Henry is a strong American name that suits the lever-action rifle that bears its name.
The original Henry rifle was an interesting firearm with a colorful history. An advancement of the operating concept first put forth in the Volcanic “finger ring” pistol, the Henry Rifle counts among the men that were instrumental in its development names such as Smith, Wesson, Henry and Winchester.
The present rifle is not a brass frame .44 rimfire, of course, but it is an American-made lever-action rifle. This light and handy .22 caliber rifle is well suited to hunting, informal target practice and pest control. The Old West look does not hurt, and many of us like the style very much. When you consider the affordable price, it is little wonder the Henry rifle is popular.
Modern methods manufacture the rifle, although it includes wood and blue steel with a painted receiver. The wood is passing fair and attractive. The rifle is compact at about a yard long—36 inches. The barrel is 18.5 inches long. This gives sufficient tube to wring the most velocity from .22 long rifle ammunition while maintaining the classic saddle-ring carbine look.
The rifle features good sights. The rear sight is adjustable, and the hooded front sight is a good example of the type. Trigger compression is ideal for this type of sporting gun, at about 4.75 pounds. The lever-action throw is surprisingly short and light. There is plenty of leverage for loading, chambering and ejecting cartridges. Rapid follow-up shots are no problem. The small size of the .22 long rifle cartridge allows plenty of leverage.
The lever-action rifle gives a practiced shooter the advantage of complete control over the loading and firing process while maintaining the sight picture. The lever-action rifle maintains the sight picture more easily than with a bolt gun in rapid fire, and a lever-action gun is generally faster than a bolt-action, or even a pump-action, rifle. The bolt-action rifle has the better reputation for accuracy—true, although only in the best examples. If you enjoy cowboy or Western guns, and appreciate a good lever-action rifle, this is the one for you.
The non-detachable tubular magazine is ultra reliable. Loading is simple, and the tubular magazine holds 15 rounds of .22 long rifle.
- Unscrew the inner rod.
- Move it to a position that exposes the loading slot in the outer tube.
- Drop the cartridges in the base first.
Standard velocity or high velocity is just fine in this rifle. While self-loaders demand a full-power, high-velocity loading for proper operation, the Henry uses anything that fits into the magazine. CCI birdshot or even .22 short cartridges feed and function just fine. I have not yet used .22 short cartridges in this rifle; the magazine capacity with those stubby little rounds is 21 cartridges. That is a lot of fun shooting. After all, the original Henry rifle was “loaded on Sunday and fired all week.” It is less expensive to buy the 40-grain RNL high-velocity loads for most uses since .22 short cartridges are a specialty load.
Many shooters prefer a bolt-action rifle for accuracy, and that is fine,; unfortunately they may be short-changing themselves. Bolt guns that are in the price class with the Henry are no more accurate, and the inexpensive bolt guns are less accurate on average. Practical accuracy and bench-rest accuracy are different things. I find that shooters who adopt the Henry rifle like the Western look and lever-action rifles.
It does not matter whether they own a lever-action center fire; the fast handling and accurate Henry does the business for them. If you use inexpensive .22s, the case sticks a little, at times, in a semi-auto chamber. Not so with the lever-action rifle. The leverage of the lever-action rifle swiftly draws the spent case right out of the chamber. While testing the Henry rifle, I fired a wide range of the available loads. It is not like testing a center-fire rifle off of the bench; it is downright fun—no kick and little expense.
When firing the Henry off of a solid bench rest, 3-shot 50-yard groups hover around 2 inches with hunting-grade ammunition, such as the CCI Velocitor. Promotional grade or bulk ammunition averaged 2 to 4 inches. On the other hand, the premium target-grade cartridges, such as CCI Green Tag, did not exhibit the superior results in this rifle that they demonstrate in a true target gun. Sighting an iron-sighted rifle in at 50 yards is much easier with a high-velocity loading.
The 40-grain Velocitor load exhibited just over 1,400 fps in the Henry rifle. Limited testing for expansion and penetration were interesting. The 40-grain bullet has sufficient penetration for small game and large animals, such as raccoon. I prefer more smash for coyote, and if this is all you have, the Velocitor looks good. The CCI Stinger is still a formidable loading. We need to remember what a sensation the Stinger was when introduced—and still is.
This loading breaks over 1,600 fps from the Henry. When firing the two loads for groups, the Stinger and Velocitor traded for the lead—with one about as accurate as the other—although the heavier bullet does seem to have the accuracy edge when all is said and done.
For popping pests and small game, the Stinger is in a class all its own. At 50 yards, the smart money would be on the heavier Velocitor. The combination of modern .22 long rifle ammunition and the Henry rifle is a good one.
The Henry is among my favorite modern rifles and worth a try by anyone looking for a first-rate recreational shooter.
Are you a recreational shooter? Have you given the Henry rifle a try? Share your thoughts and results in the comments section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.