The first three calibers released by Henry Repeating Arms for its box-fed “Long Ranger” lever-action rifle are .308 Win, .243 Win, and .223 Rem/5.56 NATO. Why those calibers? Because they’re the calibers their customers asked for.
I absolutely love the .308 version I reviewed earlier this year. I hear there’ll be additional calibers released, including .338 Federal and 6.5 Creedmoor. But for now, I was happy to get the Long Ranger in its smallest caliber, .223/5.56.
Opening up the familiar Henry box, I was [still] impressed by the Ranger’s looks. The quality of the wood on the .308 version was superb — far better than you’ll find on most bolt guns at this price.
This wood on this particular gun isn’t quite as good as the previous Long Ranger, but that’s simply the variation in a natural product. It’s close, with the last rifle probably being at the top of its grade in quality wood and this one being closer to the middle. The checkered American walnut stock and foregrip has a little bit less wavy figure in it, but with the lightest bit of oil rubbed in, it really shines up nicely.
The metal finish is outstanding, as is the overall design and build of the gun. It’s the little details that set this gun apart, like the curve of the bottom of the receiver and how the magazine fits into it. A machined-and-chromed steel bolt with a 6-lug rotary head is driven into a rear extension of the barrel. The finish of all the internals is absolutely excellent, and the aforementioned rotating locking bolt shines and moves like clockwork inside the receiver.
I noted in the last review that the wood-to-metal fit on the forend was good, but not perfect. I was being nit picky with that one, but this one is worse than that. The forestock wood is not fit well, with some slight machine marks on the metal.
The stock is also oversized where the receiver tang meets it, and hangs over the receiver as well. That’s a shame and out-of-place on a rifle that has a great design, that’s otherwise executed extremely well.
Henry now offers the Long Ranger with or without iron sights. I think the gun works better without sights.
The rifle comes scope ready, drilled and tapped with a Skinner rail set already mounted. For this test, I mounted the exact same scope as I did for the last review. All I had to do was unscrew the scope from the base of the .308 rifle and screw it right on to the scope mount on the .223, no other adjustments to the mount were necessary.
It’s pretty clear that the Long Ranger was set up to be scope mounted. Low to medium rings put the optic right in front of my eye, while keeping a solid cheek-stock weld. The shorter grip and much higher comb add the surety that this is an optic-based gun.
Without the glass mounted, I tried to look right over the mount, as if I had sights set up on it. I’d either have to move my face farther back on the stock to bring my eye down, or mash my cheek in there. As it is, this is one of the very few lever guns that deserves to have quality glass sitting on top of it. A fixed 6x or 10x for whopping the prairie dogs would be ideal.
None of the Long Ranger models have an external safety. Like traditional Henry lever guns, the Long Ranger employs the proven in-hammer sliding transfer bar safety. It’s perfectly safe to carry in the field with a round chambered and the hammer down. When you pull the trigger, the rifle will fire. Then and only then.
With the once-over of the .223 Long Ranger complete, it was time to head to the range to see if it lived up to the .308 version’s performance. The first time I opened the action to lube the gun, it certainly felt different.
The first Long Ranger I had all but sprung open with only a slight pull of the lever. This one didn’t; it took a good pull to get the gun to open.
Following my established protocols, I ran a bore snake through the gun, and liberally sprayed Rogue American Apparel’s Gun Oil throughout the now open action and barrel. I usually let the gun sit like that for an hour or so. This time I just set about loading the magazine.
After filling the magazine, I closed the action, put my thumb on the trigger to hold it there, and gently squeezed the trigger. Nothing. I pulled back on the trigger harder. Nothing. I looked down closely at the receiver and realized it wasn’t quite closed. It was very close, but not all the way.
A millimeter more on the handle, and the gun fired. Read that carefully. Yup, I never took my finger off the trigger, and I wasn’t paying attention to the now very oily hammer. After shooting my first deer 37 years ago, I just had my first — and only — negligent discharge.
The muzzle was pointed in a safe direction and the round hit the berm behind my target. The muzzle was well in front of me (or anyone else on the line) but I wasn’t looking at the target directly as the gun fired, and didn’t intend for it to do so. That’s a negligent discharge.
Of course, I cocked the gun and squeezed the trigger, so the firearm itself behaved exactly as it was supposed to. It happened because I wasn’t paying attention to the gun. I was feeling for it to fully close; I expected it to feel like the rifle I’d shot before. Mea culpa. Complacency kills.
Unfortunately, this gun doesn’t have quite the same easy-to-open-and-close action as its .308 brother. Once that action gets started, it flies open and back, cycling extremely fast. But it takes a tug to get it open, and you have to be sure to fully close it. After 300 rounds, it was considerably better. My 12-year-old son had no problem cycling the action.
The trigger, however, is just as outstanding as the .308 — far better than any of my stock bolt guns. The trigger breaks cleanly and neatly at 4 pounds. There’s just a small — as in maybe 2mm — amount of take-up prior to the break, without any grit or mush.
As for reliability, the .223/5.56 functions with the same boring monotony as the .308. Maybe even better. Through 300 rounds I had zero problems loading, firing, or cycling any ammo I put through the gun. Never a sticky bolt.
I shot everything from surplus 55-grain FMJs, to 77-grain OTMs, with lead-nosed HPs and anything else I could find thrown in between. I’d be perfectly comfortable taking this rifle on any (caliber appropriate) hunt, 100 percent sure that it will perform when I need it to.
The hallmark of a varmint caliber like this one is (or should be) accuracy. A small hole will sink a big ship, but it had better be in the right place. Henry Rifle’s motto is “Made in America, or Not Made at All.” That extends to their in-house-made barrels — ensuring both reliable supply as well as the level of accuracy I’ve come to expect from the last Long Ranger.
The .223/5.56 20-inch 1:9 twist barrel didn’t particularly like the 55-grain FMJs, printing an average of 1.7-inch five-round groups at 100 yards from bags. That was likely the round. The accuracy kept improving as I fired, especially with the heavier rounds. The 64-grain Winchester Power Point round I use to cull deer printed at 1.2 inches, and the 77-grain OTM round printed an average of 1 inch on the nose, with very little deviation.
All in all, I fired 60 rounds from bags for accuracy testing without cleaning the rifle prior to or during the shooting. I was really surprised at that level of accuracy in a lever gun with my last review, and now I know I can rely on it with the smaller caliber as well.
Beyond bench accuracy, this rifle excels from the kneel and standing positions. Like all rifles, it greatly benefit from an actual shooter’s sling. Standing unslung at 100 yards, I had little trouble hitting an 8-inch circle. Slung up, I could stretch that out to 300 yards.
The Long Ranger, in any of its calibers, is a breeze to fire in any position, with great balance. The recoil’s so light you can watch your round strike the target even at 50 yards. It just doesn’t buck at all.
Balance and the plain old “shootability” of this rifle makes the Long Ranger comfortable to carry and shoot anywhere. If you’re looking for a light-shooting, accurate gun this is an outstanding rifle. That it’s not an AR or a bolt gun makes it that much better.
Specifications: Henry Long Ranger Rifle
Action Type: Lever Action
Caliber: .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO
Capacity: 5 rounds
Barrel Length: 20″ Round
Length of Pull: 14″
Rate of Twist: 1:9
Weight: 7 lbs.
Stock: Straight grip checkered American Walnut with buttpad
Other features: Sling swivel studs, solid black rubber recoil pad
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style, Fit and Finish * * * *
The Long Ranger’s bluing is well executed, the checkering is both functional and appealing, and the wood is very good for this price range. If you can choose between a couple, you’re likely to find some true gems. One star off for the wood-to-metal fitment.
Accuracy * * * * *
Like the last Long Ranger, this lever-action rifle outperforms almost all of my factory bolt guns, save one that’s much heavier and more expensive. It shoots any round well, and some very well, all the way down consistent MOA performance.
Reliability * * * * *
Zero issues with any round in any condition with a variety of weights, manufacturers, and overall lengths.
Overall * * * *
In any caliber, the Long Ranger has proven to be an easy, reliable shooter. Plus there’s the appeal of a MOA-accurate rifle that looks like it won the West can’t be denied.
More from The Truth About Guns:
New from Wild West Guns: Browning BLR Takedown Combo Rifle
New from Henry Repeating Arms: Henry Big Boy Silver, Big Boy Steel .41 Magnum and All-Weather Lever Action Rifles