My favorite Henry .22 — at the very top of the list for favorite rifles of any make — is the Henry Classic .22. This is an affordable rifle that is also reliable, accurate, and well made. If pride of ownership extends to a rifle that serves well without complaint, the Henry has plenty of pride attached.
It’s true, nothing brings a smile to my face as quickly as handling a lever-action rifle. The fast handling, operation of the lever, accuracy, and simple good looks have a great deal of appeal. Henry offers several variations on the theme. The brass frame rifles are attractive, and the numerous special editions are certainly ‘bling worthy.’
The .22 rimfire cartridge is chambered in all action types including single-shot, over/under combination guns, self-loading, bolt-action, pump-action, and the lever-action.
Believe it or not, Henry is a relative newcomer to the firearms world. However, Henry got it right the first time with this rifle. I cannot imagine not having a Henry rifle in the safe and ready to go. The rifle illustrated has served as a testbed when evaluating modern .22 Long Rifle ammunition. It has never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject.
Even when firing the hard to find .22 Short cartridges, the Henry has never failed to function properly. The rifle is ideal for teaching young shooters safety and marksmanship. It is a great small game rifle, and a rifle well suited to the most demanding shooting chores.
Operation and Handling
The rifle is simple to operate. There is no manual safety. Learn to properly press the trigger, manipulate the lever, and lower the hammer. The design is rugged, the action robust and smooth. A manual safety should never be trusted and while beneficial with some designs such as the bolt-action and self-loading rifle, the Henry’s operation is all the safety that is needed.
To begin firing, clear the magazine and chamber to ensure the rifle isn’t loaded. Cartridges are loaded into a tubular magazine under the barrel. The inner tube of the magazine is unscrewed near the muzzle and moved forward. You need only move it far enough to allow cartridges to be loading into the loading window.
Cartridges are loaded base first into the magazine. The muzzle of the rifle must be pointed upward to allow gravity to move the cartridges to the cartridge elevator. The inner magazine tube is then placed into the magazine tube. The rifle is ready to be used.
Work the lever action forward — not down — and the bolt moves to the rear as the cartridge elevator picks up a cartridge from the spring-loaded magazine tube. As the lever is brought to the closed position, the bolt runs forward and locks. The bolt then catches a cartridge and chambers it as the bolt closes.
The trigger is pressed to fire the rifle. Work the lever again and repeat. If you wish to carry the rifle loaded, carefully ease the hammer down as you press the trigger. Always keep the muzzle in a safe position — especially when you are lowering the hammer. Once the hammer is lowered over a chambered round, it need only be cocked to fire the rifle.
The Henry Classic rifle is properly sized for most shooters. If you are a bit tall and large for the 14-inch length of pull (LOP), adding a thick recoil pad seems to solve the problem. The rifle is nicely sized for teenagers.
I find the LOP ideal for my use — even with winter clothing. After all, there isn’t any recoil to speak of. If I get a little close to the rifle scope, recoil will not force it to cut my brow. The first generation of lever-action rifles, such as the 1873, were decent as far as handling.
The Winchester 1894, however, set the pace for ergonomic rifles. The Henry follows this pattern closely. The rifle was fast handling, and it wasn’t difficult to quickly operate the lever. The hammer was easily manipulated. The rifle was light enough at 5.3 pounds.
Henry Classic Features
The barrel was 18.5 inches long. This was lengthy enough to get good velocity out of modern loads such as the CCI Velocitor but short enough to be handy. The Henry Classic rode on an ATV easily and was nicely stored behind the seat of a truck. There was no protruding magazine or pistol grip to interfere with storage.
The stock and forend were nicely finished and mated well to the metal receiver. The walnut stock was dark and attractive. The anodized receiver featured an even finish and the blued barrel was nicely decked as well.
The rear sight was adjustable, and the front post was easily picked up when firing. The sights worked well for speed or precise shooting as needed. As for myself, I added an inexpensive, but useful, rifle scope to the Henry. The TruGlo 4×32 featured coated lenses. The sight picture was bright enough when hunting squirrel and pests.
While inexpensive, the TruGlo is rated as fog and shock proof. As for shock proof, it may depend on how high in the tree you are when the rifle was dropped…
The scope was well made. There was an integral sunshade — a nice feature on an inexpensive optic — and the scope was supplied with a set of mounts. This scope allowed greater precision at all ranges and increased my personal range in small game hunting from 20 yards to 50 yards — with a steady rest.
Caliber: .22 LR, .22 Long, and .22 Short
Capacity: 15, 17, or 21 rounds
Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
Overall Length: 36.5 inches
Weight: 5.25 pounds
Firing the small-caliber lever-action was fun and satisfying. Working the action was enjoyable, and so was getting fast hits. I fired the rifle for accuracy from a solid rest and found that the Henry was as accurate as most, or perhaps, a little more accurate in its weight class than many offerings. At 50 yards, the Henry will place three shots into 2–2.5 inches with good quality ammunition. That is plenty of accuracy for most uses. The rifle is friendly to use and won’t break the bank. I find the Henry Classic .22 a must-have for all riflemen.