View Full Version : Need more advice on lever action "cowboy" rifles
December 2, 2010, 06:14 PM
O.K. - so I put a post up a few days ago in regards to a lever action rifle/carbine chambered in .357 so I could shoot 38 spl. in it since that is what I shoot in my New Vaquero SA. Several of you were kind enough to give me your opinions on the "Henry" and one of you compared the barrel to a "crowbar" out front. :) One suggested that I look at the Marlin which I thought was a pretty nice rifle as well. I don't shoot CAS but I would like to get a lever action rifle with a "cowboy flavor" to it. Since looking on Gunbroker to see the different makes and photos of them, I've run across even more brands . . so . . . can some of you with experience give me some "insight" on them. Some have octagon barrels, some round, etc. etc. Can you fill me in on the quality of the brands, reliability, dollar for dollar value, etc. I want something that will be "well balanced" and enjoyable to shoot as well. I guess that I'm finding the wide number of makes and models confusing . . . but then I'm usually confused most of the time anyway. :rolleyes:
The brands I'm seeing are:
Are some of these brands made by the same manufacturer but sold under different brand names? I've seen several Chapparel models - 1866, 1873 with iron frames versus brass, etc. I realize it is probably like comparing Pietta to Uberti, etc. - a personal preference - but I'd like to know which makes/models to avoid and which are good shooters, reliable and have good balance without being muzzle heavy and needing a prop to keep it up. :D Many thanks for whatever light some of you can shed on these. Sincerely, bedbug :)
December 2, 2010, 06:46 PM
In my opinion, the Henry leveraction rifle made in USA Definately without a doubt has a cowboy feel to it. The Henry is a very reliable and traditional firearm to say the least. You have a lifetime warranty on the rifle. Henry will fix it someday if your grandson needs it fixed even if he can't show who bought it. When I bought mine, I called the owner on the phone and asked questions which was nice too. The firearm holds 10 shots(actually 11 if you put one in the chamber). Keep us posted
the above link are the bigboy rifles: .44, .45, OR .357 calibers. I decided upon the .44 when I bought the rifle though I have multiple .357 revolvers. I wanted something different and more powerful I could shoot across my property 'just in case' the big animal came. you seem interested in the .357 - a very good choice too! These rifles were born in 1860 the year before the civil war. The distinct octagon barrel is great, and the American walnut stock is real nice! The weight is more than some hunters prefer, but it makes every shot extremely smooth and is easily handable. Obviously I like my weapon a lot, so that's why I am giving you my pick. Read the history on the above website. If you just want a tool to hunt than there might be better choices more lightweight and/or less money. I don't think your choice is based upon hunting, but I might be remembering wrong.
Every single Henry rifle is guranteed warranty for life - just having a henry rifle accomplishes this. You don't need to prove you bought it. It has a very nice wood on it
December 2, 2010, 07:55 PM
Henry - not in the least bit Cowboy. I've only seen a few of them run smoothly in a CAS Match. The few I've shot had gravelly/clunky actions. The Big Boy loads from the front like a tube fed .22 making reloads a hassle.
Marlin: Good rifles, although the 38/357 varieties can be a little fussy about cartridge OAL. These can be slicked up really nice (action job) and are very reliable. Only thing I dont like about them is they eject the case out in front of you making it difficult to retreive your brass on a CAS stage.
Taurus: There is a reason why they are cheaper than other rifles.
Chaparral: Like the Taurus, there is a reason why they are cheaper than other rifles.
Rossi: Good rifles. Easy to slick up and reliable. Not as easy to work on as the '66/'73 models. Had a 44-40 Rossi that I wish I hadn't sold a few years ago. It was a sweet running gun.
Uberti: (1860, 1866, and 1873 models) Again, IMNSHO, the best rifle out of the box. Takes very little to tune them up and make them run really fast. The 1873 Winchester is probably the most widely used rifle in CAS with the '66 a close second. They are easy peasy to work on and keep clean and running smooth.
December 2, 2010, 08:00 PM
One thing to consider is whether one of these has Ballard rifling which CAS shooters prefer. Marlin switched to it some years ago, I am not sure about the others.
December 2, 2010, 08:54 PM
Rossi, I don't do CAS, but I like to shoot 45lc in conversion pistols and the rifle. Never had any problem and the price is right if you're not brand name consious. Plus they have plenty of choices in style options (I went for a case hardened receiver 92')
December 2, 2010, 09:19 PM
Henry - not in the least bit Cowboy.
OP said: a little cowboy or moreso cowboy flavor. A rifle that has been around since the days some lucky boyz had the $ and luck to get a repeating rifle during the battles of the civil war, remains very traditional plus was around during the wild west, and has a picture of a cowboy on their website: does have cowboy flavor and is a little cowboy.
also a reload after 11 shots is far from a hassle, in my opinion. I don't shoot in matches, but my henry is a very smooth rifle shot.
December 2, 2010, 09:40 PM
IMHO We could argue whats cowboy and the hypocrisy about it like using a computer, an Italian made gun, the CAS being the yardstick of "whats cowboy":barf: and dressing up like Roy Rodgers to shoot at steel plates................or we could talk good lever rifles
The Henry's muzzle heavy and unwieldy. Its also very pretty plus the smooth action and fit/finish is superior to my marlin 1894 cowboy by far.
I still shoot the marlin more, but its in 357 while the henry is in 44 mag.
The 1892 clones are various sorts all shoot, some are a bit stiffer then others. I never had a reason to keep any of them, plus the puma 357's barrel was strangely thin, very thin as I recall. But it shot fine
No 1866 or 1860 lever guns are made in 357 magnum to my knowledge (also have a heavy brass receivers), so you have the 1873 clones, which are heavy and expensive.
Since I'm not cowboy enough to wear a 10 gallon hat, one thing to consider is that side shuckers (marlin and henry) spits the empties out the side, which is nice. Because every damn Winchester or clone I've had has managed to drop a shell or two down my shirt collar, If you hunt in the winter, snow, water, ice, pinecones ect will dump down in that action just as you're shucking it for another shot, seems to be a law of nature, unless your hunting where there is no trees to dump snow on you.;)
If I had to buy a 357 lever gun again, I'd still go the marlin route with the 1894 c if you want something practical and useful, and the 1894 cowboy if you like a TAPERED (this is the difference between the crowbar henry and 1892 clone barrels, which are a straight octagon, heavy and chunky.) barrels, which makes a world of difference.
Unfortunately remington closed the marlin plant, and I have not seen the new 1894s yet so I can't comment on the new production ones.
Edited to add: Say what you want about a tube fed centerfire lever action (the henry) you can continue reloading and thus shoot FAR more then the fellas with blistered thumbs and half their fingernail stuck in a loading gate of a winchester or marlin will. Its nice for plinking, as the thumb does get tired.
December 2, 2010, 10:02 PM
The Henry is a very reliable and traditional firearm to say the least.
No tradition to it. It has no ties to the original Henry except for the name. It bears no resemblance to an original Henry or any other period rifle. It's a good gun no doubt. I have a Henry Golden Boy and wouldn't take anything for it but the Big Boy is the same gun in a bigger package.
December 2, 2010, 10:40 PM
Howdy Cowboys ,Cousins and Brother Rangers
My side of the Hagen Clan Shoots Uberti Long Guns in 45 Long Colt and they have never let us down.
Brass Frame 1860 Henry “That tarnation Yankee rifle that they load on Sunday and shoot all week.”
Brass Frame 1866 Winchester Yellowboy
Steel Frame 1873 Winchester "The Rifle That Won The West"
Double Ought Hagen
Hiram's Ranger #24
December 2, 2010, 10:58 PM
hawg, I am not sure if you are entirely correct here. the below quote is from the link from my first post:
Are you a fan of our nation's Wild West era? Do you go all out and participate in the growing sport of Cowboy Action Shooting? Are you one of the many thousands of avid big-game hunters?
Nod yes to any of the above, and you're ready to step up and grab hold of the new Henry Big Boy .44. It's big, brutal, and beautiful. Henry rifle owners were inquiring when we'd look back to our historical roots and our designers did just that. The result is the first American made .44 Henry lever action featuring a solid brass receiver since the original Henry rifle of 1860.
one of the reasons why I bought the .44:)
December 2, 2010, 11:20 PM
Hawg is right younguns.
Neither the company, nor the arms design has any relation to the original Henry, if anything its closer to the marlin 336 (which was a 1948 design I think), minus the loading gate and twice as chunky. Even how it loads isn't the same, as the tube feed is identical to a 22 rim fires, as opposed to the Henry tube feed, its a weird, flashy hermaphrodite of a gun.
Still a neat rifle, and a nice range toy, I wouldn't sell mine, but it occupies the safe more then anything else. I despise the new brass 30-30 they came out with, the thing is gigantic.
The one nice thing is its made in the US, which the various spaghetti Winchesters are not, and I like to support domestic industry.
You have stock in the Henry Repeating Arms company or something?
December 2, 2010, 11:46 PM
You have stock in the Henry Repeating Arms company or something?
I was wondering the same thing. Comes off as a true believer in advertizing hype.
No tradition to it. It has no ties to the original Henry except for the name. It bears no resemblance to an original Henry or any other period rifle.
As for "Cowboy Flavor". If that's what BBB is looking for, one of the '92 Winchester clones would be right up his alley - the Rossi comes immediately to mind. The most prolific rifle in all of the B Westerns - as well as feature films - was the '92. It was the real gun that won the West - in the movies anyhoo.
December 2, 2010, 11:58 PM
no, no stock in company hick. Lol! I'll give it my grandson someday though. I just like the history and think its a great, cool rifle. Thats why I didnt say I thought Hawg was wrong becasue it was a stretch. It does have cowboy flavor though. to say it it isnt 'the least bit cowboy' is just as much of a stretch. they were heavier in those days too. henry gets the job done just like many others. I guess its safe to say fingers you don't like henry? Many people do enjoy them. the tube load is no big deal. but again I dont shoot in matches
December 3, 2010, 12:04 AM
other TFL thread
December 3, 2010, 12:16 AM
I guess its safe to say fingers you don't like henry?
:D I'd say that's a pretty safe assumption. I've tried a few Golden Boys, and Big Boys, and they just didn't suit me. Action was too stiff and clunky for my tastes & I couldn't get a good site picture with either model.
I dearly love my '66 Carbine in 44-40. BP loads only.
O yeah.................... Mary Ann
December 3, 2010, 12:21 AM
Hello, guys, hickstick-10 & Hawg Haggen are right about the Henry not being a decendent of the original Henry of 1860, built by the New Haven Arms Company. The reciever is NOT brass, let alone the original material that was used in the Henry, and later Winchester 66': Gun Metal..a form of bronze long used for cannon making. On the Henry samples I have seen, the wood to metal fit looks like something out of a middle school shop class.
December 3, 2010, 12:40 AM
Marlin 1894C 18.5" or 1894CB357 20"
Winchester 1892 Short 20"
December 3, 2010, 06:12 AM
The Henry has nothing at all to do with the old west except it's a levergun and happens to be made by a different Henry than the original. It doesn't look the least bit western to me
December 3, 2010, 07:20 AM
The reciever is NOT brass, let alone the original material that was used in the Henry, and later Winchester 66': Gun Metal..a form of bronze long used for cannon making.
The Henry center fire receiver IS solid brass, sorry but your mistaken.
I'm shocked how many have such an in depth opinion on this gun that have held it once in a gun store. So take the advice given here with a grain of salt, as some fellas clearly haven't seen much of the guns they are commenting about.
As for its manufacturing and fit/finish, theres lemons from ALL manufactures of guns these days, marlin didn't even bother to remove the machining marks from the part of my barrel that was covered by the forestock on my 1894CB and that gun costs around 120 bucks more then a Henry in my neighborhood. The Henry I own has a fully polished barrel even the part thats covered by wood.
Like I said, I dont particularly care for the gun, but it has some perks, another being no goofy marlin safety, nor ancient half cock notch or ridiculous plastic top plug like the new 1892 clones. The just let the hammer down with the finger off the trigger (transfer bar).
You'd think Winchester or Marlin might still be making guns in Connecticut, if people had half the loyalty to something made at home then they do to these foreign made products.:rolleyes:
Ah well I've said enough, back to talking about REAL cowboys, with Italian Winchesters, 40 gallon hats and saddling up a giant rocking horse to shoot at metal gongs.:barf:
December 3, 2010, 07:22 AM
I have a pair of Uberti Model 73 Special Sporting rifles. One is a .357 Mag. the other is a .45 Colt. Love them both. I posted pictures of these rifles somewhere on this site.
December 3, 2010, 09:32 AM
Since the O/P said he is not going to use his gun for SASS most of this thread misses the point. The Henry guns are fine and the non-blue ones have a "Brass Alloy" receiver which is far stonger than "brass." Evil Roy knows more than any of these posters and he uses .22 Henry Golden Boy Lever actions at his school and says that the Henry has the best action out of the box.The Rossi 92 actions are the strongest of what are discussed here and would be a good choice as would a Henry or a Marlin. The Ubertis are really nice guns and you pay $$$ for it. I would probably get the Rossi M92 and have it worked on by Steve's Gunzs or at least get his parts kit. http://store.stevesgunz.com/
December 3, 2010, 11:27 AM
Think about the Campfire Stories you could create with the Uberti-1860Henry YoungGuns Listed.
You will not go wrong with the same rifle Texas Ranger Augustus McCrae used
in The Classic Western-Lonesome Dove.
December 3, 2010, 12:08 PM
I've got one of the Rossi '92s and after a couple of hundred rounds, it turned into a really smooth, extremely accurate shooter. I've shot the Henry and it's a solid, heavy rifle. Too heavy for me, and, as a curmudgeonly Luddite, I just can't get behind the tube-loading business. Now, I've got a Golden Boy and I think that it's just the bees' knees, but something just doesn't seem right about a centerfire rifle that loads like a .22. Different strokes, I guess.
The Rossi is a top eject rifle, but it's never gifted me with a red-hot empty down my shirt. It ejects like a rocket launcher - the problem is chasing after the cases at the end of a match. And, for me, the epitome of a cowboy rifle is one that ejects straight up.
I've also shot a Marlin 1894c and there's not a thing in the world to complain about. I guess that there's some consternation about micro-groove rifling, but I shot both cast and jacketed rounds out of one, about a hundred rounds, and every bullet went straight to where I pointed.
I bought the Rossi because I got a great deal on it and I'm a sucker for Winchesters. Since Winchester doesn't make an 1892 anymore, my choices were a little bit limited. I'm 100% satisfied with the Rossi, now that it's gotten over the initial somewhat gritty action. I would probably be nearly as satisfied with a Marlin. And, from what I've heard, an Uberti would also make me happy.
December 3, 2010, 03:31 PM
I don't know much about the Henry Brand rifles but I have a Win 73 and 92 and a Rossi 92 and really like them. I have had a Marlin 94 Cowboy (not microgroove bbl) and I liked it also. The Italian replicas of the Winchesters and Henry are all good from what I have seen. The Rossi is stiff when new but can easily be 'slicked up' and is a solid gun. The Henry may be a good gun but It is not as historically as correct as some of the others if that is important to you.
December 3, 2010, 09:27 PM
The Henry center fire receiver IS solid brass, sorry but your mistaken.
Yeah it is.
You'd think Winchester or Marlin might still be making guns in Connecticut, if people had half the loyalty to something made at home then they do to these foreign made products.
If they still made decent guns that weren't overpriced they might still be.
December 4, 2010, 12:10 AM
WHEW! Didn't know that when I pust this post up I'd scatter so much dust on the trail! But a big "thank you" to you all for your replies. Now to clarify a couple of things . . . I've collected longams for over 40 years and have had opportunities to hadle original Henrys, 1866 Winchesters, 73s (even one of the 1 of 1,000) and yes, the Henry of today does not even resemble the original Henry's - first of all, the originals didn't have forearms. The Henry of today doesn't even resemble a original Winchester 66. If I could find a Winchester 94 in .357 that was pre-Japan, I'd snap it up and be a happy camper - but, that's never going to happen. I shot several pre-war Winchesters in 30/30 and 32 spl. and they were great. I sold my collection but had a Canadian Centennial 30/30 that I could have kept but to be honest - I found it to be a pile of crap (personal opinion) - it couldn't hold a candle to a early '94 as far as quality. You've all been very helpful with your comments on the various brands and I greatly appreciate that. At this point, since I don't shoot competiion nor do I hunt anymore, I'd just like to have a decent lever action carbine that shoots 347/38spl. - not because i want to dress up like Roy Rogers - but, because I associate the lever action with the west as far as scabbard carry on a horse as a "working tool" and I'd like to use it for plinking/target shooting in conjunction with my New Vaquero. I doubt if any of them are going to be "exact replicas" but "close enough" is fine with me. I'm more interested in reliability, good balance and good construction. A 38 spl. is not going to give a whole lot of recoil and I'm looking for something that is well balanced and not as heavy as a railroad iron to carry around on a hike or at the range. In my humble opinion, folks who try to shoot hotter loads than they should along with liability worries has caused some of the manufacturers to "overbuild" their weapons and some of them end up weighing as mucha as a boat anchor. I've had several opportunities to look at and handle the Henry Golden Boy in 22LR and I was impressed with it - one of them will follow me home to stay at some point. For the 357/38 spl. I am more concerned about getting something with a smooth action that performs well and is a pleasure to shoot and kill empty pop cans with. You've all given me some excellent information and the next step is for me to get out and examine and handle the brands and see what "feels right". Thanks again very much for you input - as soon as I decide and purchase, I'll report back! Thanks again amigos! :)
December 9, 2010, 10:23 PM
Well Bedbug, you've gotten quite a few answers to your question about a rifle with a cowboy flavor. I've been collecting guns for close to fifty years, yes I'm an old guy, raised on a cattle ranch and consider myself a cowboy. I'm a life member of SASS, and have been to many, many cowboy shooting matches at our local range, and to other ranges in our state. For the money you can not beat a Marlin 1894. I own 14 lever action rifles, all but three can be used in cowboy matches. I have Marlins, a '73, a '66, a Rossi '92 and a Winchester '94. The '73 is made by Uberti and is 357 caliber, it is my favorite and was the most expensive. I prefer it to the '66 because of the side plates, which allows you to get to the toggles for cleaning, etc without disassembling the rifle. Another advantage to cowboy shooters, the '66 and the '73 toggle action rifles can have a true 'short stroke kit' installed, possibly making them a bit faster to shoot than a Marlin. A Marlin is easy for almost anyone to slick up, and usually gives shooters very little trouble. Some of them are sensitive to the over all length of the cartridges, others are not. I would not waste my money on the Cowboy Competition Model of the Marlin 1894. It has an octogon barrel and color case colors on the receiver, the one I have has 38 Special written on it instead of the usual 357 Magnum, it costs almost twice what the standard model costs, and is no better. Several first time shooters have showed up at our matches, and a few of them have purchased Henry Rifles, usually in 44 magnum. Very few of these guys that continue shooting at our matches continue using the Henry's. Most of the other cowboy shooters think they are a piece of junk, but they are not cheap, they are expensive for what they are. If I could have only one rifle, and I wanted it to be a lever action, it would be no other than a Marlin. At one time I much prefered a Winchester model 94, but they are no where near as easy to work on as a Marlin. I do my own repair work on my own guns, and those of others in our club. I know Steve Young, owner of Steve's Gun's, while he specializes in '92, I think he might recommend something else.
December 10, 2010, 08:40 AM
Morning Nite Rider
Please help with the Henry Issues.
I think we have some folks reading these Posts that are not aware of some
us Cowboys use Uberti-1860 Henrys not Henry Repeating Arms Rifles.
Hiram's Ranger 00 Hagen
December 10, 2010, 11:20 AM
I was timing a match last Saturday when one of the shooters was having trouble with his brass framed rifle. I had never seen a 66 act up like that so I watched to see what was going on. It was not feeding and when it did it did not want to extract. I went to offer what help I had gleaned with my 66. When I took a look at the gun I realized that it was a new Henry. Nothing I wanted any part of. I offered my rifle but he elected to suffer through the match with his.
August 6, 2012, 01:19 PM
The term "cowboy" is more ambiguous than "assault weapon."
If you want to be a cowboy, go be one, whatever you define it as, go do it. Be what you want to be (this world would be better off with a few more cowboys, personally).
If you want to LOOK like a cowboy, go hook up with some CAS guys and gals. They have the look and feel of yesteryear down to a science.
But it seems your original post was more along the lines of: "What gun would you suggest that will make me feel like a cowboy, be fun to shoot, and be worth the money." I could be wrong, but that's the vibe I get from your OP.
Since you said you're not into CAS, you probably don't have any need to invest in the more expensive, competitive, high-performance CAS approved brand names like Winchester, Henry, or Cimarron. While these firearms are great and attempt to celebrate heritage only after being performance ready, they are probably an unnecessarily high price for the non-competitor.
If you don't mind a smaller caliber, go invest in a Marlin or Rossi .22 for your plinking pleasure. Plus, they're excellent get-rid-of-the-garden-pests rifles.
If you want a big bore, but to not break the bank, Rossi and Marlin also make affordable lever guns in the bigger calibers (I.e. 45LC and 357 mag).
My overall suggestion, go with Marlin. They are a standard favorite among CAS competition shooters and recreational trigger pullers. They are reliable, versatile, affordable, diverse (most major calibers), and popular (the advantage there is that you'll never have a shortage of advice, replacement parts, or experienced shooters).
The first question I ask anyone when they ask for weapon purchasing advice is this: why do you think you want this or that kind of weapon?
I'm not trying to invalidate your question at all, but weapons are a financial investment at almost any level, and aside from being dangerous, firearms should not be purchased lightly.
If you know someone who has a lever gun, go offer to buy them a beer if they'll let you shoot theirs.
Make sure the beer comes AFTER the shooting (be safe!).
Best of luck.
August 7, 2012, 06:48 PM
No need for the beer, just show up at any SASS match and plenty of shooters will let you try their rifles.
I tried to start with a $425 Rossi M92 shooting .38 spl, but it liked to jam, and a fellow shooter loaned me his custom engraved Uberti 1866 Henry model for the rest of a two day match; it was a Codymatic action job.
The difference was amazing, like comparing a Jennings J-22 to a Ruger 22/45., or a flea-market knockoff to a Spyderco. Quality.
Soon I found myself spending $1250 on a new Uberti-Beretta Renegade slicked up and sold directly by Cody. Slick, smooth, fast and I can't outrun it.
Once you've been spoiled, it's hard to go back; It's cheaper to buy the best the first time.
The Rossi is still a pretty good rifle, long as I don't try to spray and pray, but it's not ready for cowboy action shooting.
August 9, 2012, 07:12 PM
It causes confusion because there's a difference between a copy of a Henry Rifle, as made during the American Civil War, and the Henry Rifle Company. The Big Boy Henry rifle has no relation to any historical rifle made in the Old West. The Big Boy does convert to an excellent canoe oar. The Henry .22 is a decent rifle but again, and I don't care who uses them in their school, it's not a copy of anything used Pre-1900. I've used all kinds of Old West type guns, clones if you will, and now have a '73 clone. Both the '66 and '73 were widely used out West mostly by real Cowboys. They are reliable and fairly easy to work on. Either is more than adequate for SASS, plinking or close range hunting.
August 9, 2012, 07:59 PM
If you want a pistol caliber lever rifle for something other than cowboy action shooting, most any of the ones named in this thread will work. If I was going to carry a .357 rifle in the woods or whatever I would probably try to find a decent '92 with a round barrel. A Marlin would probably run a close second.
If you ever think you might shoot a cowboy match (and everyone who likes lever guns should give it a whirl), I would definitely choose the '73 or '66 if I could scrape the nickels together. A Marlin is almost as good and a very solid rifle. The others can be made to work but not as satisfactorily in my opinion.
August 12, 2012, 10:13 AM
Henry - PASS! Also very heavy and unbalanced in .357.
Marlin - JM stamped guns are great - the QC of the REP stamped guns (Remington) is spotty.
Taurus - BIG PASS!
Chapparel Arms - For the most part, the 1876's were crap, but I've heard the 1866's & 1873's were better. Parts are tough to come by.
Rossi - Good guns, and most .357's will feed .38's just fine.
Uberti - Very good guns, and have been imported by a variety of importers such as Stoeger, EMF, Taylors, Cimarron, Dixie, Navy Arms, American Arms Inc (AAINKC), High Standard, and probably a few others I've forgotten about.
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