Before I bought my first gun for Cowboy Action Shooting I had to pick an alias. Some folks go for funny names, some variations on names of western folklore, and others just simply make something up that sounds good.
I wanted to make sure my real name was somehow in my alias so I would know who people were talking to when they spoke it. I also wanted my alias to represent something significant in the old west. Searching the Web I came upon an interesting tale of a bunch of soldiers and civilians armed with Trapdoor Springfield’s and 1860 Henry’s who held off a force of superior numbers for quite some time until relief came. After the Fetterman Massacre a year earlier the Army realized the need for repeating rifles and the Wagon Box Fight validated that need.
In the summer of 1867, Indian forces, attempting to repeat the Fetterman victory, attacked woodcutters and soldiers camped about five miles from the Fort. During initial stages of the battle, twenty-six soldiers and six civilians took cover inside an oval of wagon boxes used as a stock corral. Armed with new rapid-fire breech loading rifles the soldiers and civilians commanded by Captain James Powell held off the massed warriors until a relief force arrived from the fort.
This event is known as the Wagon Box Fight and I decided on the alias Wagon Box Willy to celebrate that fight. A person who would have survived that battle would probably still be carrying the rifle which saved his life, an 1860 Henry.
And here’s the Military style Henry I picked up from a Pard in Georgia.
I installed a set of Whisper Springs and took her to a match the very next day after I picked her up. Ran like a dream, accurate and fast. this was the first time black powder had been shot through it and like my ’66 everything ran just fine.
The 1860 henry does not have the side loading gate that you might be familiar with from watching the B Westerns, the Henry predates that feature.
Instead the magazine tube is loaded from the front. You lift the follower tab until it compresses the magazine spring all the way and releases the top end of the magazine tube so it can be rotated (see pic below). The shooter then just loads the cartridges by dropping them (gently) into the tube.
The Model 1866 “Improved Henry” (below) featured a side loading gate, known as the “King Patent” for designer Nelson King. This allowed the rifle to be loaded from the side without having to extend the barrel up so that it could be rotated, thus possibly exposing oneself to enemy fire. It also sealed the magazine area which on the original Henry was open to the elements. Another major improvement was the addition of the fore end to protect the shooters hands. If you’ve ever shot a Henry with Black Powder you know just how hot things can get.