A Revolutionary Rifle of Its Time

As he stood in his stirrups, the leather saddle creaked, a sound he was all too familiar with. He was attempting to locate the source of distant gunfire. It was 1866 and few settlers lived in this region of the Great Plains. This was not the gunfire of hunters but of a battle for survival. He could tell by the sound of the weapons fired the participants were using long guns as well as hand held pistols. He nudged his Appaloosa guilting forward up the hill which was topped with waist high buffalo grass. The sun was high in a cloudless sky with a slight breeze coming from the south. It was hot and sweat was running down Seth’s back staining his blue linen shirt.

As the Appaloosa moved to the top of this hill, Seth could see three large wagons circled up in the valley below with at least twenty to thirty mules. Quickly he summarized these were freight haulers loaded with supplies bound for Fort Fletcher on the Kansas Prairie. The occupation of being a freight hauler in this part of the Union could be hazardous to one’s health. The deadly drama spilling out below proves this fact.

There were twelve hardened men defending the wagons with various muzzle loading rifles and six shot cap and ball revolvers. A quick count of the Comancheros working ever closer came to about 56 men. Seth normally did not involve himself in other people’s affairs. But this was clearly an attack on U.S. Army supplies and contractors. As he was considering his course of action, he saw a head pop out of the wagon wearing a blue bonnet. Seth instinctively jerked and placed a hands on each of his two Colt .44 Navy’s holstered on his gun-belt in a cross-draw configuration. Seth thought to himself, “An Army wife no doubt”. This turn of events sealed his next action.

Seth took a deep breath while looking for his point of entry to the fray. He reached back to his rifle scabbard and pulled out the well-used Henry lever-action rifle. The Henry was fully loaded with 16 .44 rimfire cartridges. Seth levered the first round into the Henry’s chamber and sank spurs.

The 1860 Henry: A Little History

After three years of design work, in 1860 Benjamin Tyler Henry patented the Henry Rifle. At the time, this revolutionary firearm held more rounds and could be fired and reloaded faster than any other firearm on the market. By today’s standards, the Henry .44 rimfire was the quintessential first American multi-round assault rifle.

Henry, at the time, was working for the New Haven Arms Company owned by Oliver Winchester who produce the Henry rifle. The Henry was produced from 1860 to 1866. About 1,731 were purchased by the Federal Government to be used in the Civil War. Other countries such as France and Turkey also used small quantities of the Henry lever action rifle. About 14,000 were made by 1866 when owner Oliver Winchester, a business man and politician, introduced the Winchester 1866 which was an improved version of the 1860 Henry. The Winchester 1866 enclosed the loading tube, added the side loading gate, (which was an invention of employee Nelson King) and a wooden forearm under the barrel.

The Henry .44 rimfire became a prized possession by soldiers, lawmen, settlers and the Sioux and Cheyenne. The Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne allies were armed with a few Henry’s and other firearms, when they obliterated Custer’s U.S. Cavalry troops in June 1876. Custer’s troops were armed with single shot Springfield rifles and .45 LC Single Action Army revolvers. The 7th was out manned and out gunned which went badly for them.

During the Civil War, Confederate Colonel John Mosby’s men faced Union specialized units equipped with the 1860 Henry. The Colonel is credited with the statement, “that damned Yankee rifle that can be loaded on Sunday and fired all week.” One could see the Colonel’s frustration in facing an enemy who could shoot up to 32 rounds a minute to his troops three rounds. The big draw to owning the Henry .44 of 1860 is the 16 rounds it could hold. I guess this is human nature as the American Military has endeavored to produce a rifle, pistols as well, which hold more rounds to reduce the reload times.

Louis Imperato and his son Anthony Imperato founded Henry Repeating Arms in Brooklyn, New York in 1996. Their first model was the Henry H001 Classic Lever Action .22. The original corporate motto was “Made in America and Priced Right”. Henry Repeating Arms takes its name from Benjamin Tyler Henry. There is no affiliation or lineage to Benjamin Tyler Henry or to the New Haven Arms Company, who sold the original Henry rifle from 1862 to 1864. Anthony Imperato secured the trademark to the Henry name in 1996. Henry’s motto now is, “Made in America Or Not Made at All”. A motto Anthony staunchly sticks to.

The New Original Henry

Henry 1860 right

Henry 1860 – The New Original Henry

Henry Repeating Arms was nice enough to send me their New Original Henry lever-action chambered in .44-40 round. The .44-40 round has been continuously produced by Winchester since 1873. This round can also be known as the .44 Winchester, .44 WCF (Winchester Center Fire). In Spanish countries it is called the .44 Largo (Long). The New Original Henry model sample, hereafter referred to as Henry .44, I received was the H011. The Model H011C is chambered in the .45 Long Colt. Henry produces five models of this firearm including a carbine, “Iron Frame”, Silver Deluxe Engraved, New Original Henry Deluxe Engraved and the New Original Henry of which I will be doing a test and evaluation (T&E).

To say the least, the New Original Henry is one beautiful firearm. The “American Walnut” stock is magnificent. The sample I received is an exceptional example of American craftsmanship. After removing the Henry .44 from its box, I worked the lever-action several times. Smooth, is all I can say. Even though the Henry .44 did not need any attention, I wiped it down looking at the quality and attention to detail. I applied a small amount of lubricant to key points. I then levered the Henry .44 several times.

I then put aside the Henry .44 to read the manual and enclosed paperwork. Included with the rifle is a “DVD” which is very informative. I watched the DVD in its entirety. I cannot over stress the importance of watching this DVD. To own a high quality all American made lever-action rifle such as the Henry .44 should not be taken likely. Watch the video on this well-organized DVD and learn about your new investment.

The New Original Henry Evaluation

On a sunny day with, for Oklahoma, minimal winds of 20 to 30 mph, I took the Henry .44 to the Oklahoma City Gun Club. I was assisted by my Pistolero assistant Gridley. The temperature at the time was 92 degrees. This made for fun time as the sun heated up the barrel while we were setting up the chronograph and target-frame. For this reason, during my testing I had to wear a glove on my left hand to make it bearable to hold the barrel. Shooting the Henry .44 in 13 round sessions only added to the Sun’s handy work. Still, I had a great time shooting this piece of history. We later put the Henry .44 back in the gun case to keep it from the sun.

In the chronograph phase, I shot three rounds of .44-40 Winchester Super X 200 gr. power point and three rounds of Hornady .44-40 205 gr. Cowboy. Keep in mind all manufactures of rounds which could be fired in handguns produced over a hundred years ago will keep the chamber pressures lower thereby reducing the velocity and foot pounds produced. The rounds I tested were not produced for rifles. Greater velocities and foot pounds can be achieved by reloading. In reloading the .44-40 for the Henry .44, one should stay within factory specifications as well as a reputable manual from a reloading supplier such as Lyman. I would recommend if you reload the .44-40 for this Henry, to stay below the maximum loading specifications and mark the box of reloads “For Rifles Only”. See the chronograph results below.

After the testing of velocity and foot pounds, I went to the Champion 47388 Redfield Style Precision Sight-In paper target. This is a great paper target. At first, from 20 yards I was shooting to the left. I then tapped the rear sight to the right about a 32nd of an inch. The shot then was centered. I then moved back to about 50 yards where the ground rises up about four feet. Both Winchester and Hornady ammo performed well. I found both ammo’s shot higher than at the 20-yard line. This means the .44-40 fired round is climbing at the 50-yard line. So, in my planned wild pig hunt for the Henry .44, I can shoot dead on at 20-yards, shoot three inches high at 50-yards and likely dead on at 75-yards. Groupings ranged from 1.5 to 2.25 inches. When I get use to this Henry, I believe I can tighten them up.Prior to the hunt a trip to the bench range is in order with an updated article covering this test.

Just to see if the .44-40 round can have the proper penetration at 50-yards and out, I fired the Winchester and Hornady rounds into two ¾ inch rectangle pieces of plywood. All rounds passed through both pieces of plywood  totaling 1.5 inches thick. I believe a well-placed shot from this Henry into the chest area of a wild hog will result in a quick kill. Once the hunt is completed, I will report back with the results.

In conclusion of this first of three tests, I can say the New Original Henry in the .44-40 caliber is just a fun gun to shoot. The rifle is a beautiful work of American Gun Art. Seams and fittings are perfect. I am a lever-action fan and now a huge fan of this Henry .44 rifle. Having an octagon barrel which is 24.5 inches long, makes the front end of this rifle heaver requiring adjustment in hold and stance. When shooting, you have to watch out for the follower which is pushing the rounds to the loader. Your supporting hand can stop the follower causing a jam or failure to load situation. But this is just the way the original 1860 Henry was designed. I do not find this to be a problem for me. If I forget about the follower, I will feel it when it touches my hand. The recoil is really non-existent. Yes, there is some push-back, but my 70-pound nephew would find the recoil very acceptable. To own a piece of American history you can shoot, is a no brain-er. Check one out at your local firearms dealer. View this firearm via the links below. Check out our video of the test of this product.

Henry Original 1860 – 44-40 Win.
Velocity and Foot Pounds (Three Shot Average)

  • Winchester 200 gr.:  1,155 fps = 593 fp
  • Hornady 205 gr.:  984 fps = 441 fp

The New Original Henry Specs

  • Original Henry Mod. H011 in 44/40
  • Action Type: Toggle Link Lever Action
  • Caliber: .44-40 WCF
  • Capacity: 13 Rounds
  • Barrel Length: 24.5 inches
  • Overall Length: 43 inches
  • Barrel Type: Octagon Blued Steel
  • Rate of Twist: 1:36
  • Weight: 9 pounds
  • Receiver Finish: Polished Brass
  • Rear Sight: Folding Ladder
  • Front Sight: Blade
  • Stock Material: Fancy American Walnut
  • Butt-plate: Brass
  • Length of Pull: 14 inches
  • Safety: Half Cock

MSRP: $2,415.00

Henry Repeating Arms
https://www.henryusa.com

New Original Henry
https://www.henryusa.com/rifles/the-original-henry-rifle/

Winchester
https://winchester.com/
 
Hornady
https://www.hornady.com/

Champion Range and Target
www.championtarget.com

47388 Redfield Style Precision Sight-In Target
http://www.championtarget.com/targets/paper/precision/redfield.aspx

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