The Henry Repeating Arms company has been making legendary rifles and carbines for ages. To almost anyone in the gun culture, the words “Henry rifle” conjure up images of a post-civil war United States and an American tradition that is part of our heritage. And now, for the first time in history – there is a Henry revolver, and it’s called the Big Boy.
- But first – a history lesson
- Legendary status
- The Big Boy – and big shoes to fill
- The Henry Name
- Build, Details, and Specs of the Henry Big Boy Revolver
- Henry Big Boy Revolver Action
- Henry Big Boy Revolver Trigger
- Devil in the Details
- Shooting the Big Boy
- Henry Big Boy Revolver Accuracy
- Who’s the Big Boy For?
- READ MORE: Henry Repeating Arms Donates $75,000 to Leading Gun Rights Organizations
- Just My Opinion
But first – a history lesson
Benjamin Tyler Henry developed and patented the first true lever-action repeating rifle in 1860. This literally changed everything, since the muzzleloader was the standard arm of the day. A man with a Henry rifle could do the work of a dozen men in combat. And it was not just speed, but accuracy and reliability that defined the Henry. Let’s just say that in a world full of shotguns – it was an AR.
To this day, the Henry rifle is considered by many to be an heirloom-quality firearm. Made in the U.S., the Henry is known for top-quality materials and workmanship. You can see and feel that quality in every gun – from the octagonal barrel with its flawless finish, to the beautifully sculptured hardwood stocks. But for me, and probably plenty others, the unmistakable trademark feature is the polished brass receiver and accent parts. You can recognize a Henry product at 200 yards – and be impressed.
The Big Boy – and big shoes to fill
With the introduction of the Henry Big Boy revolver this year, the company is offering for the first time a handgun to compliment its rifles and carbines. But there are questions to be answered: Does the revolver fit into the brand’s lineup of products? Who is it for? And perhaps most importantly – Is it worthy of the Henry name? When you have legend status, there is a lot at stake with new product introductions… I’ll try to answer those questions.
The Henry Name
Even if you didn’t see its box or the barrel, you could still immediately recognize this six-shooter to be a Henry. The jet black finish of the blued steel is in sharp contrast to the polished brass but softens to the eye by the smooth American walnut grip panels. The bluing looks as if you could reach down into it. The Big Boy revolver bears an indisputable look of the later 19th century and lets you imagine going back in time some 150 years and seeing it in the glass case of your local general store – brand new. When set next to a Henry Big Boy Brass Carbine (also chambered in .357 mag) – any doubt about the shared DNA is gone. Simply put – having either one without the other would just seem incomplete.
Build, Details, and Specs of the Henry Big Boy Revolver
|Caliber||.357 Magnum/.38 Special|
|Action||Double-Action / Single-Action|
|Overall Length||9.5 inches|
|Barrel Length||4 inches round blued steel|
|Sights||front post/rear noth|
|Grip Panels||American Walnut|
The Big Boy revolver is available in two variations – the Birdshead grip and the Gunfighter’s grip. Aside from the shape of the butt of the gun, there are not many differences. The Birdshead weighs about an ounce less and is ½” shorter overall. Which design is for you is a matter of personal taste or need based on your intended use. The smaller, rounder butt of the Birdshead model will conceal better if you plan to carry it, while the Gunfighter grip will fill the hand more and be easier to draw from a traditional OWB holster. I tested the Gunfighter grip version – as you see in the photos. Kudos to Henry for offering both versions of the gun, as I know folks who would prefer the smaller, rounder butt – and I tend to like the larger, square bottom better.
Henry Big Boy Revolver Action
The action is double action / single action. Some may question why Henry didn’t offer the Big Boy in a single action only model, perhaps in keeping with the period reference. The double-action barrel can be traced back as early as 1851. Really for quite a while though, it was just a novelty style.
The cylinder rotates counter-clockwise, as viewed by the shooter (which is definitely the recommended perspective to see it from) and the action feels rock-solid with excellent timing. The cylinder lock-up is very snug. The trigger is deeply curved with a smooth face. It pulls smoothly all the way through a double-action stroke and springs back to a reset in a quick, solid sweep. Emptying six cartridges downrange in a hurry is a piece of cake. Of course, the hammer can be thumb-cocked for single-action fire. The hammer spur is fairly narrow and small-ish, but no trouble to get a thumb on. It is nicely serrated and doesn’t slip.
Henry Big Boy Revolver Trigger
My perception of the trigger at the range was that it runs very smoothly in double action, with clean movement and the reset was so positive that even when I tried to get lazy with it, I almost couldn’t jam the cylinder with poor trigger technique. Double action pull was around 11 lbs. on my Lyman digital trigger gauge, and the single action pull was a very short, crisp 4 ½ lbs. High marks to Henry on the trigger system. I always say that smooth and crisp is much more important than just light.
Devil in the Details
One design element that is likely to draw some notice, if not comments and opinions, is the choice to make the Big Boy with a shroudless ejector rod. Even most mid-century wheel guns of the 1900s and earlier had at least some form of front stabilizer, but Henry has opted for the clean look without one. This is actually more period-correct than it would be with any type of shroud or front retention – so I have a feeling this was an aesthetic choice more than a practical one. The “handle” of the ejection rod is slightly oversized, with a flat taken from the underside of the barrel to accommodate it. It actually makes a striking profile. This, in combination with the smaller hammer spur, are the details that I believe really sell this revolver as a period-inspired Henry product.
Maybe just because I’m a gun lover and can’t help but put a romantic eye on revolvers, or perhaps because I do my own photography work and have to notice details – but it is easy to find many areas where Henry went above and beyond with the quality of the Big Boy. The underside of the top strap is so smooth, it looks like it was specially polished. And the forcing cone is beautifully rounded and smoothed – very unusual for a production revolver.
Shooting the Big Boy
I couldn’t wait to get this wheel gun out to the range. I took an ammo can full of equal parts .357 magnum and .38 special ammo. This is of course, one of the advantages of guns chambered in .357 mag – you can also shoot .38 special, which is usually cheaper and always softer. I started out with a couple of cylinders full of .38 special, figuring it would be a gentle way to break in the gun and get me familiar with the feel of it. Then I started feeding in the stronger stuff. One thing I noticed right away was just how rusty I am with my double-action revolver trigger control! My groups were not so bad, but they were a couple of inches away from where I was aiming.
Henry Big Boy Revolver Accuracy
For any serious evaluation of accuracy, I used single action. It was pretty obvious that the Big Boy is an accurate shooter, and that its sights are nicely set – but I put some rounds on paper just to demonstrate that. I shot those rounds off-hand rather than from a rest because I like to see how the whole package functions – and for me, that means ergonomics, trigger, sights, weight in the hand, etc. The Big Boy was very impressive. In fact, were it not for yours truly pulling one shot a bit with a small flinch – it would have been an all-holes-touching group from 15 yards.
In general, the Big Boy made easy work of my array of steel targets that are between 15 and 20 yards down range. The weight of the gun does a lot to tame the recoil of the .357 magnum load, making plinking, training, or competitive shooting with full-power ammo something to consider.
At 25 yards, I selected four commonly available .357 mag loads and rested the gun on a CTK Precision pistol rest. The average for the groups was 1.7 inches – the best group being just ¾ of an inch.
Who’s the Big Boy For?
Some guns make it fairly plain who the target audience and potential customer base is, and some are a bit less obvious about it. I think the Big Boy falls in the latter category. I’ll start with the obvious – just about anyone who is a wheel gun enthusiast should be interested in a very close hands-on look at this gun. Possibly even proactive collectors that might like to have a first-year, low serial number copy of a gun that is likely to become a classic.
But interestingly, the Henry six shooter might not generate as much buzz among the competition crowd. Cowboy Action shooting, a popular sport for vintage and reproductions of vintage firearms does not allow double-action revolvers. Cowboy Action is governed by the Single Action Shooting Society (SAAS), which might be a giveaway. Most IDPA or USPSA shooters who like to use wheel guns are generally interested in the best modern technology the sports will permit—Ditto for Steel Challenge.
But then there is me. My first center fire gun was a six-shot revolver, and I’ve continued to have an affinity for it to this day. I know I’m not alone in this appreciation of revolvers. The Henry Big Boy has a look and feel that distinguishes it from the others. It ticks all the right boxes regarding quality and accuracy, but it has something none other has – the name “Henry” on it.
Just My Opinion
I’m a sucker for quality. There’s just something about a well-built firearm that looks and feels like a craftsman’s tool that really gets my attention. Henry’s products fit that description, and have for many, many years – and this new Big Boy revolver fits right in. A Henry carbine like the .357 mag side gate is something that is either in every gun owner’s safe or on the bucket list. I think this wheel gun is going to be right there with it. The Big Boy doesn’t just look like a Henry – it IS a Henry. You can feel the substance of it, and see the attention to detail.
I like the idea of the matched revolver to the rifle or carbine, and each time I look at them together I am impressed by how well they fit. With a suggested retail price of $928.00, I would expect that we’ll see these in the cases at just under $900. And considering the extra finishing touches – which are very labor intensive, and the materials such as the brass components and such, I think it is very nicely priced.
The bottom line is that the Big Boy revolver is a perfect fit for the Henry product line – in fact, it looks like it’s always been there. I think people who appreciate a solidly built revolver with great accuracy and distinctive looks should take a close look at this one.