Review: Henry Big Boy All-Weather 357 Magnum/38 Special

Henry Big Boy All-Weather 357 Magnum/38 Special Review

Henry Repeating Arms has been doing a great job making a wide range of lever-action rifles, right here in the USA.  While this is a current trend, Henry was an early adopter, going out of their way to produce quality firearms domestically.  I was really impressed with the Long Ranger rifle chambered in 243 Winchester (see my review here), so I decided to take a look at a more conventional offering from Henry, the Big Boy All-Weather chambered in 357 Magnum/38 Special.

This is a traditional lever-action rifle with a steel receiver and dark stained wood furniture.  All exterior metal surfaces are treated in hard chrome for weather resistance-this is a rifle that you can take into a storm and not have to worry about it.

The Big Boy All-Weather in 357 Magnum/38 Special has a 20″ 1:16″ barrel with a set of traditional open sights.

While you could order an All-Weather in 30-30 or 45-70, you wouldn’t be able to share the ammunition with your handgun.  The 357 Magnum/38 Special allows an easier logistics train, one type of ammunition for both guns.  Plus if you reload, you only need one set of dies and bullets that work in the rifle (carbine) will also work in your handgun!  If you don’t have a 357 Magnum or 38 Special don’t worry, Henry also makes models chambered in 44 Magnum/44 Special and 45 Long Colt.

Unlike some other lever-action rifles, the Henry is is unique in two major ways; it doesn’t use a cross-bolt safety and it doesn’t use a loading gate on the side of the receiver.  Both of these features are traded off for an increased ease of use.

The Henry Big Boy uses a transfer bar safety mechanism.  This mechanism ONLY allows the rifle to be fired if the trigger is depressed with the hammer back.  If the hammer is forward, or if the trigger isn’t pulled, it is impossible to fire the Big Boy.  This is the same system used with other Henry rifles including the Long Ranger. It makes for a safe, efficient operating system that doesn’t add unnecessary parts or a hard to reach safety.

To load the magazine on the Big Boy, the rifle magazine’s inner tube is turned at the front of the rifle and pulled forward.

Now the cartridges can be dropped into a cut out in the magazine.  No pinched fingers.  No cold weather dexterity issues, in fact, you can grab a couple of round at a time and drop them in one after the other!  Super easy loading for the 10 rounds of ammunition the rifle holds.

While you can’t top the magazine off the same way you would a lever gun with a loading gate, the rifle can easily be loaded by throwing a round into the chamber if the gun runs dry (similar to a combat load on a pump-action shot gun).

Loading is only half the advantage of the system, unloading this type of magazine system IS FAR EASIER than a traditional lever-action rifle.  Simply remove the inner magazine tube and dump the rounds out the front of the magazine tube- that’s it!

Shooting the Big Boy is an absolute blast.  It is a fun, quick handling gun.  Its trigger has a clean break with an average weight of 4 pounds 10 ounces.  The rubber recoil pad coupled with the 7 pound weight of the rifle make for a mild recoil impulse with the hottest 357 Magnum rounds.  Lead 38 Special 158 grain SWC loads are even better, with a mild popping report that brings the fun back into shooting.  This is a very different experience than shooting a short barrelled 223/5.56mm.  You don’t have the concussion and flash and the gun simply makes a popping sound and the round hits the target.

Zeroing the rifle was straightforward.  I placed a 2″ orange paster on a piece of cardboard at 50 yards and fired 3 rounds.  The point of impact was simply a few inches low.  I moved the wedge on the rear sight up two notches and the gun was firing point of aim, point of impact.

I typically spend a lot of time with a chronograph when I test new rifles.  On this pistol caliber carbine I felt that it was almost insulting to the nifty, chrome plated little rifle.  To see how 357 Magnum performs from longer barrel lengths, I suggest you check out this post on Ballistics by the Inch (BBTI).  The guys at BBTI have done some solid work so you don’t have to.

I’m used to optics and aperture sights, the traditional open sights on the Big Boy brought me back to my early days as a shooter.  The sights were fast and accurate; totally adequate for a deer hunt in the woods.  Would I like to add a set of ghost rings to this rifle, certainly, but for the majority of shooters this system is familiar and works well.

I fired a couple of hundred rounds out of the Big Boy and the gun functioned flawlessly.  Whether I was firing from the magazine or simply throwing a round into the empty chamber as I shot, it ran whatever factory or reloaded round I fed it.

I ran some drills on an IPSC target at 7 and 25 yards to see what kinds of speed I could get out of the gun.  For each drill I started with the rifle at low-ready, muzzle below the belt and eyes on target.  My results are shown in the table below.

I don’t shoot a lot of lever-action rifles, so for me, these are good times, especially my first shot.  If you are shooting cowboy action matches every weekend, you are probably laughing at me!

So what are my thoughts on the Henry Big Boy All-Weather 357 Magnum/38 Special?

  • Fun to shoot.  The idea of a lever-action rifle in 357 Magnum/38 Super is superb.  You can fire the same ammunition from this carbine as you can from a revolver.
  • Mild report.  Even with full power magnum loads the Big Boy was an absolute joy to shoot.  The years of blasting away with a short barrelled AR have taken a toll on my hearing, this gun is far more enjoyable to shoot.
  • Easy to load and unload.  I really like the magazine system on these rifles.  The ease of loading and unloading is exceptional.  I’ve split open one too many cold fingers trying to force rounds into the loading gates on freezing winter days to ever want to go back.
  • USA! A quality product made in the USA!  While some other lever-action rifle makers have gotten a bad rap for a decrease in quality over the years, the Henry has an impressive presentation.  Look at the flawless hard chrome finish in the photos above and the way the beautifully machined stainless steel screws contrast it.  The rifle screams quality when you pick it up.

To learn more about the Henry Big Boy All-Weather, visit Henry Rifles here!