“It’s a rifle that you could load on Sunday and shoot all week long.” — unnamed Confederate officer
The Henry Lever-Action is an iconic American rifle, credited as a game-changer for Union Forces during America’s bloodiest dispute. Benjamin Tyler Henry’s .44-caliber repeater could be fired upwards of 28 times per minute in the hands of a trained soldier. Compare that to the 4-round maximum for the average soldier shooting a rifled musket, a garrison outfitted with the Henry could lay out more lead with half the soldiers of an advancing enemy armed with Springfield caplocks.
Shooting modern Henry rifles brings about a sense of nostalgia, whether reflecting on the gun-handling skill of The Rifleman (yes, I know he actually shot a Winchester ‘92, but you get the idea) or connecting to grizzled men who trapped, hunted and settled in the American West. A day at the range seems to place you in a different time.
I recently tested four of Henry’s rifle offerings, including three classic lever guns and their popular semi-auto U.S. Survival AR-7 rifle. My range day turned out steamy and still, but despite the sweat, I came away smiling.
I’ll admit this at the start, as I get older, my eyes get weaker. Shooting iron sights at any distance has become a challenge, which is slightly depressing considering my former self-proclaimed deadeye status as a youth. And now that I have that off of my chest, we’ll move forward with the results of the test.
I gave each rifle the exact same treatment. They came out of the box, I swabbed their barrels to remove the protective oil, and loaded them with off-the-shelf ammunition. The .22s received tests with standard-velocity and high-velocity rounds. I placed the Dirty Bird splattering targets 50 yards from a permanent bench, upon which I placed a Caldwell Fire Control Lead Sled weighted with 10 pounds. Not that any of these rifles needed recoil reduction, but it was instead done to ensure a steady rest to remove most of the human error from the equation.
I shot a 10-round group from the firearms I could load to that number. Those which held a lower capacity were loaded to their maximum. I did not adjust the sights, but instead aimed at the exact center of the target for all shots and let the groups fall to their out-of-the-box point of impact.
Henry Golden Boy Silver .22 S/L/LR
The Henry Golden Boy Silver is an offtake of the historic Golden Boy, but instead of a classic brassine finished receiver, polished nickel plating protects and presents a beautiful, classic rifle. This rifle is set off with a blued, octagon barrel, 16-round tubular magazine and rich American walnut stock and fore-end. The model I shot came with the adjustable Buckhorn rear sight and brass-beaded front sight and was engraved/gold-enhanced as the American Farmer Tribute Edition.
Henry lever-action .22s are my favorite small-game guns for good reason, and this rifle is a case in point. Out of the block, the rifle shot a tight 1⅛-inch 5-shot group at 50 yards with CCI Mini-Mag .22LR ammunition. Federal Premium standard-velocity were nearly as good with a 1¼-inch group.
The rifle cycled the standard brass and magnum nickel-plated, round-nose lead cartridges equally smooth and without malfunction.
Henry Frontier .17HMR
As a varminter and long-range small-game rifle, the Frontier in .17HMR is as good as they come. The rifle’s 20-inch heavy octagon barrel quickly absorbs and dissipates heat generated by the fast-moving rounds fed from a 12-round tubular magazine. Marble’s semi-buckhorn rear sight and brass bead front sight make target acquisition quick and simple. In a subtler package with blued barrel and lever with black receiver, the rifle doesn’t draw unneeded attention of keen predator and varmint eyes.
Pushing CCI V-Max .17HMR’s 17-grain poly-tip bullets down range at a blistering 2220 fps at 50 yards, the Frontier maintained a tight 1-inch, 5-shot group right out of the box.
Cycling long, thin .17HMR and .22WMR rounds reliably is a challenge many firearms manufacturers face, but the Henry did so without incident.
Henry Big Boy Carbine .44 Rem. Mag.
Who says big things don’t come in small packages? This rifle proves to be one of the best brush-gun options on the market for North American game and personal protection. In traditional brass and blue, this compact lever-action sports a 16½-inch heavy octagon barrel topped with a Marbel’s fully-adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight and brass bead front sight. It weighs in at a stout 7.76 pounds, providing a good balance and heft necessary to tame the big-bullet recoil of the .44 Mag. Drilled and tapped for a scope mount, you can easily take this from a short-range bushwhacker to a 100-yard hunter for big game, such as deer and pigs, with a 7-round capacity.
At 50 yards, the carbine stacked the 240-grain jacketed hollow point Federal bullets into a 1¾-inch, 5-shot group.
Initially a little stiff, the rifle hung up on the first round while cycling it from the magazine into the chamber, but being straight from the box, my guess is the problem was with the sticky rust protectant the gun was treated with at manufacture. When you purchase a new gun, always disassemble it as directed by the manual and remove this archival-grade protectant and apply a more fluid gun oil to ensure a smooth action.
Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 .22LR
When it comes to being prepared, a reliable rifle is key to surviving in a pinch and over the long term. Having a rifle handy when it’s most needed in your car or truck, ATV, boat or backpack can go a long way toward ensuring your return to civilization healthy and safe.
Henry’s U.S. Survival AR-7 survival rifle packs away in its stock, making it a small package that’s easily stowed behind or under a seat or in the dry-box of your boat. Two eight-round capacity removable magazines give you 16 shots (plus whatever you pack way in your glove box or dry box) to take game or ward off a predator.
The semi-auto take-down rifle assembles and breaks down quickly, and a pin and grove on the barrel extension and action ensures consistent barrel alignment and shot placement every time the rifle is reassembled. Coated in tough ABS plastic and Teflon, it can handle nearly anything Mother Nature can throw your way.
This rifle has an adjustable rear peep sight combined with a high-visibility front post for easy sight alignment allowing for precise shots on small game.
The trigger is a little crude and stiff for my taste, especially since in a survival situation, every shot counts. Charging the bolt is difficult as well, because of the low-profile bolt handle needed for packability. Someone with low hand strength or who is wounded would have difficulties charging the gun, but employing piece of cord tied around your wrist and looped around the notch of the bolt handle — think of it like using a bow release around the wrist to the bolt — would make it easier to pull back in such situations.
Regardless of these small criticisms, out of the box, it shot a 1⅝-inch, 5-shot group with the CCI Mini-Mag .22LR high-velocity rounds, and a 1½-inch, 5-shot group with the Federal standard-velocity ammunition.
Purchased the optional Henry Repeating Survival Kit for an additional $99, and you’ll be ready for about anything. This well-appointed, military-quality survival kit comes with 50-plus essentials packed in a hard-anodized, waterproof aluminum box. Check it out here for a full list of included supplies.
So, whether you’re looking for a throwback firearm for plinking and chasing game or an ultra-compact survival tool, for when the stuff hits the fan, Henry Repeating Arms will not disappoint.