Lever action guns are not really practical when compared to modern rifles. But boy, they sure are cool. The classic lever action rifle has made a comeback in a big way. Legendary companies like Henry Repeating Arms are more than happy to keep making them for us too.
I remember watching shows like “Bonanza” and “Gun Smoke” when I was little. It made me want a lever action so bad my 10-year-old imagination could turn just about any stick into a rifle that even John Wayne would approve of. Lever actions started to fade away for a few years, but now they are back with all sorts of twists. Classic models and modern ones are both flying off shelves. The idea of a “tactical” lever action is relatively new, and I will admit, I think they’re cool.
A classic gun with a Picatinny rail, red dot, and threaded barrel is just a cool combination. But I also like the classic-looking lever-action and they are even fun to shoot. One of the most recent rifles I picked up is the Henry Golden Boy 41 Rem Mag. I took it to the range and was surprised at how well it shot. Let’s go over this thing from butt to muzzle and see what it’s about.
41 Remington Magnum
Before we get into the details of the rifle let’s talk about the cartridge. After all, .41 Magnum is not a common round. It was originally designed as an alternative to the .357 Mag and the .44 Mag for use in revolvers. The .41 Mag has more stopping power than the .357 but does not kick as much as the .44 Mag. In a revolver, this would be a noticeable and important difference. In a lever action, it shoots like a charm with almost no kick at all.
When fired from a rifle-length barrel, the .41 Mag generates enough energy to be used for hunting and home defense. I picked up some Precision One 210 grain ammo at the local gun store. The weight of this bullet brings the speed down to about 1200 fps. Lighter grain bullets will get up to 1600-ish fps when fired from a rifle.
The only drawback to a .41 Magnum is the lack of options for ammunition. Most gun stores I visit only have one or two options available if they have any at all. At more than $1 per bullet, it can be expensive to shoot, but if I want to plink around all day, I’ll use a .22 caliber rifle.
The Henry Big Boy .41 Magnum Carbine
Henry makes a few options of lever action rifles chambered in .41 mag. The most popular is the Big Boy Classic rifle. The one I picked up is the Big Boy Carbine, which has a shorter barrel. The first thing that catches your eye with the Big Boy is the classic combination of American Walnut and brass. There are cheaper versions available that are not in brass, but if you are going to own a lever action rifle, you need at least one classic.
The octagon barrel does put it on the heavy side, but in this case I kind of like the heavy feel of the gun. It weighs a little under eight pounds when loaded. The overall length of the rifle is 35 inches. It has a semi-buckhorn sight and a brass-beaded front sight.
The front gold-bead sight with the white diamond on the rear sight makes it easy to line up. The tube-fed rifle will hold seven rounds so there is plenty of ammo in the rifle. Like most lever action rifles, you do need to cycle the bolt in a quick fluid motion, or it will not eject the cartridge and load the next bullet correctly. Henry used a large loop lever to accommodate any size of hands, or those wearing gloves. One nice feature of this classic rifle is the drilled and tapped holes for a scope rail.
On the Range With the Henry Big Boy Carbine
The .41 Mag is a pistol round, but it can be a great choice for hunting or protection against larger animals. Some compare it to the 10mm round when talking about defense against bears and other large animals.
On the range, I set up targets at 50, 75 and 100 yards. The extractor failed to pull the shell from the chamber with the first three shots. I’m not sure what was going on with it because it never did it again after that. Ammo for this thing is expensive so I only fired 50 rounds through it, but I never had another issue after those first three rounds. I didn’t have any trouble hitting the targets clear out to the 100-yard range. I will admit I’m not a good lever-action shooter, so I was taking my time in between shots. But the accuracy was great. There wasn’t much of a drop at the 100-yard target compared to the 50.
One feature I like about this rifle is the transfer bar that slides inside the hammer. I wanted to test it out while I was on the range. I racked a bullet into the chamber and pulled back on the hammer and released it without pulling the trigger. Nothing happened and the transfer bar worked correctly. This is an important feature to me because I may want to carry that + 1 bullet in the chamber sometimes. With the hammer down, there is no way the gun can go off because of a notch in the hammer. Without the trigger pushing the transfer bar up in front of the hammer, the gun is safe.
Is a lever action for you?
I didn’t give any of the “Western” guns a second thought once I was older and started a career in law enforcement. I liked the cool tactical weapons and considered all other guns obsolete. But when you start expanding your knowledge of firearms and their history, something changes. You gain an appreciation for the classic and even primitive weapons.
Every gun we have today is here because of the designs and inventions of the great gunmakers that came before us. Not every gun needs to be for battle or even self-defense. Although I think this rifle would make a great self-defense weapon in some cases. There are several things this rifle could be used for. And yes, that includes hanging it on the wall just so you can look at it every day.
If you don’t want a caliber that is so expensive, they make several other calibers including a .357 Mag that can also shoot .38 Special. This would be a great option for those who own revolvers and already have ammo. Regardless of what you do with it, there is no question, the Henry Big Boy is a great classic rifle that you will not regret buying.