Refining Your Henry Rifle with Skinner Sights

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The story begins with the recent acquisition of a Henry Rifle.

In my case it was a “Big Boy” — a 16.5″ carbine chambered in .44 magnum. It’s main purpose is to ring a gong at 100 yards but it would also be ideal for pig hunting or possibly bringing home some venison from the countless Axis Deer that populate Molokai, Lanai and Maui.

Why a .44 rifle? Anyone who reloads can tell you that it’s much easier to reload a handgun round rather than a rifle round. For my purposes the .44 is ideal.

The Henry is reasonably priced, well made, well finished and in my estimation, a more than decent rifle.

However, not everything is ideal.

As I began my research for this article, I discovered a on a blog called Major Pandemic, a moniker that is prescient considering the current situation. (But that’s another story).

The article begins with this insight:

“After you fall in love with a Henry rifle and drop the cash down on your gun dealers counter, the next thing you will start pondering is your love or disdain for the semi-buckhorn sights.”

Amen, Mr. Pandemic.  

I did fall in love with the Henry and per your comment, I’ve never been a big fan of the buckhorn sight. Sure, they were fine when they were introduced in the 1860s, but technology has moved on since Abraham Lincoln was president. Tradition is great but there’s better technology out there.  

Henry H012GR Big Boy Carbine Side Gate 44 Mag 7+1 16.50" American Walnut Blued Right Hand with Large Loop - 619835200426
Reasonably priced, well made, well finished…but I didn’t care for the Buckhorn sight setup.

So what were my options?

I rang my friend Jackie Johnson at Henry Repeating Arms and asked her to recommend sight system that I might swap out for the buckhorn. She immediately replied, “Skinner.” I did a little googling and quickly agreed this was the ticket.

Why?

First and foremost, Skinner makes peep sights, which I find to be superior to just about anything on a rifle. (I’ve used them on an AK and an AR and realized they’d be ideal on the Henry).

Here’s how the method functions:

A peep sight improves a notch-and-post open sight by enhancing your eye’s capacity to see the front sight relative to the target.

How does it work?

If you look through a peephole your vision automatically centers on the front sight. It’s where your focus will automatically go. In other words, it’s a much more intuitive way to acquire a target than a conventional front and rear sight system which in my opinion, takes more brain activity to complete.

Skinner’s rear sight not only functions perfectly as a peep sight its visually pleasing. This is especially true with their with brass components. (Their peep sight is also available in blue steel and stainless). As one reviewer said, the Skinner system looks like it actually belongs on the Henry.

That was an astute comment.

In other words, the Skinner sight blends perfectly with the Henry aesthetic rather than looking like some gratuitous, third-party add-on. (They are also available for every other lever action, Winchester, Marlin, Rossi, etc).

The rear sight was easy to install. No tapping and drilling. What a concept!

All you need to do is remove several screws and pop on the sight. It couldn’t be easier. (See photo at top of the page).

The front was slightly more nuanced.

First, you’ll need to tap out the existing front sight.

Why?  You could conceivably leave the original sight on but Andy Larsson, the owner of Skinner, tells me that there’s a 50/50 chance that the geometry will not work, and you won’t be able to dial your rifle in. Ergo, it’s better to replace the stock front sight with a Skinner.

In my case it took a few tries to get the geometry correct. I ended up with the .625” front sight blade, the tallest they make. Of course, it’s going to vary with the ammo or if you’re a reloader, the load, bullet type etc. I finally got consistent printing with the this blade and the peep site, which is adjustable both for elevation and latitude.  

To remove the front sight, simply put the rifle in a vice and tap out the stock front sight with a brass punch, moving the (dovetail) mounted sight from left to right.

Be careful. It’s easy for the punch to slip. In my case, it happened and I slightly marred the barrel. I touched it up later with a gun bluing pen and no one was the wiser.

Adjusting the Skinner Peep Sight is as easy as loosening up an allen head screw. The Skinner “Express” model melds perfectly with lines of the receiver so it doesn’t look like some third party add-on.

The next step is to tap in the combined dovetail-mounted ramp assembly (right to left). You may have to take off a bit of metal with a triangular file to get it in. Once centered you can cinch the assembly down with a screw in order to gain some purchase on the barrel…or not, in my case.

The next thing to do was to add the new sight atop the ramp. Again, the process should go start on the right hand side. In my case this definitely needed some metal removed from the dovetail. Just take off a bit, a stroke or two from the file at a time. I was able to get it in atop the ramp, but it moved a bit, moving the whole assembly over. No worries. Eventually I was able to center both the sight and the ramp.

Once you’ve added the front and rear sights, tweaking the rear sight at the range is pretty easy.

Just don’t forget to take along the allen wrench, provided by the manufacturer.

Conclusion:  This is straightforward to install and, in my opinion, light years better than the stock Buckhorn system. It’s both easy to look at and use. Prices respectively for blued, brass, black & gold and stainless are $95, $100, $115, $105. This is one investment that’s obligatory and will bring years of enjoyment. There are options for rifles other than lever action.

Visit Skinner at http://skinnersights.com.

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