The Lever Action Henry .357 Magnum Big Boy Steel Rifle and Carbine

The Henry 'Big Boy' series of lever action rifles was the first series of Henry's now extensive centerfire rifle lineup.

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The Henry "Big Boy" series of lever action rifles was the first series of Henry's now extensive centerfire rifle lineup. Big Boy's were the natural progression upward from the .22 LR "Golden Boy", and like the Golden Boy, the Big Boy's were built with brass receivers (Big Boy's feature hardened brass reciever's) that hearken back to the original Civil War Era Henry .44 Rimfire Carbines. Today, Henry also produces their exacting version of the Civil War original, albeit in .44/40 and .45 Colt Centerfire Cartridges.

The Big Boy rifle series was built to accommodate centerfire pistol caliber cartridges. Current chamberings include .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, and .327 Federal Magnum.

I had my first chance to fire the steel framed variant of the original Big Boy Rifle chambered in .357 Magnum caliber for this article at the Vance Outdoors Alum Creek Range. Weighing in 7 lbs., the Big Boy Steel strikes a fine balance between fast and easy handling and the ability to control potential recoil generated by full-power .357 Magnum cartridges.

The overall length of the Big Boy Steel is 37.5 inches. The blued steel round barrel is 20 inches in length. The sights consist of a brass bead front and fully adjustable semi-buckhorn diamond insert rear. The matte-finished blue receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope mount.

The stocks are made from fine American walnut, a hallmark of Henry Repeating Arms. There is a heavy rubber recoil pad. The wood is finely checkered at the wrist and forend. Studs for sling swivels are mounted fore and aft. A blued rifle-style fore end cap is used rather than a carbine barrel band.

The .357 Big Boy Steel has a magazine capacity of 10 rounds. Feeding is through a traditional under-barrel tubular magazine. Rounds are dropped into the loading port at the end of the near the end of the barrel after removing the spring loaded brass inner magazine tube. There is no side loading gate (yet) on this model.

There is no manual safety button or sliding lever on Henry lever action rifles. Henry centerfire lever guns use a sliding bar transfer safety. Because of this system, Henry can maintain its traditional western appearance, unlike other companies who have added the external manual safety mechanisms.

I test fired a rental .357 Big Boy Steel at the Vance Alum Creek Range. Unfortunately, the range staff had no .357 Magnum ammo on hand, but they did have .38 Special American Eagle 130 grain FMJ ammo available. Conducting the test using .38 Special ammo was important as it proved that the .357 Big Boy cycles fine with the 1/10-inch shorter loads—something which doesn't always occur in .357 Magnum chambered carbines. Keep in mind that the .38 Special makes a great small to medium game round in its own right, enhancing the utility of the .357 Henry.

Firing .38 Specials out of a 7 lb. .357 carbine is a treat. Recoil was non-existent. I moved the target out to 65 feet, and rested my elbows on the stall tray to steady things up a bit. I loaded up my first 7 rounds, and fired slowly. I was rewarded with a 1.5 inch group, and smooth cycling. I then send the target to 50 feet and fired unsupported. I was rewarded with a 2.5 inch group. All rounds struck dead center. After that I brought the target back to 50 feet, and fired 9 rounds rapidly working the lever. The result was a solid dead center group, thus showing the Big Boy Steels capability as an emergency self-defense arm. THAT was great fun! Full power .357 Magnum's will produce greater blast and recoil, but will be easily controlled in this gun.

The Big Boy Steel carbines were introduced with the deer hunter in mind in states who now allow the use of straight walled rifle cartridges. The .357 makes a fine close-range deer cartridge when fired from a rifle length barrel and loaded with 158 to 180 grain hunting ammunition. The .327 Federal Magnum is a good small to medium game ground, as was its predecessor, the legendary .32-20. The .41 Magnum, 44 Magnum, and .45 Colt need no introduction. All should do a fine job for shots from 50 to 100 yards.

While I wrote this piece, I was watching re-reruns of 'The Rifleman'. For you Rifleman afficionado's, Henry also makes a 16.5-inch Carbine version that weighs in at 6.59 lbs. and sports a large loop lever, which will work great with winter gloves.