Gun Review: Henry X Model Carbine
A new line of lever guns for a modern age.
WHEN I FIRST SAW A NEW Henry X Model carbine on display at the Federal booth at SHOT Show 2020, I wasn’t overly impressed. Yeah, it had a few firsts for Henry that were readily apparent—there was both a removable magazine tube and a side loading gate, something I’m expecting to see on most new models after Henry released its first rifles and shotguns with loading gates on the side of the receiver in 2019.
The muzzle was interesting, because it had a suppressor affixed to it. Never before has a Henry been offered with a threaded barrel, and before last year, even if you wanted to have a gunsmith thread a barrel and attach a can, you wouldn’t have been able to load the gun.
Of course, the all-black, all polymer furniture stood out. In fact, the entire gun was all black, other than the pings of color on top from the green and red fiber optic sights. I thought it was cool, and that it was a big step for Henry, offering modern features on its solid and proven lever gun platforms. I humbly requested a T&E rifle for review.
It happened to be the same model Federal had on display back at SHOT, the X Model in .357 Magnum. I’ve never had a Henry in that caliber, but my favorite lever gun is a Henry Big Boy in .44 Mag, and I have a Marlin 1895 in .357, so I’m used to using it in a lever gun.
It’s a fantastic lever gun caliber in my opinion. I’m not a cowboy action shooter and I do not spend long days on horseback on the range. I’m speaking from an accuracy and ease of use. The .357 is, ballistically, solid when fired from a short revolver barrel, but it’s helped by a boost in velocity when fired from a rifle barrel.
You can except to hit muzzle velocities of 2100 to 2200 fps with 125-grain bullets, 1800 to 900 fps with 158-grain, and 1700 to 1800 fps with 180-grain bullets out of a 16- to 20-inch barrel. With modern hollowpoints, that results in devastating performance on target.
I find the felt recoil of a .44 Mag in a short lever-action rifle extremely tolerable, though some think it’s a little sharp. The .357 is a pussycat and a great solution for those who are a little recoil shy. Plus, you can practice with .38 Special.
I didn’t really understand what Henry has here with the X Model until I got it in my hands on one and got it to the range. It’s not just an old school lever gun with “modern features” like some of those custom rifles you see with brass receivers and black aluminum M-LOK handguards (I don’t hate these builds like some do—I kind of dig them).
What Henry built is a lever gun for the 21st century. From buttpad to muzzle, it’s a line of lever action firearms that is completely designed for and capable of functioning alongside new firearms without most of the drawbacks of a classic lever gun.
The stock and finish are as weather resistant as any found on an AR—this is Henry’s first line of firearms fitted with polymer furniture; some think the All Weather models have polymer or laminate furniture but it’s actually hardwood with an industrial moisture resistant coating. It can be used with muzzle brakes, flash hiders, and suppressors and is ready to accept a sling with no extra hardware necessary.
An integrated accessory rail on the handguard at 6 o’clock makes using a bipod or alternate sling attachment a breeze, or it can be used for a laser sight or gun light. Two additional M-LOK slots cut into the sides of the polymer handguard offer additional mounting positions without adding any unneeded bulk or rails.
When Henry was showing off a prototype of what became the X Model, it was outfitted with a full aluminum M-LOK handguard from Midwest Industries, which a lot of people have been using to give their Henry’s and Marlins some updated looks and capabilities.
Ultimately, Henry went with their own polymer handguard design and I think they made the right decision. There are enough rails and M-LOL slots to attach a bipod, gun light, and a laser sight if someone wants. If you need slots for more accessories or to put them in a different place, then you can drop $165 on the MI handguard and do so—but for most shooters, the stock arrangement will do just fine.
One more thing about the furniture—one would expect polymer furniture to be lighter, or at least the same weight, as hardwood furniture of the same size—I certainly don’t think of it as heavier, but maybe it is.
Going by the specs on the Henry website, and I’ve been ensured by a company rep that the specs are accurate, the .357 X Model weighs in at 7.3 lbs. with a 17.4-inch barrel. However, the Henry All-Weather rifle in .357 Mag weighs 7 lbs. with a 20-inch barrel. So the X Model weighs .3 lbs. more than the All Weather with 2.5-inches less barrel. I can’t figure out why, a rep from Henry said he can’t figure out why, but that he’s asked the engineers. If I get an answer, I promise I will share. The only possible answers are: the barrel or the mag tube on the X Model is a bit thicker; the necessary thickness of the polymer stock and handguard make them a bit heavier than comparable wooden furniture, a combination of the two. I don’t think the addition of a side loading gate can account for the odd weight difference.
Regardless, the stock is quality. You know how it feels when you pick up a polymer stocked bolt gun it has that hollow feeling—a heft that makes you feel like you’re picking up a toy? This doesn’t feel like that. It feels solid and when you shoulder the gun, it’s balanced and not front-heavy at all. To me, in a gun like this, it’s worth the weight weirdness.
All X Model guns feature Henry’s new side gate loading port. The company has famously made its rifles to be loaded via the tube magazine at the muzzle, keeping with the design of original Henry rifles. That is, until last year, when it released a line of rifles and .410 shotguns with side loading gates in addition to the old-school Henry mag tube loading system. However, they did not release any Big Boy pistol-caliber lever guns with the side gate until the X Models debuted at SHOT this year.
You can load the guns from the side or the muzzle and you can top of the magazine if you have to, something you simply cannot do with ease with other Henry rifles. And I will say, the design of the loading gate, along with the half-moon cut in the front of the gate, make it really easy to load—and that cut also allows you to tell at a glance if there’s at least a round in the mag tube or not, as you can see the back of the brass.
The action is smooth right out of the box and gets even smoother after a box of ammo, but this is standard for a Henry, as is an excellent trigger. And something that’s a pet peeve of mine—the lever stays closed when its supposed to. I’ve used far too many lever guns that just pop open at the slightest bump—I don’t ever see that happening with this gun.
The only real drawback of this rifle is the same drawback of any gun that feeds from a tubular magazine versus a detachable box magazine—it’s a bit slow to reload. It has a capacity of 7+1, but you still have to load one round at a time, though this can be done a bit faster using the mag tube instead of the gate, but it’s still not fast in a combat sense. But it ain’t so bad, and certainly no worse than reloading most pump action shotguns—unless you’re a 3-Gunner who can do quad-loads blindfolded.
The range test was just some fun shooting. I used a smattering of ammunition—Federal 125-grain Personal Defense ammo and Federal Fusion 158-grain bonded soft points, along with some SIG Sauer Elite V-Crown 125-grain loads, as well as SIG’s 125-grain Elite Ball FMJ rounds. I did not have a chance to run any .38 Spl through it—that will be another range session.
All cycled and loaded perfectly well. Not a hiccup in over 500 rounds, and they all seemed about the same in terms of accuracy, though the heavier 158-grain Federal rounds did seem to print slightly tighter groups.
Once I got used to it, the rifle was printing fist-sized groups at 50-yards off-hand with the included fiber-optic iron sights. Those groups shrank to a little over three inches shooting from a Magpul Bipod with some patience.
I walked away more than impressed with the rifles performance than I expected to, and I’m a general fan of Henry’s firearms. They didn’t get anything wrong with this one.
The only thing I might add, or at least include as an option, is a rear sight and optics rail, something more like the standard sight setup Marlin uses. Some people like a lever gun with the rear sight positioned in front of the receiver, but since the Model X comes drilled and tapped for an optics rail, it’s a shame one isn’t included—and some folks like a more precise peep sight and a slightly longer sight radius for irons. Additionally, if any of that were included, a hammer extension for those who do want to add a scope would be a nice add-on.
I also wouldn’t hate the idea of a manual safety or a decocking mechanism—but on the other hand, I like the simplicity of Henry’s lever guns.
But those are some pretty petty nits to be picking about a brand new rifle line.
The X Model in .357 Mag. fits the bill as a hunting rifle that’s more than capable of taking small game and deer-sized game inside 100 yards; as a rugged and simple repeating survival rifle with a decent capacity; as a range gun that’s great for training shooters of all levels—especially new shooters; and as an all purpose lever gun that will stand up to a lot of abuse and is compact enough to stow in lots of convenient places—especially in a truck. It’s also a capable defensive arm that can certainly deal with any bipedal threats that may come along.
Having the side gate and the removable mag tube really is the best of both worlds when it comes to lever guns. At the range, it’s easy to drop a bunch of rounds into the tube, or you can abuse your thumb a little and use the gate the whole time or to top off the mag during drills that don’t require seven shots. In the field, you can do the same or quietly load three rounds via the gate when heading out. But more importantly, you can unload the gun when going over a fence or returning to a vehicle without cycling every round.
Additionally, this Henry X Model loaded with .38 Spl would be an excellent choice for a new shooter who is ready to graduate from a .22 LR, especially when fitted with a suppressor.
In these uncertain times, a reliable, compact, and versatile firearm that can fill a number of roles is certainly desirable.
The X Model is also available in .44 Mag/.44 Spl and .45 Colt, all with 17.4-inch barrels—as well as a full sized rifle in .45-70 Govt. and as a .410 Shotgun with 19.8-inch barrels. All carry an MSRP of $970.
- Caliber: .357 Magnum / .38 Special (also available in .44 Magnum, .45 Colt and as a .45-70 Govt Rifle and .410 Shotgun with 19.8″ barrel)
- Capacity: 7+1
- Barrel Length: 17.4″
- Barrel Type: Round Blued Steel
- Rate of Twist: 1:16
- Overall Length: 36.3″
- Weight: 7.3 lbs
- Receiver Finish: Blued Steel
- Rear Sight: Fully Adj. Fiber Optic
- Front Sight: Fiber Optic
- Scopeability: Drilled and Tapped
- Scope Mount Type: BB-RSM
- Stock Material: Black Synthetic
- Buttplate/Pad: Black Solid Rubber Recoil Pad
- Length of Pull: 14″
- Safety: Transfer Bar
- Best Uses: Target/Hunting/Large Game
- Embellishments/Extras: Swivel Studs, Large Loop Lever, M-Lok, Picatinny Rail, 5/8×24 Threaded Barrel, Fiber Optic Sights
- MSRP: $970 for all X Model rifles, carbines, and the .410 shotgun