Henry Long Ranger Lever Action .308 Win.
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
A couple of years ago, Anthony Imperato (the owner of Henry RAC) and I exchanged a couple of e-mails regarding the possibility of a new Henry lever action rifle for high intensity cartridges on the order of the .308 Winchester. Basically, the proven designs were a one-piece bolt locking against the rear of a heavy steel receiver, as in the Savage 99, or a front locking design with a rotating bolt head, as used in the Winchester Model 88 and Browning BLR. (I voted for the latter.) Since it was obvious the boss at Henry was considering producing a new .308 Win. lever action, I asked him for an early example to review, if and when the project came to fruition.
Now it has and the rifle that is the subject of this review is the result. Dubbed the Henry Long Ranger, the initial offering of the new rifle is a traditionally styled (as much as is possible, given the new action and a detachable box magazine) lever action carbine with a round, sporter contour, 20" barrel and a two-piece, walnut stock. There is an external hammer and a traditional style lever. The initial caliber offerings are .223 Remington, .243 Winchester and .308 Winchester.
The walnut in the test rifle is better than what most companies would call semi-fancy and much better than the walnut in the photo (supplied by Henry) of the rifle at the top of this page. Henry Repeating Arms (www.henryrifles.com) has long been known for supplying a better grade of American walnut on its standard grade rifles than almost any other US manufacturer and they out did themselves in the case of our test rifle. This beautifully figured stock is graced with extensive, diamond pattern, wrap around, laser cut checkering on both butt stock and fore-end. The laser checkering was done slowly and carefully, without singing the wood. The oil finish completely fills the wood pores.
The commendably slender fore-end terminates in a blued steel cap, while the butt stock has a straight hand, a high comb to align the shooter's eye with optical sights and terminates in a nicely contoured, black recoil pad. Steel, detachable sling swivel studs are included. The wood to metal fit is very good and, despite what is says on the Henry RAC website, the barrel of our test rifle is not free floating.
The action of this new Henry will interest the technically inclined. It uses a satin-chromed, machined steel bolt with a rotating, six lug head that locks directly into a barrel extension. There is a plunger ejector and a small hook extractor in the recessed bolt face. The extractor seems to function reliably, although it grips only a small area of the case rim. Ejection is to the right through the solid top receiver's oval ejection port.
The traditional forged steel operating lever opens and closes the bolt by means of a rack and pinion system. This system is very smooth, although the follower of an empty magazine drags slightly on the underside of the bolt. Remove the magazine to feel how smooth the action really is.
The receiver that holds the system is formed from aerospace grade (whatever that means) aluminum alloy with a matte black finish. There is a floating, steel, bolt guide rail in the right side of the receiver
The hammer is automatically cocked when the action is cycled. The hammer face contains a small transfer bar that eliminates the need for a manual safety and allows the rifle to be safely carried with the chamber loaded.
The trigger and fire control parts are fixed in the receiver, they do not move with the lever in the fashion of a Winchester Model 88 or BLR. This, at least theoretically, allows for a cleaner trigger pull.
In fact, the single stage Long Ranger trigger is commendably clean with little over-travel. We measured the pull at 4.25 pounds, which is considerably heavier than the 2.5 to 3.0 pounds we prefer for a hunting rifle, but better than many factory triggers these days. Maybe the good people at Henry could find a way to lighten the trigger pull on future rifles?
The flush mount, all steel, detachable box magazine holds four .308 size cartridges in a staggered column. It is easy to load. The magazine release is a small (about 2/3 the diameter of a dime), flush mounted button in the right side of the receiver. There is a substantial spring behind the magazine release button, which ensures that the magazine will not be inadvertently released. However, it also means that considerable force is required to depress the little release button and drop the magazine.
The lever must be up, or at least not all the way down, to remove or insert the magazine. The magazine will not clear the lever if the lever is all the way forward. It is best to insert a loaded magazine with the bolt closed and then cycle the action to feed a cartridge into the chamber.
The blued steel barrel, fore-end cap, trigger, swing swivel studs and magazine release button are given a medium polish. The hammer, lever and magazine bottom plate have a matte finish to match the receiver.
We would have much preferred highly polished steel parts with luster bluing and a gloss anodized receiver, in the manner of the previously reviewed Henry Lever Octagon .22 WMR Rifle. We would also suggest a waterproof, semi-gloss stock finish to better show off the nice walnut. The Henry Long Ranger is (potentially) a deluxe rifle and deserves to look the part. After all, the Browning BLR Lightweight '81 with which it directly competes has a deluxe finish. We hope that Henry will see fit to offer a deluxe option as soon as possible.
In addition, we would like to see a rifle version of the proposed deluxe .308 Long Ranger with a 22" barrel. Carbines are all well and good in thick brush country or confined spaces, but it takes at least a 22" barrel to come close to realizing the ballistic potential of the .308 Winchester cartridge. The .223 and .243 versions of our proposed Long Ranger deluxe rifle should have 24" barrels to achieve the full velocity these small bore cartridges rely on for adequate energy and the flat trajectory that makes them desirable.
The Long Ranger is not supplied with iron sights, which is fine with us, but the rifle comes with two-piece, steel, Weaver/Picatinny type scope bases mounted at the factory. We checked the tension on the base mounting screws and tightened them to 30 inch pounds.
We mounted a Leupold VX-R 2-7x33mm riflescope on our Henry Long Ranger test rifle. This fine scope features a Duplex reticle with a tiny illuminated center point for use in dim light. It also has an Argon/Krypton filled, one-piece, 30mm main tube with a fast focus Euro-style eyepiece, index matched lens system, blackened lens edges, DiamondCoat external lens coatings and 1/4 MOA fingertip adjustments.
We used Leupold PRW cross-slot rings on the rifle's supplied bases to mount the VX-R. With the scope mounted, the Long Ranger balances in the middle of its magazine bottom plate, putting the rifle's weight between the shooter's hands, as we prefer.
With a scope mounted, we were ready to hit the Izaak Walton gun range south of Eugene, Oregon. Guns and Shooting staff members Chuck Hawks, Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck and Bob Fleck handled the shooting chores. The late summer weather was pleasant with a high temperature of 78 degrees F. and negligible wind.
We used four factory loads for this review. These included Remington Express 150 grain Core-Lokt, Federal/Fusion 150 grain Fusion, Hornady American Whitetail 150 grain Interlock SP and Winchester Supreme 168 grain Ballistic Silvertip.
Our recorded groups were fired from a covered shooting bench at 100 yards, using a Lead Sled DFT rest. We fired three shot groups for record. Due to time constraints and the warm weather, we were not able to let the barrel cool down between groups, although we did give it a few minutes to at least partially cool between shooters.
The group size for the groups we fired with all four brands of ammunition averaged 1.56". This is very good accuracy for four loads fired by four different shooters. The most accurate load in this particular rifle turned out to be the Rem. Core-Lokt 150 grain bullet, which achieved a mean average group size of only 1.15".
We think a lighter trigger would have resulted in even tighter groups. Our shooters often managed to get two out of three bullets very close together, only to have the remaining shot open the group. We attributed this mostly to the 4.25 pound trigger pull, although barrel heating could have also been a factor. Regardless, the Long Ranger performed well.
At the range, constantly having to eject, reload and reseat the Long Ranger's detachable magazine quickly became irritating to our shooters, who generally prefer open top receivers. This is much less of a problem in the field, as ordinarily you would only have to load the magazine once a day.
The magazine fed cartridges reliably, as long as the lever was operated briskly and not short-stroked. Like most lever action rifles, operating the lever in a hesitant manner (an operator error) can cause problems.
The Long Ranger can be single loaded, as long as the magazine is in place, by inserting the nose of a fresh cartridge into the chamber and closing the bolt. The small extractor hook easily rides over the case rim when the bolt is closed. Single loading can be convenient at the rifle range.
The shape of the butt stock is functional and no one had a problem with the comb hitting their cheek bone. The subjective recoil is what you would expect from a rifle of this weight shooting full power factory loads. The soft rubber recoil pad does a good job of softening the blow to the shoulder, but the short 20" barrel produces considerable muzzle blast.
We are certain the Henry Long Ranger carbine will prove an effective hunting rifle, particularly in brush country or the deep woods. It is well made, attractive, accurate and reliable. It balances between the hands and handles well.
Henry claims that this lever action shoots as accurately as a bolt action and our range results confirm that assertion. With a front locking bolt to control case stretch, it is also just as good for reloaders as a bolt action and much better than an autoloader that throws brass around. Of course, the smooth Henry lever action cycles much faster than a bolt action for follow-up shots.
Note: A review of the Long Ranger with full shooting results and a Rifle Review Summary can be found on the Product Reviews index page.
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