Range Report: The Gallery Gun Reimagined: Henry’s Pump Octagon

By CTD Blogger published on in Firearms, Range Reports

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.

Henry Pump Octagon on OD green pack with paper target and CCI ammuniton

In such a loaded market of .22 rifles, Henry Repeating Arms seems to think there is still a place for the pump action with its Pump Action Octagon Rifle in .22 LR and .22 WMR.

By Terril Hebert

Features

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.

CCI Maxi-Mag .22 WMR HP ammunition

Out of the available ammunition, the Pump Action shot the 30-grain loads best.

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?

Shooting

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.

Brand Cartridge Velocity 5-Shot Group
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.

CCI's Maxi Mag +V ammunition with Henry Octagon Pump rifle and target

CCI’s Maxi Mag +V round shot the best group at 25 yards.

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.

Tublar magazine loading port

The Henry is tubular fed with the magazine housed below the barrel.

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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Comments (11)

  • gunpro

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    I have the .22 LR/L/S model. I find it a little muzzle heavy…but no big deal.
    I had a gunsmith install a Weaver peep sight, and replace the bead front sight with a blade. It makes the rifle even more handsome. The sight picture is much better, and I can get tighter groups out of the attractive, fun-to-shoot rifle.

    Reply

  • Hide Behind

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    Carnivals, county fairs always had booths with old pump 22’s and bent front sights to insure hardly anyone could bullseye or hit the moving ducks chickens, pigs and goats to win the prizes, but we country boys knew lkentucky windage well enouhh to winour sweeties their dtuffed animals.
    The modt uded 22 round wss not the 22dhott nut an even lesd powerfull and shorter 22galleryor Bee round that cost about10 cents prr 50.
    Almost all uded gallrry guns eere junk due tobabude by mot vleaning or msintaoming sndbwe sjied away from them in favor of nolt single sjots for hunting.
    still Lways will lovevoldvpumps no msttrr gauge or calibrr thouhh smd msy just buy thid nostalgic Henry.

    Reply

    • Manshooter

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      What??

      Reply

  • JiminGA

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    I have a Stevens visible loader pump .22 that I inherited from my father. It’s a pump that shoots .22 short, long and LR, has a blued octagonal barrel and walnut furniture. The name “visible loader” comes from its unique feeding and ejection system. It was made in 1931, the only year an octagonal barrel was produced. As it approaches 100 years old it’s still very accurate and lots of fun to shoot.

    Reply

  • Reelman1

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    Funny, I sent a guestion not long ago to Henry, prez, asking if they ever considered a pump gallery in .22 short(only). Don’t think he thought much of the idea. Still……….

    Reply

    • Odie

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      22 shorts are hard to come by and far more expensive than 22lr. Henry’s .22lr version will fire shorts, longs and long rifle. A version in shorts only would be cost prohibitive as they wouldn’t sell enough to be worth the manufacturing costs. Personally I myself would never buy a 22 short version when I can buy the current version that doesn’t limit me to shorts. I’d say It’s safe to say Henry feels the same way.. You can buy 22lr loads that are practically equivalent to shorts in power and noise at a more competitive price as well.

      Reply

  • Brett Antonacci

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    The Henry pump action is definitely on my “wish list” of rimfire rifles but I would prefer it chambered in the newer .17 WSM cartridge. I have 2 rifles chambered for .22 WMR and 2 chambered for .17 HMR. Henry has expanded its line of lever action rifles to include ones chambered in .17 HMR so I can hope that they continue in that fashion and begin to offer their rifles chambered for .17 WSM.

    Reply

  • shooting guy

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    I wanted a western-style .22 pump that could handle shorts, longs and LR, which this rifle does. I had a gun smith replace the front bead with a blade and install a peep sight. It is a handsome rifle with a much better sight picture. The pump action was a bit stiff initially (which probably indicates good workmanship and tight tolerances) but became much quicker over time. My only negative comment: the rifle is muzzle heavy.

    Reply

  • Eric M

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    That looks and sounds like a great firearm, but 22 Magnum seems to be limited in supply for some reason. More so than any other caliber, at least in my area. I have two 22 Magnum revolvers, but I dont shoot them much due to the lack of available ammunition. I buy most of my ammo at my local Cabelas and in the last 3 years or so I have seen 22 mag on the shelf only 1 time. I dont know, maybe I am there at a bad time if the day or something.

    Reply

  • Dragon

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    The Henry Classic series of rifles, be they pumps or lever action pieces are all wonderful reminders of the glory days of manual action rifles. My wife bought me a Henry Golden Boy lever action carbine with octagon barrel, a few years back, and it is the neatest little item to have in my safe. I know that the debate may rage on about which is the fastest,,,,,the lever or the pump, but whichever way one goes, they are all great little pieces.

    Reply

  • Big Al

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    Good article & a very nice rifle. However, the “gallery guns” of days gone by were chambered for 22 short or 22 LR, NOT 22WMR. Just an observation.

    Reply

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