Blanks for the Henry
Henry Rifles in action:
The first blanks that I started with were made from .30-40 Krag brass. The brass had to be cut to the length of a full length .44-40 and the rims had to be turned down a little. I also used .444 Marlin brass cut to length. Another unusual case that worked was the .410 shot shell case cut down. All of these worked well. I would pick up my empty cases to reload and use again. Picking up brass got to be a major pain in the butt. Then came
Starline Brass for making 5 in 1 full length blanks for the Henry cost $321 per 1000. These can be loaded with black powder and crimped however the crimp should not be closed all the way bringing it to a point for obvious reasons. If you are using these to load your own blanks the total cost for a blank round will be 32 cents for the case, 3 cents for the primer and 5 cents for the powder depending on the cost of the powder per pound. That is 40 cents a round or $40 per 100 blanks. You will need the loading press and the crimp die to load these. These will work in both a .44-40 and a .45 Colt Henry.
To buy 5 in 1 brass blanks from Swanson’s with paying postage would be an estimated $60 per 100 or very likely more. Even plastic 5 in 1 blanks are going to be around $40 per 100 plus postage. The plastic blanks have several problems and some of these involved safety related issues. I would not use plastic blanks. Some places are charging $1.00 per brass full length blank or $100 per 100 blanks.
The cheapest way to go is to buy once-fired .44 Magnum brass, modify your Henry Rifle and load your own. Once-fired .44 Magnum brass will cost 10 cents each, 3 cents for the primer, and about 5 cents for the powder for a total cost of 18 cents per round or $18 per 100. That is a big difference in buying brass 5 in 1 blanks at over $60 per 100, but probably more. A savings of over $40 per 100 is a very real thing. A Henry had a large appetite during the Civil War. One example was at
Starline .45 Colt blank brass cost $156.56 per 1000 and are not long enough to feed through the Henry rifle unless the carrier has been modified. These cases have the enlarged flash hole for loading blanks. These take large pistol primers. Again these cases will not work in your Henry, they are too short, unless the carrier has been modified. The cost per blank would be 16 cents for the case, 3 cents for the primer, around 5 cents for the powder for a total of 24 cents per blank or $24 per 100. This is if you load your own and have the equipment to do so and you also must have the carrier modified and probably the bolt depending on what modification you are using. I should mention that these will only work if you have a .45 Colt Henry.
SSo there is a break down on how to feed your Henry rifle.
How many blanks to carry at a reenactment??
How many blanks should you carry for a reenactment, an interesting question? If we look at what a Civil War soldier would have carried, and use this as a base, then we can come up with a reasonable answer. At one recent reenactment the round requirement was that no one could carry more than 40 rounds, this also was the limit for those carrying a Henry Repeating Rifle. This amount might be accurate if those Civil War soldiers had just come from a battle, but this amount was grossly inaccurate and unauthentic if men were to be out foraging for food etc. Those armed with Henry Repeating rifles were resupplied with ammunition soon after a battle was over. With 16 cartridges in the rifle means that you only carried 24 extra rounds if you could carry no more than 40 rounds. This would not be correct or authentic if you are out in enemy territory foraging. Henry Rifle owners were not stupid; they used their repeater as a repeater, not as a muzzle-loader. At reenactments there is too much “muzzle-loader mentality” when it comes to how some think a Henry Rifle was used. Your first goal, if foraging, would be your own self protection as well as the protecting of those with you. Your second goal was to get food. Without the first goal you do not make it back to camp to fulfill your second goal.
So what did the Civil War soldier carry for ammunition if armed with a Henry? Strangely enough there is no mention of rounds issued to those armed with a Henry Repeating Rifle. The government did provide ammunition but the individual soldiers also purchased their own privately. Henry cartridges came packaged either 100 cartridges to the box for the early ammunition and by late 1863 to 1864 the 50 cartridges to the box became more common.
1900 Henry Blanks made from .44 Magnum cases packaged and ready to use.
Most likely Henry owners carried cartridges in multiples of 50 or 100 depending on what ammunition was available. There are reports of Henry armed troops making mentioned that they fired x number of rounds in a particular time frame. Prosper Bowes mentions that he fired 90 rounds non stop in his Henry at a battle in Georgia. Frank Orcutt mentions he fired over 400 rounds at Allatoona Pass. Also we could get an idea of numbers of rounds by looking at what others armed with the Spencer might have carried. For a Spencer 100 to 150 rounds carried seems to be the norm. It is generally accepted that a man armed with a Henry Repeating rifle would have carried an estimate of between 100 to 200 rounds.
Reenacting is nothing like the real Civil War when it comes to battles. There is no way to know the fear of the soldier or the sound of bullets whizzing by for real when it comes to reenacting. In reenacting it is not about “actually shooting” the enemy but it is about making enough noise that the enemy know that they have been shot at and possibly hit. The hobby is called reenACTING for a reason. We have to be actors. Many times a person will not even know that someone was shooting at him unless several shots are fired. Therefore in reenacting more noise equates to carrying more rounds than 40 if armed with a muzzle-loader or over 200 rounds and more than likely over 300 rounds if armed with a repeater. Before anyone thinks this would be “farby” to carry more than the issued rounds you might also think the real Civil War soldier would not have shot blanks at each other either and the issued rounds had bullets on them.
So in conclusion, the number of rounds a reenactor would carry into “battle” with a Henry Repeating” will depend on the event as to what is being done. For a 20 minute spectator battle 50 to 100 rounds might be enough. If the event is an all weekend tactical then a number of 300 to 500 might be an accurate amount to have. Keep in mind, unlike the Civil War soldier that had supply lines close by and could replenish their ammunition supply, the reenactor needs to carry what they will need for the entire event. So is it inaccurate to carry 300 to 500 rounds, yes, if this was live ammunition in the Civil War, no, if we are talking about blanks for a reenactment. However it would be inaccurate and unauthentic to carry only 40 rounds no matter if it is a real war or a reenactment.
Victory thru rapid fire,
After you have loaded your Henry blanks comes the question what do you put them in? I used to just put them in a zip lock bag and let it go at that. Needless to say that just does not look very 1860s. Spending time to construct a nice authentic box as copied from those used in the Civil War is too time consuming and more than likely too expensive to use just one time. I got away from picking up my non-crimped brass and using the .44 Special/Magnum brass, crimping them and just leaving on the battlefield. I did not want to open a box of blanks and then have to carry an empty box with me.
What I wanted was a disposable box that looked close and that was cheap to construct as well as not time consuming to make. I know of no one using a muzzle-loader that uses authentic rag-paper cartridges for their blanks nor are their cartridges bundled in authentic rag-paper wrappers. So with that in mind I set about to find a way to make a suitable box for my Henry ammunition.
What I came up with was both simple to make and inexpensive. I use old file folders or in some cases new file folders. A person could use a comparable type of material but I had plenty of old file folders when I decided to redo my filing system. I have been using two types of boxes, one is a Fifty round box and the other is the One Hundred round box. The One Hundred round box was an early 1861-1862 box and only the early point bullets were ever packaged in these boxes. The cartridges were laid flat with twenty rounds in a layer and five layers completing the box for a hundred rounds. The One Hundred box proved to be too heavy and bulky. Sometime around 1862 the Fifty round boxes were coming into use. The ammunition was made mostly by the New Haven Arms Company. Hall & Hubbard patented a box in 1860 that contained fifty rounds that had the red label. These cartridges had no head stamp and were the pointed bullet variation.
The One Hundred round box used a label that appears black but is actually a deep purple. The New Haven Arms Company used a green label for most of their boxes. The Hall & Hubbard used the red label. For the boxes for my blanks I have used copies of all three labels. Lately I have been using the One Hundred round box since I only have to make half as many.
Below you will find pictures of both the One Hundred round box and the Fifty round boxes complete with dimensions so you can make your own template and make your own boxes. I have also pictured the labels that I use on my boxes. One last touch that I do is to wrap the boxes so they look a little better than a manila folder. I used to just wrap like a “Christmas Present” using brown Kraft paper. That was more time consuming than I wanted. The alternative I came up with is using brown paper tape to wrap the box. Once you get the hang of it the process is really easy and you end up with Henry Rifle Blanks that are packaged better than just putting them in a zip lock bag.
Here is the template for the Fifty Round Box. You may need to adjust the size slightly to fit your needs. I then use a straight edge to help fold over the sides of the box. I use masking tape to tape the sides together. I place a label on top and use the brown paper tape to tape it on and to cover the entire box, except of the label of course. This box can be used for .44 Magnum brass blanks or the .44 Special Blanks.
Here is the template I use for making the One Hundred round boxes for the .44 Special cases. If you are using the .44 Magnum cases you will have to enlarge slightly, a little less than a quarter of an inch.