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I had to have a Henry Big Boy!

After last month’s article and adventure with the Henry Golden Boy, I had a huge hankering to get my hands on one of Henry’s larger caliber rifles, so I started the hunt right away.

I searched for several days before lucking up and finding a Henry Big Boy in .45 Colt for a very good price. You can imagine what I did next.

That’s right, I opened the wallet, got out the credit card and was soon on my way to owning another fine Henry rifle. Buying this rifle was the easy part. With the temporary ammo shortage we are experiencing today, I searched high and low for a deal on .45 Colt ammo that was not a “cowboy” load. I was pretty sure I did not want “cowboy” loads, as they are loaded to a somewhat wimpy velocity.

I wanted to be able to hunt deer and pigs, and I was pretty sure I wanted a load that was pushing a 250- to 300-grain bullet somewhere in the 1,500 fps range. Cowboy loads are generally around 800 fps, and I really wanted a little more punch than cowboy loads offered.

After some searching, I was able to find a few factory loads that were in the range I wanted, so I whipped out the credit card again. I also wanted to cook up some of my own loads and still had plenty of materials to do so from the TC handgun I had loaded for several months ago.

Next on my list was getting a scope rail for the Leupold Hog Plex Scope. After I ordered that, II spent several hours loading rounds for my new toy, and when the rifle and factory ammo showed up I was ready for more fun at the range. The factory ammo I purchased came from Double Tap and came in three loads – .45 Colt +P 255-grain Keith SWC, 160-grain Barnes TAC-XP and 360-grain WFNGC Hardcast.

I also handloaded several, using both H-110 and IMR-4227 powder. My handloads consisted of Hornady #45230 300-grain JHP and Hornady #45200 250-grain JHP bullets. All of my loads used CCI #300 large pistol primers and Starline nickel-plated brass and all were crimped. I found out the Double Tap 360-grain WFNGC factory loads were too long to feed properly. These loads were developed for a handgun or a rifle other than a lever action. I know these bullets shot well in my TC handgun, but were a little too long for the Henry to feed them.

They measured 1.660 inches overall length (OAL), which was about 50 thousandths (.050) of an inch too long. Based on this, I loaded all my hand loads to an OAL of 1.60” or less to be sure I did not run into a problem with cartridges feeding. When I installed the scope rail I found it was the same easy process I had encountered with the Golden Boy – remove one screw on the rear sight, tap out the sight, and under the rear sight you will find drilled and tapped holes for the rail.

I then installed the Leupold VX Hog Rifle scope with a 1-4x20 magnification. Because my intent was “brush busting” in thick cover for Mr. and Mrs. Piggy, I wanted a scope with long eye relief and low power, as my long shots were going to be less than 30 yards, but if I needed to reach out a little farther, I could with the 4-power.

The scope has a reticle that is great for fast target acquisition, with large crosshairs and a little circle in the middle. With its small size, I won’t have to worry about it getting hung up in the brush like a large, high-powered scope will.

Once I had lots of handloads and a few factory loads in hand, the scope was mounted, and I shot it a few times in the back yard (don’t tell my wife about that, or I will get in trouble), I was ready to head to the range.

At the range, I followed the normal procedure of first sighting-in at the 25-yard line and then heading to the 50-yard target, as this distance would probably be the maximum I would be shooting hogs in thick brush. The first rounds sent down range were the Double Tap 255-grain Keith SWC. This load shot groups averaging 1.7 inches. When I tried the Double Tap 160-grain Barnes TAC-XP, the groups shrunk by almost an inch to average of 0.8 inch.

My handloads with the IMR-4227 powder resulted in more of what I was expecting from the Big Boy, with groups ranging from 0.4 inch to 0.8 inch. Using this powder, my best load was 23.0 grains of IMR-4227 under a Hornady 250-grain #45200 JHP bullet, with a CCI #300 primer and seated to an OAL of 1.594 inches. I would be happy with this group all day long.

The H-110 powder loads were next. This rifle performed like it was designed to, with 5-shot groups from 0.2 inch to 0.6 inch. The best combination consisted of 20.0 grains of H-110, CCI #300 primers, Starline nickel-coated brass, Hornady 300-grain #452300 JHP bullet and an OAL of 1.594 inches.

Before I left the range I just had to try to shoot the long OAL Double Tap bullets. They could not be loaded into the tubular magazine, so I fed them one at a time. I picked out a place on my Hornady target that had not seen a bullet and slowly squeezed the trigger.

I was aiming for a little square about 1 inch across, and the first round hit almost dead center. The second was almost on top of the first, and the third, fourth and fifth were almost all touching! This 5-shot group measured 1.0 inch.

These bullets are too long to try to load more than one at a time, and do not work in the tubular magazine, but firing one at a time works fine. However, with the wide range of bullets that you can load in the magazine that will feed properly, why would you want to load one at a time?

My last few shots were from a standing position so I could get the feel of the rifle as I would hunt it. After the first shot I was impressed with the lack of felt recoil, even with the brass butt plate and no recoil pad. The recoil was sort of like a push instead of the thump you get when you fire other rifles. I shot it 15 times from this position, and my shoulder was not a bit sore.

Based on the lack of felt recoil, I see no reason why a young shooter could not hunt with this rifle. With the 250- to 300-grain bullet, he or she would be able to drop any game they pursued with one-shot kills. And, for hunters like me that also carry a handgun, I now only need to carry one caliber of ammunition, as I can also shoot .45 Colt in my .454 Casull.

This rifle was a pleasure to shoot. As soon as I get more ammo loaded I am heading back to the range for some more “Fun Shooting.” The Henry Big Boy did not fail to feed or present any problems. The action is what you would expect from a rifle that costs several times more than this one. It performs almost like a custom-made rifle that has had a high degree of fine-tuning. The trigger is smooth, with no creep. The lever action affords you the opportunity to shoot almost as fast as a semi-auto. With a little practice you will be able to squeeze off several follow-up shots, if needed.

The rifle comes standard with a normal-size lever, but If you like a large loop lever, you can contact your local gun shop or Henry Repeating Arms and purchase one for around $50. I have gone to the internet and watched videos on changing out the standard loop to a large loop, and it looks pretty easy. Or, you can order the large loop on your rifle from Henry Repeating Arms or your local gun shop.

Here is novel idea: Order your Henry Big Boy custom-made from Henry Repeating Arms with some options, like your birth date engraved on it or maybe your son, daughter or wife’s name on it. What a killer gift that would be! Or, you can buy it stock and be just as proud as I am to own such a fine rifle.

I have not given up on shooting factory loads from my Henry Big Boy, as I am certain there are several factory offerings that will shoot one-hole groups This is a very well-made rifle that comes with a highly-polished brass receiver and barrel band that really stands out as a fine work of art. In my 50-plus years I have owned and shot many lever action rifles. This is certainly one of the best I’ve owned. I guess my next Henry will be a .45-70, or maybe a .357/.38 – or maybe one of each!

The Henry Repeating Arms Company is one of the last standing companies that is 100% American made, and just like Henry’s President/Owner Anthony Imperato says, “Made in America or not made at all.”

Check out the Henry warranty: “Henry Repeating Arms stands behind its products as it has historically. We offer a simple limited lifetime warranty; if you have a problem at any time, and it’s our fault, we will correct the problem immediately and at no charge.” How can you go wrong with the purchase of a fine Henry rifle? To see all of the neat rifles and other neat stuff they have, go to http://www.henryrepeating.com

Remember, if all firearms were treated as if they were loaded, there would be no more accidental shootings.

Shoot Safe, Shoot Straight!


Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”