Henry has supplied us with excellent quality .22 rifles at a fair price for some time. These lever action rifles are made in America and priced so working folks can afford them. While Henry offers a diverse number of rifles, it is best known for lever action rifles. Henry offers distinctively-styled rifles in calibers from .22 to .45 Colt. Offerings include stainless steel, blue, case-hardened and brass-frame rifles. One of my favorites is a .30-30 version.
This rifle features a round 20-inch barrel, blue receiver and barrel, and surprisingly attractive wood stocks. There are other models to choose from, but the rifle I chose is perfectly suited to my needs and abilities. The sights were the selling point. My rifle is fitted with a set of XS Express Sights. They consist of a bold front post and an open aperture rear sight.
These sights are brilliantly fast at moderate range and offer a high degree of accuracy to 100 yards. While the standard buckhorn sights may be more accurate at long range, I can no longer see these sights and use them well. The aperture sight is ideal for my use. This system may be fitted to other lever action rifles, but I am glad Henry chose to include XS sights as a feature on some of its rifles.
When you handle a Henry, you have a rifle that is sturdy and well made of good material. The flat top receiver would allow the mounting of a scope if desired. That’s fine for some types of hunting, but I prefer the aperture-type sights for my use. Deer and boar at 50-100 yards will fall to those who practice.
The rifle looks similar to the various pistol caliber carbines offered by Henry. The receiver, however, is longer due to the need to handle the .30-30 Winchester cartridge. The fit and finish of the rifle are good. The wooden furniture fits the receiver and barrel well. The bolt locks up tight in the receiver.
When you use this rifle, be certain to push the lever forward (not down) and like any lever action rifle, you will have real speed and smoothness with practice. Back to the wood, this is nicely grained American walnut and the finish is excellent. The stock features a hard rubber butt pad. The .30-30 WCF isn’t a hard kicker, but this recoil pad is a welcome addition.
The 20-inch barrel is round. Octagonal barrels are available on certain types of rifles. This is a fairly heavy barrel at .85-inch diameter. The barrel features a recessed crown. Unlike most lever action rifles, the Henry doesn’t use a loading port in the receiver. The rifle is loaded in the same fashion as the other Henry rifles, from .22s to the .45 Colt.
There is a magazine under the barrel like most lever action rifles. A brass inner tube is twisted about a quarter-turn and removed or moved to the loading position in order to load the rifle. A large cut out allows loading the magazine, which has a capacity of six cartridges.
The only drawback to this system is that the rifle cannot be topped off with a round or two in the manner others may, but this will not be important in a hunting situation and should not be important in most defensive situations. My rifle is a truck gun, carried in a padded case and ready to deal with game of opportunity or coyote and dangerous threats.
The Henry rifle is a simple rifle with a proven action that works smoothly with good leverage. An extension of the lever butts into the bolt and keeps it locked in place. The rifle features a transfer bar system, a nice modern addition to the lever action design. The trigger must be fully depressed in order for the firing pin to properly line up with the cartridge primer. There is no half-cock notch, or any of the obtrusive looking safeties found on modern lever action rifles. Cock the hammer or lever a cartridge into the chamber, and you are good to go.
.30-30 WCF Performance
The .30-30 Winchester Center Fire is the original American bottleneck .30 caliber lever action rifle cartridge. The first loading was a 160-grain bullet at 1,970 fps. Over the years, the standard loading was changed to a 150-grain JSP at 2,390 fps or a 170-grain bullet at 2,200 fps. From a 20-inch barrel, most of these loads generate less velocity. However, the velocity is still respectable for a short-range deer slayer. Here is ballistics from the Henry rifle.
|Hornady 160-grain LEVERevolution||2,330 fps|
|Remington 150-grain Core Lokt||2,268 fps|
|Winchester 170-grain Power Point||2,155 fps|
The .30-30’s ballistics was limited by bullet design. A tubular magazine places the nose of one bullet, against the primer of the cartridge in front of it. A pointed bullet could jar into the primer during recoil and ignite the cartridge in front of a bullet—or several at once. This would be very bad news! Hornady developed the LEVERevolution line in order to allow the safe use of a pointed bullet with much better ballistics, while remaining safe in a lever-action magazine.
The LEVERevolution bullet uses a pointed bullet with a safe polymer nose. I have loaded the .30-30 with high performance spitzer bullets many years ago, but kept only one cartridge in the magazine and one in the chamber—not ideal! The LEVERevolution is a neat solution to the problem. If you handload you will be able to best factory loads using 150- to 170-grain bullets by about 100 fps. Be careful, as always, while working these loads up.
|Barrel length||20 inches 1 in 12-inch twist|
|Overall length||39 inches|
|Sights||Fixed, buckhorn or aperture|
Another option for handloaders is also available in a 140-grain bullet in .308 diameter. The MonoFlex combines the solid copper GMX and FTX-tipped bullet into a bullet that is suited for hunting and use in a tubular magazine. The result is a bullet that will retain 95 percent of its weight when recovered. This alloy doesn’t foul or increase pressure as some alloys may. I tested my personal Henry rifle for accuracy and was pleased with the performance.
Firing for accuracy, I limited my shots to 50 yards from a solid benchrest. The XS sights are all about speed at moderate range. The rifle’s accuracy potential is there—the shooter is the limiting factor. I fired from a solid benchrest using the LEVERevolution load, firing three-shot groups. While the 1 ¾-inch group was something to brag about, the average groups were 2 inches. That is plenty for defense use or taking game at hardwoods distances. The Henry rifle is pure class, works as designed, and offers good utility. That is all we may ask.
What is your favorite cartridge and caliber for lever action guns. Share your answers in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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