TESTED: Henry Big Boy All-Weather (357 Magnum)

After reviewing Henry’s X-model 30-30 rifle, we found ourselves eagerly awaiting the delivery of another Henry lever action. In the past year, we’ve taken a closer look at the 45-70 and 30-30 cartridges. The crew here at Ultimate Reloader is quite taken by lever action rifles, as are all our visitors! Henry recently shipped us a new Big Boy All Weather 38/357 carbine — it is so much fun to shoot! 

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About Henry’s Big Boy All-Weather Side Gate Rifle

We were pleased to do an overview of the 357 mag/38 special Henry Big Boy All-Weather Side Gate rifle on the 25th anniversary of today’s Henry Repeating Arms lineup. Learn more at HenryUSA.com.

From henryusa.com

Ready For Rough, And Thoroughly Tough

For the Home and the Field – To Protect and Provide

Big Boy rifles in “revolver” calibers established the original reputation of our centerfire models. These All-Weather versions let you hunt in the rain and the snow with no fear of creeping rust. We have further upgraded these rifles to include a side loading gate for rapid magazine top-off while retaining our original removable tube magazine for safer unloading. These slick, tough rifles come in three calibers, all with 20-inch round barrels for the long sight radius and maximum ballistic performance.

The barrel, the receiver, the lever, and the magazine are all hard chrome plated for ultimate durability in the elements. The tough moisture-resistant industrial-grade coating seals the hardwood fore-end and straight-wrist stock against rain, sleet, and snow. They fit saddle and ATV scabbards snugly, and the tough finish shrugs off moisture and abrasion.  Range-adjustable semi-buckhorn rear and brass bead front sights give a high-contrast for aiming even in low light. For longer range hits, All-Weather Big Boys are drilled and tapped for optic mounts. An automatic in-hammer transfer bar safety makes them drop safe.

All-Weather Big Boys come in .357 Mag/.38 Special, .44 Mag/.44 Special, and .45 Colt to suit all tastes. Paired with a trusty revolver in the same caliber, these rifles make the most of Cowboy Logistics. Long barrels produce a substantial velocity increase with Magnum pistol cartridges, edging into conventional rifle territory while offering greater tube magazine capacity and shorter lever throws thanks to shorter cases. 10+1 tube magazine capacity provides ample firepower for hunting or defense.

Smooth, dependable actions and inherent accuracy of Henry barrels add up to enjoyable handling and effective performance on game and paper targets alike. Get a rifle that’s more than a “fair-weather companion”: get a Henry All-Weather Big Boy!

Gavin gave me the honor of unboxing Ultimate Reloader’s new Henry and I was quite pleased to do so. What a great-looking little rifle! The satin hard-chrome finish is quite handsome and contrasts nicely with the black stained hardwood stocks. I immediately liked both the look and feel of this rifle! The action worked smoothly and the wood to metal fit was quite nice. It felt great in hand, neither too light nor too heavy. 

What’s in the Box

The gun itself came well protected — encased in a plastic sleeve inside a cardboard box with a sock around the action. We were careful to check the gun first. Even though it should be unloaded, it’s important to verify. An owner’s manual and a few other printed cards accompanied the rifle. 

Pushing the box to the side, we took a closer look at the rifle itself.

This gun accepts both 357 magnum and 38 special ammunition with a capacity of 10 rounds. The rifle retails for $1,198, but you can usually find guns for under the MSRP. The 20” 1:16 barrel is non-reflective with a satin appearance — ideal for hunting. The gun comes with buckhorn sights installed, though a scope rail is available for purchase, and weighs 7 pounds with irons. 

Initial Shooting and Thoughts

This is a very attractive compact rifle — easy to handle, easy to carry in a vehicle, in a scabbard while on horseback, or used from the confines of a hunting blind. I especially appreciate Henry’s words: “For the home and the field, to protect and provide.” I could see this rifle being used daily here on the Ultimate Reloader ranch! It’s very easy to just grab it, sling it over your shoulder (sling swivels included) and walk or hop into the side by side for a trip up the ridge. 

Unable to resist the temptation, we journeyed to the ridgetop range and proceeded to sight in the rifle at 50 yards using the factory open sights and Federal HammerDown ammunition. The rear sight is easily adjustable for elevation, and we did need to adjust it to bring the point of impact into the bullseye. 

The sights appear well made and useful. I did note that my 60+ year old eyes could use a bigger, darker bullseye at 50 yards! I was especially impressed with the mild recoil. I expected a harder push from 170 grain 357 Magnum loads. Gavin’s already planning on mounting a scope this fall for better accuracy tests. 

The trigger felt to me, crisp and reasonably light for this type of firearm. Gavin ran his trigger scan test on the TriggerScan TS11 from Dvorak Instruments, and found a consistent pull of 4.11 pounds. 

We had run the same test with the Henry X-Model 30-30 and the profile was nearly the same. 

Taking a closer look at the bore with the 26” TESLONG NGT 100H rifle borescope, everything appeared in order. The bore on this hard-chrome barrel looks a bit different than my match rifles, and that’s expected!

After zeroing the rifle at 50 yards, we took it to our steel target range for some more reactive shooting time. The Big Boy is not only fast-handling but easy and smooth in use. The steel targets didn’t stand a chance. With ten rounds in the tubular magazine, there’s quite a bit of shooting fun to be had before having to reload. Gavin and I both noticed that the flat nosed bullets required a bit of finesse for smooth loading. As I mastered the technique, things sped up. 

The sun was behind us, and the gold bead front sight stood out clearly. It was fast and easy to acquire.

The rifle itself weighs about 7 pounds and recoil is negligible even with the powerful Federal 357 magnum HammerDown ammunition. We didn’t shoot any 38 Special ammo through it yet, but I’m sure it produces ridiculously light recoil. Gavin and I each shot a couple boxes of Federal ammunition in an informal contest. 

About Federal HammerDown 170 grain 357 Magnum Ammunition

I’ve shot an awful lot of 38 Special and 357 Magnum ammunition from revolvers over the past 45 years, but haven’t shot many lever action rifles chambered for the 357 magnum. This was FUN! 

Depending on the weight and barrel length of the particular revolver, the 357 magnum can churn up some pretty serious muzzle blast and recoil. In contrast, this Henry rifle was just a peach to shoot. 

Federal HammerDown ammunition is marketed as premium ammunition and Henry was consulted in its development. 

From federalpremium.com

Product Overview

Make your lever gun run like never before with the industry’s only ammunition truly designed for optimal cycling and overall performance from the time-tested rifle platform. Velocities of Federal Premium® HammerDown™ loads are customized to produce superior ballistics and terminal performance through lever-action barrel lengths. The construction of the molecularly bonded soft point bullets has also been adjusted for the best accuracy and expansion at those velocities. The geometry of each round’s case, bullet and cartridge ensures flawless cycling through tubular magazine and typical lever-action feeding systems.

    • Specifically engineered for lever guns
    • Functions flawlessly in side gate loading and tubular magazines
    • Modified chamfered case for easier feeding
    • Bullets optimized for better terminal performance out of lever-action rifles
    • Designed in partnership with Henry Repeating Arms
    • Bullets provide best-in-class expansion and weight retention on impact
    • Increased velocities and performance in pistol cartridges
    • Nickel-plated cases

Federal HammerDown ammunition is available in a variety of calibers. Developed as a heavier, more powerful version of the 38 Special revolver cartridge, the 357 magnum was introduced in the 1930’s and has been used for personal protection, law enforcement and hunting ever since. Some hunters have taken larger game such as elk and moose with the 357 magnum, but I favor using it for deer and smaller game. 

Chronograph Results

Curious, we tested Federal’s HammerDown 357 Magnum ammunition in both a 6” Smith & Wesson 586 revolver and the 20” barreled Henry Big Boy All-Weather rifle, shooting each of them across the Caldwell G2 chronograph

The velocity was about 1200 fps from the revolver, and over 1600 fps from the rifle. 400 fps is quite an impressive difference, and I think quite good for a 170 grain bullet from a 357 magnum. Interestingly, the rifle bullet still has more velocity at 100 yards than the revolver bullet had at the muzzle! 

Our intent is to do more 50 and 100 yard shooting with this great-handling Henry rifle and to conduct a ballistics gel test in the near future.  

Conclusion

Since the same ammo can be used in both a 357 revolver and in Henry’s Big Boy All-Weather Side Gate 38/357, the rifle is an excellent companion piece for anyone who carries a 357 magnum handgun. It’s also great as a stand-alone rifle, without a revolver companion. 

“Provide and Protect” is what Henry says about their rifles, and it  rings true. This is a modern extension of the old days when someone may only own one rifle and one revolver. Using the same ammo for both made great “Cowboy Logistics” sense. It’s not too powerful for small game, yet is fully capable of taking deer-sized game, or for protection from a predator, either two legged or four. With ten shots of 357 magnum ammo sending a bonded 170 grain bullet at over 1,600 fps, it’s a serious self-defense firearm more powerful than any 357 magnum revolver. 

Henry’s All-Weather Big Boy Side Gate is a well-made, attractive rifle that functions smoothly. We experienced 100% reliability during this initial test using about 50 rounds of Federal ammunition. Mostly though — it’s an awful lot of fun to carry and shoot. 

Get the Gear

Check out the Big Boy All-Weather Side Gate and other terrific Henry rifles on Henry’s website. For those who prefer a blued steel lever action rifle with walnut stocks, Henry offers those models as well. 

HammerDown ammunition is available from Federal. 357 Mag is currently out of stock, but a 20-round box retails for $33.99.

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Thanks,
Guy Miner 

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