The folks at Henry Repeating Arms Company made another gun to be proud of with the Small Game Carbine, chambered in .22 Magnum. This lever-action rifle delivers on several levels. The model in this test has a dark walnut stock and blued steel hardware. There’s no flashy brass or nickel—a familiar feature of many Henry rifles. The comparatively plain appearance complements this little rifle’s stated purpose. It’s less than 34 inches in overall length. The 16.25-inch barrel and light 5.75-pound weight make it practical to pack around in the truck or around the property. The updated large loop lever allows for ease of working the action for quick follow-up shots—even in winter attire.
The rear peep sight is drift-adjustable for windage and can also be adjusted for elevation. The fixed front sight has a tiny brass inset that helps with rapid acquisition and focus—perfect for targeting and follow-up shots on small game.
Loading requires twisting and raising the inner magazine tube, and tube-feeding up to seven rounds into the magazine. There’s a tiny rubber gasket around the top of the inner magazine tube that ensures a snug, weather-resistant, and quiet seal.
Feeding is smooth and works equally well with right- or left-handed operation. As a left-handed shooter, I’m happy to report that empty case ejection was entirely a non-issue. It was easy to maintain a cheek weld and never have the distraction of brass hitting my face. The stock is a nice length that fits most adults.
The trigger is, in my opinion, exactly right for a small-game rifle. There is a bit of travel, just enough to get a feel for the pressure required to break the shot. I didn’t gauge it, but it’s on par with any quality hunting rifle. It features a plenty big trigger too, allowing most shooters to avoid rubbing the trigger guard in instances where a rapid sight picture and press are indicated.
The safety mechanism is a half-cock of the hammer that can be engaged while pulling the hammer back or a controlled release. It’s a mechanical safety, of course, and practical for hunting purposes. Pardon this brief foray, but every person reading this knows mechanical things can fail. Exercise trigger and muzzle discipline.
Raising the inner magazine tube to a sufficient height to clear the loading port, or removing it entirely to load accomplishes loading. The inner magazine tube cap is pebbled for traction—a good thing as loosening the retention mechanism requires a rather tight pinch-and-twist on the skinny cap. The WMR version of this gun has a black cap on the spring (internal) end of the loading rod. The LR model has an orange one. It’s an inconsequential difference for function and intended use, but the black one just looks better on this classic design.
Accuracy was more than acceptable. The groups shown here, with corresponding ammunition, were made from a supported prone position in 27 mph wind, with some rocking on the part of the target itself thanks to conditions. The CCI and Hornady ammunition burned clean and functioned perfectly. Henry offers minimal advice on ammo selection. The warranty (lifetime, by the way, with the expected exclusions for wear, tear, and dumb mistakes like inserting the wrong ammo), covers the gun if it’s been fed “original, high quality, commercially manufactured ammunition in good condition.” The gun is handsome and plain, reminiscent of a grandpa’s pocket knife. There’s no pizzazz, as well as nothing unappealing in its appearance. It’s a utilitarian tool, and a perfect example of form following function.
Henry RAC has a longstanding tradition of building quality rifles. Having tested two of them to date, I’ve truly come to respect the craftsmanship and quality of components and performance these rifles offer. Real-world prices for the Henry Small Game Carbine in .22 magnum are around $400—quite a reasonable price for a quality American rifle that has a warranty for life.