Who knew? America’s prolific producer of lever guns can make a darn fine semi-auto carbine, too. Henry Repeating Arms, the legendary lever gun company with factories in New Jersey and Wisconsin, raised eyebrows a couple months ago when it announced the release of a semi-automatic carbine. It’s called the Homesteader 9mm. I was fortunate to get my hands on one for review. While the exercise was one that I first treated with skepticism, it turned out to be a pretty sweet experience. Here’s how it went.
I expected more than a nod in the direction of tradition in terms of appearance. The Homesteader does this well, while having just a touch of old military-flavor edge. Upon unboxing it, the Ruger Mini-14 came to mind, probably because the Homesteader has a rounded top profile and gas blowback operation, much as the Mini-14 does, and similar proportions.
The stock, at least on the test model, are made of better-than-basic grain, dark-stained, solid walnut. It took a minute of tapping on and examining the lightweight, checkered forend to conclude it really is wood and not polymer. The forend’s angles are squarish and contribute to the classic military carbine appearance, as does the windage-adjustable rear peep sight.
There’s a fixed front sight. The anodized aluminum receiver, threaded 16.37-inch barrel and action (with a 12×28 thread pitch) have blued finish. The overall length is 35.75 inches, and Henry Homesteader weighs 6.6 pounds. The receiver is drilled and tapped for a Weaver rail. Sling studs are included.
Keeping with the “this reminds me of a Ruger” theme, the charging handle will look familiar to 10/22 users. It is shipped detached, as it protrudes too far for the gun to fit in Henry’s familiar, skinny long gun box. The internal flange of the simple handle has two holes that engage attachment points inside the receiver. I was surprised at how simple and quick it attached, thinking surely it would be insecure when the gun is carried around and rubs against the body or gear.
However, I was wrong. It is entirely stable once inserted. Not only is the charging handle secure, but it’s also ambidextrous. Simply remove it, swap sides and, voila!, it’s set up for operation with the other hand. Likewise, the bolt hold-open catch is cloned on each side, just in front of the trigger guard.
A 5 and 10-round Henry magazine are included. Consumers may also order their Homesteader with a Glock 9mm double stack or SIG Sauer P320/Smith and Wesson M&P-compatible magazine well. The sample gun included a Glock receptacle in addition to the standard one.
My partner, also a gun writer, and I really put this Homesteader through its paces with the Henry magazines as well as Glock OEM and Magpul magazines for Glock. All fed flawlessly. As the round count climbed to over 200 between the two of us, multiple magazines and at least seven different brands/weights of ammo, we were both increasingly impressed with the consistency of the Henry Homesteader. It just worked no matter what we fed it.
Henry did a fair job with the manual for this gun. There are plenty of pictures, and the procedures for changing the charging handle side, loading, unloading, and operating the ambi safety on the tang are clearly described. What’s only described in words (instead of pictures), and not clearly explained, is the procedure for exchanging magazine wells.
Three pins, located on the side of the receiver, are the obvious attachment points. Whether they were supposed to be removed entirely or just to one side, and from what side to start, isn’t so apparent. After some trepidation and careful tapping with a punch, we learned that they must be entirely removed, starting from either side, in order to release the factory receptacle and insert the alternate-brand magazine attachment. Once this is understood, the procedure is simple.
There is no field-expedient disassembly procedure for the Homesteader, as one would expect for most any rifle with wood furniture. If the action were to get sticky during a long day of use, my advice would be to unload the mag and chamber, give it a squirt or two of an aerosolized CLP product such as RemOil at the bolt, work the bolt a few times, and wipe off the blackened excess. This simple, quick fix has worked well on my Ruger 10/22s during long days of shooting at Appleseed events, including shooting during blowing-dust conditions. Serious cleaning should be done at a table, as it requires removal of the forend by taking out the screw at its top to expose the recoil spring and barrel. Removing the stock using the aforementioned procedure for changing out mag wells gives access to the trigger mechanism.
Accuracy was excellent and could be even better with a fine red dot or magnifying scope that would slim down the margin of error inherent in shooting with iron sights. I fired five-round groups at 25 yards from prone, with the forend on a Lyman shooting bag. Targets were bright orange, 1.5-inch Lyman brand stick-on bullseyes. With the fourth “flyer” round eliminated from two groups due to shooter error, here are the results, in order from largest to smallest:
|Load and Weight||Group Size (inches)|
|Federal Syntech 124-grain Total Synthetic Jacket||2.75|
|Winchester USA Ready Defense 124-grain +P||2.0|
|Hornady Custom 124-grain XTP||1.75|
|Federal American Eagle 70-grain Lead-Free||1.6|
|SIG Sauer 365 115-grain Full Metal Jacket||0.8|
I had not shot groups before from a rifle barrel using SIG Sauer’s load specialized for the short barrels of micro compact pistols. It’s quite interesting to see that this ammo performed significantly better than the others. And for what it’s worth, the Federal 70-grain lead-free ammo group was 2.5 inches below point of aim and included the cold bore shot.
Were this to be my ammo of choice, I’d need to develop the habit of using a hold-over at 25 yards to achieve superb accuracy. None of these groups were a disappointment. As I mentioned before, the gun never hiccupped.
After shooting groups, we experimented with hitting a large (36×60 inches) steel plate at 175 yards. With a little bit of “walking shots in,” hits were consistent at that distance using a top-of-target hold. Some fun with rapid fire at 10 yards was also had. The Homesteader just ran and ran, with four different Glock magazines and the stock Henry mag.
I came away from this review with great fondness and respect for the Henry Homesteader. Henry sure took its time coming out with a semi-auto, but no one can say it didn’t do it right. In the reliability and user-friendly areas, I give this carbine an A+. It can be an ideal partner for recreation, ranch varmint control, or home defense. Its good looks should appeal to young and old users alike.
As of this writing, market prices are hovering in the $900+ range, often above the MSRP of $928 for the Henry OEM mag or $959 with a Glock or SIG/S&W magazine well, with actual expenses (tax, shipping, transfer fee) bringing total outlay to around (or just over) $1,000. I expect this above-MSRP frenzy to cool in time, but this is one hot carbine right now.