The pump action is as American as a gun design gets. While most prolific in just about every modern shotgun, pump-action rifles were, and are still, out there. One of the most prolific was the old Winchester Model 1890 that came in a number of .22 caliber rimfire chamberings. Once synonymous with shooting galleries and small game getting for decades, the pump .22 has fallen by the wayside.
By Terril Hebert
Henry is most famous for its lever-action rifles, but the Pump Octagon .22 WMR I selected lacks none of the fine finish work or quality materials. Here is the rundown.
At a cursory glance, Henry’s Pump Octagon looks very much like old gallery guns—such as the 1890 and 1906 series that Winchester once produced. However, once I got my hands on it, it felt like a more heavily built rifle.
The meat of the rifle is its 19 ¾ inch blued, octagonal barrel. The barrel is fashioned from 1130 series steel and topped with a Marbles semi-buckhorn rear sight. The front sight is a simple blade with a brass bead set in it for contrast as you look down the barrel. It is a very traditional sighting arrangement, but the top strap of the alloy receiver has a 3/8-inch groove—perfect for mounting rimfire scopes.
The Henry Pump, is of course, pump action. The forend, a fine piece of walnut with a generous girth and texturing, is pressed rearward and a single-action bar forces the bolt rearward, cocking the hammer. When the forend is slammed forward, it picks up a round from the carrier and readies the gun to fire. If, for some reason, you want to eject a live round, simply press the knurled tab in front of the trigger guard so you can freely depress the action. The buttstock is also American walnut with a checkered hard plastic buttplate giving a length of pull of 13 ¾ inches.
While the action is housed in an alloy receiver, all the parts under any stress are made of good, blued steel. There is only one safety feature on the Henry Pump—a simple half-cock notch in the hammer. Like all pump .22s, the Henry is tube fed by a spring-loaded magazine under the barrel. The .22 LR version will hold up to 16 rounds, but the longer and more powerful .22 WMR—otherwise known as the .22 Magnum—holds up to 13.
The Henry Pump Octagon is very classic looking and well-fitted rifle that can definitely inspire much pride of ownership, but every rifle needs to be able to put rounds on target. So, how does the Henry Pump perform?
On the range, I initially got started with a simple 25-yard sight in with my Henry Pump in 22 Magnum. The results were somewhat surprising.
|CCI||40-grain Maxi Mag FMJ||1827 fps||3.9 in.|
|CCI||40-grain Maxi Mag HP||1913 fps||3.0 in.|
|CCI||30-grain Maxi Mag HP+V||2206 fps||.5 in.|
|Hornady||30 grain V-Max||2231 fps||.75 in.|
In the sight in, the standard 40-grain options available to me gave somewhat mediocre accuracy, while the higher velocity varmint loads of 30-grain variety performed exceptionally. While, I lacked 50-grain fodder to see if the groups opened or tightened again, this exercise shows that every firearm will like a certain grain of bullet and certain brand of ammunition, especially determined by twist rate of the rifling in the bore. With that settled, I moved out to fire on some more reactive targets and give the pump action a real workout.
Loading the Henry Pump is accomplished by clearing the action to ensure it is unloaded. Pull back on the forend to withdraw the bolt. If you can’t do so, you will need to depress the bolt release tab in front of the trigger guard. There is nothing wrong, but the bolt release holds the gun closed if it has not been fired. After verifying an empty gun, pull the knurled knob of the magazine counter-clockwise and pull out the brass magazine spring. Drop in your rounds and replace the spring.
The factory sights are traditional in every sense with a nice fine sight picture at close range thanks to the lengthy barrel. The brass bead on the front sight is easy to see against targets of various colors. The checkered hard plastic buttplate made shouldering and working the action from the shoulder easy with no slipping. The length of the buttstock is clearly set up for a more adult-sized shooter, but the gun’s light six-pound weight means it was carriable with ease despite the lack of provisions for a sling.
Cycling the action is instinctive with a quick snap of the forend back and a quick snap forward—like any pump-action shotgun. Compared to a lever action, however, the pumping motion and effort feels a bit harder. But running the action requires no breaking of the grip on the gun, so I could run the action much faster and all 13 rounds can be gone in a flash.
Reliability was mostly flawless with the exception of two instances where the round in the chamber failed to fire. This is because the bolt was not fully closed when working the action a little too gently from the rest.
On sodas and a steel tree target at 25 yards, the Henry Pump brought out that county carnival feel but put those targets down much harder than any gallery gun of yesteryear. At 50 yards, the sights are still easy to pick up on a steel silhouette and make precise hits without missing using all the loadings available to me.
Over the popular .22 LR round, the .22 Magnum cartridge offers over twice the energy, putting it close to some 9mm pistol loads. The .22 Mag. also has the benefit of better bullet construction and flatter shooting at range over the .22 LR.
Unfortunately, the semi-buckhorn rear sight and bead front are a bit harder to use at 100 yards, well within the .22 Magnum’s reach. Hits were fewer and far between. I wouldn’t categorize this as a fault of the gun, but the traditional sights do tend to cover up the target at that particular distance. However, the pump has a grooved receiver to accept scope mounts so you can get the most out of the cartridge.
A Place for the Pump?
Although the traditional sights are a bit of a handicap, as are the lack of sling attachments and ammunition preference, the Henry Pump is still a formidable piece of equipment that shot well and looked great. I found myself wanting a centerfire caliber version in short order.
Like the Henry lever guns, the Pump holds a healthy amount of ammunition comparable with a variety of semi-automatic rimfire rifles out today. Despite the relatively slow reloading of the magazine, the pump still shines by cycling and firing various types of ammunition that would simply choke a more modern offering while offering less sensitivity to cleaning and lubrication. That’s definitely something a modern shooter can appreciate.
The overlooked Henry Pump Action Octagon may not be as romantic as the lever gun of Western lore; but it is a well made send-off to the gallery guns of the county carnival era and just as formidable of a rimfire platform as it was then. Share your opinions of the Henry Pump Octagon rifle in the comment section.
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