Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! In this weekly series, we cover the various firearms, topics, and history of the rimfire firearm world. This week we’ll be reviewing a highly requested rimfire survival rifle – the Henry AR-7. This handy little rifle is a unique design that has its roots within the United States military but has found its way into a comfortable niche spot within the civilian firearms market.
The Rimfire Report: A Henry AR-7 Cautionary Review
The ArmaLite/Henry AR-7 survival rifle has its roots in the late 1950s. The original ArmaLite AR-7 rifle was designed by Eugene Stoner during his tenure at ArmaLite Inc. who eventually had his rifle design adopted by the United States Air Force in 1956 as the MA-1 which was intended to replace the M4 and M6 survival weapons (an over-under .410 shotgun/22 Hornet design).
Despite the design being adopted by the United States Air Force, the weapon never actually made its way into the hands of airmen. Due to the overwhelming numbers of still functional M4 and M6 survival weapons in the USAF inventory the AR-7 was instead developed for the civilian market.
At some point during the 1980s, the design and production rights were passed on to Henry Repeating Arms and the company used this opportunity to slightly alter the rifle to both modernize it and improve reliability. The traditional wooden stock was replaced with a modern synthetic stock which is stated to float on water for some time before eventually sinking once the non-waterproof stock fills with water.
It is at this point I have to mention that in my foolishness I decided to test out whether this claim was true or just a tall tale. I took my newly acquired Henry AR-7 to a local pond and strung the rifle up and attempted to toss it into the pond. To my horror, the line I used was slightly too short and the force of the line becoming tossed combined with the weight of the stowed components caused said components to launch into the pond.
Long story short, I spent the better part of two hours diving in and out of this 8ft deep murky Mississippi mud pond and thankfully found the magazines and receiver. The nylon sleeved barrel, however, is still somewhere at the bottom of that pond, unfortunately. Needless to say, the stock does float even with the components inside of it or if it is assembled. I tested this after ordering a new barrel which is nearly identical to the original ArmaLite barrel as it has no outer coating.
The modernized Henry AR-7 has a lot to offer in terms of a “survival” rifle. While it isn’t as robust or as polished (or pretty) as a Ruger 10/22, it does have its merits. For one, the rifle is extremely lightweight at only 3.5lbs with the receiver, 3 magazines, and barrel all stowed inside the synthetic stock.
The operation of the rifle is quite simple with a straight blowback operation made possible by twin recoil springs rebounding what is probably the heaviest part of the rifle – the bolt. Although previous versions of the rifle were mostly featureless, Henry’s modernized version has a few extras like the inclusion of a full Teflon coating on the outer surface of the rifle’s receiver and barrel making it virtually rustproof – I inadvertently was able to test this when the receiver took a long swim in that pond mentioned above.
After retrieving the receiver and putting everything away for a few weeks while I waited on the replacement barrel, the parts sat in their semi-soaked condition for that entire time. When I went to take out the receiver to test the rifle again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of the receiver components were rust-free! Unfortunately the same could not be said for the magazines which had their paint partially stripped away and began to rust. However, despite the rust, the 8-round magazines performed flawlessly.
Thankfully, before I had my unfortunate boating accident with the AR-7, I had a chance to test it in its factory-new condition. The rifle cycled through everything I threw at it including bulk pack ammunition like Federal’s 38-grain copper-plated hollow points, CCI Mini-Mags, CCI Velocitors, CCI Poly Coated Ammo, CCI Subsonics, and even the dreaded Academy Brand Monarch 36gr CPHP.
Before I had even tested the rifle, I had many people telling me that the rifle was unreliable, inaccurate and just overall had bad quality. While the rifle isn’t the prettiest or most practical thing I’ve ever shot, it seems that most of these complaints about the rifle are either old news or just the result of bad luck.
As I mentioned before, the rifle ran flawlessly in the ammunition department and as far as accuracy goes, I was able to shoot well 75 yards with just the simple front blade sight and diopter rear sight. I tested the trigger to be right at around 3.75 lbs which is more than good enough for some survival hunting applications. If you prefer an optic, there’s a 3/8″ dovetail built onto the receiver top for mounting scopes via “rimfire mounts”.
A couple of things that would probably make the AR-7 a bit more friendly to shoot would be the inclusion of a last round bolt hold open and the addition of a sling mount. Another cool feature to add would be for the rear end cap to be held more securely in place. Perhaps if the cap snapped into place or used a quarter turn to snap into place it would result in a more secure closing just in case some idiot decides to throw his survival rifle into a swamp.
Would I carry this rifle as a survival tool? 100%. I had many doubts going into my review testing as to how well this thing would actually perform and in my head, I was constantly putting it up against the Ruger 10/22 and similar rifles. However, the more trigger time I had behind it and the more time I spent actually carrying it around, I found it to be handier than I had initially assumed.
The rifle’s construction lends itself to being jostled around a fair bit. The fact that all the critical components are stored inside of a tough plastic shell is another bonus as you have to worry much less about damaging anything that might cause the rifle to be inoperable. Even though I ended up sinking the barrel, a replacement was only about $80. On that note, there are a plethora of aftermarket accessories available for the AR-7 so if you’re not satisfied with how it performs out of the box, there is enough stuff out there to help you get it the way you want it.
In any case, that is all I have for you today on The Rimfire Report. I hope you enjoyed our brief exploration of this very unique rimfire survival rifle. If any of you have had experience with the AR-7, feel free to let us know down in the comments how your AR-7 performs and if you’ve made any modifications to it.
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