Henry’s Big Boy X Rifle: The Lever Gun, Reimagined

The Henry Big Boy X rifle elevates lever-gun performance with an entirely new look and new functionality.

Serious students of lever-action rifles know that the Henry Model 1860 rifle wasn’t actually the first lever-action rifle, as some may believe — but it was the first commercially successful one.

Designed by gunsmith Benjamin Tyler Henry and produced by the New Haven Arms Company, the Henry rifle arrived in time to see limited but effective use by some Union elements during the Civil War. It also made a terminal impression upon 7th Cavalry troops under General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Archeological evidence indicates that some 60 Henry rifles were employed by the Lakota and Cheyenne warriors during Custer’s final indiscretion. The guns also served as the basis for the famous Winchester lever guns which were to follow.

While those original Henry rifles now command high collector prices, today’s Henry rifles are obviously more advanced and vary considerably from the originals. None differ more than the new Henry Big Boy X rifle, which reflects a modern refresh of the iconic lever-action rifle design, boosting performance and versatility to entirely new levels.

Sporting a trim new black synthetic stock with multiple attachment points for accessories, the Big Box X brings modern capabilities to the proven lever-action design.

Even a quick glance tells you this is not your granddaddy’s lever rifle. For starters, the Henry’s wooden stock has been replaced with a streamlined black synthetic one that I rather like with one very minor exception. The forend and pistol grip areas have molded-in stippling, but the rifle could benefit from a bit deeper stippling to improve wet-weather handling. Notably, the forend has M-Lok attachment points at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions, and there’s a short Picatinny rail section at the 6 o’clock spot, allowing you to attach accessories such as lights or lasers for specific defensive or hunting purposes. The stock also has integral sling mounting points and a substantial rubber recoil pad – not that I needed it much in a test gun chambered for the 357 Magnum handgun cartridge. The gun is also available in 45 Colt and 44 Mag./44Special.

The forend of the rifle has M-Lok and Picatinny rail sections to attach lights and lasers.

Atop the rifle’s 17.4-inch barrel you will find fixed, high-visibility fiber optic sights (green up front and red to the rear). While the front sight is fixed, the rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. The top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting a scope base or optics rail. The rifle’s muzzle is threaded (5/8×24) to accept a suppressor, and has a knurled, screw-on thread protector. The overall length is just 36.3 inches, which makes the rifle compact, handy, and a good choice in tight cover. All of this translates into a gun that you can set up the way you want, whether you intend to use it as a woods rifle for deer or as a fast-action repeater for defending the castle. The gun will perform admirably in both roles.

The muzzle of the rifle is threaded to accept a suppressor, and fixed sights are high-visibility fiber optic designs.

Unlike predecessor Henry rifles chambered for handgun cartridges, the Big Boy X uses a loading gate in addition to the iconic Henry loading tube, giving you a choice in how you load and unload the gun. I found I really liked the loading gate and preferred to use it when loading, but I also liked the convenience of unloading the gun using the loading tube rather than having to cycle all the rounds through the action. I was able to load rounds through the gate without issue, although I did have to use some force as the tube filled up and I approached the capacity limit of seven rounds. I expect this will become a little easier and with time.

A couple of things that became immediately obvious in testing were recoil – or the lack of it – and how quiet the gun is compared to most rifles chambered for centerfire rifle cartridges. In 357 Mag., the gun is really a soft-kicking joy to shoot, and with such mild recoil, you can trigger follow-up shots as fast as you can work the action and aim.

Unlike earlier Henry rifles chambered for handgun cartridges, the Big Boy X has a loading gate as well as a loading tube.

Operating the action is a smooth and instinctively simple process, made easier by the use of a larger-than-normal loop in the lever. Cycling is, in a word, slick. When you close the action, the lockup is satisfyingly solid and tight. In testing, the gun had no issues. Everything fed, fired, and ejected without a single mechanical hiccup.

The gun has no manual safety but relies on a transfer bar mechanism that prevents the gun from firing unless the trigger is pulled. If the hammer is in the process of being cocked and is accidentally released and dropped into the fired-and-down position, before it is fully cocked, the gun will not fire. This means the gun can be safely carried fully loaded with the hammer in the fired-and-down resting position. Of course, rifle scopes can sometimes get in the way when you’re trying to cock or uncock the hammer of a lever gun, so I equipped the rifle with Henry’s proprietary hammer extension, which makes it a lot easier to manipulate the hammer. As with many lever guns, the lever has to be fully closed for the gun to fire. Unlike some of those guns, the over-sized lever on this rifle stays put once you close it, and it’s unlikely to be bumped out of position inadvertently.

Measuring little more than 36 inches in overall length, the Big Boy X is a handy, compact gun that’s well suited for use in tight cover.

Fit and finish on this rifle is quite good and a definite step up from some lever guns I’ve owned. The flat-sided receiver has a matte black finish, while the barrel, lever, and outer magazine tube have a bit of luster to them.

Some have reported the Big Boy X rifle’s trigger pull to be excessively heavy, but I did not find that to be the case. The trigger on my test gun broke consistently at an average pull weight of around 4 pounds, which is not bad for a lever gun. It did have a bit of creep, but that was consistent and predictable. With a slow trigger squeeze, I found I could take up the small amount of creep before the trigger stacked and broke, operating it much as I would a two-stage trigger.

With a scope in place, the author installed Henry’s proprietary hammer extension to make it easier to cock and uncock the hammer.

Several reviewers who tested this gun for accuracy using the rifle’s fixed fiber optic sights or a red dot-style sight only tested it at 50 yards and got three-to-five inch groups. Since I plan to use the rifle on a deer hunt, I mounted a Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10×40 scope on the gun, using a one-piece cantilevered base and ring set from Talley, and set out to see what the rifle could do at 100 yards with three .357 Mag. loads I had on hand.

The results were a pleasant surprise. All three loads tested turned in average groups measuring 2-3 inches, and a couple of loads produced best groups measuring less than 2 inches. I consider that to be very good accuracy for a short-barreled lever gun pushing handgun cartridges at that distance – and certainly accurate enough to take deer and hogs within an acceptable range.

The author found the trigger to have a little creep, but it was consistent and predictable. More importantly, the trigger’s pull weight was measured at a very acceptable 4 pounds.

Velocities, as you would expect, are considerably higher out of this rifle than from a 357 Mag. revolver. With handguns, 357 Mag. speeds can top out at about 1,200 fps with 158-grain bullets and 1,500 fps with 125-grain bullets. For those same-weight bullets launched from the Big Boy X, velocities were 1,714 fps and 1,975 fps, respectively. A slight accuracy advantage went to Federal’s new HammerDown load with a heavier 170-grain bullet that stepped out at 1,666 fps.

These results, especially with the HammerDown load, convinced me that this gun will be deadly on deer out to a little beyond 100 yards. Handgun bullets, even when pushed to higher velocities in a rifle barrel, begin to drop like a rock and shed energy quickly past 100 yards, so it’s best to limit shots on game to not much more than that.

Henry sells a Picatinny rail optics base for the rifle, but the author chose to use a single-piece cantilevered base-and-ring design from Talley that allows ample room for scopes to clear the fixed rear sight.

It’s worth noting that Federal developed the new HammerDown ammo working in collaboration with engineers from Henry to optimize the ammo for performance in lever-action guns. In addition to using Gold Medal primers and nickel-plated brass cases for smooth feeding, HammerDown ammunition is engineered to provide superior terminal performance with a molecularly bonded bullet that expands reliably while penetrating deeply. Teamed with the Henry Big Boy X rifle, it could just be a marriage made in heaven – or hell, depending on your perspective as either the sender or receiver of the bullet.

I expect this rifle and ammo combination will be deadly on deer within a reasonable range, and I intend to put both to the test soon on Texas whitetails.

For testing, the author used a Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10×40 scope.
The lever of the rifle has a generously sized loop allowing for easy operation with a gloved hand.

Henry Big Boy X Rifle

Caliber: 357 Magnum. Mag., as tested

Action Type: Lever action

Finish: Blued steel

Stock: Black synthetic

Magazine/capacity: 7

Sights: Adjustable fiber optic fixed, drilled and tapped

Barrel Length: 17.4 inches

Overall Length: 36.3 inches

Weight: 7.3 pounds

MSRP: $970.00

Henry Big Boy X Rifle 357 Magnum

LoadAvg. Velocity (feet per secondAvg. Group 100 yardsBest Group 100 yards
Federal HammerDown 170 gr.1,6662.191.83
Hornady American Gunner 125 grain XTP1,9752.251.89
Winchester Super X 158 grain JHP1,7143.042.73

Note: Accuracy measured with three-shot groups in wind 5-12 mph at 100 yards. Velocity measured as a three-shot average with a Competitive Edge Dynamics M2 chronograph.

CONTACTS:

Competitive Edge Dynamics

Federal Ammunition

Henry

Hornady Ammunition

Leupold

Nagel’s Gun Shop

Talley Manufacturing

Winchester Ammunition

For more information visit Henry USA website.

Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!

{ 35 comments… add one }
  • Grumpy 49 July 12, 2021, 11:31 pm

    Purchased a .44 Big Boy (Steel) and put a scope on it. NICE! Then HENRY came out with the “X” model, so I got the .357 version. Like the side gate, as the .357 got a linear compensator (flash) suppressor on it, and it blocks using the loading tube. Wish HENRY would design a “Flat” or “Oval” version so the loading tube could be used. If you deer hunt in the brush, or chase hawgs, the .44 mag is ideal. If you need a “Not Bad Gun – i.e. not AR-15, the .357 “X” with a linear compensator and a rail mounted laser is my “Go To” suggestion. How bad is an “old time Cowboy gun” versus a nasty AR-15??? Note – The muzzle end of a linear compensator looks like a 10 gauge/elephant gun.

  • MDA January 23, 2021, 4:29 am

    Henry makes some of the best rifles out there. I have 2 of them and the quality, accuracy and fit/finish is impeccable. I like the ability to have the same caliber for both long gun and handgun.

  • mrchuck November 20, 2020, 10:27 pm

    The High Sierras here in Bishop, CA bring lots of hunters here.
    All types of game and gun shops here.
    Mostly from the So Cal areas.
    Heavy snows drive the game to our altitude here.
    There are 2 mountain ranges here.
    West is the Sierras and East are the White Mountains.
    We sit here in the ranch lands between them.
    Called the Owens Valley here. Population 4200.
    Mammoth Mountain Ski area is 25 miles North up Hwy 395.

  • Chuck Meredith November 20, 2020, 10:08 pm

    I’ll stick with my scoped Marlin 336, caliber 30-30.
    I sit in the forest quietly.
    I have other rifles for long range hunting, but I am 82 years old now and crippled up, so I’ll just wait for our High Sierra mule deer to walk up close to me during their annual migration to the ranch lands here around
    Bishop, CA.
    Hunting here is very very popular as the animals migrate thru here!

    • Vincent G November 22, 2020, 1:09 pm

      Bought a Marlin 336CS 30-30 in mid 80s. Put a Williams peep sight on it and after all these years, it is still accurate and dependable as when new. Was a must have for thick woods/brush hunting where visibility is less than 100 yds. Yes, patience is a virtue!

  • theleveractionhunter November 20, 2020, 9:58 am

    I would recommend a skinner sight or ranger point precision peep sight. Either one can be mounted on top of the receiver in the holes that come predrilled from the factory.

  • Chuck Matson November 20, 2020, 9:33 am

    Bought one in 44mag 4 mos ago…love it!

  • Stephen Guido November 20, 2020, 8:30 am

    I bought a 6.5 Creedmoor. Out of the box the trigger pull was over 7 pounds. Could not group shots.
    Called the company and was told that their spec was 4.5 pounds.
    They sent me a shipping label and 2 weeks later I got it back. TRIGGER PULL IS 5 POUNDS. Going to shoot today, but that’s still too high for a long distance gun.
    If I don’t like I’m going to give it back to them.

  • shrugger November 20, 2020, 7:16 am

    .500 S&W?

  • Dennis Wenger November 20, 2020, 6:33 am

    Until I can get my hands on one or find any of my local dealers that has one in stock or has even seen one, I have a hard time believing this rifle exists in any caliber. Looking since it was announced.

  • Jim Corrin November 16, 2020, 4:02 pm

    Patiently awaiting an “X” model in .41 magnum.

  • JCitizen November 16, 2020, 3:48 pm

    This is seriously good marketing, I don’t care what most people think. Why not bring the favorite design into the modern world? I would especially like one for the little mount station just below the barrel for a flash light and use it as a home defense gun. I already have a Rossi Ranch Hand doing such duty now!

  • David Hall November 16, 2020, 3:20 pm

    I want one.
    Where can I get one ?
    Zip is 93536

    • SavvyVet November 16, 2020, 5:49 pm

      You can access the dealer locator using the zip code on the Henry website. This guy is writing an articlle ONLY.

      • S.H. Blannelberry November 17, 2020, 9:26 am

        You can also search on GunsAmerica.com.

    • Ej harbet November 20, 2020, 9:34 am

      Yep not being able to click it on your device and it comes to your door is just one of the many infringements to the right that shall not be infringed.
      And the majority of the American people allow it.

    • Chuck Meredith November 20, 2020, 10:12 pm

      What town is your Zip Code? Sounds close to me here in Bishop, CA.?

  • Chris November 16, 2020, 1:51 pm

    Where’s the kinetic energy scores? How much stopping power does. .357 have out of this barrel.

    • subin November 16, 2020, 9:21 pm

      My local dealer ordered one for me earlier this year (45 Colt) and I am at ZIP 90501.

  • Grumpy 49 November 16, 2020, 11:28 am

    Lucked into a .357 “X” model HENRY. Added the hammer extension, and a linear compensator. When I find a light that I like, will also add it. End goal is a home defense gun that can be used by us “advanced age” shooters, without the “Bad Black Gun” stigma.

    When compared to older “Deer” cartridges, the .357 mag in a rifle is as effective as many of these older rounds. For varmint control (two legged or four) the 125 grain .357 mag is also very effective.

    • EB BRYANS November 18, 2020, 8:01 pm

      no time gotta go what calibers henry big boy come in?

  • Cea November 16, 2020, 10:52 am

    Can a Marbles tang sight be mounted on it? At my age, the rear notch/buckhorn type sight no longer works for me. I have several lever guns and a few bolt action rifles that all get Marbles tang or similar aperture sights.

  • Big Al 45 November 16, 2020, 10:34 am

    Well folks, good luck getting your hands on one. I’ve been looking for the .45 version for going on 4 months, I’ve been told by several shops they only trickle in. I have a standing order at 2 shops for almost 3 of those months, no word.

  • Warren Young November 16, 2020, 8:36 am

    First I don’t think a .357 Mag is a good deer round. Second I love lever guns but just can’t fall in love with the “black lever gun”. I know that the lever gun needed to be put into the mix with the AR15 for younger people to buy. SASS is the shooting sport that made the .357 into a lever gun caliber as it shoots softer than .40’s bring their times down. I have seen more deer and hogs run away after being shot with the .357. It doesn’t have the bone breaking ability that bigger bore and weight of the larger pistol rounds in the rifles do. Check your energy level at 100 yards, not a computer program, use bolistic jell with a deer hide to have something tangable.

    • Big Al 45 November 16, 2020, 10:31 am

      And I have taken many a Whitetail with a 6″ .357 right out to 75 yards, no issues.
      Guess it’s about bullet placement too, as it always has been.

      • FundRobocop November 27, 2020, 6:11 am

        Daaaaaaaaaaaamn!!! Looks like you just took down a keyboard warrior too :-))

  • Tim November 16, 2020, 8:18 am

    I purchased a Henry big boy in 44mag a couple of years ago. Pretty rifle but awful accuracy. I have tried numerous bullet weights and loads but nothing has helped. I mounted a Leopold 2X7 VXR scope just to see if that would help and it didn’t. I have several old original pre 64 Winchester lever action rifles and one Marlin 1895 45-70, 80 era. They all shoot much better than my Henry. I was so disappointed with its accuracy I stuck it in the gun room and haven’t touched it in over a year.

  • triggerpull November 16, 2020, 6:44 am

    Ugly beyond belief ; ) but I suppose it’s a reasonable substitute if semi-auto long guns get banned.

    • Amado leon November 16, 2020, 1:42 pm

      if they ‘re banding the A.R. that one is next .DON’T FOOL YOUR SELF.

      • Ej harbet November 20, 2020, 9:43 am

        Secretary of the department of disarmament o’rourke says h@!! Yes were coming to take your assault lever actions.

        Beto,don’t send anyone you like to get my guns.just saying

  • Mark Potter November 16, 2020, 6:10 am

    Make it in .45 Colt and I will have one. Add .41 mag and I will have 2!

    • Chuck November 16, 2020, 9:17 am

      It says in the article they are also available in 45 Colt and 44 Magnum/44 Special

    • Reading is fun November 16, 2020, 9:46 am

      Did you read the article?

    • Jim Corrin November 16, 2020, 4:04 pm

      Ditto on the .41 Magnum….

  • Danny Gonzales November 16, 2020, 4:28 am

    The Henry rifles have always been a beautiful weapon, I learned to shoot with my great uncles Henry .44 rifles, but the wood stocks and shiny brass plates on them was what made them stand out, and they always looked so beautiful , when you’d finished cleaning them up after firing them all day , wonderful childhood memories. I’ve no doubt that these are just as fine a weapon. But , I’ll always be in love with the old Henry rifles and the beautiful weapons that they are.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend