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The Henry Frontier model lever-action .22 rifle: "made in America or not made at all": if you like the tradition of a lever-action with modern manufacturing quality, you might be a likely customer for this rimfire lever gun.

In 1860, a Connecticut shirt manufacturer by the name of Oliver Winchester purchased the insolvent New Haven Arms Company and the rights to its Volcanic repeating firearms.

An entrepreneur of the first order, Oliver wisely assigned New Haven's shop foreman, B. Tyler Henry, the task of turning the fragile and ballistically unimpressive Volcanic rifle into a more practical weapon. Within short order, Henry received a patent for a lever-action rifle with a front-loading tubular magazine that held 16 .44 cal. rimfire cartridges.

Production began in 1862. and the Henry Rifle quickly became the darling of Union soldiers who valued its firepower over the traditional muzzleloaders of the day. While it was never officially adopted by the U.S. Army, many units and individual soldiers purchased Henrys with their own funds. It proved so effective that Confederate soldiers on the "receiving" end of the Henry referred to it as "That damyankee rifle you can load on Sunday and shoot all week!"

In 1866, the Henry was modified to use a loading gate on the side of the receiver and was introduced as the Model 1866 Winchester. And the rest is history.

The lever-action rifle became the preferred weapon of American hunters, cowboys, explorers, law enforcement officers and frontier settlers. While our fellow nimrods in Europe preferred double-barreled and bolt-action rifles, until the post-World War II period, American hunters rarely carried anything but a lever-action rifle.

And for good reason. The lever-action rifle was light, handy, could be fired and reloaded quickly and was chambered for a variety of cartridges suitable for just about any North American game animal.

While the high performance bolt-action rifle gets most of the ink in today's firearms press, in reality a goodly percentage of American hunters still fill their tags each year with a lever gun.

In 1996, Louis Imperato and his son Anthony acquired the rights to the historical firearms name "Henry" and established the Henry Repeating Arms Company. Recognizing the lever-action's continuing popularity, in 1997 they introduced a .22 rifle known, appropriately enough, as the Henry Lever-Action.

One of their most distinctive products, the Henry Golden Boy Rifle, is another .22 lever gun whose Brasslite plated receiver imitated that of the original Henry Rifle.

2003 saw the introduction of their first centerfire rifle, the Henry Big Boy, chambered for the .44 Mag. cartridge. It became a hit with Cowboy Action shooters, which led the company offering it in .357 Mag. and .45 Colt.

Over the years, their product line has expanded and today they have manufacturing facilities in Bayonne, N.J. and Rice Lake, Wis., and manufacture in excess of 300,000 rifles per year.

I guess because of my fascination with historical firearms I have always been a fan of lever guns. In my early years, I took several deer with a 60-something year old .44-40 Winchester Model 92, and used several other lever-action rifles over the years to bag a number of antlered animals and dispatch various vermin.

Anthony Imperato was kind enough to provide us with one of the newest versions of their Frontier Rifle to evaluate and considering my love of classic firearms I took an immediate shine to the appearance of the rifle we received.

The Frontier Rifle is a "real steel and walnut" firearm. While the receiver is made from a non-ferrous alloy, the 24-inch octagonal barrel, tubular magazine, lever and internals all made from steel and its classic lines are enhanced by an attractive, straight grip, American walnut stock and forearm. Henry also offers a Frontier Carbine with a 20-inch barrel.

Like many of its 19th and early 20th century predecessors, the Frontier Rifle is fitted with a Marble's SemiBuckhorn rear sight with reversible white diamond insert and a brass bead front sight. I mean what could be more classic? And while I feel that mounting an optical enhancement device would compromise the rifle's classic appearance, the receiver is grooved to accept scope mounts.

To load the tubular magazine, you first place the hammer in the half-cock ("safe") position and then turn the knurled cap on the end of the magazine tube and pull the tube out until the loading port in the outer tube is open.

While holding the muzzle up slightly, you drop in .22 rimfire cartridges base first (the magazine holds 21 Short or 16 Long/Long Rifle cartridges). You then push the inner tube back in, turn the knurled cap to secure it in place. Working the lever chambers a round and you're ready to shoot.

To place the rifle on "safe," while holding it in a safe direction, you hold the hammer back with your thumb and apply just enough pressure to the trigger to release the hammer from the full cocked position while simultaneously removing your finger from the trigger. Then carefully lower the hammer to the half cock ("safe") position. This is another feature that enhances the Frontier Rifle's classic nature.

Despite its construction making it heavier than most .22 rifles on the market today, my wife Becky and I both found the Frontier Model a well-balanced rifle that came up to your shoulder smoothly.

We test-fired the Henry for accuracy with three brands of .22 Long Rifle ammo from an MTM K-Zone rest at 30 yards. While some might find this a bit close, I have hunted small game and varmints with an iron-sighted .22 rifle for years and can assure you that you don't want to take a shot at a squirrel or rabbit much past that if your intention is to put meat in the pot rather than waste ammo.

While all of the groups we produced during accuracy testing were impressive, as with most firearms, the Henry showed a definite preference for particular loads, in this case the fast-stepping CCI Copper 22 and Remington Yellow Jackets, both of which produced several groups in the 1-inch range, printing dead on to center.

We then set up a series of Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C Prairie Chuck Targets and proceeded to perforate them firing the Frontier rifle offhand. Thanks to the weight of the octagonal barrel, you could hold the rifle on target steadily, the action worked with an oiled smoothness we both found impressive and rounds were chambered and ejected reliably allowing a steady rate of aimed fire to be maintained with little effort.

As can be seen in the photos neither of us would not have had any problems turning critters into camp meat with the Henry.

Becky and I found the Henry to be a fine shooting, accurate and easy handling .22 rifle that would be more than suitable for plinking, small game hunting and vermin control And we both had a h*ll of a lot of fun shooting it. But then, that is a .22's primary purpose in life. Isn't it?

Henry has just announced that the Frontier rifle with the 24-inch barrel is now available with a threaded muzzle for attaching suppressors or other muzzle mounted devices.


Henry Repeating Arms Co.--59 East 18th St., Dept. FAN, Bayonne, NJ 07002.

Birchwood Casey, LLC--7887 Fuller Rd., Suite 100, Dept. FAN, Eden Prairie, MN 55344.

Photos by: Paul Budde & Becky Scarlata

Caption: The 7th Illinois Volunteer Infantry was one of the Union units armed with privately purchased Henry Rifles. Firepower was great; long-range performance not so much.

Caption: Introduced in 1997, the Golden Boy was the Henry Repeating Arms Company's first rifle. It was notable for its Brasslite plated receiver and barrel band.

Caption: The .44 Magnum Big Boy was the Henry Repeating Arms Company's first centerfire rifle. It retains the brass receiver scheme of previous rimfire Henrys.

Caption: The 24-inch Frontier Rifle is available with a threaded muzzle for attaching suppressors or other muzzle-mounted devices. Note the shorter magazine tube.

Caption: Like many of its 19th and early 20th century lever-action predecessors, the Henry Frontier Rifle uses a Marble's semi-buckhorn rear sight that is adjustable for windage.

Caption: The 24-inch octagonal barrel gives a traditional appearance to the Frontier rifle and provides weight up front for steady shooting. Note the brass bead front sight.

Caption: The Henry Repeating Arms Company makes it plain that their rifles are built 100% in the USA! It has plants in both Bayonne, N.J. and in Rice Lake, Wis.

Caption: First place the hammer on half-cock and turn the knurled cap on the end of the magazine tube and pull the tube out until the loading port in the outer tube is open.

Caption: You then load cartridges, base first, into the port in the outer tube. It holds 16 .22 Long or Long Rifle cartridges or 21 .22 Shorts, for much firing before reloading.

Caption: The Frontier Rifle is easy and fun to shoot for the whole family. You can mount a scope if you're more worried about fine accuracy than about period authenticity.


Caliber:                              .22 S/IVLR*, 17 HMR, .22 WMR
Overall Length:                       42.5 inches
Barrel Length:                        24 inches
Weight:                               6.25 pounds
Sights:                               Front--Brass bead
                                      Rear--Marble's Semi-Buckhorn
                                      "rear with reversible white
                                      diamond insert "
Magazine                              21 rounds .22 Short;
Capacity:                             16 rounds .22 Long or LR
Price:                                $470

Ammunition                           Group Size (ins.)   Velocity (fps)

CCI 21-gr. Copper-22                  1.6                 1816
Remington 33-gr. Yellow Jacket HP     1.6                 1482
CCI 40-gr. Velocitor                  2.3                 1399
Winchester 40-gr. T22 Match           2.0                 1247

Group size is the average of three 5-shot groups fired from an MTM
K-Zone rest at 30 yards. Velocity is the average of five rounds
chronographed 10 feet from the muzzle.
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Author:Scarlata, Paul
Publication:Firearms News
Date:Mar 20, 2017
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