Opinion, Frank Ehrenford reviews his time with the Henry Model 24 Side Gate Lever-Action Rifle in 38-55 WIN.
Iowa – -(AmmoLand.com)- The new Henry Model 24, side loading gate, lever-action rifle arrived just as our summer temperatures moderated here in Park County, Wyoming. As I peeled back the wrapping paper the 24 was encased in, that first blush appearance was most favorable, maybe even a little stunning.
This is the first lever gun in the Henry line-up with the side loading gate and Henry’s production of the Model 24 rifle was executed perfectly. The innovative side gate was very smooth with little resisting pressure when slipping cartridges into the tube, this is a welcomed addition to the Henry rifles’ lineup.
Henry Model 24 Side Gate Lever-Action Rifle in 38-55 WIN
The Model 24’s stock was a pleasing dark red, with a subdued finish. Wood to metal fit is more than well done, as is the checkering and scrollwork. This is an intense, yet handsome rifle and makes me, a long-time mountain lever gun hunter, genuinely excited and pleased to shoot and more importantly successfully hunt with this new Henry.
The trigger is as close to perfect as you could hope for right out of the box. The ability to load from the front of the magazine tube and a side loading gate is unique in the lever-action rifle world and well done.
Having hunted most of the western US and Alaska with a lever-action rifle, it is reassuring for me that with my Model 24 I can quickly reload. Topping off the magazine should I find myself in less than safe surroundings, perhaps in grizzly county or in a two-legged predator backwoods location.
Our country has a fine tradition of lever-action rifles used for hunting, target shooting, self-defense, even weapons of war and law enforcement. There is a reason for this, the lever-action repeating rifle is “the” American rifle. Almost every modern firearm you own got its start somewhere outside the US. Not so with the lever gun.
Earlier models of Henry rifles and most assuredly the new Model 24 are beautiful examples of American craftsmanship, that fits extremely well with the iconic predecessors from our past. As a hunting rifle, the lever-action rifle has appeal to hunters for its handling qualities, ease of use in the field and the array of powerful game stopping cartridges. The first release of the new model 24 Henry rifles are chambered in 30/30, 35 Remington and 38/55 Win. The model 24 I chose to hunt with is chambered in 38/55. The .38-55 is an effective, useful and very old cartridge introduced in 1884 by Ballard Rifle Company and used in single-shot rifles until 1893 when it appeared in lever-action rifles.
I personally am no stranger to the venerable 38 55 win that started out in the black powder world and improved its capability when smokeless power came on the shooting scene. I have been successfully hunting for years with an older lever gun chambered in 38/55 and was interested in the Henry Model 24 when news reached Cody, Wyoming that the new rifle would make its public debut in the 38/55 caliber.
Modern powders have given an improved range, stopping capabilities and an enhanced life amongst today’s emerging new lever-action rifle hunters of North America. I say North America because our Canadian cousins have an even higher chance of running into something in their great white north that a Henry rifle, chambered in 38/55, could make all the difference, coming out of the woods in one piece.
If you do some research you will find factory 38/55 ammo loaded with a 255-grain bullet reaching to 1320 FPS with an M.E. of about 1000 foot-pounds. I might suggest these loads are designed to keep in mind the safety needs of the earlier made lever guns chambered for black power era 38/55 cartridges.
The new side loading action of the Model 24 gets its history, genes, and strength from the Henry Model H009 action. This action can take the increased pressures of modern smokeless ammo to include Tim Sundles’ Buffalo Bore 38/55 ammunition an accurate and powerful cartridge to hunt within a Model 24 Henry. This loading uses a 255-grain bullet moving at over 1930 feet per second, with as M.E. 2153 foot-pounds. There is not much in the continental US that you cannot hunt with this load.
Testing this ammunition with the factory sights showed groups at an inch and a half using the issued sights. I like these sights as they are well suited for hunting and general use.
Skinner Sights provided a wonderful set of their aperture rear and fiber optic front sight which installed easily. Very handsome sight set which complements an already handsome rifle. Putting Skinner sights on any Henry lever action rifle improves the process. They make it a lot easier to get quickly on target when that extremely annoyed moose charges you in deep snow in Alaska.
Now if you have plans to make your own ammo, the 38/55 is an easy cartridge to load for and the results can be spectacular. Casting my own bullets is rewarding and makes great game bullets. A 265 grain, hollow point gas check in the mid-1900 feet per second is a powerful load. The mold from noebulletmolds.com is a pleasure to cast and makes lovely bullets.
Sage Outdoors (Sagesoutdoors.com) is my choice in gas check suppliers and I predominantly use Gator brand as they crimp-on nicely. This rifle’s chamber is cut to use 2.080 length cases available from Starline (starlinebrass.com) With heavier loads the brass will stretch so measure after sizing and trim if necessary.
I also am working uploads with Vollmer bullets (vollmer-bullets-myshopify.com) They can make several diameters and weights to feed old and new 38/55 rifles. I chose the 255 grain for more snort and penetration on large animals. Les Vollmer can cut a cannelure in the correct location for your new Henry, just remember to ask.
My heavy loads use Reloader 7 along with Winchester large rifle primers, workup for accuracy and not fret over velocity. My loads will not exceed a micrometer measurement of .420 in any loadings. This measurement is the diameter of the case in front of the rim with the mic jaws touching the face of the rim. Our testing in many lever-action rifles shows this is a safe and repeatable way of knowing the pressure is within the rifle’s limits.
Recoil with heavy loads isn’t an issue to me and my fused neck. This rifle and cartridge is a pleasure to wander the Beartooth Mountains with good power for bear protection.
Most likely I will be carrying the Henry Model 24 when I walk my dog Mauzer. If the bears get any closer I will be carrying the 24 in my front yard.
An interesting time this fall hunting season shall be had with my new Model 24 Henry, sporting a cartridge that entered the ammunition market almost 135 years ago. With the new rifle and the improve 38/55 ammo, I will hunt antelope, elk and attempt to fill my obligatory black bear tag resting in my day pack.
I cannot overemphasize the smoothness of the new loading gate. A lot of design and engineering effort went into getting this correct. The 38/55 cartridges just glides into the loading gate. Even the underside of the rim is smooth, so should you extend your finger too far into that loading gate you do not rip off valuable skin as you remove your appendage.
The Henry Model 24, side loading gate lever-action rifle will be a wonderful companion for my first “Hunt with a Henry” season in western Wyoming this fall, as I search the backwoods for organic, free-range plant-based meat.
I can think of one lucky granddaughter who will be hunting with an old Henry Model 24 Side Gate Lever-Action Rifle in 38-55 WIN in years to come. I will make sure it is well tested and sighted in for her future hunting needs.
About Frank Ehrenford
Frank Ehrenford was not born with a rifle in his hand, but he was hunting by age six and using a lever-action rifle before middle school. He is retired and lives in Cody, Wyoming. He ran a successful cast bullet business for eight years, which produced years of personal testing of bullet designs, bullet lubes and alloys. A competitive rifle and pistol shooter since high school days. As a gunsmith and machinist, he designed and built the first prototype Model 89 lever-action rifles chambered in 500 Smith & Wesson. He has hunted most of the western states, Canada and Alaska and took a moose with a lever-action rifle in Alberta. His personal interests are hunting, shooting and hiking the mountains with his wife and dog Mauzer.