The popularity of the pistol-caliber carbine has grown exponentially over the last few years. More and more folks are seeing the value of a fast-handling carbine set up to fire a light-recoil cartridge. Whether it is used as a truck gun, varmint rifle or home-defense weapon, the ability to place shots quickly and accurately makes the pistol-caliber carbine a valued addition to most folks’ gun collections.
Naturally most people think of an AR-platform gun when they hear the term “pistol-caliber carbine,” and there are many fine guns set up to run with Glock magazines and chambered in 9mm. Their speed and accuracy make them perfect for competition and all-around use. But these ARs are not legal everywhere, and the 9mm chambering may be a bit anemic for some folks’ taste. And that’s where the Henry Big Boy All-Weather comes in. The lever action is legal for hunting nearly everywhere, and the multitude of loads for the .45 Colt presents nearly double the energy of the 9mm, making it ideal for game up to deer size. Combined with a new handguard from Midwest Industries, which allows for the attachment of a tactical light and laser, the Henry Big Boy also makes a fine choice for a home-defense weapon.
Big Boy Details
Introduced in 2003, the Henry Big Boy is available in .45 Colt, .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum. The .357 will also fire .38 Special, and the .44 Magnum will fire .44 Special, so the gun is very versatile when it comes to load selection. This versatility also makes the Henry Big Boy All-Weather a great training rifle for youngsters and recoil-sensitive adults.
While many of the lever-action guns on the market are the descendants of rifles designed over 100 years ago, the Big Boy features all-new engineering and coil spring construction. The Henry rifle is the strongest design that I have seen, with its solid top receiver and no cuts for a loading port. Rounds are loaded through the keyhole on the bottom of the magazine tube. Our test rifle, chambered in .45 Colt, holds 10 rounds of ammunition. Henry drills and taps the receiver top of the Big Boy All-Weather, and both a scope base and Picatinny rail are available for this model. I selected the Picatinny mount because it was perfect for attaching the scope that I planned to use, and later a red-dot reflex sight.
Henry Big Boy All Weather
Henry Repeating Arms introduced the Big Boy All-Weather in 2017 after seeing the tremendous success of their .30-30 and .45-70 rifles with the All-Weather treatment. Though the original Henry Big Boy features a brass receiver, the All-Weather gun uses a steel receiver, and both it and the barrel are plated with an industrial hard chrome to provide plenty of corrosion resistance, giving this rifle the ability to stand up to the elements or long periods of inattention while it sits in a truck. Internals between the Big Boy with its brass frame and the All-Weather model are identical, though the brass-framed guns normally weigh about a pound more because they use heavier octagonal barrels.
The All-Weather rifle uses a rubber recoil pad, while the original Big Boy sports a brass buttplate. Henry outfits the All-Weather model with an American walnut stock that’s given a tough polyurethane finish. The buttstock features an adult-size 14-inch length of pull and has already been fitted with a sling swivel mount, while the forend has a steel cap with an integral sling mount.
To set up the gun for home-defense use, I decided to add a Midwest Industries M-LOK handguard. Long known for their AR and AK handguards, Midwest Industries has begun making aluminum forends for various Henry lever guns, as well as some of the Marlin lever guns. Weighing just 5.5 ounces, the 6061 aluminum handguard is 11 inches long and offers plenty of M-LOK slots to attach whatever you’d like to your rifle. Built for hard use, the rifle features hardcoat anodizing and sports a sling swivel mount for use with a hunting rifle.
When I first received the Midwest handguard, I thought it would be a simple matter to remove the forend and replace it with the handguard. I was wrong! Replacing the forend with the Midwest handguard requires a nearly complete takedown of the rifle, which demands tools and skills that I do not possess. I even watched one YouTube video by a well-known vlogger who had attempted to do the install himself and had creased his magazine tube. Since the gun didn’t belong to me and I didn’t want to take a chance on damaging the Henry rifle, I set my ego aside and contacted my friend Mario Ramos at Old Pueblo Gunsmith Services.
‘Smithing the Big Boy
Located in my hometown of Tucson, Mario is a graduate of the Colorado School of Trades gunsmithing program. While attending school he was actually roommates with Bobby Tyler, now of Tyler Gun Works. Ramos got the Big Boy figured out pretty quickly and actually made a couple of small fixtures to aid him in the install. Ramos is a man of many talents and a master machinist and can tackle just about any gunsmithing task you can imagine. If you’d like him to install a Midwest Industries handguard on your Henry, drop him a line.
With the new handguard installed, I was ready to shoot the Big Boy. I had Henry send me a Picatinny receiver mount, which attaches with three screws. With medium-height scope rings, I was able to get a nice cheek weld while looking through the scope. I used a Leupold VX-2 2-7x28mm Ultralight scope with a Duplex reticle. It weighs just 8.5 ounces and is only 10 inches in length. It has precise 0.25 MOA finger click adjustment for windage and elevation and seemed perfect for the Big Boy All-Weather. I fired all groups from a seated position using a DOA Tactical portable shooting bench and a Caldwell rifle rest.
My test rifle had a trigger pull of 3.75 pounds. It did possess a little bit of creep, but for a hunting and home-defense gun I don’t think I’d want a trigger any lighter than that. My single best 5-shot group was fired with Federal’s 225-grain semi-wadcutter hollow-point lead bullet, and it measured just 1.18 inches at 50 yards. In fact, the average of the best groups I fired with the four cartridges measured just over 1.5 inches, with the average of all groups being just under 2 inches. This is plenty of practical accuracy for use as a short-range hunting gun or home-defense rifle.
Big Boy Data
My Big Boy All-Weather gun sports a 20-inch barrel, and I was curious to know how the longer barrel length would affect the velocity of the .45 Colt cartridge. While chronographing the rifle, I fired a Taylor’s & Company 1873 Cattleman revolver, also chambered in .45 Colt, but with a 4.75-inch barrel, for comparison. The Henry’s extra 15.25 inches of barrel accounts for 21 percent more velocity.
More important, the extra velocity equated to 37 percent more energy, giving the Big Boy plenty of punch. Though the 20-inch barrel gives us more velocity and energy, I would prefer a 16-inch barrel for home or truck use. When I asked a Henry Repeating Arms executive about the chances of them making a 16-inch Big Boy All-Weather, he said, “Anything is possible… with enough requests.” So, if you think the Big Boy would be the perfect defense gun with a 16-inch barrel, drop Henry a note and let them know.
Dots & Lights
Once I had finished the accuracy testing of the Big Boy, I replaced the Leupold scope with a Trijicon RMR red-dot reflex sight. It’s been tested and proved in some of the world’s most hellish war zones and is rock-solid rugged and will withstand both abuse and neglect. My sample features a 1 MOA-size dot, which is adjustable for brightness and can be used in nearly every light condition. This sight allows the shooter to maintain focus on the target and shoot with both eyes open. Unobstructed peripheral vision in a defense situation could be a lifesaver!
If you haven’t ever shot a gun outfitted with a red-dot reflex sight, it really is as simple as putting the dot on the target and pulling the trigger. There’s nothing to align, and the dot doesn’t even need to be centered in the screen. Also, just put the dot on the target and squeeze. Like all optics, the RMR is adjustable for windage and elevation, and it took just a few rounds to get it zeroed. Additionally, the RMR rides in a mount designed for a flat-top AR rifle. Because of this the sight sits higher than is ideal, so if you plan on putting an RMR on your Henry Big Boy, get a lower mount such as their RM34W.
Being able to identify your target is a critical element of home defense, and if you’re unable to do so you have no business pulling the trigger. Crimson Trace sent me a sample of their Rail Master Pro (CMR-204), which features a white tactical light and green laser. The unit weighs just a couple of ounces and attaches to the Picatinny rail/M-LOK adapter and then to the handguard. Also, it runs on a single CR2 lithium battery, and the flashlight produces a bright 100 lumens of light.
The green laser adjusts for both windage and elevation, and I adjusted it to co-witness with my RMR’s red dot, so even if I weren’t able to get a solid sight picture I know that if I’m able to place the green laser on my target I’m going to score a hit. Crimson Trace’s light and laser units are extremely helpful to the responsible shooter in identifying and targeting a threat.
My time with the Henry Big Boy All-Weather was an extremely pleasant one. I fired more than 300 rounds during my testing and experienced zero failures or malfunctions. It performed exactly as I expected it to and exhibited the accuracy needed for home defense and much more. Combined with the hard-hitting .45 Colt cartridge, Midwest Industries handguard, Trijicon RMR and Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro, the Henry rifle should make a first-class companion, whether it’s in the field, behind the bench seat of your truck or next to your nightstand at home.
For further information, visit henryusa.com.
Henry Big Boy All Weather Specifications
- Calbier: .357 Mag., .45 Colt, .44 Mag.
- Overall Barrel Length: 20 inches
- Overall Length: 37.5 inches
- Stocks: Walnut
- Overall Weight: 7 pounds (empty)
- Sights: Fully-adjustable rear buckhorn, front brass bead, drilled and tapped
- Action: Lever
- Finish: Satin industrial hard chrome
- Overall Capacity: 10+1
- MSRP: $1,050
This article is from the 2019 issue of Tactical-Life Modern Guns magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.