Story & photos
by Glen I Voorhees Jr.
Western Field Editor
The Henry Repeating Arms Company of Brooklyn, NY, is relatively new in the firearms business. They made their debut in 1997 with a lever action .22. The next year they introduced a Henry (Winchester) .22 look-a-like. It isn't an exact copy, but is an attractive rifle. Nineteen-ninety-eight also saw the introduction of the Henry Pump-Action .22. Since then, I have had the opportunity to shoot this handy .22 and find it a joy to handle.
Pump-action rifles have been around for well over 100 years. They are available chambered for calibers from the little .22 rimfire up to the large centerfire hunting rounds. The two most famous .22 pump guns were probably the Stevens "Gallery" gun and the Winchester 1890 Slide Action Rifle.
Many readers will remember these .22s at fairs, amusement parks and sideshows throughout the country. These little guns were one of the most popular attractions on the arcades. In my younger days, I spent most of my change trying to hit the moving and stationary targets. I would swear that the barrels were bent, because I could never shoot them as well as I could my own guns.
My grandfather Voorhees kept a pump gun inside his barn door. It was to be used to shoot sparrows that tried to burrow into the haystacks. Once they made a hole, the rain would seep past the outer thatch and the moisture would spoil the hay underneath. I got to be pretty good with that pump gun.
At one time there were several companies making solid little .22 pump-action rifles. Today there are very few. Two that come immediately to my mind are the Remington Model 572 and the Henry Pump-Action .22. The Henry sells for $130 less than the Remington. (Editor's note: Taurus also offers a line of slide-action .22s, including a long rifle-only and a .22 WRM model, which will be reviewed in Gun Week in coming weeks.)
The scarcity of slide-action rifles is puzzling. This design is almost as fast as a semi-auto, followed by the lever gun and bolt rifle. The handling characteristics are outstanding when follow-up shots are required. Rabbit and squirrel hunting are perfect examples.
The Henry has a pleasing appearance and is, I think, much more attractive than the early model Stevens and Winchester guns with their small, in proportion to the rifles, wooden slide grips. The Henry has a slide-action-grooved grip that covers the back portion of the barrel. This is not only attractive, but it gives the rifle the appearance of completeness. The scrawny forends of the early rifles gave the appearance of an incomplete rifle. Something always seemed to be missing.
The stock on my sample rifle is of straight-grain American walnut, with some grain showing through the attractive oil finish. For a production rifle, the wood-to-metal fit is nicely done. The receiver cover is zinc while all of the working parts are of steel. Many of these parts could have been made of less expensive material, but Henry Repeating Arms has built this gun to last and be passed on down the family tree. The receiver, barrel, and loading tube are nicely blued. The receiver has an integral groove on top to facilitate a scope mount. The 18-inch barrel has two-barrel bands: one at the muzzle that anchors the front sight and one at the front of the forend slide.
The action opens with the rearward movement of the grooved forend slide. This actuates a single, heavy-duty steel action which ejects a spent case on rearward motion and seats a new cartridge from the tubular magazine on forward movement. The Henry has dual hook extractors that allow positive alignment of the cartridge until it fits against the bolt face. All parts in the action have been made to last, and feeding and extraction worked flawlessly.
I shot a brick of ammo in one afternoon, and rediscovered the pleasure of plinking tin cans as well as some steel knock-down action targets by Shotstop Target Systems Inc. (3254 Highway UU, Dept. GWK, Union, MO 63084; phone: 1-800-444-2038; on-line: www.shotstop.com). These self-setting reactive targets add a lot of fun to plinking and are a great way to teach follow-up shots, such as those you might find when hunting small game or dispatching pests. There will be pictures and more about these targets in a future article.
Other features of the Henry .22 include a covered ramp front bead sight, and an open adjustable rear sight. The rear sight is a straight bar with a square-cut notch. The front sight blade is quite thick and is easy to pick up. These are desirable features for the new shooter. The sight picture is large and bold. The sights are also fast to line up on moving targets. I think the Henry will make a tremendous first rifle. As one's shooting skills improve, then you can investigate improving the sights with a buckhorn rear and a beaded post-front sight. I will contact Brownells (200 S. Front St., Dept. GWK, Montezuma, IA 50171; phone: 641-623-5401; on-line: www.brownells.com) to get replacement sights.
The Henry magazine holds 15 .22 LR rounds and weighs 5° pounds. The exposed hammer gives this rifle a touch of nostalgia as well as being a practical safety. This rifle will also handle .22 shorts and .22 longs, if you can still find any of the latter on dealer shelves.
Before I carted the Henry to the range, I treated the front sight with Birchwood Casey's Sight Touch-up Pens. There are two pens in the kit. One is a flat white finish and the other is a fluorescent orange. The directions call for you to use the white first, sort of like a primer coat, and follow up with the orange for a bright scratch-resistant surface.
I used the white only, as this rifle has a hooded front sight and the white is sharp and clear under the hood. These convenient pens offer you a custom front or rear sight that fits your individual needs on any iron-sighted firearm or non-powder gun. I have a set of these pens stashed away in different shooting bags. To get them, I went to my best custom products friend, Brownells. They are the shooter's and gunsmith's best amigo. Their catalog is a must for the serious shooter. These pens sell for $8.90 at Brownells.
Birchwood Casey (7900 Fuller Road, Dept. GWK, Eden Prairie, MN 55344; phone: 800-328-6156; on-line: www.birchwoodcasey.com) produces a number of great gun care products, like the Sight Touch-up kit and bluing kits and pens, Shoot-N-C high visibility targets-like the ones used for the test in this article-and metallic target systems. You should check them out.
I experimented with another product while I was working with the Henry. I had read a reprint of an article that appeared in the March 2000 issue of American Gunsmith about Microlon Gun Juice (c/o John F. Staudt at JEF Distributors, 145 Paseo DeLas Delicias, Dept. GWK, Redondo Beach, CA 90277; phone: 800-962-4152; email: firstname.lastname@example.org). The gunsmith and author of this story, Chick Blood, tested Gun Juice to see if it fulfilled its claims to improve accuracy and increase velocity. His conclusions were quite impressive. I have tried other products that make the same claim and have yet to be convinced. That is no longer the case. I followed the directions and found that accuracy was improved. I didn't have a chronograph at the range, so I can't vouch for the increase in velocity but the next time at the range we will find out. In his article, Blood, using a chronograph, said the Gun Juice increased the velocity of his .22 ammo by 90 fps.
The directions instruct the shooter to run a wet patch through the bore between shots until the shots stop rising on the target. Each of my shots struck a little higher on the target until the 6th round. Follow-up shots clustered around that 6th shot, which is a sign that you have coated the barrel with enough Gun Juice.
The photograph on Page 1 graphically shows the shooting results. The Birchwood Casey paste-on target on the left shows one low and one high shot. That lower shot showed me that I had coated the bore with enough Gun Juice. After a final sight adjustment, my next five shots formed one group that measured ° inch at 50 yards. That is good accuracy with coarse iron sights.
All of my shooting was with Winchester T22 40-grain bullets and Winchester Super Silhouette 42-grain bullets. I found that this rifle shot better with the Silhouette ammo than the .22 target loads.
My overall impression of the Henry rifle is very favorable. This pump-action .22 is attractive, well built and a superior value at a suggested list of $249.95.
|Caliber:||.22 short, long, long rifle|
|Stock:||Oil finished American walnut|
|Sights:||Bead on ramp front, open adjustable rear|
|Features:||Polished blue finish; receiver grooved for scope mount; grooved slide handle; two-barrel bands. Made in the USA by Henry Repeating Arms Co.|
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