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The First Practical Lever Action Repeating Rifle

The First Practical Lever Action Repeating Rifle
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Benjamin Tyler Henry - His invention: The Henry Rifle




by Scott Crawford - October 16 2021






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In every field of human endeavor there is a select group of individuals who are given credit for making such major contributions that they become synonymous with their achievements. In the area of firearms development, one name that must be included on that honored roster is Benjamin Tyler Henry. His invention: The Henry Rifle.

It was Mr. Henry who conceived the first practical, lever action repeating rifle patented in 1860. The Henry gave a single man the firepower of a dozen marksmen armed with muzzle-loading muskets.

America was engulfed in the searing flames of the Civil War, and the first Henry rifles were in the hands of Union soldiers by mid-1862. Due to its revolutionary design and rapid rate of fire, the Henry quickly found popularity both with the military and civilian purchasers. Early sales were especially brisk in Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Indiana.

With its reliable .44 caliber rimfire metallic cartridge, the Henry produced a rapid and highly accurate fire. Reports of the successful use of Henry rifles in the Civil War were numerous. The incredible firepower unleashed by the Henry is evident in Major William Ludlow’s account of the Battle of Allatoona Pass. “What saved us that day was the fact that we had a number of Henry rifles” wrote Major Ludlow. “This company of 16 shooters sprang to the parapet and poured out such a multiplied, rapid and deadly fire, that no men could stand in front of it and no serious effort was made thereafter to take the fort by assault.”

1st Lever Action
Original Henry Rifle, S/N 17



After an encounter with the 7th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which had the good fortune to be armed with Henrys, one Confederate officer is credited with the phrase, “It’s a rifle that you could load on Sunday and shoot all week long.”

The Henry rifle would go on to play a significant, if not dominant role in the frontier days of the American West. It would soon become one of the most legendary, respected and sought after rifles in the history of firearms.



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New Original Henry Rare Carbine
Image of a New Original Henry Rare Carbine available today



The first Henry rifle was available for purchase in 1862 for the price of $40.00 which at the time was a whole lot of money. About $1,084 in 2021 dollars. So not every working man could afford one. The rifle weighed 9.0 lbs, was 42.5" overall length with octagonal barrel and a brass receiver. The stock held an internal 3 piece cleaning rod and of course the tubular magazine held 16 rounds of .44 caliber rimfire. Production ended in 1866 with a total of around 14,000 Henry's being sold.

Today's Henry was established in 1996 with their first shipments of rifles being made in March 1997 from their factory. There is no affiliation or lineage to Benjamin Tyler Henry or to the New Haven Arms Company, who sold the original Henry rifle from 1862 to 1866. Anthony Imperato secured the trademark to the Henry name in 1996. For a timeline of the original Henry and today's current production use this link.

So to recap, the Henry rifle of 1860 started it all and although not related at all, today's Henry rifle carry's on the American tradition of the lever gun like Ruger with Marlin rifles and Winchester by Fabrique Nationale (FN) of Belgium. There are others of course such as Rossi, Browning, Mossberg and on and on however these are the three main competitors today with the largest share of sales regarding lever action rifles & shotguns.





IN THIS ARTICLE
Marlin Firearms Ruger Firearms Henry Winchester Arms


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