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Henry Big Boy X Model Lever Gun

Henry Big Boy X Model .44 Lever-Action Carbine

This issue, we’ve been playing with alternate history in a few articles, and this one continues that theme. We sat down and thought about a world where autoloading firearms simply never existed. What would warfare look like? This is an extension of that thought experiment, which also benefits those in ban states or nations.

A strong contender for our long-gun in this fantasy world would be a lever-action carbine in one of the Magnum revolver cartridges. We found just that in the Henry Big Boy X Model, chambered in the hard-hitting 44 Mag, with the added bonus of being threaded for a silencer.


Lever Time
This matte-blued rifle has black synthetic furniture with an excellent stock-to-metal fit, two sling swivel studs for mounting a traditional two-point sling, a solid rubber recoil pad, two M-LOK accessory slots on either side of the forend, and a four-slot Picatinny rail just beneath the barrel at the tip of the forend.

It has a carbine-length 17.4-inch barrel, topped off with highly visible fiber-optic sights that have a red rear and green front. We found them easy to pick up and highly usable, even when the silencer was mounted.

The action is buttery smooth, and there’s no looseness, rattling, or floppy trigger syndrome prevalent in other lever actions. The rifle weighs 7.3 pounds empty and has a crisp trigger that breaks at 4.5 pounds. The muzzle end is threaded 5/8×24-inch to accept a suppressor or other muzzle device. Most important is the relatively short throw of the lever, allowing for fast follow-up shots.

We chose two lights by Streamlight: a TLR-1 Game Spotter in white and a TLR RM2 in green in order to track blood trails.

There’s no manual safety such as a crossbolt, or even a half-cock notch in the hammer like the original safety found on traditional lever guns. The Henry Big Boy X Model’s hammer is either cocked completely or kept all the way down. According to Henry, the rifle can’t be fired unless the trigger is squeezed while the hammer is cocked.

Physically striking a lowered hammer or dropping a loaded rifle won’t cause the rifle to fire. Likewise, if the hammer should slip while being cocked, the gun won’t fire. However, if you’re lowering the hammer onto a live round in the chamber while squeezing the trigger, it can certainly go bang, so exercise caution when performing that action.

One of the biggest advancements in Henry’s lever-action lineup was the introduction of a loading gate on the receiver. Earlier models loaded via the front of the tube like old-school 22 rifles. Henry went the route of the loading gate in mid-2019, while retaining the ability to load at the front of the tube, giving shooters the best of both worlds.

The author prefers loading via the gate, but should you need to completely unload the rifle safely, undo the front of the tube and dump it all at once, without cycling live rounds through the action.

As for the caliber, we have several 44 Magnum revolvers on hand and have always liked the round. In the Old West, carbines like the Winchester 1873 could be had in 44-40 or 38-40 and paired with a revolver in these calibers, because supply trains were infrequent. There’s enough of a velocity gain in rounds like these from a carbine-length barrel to make a substantial difference in terminal ballistics unlike, say, a 9mm.

We ultimately chose a Picatinny scope mount from Skinner Sights.

There aren’t a lot of purpose-built silencers intended for 44 Magnum or its shorter brother, the 44 Special. Both achieved most of their popularity as revolver rounds, and prior to 2020, there were few rifles thus chambered that shipped from the factory with a threaded barrel.

We decided to go with the Bowers ASP 45, which measures 1.5 inches in diameter by 7 inches long and weighs just 5 ounces. This makes it one of the smallest .45 cans on the market. In fact, it’s so light that it cycles reliably on semi-auto pistols without the use of a booster, piston, or Nielsen Device. It was important to choose a light can rather than one of the heavier pistol and subgun cans in 45 ACP because lever-action rifles are all about balance. It’s designed to be run wet with either water or some other ablative like wire-pulling gel to aid suppression, but its one drawback is that it’s a sealed unit and isn’t user-serviceable.

We chose to run the Henry Big Boy X Model with 44 Special ammunition, because the cartridge shares characteristics with 45 ACP with respect to velocity, and our goal was to get this setup as quiet as possible. We reached out to Doubletap ammunition for some 180-grain JHP in 44 Special as well as 300-grain hard casts in 44 Magnum.

Without a sound meter at our disposal to measure a true decibel rating, we found the 44 Special to have a similar sound signature to a suppressed 45 ACP ­­— surprisingly, the Magnums weren’t much louder. This was probably due to the 300-grain bullets taking up so much room in the case and leaving less volume for powder, which in turn had plenty of space in which to expand in the 17.5-inch barrel. In any event, it was much quieter than expected.

The Henry X Models ship from the factory with highly visible contrasting (red and green) fiber-optic sights. The receiver is drilled and tapped for the Henry Big Boy scope mount, available for an additional charge (MSRP $49) from Henry. There are two factory mounts: a cantilever-style that replaces the rear sight and a two-slot, medium height-type Weaver mount that bolts to the receiver.

As expected, the factory sights don’t make it a tack driver. At 50 yards, we averaged groups of 2.5 inches with the Doubletap 300-grain 44 Magnum ammunition and 3.5 inches or so with the 180-grain 44 Specials from Doubletap at 50 yards. This is acceptable for hunting accuracy at close range on big targets like a hog, black bear, or mule deer, and even a two-legged predator. Yet, we still want more from a rifle.

Much of this has to do with the short sight radius. The traditional Westerner within us considered adding a receiver-mounted peep from Skinner Sights, but that would require also replacing the front sight and possibly a bit of filing to correct elevation.

It’s not exactly 1920. There’s a plethora of loads for 44 Special and 44 Magnum, so rather than tailoring the rifle to a few similar loads, we decided to buck tradition and get with the 21st century by adding a low-powered variable scope.

The factory scope bases limited our options to Weaver-type rings, and with only two available positions, restricted us from adding any red dots equipped with a Picatinny mount.

We reached out to Skinner Sights for one of their mounts, which is a true multi-slot M1913 Picatinny rail. They also lent us one of their optics and ring setups in the form of a Skinner Optic 1-6x variable power with an illuminated post-type reticle.

It made all the difference in the world. Those big 300-grain bullets now grouped between 1.4 and 1.9 inches at 50 yards, with the Specials also grouping in the same ballpark. The Skinner Optic would work well on other platforms too, and the rail mount allows other optics, such as a red dot, to be used as well.

For those who feel an optic is anathema to a lever-action rifle, we’re betting you won’t be pulling the ACOG off of your M4. It may not look “period correct,” but we’re not using a pre-’64 Winchester chambered in 32 Winchester in this context. Scopes allow you to see better at longer ranges, and even with a caliber like 44 Magnum, you can decrease your group size by 50 percent by adding glass.

An adjustable two-point tactical sling by Sly Tactical made the most sense for us, along with an Eagle Rifle Stock Pack for spare ammo.

For the rest of this article, subscribe here: RECOIL Issue 49

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2 responses to “Henry Big Boy X Model Lever Gun”

  1. Andy Harrison says:

    Great article and I have one just like it! I can’t believe a factory rifle has this good of an action and trigger!! Please tell me where you purchased the M-Lok slot for your test rifle. I need a rail section. Thanks, Andy Harrison

  2. Jim says:

    Your setup shows a 2 point sling and a Streamlight TLR2 RM2 attached to the lower picatinny rail, but they can’t be used together due to interference between their attach points, correct?

    Would the same interference exist with a TLR-1 or TLR-1 HL?

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  • Great article and I have one just like it! I can’t believe a factory rifle has this good of an action and trigger!! Please tell me where you purchased the M-Lok slot for your test rifle. I need a rail section. Thanks, Andy Harrison

  • Your setup shows a 2 point sling and a Streamlight TLR2 RM2 attached to the lower picatinny rail, but they can't be used together due to interference between their attach points, correct?

    Would the same interference exist with a TLR-1 or TLR-1 HL?

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