Most guns fit neatly into categories—hunting, self-defense, cowboy action, plinking; yet, every once in a while, one defies labels. The Henry Axe fires .410 shotgun ammunition from a lever-action platform with metrics to match the Mossberg Shockwave and Remington Tac-14, direct bloodlines to Henry’s own Mare’s Leg “pistols.” Meet the new Axe in the woodpile.
Can You Own the Axe without a Stamp?
Like both the Mossberg and Remington before it, the Henry Axe is easily transferred and owned like any other firearm with the standard form 4473. Per determination by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, the H018AH-410 Lever Action Axe .410 is classified as a non-NFA item.
Shotgun? Pistol? Rifle? Trying to fit the Axe into any of the aforementioned categories is futile, although the gun is capable of more than dabbling in any of them. Per a Henry, “We feel that simply being fun to pull out of the scabbard and shoot again and again should be a category all its own. For those that join us in considering this an important category, the Lever Action Axe .410 delivers in spades.”
What is the Axe?
Henry’s Axe wears a short, round barrel with a length just over 15-inches. The barrel is threaded for Invector-style chokes and finished with a brass front bead. It holds five rounds of 2-1/2-inch shells, interestingly the same capacity as some of the company’s full length .410 shotguns.
Though we’re not entirely sure what you’d do with it, the receiver is drilled and tapped for optics mounting. American Walnut stocks show an above-average figure, even with the abbreviated length. The blued steel receiver is both practical and attractive — there’s also a transfer bar safety.
The entire gun is just over 26-inches long and includes sling studs for easy carry, though a traditional mare’s leg holster is also an option. This steel piece feels like a well-built tool, tipping the scales at a surprising 5.75-pounds. For reference, a 12-gauge Shockwave weighs less.
The Best of Both Worlds
For years, the biggest knock on Henry has been their lack of a side loading gate. That changed last year with the advent of Side Gate rifles that added the side port to Henry’s existing tubular magazine loading style. Carried over from their wildly successful launch of side-loading gate rifles—and full-sized .410 shotguns as well–Henry’s Axe can also be loaded via either the tubular magazine or topped off quickly through receiver’s side port.
Why Would you Buy a Henry Axe?
What can you do with this gun that has no particular category? Let me count the ways this Axe can serve a purpose—and never forget that fun is also a reason. Though the Henry Axe is not a do-all miracle weapon, it does make a wieldy snake or pest gun that is easily stowed. The 26-inch length means it’s easily packed on the ATV, UTV, horse boat or anywhere else space is limited. Plus, plinking is enjoyable, summoning thoughts of Steve McQueen.
Nowadays, .410 defense and hunting loads are accessible so there’s no reason not to keep the Axe by the bed. We ran five different types of 2.5-inch rounds through our Axe to see what the shorty could do on target at 10-yards. We fired Federal Premium .410 Handgun 000 Buck with four pellets, Hornady Critical Defense Triple Threat which packs a .41 caliber slug and two .35 caliber round balls, Winchester PDX1 with 12 plated BBs and three plated flat-cylinder projectiles, and finally, two types of birdshot with Aguila’s #8 and Winchester SuperX High Brass #4.
Suffice it to say, if that target was an intruder, the full-choked Axe would have devastating consequences on the business end and no recoil on the other. The included Full Choke puts out incredibly tight patterns at defense distances.
Wielding the Axe
The Henry Axe is dressed in smooth stocks, and honestly, we never missed the checkering. The lever is smooth, as we’ve come to assume from Henry. Due to the abbreviated length, it’s got a bit of a learning curve. It takes time to truly get comfortable running the lever on what is essentially a handgun-type weapon. That’s not a bad thing, though, because the practice is pure enjoyment.
We also learned that shooting from the hip with accuracy is not as easy as it appears. The Axe gobbled up every type of .410 ammo, including reloads– and looked good doing it. Like the stellar fit and finish and attention to detail, the Axe includes sweet details like the engraved throwback Henry Cowboy logo on the ax handle pistol grip that gives the gun its name.
Mares Leg or Something More?
Hold the Axe at eye level or work from the hip and the smile will be the same, guaranteed. This is a heavily built gun in a baby bore and the recoil is naturally minimal. The Axe is more controllable than most counterparts on the market. The closest comparison, of course, is Henry’s own Mare’s Leg design. The Mare’s Leg has long been available in not only rimfires but also handgun calibers like .45 Colt, .44 Magnum, and .357 Magnum. Where the Mare’s Legs opts for a 12.9-inch barrel and a 25-inch overall length, the shotgunning Axe has a longer barrel at just over 15-inches and a length of 26.4-inches.
The Axe, complete with screw-in chokes, comes in with a lower MSRP than the centerfire Mare’s Legs, at $970 versus $1,048 MSRP. Neither platform is cheap, but when buyers spend the money on Henry’s Made in America or Not Made at All specialty firearms, two things are certain — first, the guns are built to last for generations and second the pure enjoyment will last equally as long.