Gun Review: Henry Big Boy Revolver


The Henry Big Boy Revovler belongs on your wish list. Yes, that Henry. The “Made In America, Or Not Made At All,” Wisconsin-based manufacturer of some of the nicest lever-action rifles in the country released their first-ever revolver last spring. It’s called the Big Boy Revolver and it’s a classic DA/SA six-shooter chambered in .357 Magnum / .38 Special. And it’s great.

Designed in a classic Wild West style, the Big Boy Revolvers are meant to complement the look and feel of many of Henry’s rifles including, of course, the Big Boy series.

With a 4-inch barrel and an exposed ejector rod up front, a medium-sized steel frame in the middle, and plenty of brass and American walnut to the rear, this is a whole old school working gun kind of a mood. Whether that work is of the police kind, the gunfighter kind, or the ranching kind is your business, and the Big Boy Revolver will be right at home on your hip regardless.

The Big Boy’s steel frame is blued and finished to a high polish. It has fantastic depth and color and consistency, and looks more like bluing from long ago when it was painstakingly polished out and buffed by hand.

Contributing to that highly polished, deep blued appeal is the conspicuous lack of tooling or machine marks anywhere that’s visible without disassembly. In curves and crevices and even on flat faces, the Big Boy Revolver clearly received no shortage of care and attention to detail with careful machining, fitting, and finishing everywhere.

Speaking of curves, the Big Boy is nicely smoothed, rounded, and softened just about everywhere it might snag or poke while you’re carrying it. Where grip is needed, such as on the hammer, cylinder release, and ejector rod, there’s grip and texture and edges. Everywhere else? Smooth and dehorned.

As pretty as the deep bluing is, it’s surpassed by the brass trigger guard and grip frame. Machining, fit, and finish on the brass are flawless and it’s polished to a near mirror shine. 

Finishing out the Big Boy’s colors and textures is a set of American walnut grip panels. They’re smooth outside of a laser-engraved Henry logo, and they fit and blend precisely with the brass grip frame. No gaps, no lips, no edges.

Two versions of the Big Boy Revolver were launched last spring: Birdshead Grip and Gunfighter Grip. With its rebated heel, the curved, shorter backstrap of the Birdshead grip is easy to conceal, while the flat, flared base and full-length backstrap of the Gunfighter grip provides more purchase and better control and recoil management.

In both cases the brass backstrap forms a small ridge up above the frame behind the hammer. Not only does this look cool, it provides for the ability to take a nice, high grip without fear of hammer bite.

Henry is already offering replacement grip panels and other accessories, such as soft cases, for the Big Boy Revolvers.

While these laminate wood grips for the Gunfighter frame are really nice, I’m not sure I could do away with the classic Western look of walnut.

Whether it’s the Birdshead or Gunfighter grip, each of the panel styles offers a relief for the thumb of your strong hand. If that’s your right hand, then this relief also provides easier access to the cylinder release lever. Push it forward and the counter-clockwise-rotating cylinder swings out smoothly to the left side.

Should you want to remove the cylinder assembly for cleaning, this is accomplished very easily by pressing forward on the little button inside the front of the trigger guard then sliding the cylinder and crane forward out of the frame.

In a bit of a modern touch, Henry went with a transfer bar style safety between the hammer and the firing pin. This makes for a six-shooter that’s safe to carry with all six cylinders loaded.

Since handling the Big Boy Revolvers at the 2023 NRA Annual Meetings I’ve been itching to get them out on the range. It was obvious from the first minute of having them in-hand that they were gorgeous, well-made, tight, and smooth, so the next questions were going to involve loud answers.

Thankfully, the littlest Henrys didn’t disappoint. On the range they’re smooth and capable. They’re accurate and reliable.

In old school fashion, the rear sight is a notch machined integrally into the top strap at the back of a wider groove.

Up front is an easily-swappable blade style ramp sight. It’s black steel; nothing fancy. A nice touch is that the M (medium) height sight is installed from the factory and an L (low) and H (heavy? Henry? Not sure) sight are included in the box with the Big Boy Revolver. This allows the shooter to adjust for vertical point of impact for different ammo loads, ranges, and shooting/sighting styles. A nice touch.

In double action mode, the Big Boy Revolver’s trigger is wonderfully smooth and consistent. It stages just before the break if you’re looking to pause there. Pull weight is between 10.5 and 11 pounds. 

For me, the difference between shooting the Birdshead and Gunfighter is most noticeable when firing in double action. The flared bottom and different backstrap countour on the Gunfighter grip help to keep the revolver fixed in place both during the trigger pull and under recoil, whereas the Birdshead wants to rotate a bit and requires a stronger grip to keep it still.

In single action mode, the Big Boy Revolver is an absolutely perfect example of a trigger nailing the fundamentals so well that it feels a lot lighter than it measures. While my trigger pull gauge says, correctly, that the single action break happens at about 4.5 pounds, if I had 10 experienced shooters with a good feel for these things pull the trigger and take a guess, I’m fairly confident nine of them would say 3 pounds and maybe one would add pressure so darn slowly that he/she would guess closer to the truth.

This is because the Big Boy’s trigger is so darn crisp and clean, with no creep and such a clean break (an instant and total drop in resistance) and so little overtravel that it feels much lighter than it measures. In short, it’s great.

That great trigger helped me shoot some very nice groups, indeed. I did most of this testing at a range I don’t usually go to, shooting casually with my elbows resting on the bench and the gun simply held in-hand. I’m pretty confident that, in an actual rest, the Big Boy is capable of cloverleaf groups at typical pistol ranges with ammo it likes.

At 35 ounces, the Big Boy revolvers are heavy enough to soak up recoil, but light enough to carry. For reference, that’s slightly lighter than most Commander-sized 1911s. Shooting .38 Special was fun and I could do it all day long. Shooting .357 Magnum became tiring, but never painful.

I ended up putting 300 rounds through the Birdshead and just one box through the Gunfighter. I knew Jon Wayne Taylor would want to buy one of these bad boys (and a text message from him 30 minutes after I posted a photo to Instagram proved that to be true) so I left that one mostly untouched for him. I’m a sucker for Birdshead grips, so there was no question I’d be keeping it as long as it shot halfway up to snuff with its looks and feel – a bar it cleared easily.

So then, we circle back to the beginning of this here review: the Henry Big Boy Revolver belongs on your wishlist. It’s gorgeous, it’s well made, it’s smooth and tight and crisp and well-tuned, and it’s a shooter. With an MSRP of $928 it also represents a good value when compared to alternatives of similar quality. 

Specifications: Henry Big Boy Revolver

Actiion: DA/SA external hammer
Caliber: .357 Magnum / .38 Special
Capacity: 6 rounds
Frame: blued steel and brass
Sights: front ramp (swappable), rear notch
Grip: American walnut panels
Barrel Length: 4 inches
Overall Length: 9 inches Birdshead, 9.5 inches Gunfighter
Height: 5.3 inches Birdshead, 5 inches Gunfighter
Weight: 34 oz Birdshead, 35 oz Gunfighter
Trigger Pull Weight: 10.5 to 11 lbs. double action, 4.5 lbs. single action
MSRP: $928 (find it on Brownells HERE)

SNW Rating: 5/5

Five outta five. It’s that good. This is an absolutely fantastic, gorgeous, great shooting revolver at a fair price.

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