Gun Review: Henry .22 Classic Lever Action, The Nostalgic Plinker

Henry Top Photo

What makes the Henry .22 lever rifle so alluring? Perhaps is the time that it brings to mind: the days of Cowboys and Indians, no seat belts, and slower life? Is it because the Henry is 100% American made, solid, and fantastic value? Or maybe it’s versatile, easy to handle, and practical?

Capable of handling 22 Long Rifle, 22 Long, and 22 Short, the Henry is a model of days past. Inspired by the original Henry Repeating Rifle, the Classic Lever Action (Model H001) is capable of rapid, accurate rimfire fire.  The Classic Rimfire is a testament to over 150 years of Henry rifles, trusted during the Civil War and the Great Expansion into the Wild West. There are a few faults in this value-oriented rifle but taken in context of the same, there are few that can beat it.

Flawless function in cold, show, and ice.

Flawless function in cold, show, and ice.

Shooting the Henry

After waiting the last two weeks for the weather to be clear enough to go to the outdoor range, I finally broke down and headed to an indoor range. While I have shot the Henry past 100 yards out in the country, I finally had a selection of .22lr and .22 Short brands to test the Henry’s feeding and accuracy.

Loading the rifle is a simple affair. To open up the tubular magazine, twist the end cap off the muzzle end of the tube and pull the brass inner tube and spring out. You can opt to leave it in the magazine, but it can become unwieldy when loading rounds. Rounds are dropped into the magazine tube through the loading port, conveniently cut to the size of a 22LR round. There are specific cuts for the rounds’ rims, so a shooter cannot accidentally load them backwards. After rounds are loaded up to the port, insert the inner brass tube and twist to lock the complete assembly in place.  The Henry can hold 15 22LR, 17 22L, or 21 22S in the tube.

The muzzle with the sight hood in place.

The muzzle with the sight hood in place.

Chambering live rounds is accomplished through cycling the lever, which has an approximately 75-degree, surprisingly smooth action. As with all lever actions, on the lever down stroke, the spent casing is extracted and on the up stroke a new cartridge is chambered. The lever locks into battery with a firm and quite audible click.

In Long Rifle, I had CCI Mini Mags (HP), Federal Champion Bulk Pack (HP), Remington Thunderbolts (HP), and CCI Blazer (LRN). To supplement the LR, I had about 50 rounds of CCI Short HP, and some 50 year old unknown brand shorts from grandpa just to test cycling. All shots were fired from a Caldwell “7” rest using the stock iron sights.  For each 22LR, I shot five five-round groups. For 22 Short, three five-round groups.

At 25 yards at the indoor range, the CCI Mini Mags produced the best groupings (average .78”) with the CCI Blazer LRN coming in close second (.85”). The two bulk pack boxes also shot well, coming in at 1.01” and 1.15” for the Federal and Remington, respectively. The 22 Shorts were about 1.1” each, including the old ammo. I suspect the groups could be tightened up through the use of a receiver-mounted scope. I found the front sight post fat and difficult to see clearly on a black target.

The Henry with scope and optional hammer extension.

The Henry with scope and optional hammer extension.

During the accuracy test, there were no extraction issues, but the rifle did fail to chamber two Remington Thunderbolts. On closer examination, it looked like the brass was dented, but that could have been caused by the bolt trying to chamber the round. There were no issues with the 22 shorts, including the grody 50-year-old ammo. During the range session there were no failures to fire, but it’s worth mentioning that I have had the typical occasional bad round over the roughly 2000 I have put through the rifle to date. The failures did not look to be a light primer strikes and did not fire after manually cocking the hammer again.

Finding a Few Faults

Other reviews have faulted the Henry for “cheap” materials or poor fit and finish, but I believe it is important to recognize that trade-offs are necessary to reach the Henry’s price point. When viewed from this perspective, I find no major faults with the design, materials, or finish. Henry uses steel where they have to and cheaper materials where they can.

The action open, showing the cast interior parts. Despite the less expensive materials, the rifle had no feeding or extraction issues.

The action open, showing the cast interior parts. Despite the less expensive materials, the rifle had no feeding or extraction issues.

The receiver is a painted alloy (my wife put some minor scratches into the receiver when she picked it up with her wedding ring on).  When viewed from the ejection port one internal parts looking to be injection-molded metals. The edges of the loading port and front sight hood are rough; the shooter should be careful when attempting to remove the front sight hood to avoid being cut.  Finally, the front wood hand guard was slightly loose.

The Henry does require the shooter to be mindful. The rifle has no external safety but it does have a half-cock position that requires the trigger to be pulled and the hammer rode down with the thumb. Also, when loading, it is easy to flag yourself. With no external safety, ensure that the rifle is unloaded and either half-cocked or lever open when loading.

Close-up of the Henry's receiver.

Close-up of the Henry’s receiver.

Of note, the sights are rudimentary. The front sight post is non-adjustable, molded directly into the front plastic barrel band. The rear is a typical ramp-adjustable dovetail, which is raised via the ramp and can be drifted slightly for windage. My rifle had just enough drift to bring the sights to point-of-aim & impact. The rear sight is not protected or locked down so it may require re-zero if you hit it by accident. Hi-Viz offers both front and rear sights through Henry. The Hi-Viz rear sights are much easier to drift and offer more adjustability. For $50, they shore up the only major fault I have with the Henry. 

The sight picture of the Henry. Note the hood on the front sight.

The sight picture of the Henry. Note the hood on the front sight.

Pros Outweigh the Cons

I believe we are sometimes conditioned that cheap rifles will mean equally cheap triggers. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Henry has a great trigger. My rifle has a short, smooth take-up of about 1mm and a crisp break around 5 lbs. It was easy to feel the breaking point, even through gloves when outdoors in the cold. The only better breaking triggers I have used are high-end AR bang-switches from HiperFire and Geissele or those on bolt-actions.  There is significant over-travel, but I don’t mind since you have to use the firing hand to cycle the action. There is no need for semi-auto reset.

The barrel has a uniform blued finish, lightly crowned for accuracy. At 18 ½ inches, I found it the ideal balance of weight and performance, eeking out all of the velocity 22LR can manage.  The barrel has no play relative to the receiver and I did not experience any flyers during accuracy testing.

The rifle feels right at home outdoors.

The rifle feels right at home outdoors.

Outside of the play on the front hand guard, the rifle has absolutely no wobble. The real walnut stock is solid, with just enough of a concave bend to shoulder naturally without being too “pointy” at the top and bottom to hurt if you bring it up incorrectly. The lever is rounded nicely, with no sharp edges to cut your fingers when cycling the action.

On a personal note, I enjoy that the lever pivots on a single point in the receiver with the trigger in the same position instead of some lever actions that have multiple pivot points or triggers that say attached to the lever.

The biggest stand-out feature is the price. With a street price of $275-$300 at a local gun shop, the Henry is a fantastic value. I picked up mine at the local Wal-Mart for $290. As a testament to their popularity, to find one I had to call all of the stores in a 50 mile radius! For those who shop digitally, the Henry can be found online for around $250, before shipping.

Final Thoughts

The Henry is a solid offering: easy to operate, lightweight, grin-inducing lever action, accurate, and priced right.  Handling is intuitive, smooth lever action, and a surprisingly good trigger round out the solid offering.

While my ultimate plinker is a semi-auto, my Henry is easily the number two and is a nice change of pace from  modern plastic fantastics. I will not fault the Henry for its lever action; it is simply the case of new technologies have been developed on top old. In much the same way, new cars are faster & more efficient compared to the Model –T.

The Henry doesn't look out of place next to a 50 and 100-year-old shotguns

The Henry doesn’t look out of place next to 50 and 100-year-old shotguns

Still something inexorably draws me to the rifle. The Henry draws a giddy smile every time the lever is cycled. With each pull of the trigger the shooter is pulled back for to simpler times.

Bottom line: wholly American-made with American spirit, this Henry is priced just right to find a nostalgic place in your safe… and heart.

Manufacturer Specifications:

Model Number H001
Action Type Lever Action
Caliber .22
Capacity 15 rounds .22LR, 17 rounds .22L, 21 rounds .22S
Length 36 ½”
Barrel Length 18 ¼”
Weight 5.25 lbs.
Stock Straight-grip American walnut
Sights Adjustable rear, hooded front sight
Finish Blued barrel and lever
Price $360.00 (Street Price: ~$275.00)
Henry Lever Carbine Rifle
Model Number H001L
Barrel Length 16.125″
Weight 4.5 lbs.

 

M.S.R.P.* $375.00 (Street ~$300.00)

 


Nathan S.

TFB’s newest resident Jarhead, Nathan is currently working in the Defense industry in international sales. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, bull-pups, and high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries in the last three years working with US DoD & foreign MoDs. You will likely find him either in an international airport or on the local range in NE Indiana.

Nathan can be reached at [email protected]


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  • Brian H

    Nice wall art. No ammo = wall art

  • wetcorps

    When my old, nasty soviet 22 shorts fail to work even after 2 our 3 strikes, I move them in the chamber as so to strike a different area of the rim. Most of the time it works :D

    • Pooter

      Often I need to do this with “quality” American made ammo

  • kipy

    My brother has the carbine model with the the larger loop, I stinken love that plinker. Despite the slightly thick front sight post you can hit anything you want with it. Sadly I’m in 22 preservation mode right now until/when/if it starts showing up again on shelves again.

  • Harrison Jones

    Try the Henry Golden Boy! It is the most fun of any 22 I have ever shot. The sights are very open and the cheek weld is more of a high chin weld but there is nothing like shooting steel with it. The gun really makes you feel like John Wayne! Good review. You nailed it with the action being surprisingly smooth and cycling the lever putting a smile on your face!

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Nathan S “Writer, TFB”

      The Golden Boy is the same internals as the regular carbine. Henry adds a brass receiver and barrel band.

  • ozzallos .

    No load gate = Sad panda.

    • wetcorps

      They don’t do 22 with loading gates too much. From what I read, it is because there is a risk of breaking/weakening the cartridges while loading.

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

        Very true—

      • Panzercat

        Marlin? Mossberg? You’re right about the cartrige, but it’s not as uncommon as you think. Of course, marlin hasn’t produced their lever .22 in years (rumors of a 39a resurgence aside), leaving Mossberg alone in that particular market vs Winchester and Henry.

        • Tom

          Neither Marlin or Mossberg use loading gates for 22s. The old Marlin 1891 had a loading gate, but it quickly evolved to the 39A and has been tubular for more than a century. Tubular, dude.
          And loading gates are easy. Load the cartridge most the way, then push it the rest of the way with the next cartridge, and so on…only the last round needs to be pushed all the way in with a digit.

    • Blake

      Keep your tubular magazine (and your panda) happy & well-fed by getting one of these speed loaders. We have one & it works great with our Marlins.

      All you need now is some 22LR to feed it…

  • Lance

    Its iconic to American History the lever action rifle and its fun to shoot. I think the Winchester and Henry .22 LAR will be popular for many many years to come.

  • IXLR8

    You mentioned an 18″ barrel in the text, and a 16.25″ in the specs, which is it?
    Great article. You really made me want something I previously had little interest in.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      They actually are available in different barrel lengths

  • OcelotZ3

    I love mine, $235 on sale.

  • JT

    Why are levers so expensive? You can get a semi auto for less that $100, but that won’t work terribly well if you need a squirrel gun using subsonics

    • XYZ

      They are a much more complex action. A blowback 22 semi is very very simple to make. A lever has twice the parts count.

  • Brian G.

    I wonder when Henry Arms will put the semi-auto pistol caliber carbine they have in prototype form in full production…

  • 101nomad

    There has always been something about .22s. Pistol, revolver, rifle. Seemed everyone had one when I was a kid. My first was a bolt action. Loading that tube was like zen, and we did not have any idea what zen was, at the time. Not real sure I do now. Revolvers were good for vehicle carry. No one thought twice about “knock down power”. You knocked the deer down with the truck, and finished it off with the .22. Still throws some off when they see me work a .22 bolt action left handed, iron sights only. Neighbor told me it looked like a magic act. Hard to believe, can not get .22 long rifle here. .22s are forever underestimated. Choices are wonderful.

  • Mort Leith

    I love my Henry Big Boy (.44 Magnum),,, a friend asked why I didn’t ever put a scope on it and I just said, hey, it would ruin the COWBOY look and feel that I wanted when I bought it.

    Don’t know that I would trade my Ruger .22LR (old wood) for a Henry .22 though…

  • Randal Colling

    Why in the world would ANYONE buy a firearm that has no ammo? That like buying a steak with no meat……stupid

  • Richard Neva

    My Henry Lever repeater replaced the Daisy BB gun I found in a hardware store years ago. I sold it, that BB gun with a lot of other guns to eat a few years ago and I love that Henry 22 Lever like an old friend now and hope to never have to sell it, I would rather starve!

  • Richard Neva

    I can find 22 ammo on line but Fascist NY state will not allow me to have it shipped to my home in NY. NY sucks big time!

    • David F. Podesta

      You can’t register it in NYC because the tube hold more than FIVE rounds unless you have a note from a licensed gunsmith that the work was done. :(((

    • David F. Podesta

      Take a ride to Long Island and go to a Wal Mart or a Kmart, or take a ride to PA and go to Cabelas. Plan B Join the CMP and get a C&R lic. and they will send ammo to you There are requirements go to odcmp.com