As a kid who never missed a Roy Rogers, Lone Ranger or Hopalong Cassidy (saw him at the old Hawkins Stadium in Menands) TV show, I had toy replicas of every one of their guns.
But my favorite cowboy show was the “The Rifleman”. I loved his big ring-lever gun. That was my favorite toy gun, and I think the real thing is going to be my favorite hunting rifle.
Several weeks ago, while making my monthly visit to Beecroft’s Shooter’s Supply in Schaghticoke, I noticed a .30/30 Henry hanging on the wall. I’ve tested quite a few long guns throughout my outdoor writing career, but have never been satisfied with the lever guns I tried. This particular gun really caught my eye. Dave Beecroft noticed my admiration and handed it to me, saying, “Shoulder it and work the lever action a few times.”
I did. He was smiling when I looked at him and knew I was surprised with how smooth the action worked. I assumed it had come out of their custom shop, but he said it was one of their regular .30/30s. He also told me they’d been around for a long time. The more I thought about it on the ride home, the more I knew that Henry would be with me when I entered the North County deer woods this fall.
That evening, I found out Benjamin Tyler Henry had conceived the first practical lever-action repeating rifle, which he patented in 1860. This gun gave a single man the firepower of a dozen marksmen armed with muzzle-loading muskets. Two years later, the Union Army had them in the Civil War. When asked about the new Henry
rifles, one of the Confederate officers said that the Henry could be loaded on a Sunday and shot all week.
Today, Henry Repeating Arms is located in Bayonne, N.J., manufactures a line of classic firearms and, what I consider to be very important, every part of a Henry Rifle is made in America.
By now I’m sure you know my Henry is on order. There were two models to choose from, an all-blued (H009) and an octagon-barreled with a brass receiver (H009B), both good-looking rifles. I choose the H009. I’ve been told “looks” shouldn’t be a consideration when choosing a rifle, but I disagree. But all the Henry lever guns are visually impressive.
My .30/30 has a select American walnut stock and forearm, both tastefully checkered, sling swivels, a rubber butt pad and 20-inch barrel. The receiver is blue steel with an XS Ghost Ring sight and is drilled and tapped for a scope. The overall length of the rifle is 39 inches, and it weighs seven pounds.
One very special feature, important in my selection, is the ease of loading and unloading. All other centerfire lever guns load by pushing the shells in from the side of the receiver, and emptying requires working the lever action to eject both spent and live shells.
The Henry has an opening in the tube under the barrel that allows you to slide the shells in and out. The Henry uses a transfer bar between the hammer and the firing pin to render the gun safe until fully cocked. Left-handed shooters can safely use any Henry lever action rifle. To see all the Henry Repeating Arms, go to www.henryrepeating.com.
The .30/30 Winchester cartridge dates back to August 1895, and is the best-selling centerfire sporting cartridge in history. However, the ammunition I’ve chosen to put through my Henry is the Hornady .30/30 LEVERevolution 160-grain FTX (Flex Tip Expanding) with a MonoFlex patented tip. Introduced in 2006, it’s a pointed bullet that can be used safely in all tubular magazines. This will be my first time shooting Hornady .30/30 ammo, but my past experiences with other LEVERevolution caliber ammunition have all led to successful one-shot hunts including a 6x6 bull elk with a .35 caliber, a bear with a .45-70 and a Russian boar with a .444 (www.hornady.com).
Noted gun writer Chuck Hawks was very impressed with Hornady’s LEVERevolution. In his review of this cartridge, he said he was not only impressed with its performance, but also its contribution to lever gun safety.
In the past, round-nosed bullets were all that could be used in lever guns because a pointed nose bullet loaded in a tubular magazine was unsafe. If the gun was bumped or dropped, pointed bullets in the tube could result in a magazine chain-reaction firing. The MonoFlex tips bend, and therefore, this cannot happen.
The Flex tip has been tested at temperatures from minus-40 to plus-130 Fahrenheit, and there were no tubular magazine chain reaction mishaps.
The final touch for my Henry will be a KonusPro M30 1.5x-6x44 MM scope. The main reason I chose this scope was its performance on another rifle I have. It has unbreakable glass engraved, and a .30/30 dual reticle with an illuminated red and blue dot that are adjustable to five brightness intensities for quick, clear target acquisition. I’ve found the blue dot is ideal for dark days in the woods. In addition, the 30 MM tube and 44 MM objective lens are also excellent for additional light transmission. And something new — a built-in Anti-Canting Bubble System for proper, easy mounting of this scope.
Other features include water, fog and shockproofing; locking fast-focus, adjustable windage and elevation; one-piece tube construction. It’s filled with dry nitrogen, and comes with lens covers and a battery (www.konuspro.com).
Once I have everything, the Henry with scope mounted and ammo, I’ll head to the range. Knowing my history of dealing with these three companies, I know it’ll be fun.
Earlier this year, while fishing with a fellow outdoor writer, Dan Ladd of West Fort Ann, author of www.adkhunter.com website, he offered me an invitation to hunt with his Iron Sight Gang this fall.
I consider these guys to be true Adirondack hunters who roam the North Country mountains chasing whitetails. They also all carry lever-action rifles. When I asked him about the iron sight thing, he said they do allow several of the older hunters to use scopes, so I’ll fit right in.
When we were fishing Lake George several weeks ago, Dan pointed out a number of the mountains the “Gang” hunts, and I’ll definitely be testing these 69-year-old legs and lungs, but I’m truly looking forward to it.
My last real Adirondack hunt took place 30 years ago when three of us boated across Long Lake to Owls Head Mountain and spent most of the day wandering around on top. I got back to the boat about an hour and a half before sunset and set up on a rock to wait for my friends.
Shortly after, I heard a shot about halfway up the mountain. Minutes later, a four-pointer stepped out about 50 yards from me. I only had a 25-yard drag to the boat. I also plan to be at the Good Guys Hunting Camp in Allegany County when the Southern Zone deer season opens.
Once I’ve sighted in the Henry, I have several back-40 farm fields that usually have a few woodchucks where I’ll be able to test the accuracy of this outfit. And there’s a possibility of testing it on bigger game, like a wild boar, at a preserve. Summer is the perfect time for a pig hunt.
A friend, who I told about the Henry, is a member of the Kayaderosseras Fish and Game Club’s Circle K Regulators Cowboy Action Shoot Gang, and invited me to join their Gang. Having attended a number of their shoots, I know they have a lot of fun. I’m not sure I’m ready for that just yet, but there’s a little cowboy in me — I still have my Paladin “Have Gun Will Travel” card.