I once knew a man who wore many hats. He was an entrepreneur, running a nice pay-to-fish lake behind his house. He had all the tackle you needed, and cold drinks were always stocked in the cooler. Cokes were a nickel, and he always had Kit Kats on hand.
He ran a restaurant, was a scrap metal wheeler-dealer, owned a construction company for more than 40 years and became a Freewill Baptist preacher.
He was my grandfather. His name was Ira, and he never met a stranger. He called himself a “jack-of-all-trades and master of none.” Others might have called him a Renaissance man.
The lessons instilled in me by my grandfather included:
Never start work until you know what you’re getting paid. Always be ready to adapt. Be the best at what you do. Being versatile is the spice of life.
As a prepper, I employ those lessons almost every day, and they give me a unique perspective on how to approach acquisitions, whether for the field or for stocking up at home.
That was probably the reason I took a liking to the new Henry Repeating Arms’ All-Weather Big Boy that was recently introduced to the market.
When I acquire survival gear, one of the most important aspects I consider is whether or not the tool or item serves more than one purpose. This often saves money by precluding the need to purchase something else, and it cuts down on the space required to store multiple items when just one will do.
Firearms also have to pass this litmus test, although it’s been awhile since I’ve found one that checks as many boxes as the new Henry Big Boy All-Weather. Henry makes some of the finest lever-action rifles on the market; yet, the Big Boy All-Weather falls into its “working gun” category. It’s built to be a rough and tough tool that holds up to the elements but still retains that bit of class that pervades the lineage of Henry rifles to this day.
The All-weather Big Boy
After building its All-Weather series of full-power rifles, including one in 45/70 and one in .30/.30, Henry thought there was a market for such a model in the pistol-caliber realm of rifles. Henry was right: The Big Boy All-Weather, like its brethren, is finished with a hard-chrome plating that Henry claims moves its lever-action rifles into “next-gen” status.
It’s tough to consider a lever action as a next-gen firearm, but there’s no questioning the build quality of Henry’s latest offering. In addition to the finish on the metal parts, Henry also imbues the wood with a tough, moisture-resistant industrial finish. With these applications, the All-Weather series of rifles can stand up to inclement weather and take a little neglect if set in a corner or thrown into the back of a truck cab.
Unlike the Big Boys that sport the brass and alloy silver receivers, the All-Weather model’s receiver is made of steel. It has a 20-inch barrel, yet it only tips the scale at 7 pounds.
This is a welcome attribute. The Big Boy Silver I reviewed in the past weighed 8.68 pounds. While it is a great rifle, the octagonal barrel helps make it heavier than it needs to be. The All-Weather Big Boy has a round barrel and is much easier to tote around.
Additional attributes similar to other Big Boy models include a 10-round magazine tube, a brass bead front sight and a semi-buckhorn rear sight with diamond insert. It also utilizes a rubber recoil pad with a 14-inch length of pull, and it’s drilled and tapped to accept a scope—for those who dare to commit the ultimate sacrilege. (More on that later.)
The overall length of the Big Boy All-Weather is 37.5 inches. It comes with swivel studs for a sling and incorporates Henry’s transfer bar safety. All in all, these are pretty similar specs to other Big Boys, except for the All-Weather changes that were made.
The Big Boy All-Weather is available in several calibers, including .357 Magnum/.38 Special, .45 Colt and .44 Magnum/Special. The sample I received was the .44 Magnum/Special variety; and, as it turns out, it’s the ideal caliber for the All-Weather platform—at least in my opinion.
Versatile Is As Versatile Does
One of the things that instantly drew me to the .44 Magnum/Special version of the Big Boy All-Weather is its incredible versatility. For those who are looking for a one-size-fits-all solution in a rifle, this version might be the answer.
First off, the all-weather aspect stands out on its own merits. Being able to carry and use the rifle in rain, sleet and snow without having to worry about the finish or the onset of corrosion is a definite plus. It also makes this rifle a perfect candidate for a truck gun around the farm or ranch or even in the suburbs.
Augmenting the versatility exponentially is the .44-caliber chambering in the Big Boy All-Weather. This caliber allows the user to exploit a wide variety of loads for anything from small- to medium-game hunting on up to protection from large predators such as mountain lions or black bears. With the right load, it could do a number on a grizzly, as well (but your “mileage may vary” in that regard).
In contrast to the .357 Magnum and the .45 Colt models, the .44 Magnum/Special model makes more sense—especially for those who don’t reload. Soft-shooting cowboy loads or similar rounds can be used for small game, while a hard-cast 305-grain load from a company such as Buffalo Bore can assist in taking large and/or dangerous game.
Granted, both the .45 Colt and .357/.38 Special models also have a decent range of loadings, but the top end of .357 Magnum isn’t quite as decisive as .44 Magnum. Additionally, the .45 Colt will usually require the skills of a reloader to enjoy the full range that is available to the .44 Magnum/ Special caliber—not to mention that .44 Magnum is more readily available than .45 Colt when buying off the shelf nowadays.
One often-overlooked aspect of the lever gun is its effectiveness as a self-defense rifle. For people in states that ban “black guns,” a Big Boy lever-action rifle will put 10 rounds of highly effective hollow points at your disposal in a much more “politically correct” package.
Compared with a handgun, launching a .44 Magnum round out of a 20-inch barrel gives it a nice velocity bump, making it a great self-defense round. Even the softer-shooting .44 Special will get a nice velocity increase if you’re worried about overpenetration with a magnum load.
To top this off, with a little practice, very fast follow-up shots can be obtained with a lever-action action rifle if more suitable defensive rifles are not available in your jurisdiction.
Even factoring in popular, modern sporting rifles, the Big Boy All-Weather holds up quite nicely in the versatility department. Imagine trying to take small game with a 5.56 or a .308. For that matter, try to envision defending against a black bear with a 5.56. That’s not the first caliber I’d turn to for that kind of work.
Sure, it can be done with larger calibers such as the .308 or 6.5mm Creedmoor, but then, you are getting into larger-framed rifles that weigh a good deal more than the 7-pound Big Boy. Portability, itself, is a considerable factor in versatility when it comes time to hit the trail. Out to 100 yards, the Big Boy All-Weather in .44 Magnum can pretty much cover all your needs, from hunting to self-defense.
Crossing The Line
With iron sights or non-magnified optics, our protocol is to test at 50 yards. Given that I don’t like semi-buckhorn sights, I decided to do something a little radical: Before the Big Boy arrived, I went onto Henry’s website and ordered a Picatinny rail that I later installed on the little rifle. I had decided to do something rather controversial, and before thinking about it too much, I mounted a red-dot sight on the rail. (I could hear my grandfather turning over in his grave and could almost hear the word, “blasphemer!” ringing in my ears.)
Because my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, it’s tough for me to shoot groups at 50 yards and expect great results. The Lucid M7 red-dot optic helped solve that problem. It has a 2 MOA red dot; and, at 50 yards, that red dot covers just a hair over 1 inch. Using my Champion targets with a 1-inch center circle, it was easy to get fairly precise aim with the Big Boy to see how capable it really was.
I had on hand SIG Sauer’s Elite Crown 240-grain .44 Magnum load, along with Cor-Bon’s 165-grain hollow points and Hornady’s 225-grain LeverEvolution FTX offering. All these are from top-tier companies, and I was excited to see how well they would perform out of the Henry Rifle.
In actuality, all three loads did extremely well out of the Big Boy, as can be seen in the accompanying table. The king of the shooting sessions turned out to be the SIG Sauer 240-grain Elite Crown load, with a best five-shot group coming in at just .88 inch and an average group size of 1.15 inches. That said, with no magnification, it is hard to factor in human error, especially when the groups were so close in size.
|Accuracy (inches) Avg.||
Accuracy (Inches) Best
|SIG Sauer 240-grain Elite V-Crown||
|Cor-Bon 165-grain +P JHP||
|Hornady 225-grain LeverEvolution FTX||
|Hornady 165-grain Critical Defense FTX||
|PMC 180-grain JHP||
NOTES: Bullet weight was measured in grains; velocity was measured in feet per second (fps) 15 feet from the muzzle by a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph; and accuracy was measured in inches for three five-shot groups at 50 yards.
One thing that surprised me was how soft the rifle was while shooting the .44 Magnum loads. The recoil was noticeable— but far from harsh—and that fact ticked another box in the “win” column for me.
Another surprise was that the lever action was a little stiff and hung a couple of times (especially with the .44 Specials), but I found that when I was more authoritative with cycling the rounds, the hang-ups abated. Also, as more rounds were shot, the action began to smooth out, and I helped it along with a nice dose of Slip 2000 lubricant, which also helped turn the tide.
The Renaissance Rifle
It’s been 35 years since my grandfather passed away, but he’s still with me to this day. His effectiveness and versatility as a businessman, father, friend and grandfather were nothing short of superb. When he passed, the biggest flower shop in town reported that it had more orders for his funeral than any other in history. Even to this day, people still remember him and the legacy he left behind.
In that same vein, the Henry Big Boy All-Weather excels just as well. The typical hell-for-stout construction Henry employs and the excellent versatility of the All-Weather package, combined with the .44 Magnum caliber, makes the Big Boy All-Weather a force of nature when it comes to a do-it-all rifle for those who want the most out
of their dollar.
Because of the Big Boy All-Weather’s MSRP of $999.95, the user gets a great bang for the buck. With the quality and versatility that comes along with it, the Big Boy All-Weather is a package that can be passed on with confidence through the ages.
When it comes to having something to rely on— no matter what might come—like that old man who once lived down the road, it will have an impact on generations to come.
Henry Big Boy All-Weather Rifle Specifications
Caliber: .44 Magnum/Special (also available in .357 Magnum and .45 Colt)
Barrel: 20 inches
Overall Length: 37.5 inches
Weight: 7 pounds
Stock/Grips: American walnut with moisture-resistant finish
Sights: Semi-buckhorn; front brass bead
Finish: Hard chrome plating
Capacity: 10 rounds
Henry Repeating Arms
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the September 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine