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Mod Question: 1860 Original Henry w/ Shorter Barrel


Wade Butcher
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The HRA Original 1860 Henry comes in a much shorter carbine barrel, but it's only available in 44-40. I'd much prefer 45 Colt. I emailed Henry, but they don't do custom work.

 

I'm curious how difficult the job might be for a good cowboy gunsmith. (I'm not worried about the expense, but I'd rather not have to build a completely new rifle from scratch, either.) The 1860 has that iconic rotating loading tube at the muzzle, so I'm thinking that a middle section of the barrel would have to be removed, then the rotating muzzle welded back onto the remaining shorter barrel. (Or something like that.)

 

I don't have an 1860 Henry to personally inspect (yet), so I'm relying on other Henry owners / enthusiasts to tell me what they think. :)

 

W.B.

 

Edited by Wade Butcher
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Coffinmaker built me a Henry Transitional, that has become my favorite rifle.

He pulled off the rotating sleeve, and cut the barrel just ahead of the change from octagon to round. 

It is a hair longer than the Uberti carbine version, but still holds 10

Cutting the barrel a bit really improves the balance and shootability of the gun.

He made me one in 44-40, which I shoot at every match, and one in 45 colt, modified to shoot 45Cowboy Specials.

 I believe Uberti makes a carbine in 45 colt -- They call it the "trapper" model, and it has an 18.5" barrel

 

https://www.uberti-usa.com/1860-henry-rifle

--Dawg

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If I am not mistaken the Uberti Henry Trapper model will not hold 10 rounds, it only held 8.

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I have and shoot a 1860 Henry which I ordered in 45 Colt.

After 3 year I was tired of fighting it to keep it running when shooting black powder.

I made a call to Uberti USA and Maria had a single 44-40 barrel assembly on the shelf.

It arrived and my gunsmith changed the assemblies.

I have had the 44-40 barrel on the rifle for a lot of years and I will say I will never go back to the 45 Colt on the Henry.

Some where in the shop I still have that 45 Colt barrel assembly.

Because I plan to never use it again, I have lot track of where it is.

 

The 44-40 when shot with black powder will run all day with very little maintenance.

Provided I load the cartridges right.

The wads I make and use is two cards with a 1/8" hard wax disk between the cards.

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Yes, the 18.5" barrel will not hold 10 when you use 200 grain bullets.

It will hold 9-1/2

But, if you use 160s, it will.

Or, use Schofields or 45 Cowboy specials.

My 19" transitional has no problem holding 10 Colts with 200 grain bullets

Edited by Prairie Dawg, SASS #50329
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If you wanted to use a shortened 1860 Henry you could do what the Civil War reenactors do to use blanks in the full size gun.  Reenactors use blanks made from 44 mag or 44-40 brass which is shorter than a real cartridge without the bullet in the case.  You could use 44 Russian cartridges in a 44-40 Henry and for the short distances we shoot in CAS I don’t think it would make much difference.  I have used a Uberti 1860 Henry for CW reenacting for about 30 years and there is a simple modification that can be done to the gun to allow it to cycle shorter cartridges.  A simple set screw in the carrier block along with a minor modification to the bolt is all that is necessary.  If you could come up with one of the Trapper models in 44-40 that were made you could easily use it for CAS.  If you would like to know more about the modification I can send you an e-copy of a paper I wrote years ago that explains how to modify a Henry for blanks.  I have also been known to do the modification many times for other reenactors.

Edited by Nickel City Dude
spelling error
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A).  Running 44 Russian in a 44-40 chamber isn’t a real fine idea.  Actually more than a little foolish.

 

B).  Shooting 45 Colt, or 45 Schofield or C45S in 45 chambered rifles is actually quite simple.  Just take a little time out of your off season day and anneal some cases.  Annealed cases will expand tp seal the chamber and the rifle will shoot as clean as any “dash” caliber

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3 minutes ago, Colorado Coffinmaker said:

 Shooting 45 Colt, or 45 Schofield or C45S in 45 chambered rifles is actually quite simple.  Just take a little time out of your off season day and anneal some cases.  Annealed cases will expand tp seal the chamber and the rifle will shoot as clean as any “dash” caliber

 

+1

I've seen Coffinmaker's rifles after a day of shooting APP, and they are indeed clean! 

 

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I would recommend buying a Uberti 45 Colt Trapper, rather than cutting the barrel in the middle, if you can even find someone who could/would do it.
Just my .02

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Why not run 44 Russian in a 44-40 ? I have been doing it in my 44-40 Remington 1875's and have had no problems. Yes, they are a bit smaller and I get some blowby so they run dirtier, but my wife's 45 Colt carbine has a large chamber  and they aren't any worse than hers.

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All good solutions. Unfortunately, I think the Uberti Trapper only holds 8+1, and I'd prefer 10+1. Also, I'd prefer the 45 Colt cartridge over the 44s to match my 45 Colt revolvers. That said, you've all given me a lot to think about, and I appreciate it.

 

Thanks again.

 

W.B.

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48 minutes ago, Springfield Slim SASS #24733 said:

Why not run 44 Russian in a 44-40 ? I have been doing it in my 44-40 Remington 1875's and have had no problems. Yes, they are a bit smaller and I get some blowby so they run dirtier, but my wife's 45 Colt carbine has a large chamber  and they aren't any worse than hers.

The case diameter at the base for 44 Russian is .457.  The case diameter at the base for 44-40 is .471.  That’s a big difference.  I would never shoot 44 Russians out of a 44-40 and would never advise others to do so, especially in a rifle where the blow by is close to their eyes.  Shooting the wrong cartridge in any gun is always asking for trouble.  

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I have shot 44 Russian in my 44-40 Henry a bunch of time and except for some extra blow back they worked fine.

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So, about 14 thousandths smaller. About the same dimensions as a thick human hair on both sides of the case. I think I won't sweat it too much. We are in much more danger of having an AD due to going to fast or not noticing a squib and bulging a barrel or forcing a case into the chamber and having an out of chamber detonation.

   FWIW I think I am going to cut down some split neck 44-40 brass and make my own short brass. It will use up some trashed brass plus seal the chamber better anyway, which is important to me as I shoot BP.

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On the other hand, I have a 66 carbine in 44-40 that I bought for $50 when it’s owner brought in into my shop after shooting a 44 spl in it.  The case split and blew gas and brass fragments back into his face.  The gun locked up and he was convinced that it was ruined.  I looked it over an thought it was likely repairable.  After buying it, I took it apart and drove the split case out.  When reassembled it was fine. 
 

The 44 spl has a lot more pressure than .44 Russian, but is the same diameter.  Even if the case does not split the first time, firing 44 Russian in the 44-40 chamber will blow it out and if you reload it will have to be squeezed back down to size, which stresses the case and will lead to case failure eventually.
 

No reputable smith, gun shop, gun or ammunition manufacturer, or frankly any responsible shooter would recommend shooting the wrong ammunition in a gun (yes I know that some rounds are functionally interchangeable but that’s not what I am talking about). 


 

Edited by Doc Coles SASS 1188
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3 hours ago, Springfield Slim SASS #24733 said:

So, about 14 thousandths smaller. About the same dimensions as a thick human hair on both sides of the case.

 

Well, not really. I'm sure you meant to account for gravity, but forgot. Since the case will sit in the bottom of the chamber (due to gravity), you will have a gap that is equal to approximately 3-4 sheets of paper, between the top of the case and the top of the chamber wall.

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Just because you get away with something foolish doesn’t mean you should.  Much less recommend it to anyone else.  That is just plain irresponsible at best.  Stupid comes to mind.

 

No, you can’t cut the middle out of a Henry barrel and weld it back together.  The barrel has to be pulled, chamber end cut off, remachined, threaded, rechambered, reinstalled and clocked.

 

If one wishes to shoot short cartridges in a short Henry barrel, start with a 45 and run a “Smith Shop” custom carrier or put a cartridge stop in the OEM carrier.

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44 minutes ago, Colorado Coffinmaker said:

No, you can’t cut the middle out of a Henry barrel and weld it back together.  The barrel has to be pulled, chamber end cut off, remachined, threaded, rechambered, reinstalled and clocked.

Thanks, Coffinmaker! That's just the kind of answer I was hoping for.

 

One follow-up question, if you don't mind: Is all that work (from pulling the barrel to clocking) something that could be done by a good cowboy gunsmith (hopefully, for under $2,000)?

 

Thanks again!

 

W.B.

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I didn't recommend it, I was just trying it to see if I liked using a shorter case. Of course the case won't last as long, but any case can rupture/split down most of it's length at some point. I find these types of cases in the trash barrel at shoots all the time, and yet I have never seen anyone care about it as they didn't even notice it until they got to the unloading table.  If we were shooting high power ammunition it would become a problem, but as much as we have downloaded our ammo we all get away with way more than the overage shooter. Just modifying our lever actions so they can be fired at machine gun speeds is in itself a mod the original gun designers never intended.

If I thought what i was doing was going to lead to any type of catastrophic failure I wouldn't do it. My wife and kids shoot with me and I am not going to endanger their lives nor anyone elses.

  Just to keep things in perspective, Starline 44 Russian brass is about 12 thou thick, so I am only asking it to stretch it's own thickness.

Edited by Springfield Slim SASS #24733
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Now back to the original topic.  I have a Uberti Henry and one of the US made Navy Arms ones, not a Henry brand one but I think the mechanics are pretty similar.  If all you want is a shorter barrel I think you could pull the barrel, cut the magazine back with a hacksaw and file (to reduce the amount that has to be turned down and reduce chatter) then turn it between centers on a lathe to get the correct round section at the front of the barrel for the rotating section, then cut the barrel back appropriately and drill a dimple in the correct spot  for the.screw that keeps the cap/front sight piece on.  Reblue the barrel and screw it back on, no need to do anything to the chamber.
 

Theoretically it’s not that hard, though I don’t know how much chatter you would get turning on the lathe with the magazine hanging off one side.  

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15 minutes ago, Muley Gil SASS # 57795 said:

VTI has the 16 1/2" & the 18 1/2" barrels listed here:

 

Uberti 1860 Henry - VTIGunparts.com Online Store

 

There you go.  Get one of these barrels, modify the carrier block for the shorter 45 Schofield and you are good to go.

Edited by Nickel City Dude
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Before you get all excited, best you read the fine print “check stock”.   those shorter barrels haven’t been in stock for years.  Also consider. . . A shorter barrel in 44 WCF won’t help.  Adding the modified carrier block won’t help in 44 WCF.  If you really want to shoot short cartridges, your options are .45 Colt chamberings or cutting the barrel breach and rechambering to 44 Spl and shooting 44 Russian or 44 Colt.  There are no Good shortcuts.

 

Well, you could special order a short barrel from Uberti, chambered in 44 Spl, but Uberti hasn’t made a 44 Spl Henry barrel in decades.

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I ordered a custom Uberti Steel-framed Henry from Taylors & Co. in January this year... with the 18-1/2 barrel, I plan on getting if modified to run the Cowboy45Special cartridge and short-stroked as soon as it comes in from Italy.  Still no delivery date specified.  My understanding is that Taylor's had to order 5 to get this done.  I'm sure they'd be appreciative of more interest.  CC is correct, Uberti would still have to produce the "carbine" and "trapper" barrels to resupply VTI.  

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21 hours ago, Colorado Coffinmaker said:

Before you get all excited, best you read the fine print “check stock”.   those shorter barrels haven’t been in stock for years.  Also consider. . . A shorter barrel in 44 WCF won’t help.  Adding the modified carrier block won’t help in 44 WCF.  If you really want to shoot short cartridges, your options are .45 Colt chamberings or cutting the barrel breach and rechambering to 44 Spl and shooting 44 Russian or 44 Colt.  There are no Good shortcuts.

 

Well, you could special order a short barrel from Uberti, chambered in 44 Spl, but Uberti hasn’t made a 44 Spl Henry barrel in decades.

 

If you re-read the original post, the OP wants a short barreled .45 Colt Henry. Since it was the weekend, I didn't e-mail VTI. You are probably correct that they don't have a short barrel in stock, but the OP can at least try.

 

A number of years ago, I special ordered a .357 Baby rolling block from Taylors & C. It took a while, but it did show up. :)

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