Gun Review: Henry Octagon Frontier

 

Some things were just meant to be enjoyed for purely for the experience they bring. Like smoking a fine cigar versus an electric cigarette. One you savor; the other gets you your fix. Don’t get me wrong, automation has its place. Back when I lived on the outskirts of Beantown and wanted a cannoli from Mike’s, I’d get on the T rather than brave the hellish nightmare that is Boston traffic. On the other hand, do you know anyone who hope into their TVR Speed and cruises to the range to shoot their HiPoint? The HiPoint, like a Honda Civic, has it’s place. When you need something that is reliable, easy-to-operate, and utilitarian — you pick something that meets the need. The Henry Octagon Frontier, like a Harley Knucklehead isn’t simply a means to an end. It’s an experience in itself — thankfully without the TVR price tag . . .

You might be thinking,”OK, but I love my AR clone in .22LR. What does the Henry offer that my M&P 15-22 doesn’t?” In a zombie-squirrel apocalypse situation…not much. The Henry isn’t a high speed, low drag aluminum sciuridae slayer. Nor does it try to be.

What the Frontier is, though, is a nostalgic lever-gun that allows the shooter to control nearly every aspect of the shooting process. If your idea of a good time is trying to beat Miculek’s revolver fire rate, the Henry probably isn’t the long gun for you. However, if you like to take your time and really enjoy the shooting experience, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more affordable fix.

The Henry can hold 16 rounds of 22LR and 22 rounds of the short stuff. So despite not being a down-powered “assault weapon”, she still holds a nice compliment of ammo. While the lack of a side loading gate might annoy some, at least that tube mag has some deep reserves.

If you’ve never tried firing a lever-action rifle under pressure, you’re in for a real treat. And a rude awakening. Eviscerating your tree-dwelling (or non-ferrous metal) targets is more than just a sights, breathe, trigger, rinse, repeat experience. The real challenge is developing the rhythm of smoothly operating the lever with the gun shouldered while shifting your sights to the next unsuspecting Campbell’s can.

If you’re a lever noob, it may take you some time to get into the groove of finding the perfect throw distance when trying to rapidly launch lead. However, since you can’t just pull the trigger again and again, that tried and true lever action tends to teach you to make each shot count.

courtesy-henryrepeating.com

If you’ve had the pleasure of shooting Henry’s Goldenboy, the Frontier is the same song and dance internally with a different finish and the addition of that heavy octagon barrel.  The Henry’s internal simplicity gives the action a grit-free feel without the need to have a smith smooth out the action. The rifle exudes a feeling of quality that’s disproportionate to its cost.

I took the Henry and several flavors of ammo out to my local range. I set up targets at 15 yards, here are the results.

Aguila SSS Sniper 60gr: 

Aquila_SSS_LOW

Aguila Super Extra Subsonic 38gr:

AguilaSuperExtraSubsonic_38Grain_LOW

Eley 40gr:

EleyPrimer_40gr_LOW

Remington YellowJacket:

Remington_YellowJacket_LOW

RWS Target Rifle:

RWS_Target_LOW

Clearly the old gal has expensive tastes. Aguila SSS 60gr fared just a hair better than RWS’s Target Rifle offering. I guess you can skip the 500-round Thunderbolt packs at Wally-World. If you can even find them, that is. Not to say the lever-action lady won’t function 100% with them, ’cause she will. Just don’t expect to keep ‘em all in the black much past 15 yards.

Taking down the Octagon Frontier for cleaning is fairly simple, but requires a few special tools that a novice shooter might not have on hand, namely hollow-ground or gunsmith screwdrivers. It’s possible to use a regular flat head screwdriver, but be careful — they can easily mar the finish of the firearm. An easy workaround for this is to wrap painters tape around a regular flat head screwdriver. This is the method depicted in the photos below.

To disassemble the rifle, first remove the magazine tube and open the action to ensure that it is unloaded.

Once you have confirmed the gun is safe, remove the tang screw and slide the butt-stock rearward. Remove all 4 screws on the receiver, slide the receiver place rearward, and lift the bolt vertically.

 

This is as far as you  should disassemble the gun for regular cleaning. For a semi-annual deep cleaning a bench block and a set of punches is needed to remove the pins that hold the hammer, lever, and bolt-carrier in place. I recommend watching Henry’s disassembly video if you are going to take her down that far.

taken down courtesy James Grant

The Henry is one of those guns that makes a grin sneak across your lips when you least expect it. You’ll get wrapped up in keeping that brass bead in focus, waiting for it to mark some unsuspecting tin can or spent shotgun casing, nailing the target before working the lever and repeating it all over again. Then something strange will happen — you’ll realize you’re having fun. A ton of it. Good clean fun that you can share with your kids, but without feeling like you’re shooting a kid’s gun.

The Henry Octagon Frontier offers shooters a chance to unleash their inner John Wayne without breaking the bank or suspending disbelief. It’s a rimfire blaster whose fit, finish, and heft may make you check for a squib when it goes off, since you’ll be expecting the bark of a .45 long Colt rather than the spit of a .22. Truly, the Henry is a solid performer that puts offerings from Rossi to shame and should make Browning’s accountants very nervous.

Specifications:

Caliber: .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle
Capacity: 21 rounds .22 Short, 16 rounds .22 LR
Length: 38.5”
Barrel Length: 20”
Weight: 6.25 lbs
Stock: Walnut
MSRP: $430

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy * * * *
The Henry is better than minute-of-can accurate (especially with the right ammo). With the addition of a scope, it’s an ideal squirrel slayer.

Reliability * * * * ½
The Henry is about 98% reliable when taking human error into account. Meaning that if you rack the lever ultra slow or fast (meaning as slow/fast as you possibly can) sometimes the round will jam itself between the elevator and the top of the chamber. Use a finger to point the round in the right direction to put the gun back in the fight.

Style * * * * *
With its beautiful, shiny blued finish and handsome American walnut furniture, the Henry is something to behold. My only issue is that I wish the finish were a bit more durable.

Ergonomics * * * * ½
The Henry balances very well and points even better. I took off half a star for the forward loading magazine tube and the small lever loop. Although a big-loop upgrade is available on Henry’s site for an additional $50 which makes operating the lever more comfortable and much easier with gloved hands.

Customize This * * *
I don’t think Troy or CMMG makes rails for the Henry (yet?). Peep sights and leather loop guards are available for the Henry. They even offer engraved side plates for the lever-gun if you’re so inclined.

Overall * * * * *
I’m not advocating that everyone go out and sell their AR and buy a lever-gun from Henry (although I’m sure Henry would appreciate it). But if you’re looking to buy an accurate, reliable, handsome, American-made rifle for the same price as a Brazilian manufactured competitor without the spotty QA track-record, you’ll want to bookmark Henry’s site.