September 03, 2021
Lever-action rifles are steeped in tradition and soaked with nostalgia, but that doesn't mean a lever gun isn't just as useful now as it was at the turn of the 19th century. Back then, a lever-action rifle often pulled double duty as a tool for both hunting and homestead defense. Handy, powerful and offering quick follow-up shots, it can fill similar roles today. After all, we still take to the woods in hopes of procuring meat for the table and, perhaps increasingly, recognize the need to have a means of protection against threats whether at home, in camp, or on the road. Lever-action rifles continue to be eminently practical, and that's a big reason why they remain popular.
Henry Repeating Arms is one company that recognizes there is a lot of life left in lever guns. While Henry manufactures single-shot rifles and shotguns, lever-action rifles are by far the company’s primary focus. With manufacturing facilities in Rice Lake, Wis., and Bayonne, N.J., Henry is among the top five long-gun makers in the U.S.
Although part of the company’s mission is to embody the history and heritage of lever-action guns—it takes its name from Benjamin Tyler Henry, the inventor of the first lever-action repeating rifle patented in 1860—it also strives to update its firearms’ features to address the current needs of hunters and shooters. The Lever Action X Model line, which includes rifles chambered in .38 Spl./.357 Mag., .44 Spl./.44 Mag., .45 Colt, .30-30 Win. and .45-70 Govt., as well as a .410-bore shotgun, is one example of how Henry marries classic form with modern function. I tested the sleek black Model H009X .30-30 Win. version and, while I’ve long been a fan of traditionally styled lever guns, I can appreciate several contemporary characteristics of the X Model that give it some advantages over its predecessors.
Let's start with the stock, as it's one of the most noticeable places where Henry departs from tradition in exchange for boosting utility. Rather than hardwood, which the company uses on the majority of its lever-action rifles, the X Model sports a polymer buttstock and fore-end. Polymer is impervious to the elements and less susceptible to scratches and dents than wood, making the X Model stock the toughest one in Henry's entire lineup. The stock components feel solid, and they do not flex under normal handling like some polymer examples that give the impression of being cheap and flimsy. Henry designed a polymer stock for the X Model that not only feels right but also looks good.
Another benefit of polymer is that it permits desired features to be molded into the stock, such as integral sling-attachment points. There are no screw-in studs to come loose, rust or squeak. Angled relief cuts at the attachment points provide clearance for sling hardware. In addition, panels of stippling are molded into the sides of the fore-end and the buttstock wrist to improve grip.
Unique to the X Model, the fore-end is one of the rifle's defining features. Molded into its bottom in front of the sling-attachment point is a four-slot Picatinny rail, and two Magpul M-Lok slots are located at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. These provide options for attaching accessories, such as lights and lasers.
Some traditionalists may question the practicality of this update, but there are situations where adding an accessory to the X Model makes a lot of sense. Keep in mind that hog and predator hunting is often done at night when a light or laser on the gun can be the difference between hitting a target and simply making noise. A lever-action .30-30 Win. is about perfect for hogs in many situations, and it will certainly work on coyotes at any range they can be hit. The X Model .30-30 surely isn’t a dedicated predator rifle, but consistent with the lever gun’s background as a multi-purpose firearm, it will fill the role—especially while serving as a truck gun.
In addition, the bottom rail provides a convenient way to attach a bipod. Many shooting rests are not ideal for lever-action rifles because they do not allow the action to be fully cycled without raising or tilting the gun. A bipod on the fore-end, combined with a sandbag of adequate height under the buttstock, solves this problem by allowing room for the lever to move during cycling while the rifle remains in a consistent position.
Also, remember that lever-action rifles have a history of being used for home defense and personal protection. Henry optimizes the X Model for these tasks with a means to mount two types of accessories that can provide huge advantages in low-light situations. The rail and M-Lok slots bring the lever gun into modern times by enabling quick and easy attachment of accessories currently popular among citizens concerned with self-defense.
Perhaps the best characteristics of the rail and slots are what they do not add to the rifle. They are not bulky or obtrusive, and they do not interfere with handling. Most of the fore-end has traditional lines that give it a familiar feel. By keeping the rail and slots in the front 2 inches of the fore-end, Henry retains the slim shape for which lever guns are known while providing just enough mounting space to be useful.
Along with the fore-end and buttstock features, the X Model's threaded muzzle sets it apart as a lever-action rifle built for today’s hunters and shooters. There is no question that suppressors have become more popular in the field and on the range, and the muzzle’s 5/8x24 thread pattern permits easy attachment of many models. Adding a muzzle brake is another option. The X Model comes with a checkered cap that protects the threads when a suppressor or brake is not in use. Here again, Henry adds a feature that increases the lever gun’s capabilities without making a huge departure from time-honored style.
A tubular magazine with a brass liner and a loading port beneath the barrel is a hallmark of Henry rifles. Loading requires twisting the checkered steel liner cap to unlock the liner from the magazine’s exterior tube and then sliding the liner forward to open the port. Insert cartridges through the port, push the liner—which includes a follower and spring—back into the tube, and turn the cap to lock the liner in place. Cartridges in the magazine do not have to be cycled through the action to unload the rifle. Remove the liner and dump out the rounds either through the port or the front of the tube. The X Model keeps this design, although the liner cannot be removed with a suppressor in place. Current .30-caliber cans have diameters that are too great to permit clearance of the cap and liner.
In 2019 Henry introduced its first rifles with a loading gate in the side of the receiver, and the X Model also includes this feature. The magazine can be loaded through the gate with a suppressor in place. Moreover, whether the rifle is equipped with a can or not, this loading method is faster than removing the magazine’s brass liner and loading through the port in the tube. Cycling cartridges through the action to unload the rifle is necessary when a suppressor is mounted on the muzzle, but when the rifle is used without a can, hunters and shooters are able to remove rounds through the tube. It’s another example of the X Model’s versatility.
There are two other areas of the X Model where Henry enhances the functionality of the traditional lever-action rifle. First, the lever loop is widened and extended to match the curve of the buttstock's grip perfectly. It's not an overly huge shape, which can lead to excessive hand movement within the loop, but it's large enough to accommodate nearly any size of a gloved hand. While the loop's curved shape is necessary to permit the lever to be drawn fully upward without contacting the pistol grip of the buttstock, many hunters will also find it more ergonomic than a straight, standard oval loop.
Sights have disappeared on many hunting rifles, particularly bolt-action models, but Henry knows they have a place on lever guns and gives them emphasis on the X Model. The front and rear sight both contain fiber-optic inserts for better visibility. Two orange rods border the notch of the semi-buckhorn rear, while the ramped front sight consists of a green rod within a metal housing. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation. Turning a setscrew raises or lowers the sight, and it can be drifted to the right or left in a dovetail cutout on the barrel. A second setscrew secures the sight in the dovetail cutout and must be loosened before making windage adjustments.
The receiver of the X Model is also drilled and tapped for mounting an optic. Henry offers low and medium, one-piece Talley mounts and an Evolution Gun Works Picatinny rail for the H009X model via its direct-to-consumer Henry Pride website. In addition, the hole pattern is compatible with a Weaver 63B one-piece Top Mount base.
I went with the latter option when setting up the rifle for testing, topping the Weaver base with a Leupold VX-3HD 2.5-8x36 mm scope in quick-detach rings. I found that if I removed the scope, I could look through the trough that runs the length of the base and use the iron sights. It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan, and in really thick brush, iron sights might be the better option. I added a removable cheek piece to the buttstock to raise the comb for a more solid cheek weld when using the scope, and I was able to sight with the irons while it remained in place.
During my range time with the X Model, I put more than 140 rounds through the rifle, and it functioned without fail. Every cartridge fed smoothly from the magazine, and the rifle threw empty cases clear of the action with no hang-ups. I appreciated the easy loading offered by the side gate, and the transfer-bar safety provided peace of mind when lowering the hammer.
The transfer bar mechanism prevents the gun from firing unless the hammer is fully cocked and the trigger is pulled. Removing pressure from the trigger while lowering the hammer keeps the transfer bar, located within a slot cut into the face of the hammer, from contacting the receiver-mounted firing pin. If the hammer accidentally falls while it is being lowered and there is no pressure on the trigger, the rifle will not fire. There is no half-cock position, and the rifle can be safely carried with the hammer down while a cartridge is in the chamber.
The X Model was among the most accurate .30-30 lever-action rifles I’ve ever shot. The overall average of 15, three-shot groups with three different loads fired from 100 yards was 1.26 inches. With two loads, the Hornady LeverEvolution 140-grain MonoFlex and the Winchester Super-X 170-grain Power-Point, the rifle produced several sub-MOA groups.
In terms of both performance and appearance, the X Model .30-30 more than meets modern expectations. At the same time, though, the rifle retains many of the features hunters and shooters love about lever guns. The lever-action rifle is alive and well, and Henry proves it with the X Model.
- Caliber: .30-30 Win.
- Barrel: 21.38”; blued steel; 1:12” twist; 5/8x24 threaded muzzle
- Sights: fully adjustable fiber-optic rear, fiber-optic front; receiver drilled and tapped for scope base
- Magazine: tubular; 5-round capacity
- Trigger Pull Weight: 4.38 lbs.
- Safety: transfer bar
- Stock: black synthetic; solid-rubber recoil pad; Picatinny rail and Magpul M-Lok slots on fore-end
- Overall Length: 40.38”
- Weight: 8.07 lbs.
- MSRP: $1,019
- Load: Hornady LEVEREvolution 140-grain MonoFlex
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,336 fps
- Smallest Group: 0.86”
- Largest Group: 1.73”
- Average Group: 1.24”
- Load: Hornady Custom 170-grain InterLock FP
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,128 fps
- Smallest Group: 1.08”
- Largest Group: 1.80”
- Average Group: 1.47”
- Load: Winchester Super-X 170-grain Power-Point
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,143 fps
- Smallest Group: 0.97”
- Largest Group: 1.29”
- Average Group: 1.07”
Muzzle velocity is the average of 10 consecutive shots fired through an RCBS AmmoMaster chronograph at 10 feet. Accuracy is the result of five consecutive, three-shot groups fired from a sandbag rest at 100 yards.