I've owned a lot of Henry rifles over the years, from their basic Classic H001 .22 to the Big Boy .44 Magnum. I'm used to Henry's amazing quality. But this 410 manufactured in their Wisconsin plant just blew me away. It's my first steel Henry, and the first thing I noticed was that the finish is flawless and beautiful. The checkered American Walnut stock is as nice as the wood on my other Henry's. The gun just feels really solid. The action is tight, but smooth, and I have a feeling it will get even smoother as this shotgun breaks in. It's hard to call this gun a shotgun because it looks and feels so much like a rifle. The hammer is tight and the pull long to lock it into firing position. This is the only potential problem that I see. There's always a few seconds to pull back the hammer when a squirrel is spotted, and the hammer pull on Henry rifles are much shorter and lighter. But when a pheasant flushes, there's only seconds to get on target and take the shot. Will I be able to pull that hammer back quick enough? When hunting with my old 20 gauge bolt action Mossberg, there sometimes isn't time to even slide the safety off before the bird is out of range. Will the hammer be a problem? Only time will tell, but I have to look at it this way. When I'm hunting with a .22, I have to totally pass on the pheasants I flush. When I hunt pheasant with a 20 gauge, I usually pass on squirrels because of the damage the shot does to the meat. At least with this 410 I have a chance at bagging a pheasant and taking squirrel. It will likely mean that I need to pull back that hammer at the first indication that a bird is in the vicinity. I'm sure I'll quickly work out the bugs as the hunting season progresses. With all the reviews on this gun that are out there, has anyone else brought up this hammer issue? No. That's because everyone is trying to look impressive shooting holes in soda bottles at the range. If you want to know how this shotgun practically functions, keep checking back here.
I can tell you one thing. This gun is going to draw a lot of attention. No one will know it's a shotgun. It's illegal to hunt with anything bigger than a .22LR on CT state land, so I know I'll be questioned left and right. This shotgun will be a real conversation stater, like when I used to hunt squirrels with a Stag AR-15 with a .22LR bolt carrier installed.
A few more first impressions: The 410 feels a bit heavier than my old Mossberg, but it's also much more beautifully balanced. In fact, I noticed the balance the first time I drew the gun to my shoulder. I love the idea that Henry decided to put swivel studs on this gun. Being able to sling the gun over my shoulder should alleviate the weight issue as I'm walking between hunting spots, as well as improve stability when shooting. There's a very nice recoil pad installed so I don't think recoil will even be an issue with such a light gauge shell. The gun comes with a changeable full choke installed. The barrel isn't rifled. If you want to shoot slugs, you'll need to replace the full choke with another. Henry emailed me that the full choke is the only one that will cause a problem when shooting slugs, and the gun manual backs that up. The fact that I can swap out chokes is one of the reasons I went with this longer model. I need a tight pattern to reach squirrels in the treetops, and I know it will help when pheasant hunting. Henry claims that the sorter model with sights is the versatile model, but I tend to disagree unless you plan to install a scope. The shorter model's receiver comes pre-tapped. The way I see it, if I want a target rifle, I'd be better off buying a Big Boy .357 Magnum, and iron sights are worthless when shotgun hunting. On the other hand, the ability to change the pattern really makes the longer gun more versatile. That's my opinion anyway.
I also like the idea that this shotgun makes use of a transfer bar. Many revolvers like the newer Ruger Single Six use a transfer bar so there's no need to carry the gun with the hammer on an empty chamber. With a transfer bar the gun will not go off unless the hammer is fully cocked. That's an excellent safety feature.
Tomorrow morning I'll take an early walk it the woods to take a few shots and to hunt for chucks. I'll get a report out soon after. This should be fun! Now into the basement to give the barrel a good cleaning.