Aptly named, the American Beauty is a full-length rifle capable of firing .22 LR, .22 Long and .22 Short ammo with a 20-inch octagonal barrel, an American walnut stock and forend, a tall brass bead front sight, an adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight, a magazine that will hold 16 rounds of .22 LR ammunition, scroll engraving on the nickeled receiver cover from Baron Technology and a 14-karat gold American Beauty rose layered on both sides, with a matching nickel-plated buttplate and barrel band.
The Big Boy was Henry’s first center-fire lever action, and the Big Boy Silver is a logical progression intended for those who prefer this look over brass. The polished alloy in these solid-frame centerfires won’t develop a dark patina over time and should hang onto their bright finish indefinitely. Produced in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .45 Colt, all three Big Boy Silvers carry 20-inch octagonal barrels, brass bead front sights, adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sights, American walnut furniture, 10-round capacities and nickeled buttplates and barrel bands. If you’ve got a nickeled Peacemaker, this is its natural-born soulmate.
You want to talk fancy? OK, we’ll talk fancy. The Big Boy Silver Deluxe Engraved can be ordered in the same calibers and with the same features as the Big Boy Silver, but Henry goes uptown big-time on this model. Aside from all the bright parts, this top-of-the-line model has 95-percent engraving coverage on the side flats and floral scrollwork on top of the receiver and back onto the upper tang. One of the company’s most ornate rifles, this is a “shootable” heirloom-quality lever action that you can’t find in any other current brand without spending hundreds of dollars on a custom engraver. If you’re in the market for a true showpiece, this is your best bet.
Named after one of the winningest icons in Cowboy Action Shooting, Evil Roy (aka Gene Pearcey), this very distinctive silver version of Henry’s Frontier Carbine in .22 LR/L/S and .22 Magnum calibers comes with a 16.5-inch octagonal barrel, an intermediate-length stock, “Evil Roy” branding on its right side, a large-loop lever and a grooved receiver cover for mounting a scope. This carbine fits a wide range of ages and sizes. The shorter barrel lightens the carbine’s balance out front while still providing a 12- or seven-round magazine in .22 LR and .22 Magnum, respectively. In short, this model makes a good rimfire for younger shooters who may not have the upper body strength to hold a full-length Golden Boy variant.
A nod to the utilitarian side of bright nickel with a fair amount of gleam but no glitz, the Golden Boy Silver offers two additional rimfire variations to the regular .22 LR/L/S version, with .22 Magnum and .17 HMR rifles also available in the same configuration. Both the .22 LR/L/S and .17 HMR variants feature 20-inch octagonal barrels while the .22 Magnum’s is 20.5 inches long, and all three use Henry’s adjustable sights. A subtler statement of refined taste than an engraved model, this affordable variant is sure to light up your day at the range.
The fourth iteration of Henry’s U.S.-made Original model, the new Original Silver Deluxe Engraved in .44-40 Winchester is built to the same overall specs as the first three—with a 24.5-inch octagonal barrel, a 13+1 capacity, a 9-pound unloaded weight, a front blade sight, a folding ladder-style rear sight, a crescent-style buttplate and a toggle-link action—but this throwback to Benjamin Tyler Henry’s groundbreaking 1860 repeater uses a brass receiver under electroless nickel plating, along with a nickeled buttplate, carrier and magazine follower. The engraving pattern on both side flats showcases an American eagle perched on a federal shield depicting the 13 stripes and 13 stars of the first United States of America. On the right side, the eagle is clutching the arrows of war and the olive branch of peace in its talons, while the left-side eagle is bearing an “E Pluribus Unum” battle flag, all surrounded by elaborate scrollwork.
Henry Repeating Arms considers the Silver Eagle the best American-made engraved rifle under $1,000, and it’s probably right. Building on the rimfire Golden Boy platform again, the Silver Eagle uses the same specifications as the Golden Boy Silver, and the same calibers, but adds receiver cover scroll engraving to take the nickeled gleam up a notch. Based on the highly engraved Henry serial No. 9 presented to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles during the Civil War, the Eagle is another looker, and it can be a standout at your range for well under $1,000.
The initial Silver Eagle model was so successful that Henry took the engraving even further, but held this one to just the .22LR/L/S chambering with a 20-inch octagonal barrel. Using the same nickeled approach on the cover, buttplate and barrel band, and with the same sights, wood and capacity, this Eagle replaces the “Silver Eagle” box in the first Silver Eagle’s engraving pattern with an American eagle in flight, wings spread, facing forward on both sides of the cover. Showing roughly 90-percent engraving on the cover flats, this one’ll draw attention from non-lever enthusiasts, all while still being under $1,000.
Gold watches, gold coins, gold teeth and gold guns are all status symbols to own and show off with pride. For over 4,000 years, gold has been used to decorate personal possessions and bodies, not to mention for trade purposes in the form of money and other liquid assets. Gold is relatively hard to find; it’s shiny, it’s pretty, it’s expensive, it’s cool, it doesn’t corrode and not everybody can afford it. What’s not to like?
Silver shares much of the history and appeal of gold, with many of the same uses—object decoration, jewelry, money and so on. It’s also relatively hard to find, shiny, pretty and cool as a precious metal, but not nearly as expensive as gold. Silver is, by far, the more widely used of the two, and it offers a chance to add some bling without going overly gaudy or overly broke.
Both metals have been applied to firearms for centuries. Gold was initially used to fill in engraved designs on guns intended for royalty and other members of the ruling gentry far beyond anything that the hoi polloi could afford. Gold was an obvious choice for this because it was soft in purer forms for hammering into patterns cut in harder metals, and it didn’t tarnish. Silver was also used for inlaying, but pure silver has a tendency to blacken with handling and age, and it needs regular polishing (or an alloy composition) to stay bright.
Later on, when the early electroplating process was discovered by an Italian chemist in 1805, it took another 30 years to get off the ground for industrial purposes, and both metals were used for plating then and still are, but the oldest plating material widely applied to gun parts was nickel, roughly 160 years ago. Nickel was the first of the practical “shiny” finish upgrade materials, and it remains a popular option today for firearms because it’s cheap, reasonably durable, can be just as shiny as silver, doesn’t tarnish quite like silver, resists corrosion and fills in minute surface imperfections quite well. It sets off a prized handgun or rifle nicely without looking like you’re trying too hard to impress others.
Highly engraved, nickeled presentation rifles were well known in the 1860 to 1900 era. Plainer versions of plated rifles were valued on the frontier for their everyday utility as much as their show-off factor, and both Smith & Wesson and Colt have offered nickeled products for looks and rough use in hard climates since their very early days.
Gold’s the ultimate expression of “Hey, look at me!” in high-dollar guns, but gold plating can be very expensive for more than just small parts enhancements, and silver isn’t practical for the aforementioned reasons. Our modern nickel-plating processes are much more refined than in the mid-1800s, showing far better resistance to wear and flaking in high-contact areas with extensive handling and friction, and nickel remains a very viable choice. There are stronger plating finishes available nowadays, but they’re usually expensive aftermarket services that involve shipping your gun off for several weeks.
If you happen to be a traditional lever-gunner in the market for a classic nickel look, Henry Repeating Arms offers a wide selection of rimfire and centerfire models, engraved or plain, that come all shined up and ready to go right out of the box. The Henry Lever Action 22 is an all-time classic. These are all buy-it-today, shoot-it-today models without the hassle and wait of using a custom shop. The rimfires feature internal receivers and external receiver covers made of Zamak 5 alloy with nickel plating on the covers and appropriate receiver sections, and their barrel bands and buttplates are also nickel plated. The regular-edition centerfires use solid aluminum/bronze alloy receivers that are naturally silver in color, with only a high polish and no need for plating. So, without further ado, here are some of the best members of the Henry Silver Series.
For more information about the Henry Silver Series, visit henryrifles.com.
This article was originally published in “Guns of the Old West” Winter 2017. To order a copy and subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.
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