Lever action rifles are ubiquitous in the American West and in Americana. The blued steel and solid wood look of the rifles are iconic. The beauty of the rifles, for many, is undeniable.
Whether you are riding with John Wayne in a classic western, with Annie Oakley at one of her shooting exhibitions, or with an independent regular American on the frontier, the lever action rifle is an invaluable tool in your collection.
Henry’s Big Boy series of rifles taps into the classic lever action rifle market. Made with the lever action’s classic lines and stunning looks, Henry has made a name for itself in the lever action market.
Names like Winchester and Marlin dominated the lever action market, but Henry was undeterred and has fought to grab market share and is now one of the big names.
The Big Boy Series of rifles is one of the chief reasons that Henry has been successful in the lever action market. In today’s review, we will examine the Henry Big Boy in .357, discuss why this rifle is popular, and let you know our thoughts.
Henry Big Boy Steel in .357 Magnum
If you are looking for a lever action that combines the classic looks of America’s past with the power of a modern pistol cartridge, look no further than the Henry Big Boy.
The .357 Magnum cartridge is a very effective cartridge out of the Henry Big Boy’s 20-inch barrel. While it doesn’t quite get to 30-30 power, it is much more effective than many of the classic cartridge lever action guns of the 19th century were.
The Henry Big Boy Steel looks like a hard-working rifle. The blued barrel and receiver contrast well with the American Walnut stock and forend. The checkering on the wood lets you get a good grip on the rifle and ensure you aren’t slipping when quickly working the action or using the rifle in less-than-ideal weather conditions.
Ergonomically the Big Boy has a straight grip that is easy to maneuver and manipulate. The lever on the Big Boy is a good size, and while I did not operate the rifle with gloved hands, I feel most would be able to do so. There is also a large loop lever if that is something you need.
The smoothness of action on the Henry Big Boy was on par with the action of other lever guns I have used. It functioned and ran. The magazine on the Henry Big Boy Steel is a removable tubular design with the cartridges being loaded into the permanently attached outer tube.
In contrast, the removable inner tube has a spring-loaded follower. The spring in the rifle I shot was showing signs of wear from use which would come back to cause me and the rifle trouble.
The sights on the Henry Big Boy Steel were a fairly standard semi-buckhorn rear and bead front sight. The sights are adjustable, as one would expect from a quality manufacturer like Henry. You can also mount an optics rain to the top of the receiver for mounting a scope or other optics.
The Henry Big Boy Steel does not have a manual safety. Instead, it uses a transfer bar to ensure no accidental discharges.
Insert specifications into a table below (feel free to add/remove rows as needed)
|Caliber||.357 Magnum & .38 Special|
|Barrel Length||20 inches|
|Overall Length||38.5 inches|
|Sights||Fully adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight and brass bead front sight|
|Finish||Blued Steel (available with brass receiver)|
Pros & Cons
- Classic lever action look and feel
- Versatile package with the ability to shoot both .357 Mag and .38 Special
- Quality American Walnut Stock and Forend
- Handles .357 Magnum recoil
- Heavier at 8+ pounds
- More expensive than some alternatives
I have very mixed feelings about the Henry Big Boy Steel. I like the way the rifle looks and feels in my hand.
The specific rifle I shot for the review had an issue with jamming that twice required me to disassemble part of the rifle to fix it.
I don’t feel like this is necessarily an issue that is indicative of all Henry Big Boy rifles, but after my experience, I did spend a while researching the problem on the internet, and my problem, while not common, was not an isolated incident.
Twice while shooting the Henry Big Boy, when I worked the lever to pull another cartridge from the magazine, the cartridge jammed halfway in the magazine and halfway into the receiver. The lever was stuck completely open, and I was forced to remove the lever to clear the action.
I am confident the jamming was caused by a weak follower spring from the magazine and should be an issue that is easy to correct, but it was still a disappointing experience.
The Henry Big Boy had acceptable accuracy. If I had not had my experience with the jamming of the rifle, I could have gotten the rifle dialed in and achieved better accuracy. As it was, after the second jam that required me to remove the lever, I was finished with the rifle and moved on.
The overall feel of the rifle was good. If you had asked me this question right when I got to the range, and before I shot it, I would have told you the feel was great, but my experience shooting soured my taste for the rifle.
The Henry Big Boy Steel is a versatile and compact rifle. The ability to shoot both .357 Magnum and .38 Special from the rifle allows you to practice with the lighter recoiling and nominally more affordable .38 Special and, at the same time, have the more effective .357 Magnum available if the need arises.
With the 20-inch barrel, the Henry Big Boy’s length is only 38.5 inches. The added 4 inches of the barrel over a 16-inch barrel help add more effectiveness to the rifle’s ballistics while not making the rifle overly cumbersome.
Henry makes quality firearms. The Henry Big Boy is not an exception to this rule. Henry uses high-quality steel and wood to make the Big Boy. The bluing on the steel is robust. Your Henry Big Boy Steel will hold up better to the elements and wear and tear than many of its owners will.
How We Tested
For this review, I went to Trinity Armory in Cleveland, Texas. Trinity Armory has both rifle and pistol ranges. I was able to shoot the Henry Big Boy on both ranges.
A special thanks to Hornady Ammunition for providing the ammunition used for the review of the Henry Big Boy Steel.
They provided their American Gunner Ammunition in both .357 Magnum and .38 Special. I also had some Hornady Lever evolution sitting around that I tried as well. All ammo types worked well with the Henry Big Boy, and I would definitely recommend them.
This is the area where I was disappointed with the Henry Big Boy. The fact I experienced two jams that completely disabled the gun and required some disassembly was concerning. While I expected this to be specific to my rifle, I found others who experienced the same issue.
Overall, I think the ergonomics of the Henry Big Boy Steel are pretty good.
Henry is a big name in the firearms community. As such, there is a lot of aftermarket support for their firearms. The Henry Big Boy isn’t as customizable as your AR, but it definitely has options.
The Henry Big Boy Steel isn’t my favorite-looking lever action rifle, but it looks better than many of the arms on the market. It isn’t a cookie-cutter modern rifle, and that helps its rating.
Overall, the Henry Big Boy Steel in .357 Magnum is a good value. It combined good capabilities, versatility, and quality to build a good package.
Adding a rail to your Henry Big Boy is a great way to upgrade your rifle. A rifle scope or a red dot can make a huge difference in the function of your rifle. This is the best way to accomplish this with the Big Boy.
A leather wrap kit is a great way to enhance the aesthetics of your Henry Big Boy. Quality leather is made to go with a quality firearm. The American Walnut and blued steel of your Henry Big Boy look great when combined with the quality leather wraps from LeverWrap.
There are some benefits to having a large loop lever. While large loop levers are a personal preference to some extent, large loop levers are ideal for those with large hands when using gloves in the wintertime, and for those who prefer enhanced western styling.
One of the areas where I think you could improve the Henry Big Boy’s function is the sights. Fiber optic sights would help to bring the lever-action rifle into the 21st century, even if it means losing a bit of the 19th-century romance.
Make sure you research which available HIVIZ sights fit your specific Henry rifle.
The Winchester Model 1892 carbine carries the Winchester name. One of the pioneering companies in lever-action rifle production during the 19th century, Winchester is still manufacturing quality rifles. The Winchester 1892 is the original rifle, after all, that the Rossi R92 is based upon.
Chiappa makes several replica lever-action rifles that are designed to mimic the classic designs of the 19th century and, at the same time, benefit from firearms-building technology. If you want to get a rifle that is high quality from a high-quality manufacturer, then the Chiappa 1892 is another rifle you should consider.
The Rossi R92 is an excellent lever action at a very affordable price. In a market where you have to compete with iconic names like Marlin, Winchester, and Henry, Rossi has set itself apart by providing a quality product at a budget-friendly price point.
Definitely check out Rossi’s offering if you are in the market for a lever action rifle. I even put together an R92 review if you want more info.
The Henry Big Boy is an eye-catcher. The blued steel receiver and barrel, also available with a brass receiver, coupled with the American Walnut stock, stands out on any gun rack. The quality of Henry’s manufacturing is well known. This, combined with the good ergonomics of the rifle, makes the Henry Big Boy Steel a rifle to get your hands on.
The shooting performance of the Henry Big Boy is nothing to scoff at, either. The rifle can shoot both .357 magnum and .38 special. A smooth action and quality trigger make the Henry Big Boy a solid package. While I experienced issues with jamming when using the Henry, it is not indicative of all Big Boy rifles and should not be a factor keeping you from grabbing a Big Boy if it fits your needs.
Overall, I recommend the Henry Big Boy. This rifle is functional and ready for hard use.