 or 73. Tell him not to waste his money unless he has a lot of it or if he plans on maybe hunting with it.;)

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Most rifles regardless of manufacturer or caliber are not suitable for Cowboy Action Shooting as they come from the factory. Just like your family sedan is not suitable for NASCAR.

Some cannot be re-engineered to stand up to the speed of use and the relative disregard of how we use them. This is the category of the Henry Big Boy and the Burgess.

Some can be worked on to run smooth but not incredibly fast. A Model 1892 would probably fit in this category

And there are are some that can be made to fire 10 shots in 1.5 seconds. This is the land of the 1873 and the Marlin.

 

You are welcome to pick which category of rifle suits you.

 

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3 minutes ago, Nimble Fingers SASS# 25439 said:

Why would the addition of a side gate negate their SASS eligibility?  

There are Henry Side Gate models that are SASS legal.

 

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3 hours ago, Marshall Matt Dillon said:

My friend that is going to shoot sass with me is wanting to buy a henry 45 colt lever rifle with case colored receiver, and a large loop lever. Is that the Big boy?

 

I read on these forums that henry rifles are not the top choice. I do not read what the actual reasons are. What is not desirable? I would like to know good/bad before we go to the gunshow this weekend where i know he is looking to find one.

 

 

Little off topic but I think it is relevant all the same. 
When I shoot my favorite is a JW 92 in -44-40 with a big loop.  That being said, I am not competitive when I shoot, enjoy dressing like John Wayne and enjoy just walking around healed. Now the relevant part, if your friend is just “playing”, doesn’t care where he ends up in the scorebard at the shoots and wants the Big Boy because he likes the looks, he should go for it. No reason as he plays more he might want other rifles to shoot later. The big loop will slow him down as it does me, but I shoot slow anyway and he may as well and be perfectly happy. But if he wants to be competitive, he should pick a old Marlin, a 73, 66 or 92 in .38 special and he will be better served at the matches. 

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I agree with Nimble Fingers; most of the above replies assume your friend wants to be competitive and possibly win.  Ask your friend if that is his goal.  If yes, in that case, it sounds like the Henry BB is not a good choice  from the above comments. 

If the answer is no; see what draws him to the game.  The Henry BB may be just fine depending on his answer.  There are other reasons than trying to win to play CAS; some like the history of the American West, some the commraderie of a CAS meet, some are taken by the Hollywood/TV westerns myth, some want to relive their childhood playing cowboys and indians, some want something more easy going than other shooting sports they've done and so on.   Sometimes there are several of the above reasons combined; find out which is most important, then go from there in chosing one's gear.

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Nailed it.

It is a sport for many and all! That's why I love it.

With that said...we started with an old Winchester (don't ask, I don't remember) because it fit the budget.

BUT it was soon 'out run'.

You are so correct in what you stated though...shooter may ONLY want to shoot relaxed, slow and consistant.

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I just got a lever gun.  for my needs, I wanted something split 80% for hunting and 20% for gaming.  my criteria was that it had to be in .357 magnum and it had to be something I could trade straight up for, no cash added.  My top three options were a Rossi 92, a Henry Big boy and a Winchester 94.  With the possible exception of the Rossi, these are bottom of the pack SASS rifles, but offer some nice options to the hunter.  the 92 was on the list because it was the cheapest, lightweight, had a strong action for hot rodding hunting loads and will no doubt serve me well getting started in the game until I have enough experience and time and money to commit to going deeper in the game. The Henry was on the list because with the ability to dump the tube, I can easily transport it to and from the range or hunting without having to cycle all the ammo through the action (my state allegedly, doesn't allow transport of loaded long guns), I can easily scope it if I wanted and when I grew out of it from a game perspective, they are easy to resell.  the Winchester 94 was on my list because I used to have one, so I knew what I was getting into from a handicap perspective, but the action permits loading and cycling of Very Heavy .357 bullets way out to really up the punching power on deer and hog sized game.  I knew that buying one would not be feasible, but I figured someone on the wire might have started out with one and quickly retired it to the safe and might be willing to trade down for something more useful.  

The Marlin wasn't on my list because I have no experience with them outside of limited use of 30-30's.  I also see the prices vary widely and I don't know why, I don't like investing in something I don't understand the value of.  Most of them were also outside of my trade value.

If I could have had a 73 or 66 in trade, I would have been happy, but being worth $3-500 more than my trade-in rifle, I didn't think that was likely.

 

Ultimately I ended up with a Rossi 92, they were in stock, met my requirements and I found the dealer willing to trade for my gun.  I can still get the same cartridge performance as a Win 94, but only as a single shot.  I was able to handle it in store and it felt smooth enough.  I will probably replace the springs for game time, but I will retain the safety as I find it useful for things like emptying the magazine before sticking the gun in the truck.  

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I own a Henry Big Boy in 45 Colt. It is a well built heavy rifle. The only problem I have ever had was the extractor came out for some unknown reason. Landed on the tarp I was standing on so I didn't lose it. I have never used it at a CAS match and have no desire to do so. There are several local shooters using Henry's and have been reliable for them. They are bottom half shooters but they are having fun. If that is what it takes to get someone shooting our game then have at it. Sue said it best that it's a game for everyone and play it at the level you want. If a big loop Henry is what you want then get it and come play with us. Heed all the above advice that it isn't the best tool for the job but that is a good excuse to buy more guns.

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I have two reasons.

1. The loading can be a problem. I was at a match where the loading table faced the range. A fellow shooter was at the loading table prepping. The magazine follower slipped out of his hands as he was trying to complete the loading sequence and it shot out onto the range. It was embarrassing for him and I don't recall him coming back

2. Since you live in Ohio, you are in NCOWS country. If you decide to compete in NCOWS events, the Henry Big Boy is not allowed as it didn't exist before 1899 and is only cowboy-like, not a copy of an original design. But, the Henry Original is a copy of the Henry 1860 and is allowed in NCOWS and most SASS matches.

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Most of the folks shooting big boys for CAS fall into one of two camps:  they had it before they got interested in CAS, or they got interested in CAS but didn't have any guidance.  Folks that seek guidance and buy a Big Boy anyway, well they better not complain later - just find out what sort of ammo it likes and try to lever slowly and smoothly.

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3 hours ago, Sacramento Johnson #6873 said:

I agree with Nimble Fingers; most of the above replies assume your friend wants to be competitive and possibly win.  Ask your friend if that is his goal.  If yes, in that case, it sounds like the Henry BB is not a good choice  from the above comments. 

If the answer is no; see what draws him to the game.  The Henry BB may be just fine depending on his answer.  There are other reasons than trying to win to play CAS; some like the history of the American West, some the commraderie of a CAS meet, some are taken by the Hollywood/TV westerns myth, some want to relive their childhood playing cowboys and indians, some want something more easy going than other shooting sports they've done and so on.   Sometimes there are several of the above reasons combined; find out which is most important, then go from there in chosing one's gear.

I think this post really summed it up best. If your buddy wants to play CAS AND have the fun flavor of the JW look, find a Rossi 92 with the big lever or add the lever onto one, so it will run right for him! My little Rossi is a tough little bugger that is a good friend.

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I bought a Big Boy 45LC prior to starting CAS because it was beautiful. Used it in my 1st CAS match, & & it jammed on the 2nd or 3rd stage. Somebody loaned me a '73, & I bought one shortly thereafter. The BB has been in the safe ever since. I'd like to sell it, but it was a gift. If I sold it, there would be a great gnashing of teeth. It would look good on the wall. I think that's what I'll do with it.

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5 hours ago, Nimble Fingers SASS# 25439 said:

Why would the addition of a side gate negate their SASS eligibility?  

In and of itself, it would not.

 

Just for clarity, the reason for my uncertainty for SASS is I simply do not know if the newer side-gate Henrys are replicas of SASS-legal guns, or if the calibers they are chambered in can be used in a main match. I just don't know.

 

You may wish to ignore the rest of this post...

 

Separate from those questions, the Henrys available at the time I was looking were tube-load and I wanted side-gate. Also, since I shoot Steel Challenge, tube-load rifles are not legal in that sport.

 

Which (pre-covid) was an important consideration as SASS shooters are welcome at Steel Challenge around here, with preference to dressing the part... And if you do dress the part, you can generally collect your brass. Which means you can (could) buy FMJ ammo and collect the brass for reloading.

 

Which was a serious consideration when I was going to go with 38 Special because that is reputed to be fastest, before I changed direction to .44-40 (rifle) and .44 Russian (pistol) to  reload with black powder; so I bought all-lead cartridges for future reloading.

 

But I could still shoot those and collect the brass in Steel Challenge, as long as I agree to dress the part so I get leniency to collect the brass. But the rifle needs to have side-gate loading.

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2 hours ago, Max Payne said:

I bought a Big Boy 45LC prior to starting CAS because it was beautiful...

 

I have seen others say the same thing, and that's as good a reason as any to buy a gun.  And yet others (like me) think it is butt-ugly.  Just goes to show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder!   :)

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i shoot an 1860 henry occasionally , im no speed daemon so i dont notice a lot of difference - but its not a big boy as you are referring to it , what has been given above is really great info for those considering this sport as a competitor , if your serious of it you will go with a 73 or a 66 , but there are a lot of other choices that are fun here , thats what i do - i switch around depending on my mood , 

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45 minutes ago, Abilene, SASS # 27489 said:

 

I have seen others say the same thing, and that's as good a reason as any to buy a gun.  And yet others (like me) think it is butt-ugly.  Just goes to show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder!   :)

Put me in the "butt ugly camp", not ME I mean the Big Boy!!:lol:

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The loading gate confusion may be because the first lever actions HRA put side gates on were rifle caliber lever guns and not their pistol caliber lever guns.

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The big boy is not well suited for sass.  It’s not fast and it’s not reliable.  It’s also not a lot cheaper than guns that are a much better suited to the sport.  
 

You don’t have to be trying to win to find an unreliable gun frustrating.  There are enough challenges in this sport without unreliable equipment.  

 

Another strike against the big boy is that it is not historic and (in my opinion) is as ugly as a mud fence.  But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  As my old friend “Pawnee Bill” once told me “if you like fat girls, the world is your oyster!”

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I have shot approximately 100,000 warthog loads of Holy Black in four provinces and 11 states for over 35 years using a .45 Colt Henry Big Boy with nary a problem of any kind. I have a nice collection of belt buckles and trophies. I'm primarily an NRA bullseye pistol competitor, a BPCR shooter, a CFDA  and a handgun hunter. I'm not a starry eyed newbie.

 

After a lifetime in the shooting sports, I have heard an almost unlimited number of apocryphal BS tales and the Henry myths are some of the silliyest. Years ago, many pards hated the Big Boys because they considered them to be unauthentic, ugly fakes and not worthy of SASS. 

 

They are tack drivers that will do whatever you want them to do once you learn how to use them.

 

 I equate their tales to the ones I have overcome shooting my .50-140 3-1/4" with F1-1/2 Old Eyensford with a 650 grain Postel  bulletwith SPG Lube.

 

Whenever I hear that "everyone" says something, I immediately discount it.  :rolleyes:

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Howdy Marshal,

I would like to offer a different point of view on the Henry Big Boy that most of our Pards would be unable to offer. 

In short I am a retired cattle rancher thanks to the Ca. drought & wild fires. My wife got me into SASS in 2005 to break up constant work at home and since I owned

about everything thing I needed to start. I carried a Blackhawk in 45LC my whole adult life so when I found a matching one we got it. I wanted a brass Henry & the BB was just offered in 45LC so we bought one. This was during the "Modern/Traditional" era & one of the things I wanted to do was to buy American.

Now remember that SASS is different things to different Pards. Much of my gear has seen real life in and on the saddle, so one of my takes was to bring my 20th Century ranching lifestyle to the shooting table.

I did have a problem with my first match with the ejector flying out. I returned it to the dealer who was in contact with Henry. This was 2005 remember. I finally e-mailed Mr. Imperato through the Henry site with my problem. He arranged for the rifle to be returned to the factory where it was determined it was a .44 cal ejector installed in the gun. He fixed the problem & had his smith work on the action.

Now I got bored with smokeless powder pretty quick cuz of all the target shooting at home so my cousin Bobcat Brian & I switched to BP. Once I had the rifle back I never had an issue with it performing since. It runs only BP with 250 gr bullets to prevent blow back. I've run as many as 11 stages through it in a single day w/o any

cleaning. I've even shot Winter Range in FCD. On the 11 round stage I just kept the action open and dropped the round in a la a '97.

Mind you I am NOT out for speed so if your friend is set on that then yes go with a mainstream model, remember this is a game & different things to different folks.

 

That said, any Pilgrim who thinks it is as "ugly as a fencepost" would probably not like to posse with me. If your life revolved around fences staying up so critters stay in and Yahoos stay out then you'd know a properly set fence post is a beautiful thing.

But that's another topic all together, DAMMIT!

 

JUD   

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Just for the Tally books. I have a Big Boy in 357 mag. It will run 10 round strings in under 5 seconds. That is not that fast for some. if you consistently shoot under 20 second stages.

Yes I have I done some work on it to get it that way, but then there few rifles on the range that haven't been "worked on".

 

 

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