When talking to many shooters in the past the subject of Henry lever action rifles went in two very different directions. On the pro side are the hunters and shooters that just love the magazine tube load Henry Rifles. Counted as the positives are the quick unloading of the rifle while afield or the range. There is no need to lever through the chamber all the live cartridges contained in the tubular magazine. On the negative side are the shooters that like the speed and ease of loading that a traditional side gate loading levergun allows. Can these two worlds get along? Henry Arms decided to make that notion a reality and put together one really useful rifle in the process that has the good looks to go with it.
My good friends at Silverado Arms had quite the gleaming and sharp looking rifle awaiting me from the good folks at Henry Arms. This hardened polished brass receiver rifle was unlike any Henry Rifle made before it. This one had the side gate loading feature shooters, hunters and collectors have been dreaming about for years. Has the chosen rifle to appease everyone risen from the minds of Henry Arms? Is it truly the best of both worlds? Lets take a closer look at this new rifle.
First off I requested a rifle in the the easily to obtain .30-30 cartridge. This chambering along with other models in .35 Remington and .38-55 cartridges gives a shooter choices on what they prefer. The .30-30 model H024-3030 holds five rounds.
The finely engraved and checkered American Walnut stock and forearm is quite a sight to behold. Henry Arms does not skimp on quality wood with beautiful grain.
This up close look at the stock shows just how intricate the checking design really is.
The transfer bar safety keeps the lines clean and classical on the 7.5 lbs. rifle. The 20″round blued steel barrel has a rate of twist of 1:12. The rifle’s overall length is 38.3″ long and has a 14″ length of pull on the brass butt plated American Walnut stock. Sling swivel studs are present for your packing needs out in the wilds or at the range.
The Henry logo engraved and checkered in the forearm was beautifully done. The polished brass receiver has quite a glow to it as my camera at times even had trouble getting a good image. That polished brass sure stands out on the range and onlookers commented how sharp looking this lever action rifle was.
For sights this rifle sports fully adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight with diamond insert. The front sight has a ramp with a .062″ ivory bead. If you prefer to scope mount this rifle no worries. The receiver is drilled and tapped for the Weaver 63B scope mount.
So you ask how well does it shoot? Off to a small backyard range I went to test functioning and to get the sights adjusted for bullet impacts to be on paper if need be for the upcoming 100 yard bench rest test. I had a small hiccup with loading cartridges in the side gate. No worries though a prepaid shipping tag was emailed to me and in around a week the rifle was back in my hands. A quick test of the side gate proved to me the problem was fixed and in record time. Yes I am quite impressed with the warranty service. Now back to the review.
The day came that would become the long range bench rest shoot and much more for the Henry Arms Side Gate Rifle. The weather was full of bright sunshine, 80+ Fahrenheit temperature and high humidity. That is fine weather for a day at the beach but not on the long range firing line. The show must go on and I secured the Henry Side Gate Rifle in a bench rest on a sturdy bench. On lookers at the range marveled at the looks of such a fine looking rifle. I posted 100 yard small bore rifle targets downrange. Ultimately that would be a small problem to see way off yonder past the front sight post that was actually the same size as the target was.
First shots fired of the day were the Hornady Lever Evolution 160 Grain FTX 30-30 load. From the first shot to the last shot I experienced sticky extraction from the rifle with those cartridges. The spent shells held on to the chamber but the tough Henry action levered them out no problem. Was this a pressure problem with the cartridges? I found no fault with the rifle but these cartridges would not be what I would want to hunt with for quick firing. As my eyeglasses fogged up on and off from the high humidity I squinted and squeezed the trigger to achieve this 3 shot group. This is the average of every target I fired at with the misbehaving Hornady FTX loads. The overall size was 3.25″ on this group so it is certainly “minute of deer” a lot farther than 100 yards even with the not so precise shooting of this particular day.
The next cartridge I tried was a more traditional Winchester Power-Point 150 Grain load. The extraction was slick and no sticky extraction was found with this load. This proves to me the Hornady loads had the issue and not the rifle. Four shots clumped together at 2.75″ with a fifth flier opening it up to 4.5″ (most likely fogged up eyeglasses and biting flies).
The gun range had at 100 yards away red painted hanging metal plate targets about the size of a big buck’s vital zone. Loading up through the side gate and topping off after a couple shots I fired from the bench and standing off hand at the metal targets. Satisfying metal clangs and dancing targets greeted me. Off the bench every shot hit the targets. Firing offhand I did almost that good too but needed to slow down the shooting which caused a couple misses (yes I’m being honest call it “metal buck target fever”). As an offhand hunting rifle the sights provided are excellent. If I was only going to paper punch for smaller groups I might replace those sights with a Skinner Peep Sight or possibly a scope (or a bigger target for better acquisition out at 100 yards). For quick shooting the standard fully adjustable semi-buckhorn sights work well. No black bear or deer in legal areas during hunting season would be safe when the shot presents itself for a hunter armed with this rifle. Shots within 125 yards would be a great match for this rifle.
So what can I say about the Henry Side Gate Lever Action Rifle? First off it is an absolutely stunning work of art of hardened brass, blued steel and American Walnut. The side gate loading option allows continued fast shooting without need to load from the tube as other Henry rifle models do. That being said you can unload the rifle quickly and safely in moments by removing the magazine tube. Load either way you like from the gate or tube. That certainly is the best of both worlds. Accuracy is there and certainly better that this shooter was achieving on a hot summer day. Practice, practice and those groups will shrink drastically. Did I mention this rifle is extremely fun to shoot? I ate through the remaining .30-30 cartridges quickly banging away at steel with a huge smile on my face. With all cartridge boxes filled with only empty brass my mind was made up. The Henry Side Gate Lever Action Rifle is the best of both worlds.
What will the future hold for the side gate loading feature? Maybe a steel Big Boy Rifle? Possibly the powerhouse .45/70 cartridge could use such a great addition also? Only time will tell but I look forward to the chance the side gate loading feature will be offered on other Henry rifles in the future.