Engraved NEW HAVEN ARMS HENRY Lever Action Rifle
Predecessor to The Iconic Winchester Model 1866
Here we present an antique New Haven Arms Company Lever Action Rifle chambered in .44 Rimfire, made in circa 1864 in New Haven, Connecticut. Roughly 14,000 of the revolutionary Henry Rifles were produced from 1860 up to 1866. While not the perfect lever action rifle, the Henry Rifle was the culmination of two previous major lever action repeater attempts and forged the way for the successful line of Winchester rifles to follow. To go back to the start of the Henry Rifle, you have to look at the lives of Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson. Smith took the basic principles inherent in the Lewis Jennings Rifle and produced an improved form through the “Volcanic” rifle and pistol line. In turn, Smith and Wesson then purchased the Jennings patent from Robbins & Lawrence, and more importantly, recruited away their shop foreman, inventor Benjamin Tyler Henry, of whom the rifle was eventually named after. With the base now in place, the group needed the capital to further their “Volcanic” firearms endeavor. They incorporated to become the “Volcanic Repeating Arms Company” with several investors brought to the table, mainly among those was clothing businessman Oliver Winchester. By the end of 1856, the company had fallen on hard times and the Volcanic line failed. Primed for the taking, Winchester moved in and purchased the rest of the company, moved the plant to New Haven, Connecticut, and changed its name to the “New Haven Arms company” at the end of April, 1857. After Smith and Wesson left to start their own highly successful venture, the company continued under the direction of Benjamin Henry. Henry furthered the development of a new rimfire cartridge and its corresponding lever action rifle, based loosely on the Volcanic. The new cartridge became the “.44 Henry” and the new rifle became the “Henry Rifle”, appearing in 1860.
The Henry Rifle found its way to the battlefield with Union soldiers in the Civil War. Per Flayderman “Quite a few company-size Union outfits, especially those from Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri purchased at their own expense, and carried, Henry rifles.” There were also about 1700 rifles purchased by the federal government and issued to the 1st Main and 1st District of Columbia Cavalries. Both the Henry and the comparable Spencer Rifle would introduce the new “lever action repeater” breech loading firearm to the mass market, harkening the beginning of the end of the long-held tradition of single-shot firearms for military service. These rifles saw much hard use during the war as well as afterwards, and tend to show it.
The Henry Rifle would eventually serve as the starting point for the legendary Winchester Model 1866 just a few years later, and the New Haven Arms Company would be renamed once more to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company at the end of the American Civil War.
The overall condition is good. The blue finish on the barrel has turned dark brown over time. The markings are legible. The engraving is in good shape. The walnut stock is in good condition, smooth and solid with the handling marks one would expect. The bore is dark. The action still works!
Own the original! This is a legitimate antique and not a reproduction.
Barrel is 24 inch octagon.
Caliber: .44 Henry Rimfire
Overall condition as seen in photos.
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