Henry Lever Action Brass Axe H018BAH-410 .410 Bore 2.5 in.

The Axe is well made with a smooth-operating lever. Recoil was minimal due to the weight. Shooting it two handed was easy especially with the large brass front bead. This gun is a blast to shoot and offers both limited defense use and dispatching varmints in the hen house.


The .410-bore cartridge has made inroads in the past few decades to become something other than an expert sub-gauge choice for skeet shooters or bird hunters. Now, the shotshell is being offered in massive revolvers with multiple-projectile payloads as well as other modern loads used to harvest turkeys at seemingly unbelievable ranges. Could a .410 be a viable defense gun that bucks the norm and makes a 9mm striker-fire pistol look plain and uninteresting? Don’t get us wrong, we are not going to trade in our semiautomatic pistols for defense purposes, but life offers options and the Henry Brass Axe, Taylor’s & Co. Howdah, and Bond Arms Defender are alternatives. Would we recommend one of these .410s instead of a pistol, revolver, shotgun, or rifle? Nope, but we embarked on this match-up journey with an open mind and discovered these three .410s are capable and darn fun to shoot.

The Taylor’s Howdah and the Bond Defender are also chambered in 45 Long Colt, giving the user the option to shoot shotshells or bullets. We’d opt for the shotshell option and choose cartridges such as Hornady’s Critical Defense .410 Triple Defense. This round fires three projectiles at once, and when the gun has only a two-round capacity, the more projectiles flying at the same time helps level the playing field between you and your adversaries.

How We Tested

The Axe was surgical with patterns due to the Full choke tube. Federal No. 4s are the top group, Hornady Triple Defense projectiles are in the center, and Winchester No. 71⁄2 shot is the bottom group.

We tested the Taylor’s and Bond with both cartridges and shells. The Henry only takes shotshells. For the .410 bore rounds, we fired Winchester Super X No. 71⁄2 shot game loads, Federal .410 Handgun loaded with No. 4 shot, and Hornady’s Critical Defense loaded with a .41-caliber FTX slug and two .35-caliber round balls. For 45 Colt pistol cartridges, we used Federal American Eagle loaded with a 225-grain jacketed soft point, SIG’s V-Crown with a 230-grain jacketed hollow-point bullet, and Hornady Critical Defense pistol rounds with 185-grain FTX bullets.

For action shooting, we used Thompson Target B27STOP Upper Torso Silhouette Targets, which are plain white or brown cardboard, depending on what side you use, with immobilization zones outlined. The perforated outlines are difficult to see from a distance, and the idea behind these targets is to be able to identify center of mass and smaller A-zone shots. These were set at 10 yards. For accuracy testing, we fired with a two-hand hold with no support. These defense guns are designed to be used at close distance, and 10 yards could be considered the maximum effective distance. Translated into real-world terms, that means the distance across a bedroom and down a hall or the length of a parking spot. While firing, we looked for pattern density and tight groups, ease of use, and reliability. Here’s what we uncovered.

Gun Tests Grade: A


The Axe can be loaded via a side gate (arrow)

The Henry Brass Axe is similar to a Mare’s Leg, but the Brass Axe is longer, heavier, and is chambered to only fire .410 shotshells. The Axe uses the same frame as Henry’s centerfire rifles. Our sample had a shiny brass receiver, blued barrel and lever, and smooth walnut pistol grip and fore end. A version with a blued receiver is also available. Sling swivel studs are installed in the grip and fore end. The fit and finish were very good. It is a sharp-looking firearm. And “firearm” is the correct term because it is not a shotgun or a pistol. The Axe falls into the same category as a Shockwave-style shotshell-firing gun. The barrel features Invector-style choke tubes, and it comes with one Full tube. A large brass bead is the front sight. There is no rear sight. It is drilled and tapped, allowing the owner to mount a red dot or some other optic.

Action TypeLever action, hammer-fire
Overall Length26.4 in.
Barrel Length/Twist Rate15.1 in.; smooth bore, Full choke tube
Overall Height7.9 in.
Weight Unloaded5.7 lbs.
Weight Loaded5.8 lbs.
Sight Radius19.0 in.
BarrelBlued steel
ReceiverPolished brass
ButtstockSmooth American walnut, pistol grip, sling swivel studs
Magazine5-round tube
Front SightBrass bead
Rear SightNone
Trigger Pull Weight3.8 lbs.
SafetyTransfer safety bar
Warranty100% satisfaction guarantee
Telephone(866) 200-2354
Made InU.S.

To load the Axe, use the side gate or remove the magazine tube. Either way, the Axe is easy to load. The side gate doesn’t chew on your thumb nail. Like Henry’s centerfire rifles, the Axe uses a transfer-bar safety system, so there is no half cock nor a manual safety. The lever cycled silky smooth, which is exactly what is expect from a Henry lever action.

A hammer transfer bar is the safety feature on the Axe. There is no crossbolt safety and no half-cock hammer position either. The lever needs to be completely closed to deactivate the trigger lock (arrow) to fire the rifle.

Going hot, the advantage of a longer barrel and Full choke tube were evident. The patterns with the Winchester Super X bird shot measured 6 inches, and the Federal Personal Defense measured 4.5 inches. These size of patterns gave us confidence that the Axe could be deployed with bird shot and be effective. Still not incapacitate, but really ruin some bad guy’s day. The Hornady Critical Defense load was surgical giving 1.5 inch patterns. If we kept the Axe by our bed side, we’d load it up with Hornady and sleep soundly knowing that if we did hear a sound, we’d be ready. The Axe could also be used for hunting small game as well as dispatching varmints at close distances. It could also be used as a survival gun.

The Axe’s large front brass bead provides a good aiming point, allowing the shooter to get on target fast.

Shooting Mare’s Legs and Shockwaves with two hands can be awkward, but the Axe is more user friendly because it had more of an angled pistol grip. The large front sight bead offered plenty of aiming ability. It was easy to hit the small A-zone on the target. That’s a good thing because the Axe is too heavy to shoot one handed. Firing the Axe from the hip is a lot of fun, and it was amazing how fast cardboard can be shredded with bird shot.

The lever cycled smoothly and empties ejected to the right. We had no issues with the Axe. Recoil was very mild due to the weight of the firearm.

Our Team Said: The Axe is another example of an impractical gun you need to have. It is a lot of fun to shoot, and it can be used for hunting and defense situations. There are better vehicle guns and defense guns, but we can almost guarantee you will have fun shooting the Axe.

.410 Bore Shotshell and 45 LC Range Data

.410 Bore, 2.5 Inch

Winchester Super X ½ oz., No. 7½ shotHenry Brass Axe .410Taylor’s & Co. HowdahBond Arms Defender
Pattern Size6.0 in. 18.0 in.30.0 in.
Federal Personal Defense 7⁄16 oz., No. 4Henry Brass Axe .410Taylor’s & Co. HowdahBond Arms Defender
Pattern Size4.0 in.18.0 in.30.0 in.
Hornady Critical Defense .410 Triple DefenseHenry Brass Axe .410Taylor’s & Co. HowdahBond Arms Defender
Pattern Size1.5 in.4.5 in.6.5 in.

45 Long Colt

Hornady Critical Defense 185-grain FTXHenry Brass Axe .410Taylor’s & Co. HowdahBond Arms Defender
Average VelocityNA920 fps830 fps
Muzzle EnergyNA348 ft.-lbs. 231 ft.-lbs.
Smallest GroupNA3.0 in.3.2 in.
Average GroupNA3.5 in.3.6 in.
SIG V-Crown 230-grain JHPHenry Brass Axe .410Taylor’s & Co. HowdahBond Arms Defender
Average VelocityNA912 fps750 fps
Muzzle EnergyNA425 ft.-lbs.287 ft.-lbs.
Smallest GroupNA2.0 in.2.0 in.
Average GroupNA3.0 in.3.0 in.
Federal American Eagle 225-grain JSP Henry Brass Axe .410Taylor’s & Co. HowdahBond Arms Defender
Average VelocityNA860 fps760 fps
Muzzle EnergyNA370 ft.-lbs.281 ft.-lbs.
Smallest GroupNA3.4 in.3.0 in.
Average GroupNA3.9 in.3.8 in.
To collect accuracy data, five-shot groups were fired groups with no rest. Distance: 10 yards. Velocities were recorded using a ProChrono digital chronograph set 15 feet from the muzzle. *The Henry is not chambered for 45 Long Colt.


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