American Outdoor Guide|October 2021
Jonathan Kilburn

There are very few calibers that have a legacy like the .357 Magnum. The cartridge is nearing its 90th anniversary and doesn’t show any signs of going away.

Being able to reach some efficient velocities and retain excellent ballistics in a small package makes this caliber a great option for many shooters. Hunters find it useful for taking small to medium game, while woodsmen carry this caliber for defense against all sorts of wild animals. It also has a following among those who use it as a multi-role piece for hunting and self-defense. It’s effective for its overall versatility without kicking as hard or being as loud as a .44 Magnum.

To date, there’s only one other pistol caliber that has surpassed the .357 Magnum. While it does have some benefits, it still can’t match the cult-like following of the .357.

Henry Big Boy Side Gate

One of the showstopping rifles from Henry’s .357 lineup is the Color Case Hardened Big Boy carbine with a large loop and octagon barrel. Out of the box, this rifle makes hearts skip a beat. The color case hardening is matte, with muted, but definitive, colors that flow into one another.

A 16.5-inch octagon barrel is the “beef” of this rifle. It’s the majority of the weight—and quite a statement. On this model, a large loop lever finishes off the action with a pleasing triangle curve; this is a departure from traditional large loop levers and adds some flair. To tidy up and complete the whole firearm, a walnut stock and forend pull everything together. The wood features impressive checkering. The stock, itself, is very well finished and has a small, rubberized recoil pad.

Taking hold of the rifle, the weight of this specific style is impressive: The .357 carbine is either the heaviest Big Boy model or the lightest, depending on the options. This octagon barrel carbine model comes in at 7.41 pounds, while a round-barrel steel rifle comes in at 6.59 pounds. In the hand, balance is adequately even to the center of the rifle but forward of the receiver due to the material in the octagon barrel.



• Type: Lever-action rifle

• Caliber: .357 Mag/.38 Spl

• Capacity: 7 rounds

• Barrel: 16.5 inches

• Finish: Blued steel

• Rear sight: Fully adjustable semi-buckhorn with diamond insert

• Front sight: Brass bead

• Stock: American walnut

• Weight: 7.41 pounds

• Other: Swivel studs; side gate

MSRP: $1,141


The .357 Magnum was designed and popularized by Elmer Keith. He created several pistol cartridges, including the .44 Magnum.

By handloading .38 Special beyond its maximum, he was able to achieve some of the velocities he was looking for. For this to happen, he also took the revolvers he used to their breaking points. The only major difference between the .357 and .38 is the length of the cartridge and, potentially, the primer. Because the diameter of the cartridges is the same, and .38 Special is less potent, a .357 can easily fire .38 Special rounds.

If Elmer Keith hadn’t played with the limits of a cartridge, this popular caliber wouldn’t be here today. Learning from the experiment with the .38 Special, Keith also began to do the same to the .44 Special.

It appears his goal was to produce a cartridge similar to the .357 but with a larger projectile. His tests worked, and the .44 Magnum was born.

Overall fit and finish are excellent. New from the factory and with packing oil, the action runs smoothly, with no hang-ups. It clicks clearly when set for firing, and with the hammer down, there’s not much more effort needed to cycle this action.

Why .357?

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