Henry .327 Big Boy Carbine Review

“Made in America or Not Made at all” is Henry’s motto. There really isn’t anything more American than a Lever Gun, sorry Mom and your apple pie. The Henry name is steeped in American History. The originals, made by the New Haven Arms Company, was one of the first repeaters to see use in the Civil War. The first Winchester lever action was simply an improved Henry. Although there are no direct ties to the original company, The Henry Repeating Arms Company has been carrying on the tradition of making firearms here in the US of A since 1996.

The Henry Big Boy Carbine in .327 Federal Magnum.

Yes, I do mean .327

The Henry in this review is a Big Boy Carbine in .327 Federal Magnum. Even though the .327 was released just over a decade ago, there are a lot of shooters who are not familiar with this little cartridge. So, in case this one is new to you too, let us take a quick look at the development and the idea behind the .327 Federal Magnum.

Firearms chambered in .32 caliber are nothing new. For example, the old Winchester 1873 was made in 32-20 more than a hundred years ago. Colt also chambered Peacemakers for the same cartridge. There are also the two Smith and Wesson .32s, the Short and Long. Even John Browning designed a .32 for his autoloading pistols, the .32 ACP. But the .327 takes the little .32 up to magnum levels. It does this in a case small enough that in a revolver you can squeeze an extra round in without enlarging the cylinder. This is the crux behind the development of the .327: getting an extra round in a small revolver and in a magnum cartridge.

.327 Federal Magnum and .32 H&R Magnum.

I recently reviewed a Ruger Single-Seven and you can check out that review here. The Henry in .327, along with the Ruger, allows us the opportunity to do something that Colt and Winchester made happen back in the 19th Century: carrying a revolver and a carbine in the same caliber.

Cowboy Carry

The idea of having a long gun and a handgun in the same caliber is referred to as “Cowboy Carry”. Not having to buy and tote two different cartridges for your guns was very appealing to the cowboys of the Old West. The same was true for the outlaws and the lawmen of the time as well. When you are living, and possibly dying, from what you could carry in the saddlebags, the ability to keep it simple was a Godsend.

Does it get more classic than a single action revolver and a lever gun?

This old idea is still around and it’s still useful. There are a good number of “pistol caliber carbines” on the market today that even use the same magazine as your Glock or other carry pistols. These combos also make a great paring for truck guns. And what is a truck gun other than a modern version of what you might have in your saddlebags?

This Henry

The review gun that Henry supplied is a Big Boy Carbine in .327 Federal Magnum. Henry states that it will also chamber and fire .32 H&R Magnum. I was also able to have it reliably feed .32 S&W Long, more on that below. Here are some specs on the Henry:

  • Caliber : .327 Fed Magnum/.32 H&R Mag
  • Capacity: 7 Rounds
  • M.S.R.P. :$945.00
  • Barrel Length: 16.5″
  • Barrel Type: Octagon Blued Steel
  • Rate of Twist: 1:16
  • Overall Length: 35″
  • Weight: 7.76 lbs.
  • Rear Sight: Fully Adj. Semi-Buckhorn w/ Diamond Insert
  • Front Sight: Brass Bead
  • Scopeability: Drilled and Tapped
  • Stock Material: American Walnut
  • Length of Pull: 14″
  • Safety: Transfer Bar
  • Embellishments/Extras: Large Loop Lever

Fit and Finish

In my opinion, the fine folks at Henry are making some of the best looking traditional rifles available today. We are talking blued steel and walnut here and in line with the original Henry, the brass frame. This is a striking combination of finishes and colors that screams it is a Henry. It is not just the color combination that stands out on these rifles, the fit and the finishes are very well done.

A nice piece of Walnut.

I hear people say negative things from time to time about the pricing on some of the Henry Rifles. There will probably be a comment or two on this review about this as well. Most of these same people then tell me they have never held or examined one in person. There is only so much that can be conveyed via pictures on the Internet or in the pages of a magazine about the fit and finish on a rifle like this. Functionality aside, this is where the true value of the Henry Rifles is held. If you have never checked one out in person, do so the next time you are at your local gun shop. I think you will see the value in the quality of the materials used and how they are finished.

Function

Of course, the most beautiful rifle in the world would just be a polished turd if it doesn’t work. Fortunately, Henry gives us both. I ran a number of boxes of .327 Magnum through the Henry over a couple of trips to the range. I had zero failures of any kind. The feeding was smooth when working the lever from my shoulder and when lowered to the hip. The extraction was positive with the ejected brass landing 4-5 feet away depending on how hard I worked the lever. On the bench, I would work the lever slowly and gently to keep the brass on the table. Even with the lighter touch, I still had zero issues with the function of the rifle.

Although not listed by Henry, the .32 S&W Long did cycle through the Henry. But it is a lot slower.

I also ran some .32 S&W Long through the Henry. Now Henry does not list this cartridge as being compatible with the gun, they only list the .327 and the .32 H&R Mag. But other than length, the .32 S&W Long is the same size and is safe to fire in revolvers chambered for .327. The shorter .32s would feed and fire in the Henry. I would, however, use caution before moving back to the longer cartridges. When I cleaned the Henry after about 20 rounds of the .32 S&W, I did find a good amount of carbon and powder residue in the part of the chamber left vacant by the shorter cartridge.

Shooting

Even with the hottest loads of .327 from Buffalo Bore, the recoil from the Big Boy is very mild. To compare the recoil to more common calibers, I would put it between a .22 Magnum and a .38 Special out of rifles of similar weight. This is also what I found to be the case with the .327 in the Ruger.

My father, who is left-handed, shooting the Henry Big Boy Carbine.

The trigger breaks at just under 5 pounds. There is no take up before it breaks, and it is clean and crisp. The first dozen or so times that I worked the action it did feel like there was a bit of grit. This quickly smoothed out with use.

Loading the tube magazine on a Henry is not like your typical lever action. There is no loading gate like on a Winchester, Marlin or most other lever guns. To load the Henry, you twist the end of the tube by the muzzle and pull inner magazine tube up. This is simple enough to do and does have an advantage when it comes to unloading.  Most other lever actions require you to unload by working the lever to chamber and eject each round. With the Henry, you can remove the inner magazine tube and dump the rounds out the end and then eject the round that was chambered.

The magazine inner tube comes out to easily unload without having to cycle the rounds.

The Henry Big Boy is a SASS approved lever action and so is the .327 in theory. A set up in .327 would make a good SASS combination for a recoil sensitive shooter. However, I do not believe there is a Cowboy Action load currently available from a factory for the .327. SASS regulations call for a max speed of 1,000 fts out of a revolver and 1,400 ft out of a rifle. All of the factory loads for .327 I am aware of exceed these speeds. But it can easily be done with custom reloading.

Data

When you fire a pistol cartridge from a rifle length barrel you should see increased velocity with the extra time for the powder to burn in the longer barrel. However, cartridges loaded for short barrel handguns use faster burning powders. If the powder burns completely before the projectile leaves the muzzle, the velocity can actually start to drop due to friction. I give examples of both with the Henry.

The Jamison Brass and Ammunition out of the 16.5″ Henry.

With Jamison Brass and Ammunition 78 grain, I averaged 1630 fts out of the 16.5” barreled Henry. The same ammunition in the 4.62” Ruger was 1270. When I moved to a 130 grain Keith SWC from Buffalo Bore I only saw a jump of about 50 fts. These were at 1605 fts in the Henry and 1558 fts in the Ruger. Of course, 130 grains moving at this speed is nothing to sneeze at.

I have a theory on why the 130 grain was only moving a touch faster. The 130 grain bullet is taking up more of the case than the smaller 78, more case taken up with bullet means less room for the powder charge. When there is less powder to burn, it is obviously going to burn up faster. My guess is that the Buffalo Bore has a full powder burn somewhere between 12 and 14″ in the Henry. I could prove this theory by cutting the barrel down an inch at a time and seeing the results. But that would mean making a SBR and getting a not so friendly visit from our friends at the ATF. But luckily for us, someone else has already done this!

130 Grain Buffalo Bore from the Henry.

Ballistics By The Inch (BBTI) has worked out three different .327 loads in their tests. They are showing only about 100 fts gains between a 12” barrel and an 18”. One of the loads, 115 gr Speer Gold Dot, actually slows down between 16 and 18 inches. The 16.5 inch barrel on the Henry is, of course, the length it is so it does not require all the extra cost and paperwork to have a short-barreled rifle. If one were inclined to go the SBR route with a .327 rifle, I think the 12-13” range would be the sweet spot.

Handloading .327 for the Henry could also provide unlimited options.  I do think with a different powder, to take advantage of the longer barrel on the Henry, that there could very well be some more velocity to be gained. But then if you are loading different ammunition for the rifle than what you are going to use in the revolver, we just defeated the idea of the Cowboy Carry.

Final Thoughts

The Henry Big Boy Carbine in .327 Federal Magnum is a very well made and functioning lever gun. I have shot a number of Big Boys in other pistol calibers and have found them all to be reliable and exhibit the same great level of fit and finish as this one. So the question is if the .327 Federal Magnum is right for you? I am a fan of the .327 for what it offers in a revolver, that being the extra round. When it comes to the carbine in the same caliber, the extra round is not a factor. The answer lies with the Cowboy Carry Concept. If this is something you are a proponent of, and like what the .327 offers, then Henry Big Boy Carbine should be at the top of your list.

A Cowboy Carry set up in .327 Federal Magnum.

The rear buckhorn sight.

The front sight has a brass bead that is easy to pick up.

Made in USA.

***Shop GunsAmerica for Your Next Henry Lever Action Rifle***

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Richard Rice June 22, 2020, 7:32 pm

    I waited for 50 years for a good gun in this caliber range, got my Henry, sent it back the next day as it would not feed. 3 weeks later it can back with the problem 1/2 solved. Now feeds 327 Federals semi-smoothly but jams with 32 H&R Mag. Must be held upright during loading. Large frame of the 44 or 45 colt is to big for the 327 Federal.

    Rich Rice

  • Johnny April 29, 2019, 7:47 am

    Fantastic caliber. I have a Ruger in 327. When Henry comes out with their new side loader in 327 I’ll be in line for one that’s for sure!

  • bob March 23, 2019, 10:53 am

    I just purchased a 327 big boy in 327 steel.It is a perfect all around gun.I have more powerful, magnum cartridges. But this cartridge can do anything from small game ,to deer with good shot placement.It also can be a replacement for 22 rim fire,if we ever have another ,democrat in office.Even if you dont reload ,the smaller 32 will fire single shot ,no problem

  • John Hoglin March 15, 2019, 12:42 am

    The problem is that Henry does not do a small frame for hand gun calibers, this should be 5 pounds not 7 1/2 pounds. This round cries out to be in a model 92. Until Henry starts making a slim small frame lever their stuff has no appeal to me. Lever action carbines should be light and svelte not blocky and heavy.

  • PANDAZ3 February 26, 2019, 5:14 am

    I have a Henry Pump in 22LR, real hoot for me, a Deluxe Lever in 22 Mag that is great. I would love the 327 as I do have a heavy Stainless Steel Blackhawk in 327, a eight shooter. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Eight shooter single action 5.5″ barrel very accurate for me. I also own a Ruger LCR in 327 (6 shooter) and you would regret shooting heavy or fast loads with the LCR. It is the only revolver I carry currently, I do trust it.

  • Dale Kehrer February 26, 2019, 12:34 am

    Some of us like the oddball cartridges. I, for one, do. The .327 shoots very flat and would make a great all around carry gun. Useful on everything from varmints to deer and hog as long as you keep it at, or under 100 yds. I have a SP101 4″ in .327. Very accurate, but loud. My other oddball fav is the Henry Big Boy .41 mag. Love, Love, Love this gun. Shoots flatter than a .44 mag, penetrates better, has almost as much knockdown with less recoil. At 210 gr. and 1560 fps in a revolver, it’s something you just don’t brush off lightly. Both the .327 and .41 are oddballs, but both are great.

  • Hatchetman February 25, 2019, 9:07 pm

    Anyone had experience with the tube-fed magazine?

    I love the workmanship and quality of materials on the Henry rifles, but I’ve always been a bit turned-off by the tube magazine system versus a loading gate like on a Marlin/Winchester.

    • LazrBeam March 18, 2019, 4:13 pm

      The tube fed mag is just fine. I’ve got a three other lever guns with the loading gate and until the spring on the gate loosens up it can sometimes be a b*tch to load as it wants to bite the thumb or finger. I’ve got the blued Henry .327 / 20 in barrel and I love it and have four companion revolvers (Rugers LCR, LCRx, Sp 101 w/3 in barrel, and a Taurus Model 327 w/ 3 in ported barrel which is an absolute tack driver). As you might have surmised, I love me some .327 Fed Mag. One thing I would caution about, contrary to what the author has written I would empty the chamber first (don’t cycle all the way by leaving the action open with the lever all the way down and bolt back thus avoiding chambering another round) then reach up by the muzzle to remove the inner mag tube and dumping the rounds out. Other than that, gitcha one! They’re a hoot to shoot!!

  • Gerard February 25, 2019, 2:39 pm

    I have been looking at Henry guns for a long time, always intrigued, always appreciative of “Made in USA” and always thinking that their designs were always only so slightly “off”, good but not great. This carbine too to me is “almost” pretty but not quite. I think the deal breaker for this relatively new caliber will be the price. How does it compare to .22 LR, to .22 MAG, to 38 Special. We’ve entered an era when people who can afford to blow several hundreds $$$ on ammo in one afternoon at the range are not necessarily the majority. I know I can’t and that’s also why I love .22 LR so much. If the round is cheap enough, I might well buy this fine carbine. If not, I will most certainly pass.

    • Mark N. February 26, 2019, 1:44 am

      The MV of .327 mag for a 100 gr bullet out of a 16″ barrel is directly comparable, if not slightly higher, than .357 mag, running around 2000 f/lbs., according to Bullet by the Inch. ME is directly comparable to the heavier .357 158 gr loads, at around 1020 ft/lbs, but not as high as the lighter .357 loads for 100 gr to 140 gr. That is the proper comparison, not .38 special, although the latter is less expensive by about .15 per round.

  • Otto February 25, 2019, 9:48 am

    I also go with the Henry Big Boy in 38 Special/357 Magnum version. It gives more available choices in cartridges in the 357 Magnum caliber. If you wish to use 38 Special cartridges that will fire in both rifle and revolver, just be aware you must use 165-grain loads for proper cycling in the rifle.

    • Tom February 26, 2019, 8:29 am

      My Henry Big Boy .357 Mag. Cycles Hornady 158 XTP rounds just fine.

  • I Love Liberty February 25, 2019, 9:13 am

    Why bother with an oddball cartridge like .327 Magnum? For lever action rifles I would go with .44 Magnum or a .357 Magnum or another common rifle cartridge.

    • TejanoViejo February 25, 2019, 7:45 pm

      If you bothered to check ballistics of .327 vs. .357, you would discover a virtual layover, but with much more manageable recoil, which is a more obvious significant factor for the handgun . . .

  • jim February 25, 2019, 6:44 am

    Have one had to go with the round bbl to get the checkering ,but it goes great with the first run Rosewood gripped Ruger Single Seven have not chronyee mine but what i’ve read the factory ammo is doing like 2000 fps in the rifles

    • Pat February 25, 2019, 9:20 am

      I clocked the 100 gr factory fodder between 2100 and 2200 fps from the 20″ barrel. My reloads clock in similarly.

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