There are very few things that deliver a quick hit of dopamine as fast as working the action on a well made lever gun. The Henry Classic Lever Action.22 is most certainly one of the better-made rimfire guns and an excellent example of a fun, affordable lever-action rifle.
Semi-auto rifles mostly dominate the rimfire world, and the .22 LR is an excellent cartridge for it. Among the boatloads of semi-auto .22s, we get the Henry Classic, a lever-action rimfire rifle. This gun has been around forever, it seems. I know this because we’ve had one in my family forever.
This particular model of the Henry Lever Action .22 has seen its fair share of use and what must be thousands of rounds downrange. The Henry lever action guns are remarkably simple. In a time where companies put manual safeties on single-action revolvers, the Henry Classic Lever Action stays pretty true to the classic lever gun design.
Your controls are a trigger, a lever, and a hammer. It’s simple, robust, safe and reliable. This rifle puts the responsibility for safety entirely on the user, a that is an important feature for young shooters.
Breaking Down the Henry Rifle Lever Action Rifle
The Classic Lever Action .22 loads through a tube magazine under the barrel and can handle .22 LR, .22 Long, and 22 Short ammo with varying capacities. This gives it an edge over semi-autos.
One task this gun and I were dedicated to at one time was clearing rats out of a barn. I was 13 at the time and it was a lot of fun. Armed with this Henry rifle and a ton of CCI Ratshot .22, I cleared them out eventually. This gun isn’t ammo picky like a semi-auto.
More than anything, the reason I love this gun over a semi-auto is the lever-action. It’s a different kind of feeling to work the lever after every shot. My dad is a big western fan, and a little bit of that must have leaked into me. The Henry lever action makes me feel like The Rifleman.
The little Henry Classic Lever Action .22 is sized more or less for kids. My hands are a bit big for the lever loop. The length of pull (14 inches) is a little short and the forearm feels like it’s set too far back.
However, as a small .22 LR, these issues aren’t significant. The negligible recoil isn’t enough to hurt my hand in the loop, and I have no problem controlling and accurately shooting the meek Henry rimfire.
The rifle’s layout is practical, and your thumb sits perfectly in place to grip the hammer and squeeze it into a de-cocked position. The stock fits perfectly into the shoulder, and the Henry is a joy to handle.
The front-loading tube magazine eliminates a side loading gate, and I believe the purpose of this is for reliability. I’ve never seen a side-loading .22 LR, and anyone who has handled .22 LR knows it isn’t hard to bend the projectile from the case and cause issues.
Also, I can’t imagine my fat fingers could easily manipulate a round into a tiny loading gate designed for .22 ammunition.
This isn’t a gun you’ll be fighting bandits with or robbing trains with, so I don’t think it’s a significant issue.
The wood is American walnut, and this rifle is made in the US of A. It’s an excellent example of American workmanship and craft. The finish is stronger than it has any right to be and has remained scratch and gouge free over a decade and a half.
On the Range
This morning I loaded my tube with 15 rounds of .22 LR and waited like a small child for the rain to stop. Late December rains are a real cold affair, even in Florida. I finally manned up, strapped on a jacket, and went out to start blasting. I forgot about the cold and rain after the first 15 rounds of .22 LR were sent downrange.
In a real rush, I reloaded and shot more, and more, and more. The Henry Classic Lever Action .22 rifle is such a fun gun to shoot. I forget just how much fun it is to shoot this little gun.
The pow, followed by the ding of steel and the noise and feel of the lever action cycling make it a fun and highly enjoyable experience. It is so much fun to plink with, way more fun than my 10/22.
Nothing against the 10/22, but for me, it’s just not as fun to shoot as a lever-action rifle.
When it comes to accuracy, the Henry rifle is spot on. Like a little laser within 100 yards. Outside of popping rats with shotshells, this little gun has put a lot of squirrels and rabbits into early graves (and on top of rice and into stews). And that’s just shooting the gun with its standard iron sights. The rear sight is adjustable and the front is an hooded post).
The Henry rifle is more than capable of accurately hitting small game and small targets. The trigger is excellent. It’s light and concise. Impressive is an excellent way to describe it. The rifle’s lever action is also very smooth and feels fantastic. It’s short and sweet and just plain satisfying.
Manually operated firearms are quite reliable, and the Henry rifle is no different. This one has eaten everything and been abused for years, and it keeps on chugging.
Maybe one day I’ll even clean it, but I never have before. I spray some CLP into it and work the action and call it a day. This reliable, dependable firearm is an excellent gun for plinking, for teaching new shooters and reenacting my western film love.
This classic American made lever action rifle retails for less than $300 on average and is worth every single penny.
Specifications: Henry Classic Lever Action .22 Rifle
Caliber: 22LR 22 Long and 22 Short
Capacity: 15, 17, and 21 depending on caliber
Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
Overall Length: 36.5 inches
Weight: 5.25 pounds
MSRP: $378 (about $280 retail)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Ergonomics: * * * *
It’s a little on the small side for most adult shooters, but is still well designed and put together. The classic lever-action layout is present with the Henry .22. For smaller shooters, this gun will be a ton of fun to handle.
Accuracy: * * * *
The gun is perfectly accurate, especially for a 22LR and the ranges in which a 22 LR is used. This isn’t a 1 MOA rifle, but if you want to make a small target dance at close range or make accurate headshots on small game, this gun will do.
Reliability: * * * * *
It’s a lever-action rifle and it’s hard to mess it up. It’s not picky about ammunition and can be used with any powered load, including rat shot. It doesn’t demand to be clean often either and seems to eat whatever I feel like tossing at it.
Cool Factor: * * * * *
This western style classic is an excellent replica of lever actions of the day. Sure it’s not period correct, but it gives you the experience of an old school lever gun.
Overall: * * * * 1/2
The Henry Classic Lever Action .22 is a fun gun and one of my favorites. It’s reliable, accurate, and fun to shoot. Plus, .22 LR is once again cheap so that I can hit the range a more often with my beloved rimfire guns. If you need a firearm for the little one or a new shooter in your life, they’d be well served by a Henry.