Most of us have likely been unfortunate enough to overhear a conversation at the gun counter that went something to the tune of “No, it has to be a 12-gauge…20 doesn’t have enough stopping power.” If you’re like me, it probably takes every bone in your body not to smack this guy so hard it knocks the “snug fit” condoms out of his pocket. The truth is, even a paltry .410 has more muzzle energy than a .357 Magnum and nobody picks up a wheelgun chambered in this beast saying “that’s not enough to stop a man.” (I do have to hand it to these guys though, as they are directly responsible for the miles of pristine “used” guns that show up after a major buying event.) Now, if they bought something more manageable, then they might be more interested in continuing their relationship with firearms. Enter the Henry Brass Axe, a gun short on real estate but long on controllability.
This reduced-barrel shotgun-like firearm is chambered to fire this smallest of shotgun shells, and because it doesn’t meet the definition of a shotgun, isn’t regulated as an NFA item. That means that you can have the 15.1” barrel and the pistol-grip style grabby part (we strive for proper terminology at PopEDC.com) without paying for the tax stamp. Best of all, it’s simple to control and has far less of a chance of knocking your teeth out if shot at eye level. As I can appreciate not needing to go to the dentist, I requested a sample to put through its paces, and have to admit, had a hell of a time doing so.
Shotguns are fun, but in my opinion, it’s the ammunition that makes them interesting. Basically, if a manufacturer stuffs a shell with any shape, style, and combination of atypical lead projectiles, you have one incredible defensive load. In this case, it was Hornady’s Triple Defense Critical Defense load, which is essentially how to say “Suck it, pal” in .410. This shell features an expanding .41-caliber bullet followed by two .35-caliber balls, all designed to land on a man-sized target within 7 yards. As I am also a man who appreciates the classics, I tested this ammo alongside Remington’s Ultimate Defense 000 buckshot load, which has always been a crowd-pleaser. With a case of ammo under my arm, I headed out to the range to go make a mess.
After hanging up paper IPSC targets, I began loading the Axe. I had my choices in doing so, as this Henry comes with both a side loading gate and a classic front-loading tube system. I wound up using the gate to load and the tube to unload, as each method had its respective advantage. At this time, I noticed that the overall capacity was six and not the advertised five. Henry doesn’t include the one in the chamber in its description for whatever reason.
It’s safe to carry in this condition too, as the Axe has a transfer bar safety, just be sure to gently de-cock the hammer before doing so. Just as I expected, the action was butter smooth and makes you feel a little like a bad-ass when you rack it…it was gonna be a good day. Starting with the Hornady ammo, I clocked an average velocity of 1126 Feet Per Second which is nearly 400 FPS faster than what was on the box. The reason for this is because Hornady came up with those numbers from a short-barreled revolver, and the extra length of the Brass Axe allows for more velocity to build up. The 10-yard patterns were astounding, with the main projectile impacting right at the point of aim and the two round balls landing no more than 2 inches around it.
Moving over to Big Green’s buckshot, I measured an average velocity of 1066 Feet Per Second with groups that hovered in the 7-inch range. This still puts all four pellets inside of a human chest at bad-breath distance and even starts to approach the desirable properties for woodland defense against coyotes, raccoons, and other critters that God intended to be worn as coats (yeah, I said it).
I ended my range day by blasting away at the paper until it was shredded to pieces, just because this gun was so much fun to shoot. I held it at eye level in the same manner that I hold a large-format pistol and had no issues with recoil whatsoever. The Axe is even tapped for a Picatinny rail and would be a dead ringer for a red-dot optic with unlimited eye relief. Overall, it turned out to be an amazing weapon to wield and is compact enough to toss in the trunk or even a moderately sized go-bag. The only thing it left to be desired was a 3” chamber to widen the array of ammo that can be run through it but that wasn’t exactly a deal-breaker. After all, I found two loads that I liked right off the bat. For more information visit henryusa.com
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