Summary of Cartridge Evaluations for the Henry Long Ranger Rifle
By Gary Zinn with Chuck Hawks
When Henry Repeating Arms (www.henryusa.com) introduced its Long Ranger rifle, they offered this modern lever action rifle in the best selling .223 Remington, .243 Winchester and .308 Winchester cartridges. This made good marketing sense, but we at Guns and Shooting Online immediately saw the potential of the Long Ranger in other short action (.308 Winchester length) cartridges.
Accordingly, we wrote a series of articles exploring the potential of the Long Ranger if chambered for the .257 Roberts, .260 Remington, 7mm-08 Remington, .338 Federal and .358 Winchester cartridges. We also covered the Long Ranger in .243 Winchester and were among the first publications to do a full, in depth review the .308 Long Ranger.
In this article we will summarize our thoughts on the best hunting applications of each cartridge and suggest what barrel lengths would be most efficient and useful in each caliber. In addition, a couple of special purpose Long Ranger models we have thought of will be mentioned and we will share our thoughts on sighting systems for these rifles.
Comments on Long Ranger calibers and barrel lengths
.223 Remington: We did not write a specific article on the .223 Remington Long Ranger, because the cartridge is not suited for big game hunting. It is an excellent recreational shooting, varmint hunting and neophyte training round, though, so the .223 is a welcome member of the Long Ranger cartridge lineup. The .223 Long Ranger was introduced with a 20 inch barrel, which is a good length for a lever action .223 Carbine.
.243 Winchester: Chuck wrote our article The .243 Winchester in the Henry Long Ranger Rifle, with bottom line conclusions as follows:
"The .243 Winchester is a very popular cartridge around the world. It offers flat trajectory and very light recoil in a cartridge adequate for most Class 2 game at reasonable ranges. In addition, it is absolutely deadly on varmints and small predators as far as you can get the bullet into the vitals."
"In the original Henry Long Ranger carbine with its 20 inch barrel, the .243 is an adequate deer cartridge at woods ranges. This rifle/cartridge combination should be especially useful in restricted spaces, such as the tree blinds widely used for deer hunting east of the Rocky Mountains in the USA. A rifle version of the Long Ranger with a 22 inch barrel would serve to extend the usefulness of the .243, particularly in the western US, where bigger deer and longer ranges are more common."
.257 Roberts +P: "The .257 Roberts cartridge does not deserve to be shoved into obscurity. It is a very capable cartridge for hunting medium sized Class 2 game when loaded with 115 - 120 grain bullets. Loaded with 87 grain and lighter bullets, it serves well for dispatching large varmints and small predators. Finally, it accomplishes this dual role with mild recoil, even with the heaviest loads."
I wrote these words in The .257 Roberts: Its Potential as a Deer Cartridge in the Henry Long Ranger Rifle, suggesting that the Long Ranger should be offered in .257 Roberts. I documented that the .257 Roberts is a better deer cartridge than the much more common .243 Winchester, with longer effective range and stronger terminal power. Chuck and I recommend a 22 inch barrel for a .257 Roberts Long Ranger.
.260 Remington: In the article on the Henry Long Ranger in .260 Remington, I summarized the performance of the cartridge thusly:
"Loaded with 120 grain bullets, the .260 will pretty much do what the .257 Roberts +P or the .25-06 Remington can do with 117 to 120 grain bullets. Using 129-130 grain cartridges, the .260 is arguably a light version of the legendary 130 grain .270 Winchester load. The .260 with 140 grain loads performs close to the 7mm-08 Remington with the same weight bullets and moves the caliber into the all-around category. Finally, a .260 hand loaded with 155 to 160 grain bullets will perform well on even large Class 3 game at moderate distances, despite its small bore size. (The secret to its success being the very high sectional density of these bullets)."
Chuck shared these thoughts about the .260 Remington:
"I think the .260 Rem. may be one the best Class 2 game cartridges (and Class 3 in a pinch) ever invented. The 6.5s are more versatile than the .30-30 (a great cartridge in its own right) and kick less than pretty much any other cartridges worthy of an occasional Class 3 hunt. They combine long range capability, light recoil and excellent killing power."
Our bottom line evaluation was that, "the versatile .260 Remington cartridge, chambered in the Long Ranger rifle, would be a new ball game for hunters of Class 2 and (occasionally) Class 3 game animals." We recommend a 22 inch barrel length to optimize the performance of this flat shooting cartridge in the Long Ranger rifle.
7mm-08 Remington: As we wrote in The 7mm-08 Remington: Its Potential in the Henry Long Ranger Rifle, ballistics evaluation suggests that the 7mm-08 Remington may be the most versatile of all possible cartridges in the Long Ranger rifle. (However, a similar case could be made for the .308 Winchester, as will be noted below.)
With the ability to efficiently handle bullet weights from 120 to 175 grains, the 7mm-08 has the finesse to take light Class 2 game, the power to take most non-dangerous Class 3 animals and the flexibility to handle anything in between. All of this is from a mild shooting, short action cartridge. We favor a 22 inch barrel length to take full advantage of the versatility of the 7mm-08.
.308 Winchester: The Henry Long Ranger Rifle that was the subject of our full length review was chambered for the .308 Winchester cartridge. The .308 Winchester is one of the best known and most versatile big game hunting cartridges in the world. Indeed, it made the G&S Online "short list" of all-around big game rifle cartridges. (The others being the .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum and .30-06 Springfield; see All-Around Rifle Cartridges for details.)
Here are a few key points that Chuck made about the cartridge in his article The .308 Winchester (7.62mm NATO):
"The .308 Winchester is a great sporting cartridge, both for hunting and competitive target shooting. It perfectly fills the need for a high performance, all-around short action cartridge for the hunter. It has proven to be perhaps the most accurate high intensity .30 caliber cartridge ever developed. It is used in match target competition all the way out to 1,000 yards. It is used for big game hunting on every continent. Ammunition is manufactured in North America, Europe, Africa, Australia and beyond."
"There is a very large selection of factory loads for the caliber, particularly in the most useful range of 150-180 grains. The reloader has bullet choices ranging from 100 grain to 200 grain. With the right loads a hunter armed with a .308 can tackle everything from jackrabbits to elk and it shoots flat enough to make fairly long range shots possible. Thick-skinned and dangerous game should be left to the medium and big bores, but nearly everything else is within the capabilities of the .308 Win."
We have no issue with the initial offering of the .308 Win. Long Ranger with a 20 inch barrel, for a .30 caliber lever action rifle with 20 inch barrel makes a great woods gun. However, we suggest the addition of a .308 Win. Long Ranger with a 22 inch barrel, as an option for hunting in more open habitats.
.338 Federal: We feel that the .338 Federal is a hugely under appreciated cartridge. Perhaps this is the fate of any cartridge that shares its bore size with the renowned .338 Winchester Magnum.
Here are some key points from our article The .338 Federal: Its Potential in the Henry Long Ranger Rifle:
"Chambering the Henry Long Ranger for the .338 Federal cartridge would yield a rifle with expanded capabilities, suitable for hunting Class 2 and Class 3 animals. With 185 to 200 grain rapid expansion bullets, the cartridge is exceptionally deadly on all Class 2 game. With 200 grain or heavier controlled expansion bullets, the .338 Federal is adequate for all Class 3 game, including North American elk and moose, as long as the average shot is not beyond the MPBR of the specific load. About the only North American animals we would not choose it for would be Class 4 dangerous game, such as Alaskan brown/grizzly bears, polar bear and bison, although It would probably do the job if one did not have a .338 Magnum."
"The .338 Federal drives a 210 grain Nosler Partition bullet at a MV of 2630 f.p.s. and ME of 3225 ft. lbs. for outstanding game stopping power with recoil below that of most other medium bore cartridges. For flatter trajectory when hunting Class 2 game, there are 185 grain loads at 2680 to 2750 f.p.s. MV. The .338 Federal is a true medium bore cartridge, but unlike most such cartridges it does its job efficiently, with no more fuss than necessary."
Our evaluation of the .338 Federal/Long Ranger combination was based on a 22 inch barrel length. We feel this optimizes the balance between ballistic performance of the cartridge and handling of the rifle in the most likely hunting environments.
.358 Winchester: This is perhaps the ultimate cartridge choice for the die-hard deep woods or thick brush hunter. Chuck had this to say about the prospects of a .358 Win./Long Ranger combination in The .358 Winchester: Its Potential in the Henry Long Ranger Rifle:
"The .358 Win. is a medium velocity cartridge well suited for use in a fast handling carbine with a 20 inch barrel. It is one of the best woods cartridges ever devised for hunting a combination of Class 2 (deer and black bear size) and Class 3 (elk size) big game. Its relatively fat, heavy bullets at medium velocity, especially if flat or round nose design, get through brush, twigs and minor obstructions about as well as a woods or brush country hunter could ask and considerably better than small bore, high velocity bullets."
"The .358 Win. handles 180 grain, 200 grain, 220 grain, 225 grain and 250 grain bullets quite well, but it is the 220-225 grain bullets that I prefer for hunting Class 3 game. The .358 is a very efficient cartridge and it really slaps animals down at woods ranges. Both the .358 Winchester cartridge and the Henry Long Ranger carbine are naturals for the woods and brush country hunter of Class 2 and Class 3 game animals."
Special purpose Long Rangers
A Long Ranger in .243 Win. caliber would make an ideal youth rifle, due to its flat trajectory, very mild recoil and low muzzle blast. We suggest that Henry RAC offer a youth model carbine (20 inch barrel) with the butt stock shortened an inch and with a 1/2-inch and two 1/4-inch spacers provided, so that the stock LOP can be adjusted as needed for growing shooters, or optimized for small statured shooters.
We also suggest an all-weather Long Ranger. Henry RAC already offers an all-weather version of its Big Boy and Lever Action (.30-30 and .45-70) rifles, so an all-weather Long Ranger would not be a stretch. A .308 Win. all-weather version would be a natural starting point, while an all-weather .358 Win. model would also make a lot of sense.
Sights for the Long Ranger
As originally introduced, the Long Ranger was without sights, but with the receiver drilled and tapped and scope mount base provided. Subsequently, an iron sighted version has been introduced, with a ramp front and folding leaf rear sight system.
We have no particular interest in the iron sighted Long Ranger, for several reasons. These boil down to the proposition that, if a record book trophy were staring at us from a distance of (say) 150 yards or thereabouts, we would be much more confident staring back through a scope sight than over irons.
Here are our opinions/suggestions on scoping the Long Ranger. Our bottom line advise is, do not over scope the rifle.
An example of over scoping would be a 4-12x50mm scope on a Long Ranger chambered in .308 Winchester. The high end magnification of 12x would be overkill on a big game rifle with a maximum +/- 3 inch MPBR of about 275 yards, while a minimum magnification of 4x is not ideal for quick, short range shots. Further, such a large scope will necessarily be heavy and will sit high over the receiver of the rifle, making for poor rifle balance and sluggish handling, not to mention extra weight to carry during a long day in the field.
We feel a 2-7x or 2.5-8x riflescope with a one inch (25mm) diameter main tube is as large as one needs to hunt Class 2 or Class 3 game, from close to the muzzle out to the MPBR (+/- 3 inches) of the .257 Roberts, .260 Rem., 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win. and .338 Federal rifles. These are our preferred "all-around" riflescopes.
The Leupold VX-2 2-7x33mm riflescope is an example of a medium priced, high quality scope that would do the job. This scope has a large field of view at 2x setting, for close shots, yet has enough power at 7x to allow a clear, precise sight setup on an animal near or at MPBR distance. A scope of this size can be mounted low over the rifle receiver and is reasonably light weight.
The hunter who habitually stakes out clear cuts, fire roads and power line easements, or who hunts primarily in open country, might prefer a scope with somewhat greater maximum magnification, such as the Leupold VX3i 2.5-8x36mm. This scope is still reasonably compact, mounts in low rings and does not sacrifice too much field of view at the low power end.
We would be comfortable with a somewhat larger scope on a .223 Rem. or .243 Win. Long Ranger. The appropriate hunting use of a .223 is varmints and small predators (Class 1 animals) and the .243 is a combination Class 1 and Class 2 game caliber.
For these rifles, a 3-9x40mm scope would make sense. The 9x magnification would be adequate for most long shots at small targets, while 3x provides an adequate field of view for most closer shots at larger targets. Something on the order of a Leupold VX-1 or VX-2 3-9x40mm would be a good choice. However, if a .243 Long Ranger is purchased specifically as a low recoil deer rifle, we would favor a 2-7x33mm scope over a 3-9x40mm model.
The .358 Win. Long Ranger carbine is a different case from the others. If one hunts in the thick stuff with a .358, shots are likely to be at short to moderate ranges and possibly at moving animals. Here, low magnification and a large field of view are a great advantage. We would favor scopes such as the Leupold VX-2 1-4x20mm or VX-3i 1.5-5x20 mm for such hunting. The same applies if one were to use a .308 Win. Long Ranger carbine as a woods and brush gun.
Reticle selection is also important. Scope makers, by touting complex reticles, have created unnecessary complication and confusion. The simple fact is that the no nonsense Duplex reticle is hard to beat when paired with rifles chambering modern, high intensity cartridges, such as the .308 Winchester and its derivatives.
Chuck has explained how to use a Duplex reticle scope in three sentences: "Forget about bullet drop tables, 'ballistic' scope reticles and so forth. In fact, in the field, forget about long range shooting entirely. Zero your rifle for the +/- 3 inch maximum point blank range (MPBR) of the cartridge/load you are using and NEVER attempt a shot beyond that distance."
Beyond the Duplex, the only reticle worth mentioning is the circle-x (sometimes called turkey plex or shotgun reticle). A low power scope with this type of reticle is a good choice for a lever rifle/cartridge combination intended for short to moderate range hunting in thick cover. The circle around the intersection of the cross hairs brackets the target zone and leads the eye to the center of the sight picture when one is trying to get quick target acquisition in a close, cluttered environment. The Leupold VX-1 1-4x20mm Shotgun/Muzzleloader scope with Turkey Plex reticle is an example.
I have discussed riflescope selection in more detail in Riflescopes for Hunting Class 2 Game. Chuck's article Telescopic and Red Dot Sights is an excellent treatise on optical sights in general and riflescopes in particular.
Which of the five additional cartridges for which the Long Ranger is suited will be produced, and when? Only the decision makers at Henry know and they will not announce new Long Ranger calibers or model variants until they are ready. (Locked and loaded, so to speak).
We at Guns and Shooting Online have tried to do our part, by making objective evaluations of possible new chamberings. We look forward to seeing where the fertile minds at Henry RAC take the Long Ranger platform.
Copyright 2017 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.