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.

37 Responses to Gun Review: Henry Octagon Frontier

  1. avatarg says:

    Great review! Now do you got a video of you cycling the action with the lever? ;)

  2. avatarSubZ says:

    Seriously considering one of these for my grandson’s first gun. To be kept at Pop’s house, of course :)

  3. avatarDan Raidt says:

    If you like the Frontier then you will love the Big Boy, mine is the .357/.38 Special caliber a rare bird for awhile since hurricane Sandy decimated the factory in Bayonne N.J. and the attack on the 2nd amendment hysteria. I waited for 3 months before a NITB one became available to me. There were 44 and 45 versions available, but the availability of 357 being not so hard to get and the bonus ability of shooting cheaper 38 specials was the deciding factor. The Big Boy is not going to be the zombie apocalypse weapon of choice. Have not decided whether to scope it yet but Henry make a bolt on weaver type rail for it which I have. Best of all it is made in the US of A.

  4. avatarTR says:

    No! No No NO! I can’t afford one of these, and now I have to have it. Just don’t go doing a Rough Rider .22/.22 WMR Single Six review. Also, last time I put .22 Thunderbolt through my guns it took me several hours, half a bottle of solvent, and cost me 2 bore brushes to get the lead fouling out. Now I only shoot that stuff every other bullet. The copper jacketed bullets seem to keep the lead from building up too much.

  5. avatarjohn says:

    I’ve had a H001T Frontier in .22LR for over seven years, and initially used it successfully for NRA Small-bore Cowboy Lever-action Silhouette competition. I put a Lyman globe front sight on it, and use a Marbles tang sight for the rear, and to say it’s a tack driver is an understatement. Marlin owners disparage the “pot metal” receiver, but after seven years and almost 20,000 rounds, I’d say their claims are completely unfounded.

    Henry also has the absolute best customer service in the firearm industry. The warranty is for the *life of the rifle*, and does not run out when ownership is transferred. My wife liked mine so much, she made me get her one.

  6. avatarSwarf says:

    Wait a minute, you guys do gun reviews here?

  7. avatarBill says:

    Like I need another .22 rifle, I can’t even get .22lr anyways. Sorry I wasn’t one of those ammo horders, but I just got out of the military and stashing abizzillion rounds of ammo wasn’t easy with moving all the time and living in non-gun friendly places and states. If you managed to, that great, I DGAF because I am jealous, and angry.

    • avatarJames Grant says:

      Well for what it’s worth I can always spare a box of .22lr for a serviceman. If you’re anywhere around South Carolina I would be more than willing to give you a box of whatever I have on hand.

  8. I think it’s way cool the Aguila Super Extra Subsonic 38gr and the RWS Target Rifle ammo shoots identical patterns.

  9. avatarWes S. says:

    Already got one, and I love it. It’s worth the extra money over the price of the base Henry (which to me actually does look a bit cheaply made, with that plastic front barrel band and chunky front sight). Having examined recent examples of both the .22s and the centerfire Big Boy leverguns, there also doesn’t seem to be any dropoff in quality compared to the guns Henry was turning out before Hurricane Sandy wrecked their production facility, either.

    I ended up buying two Octagon Frontiers; my dad loved mine so much I had to get him one as well. Unbelievably smooth action, gorgeous looks and excellent craftsmanship. I haven’t actually even heard of a lemon Henry, for that matter.

    I actually prefer the Octagon Frontier to the similar – but gaudier – Golden Boy, because the thought of taking the GB outdoors and scratching that lovely brass finish was enough to give me the willies. I have the same reservations about the Big Boy, but given that smooth Henry action I’ve decided that one of those in .357 or .44 will be my next purchase regardless.

  10. avatarTotenglocke says:

    Honestly, I’d rather get a Golden Boy – same rifle (slightly different front sight), but the pseudo-bronze receiver just looks sexy.

  11. avatarjwm says:

    That 60 grain Aguila load is the bomb in my Russian Winchester bolt gun, even with a cheap scope. Did it function well through the tube and action?

    • avatarJames Grant says:

      Yeah, not a single jam with that ammo unless I held the gun upside down while working the lever. (I was curious what I could do that would make it jam.) That ammo just obliterates tin cans and Squirrels alike!

      • avatarjwm says:

        I love that ammo but I can’t get it to run in my 10-22. I save it, when I can get it, for my bolt gun and my single six.

  12. avatarcfgreiner says:

    I’m wondering how these 22 levers from Henry compare to the Marlin 39A. I always viewed the 39A and the 22 lever gun all others aspire to be. However, I’ve seen some pretty shoddy ones on the shelves recently and haven’t heard anything bad about the Henry’s.

    Would the consensus be that Henry is still playing catch-up or are they now every bit as good if not better?

    • avatarJames Grant says:

      It has been my experience that that’s not the case. The Henry I received had a tiny blemish on the receiver cover and Henry sent me a replacement within 2 days and told me to keep the original. They didn’t even ask what caused the blemish they just replaced it.

    • avatarS_J says:

      Nothing beats a vintage Marlin 39 but the modern Remlin examples are disappointing. Still shoot ok but you’re lucky to get one from the factory that doesn’t have crooked sights, unacceptable on a .22LR that costs that much. Henry and Browning both make a nicer rifle no contest.

  13. avatarIng says:

    The base model doesn’t look quite as snazzy as the octagon models, but it does exactly the same thing. And the barrel bands are metal these days, not plastic.

    I have the basic H001 and my son has a Golden Boy that we got him for his 14th birthday. The Golden Boy is pretty enough to make you afraid to shoot it, but shoot it we do — nearly every weekend when the weather’s good. So far the only wear on the finish is a few scratches on the brass buttplate. I might make a leather sleeve for the buttstock to keep it from getting any more scratched up (plus it’d look cool). I shoot my little basic Henry better than the GB, but only because of the sights — the Marble buckhorn and brass bead look awesome and are good stuff, but my eyes have a hard time with the tiny bead and the little rear notch.

    And they are accurate. Very accurate. Last summer my son put a hole right through a spent 30-30 casing with his Golden Boy at 15 yards. I had to outdo him, so I set up a piece of 9mm brass against a contrasting background and put a hole through it at 25 yards with my little Henry. All this with the standard open sights, mind you.

    As for the lever-related stoppages mentioned in the review, the only kind of jam I’ve ever experienced came from moving the lever super-slow or stopping/pausing partway through the stroke. I’ve never had a fast flip cause a jam. Back in the good old days when ammo was plentiful, we did speed drills at 12 yards, working those levers as fast we possibly could, and the only malfunctions came from my lamentable tendency to short-stroke the lever when I get excited. (Insert joke here.)

    This review doesn’t do justice to the fun factor of these little guns. Semiautos are fine, but *nothing* beats the feel of shooting a good levergun. And Henry lever-actions are more than just good, they’re flat-out awesome.

  14. avatarTacticalDad says:

    Look! Somebody has ammo. You’re going to have lots of new friends this weekend.
    Hey good buddy ol’ pal of mine

  15. avatarDamon says:

    nice, but i don’t think the hi-point comparison to a civic is very nice. my hi point 9mm carbine has been great since i replaced the junk firing pin but that doens’t mean it’s not a piece of crap. lawl.

    • avatarJames Grant says:

      Hey, Civic’s run. But you don’t buy one to impress anyone. Unless it’s a hybrid and the gal you’re trying to impress doesn’t shave her legs.

      • avatarDamon says:

        yeah that wasn’t very clear but i guess what i was trying to say was hi-points are mostly junk and civics are ok. i see more of them over 200K miles than almost anything else lol

  16. avatarPaul W says:

    Not going to lie, lever guns are my favorite just for pure simple fun. Love those things, in any caliber.

  17. avatarthrackmoor says:

    If you want the same basic rifle at a reduced price, the H001 from Henry is the way to go… about $250 before the DiFi started bleating, not so sure now,

  18. Dang it. Now there’s another gun on my wish list…

  19. avatarStinkeye says:

    I love my H001. If you can find a way to have more fun for under $300, I really want to hear about it. And, given the ammo situation these days, a lever gun is a little more economical to run than a semi-auto. It’s all too easy to rip through a ton of rounds in a semi, but the lever action forces you to slow down a little and enjoy each shot.

  20. avatarblehtastic says:

    I just can’t get past the lack of a side loading gate on Henry’s. That doesn’t seem like something that should ever be optional on a lever gun.

  21. avatarbontai Joe says:

    Has anyone heard how the Henry Rifle Company is doing since the hurricane? I sure hope that they have ben able to come back from the destruction of their factory. I admire the company and their business model. It helps that I also love lever guns, have 5 of ‘em an various calibers. Can’t hunt with semi-auto in PA, so a lever action is very common in PA. I have a Winchester in .22MAG that I don’t shoot much because of ammo cost, so a Henry just might be in my future.

    • avatarDan Raidt says:

      They are doing just fine, and are shipping again and have been fulfilling a huge backorder demand. What I understand is the most damage was flood damage to their milling and CNC equipment and the manufacturers of that equipment stepped up to the plate and got HRA up and running within a short as possible time frame.

  22. avatarS_J says:

    Funny, I just bought a .22 WMR Henry Frontier a few days ago. Put 20 rounds through it (would’ve shot more but all .22 is getting scarce round here) and loved it immediately. I ran Hornady V-Max in it and 1-2 MOA is easily possible out to 75-100 yards. Only lever action I like better is an old Marlin 39A and this goes for two-thirds of what they run now.

    As a sidenote, .22 rimfires w/ tube mags (semi or auto) are exempt from the NY Safe Act’s 7-round limit. The More You Know..

  23. avatarMark N. says:

    15 yards? Someone shoots .22 lr at 15 yards through a rifle? Geez. I’ve never shot mine at less than 25, and plinking is always at 100. Now it’s true that I have a 4x scope, but that has more to do with the fact that my old eyes don’t focus too well on anything past 15.

  24. avatarDave says:

    I own a Henry Octagon Frontier, and shot over 200 rounds using a walmart brick brand, and CCIs and some shorts. All shots grouped pretty well, about 1/2 to 1 inch apart at 15, 25 and 50 yards, but off the center approximately 3 to 6 inches to the right. The reviewer was on it when he said she has expensive taste. The sights take some getting used to. Its fun, a bit front heavy but inexpensive and worth buying if you enjoy plinking. For hunting, single bolt with a scope might work best.

  25. avatarJeff says:

    I was looking for a nice 22 rifle and after sniffing em all out I had it narrowed down to the Henry Frontier, a 10/22 in camo, and a CZ bolt action. The CZ sure woulda been spot accurate (and more expensive), and I already have a Ruger Charger, and even if it weren’t for those factors, I just had to have that octagon barrel! Didn’t dig the buck horn sights at first -(especially with these old eyes) and popped on a little 4X scope. Never did like the look of lever guns with scopes or bolt guns without em for that matter so I took it off and decided to really concentrate on learning to “read the bead” next time at the range. Did alot better the second time out. Pretty gun. Fun. Like. Not sorry I bought this one in the least.

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