The New Henry Side Gate Lever Action Rifle

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By:  Mary and Dr. Jim Clary

We will admit, right up front, that we are partial to Henry rifles.  And who wouldn't be?  They are superior in quality, made in the U.S.A. and carry a satisfaction guarantee that is unmatched in the industry.  There are a lot of “junk firearms” being foisted upon us in this day of modern sporting weapons.   It is really a pleasure to handle a rifle that harkens back to the days when pride of workmanship and high quality were common in firearms.  

 

Henry Repeating Arms has been around since 1997, and if you have not had the opportunity to shoot one, you are missing out.  Missing out on finding out what American firearms used to be like when quality and excellence were more important than “making a fast buck”.  When the Imperato family resurrected the Henry name they promised, rather they vowed that they would put their customers satisfaction at the forefront of their business and carry on the tradition of America making superior products on its own turf.  

 

In the past 22 years, Henry has never taken short cuts in production for the sake of profit.  They have never cheapened their product for the sake of sales.  They have, however,  endeavored to refine and improve their firearms to make them among the best (if not the best) on the market, anywhere in the world.  

 

All that being said, we are not Henry employees and are not paid by Henry for our tests and reviews.  As such, despite our appreciation for their product, we will endeavor to conduct a fair and impartial series of tests and subsequent review of the Henry Side Gate Lever Action Rifle.

 

Recently, Henry announced the introduction of their first Side Gate lever action rifle.  For those not aware, prior to that, all Henry rifles were loaded through a removable magazine tube.  This was, and still is, the “signature” of Henry rifles for over one hundred and fifty years.  Now, due to popular demand, they added a side gate loading port.  We (hunters and shooters) now have a choice:  We can fully load the magazine through the tube or via the port.  And in the field we can keep our rifle “topped off” via the loading gate.  

 

We would also like to point out that the ability to unload the rifle by removing the magazine tube, rather than cycling all of the live rounds through the action is a positive safety feature that is not present in any other lever action rifle.

There is no external safety on this Henry.  It is not needed.  The Henry utilizes a patented in-hammer sliding transfer bar.  This safety guarantees that the rifle cannot fire unless the hammer is cocked and the trigger is pulled.

 

This new Henry Side Gate rifle utilizes a hardened brass frame.  Unlike brass frames of a hundred years ago which were “softer” than steel frames, the Henry's frame is hardened with the same tensile and yield strength as steel.  Beauty (brass) and the Beast (steel) in one.  Pardon the corny comparison, but we really want to make the point that Henry brass frame firearms are NOT the brass frame firearms of years ago.

 

This new Henry's walnut stock is beautifully laser engraved with extensive checkering and scroll work.  It almost makes us afraid to take it into the field for fear of getting it gouged or scratched.  Even the forearm is engraved with scroll-work and checkering around the “HENRY” name.  As with all Henrys, the wood-to-metal fit is flawless.  Add in the high polished blued steel barrel and you have one very beautiful firearm.  The only question remaining is “how does it shoot”?

For shooters who prefer open sights, you will appreciate the fully adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight and ivory bead front sight.  However, for our “aging eyes”, we prefer scopes.  We also opt for scopes in testing the inherent accuracy of a firearm because it allows one to hold more precisely on target.  With a scope in mind, Henry has drilled and tapped this new rifle to accept a Weaver-style 63B base, which we purchased in advance of receiving the rifle.

We topped off the Henry with a Meopta Optika 6, 3-18x50 scope.  Meopta's have a reputation  for clarity with precision adjustments, and this Optika was no exception.  It enabled us to precisely hold on target with every shot.

 

As most readers know, this new Henry is offered in three calibers:  .35 Remington, .38-55 Winchester and .30-30 Winchester.  Our dilemma was to choose one that (in our opinion) would be the most versatile for most hunters.  On this point, a lot of us will just have to agree to disagree, because all three calibers have stood the test of time and are proven game-getters.

 

We selected the .35 Remington for our test rifle.  Introduced in 1908, it was a “favorite” rifle for quite awhile, with bolt actions, pumps, lever actions and semi-automatics being chambered for it.  The round had great “knock-down” power for critters all the way up to and including elk and moose.  But, about the time that magnum calibers were introduced and gained popularity, its following (and rifles chambered for it) dropped.  Today, the .35 Remington is only available in lever action rifles (Marlin and Henry).

It is our opinion that hunters are really missing out if they do not take a second look at the 35 Remington, as we have.  It is available in bullet weights from 180 grain to 220 grain, and with the introduction of Hornady's FTX ballistic tip 200 grain suitable for tubular magazines, it is definitely a caliber for everything on the North American continent except big Brown Bears.  And for the record, the new Winchester .350 Legend is not nearly as versatile or powerful as the .35 Remington or the .38-55 Winchester for that matter. While the Legend may be a satisfactory cartridge for AR-platforms, it is not particularly useful in regular sporting rifles.

 

For our range tests, Jim loaded several hundred .35 Remington rounds as follows:

    200 grain Hornady FTX (200x)

    220 grain Speer FN (100x)

 

For the  200 grain rounds, he used Hodgdon's Varget powder and for the 220 grain bullets he attempted to duplicate factory loads with Accurate 2520.  We are appreciative of both companies for providing us with enough powder for our tests.  

 

We mounted the new Meopta Optika 3-18x50 riflescope on the Henry and shot off the Caldwell Rock front rest, using a rear bag for stability.  After zeroing the gun at 25 yards, we moved out to 100 yards.  We did not try and tweak the scope for dead center with each bullet weight; but, rather went for grouping with the windage/elevation settings remaining the same for all three bullet weights.

 

The following are the results we obtained after shooting at our local rifle range:

 

200 grain Hornady FTX (hand load)      Velocity: 2145 f.p.s.    Average 100 yard group:  1.20”

200 grain Hornady LEVERevolution       Velocity: 2225 f.p.s.    Average 100 yard group:  1.15”

220 grain Speer FN     (hand load)        Velocity: 1900 f.p.s.       Average 100 yard group:  1.00”

 

It surprised us that the 220 grain Speer Hot Core flat nose bullet was slightly more accurate than the Hornady FTX (ballistic tip) rounds.  However, those results were repeated multiple times.  That is good news for folks that want a heavier bullet for moose or elk.  For that particular hand load we used 36 grains of Accurate 2520.  The following is a typical 3-shot group with the 220 grain Speer Hot Core FN rounds.

The 200 grain Hornady FTX was also consistent and accurate with our hand loads using 39 grains of Varget powder,  As such, they would also be an excellent hunting round. For those readers who do not reload, Hornady's LEVERevolution factory loads with the 200 grain FTX bullet produced 100 yard groups averaging just barely over 1.0”.  As such, they are also an excellent choice for hunting heavy bodied critters.

 

Specifications of the Henry Side Gate Lever Action Rifle:

  • Model Number: H024

  • Calibers: .35 Remington, .38-55 Winchester, .30-30 Winchester

  • Twist rates:

    • .35 Remington – 1:16

    • .38-55 Winchester – 1:18

    • .30-30 Winchester – 1:12

  • Capacity: 5 rounds

  • Barrel length: 20"

  • Barrel: Round, blued steel

  • Receiver: Polished brass

  • Sights:

    • Fully adjustable rear semi-buckhorn sight with diamond insert

    • Ramp front sight with 0.062" ivory bead

  • Scope mounting: Receiver drilled and tapped

    • Accepts the Weaver #63B base

  • Transfer bar safety

  • Stock: American black walnut with brass butt plate

    • Laser cut checkering on butt stock and forend

    Butt Plate:  Brass

  • Length of Pull: 14"

  • Overall length: 38.3"

  • Weight: 7.5 lbs. (empty)

  • Country of origin: USA

 

In our opinion, the Henry H024 establishes a new “standard” for lever action rifles.  It is not only exquisite in appearance, but it is also very accurate.  It comes up on target very fast and is typically “Henry-Smooth” in operation.   

We are keeping this one and plan on loading more 200 grain Hornady FTX and 220 grain Speer Hot Core FN bullets for future use.

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