Gun Test: Henry Repeating Arms Long Ranger
In 2016, Henry Repeating Arms introduced a modern lever-action rifle chambered for flat-shooting cartridges capable of making hits at extended distances. Featuring a geared action and a detachable magazine, the side-ejecting rifle has been designed from the ground up to perform like a bolt-action rifle. For testing we received a Henry Long Ranger chambered for .243 Win., although the model is also available in .223 Rem. and .308 Win.
In order to cut down on weight, Henry uses an aerospace aluminum alloy for the Long Ranger’s unstressed receiver. It is hardcoat anodized in a matte black finish. To accommodate an optic, the receiver top is flat and has been drilled and tapped. Henry includes excellent Skinner scope bases and a hammer extension for those who choose to take advantage of the Long Ranger’s precision by mounting an optic.
The Long Ranger uses a rack-and-pinion system of connecting the lever to the bolt that is extremely smooth and wobble-free. For strength, the rifle’s chrome-plated steel bolt has a six-lug head that rotates into engagement with a barrel extension, not unlike an AR-15. The result is a very strong and consistent lockup, and the lever provides fast cycling without binding.
Unlike most lever guns, the Long Ranger feeds rounds from a detachable box magazine. One of the advantages of the box magazine relative to the more traditional tubular style is that spitzer-type bullets can be used for better accuracy. The higher ballistic coefficients of these types of bullets make them the better choice for long-distance shooters compared to the round-nose and flat-point ammunition typically used in tubular-magazine firearms to prevent tip-to-primer contact. The .243 Win. and .308 Win. rifles have a magazine capacity of four, while the .223 version’s capacity is five. There is a flush magazine release mounted on the right side of the receiver; to remove the magazine, simply depress the button and it will drop free.
Henry uses a 20″ round barrel on the Long Ranger. It is tapered and blued, and has a 1:10″ twist in the .243 model. Our sample possessed a folding rear sight and ramped front sight with a 0.062″ ivory bead for quick acquisition, however, Henry also offers the rifle without sights. For accuracy’s sake, the barrel is free-floated. The accuracy of conventional lever guns is adversely affected by attaching the fore-end and magazine tube to the barrel with a barrel band, and the Long Ranger does not have this issue; Henry attaches the fore-end to a cylindrical tapered stud, approximately 5″ long, that extends from the receiver. It makes for an extremely rigid and wobble-free fore-end that does not make contact with the barrel.
Both the fore-end and the buttstock are made from American walnut, and exhibit an excellent degree of fitting to the metal parts. Diamond-pattern checkering is laser-cut into the stock, and beyond looking good, it provides a degree of functionality. The fore-end has a blued-steel cap and a sling swivel stud, and the buttstock also has a stud and is equipped with a black rubber recoil pad.
The Long Ranger does not have a manual safety; there is no cross-bolt safety, tang-mounted safety or even a half-cock notch on the hammer. But the rifle does have a transfer bar safety mechanism, and the manual states, “This safety system prevents the gun from being fired under all circumstances, except when the hammer is fully cocked and the trigger is pulled.” The transfer bar is actually located in the hammer, and cannot contact the firing pin unless there is pressure on the trigger. Henry recommends carrying the gun fully loaded with the hammer down, or in the forward position. When ready to shoot, simply thumb back the hammer.
To load the rifle, first point the gun in a safe direction and insert the loaded magazine. Swing the lever down and then close it. At this point, the hammer is cocked and the rifle is ready to fire. To lower the hammer, place a thumb on the hammer—to prevent forward movement—and then pull the trigger slightly rearward. Immediately release the trigger while still holding the hammer, and then slowly lower it down to the forward position.
For the accuracy portion of our evaluation, we used a Trijicon 3-9X 40 mm AccuPoint riflescope. With the targets set out at 100 yds. and our scope set on 9X magnification, we fired five, five-shot groups per load, utilizing a bench and rifle rest. We were immediately impressed with the Long Ranger’s trigger. It broke crisply at 3 lbs. with just a little take-up. The temperature was more than 100 degrees when we fired the rifle, and we made no attempts to allow the barrel to cool between shots. Despite this, we experienced no vertical stringing and our groups were well-rounded.
The single best group measured just 0.61″ and was produced by Federal’s Fusion 95-gr. bullets—in fact, the average of all five groups fired with this load measured only 0.73″. Each of the three loads tested produced at least one sub-m.o.a. group. Recoil, even when shooting from the bench, was mild in the 7-lb. rifle.
In all, we fired 175 rounds during our evaluation, and experienced no problems. Rounds fed smoothly from the Long Ranger’s magazine, and cases were ejected positively from the rifle’s right-side ejection port. The owner’s manual suggests using pull-through-type cleaning kits, and advises against disassembling the rifle for cleaning.
Henry Repeating Arms’ Long Ranger provides shooters with the accuracy of a bolt-action in an easy-to-carry, fast-handling lever gun. It possesses the convenience of a detachable box magazine and chamberings that should extend the effective range of an accomplished marksman. Henry’s modernization of the lever rifle will help keep it a viable option for hunters far into the 21st century.