Review: Henry Big Boy Revolver


Henry aptly calls its new revolver the Big Boy to match its lever-action rifle. While designed to present a period look, the Big Boy is a modern revolver with good features.

My generation of cops were issued double-action revolvers — .38 Special for the most part, and .357 Magnum if we were able to qualify. Some excelled with the revolver. To others, it wasn’t that interesting. I suppose, the morose underpinnings of the job were part of this reluctance. Some become etchers in drypoint. I mastered the handgun, as much as a challenge and a sport as for personal defense.

Henry Big Boy revolver in .357 Magnum with the cylinder open, left profile
The controls were easy to operate and smooth — exactly what we have come to expect from a Henry.

The job never demanded more than relative accuracy not the absolute accuracy of a 4-inch group at 50 yards. Some revolvers were capable of a 2-inch 50-yard group with carefully tailored handloads. I don’t utter pronouncements without a solid data base. The .38 Special was not enough with non-expanding loads, and many of hollow point loads of the day were not well designed.

The magnum, on the other hand, is very effective. I have investigated several shootings in which the magnum was used. I also used the .357 in the wild for decades. Dangerous sociopaths and dangerous animals alike require action be taken at times. It is not without compassion. I make a recitation of these events and don’t wish to sound cruel.

Some bipeds and quadrupeds take a lot of shooting. The magnum is the most likely of any handgun cartridge to anchor these threats without resorting to large, heavy revolvers that kick too much. Aggression and murderous intent must be met with a strong defense.

My experience leads me to compare the Henry Big Boy to revolvers such as the Smith & Wesson Heavy Duty or Colt New Service, although it is lighter than either. The Big Boy isn’t quite the size of a Ruger GP-100. It fills a good niche.

Big Boy Features

The Big Boy is a burly double-action/single-action revolver powered by a coil spring mainspring. The cylinder is opened for loading or unloading by pressing the cylinder release forward. The release is well designed to avoid cutting the thumb as magnums may do.

ejector rod on a Henry revolver
The ejector rod cap is ideal for easy use.

The ejector rod knob is large enough to allow slapping the ejector rod to dump spent cases without puncturing the palm. The chambers are nicely polished, aiding in ejecting spent cases. A neat feature is that a lever inside the trigger guard may be pressed to release the cylinder.

This makes cleaning simpler. Each chamber may be brushed out. As you clean the bore, you do not push lead and powder ash into the revolver’s cylinder. The Big Boy features a medium weight, four-inch barrel.

I checked fit on a number of likely holsters. The Big Boy fits nicely in a Galco DAO holster crafted for the Smith & Wesson L-Frame revolver. The DAO offers real security when hunting, hiking, or roaming the wild. The draw is sharp, and the holster offers excellent retention.

Diminutive sights/sight picture on the Henry Big Boy Revolver
The sights are small, but precise, when lined up.

The reinforced thumb break is fast, very fast, and doesn’t bind as it is manipulated. Under a covering garment, it is a good, concealed carry holster for those favoring big shooting irons. The Henry is definitely a big iron, although well balanced and fast handling.

Specifications: Henry Big Boy Revolver Gunfighter

  • Caliber: .357 Magnum/.38 Special
  • Capacity: 6 rounds
  • Barrel length: 4 inches
  • Barrel type: Round blued steel
  • Overall length: 9.5 inches
  • Overall weight: 35 ounces
  • Receiver finish: Polished blued steel
  • Rear sight: Fixed notch
  • Front sight: Screw-on post
  • Stock material: American Walnut
  • Safety: Transfer bar
  • MSRP: $928

Range Time

After engaging in a day or so of dry fire practice, I took the Henry to the firing range. I had a few preconceived notions of how the Henry would perform. I thought recoil would be sharp with magnums. And Brother, was I ever wrong!

I loaded 20 .38s in the range bag for every magnum load — a good program for revolver use. I believe the most useful loads (for most of us) are heavy, hard cast bullets at modest velocity for practice and at higher velocity for field use. A 160-grain SWC in .38 Special cases for 1,100 fps is a fine load for magnum revolvers.

I also like the bullet at 850 fps for practice. I took along Federal’s American Eagle 130-grain FMJ as well. A light load, well suited to practice, the American Eagle is noticeably cleaner burning than my handloads.

I mixed up loads and fired at man-sized targets at 7, 10, and 15 yards. Results were good, very good — even unexpected. The smooth action of the Henry, and the balance of the piece, makes for good shooting. I never cocked the hammer during this initial run. I simply ran through the firing course using double-action fire.

The heavy .38s did not prove to present a control problem. The Henry is nicely dehorned of sharp edges, or more likely, simply manufactured this way. The cylinder release never took a munch of my thumb, and the backstrap did not pinch the web of my old hand.

I am closer to 70 than 60 and skin gets thin… I don’t like guns that kick — or more accurately, they don’t like me, so we avoid each other. The Henry is smooth. Notably modern, .38 Special anti-personnel loads are much more effective with a good balance of expansion and penetration.

I especially like the Federal .38 Special Hydra-Shok Deep for good penetration. The Federal Punch is a good choice with its 120-grain JHP at Plus P velocity. These were quite easy to control with modest recoil, but a report that confirmed you were getting something special in the .38 Special. I went to magnums next. Not without some unwarranted trepidation.

Modern coil spring in the butt of a Henry Big Boy revolver with the grip removed
Henry wisely chose a modern coil spring hammer spring.

First up was the Federal Train and Protect, an affordable 125-grain JHP in a 50-round box. Plenty of gee whiz and blast. The muzzle rose and there was the familiar orange blossom of powder. However, my hand was not pinched, and no sharp edges abraded the skin. Henry’s designers wanted a revolver with a nice period look. They certainly provided, but engineers gave us the well-designed revolver grip.

I also fired a cylinder full of Federal 158-grain Hydra-Shok. This is a hard-hitting magnum with penetration on the heavy side. I found the recoil situation much the same and muzzle blast less. Good results all the way around. I was very pleased with the Henry Big Boy.

Accuracy Testing

Load

Group (inches)

.38 Special    
Federal 130-grain FMJ 1.5
Federal Hydra-Shok 130-grain DEEP .9
Federal 120-grain Punch 1.2
160-grain SWC/845 fps 1.3
.357 Magnum    
Federal 125-grain Train & Protect 1.2
Federal 158-grain Hydra-Shok .8
Federal 180-grain JHP 1.2
15 yards, 5-shot average group from a benchrest
Federal Personal Defense Punch and Hydra-Shok Deep ammunition in .38 Special +P
Modern .38 Special loads are formidable.

Velocity Testing

Load

Velocity (FPS)

Federal 148-grain MATCH 723
Federal 110-grain Hydra-Shok 922
Federal 129-grain Hydra-Shok 870
.357 Magnum  
Federal 125-grain Train & Protect 1,380
Federal 158-grain Hydra-Shok 1,221
Federal 180-grain JHP 1,140
15 yards, 5-shot average group from a benchrest

As an accuracy bug of epic proportion, and an experimenter who knows few bounds, I tested the Henry with a wide range of ammunition. It is tiring to conduct accuracy testing the righty way, with the revolver firmly imbedded in a MTM shooting rest. However, it is satisfying.

Federal Personal Defense Punch and Hydra-Shok Deep ammunition in .38 Special +P
Modern .38 Special loads are formidable.

I conducted accuracy testing first. Chronograph testing is a piece of cake, and fun when approached with a good attitude. Simply fire a bullet over the screens. Accuracy testing came first. I chose 15 yards as a likely long shot in personal defense or against dangerous animals. With better sights… but then, fixed sights don’t go out zero.

So many of us have at least one Henry rifle, but what’s your take on the Henry Big Boy revolver? Do you see one in your future? Share your answer in the Comment section.


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