Union Soldiers fielded it with such results that Confederates deemed it “A rifle that you can load on Sunday and Shoot all week”. Probably not literally, but its 16 round tubular magazine gave it a significant advantage over the muzzle loading muskets of the day. Unfortunately, it was chambered in .44 rimfire, and its 216 grain bullet over 26 grains of black powder made it a bit anemic even by the standards of the day.
Despite never being an issue weapon, many Union soldiers purchased them for themselves, theory being that the increased rate of fire a Henry could achieve might be the deciding factor getting them home from the war. Some Henry’s were captured by the Confederacy, but resupply of ammo was difficult, rendering them impractical for Confederate soldiers.
The Henry was manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company until 1866. At that time, the Henry evolved into the famous Winchester Model 1866, and the New Haven Arms Company changed its name to The Winchester Repeating Arms Company.
The Henry Classic Lever Action .22 Rifle
Fortunately, the Henry name has been revived. Today, the Henry Repeating arms company produces a range of long guns, but is most renowned for their Lever Guns. One of my favorites is the Classic Lever Action .22 Rifle.
The Classic features an 18 1/4 inch barrel, and comes in at an overall length of 36 1/2inches. At just 5 ¼ pounds, it is a handy little package of classically designed rimfire rifle. To use technical jargon, leaned from my twin boys, “It’s a neat little cowboy gun.”
The light weight and compact package make it an ideal small game hunting rifle, and a decent little camp gun as well. You can carry it all day, in the woods or on the bug out trail, without a lot of drag.
The Hooded front Sight and fully adjustable rear leaf sight are both rugged and dependable. Based on my experience these guns come out of the box pretty close to zeroed in. If you are a scope guy (or Gal), the receiver is grooved for standard rimfire scope bases, and the side ejection makes it well suited for optics. The bore is finished with state of the art multi groove rifling, with a 1/16” twist making it a very accurate rifle, with open sights or the optics of your choice.
The Henry Lever Action .22, true to the originals, features a tubular magazine. It will accommodate .22 Short, Long or Long Rifle cartridges, and feeds smoothly and flawlessly with all three. It has one of the smoothest actions I have ever experienced in a lever gun. It will hold 15 of the LRs, 17 of the Longs, or 21 of the Shorts. This gives you a lot of versatility not found in most .22 semi autos.
One of my favorite features is the lack of a manual safety. It relies on a ¼ cock position of the hammer for a safety, so when it’s time to shoot you just cock the hammer and go. I find this to be convenient while hunting, but bear in mind I grew up with (and still shoot most of my deer with) a Winchester ’94 built before the addition of the button safety on the receiver. This is a very comfortable and familiar omission for me.
The whole package is finished off with a deep bluing on the barrel, a black finish on the receiver, and American Walnut furniture. All this adds up to a very attractive, as well as a very functional rifle. And, it is 100% American made.
Sometimes, things just come together. I was asked to do a review of the Henry Lever Action .22 Rifle recently, and it just happens that there is a pair of them sitting in the gun safe in my basement. They aren’t mine, but belong to my seven year old twin boys, a gift from their Grandpa. They have seen very little use so far, the boys aren’t quite big enough to shoot them comfortably yet, so they have been fired a few times from a bench and that’s about it.
So, with a review in the offering, I asked the boys if I could borrow their rifles in the interest of research. They reluctantly agreed, and the test was on. For me, the true test of any firearm is not how well it pokes holes in paper on a controlled range, but what it can do when you get it out in its native habitat, which is pretty much out in the woods.
As luck would have it, squirrel season is on here in Missouri, so I dropped a couple rounds in the tube of one of the rifles and took it for a walk in the woods. The first thing I realized was why I like using a shotgun instead of a rifle on squirrels until the leaves are down in the fall. Squirrels are quick, clever, and pretty good hiders when given the right cover! Rifle hunting at this time of year requires a bit of patience, and that isn’t always my best thing when I only have about an hour around sunrise to get my hunting done before its time to get my daughter to morning soccer practice.
About the time my patience, and my allotted time, were about to expire, I got a break. A nice red started shelling nuts in a tree about 20 yards from where I was walking past. So I stopped and copped a squat by the base of a tree, and watched the leaves rustle and the Hickory nut husks rain down. When mister Squirrel came out of the leaves and onto an exposed branch, I was ready for him. The Henry .22 Lever Action Rifle barked, and the squirrel came down, hit the ground, kicked twice, and then came home with me.
That is the best review I can give any firearm. The ability to reliably put food on the table is the hallmark of a good rifle, and the Henry just proved itself on that score. First shot I had ever fired with it, sights untouched since coming out of the box, squirrel 20 yards out and 30 feet up, clean kill. Doesn’t get any better than that.
Just to be fair, I took the rifle out back to the range later in the day. At 50 yards, off hand, I was able to put a 15 round magazine into a 1 inch group consistently. The action is slick as butter, and feeds every kind of ammo I ran through it (Don’t ask, I just grabbed a handful out of my “Leftovers Bucket!”) without a hitch. It is quick firing, and just an all around great little gun. My boys are going to love them in the very near future!
I have always maintained that from a prepper’s standpoint, a good .22 rifle is one of the key firearms requirements. If you are doing everything right after the apocalypse, your guns should spend a lot more time hunting than they do gun fighting. The ability to put food on the table, as I said earlier, is the bottom line when it comes to a good rifle in most survival situations. The Henry .22 Lever Action Rifle does this nicely.
The lever action is a time tested, rugged and dependable design. It is very fast handling in practiced hands, so if you do find yourself using it in a defensive role you can launch a respectable volume of accurate fire. The size and weight of this rifle make it ideal for a day in the field, or days on the trail.
The fact that it can handle a variety of rounds is also handy, giving you a bit of versatility not found in rifles fed by a box magazine. Magazine capacity is respectable, although you may not be able to load it on Sunday and shoot all week.
From a “Gray Man” perspective, it is an excellent low profile weapon. There is absolutely nothing paramilitary or black gun about it, so it draws a lot less attention. From a legal perspective, lever guns are less likely targets for gun control laws. From a functional standpoint, with a bit of practice it can be almost as fast as a semi automatic.
All in all, I think this rifle is an excellent choice in a survival, homestead, or just a hunting and plinking gun collection. It is a great first gun for your kids, or a new-to-guns spouse, and it is a fun and practical weapon for seasoned gun guys as well. I highly recommend it, and after spending a day with one have absolutely nothing bad to say about it. If you are looking to add a rimfire rifle, it is worth taking a look at the Henrys.