It continues to be a breakout year for Henry Repeating Arms as the company strives to fill a variety of customer requests with brand-new models. Not long ago I was able to test drive Henry's eagerly anticipated first shotgun—a lever-action .410 based on the company's .45-70 Gov't. rifle. While the results of this shotgun’s development are quite satisfying, it doesn't wander very far from the design parameters Henry has been using for years.
However, the new Long Ranger rifle tested for this review is a completely different ball of wax. Henry's design team had to go back to the drawing board in order to construct a hunting gun capable of reaching out to and well past the 200-yard mark in order to harvest big game. The result of its endeavors is a smooth-cycling box-fed lever-action chambered in .223 Rem., .243 Win. and .308 Win., with or without a set of adjustable iron sights.
Thankfully, Henry was careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. The company stuck to its “Made in America or Not Made at All” policy while maintaining the quality, features and styling Henry fans prefer. After looking over the line-up, I requested a Long Ranger with iron sights chambered in .308 Win.
Developing a magazine-fed lever-gun specifically for big game is not an original idea. But it is, nonetheless, a good one that deserves to be explored. Although the new Long Ranger is not a clone of an existing platform, it seems more than likely that Browning’s BLR Lightweight '81 lever-action was at the very least inspirational, if not influential, in the Ranger's design.
This version of the Long Ranger sports a 20" slim, blued-steel round-profile barrel cut with 1:10” right-handed six-groove rifling. This model (H014S-308) benefits from a set of back-up iron sights which are certainly good enough to serve as primary sights in the field. The front sight, a dovetailed white-bead blade, is paired with a fully adjustable rear sight which folds down in order to accommodate an optic. The slender checkered American Walnut fore-end is topped with a steel cap that retains the forward sling swivel.
The matte black aerospace aluminum alloy receiver has an ejection port and a round magazine release button on the right side. The top of the receiver is drilled and fitted with threaded steel grommet-like supports. These supports accept the retention screws of the two-piece Skinner scope mounting system provided with the rifle. The company thoughtfully includes an ambidextrous hammer extension which aids in manipulating the external hammer when an optic is in place.
The machined- and chromed-steel bolt assembly of this rifle is of necessity much longer than those found on other Henry models. It extends a full 4.5" out of the receiver as it cocks the exposed hammer (make sure not to choke up too far on the shoulder stock or the rear of the assembly just might bump into your nose). Along the bottom of the assembly you can see the teeth that mesh with the geared action.
At the business end of the bolt assembly is a six-lug rotating bolt head that bears a striking resemblance to the rotating bolts found in AR-10 platforms. As the bolt assembly is pressed forward, the bolt head twists and locks tightly into the barrel’s chamber for more consistent shot placement. The good news is that this more sophisticated bolt assembly does not hinder the cycling of the lever. Henrys are known for being smooth and easy to operate and this new action is no exception. In fact, it's among the best that Henry has produced.
The exposed hammer is serrated for improved purchase. Attaching the provided hammer extension makes it even easier to cock and lower the hammer. Inside the hammer is a transfer bar safety that prevents the rifle from firing unless the trigger is fully depressed. This makes it safe to carry the rifle with a round chambered and the hammer forward. If the hammer should accidentally slip and fall forward in the process of cocking it, the rifle will not go off. It's an exceptionally safe and reliable system.
The Long Ranger's steel lever loop is standard size with the traditional rounded trigger guard. The plain-faced steel bow trigger is technically a single-action instead of a single-stage since the hammer is exposed. But it feels like a single-stage because it exhibits no pre-travel before a crisp break and a short trigger stroke. The trigger pull of this rifle was 3 lbs. 15 oz.
The all-steel box magazine drops out from the underside of the receiver when the release is pressed. The four-round magazine has a steel follower and a baseplate which fits flush with the receiver. Although the magazine exhibited just a bit of wiggle in the receiver when it was completely unloaded, the wiggle disappeared completely once the magazine contained one or more rounds of ammunition.
The straight grip of the shoulder stock has been treated to wrap around checkering which matches the fore-end. Like the fore-end, the stock is properly fitted and cut from a higher grade of straight-grain American walnut than is usually found installed on Henrys. Other features include a rear sling swivel and a soft rubber recoil pad. The overall fit and finish demonstrated top-shelf craftsmanship.
At the shooting range the Long Ranger was handy, well-balanced and as enjoyable to shoot as I hoped it would be. The soft recoil pad doesn't seem very thick but it proved to be effective, turning the felt recoil into a solid shove instead of a punishing kick. The rifle was utterly reliable with all of the test ammunition fired. There were no mechanical issues as the action cycled smoothly round after round. Right toward the end of the testing process, when the gun was hot and dirty, there were a couple of spent cases that were a little sticky to extract but they ejected with a bit of extra pressure on the lever.
Topped with a terrific Bushnell Trophy Xtreme X30 2.5-10x44 scope with a Multi-X reticle using Weaver Grand Slam Lever Lok high scope rings, the rifle was benchrested for five-shot groups fired at 100 yards. The Black Hills Ammunition 155-gr. Hornady A-Max produced a best single group of 1.21" with a five group average of 1.28". Winchester Super X 180-gr. Power Point soft points printed a best group of 1.15" with an average of 1.19". Also, this was my first time working with the Norma USA's 168-gr. Sierra MatchKing hollow-point boat tail load and I was happy with the results. This round yielded a best single group of 0.93" with an average of 1.03".
The new Henry Repeating Arms Long Ranger with iron sights is a clear demonstration of the company's willingness to move in new directions in order to keep its customers happy. There is nothing about this rifle that looks or feels like a first-time model. Based on results, one would think Henry has been producing these rifles for decades. This high-quality rifle provides a smooth, reliable alternative for hunting big game.
Specification Manufacturer: Henry Repeating Arms Model: Long Ranger H014S-308 Action: LeverAction Caliber: .308 Win. Receiver: Matte Black Aluminum Barrel: Blued Steel, Round Profile Bolt: 6-Lug Rotating Safety: Transfer Bar Trigger: Single-Action Trigger Pull: 3 lbs. 15 oz. (As Tested) Forend: Checkered American Walnut, Blued Steel Cap, Sling Swivel Stud Shoulder Stock: Checkered American Walnut, Straight Grip, Rubber Recoil Pad, Sling Swivel Stud Front Sight: Black Ramp with Ivory Bead Rear Sight: Folding, Fully Adjustable Optic: Two-Piece Skinner Scope Base Barrel Length: 20" Overall Length: 40.5" Length of Pull: 14" Weight: 7 lbs. Capacity: 4+1 Rounds, Removable Box Magazine Twist: 1:10" RH Rifle Grooves: 6 Accessories: One Magazine, Skinner Scope Bases with Hardware, Hammer Extension Lock, Owner's Manual MSRP: $1,014.95
Scope: Bushnell Trophy Xtreme X30 2.5-10x44 with Multi-X Reticle Rings: Weaver Grand Slam Lever Lok high rings