Henry Lever Octagon - Frontier Model .22 WMR Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
When one of our regular readers suggested that we review a Henry Lever Octagon - Frontier Model .22 Magnum rimfire rifle, we agreed. Our previous experience with Henry guns has been very positive and we have a weakness for lever action rifles, especially models with octagon barrels. This trim rimfire proved to be no exception; the Guns and Shooting Online staff immediately fell in love with the traditional looking (but thoroughly modern internally) Henry Lever Octagon.
It is an attractive little rifle. The metal alloy receiver and forend band are finished gloss black and the barrel, magazine tube, lever, hammer, trigger, sights and most other steel parts are polished and blued. The two-piece stock boasts a traditional slender forend and a trim, straight hand buttstock. These are made from matched, straight grained, black walnut finished with a semi-gloss finish and there is a black plastic butt plate. Overall, the rifle has a slender, business like appearance. It is clearly a serious hunting rifle.
The modern Henry lever action uses a solid top receiver and an external hammer with a traditional "1/4 cock" safety notch. Ejection is to the right side through an oval port. The bolt is held closed by the lever mechanism and incorporates a long claw extractor. A fixed ejector is machined into the receiver. The loop lever operates through about a 70-degree arc.
We measured the trigger pull as varying between 2.0 and 2.5 pounds on our RCBS Premium trigger gauge, which is unusually light for an out of the box rifle. Unfortunately, even though commendably light, it had considerable gritty creep.
The tubular magazine hung beneath the barrel holds eleven .22 WMR cartridges. It is easily loaded by simply inverting the rifle, partially withdrawing the brass inner magazine tube and dropping the cartridges into the loading cutout.
The rifle is equipped with a Marbles semi-buckhorn open rear and a brass bead front sight mounted in standard 3/8" dovetail slots. The rear sight comes with a reversible white diamond insert. It can be drifted laterally in its dovetail to adjust for windage and has a step-elevator for elevation adjustment. These iron sights represent an upgrade from those provided on the standard Henry Lever .22 Magnum rifle. The top of the receiver is grooved to cut glare and dovetailed to accept standard "tip-off" scope mounting rings.
The latter is a good thing, as we are not fans of open iron sights, especially on a flat-shooting .22 WMR rifle. We mounted a Sightron SII 3-9x36mm AO scope in dovetail rings for the purposes of this review, although this same rifle was also used in our "Rimfire Riflescopes" comparison article (see the Rimfire Guns and Ammo and/or Scopes and Sport Optics pages) that we were working on at the same time, so it ultimately wore a number of different scopes.
The Sightron SII is one of the finest (and most expensive) rimfire, centerfire and air gun riflescopes on the market. It boasts excellent optics, an extended range adjustable objective, a fine crosshair reticle and accurate ¼ MOA click adjustments. It is even supplied with a deep lens hood to prevent glare. It is an excellent and very versatile scope, perfect for a deluxe bolt action rimfire such as the Anschutz Model 1502 D HB previously reviewed with this scope, although a little large for a rifle as slender as the Henry Lever Octagon. The scope and rings brought the weight of our loaded Henry Lever Octagon up to 7 pounds.
Here are the catalog specifications for the Henry Lever Octagon rifle:
Naturally, we were anxious to get the Henry to the range. Fortunately, within a couple days of its arrival we got a break in the rainy Oregon weather and were able to seize the opportunity.
Guns and Shooting Online Owner/Managing Editor Chuck Hawks, Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays and Chief Technical Advisor Jim Fleck did the bench rest test shooting with the Lever Octagon .22 WMR. Five different .22 Magnum loads averaged five shot groups under two inches at 100 yards. These are fine shooting results for any .22 WMR rifle.
We were impressed by the exceptional smoothness of the Henry lever action. These are truly "feel good" actions to operate. Cartridge feeding from the magazine is quick and certain and the ejection of fired cases is positive. The Lever Octagon's barrel is somewhat heavier than a 20" round barrel, which gives the rifle a slightly weight forward balance and assists steady holding and accurate shooting from field positions. Its "adult weight" is also a plus, while not being burdensome. It will make a fine small game hunting rifle.
Iinitially, the trigger had a fair amount of not particularly smooth creep before let-off. Sometimes you could gently pull through the take-up until you felt the trigger catch at the very end of its preliminary travel and then "wish off" the shot with slight additional finger pressure, but not always.
Using a conventional "surprise break" trigger pull, not trying to anticipate the shot, but simply ignoring the creep and gently increasing pressure on the trigger until the rifle fired, proved fairly easy to do and gave the best results. We suspect that the trigger's take-up will smooth with additional use. In fact, by the end of this review and the concurrent "Rimfire Scopes" article, it already had and was consistently releasing at 2.0 pounds.
In conclusion, we liked the Henry Lever Octagon - Frontier Model .22 Magnum rifle. As mentioned previously, we have already used it in our "Rimfire Riflescopes" comparison article. It is a modern "adult" rimfire hunting rifle that is affordable, reliable, handsome, accurate and smooth operating. Its traditional styling and octagon barrel merely add to its appeal.
Henry Repeating Arms Company (www.henry-guns.com) rifles are 100% made in the USA and the Company is doing a lot of things right. Their lever action rifles typically come with a better grade of walnut than competing rifles and are very competitively priced.
They also come with a simple limited lifetime warranty: if you ever have a problem and it's Henry's fault, they will fix it immediately and at no charge. Nothing could be clearer, or fairer, than that.
Note: Complete reviews, including detailed shooting results, of the Henry Golden Boy .17 HMR and Lever Octagon .22 WMR rifles can be found on the Product Reviews page.
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