Scoping Henry Lever Action Rifles

While breaking tradition, open sights were replaced by a scope on this legendary rifle.

by Norman E. Johnson

An avid squirrel hunter brought me his Henry Golden Boy lever action .22 rifle to be sighted-in
with the existing buckhorn-style open sights. “It’s hitting way left, ‘course my eyes aren’t quite what they used to be either,” he said. I suggested the possibility of replacing the open sights with a scope. Following a detailed discussion, he liked the idea and left the gun with me to complete the work.

The Henry rifle was invented by Benjamin Tyler Henry back in 1860 as the first effective lever action repeating rifle. These lever action rifles were made in a number of calibers with open sights, including the popular .22 rimfires. The rifle brought to me was the Henry Golden Boy tubular magazine lever action with open sights. There was no built-in provision for a scope sight but the receiver was flat on top with the surface running parallel to the bore line with adequate length and width for a receiver base. The receiver top was more than thick enough for the base screws, allowing for a thread depth equal to the width of the 8-40 base screws I would use. The receiver cover, over which the action is enclosed, is not made of steel but of a brass-like coated metal that appeared to be hardened aluminum. This one piece, well-machined action cover encloses and guides the lever-driven bolt assembly immediately below the surface where the new base screws would be drilled and tapped. It would therefore be absolutely necessary to maintain a smooth, linear surface here for the bolt to slide on. Remnant threading burrs can really gall moving parts.

While the owner’s manual suggests it is not necessary to take the Henry lever action apart to keep it clean, installing a base atop the receiver required it. Such disassembly is quite easy, requiring only a properly fitted screw driver for removal of six screws.

Read more in the January 2016 issue.

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