By Craig Reinolds
We have all heard the old saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” and from my recent experience with the Big Boy Steel Carbine from Henry Repeating Arms, they must have been talking about this rifle. When it comes to reliable and accurate lever actions, it stands in a class of its own when you say it is one tough rifle. In the spirit of the traditional “Trapper” style minimum legal length barrel known as a carbine, Henry Repeating Arms produces this rifle in .44 Mag / SPL, .45 Long Colt, .357 Mag, .327 Mag, and .41 Mag.
Right off the bat, when you see the Big Boy model of Henry rifles, you can see its roots trace back to those of Benjamin Tyler Henry, easily one of the top 5 names in the history of firearms development. The modern incantation of Henry Repeating Arms is a family owned business led by the charismatic company president, Anthony Imperato. Using domestic resources, each Henry rifle is proudly made under the company motto: “Made in America or not at all!”
A few months ago, I was given an opportunity to test and review the Big Boy Steel Carbine chambered in .357 Mag. As with most firearms in this caliber, the Steel Carbine can also fire the smaller .38 cartridge just as well. As luck would have it, timing was everything for this review as the rifle arrived from Henry Repeating Arms just in time for hog season. Along with the rifle, I received a shipment of bonded .357 Mag lead hollow points from the great folks at Buffalo Bore Ammunition. This ammo has proven reliable and effective for several of my Swanson Media Group teammates. To give things a true authentic “western frontier” feel, Northwest Traders (www.northwesttrader.com) was kind enough to send along a very supple leather rifle sheath with a blanket lining from. With my kit complete, I was set for business to hit the woods and take down some wild pork!
Technically speaking, this particular model for this review is listed as the H012M lever action with a 16.5” barrel and all steel construction. Unlike its larger Big Boy Steel counterpart sporting the beautiful octagon barrel, the Steel Carbine has a slightly thinner and lighter weight round barrel construction to aid in carrying the rifle longer distances with much more ease. The rifle was paired with Buffalo Bore’s “Heavy 357 Mag” 158 grain JHP which is rated at 1475 FPS. With a magazine tube capacity of 7 rounds, these heavy hitting rounds offer more than enough to get the job done for any hunter.
The easy to see rear sight is fully adjustable semi-buckhorn with white diamond insert. The front sight is a brass bead, which really does a great job when taking quick shots or pushing out to distances of 75 – 80 yards. The blued steel receiver is drilled and taped for Henry’s model BB-RSM scope mounts for those who wish to scope the carbine. To round out the rifle’s construction, there is a black solid rubber recoil butt pad that does a great job absorbing any undue recoil. The length of pull comes in at 14” which is perfect for most medium built shooters even while wearing heavy jackets. The transfer bar style safety protects from any accidental slam fires if the rifle falls from a tress stand. Henry’s Big Boy Steel Carbine also includes swivel studs to attach your favorite sling for steadying off hand shots using the sling method as well as overall comfort in carrying during those long walks to the shooting blind. The M.S.R. Price is $850.00 according to the Henry Repeating Arms site but can often be found in stores marked around $769.99.
Specs Quick Look
- Model Number H012MR
- Action Type Lever Action
- Caliber .357 Magnum/.38 Spl
- Capacity 7 Rounds
- Barrel Length 16.5″
- Barrel Type Round Blued Steel
- Rate Of Twist 1:16
- Overall Length 34″
- Weight 6.59 lbs.
- Receiver Finish Blued Steel
- Rear Sight Fully Adjustable Semi-Buckhorn w/ Diamond Insert
- Front Sight Brass Bead
- Scope ability Drilled and Tapped for model BB-RSM Scope Mount
- Stock Material American Walnut
- Butt plate pad Black Solid Rubber Recoil Pad
- Length Of Pull 14”
- MSRP: $850.00
Hog Hunting with the Henry Big Boy Carbine
Looking back to my previous hog hunt before receiving the Big Boy Carbine, I shot a 90lbs bore at 30 yards using a Ruger M77 bolt action rifle chambered in .270. Despite a picture-perfect shot placement, I still had to fight my way through thick brush for about 100 yards to retrieve my trophy. As I made my way through the woods with my Ruger .270, it did not take long before I was getting too hung up in the underbrush and the wait-a-minute vines to be able to safely retrieve my kill. I ended up having to take my rifle back to the truck and get my 1911 pistol chambered .45 ACP. The brush and vines were grabbing everything on my rifle including the scope. Sufficient to say, a Ruger bolt action is not a suitable Florida swamp brush gun.
When I received the Big Boy Carbine, I knew right off, this season was going to be easier. First off, I started with a new rule for myself, shoot the hogs behind the ear and drop them where they stand instead of the traditional game vital area behind the shoulder. The .357 Mag Buffalo Bore round, combined with the Henry Big Boy Carbine’s accuracy did what it was designed to do. When the first opportunity came and I put that gold bead front sight right where I wanted it and that hog dropped right in its tracks!
Overall, I ended up taking six hogs with the Henry Big Boy Carbine in one day. All shots dropped pigs where they stood. When I had to work through the brush to get to my vehicle from where I was hunting, it was much easier than my experience with a scoped rifle. For safety purposes, I felt much better being in tight quarters with a hog and having the Henry Big Boy instead of my .45 ACP pistol alone.
Field Report on the Henry .357 Mag in Action
Below I listed my field report on the Henry Big Boy Carbine to give readers a clear way to see my thoughts on the experience as it came to me.
• The rifle is well balanced and extremely maneuverable, especially in heavy brush conditions.
• The lever action worked flawlessly and smooth. Other lever actions have a safety in the lever and during rapid firing can cause an issue. Henry’s lever was on time, every time.
• Rear sight elevation stair was easy to set and change back and forth one distance for each step is known. I had mine set on the third step and it was perfect for 50-75 yards.
• Front sight gold bead was awesome; my eye picked it up quickly. It caught my eye almost like a tactical red dot scope does.
• Loading was unusual but worked fine. The Henry loads via a tube under the barrel instead of in the side of the receiver. It may not be ideal for loading on the fly, but with 10 rounds it handles most of what you would use this rifle for. This tube design is better than the receiver load for unloading the rifle, less marking to the rounds being loaded and unloaded.
• The rifle caliber was a real treat to shoot. It gave you excellent performance with very little recoil. The ballistics of the round and caliber are very impressive on paper and in the field.
• The Buffalo Bore .357 ammo worked great. The lead and jacket stayed together and mushroomed perfectly. Dropping game in its tracks was not unusual with this bullet/rifle combination.
• Last year I shot a full-grown hog with a .270 caliber rifle using respected ammo. I was at 30 yards when he popped out in my sight. I made a heart lung shot and still had to drag it 100 yards back out of the woods. I did change my shot placement to behind the ear with this rifle and caliber combo but 6 for 6 they all dropped in the spot where they were shot. I did not have to drag a single one out of the brush. I contribute this to the Buffalo Bore ammunition holding together and performing as advertised combined with the Henry rifle’s great accuracy.
Henry Repeating Arms boasts on their website the Big Boy excels in performance when used for target shooting, hunting and even hunting large game. From what I have seen firsthand, this isn’t just bragging. I was very pleased with the results and performance of this rifle. I feel that it offers an excellent choice as a brush gun or a short-range big game rifle depending on intended game and caliber chosen. There are no doubts in my mind this rifle has the capability to get the job done and it proven to be a tough, rugged and reliable rifle built to pass down through the generations.
For plinking and overall practicing fundamental rifle marksmanship, you have the option I previously mentioned with running .38 Spl loads, which are much less expensive therefore more bangs for your buck and easier on new shooters learning the art of rifle craft. I look forward to getting my own Big Boy in .357 and combine it with my .357 revolver as my “go to” brush rifle/handgun combination set especially when working the Florida brush and swamps for game. I believe it would be the perfect combination to have whether I am hunting, exploring, camping or horseback riding.
Special thanks to Henry Repeating Arms, Buffalo Bore Ammunition and Northwest Traders for giving me that opportunity to experience bush hunting the way it was intended to be. If you have been looking at the Henry Repeating Arms line up for your next rifle purchase, I highly recommend buying one, you won’t regret it. Check out 1800GunsAndAmmo.com and find which Henry rifle is right for you today!