Henry Lever Action Frontier Model Octagon Barrel .17 HMR Rifle
It has been said in the industry that, “when all else fails, invent a caliber.” Part and parcel of any highly new-product driven industry is the constant attempt to invent new lines of price and performance where none exist in a tangible, real-world sense. One fairly recent cartridge development that has gained traction and popularity is the Hornady .17 Magnum Rimfire, introduced in 2002. It is remarkable in many respects, gaining distinction as the first successful rimfire cartridge to hit the market in over forty years. (The last successful rimfire was the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire of 1959.) The .17 HMR has become the sand rat rifle of choice for several of theG & S Online staff.
Most all of the .17 cartridges offered today are either seventeen or twenty grains. With such flyweight bullets, as a practical matter they are most suited for ground squirrels, cottontail rabbits and similarly fragile and small-sized game or varmints. CCI reportedly manufactures most .17 HMR ammunition, though there are slight differences between the brands themselves. As far as we know, this is still the case. As for the case itself, it is the .22 WMR necked down to accept a .172 inch diameter bullet.
Billed as the world fastest rimfire, it appears to be just that, although there are a few caveats. Both the sectional density of the projectiles (about .084 for the seventeen grain) suggest it is not a great platform for penetration and the ballistic coefficient of the V-Max bullet (about .123) also promise that windage is a consideration at the longer ranges. It clearly is, with just a 10 mph crosswind blowing either the 17 or 20 grain bullets horizontally eight inches or so at 150 yards. Unless your shooting conditions are very calm and consistent and despite the .17 HMR’s 165 yard MPBR, it remains a 100 to 125 yard gun for most small game applications.
What this cartridge promises and delivers on is the fun factor. With negligible recoil and a reasonable cost per shot compared to most centerfires the Hornady .17 HMR is easy on the shoulder and not especially damaging to the wallet, either.
This Henry Frontier Octagon Model #H001TV impressed us with its dashing good looks right out of the box. The medium-stained walnut stock was far better figured than average, the bluing was dark and rich, the lever action was buttery smooth and its trigger was a very light and crisp 3-1/2 pound break. The heavy, octagonal barrel made it look like a “real” gun, not a tinker-toy, and the gold “Henry Repeating Arms” barrel lettering set off the gun nicely. Though traditional, the buckhorn iron sights are a long ways away from our favorite and we half-expected the Henry to be a bit of a pain to scope. We were wrong, though, finding that a set of Millett 1 inch Angle-Loc Windage Adjustable 3/8 Dovetail High rings ($20) mounted our Sightron SII 2.5 x 10 x 32mm scope quickly without hassle. The Millett rings gave us plenty of clearance to cock and decock the hammer manually and also required no removal of the factory iron sights. Though the 11-shot Henry tubular magazine was not exactly enough to load on Sunday, shoot all week, it has a better capacity than most clip fed .17 HMR rifles.
We had breezy 8-12 mph range conditions, so we decided to do our shooting at a laser-verified 50 yards. We discovered that the Henry didn’t care for the 20 grain ammunition, shot the 17 grain Hornady rounds well, but was at its best with the Winchester 17 grain ammunition, shooting several consecutive groups inside one third of an inch, groups we easily covered with a dime. For whatever reason, the Henry told us it liked to be fed the Winchester ammunition.
We went over the Henry closely, trying to be as picky as possible. We really couldn’t find much to carp about. We did find one section of the forearm wood, the very end pointing towards the muzzle that was not sanded smooth. It is hard to spot, and we considered it so very hard to discern and in such an unobtrusive area we initially didn’t bother to call Henry to avail ourselves of their lifetime warranty. We think that for most consumers, it would go completely unnoticed or would not be considered worth a phone call, it is that minor of a cosmetic issue, in our view.
Henry Repeating Arms President, Anthony Imperato, refers to his company’s lifetime warranty policy and customer service policy as “Extreme Customer Service.” Since the forearm did have a minor finish flaw (hard to spot out of the box; likely why it slipped through in the first place) upon further reflection we decided to test out Mr. Imperato’s “Extreme Customer Service” theory. We contacted Henry, described the small cosmetic issue and sent along a photograph to show precisely what we were referring to. Without hesitation a brand new replacement forearm was overnighted to us that was finished perfectly. Henry made good on their warranty and customer service pledge, as we believe they would do for any consumer. We think they deserve recognition for this.
We liked the octagonal barrel of the Henry, we appreciated the trigger, we enjoyed the lack of rattling present in the loaded gun (as opposed to some tube-fed attempts) and with the Henry’s smooth action and more than acceptable accuracy with 17 grain ammunition we ended up impressed. Quality American walnut, easy to load, generally well-mannered handling and ease of use combined with a competitive price tag all added up to an outstanding overall impression. It did everything we could ask of a lever-action .17. It did it with excellent wood, trigger, action, reliability and at a price we felt was very attractive as well. We all agreed it was an excellent rifle and we unanimously gave it an outstanding rating. The responsive customer service that Henry exhibited further substantiates and solidifies not just our positive view of the rifle, but of Henry Arms.
We like most everything about this octagonal-barreled Henry. The wood was far better than we’d expect to find in this price range, as was the trigger. For field use, we appreciated the excellent, fast-handling characteristics of this 20 inch rifle compared to longer-barreled options. It’s the most fun we’ve had with a rimfire in some time and our opinion of Henry Arms seems to continously improve. It is an outstandingly good little rifle that packs a potent punch.
Note: Complete reviews of the Henry Golden Boy .17 HMR and Lever Octagon .22 WMR rifles can be found on the Product Reviews Page.
Copyright 2009, 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.