Gun Review: Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 Rifle

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I remember the AR-7 of my youth as a finicky, fairly delicate, but super cool, fun little rifle. Today’s Henry US Survival AR-7 Rifle keeps all the cool of the old AR-7, but levels up the durability and perfects the reliability of an almost 70-year-old design, one of my childhood favorites.

The AR-7 was probably the first semi automatic rifle I ever fired. I was introduced to this rifle when I was a boy.

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My friend Brian’s dad had one, and let us take it out on our many “survival trips.” At 10 years old, this consisted of putting a few things in our pockets, walking out into the woods, and staying a night or a weekend, living off whatever we had or could kill.

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The second I opened the green Henry Survival Rifle box, all those memories flooded back. And they were good ones.

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This version looked a little different than the one I used as a kid. It came in Mossy Oak camo which, at least for my area, definitely does the job of concealing the gun.

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I’m of two minds with the camo, as I certainly want the rifle to hide along with me, but in the dark, if thing went awry, I’d like to be able to find it quickly and easily if it was spilled out onto the ground or in my truck or boat. Fortunately, the front sight is blaze orange plastic and even in low light, is quickly and easily identifiable.

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The entire gun, loaded mags, and all, is packed and sealed inside the butt stock. Stowed away, it is only 16 and 1/2 inches long, weighing right at 3.5lbs.

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Fully assembled, it’s 35 inches long, and, well, weighs 3.5 lbs.

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If you have at least an 80 IQ and one minute, you can assemble the Henry Survival Rifle. With any more smarts than that, you can assemble it fully in the dark, like me, in barely over one minute.

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Unlike the original, Henry’s Survival Rifle has a rail integral to the receiver so that you could actually mount a site to it. You’d have to use a quick detach mount though, because it has to come off to pack everything back into the stock.

The rifle is extremely light and shoulders well. Because of the design of the stock, the receiver is actually slightly off center. I found the effect to be a little like cast-off on some of my flintlocks, and in that same vein, the sights lined up quickly with my eyes.

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The controls are basic and functional. Although designed by Eugene Stoner, the AR-7 controls bear no similarity in ergonomics to the AR-15 platform.

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The magazine release is inside of the trigger guard, directly opposed to the trigger. Although it’s possible to push your finger forward to get it to release, that’s not optimal. It’s really best handled as a two-handed operation and is reliable and fairly quick if you’ve trained at all. The safety is a simple left side thumb lever. Like the one I remember in my youth, it flips on and off pretty easily. The charging handle is on the right side of the gun, and tucks back into the receiver when not in use.

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There’s a whole lot that Henry’s improved on this rifle, but the trigger is just as stiff as I remember it. It actually breaks cleanly, but you have to be committed to it.

This might be a little unfair, as the trigger should be treated in two categories; the out-of-the-box version, and as it was when I was done. It was noticably lighter after a few days and 500 rounds. That may have just been the difference between being dry vs. being lubed. As we can see in the gun’s accuracy, the trigger wasn’t so heavy that it pulled the very light barrel off target, and the break was crisp enough to be a pleasant surprise each time.

After spending a few minutes getting familiar with the simple controls, it was time to head out to the range to relive some of my youth.
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I lubed up the rifle prior to shooting. I usually use RemOil as I can find it anywhere, but I’m trying out Rogue American Apparel’s Diamondback Gun Oil for a product review so the AR-7 got some of the new stuff. (So far so good.) The rifle was not cleaned or lubed again during the 500-round cycle.

Unlike most reviews, I disassembled and reasmbled the gun at multiple points to see if it would reliably return to zero. Using CCI’s Mini Mags, CCI’s Quiet .22LR, American Eagle’s Copper Plated HP, and Remington’s brass plated HPs, I had zero malfunctions of any kind. No magazine failures, no FTFs, FTEs, no trouble disassembling or reassembling, absolutely nothing. Perfect reliability using a wide variety of ammunition.

That’s a vast improvement over the AR-7 of my youth. I remember sorting through piles of loose .22LR ammo looking for the kinds that would — and would not — feed well in the rifle, and we still had a hang-up with every magazine. I’m not sure who made that rife, but today’s Henry version has none of those issues. I shot it in the rain and in the sun, threw it in a mulch pile and it still shot without issue.

Beyond reliability, the long term durability of the rifle is vastly improved. The old plastic-stocked AR-7 we used as kids was brittle, patched together with what I assume was Bondo, and there was a little rust on the bolt. Henry’s version has an all ABS plastic stock and the entire receiver and barrel are coated with Teflon. Although light, it’s in no way rickety and doesn’t have a cheap feel to any of it’s parts.

I don’t remember the gun of my youth being particularly accurate. No one expected it to be a sniper rifle (OK, every kid expects every gun to be a sniper rifle), but I remember it as minute-of-jack-rabbit at best. The Henry version? This gun is minute of jack rabbit’s eye. As usual, I do my accuracy testing a day after the reliability testing. And I didn’t clean the bore.

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Using the supplied (plastic) sights and shooting off bags, I got consistent sub two-inch groups at 50 yards. The CCI Quiet 22s shot 1 3/4 eight- and nine-shot groups over and over again.

Using any of the ammunition, if I backed it up to 100 yards, I got six-inch groups or better every time. Old eyes make irons hard a that distance. Bring your target in closer to 25 yards and there’s no reason you couldn’t get your rounds inside an inch. Considering that this a lightweight breakdown rifle, that’s absolutely exceptional accuracy.

In order to test return to zero, I repeatedly took the barrel off and replaced it during the review. I even varied the level of tightness I put on the barrel locking nut, from only snug to as tight as I could possibly turn it. I had no discernible change of impact at 50 yards.

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The rear is a peep sight, the front a bright orange plastic blade. The blade is adjustable for windage with a strong push of your thumbs. When I pulled it out of the box it was shooting a solid six inches to the right at 50 yards, a quick push of the front sight got my rounds lined up with the target. I’d recommend either gluing it down once you’ve adjusted it or simply marking the barrel and sight with the correct alignment.

American Servicemen have been using the AR-7 since 1959. Once I’ve spent a little more time with it as an adult, it is absolutely no wonder. It stows away under a seat, in a bag, strapped to a pack, in a boat or a plane. It shoots any ammunition under a variety of conditions. And it’s accurate enough to provide you minimal self defense, or put meat over the fire.

Sometimes reviews are work. This rifle was fun, and with a purpose.

Specifications: U.S. Survival AR-7 Rifle

Action Type: Semi-automatic
Caliber: .22 LR
Capacity: 8-round magazines (comes with two)
Length: 35″ assembled 16.5″ when stowed
Weight: 3.5 lbs.
Stock: ABS Plastic
Sights: Adjustable rear, blade front
Finish: Teflon coated receiver and coated steel barrel
MSRP: $350 (camo), $290 (black)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * *
It’s a weird little gun. No wood, and not particularly tactical. Then again, it’s not supposed to be any of those things.

Customize this: * * * *
There’s a wide variety of aftermarket parts available for these guns, including barrels and extended magazines. The rail on the top also allows you to mount the optic of your choice. But leave it as it is, as it should be.

Reliability * * * * *
500 mixed rounds, dry, wet, whatever…zero failures.

Accuracy * * * * *
If this were a Volquartsen target rifle it wouldn’t get so many stars. But as a light weight super-reliable breakdown packaway rifle — it’s five stars any day. It shoots as well as much larger, much heavier rifles…a genuine surprise

Overall * * * * *
Henry’s US Survival Rifle takes the AR-7 I shot as a kid and turns it into what it was supposed to be; a reliable, accurate, bet-your-life-on-it gun. Since it’s easily found online for less than $250, it’s on the Christmas list. For me and my kids.

comments

  1. avatar The Last Two Years says:

    I love my little black AR-7. Charter Arms. The low point of the AR-7 history. Finicky as hell with ammo. I even wrote the manufacturer via snail mail for ammo recommendations. I still have that little firearm.

    Look at me, all sharing for once, Cali-Zim style. Don’t get used to it.

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      What is a “Cali-Zim?”

      1. avatar jwm says:

        That would be me. He’s stalking me under a whole lotta names. He claims I insulted him a couple of years back but he won’t say what name he posted under when I hurt his feelings. He’s been doing this for several months. Apparently he’s very sensitive.

        And apparently the site moderators are either asleep or don’t care.

        1. avatar Ing says:

          He could be using proxy websites, which would obscure the IP address and make him virtually impossible to block as long as he was willing to waste his time (and everyone else’s) by coming back. Annoying, but…meh, whatever. Trolls gonna troll.

        2. avatar Vhyrus says:

          As I tell most of my ex girlfriends, stalking should be taken as a form of flattery.

          I share way too much with you people.

        3. avatar Matt in TX says:

          It’s just boring and rude.

      2. avatar The Last Two Years says:

        I’ve got a call in for Whaaaaambulance’s for you ladies.

        1. avatar Vanbulance says:

          You rang?

        2. avatar jwm says:

          Says the butt hurt stalker. Priceless.

    2. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “I love my little black AR-7. Charter Arms.”

      Yours sounds like the one I had.

      “The low point of the AR-7 history”

      Preach it, Brother.

      Yet with that rail, I think I want another.

      The one I had had a pair of aftermarket plastic 25 round banana mags…

      1. avatar 16V says:

        They were horrible as sold, but it was an hour or so working on the feed ramp and the mag lips to make them “right”. All you needed was a few tools and the intestinal fortitude to eff with a gun that had a retail of $99, when $250 was a month’s rent on a (smallish) 2BR house.

        Not that I care, I have a Henry now, and it eats everything without fail.

    3. avatar Porkchop says:

      I still have my Charter Arms AR-7, too. I wish I could find more magazines that actually function. Any suggestions?

      1. avatar sagebrushracer says:

        probably cheaper (if you count your time at a hourly rate) to just buy a Henry version vs scouring the interwebs high and low and finding 3 forum posts from 2001 about someone custom manufacturing them at thier work place for $50 a pop.

        1. avatar Porkchop says:

          I’m semi-retired so the opportunity cost of that internet search is really low.

  2. avatar Anonymous says:

    I like the AR7 design. It just leaves me desiring more than the 5.6x15mmR (22LR). Something scaled up just a bit bigger would be more preferable to me. A “survival” rifle but only good for small critters. What if you spotted a deer? No. Squirrels for you.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      In WVA and eastern KY the primary weapon of poachers for killing deer is the .22lr. I’ve seen hogs and cows and horses killed with the .22lr.

      The .22 makes perfect sense as a survival weapon. Although my personal preference would be an over under .22/.410.

      1. avatar Anonymous says:

        They must be a better shot than me. Have to be quite surgical to make that happen. And in really close too.

      2. avatar Anonymous says:

        My personal preference would be an over and under 308 win and 12GA. It wouldn’t weigh much more either.

        1. avatar ACP_arms says:

          You must like recoil.

    2. avatar Omer Baker says:

      You could always climb a tree and jump down into the dear stabbing it with the barrel. Sorry, too many Tarzan novels. I too have a Charter Arms version, got it for a c-note. As said, it’s finicky on cheap ammo. I’ve never shot quality 22 through it. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever shot quality 22.
      I also wanted to say I enjoy my AR-7. I would love a new Henry designed stock. If someone could let us know how to acquire one aftermarket, that would be AWESOME!

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Yeah, an ammo sensitive gun is a non starter for me. I’ve ditched some brand name guns cause they had to have a certain load or they weren’t reliable.

    3. avatar 16V says:

      I’ve designed it scaled it up to .380ACP (9MM Kurz) years ago. If you have a 500-600K to invest in tooling, machines, and whatnot, do let me know.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        Why .380 instead of 9mm?

        1. avatar 16V says:

          Was trying to stick with the small/compact/light ethos (not that 9MM Para is huge…).

          Also, it’s a straight blow-back gun. I was trying to minimize some of the mechanical stress with the slightly smaller cartridge.

  3. I bought a Henry (Repeating Arms Company Of Noo Joisey) AR-7 Takedown about two weeks after it was first released. Got it in blacker-than-black, of course, with the orange thingys that kinda sorta maybe said ‘AirSoft, but naaaaaah’.

    It’s one of the most-funnest (evil scary-looking) guns I’ve ever owned or had the pleasure to handle.

    As for makin’ sure she runs smooth, like all my firearms, I use somethin’ a tad different. Lubrimatic’s marine trailer wheel bearing grease. Now before you go on sayin’, “this boy’s crazy”, hear me out. The stuff is anhydrous, non-fibrous and has almost zero odor. It also stays where it’s put. I get it at a boat supply place near my home. A pint container will last half a lifetime. All else you need is one of those hobby-type all-plastic syringes, a small brush and you’re good to go.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Grease works great on firearms in warm temperatures. You might find that grease is a real problem on your AR-7 in temperatures below 20 degrees F … assuming that you ever experience those types of temperatures.

      1. avatar 16V says:

        Depends on the “grease”. I don’t disagree with your observation, I would just offer that there are a world of “technical lubricants” that are exceptional down to Park-City-In-January-Stupid-Cold, and have all sorts of advantages over things sold as “gun lube”.

        Haven’t used “gun lube” since the ’80s, except as a field expedient.

  4. avatar Phil LA says:

    Great review! I want one!

  5. avatar Knockman says:

    My IQ is only 79. Should I get the Ruger 10/22 Takedown instead?

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      LOL!

    2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      I just wasted a mouthful of good coffee…
      That is funny!

  6. avatar ACP_arms says:

    I bought one in February cheap for $196. Shooting Rem 36gr gold’s it failed to feed two or tree times, now, that could have been from me holding the mag wrong I don’t know. I need to take it out shoot more as it only has just over 100 rounds though it.

    JWT,
    The AR-7 will cycle shooting CCI Quiet’s?

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      The Charter Arms version I had would cycle Eley Subsonics…

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Yes. Cycled them just fine.

      1. avatar ACP_arms says:

        I have some Quiet’s I’ll have to try them out.

        And a edit to my first post – the ammo I was shooting that I had the FTF’s was Federal AutoMatch not Rem gold’s.

  7. avatar Art out West says:

    I’m glad to hear the good report. I don’t have any experience with the AR-7, but have heard many mixed (and often poor) reports about it over the years. It sounds like the current manufacturer has worked out the bugs.

    I don’t have a take down rifle, and don’t think I really have a need for one either. Were I to buy one, I’d probably lean toward the Marlin Papoose (since I own and love the Marlin 60 and 795).

    It is nice to have several good options. The Papoose, the 10/22 Takedown, and the current AR-7 all seem to be pretty decent rifles.

  8. avatar PeterK says:

    Cool. I used to want one of these, but then I heard they sucked. Now I’m interested again, though I still think the other survival rifle is cooler, the M6.

  9. avatar BLAMMO says:

    I always bought the bad press the rifle got and stayed away.

    But DAMMIT, James Bond used one!!

    1. avatar Omer Baker says:

      I saw it in one of the earlier scenes of the assassin comedy ‘The Baker’ with Damian Lewis from ‘Homeland’.

    2. avatar joe says:

      Does the new stock have room for a can? : )

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        Exactly what I was thinking.

        Can the outer aluminum barrel be threaded? You would have to be oh-so-gentle threading the can on…

  10. avatar gman says:

    I love my Marlin Papoose. Shoots everything, accurate and is super light. Bought a 25 round mag. Too much fun.

    1. avatar Gunr says:

      If it’s just really too much fun for you, I’ll be glad to take off your hands.

  11. I’ve got a Henry AR-7 in black that I picked up about three or four years ago. And my review would be pretty much exactly the same as JWT’s. I love this thing. You do have to keep in mind its purpose; it is not the ultimate tack-driving sniper rifle or high-capacity assault weapon. It’s a self-contained, even floating, survival rifle with a peep sight mated with a chunk of orange plastic for a front sight, and a couple of 8-round magazines. Given that context, it’s really an excellent little product. I originally bought it for the novelty of the whole thing breaking down into its components and storing all the pieces in its own stock, but I ended up enjoying it on its own. I even used it as the rifle of choice when doing my massive .22LR testing project, just because it’s fun to shoot.

    I do wish I could find some extended magazines for it though. I picked up some 15-rounders from Sportsman’s Guide but they didn’t work at all; apparently they’re designed for earlier (and, reportedly, much less reliable) versions of the AR-7 prior to Henry taking it over. I’ve heard stories of even 25- and 30-round magazines being available, but haven’t found any and don’t know if they’d be reliable or even compatible with this latest Henry iteration of the rifle.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      I had 2 of of the 25-rounders, but since mine was the old un-reliable Charter Arms version, I can’t predict their performance on the newer gun. They were no improvement in reliability over the stock ones.

      It would be a risk just to find out, though, the feed ramp is a part of the magazine, and with the stock steel mags, you could do some bending and tweaking, with the plastic mag, you’re stuck with what you have…

  12. avatar Warren says:

    The AR7 was the first rifle I ever shot, after a BB gun. My dad had one, and it was (in my mind) the most brilliant gun ever designed. I begged to take it along on scout campouts, but never had the satisfaction. I bought one out of nostalgia as an adult and had to let it go in my more fiscally-challenged days. It’s probably the single gun I truly have seller’s remorse for, both in terms of nostalgia and utility.
    Getting a new one is definitely on the wishlist now.

  13. avatar notalima says:

    Nice review. Thanks.

  14. avatar James69 says:

    I had two of these, one Charter arms and one Henry. The older mags with the wire on them seemed to work better. My most recent one was the newer henry, no sight rail and it was totally in accurate something was wrong with the peep sight. FTF,FTE you name it. While taking it apart to clean I broke the excractor off and had to tap a screw into the side plate to keep it on. It actually worked better after that. My exp with the new one was it was a POS and was traded off. Cool idea just too many bugs to be 100%. Maybe mine was built on a monday. They make a “pistol” barrel but the notch for the extractor is 180 off so you can’t put it on the rifle or the alignment post is 180 off. I forget?

    When I was younger and stupider I whittled a pistol grip and did some filing inside the action,ummm It ran 100% like that. Seven shots sounded alot like one big one. Then my Father caught me and it was taken away and traded for a dirtbike a beat up Honda TL250. 🙂 Then I could ride the 6 miles to town on dirt roads and have more 12 year old boy adventures. (now you can’t all pavement!)

  15. avatar Old Air Force says:

    I was fortunate enough to find TWO of them for an obscenely low price. They are some of the most fun I have when at the range. Reasonably accurate at 25 to 50 yards, further with the 4 x 10 optic I picked up for $17 at Wall-Mart. It lives in a pack nicely and is not real sensitive to ammo. The Aguilla CB’s were single shot but quieter that my BB pistol. Great for squirrels. I did change the front sight to the orange. It makes it so much easier to track a target which it does better than some other rifles I have shot.I use LSA oil on most of my firearms including this one with flawless results. I wouldn’t trade or sell mine at all. They are great. And to give credit where credit is due, they were my wife’s idea to get them. Win,Win.

    Great review JWT.

  16. avatar John says:

    I have the Henry version stowed in my Excursion with 2 CCI MiniMags. I have no trouble shooting accurately with the iron sights and the gun is dependable with copper plated rounds. It does not like to chamber Federal Automatch at all for some reason and I think it’s the lead bullet which ends up looking like someone hit it in the middle with a cleaver.

  17. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    I’ve got a mint condition Costa Mesa version when Armalite made it in chocolate swirl camo. It runs great.

  18. avatar The Last Two Years says:

    Nice review, jwt. I’ve hammered a couple of your previous works, so I better compliment the one’s I like.

  19. avatar Accur81 says:

    Nice review, sir.

    Things I don’t like about the AR-7:

    -Bolt doesn’t hold open after last round fired
    -The mags seem fragile
    -No forend to hold on to
    -funky ergonomics
    -the ones I shot weren’t reliable (although it’s admittedly been a long time since I shot one).

    I like the 10/22 takedown a whole lot more. It’s more tough, more accurate, has better / stronger mags, and has bolt hold open with 10 and 25 round mags (I haven’t shot the 50 round drums), and much more aftermarket support / options / upgrades.

    Of course the AR-7 is more compact and a bit lighter. It looks like reliability has improved. In my opinion, CCI Mini Mags are the most reliable ammo on the market. I’m sure shooting that helps. It’s pretty impressive for a semi-auto .22 LR to still be reliable after 500 rounds.

    1. avatar 16V says:

      Accur81, Interested in other opinions, so I am curious, why would you care about a forestock? It’s a rifle, and not one with a giggle-switch, why wouldn’t your other hand be a supporting platform under the action? I assume you’re in your 20s/30s. I learned that technique a coupla decades ago, I thought all the younger folks learned it. (The one shown in the KJW ‘trick shot’ vids a few years ago…)

      There are scenarios where I would utilize a forestock, but they are very limited to close-combat situations. Which aren’t my stock in trade.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        The lack of a fore end isn’t alone isn’t a deal breaker, but I like the 10/22 platform better precisely for the attributes I mentioned. I fully admit to being strongly influenced by the tactical / prepper paradigm. I want a side loading gate on Henry lever guns for a similar reason. I like firepower, good ergonomics, and quick reloads.

  20. avatar Dave Lewis says:

    I received the Henry version as a Christmas gift from my wife (remember Granny Oakley from a few years back). After 40 years any woman who gives you a rifle for Christmas is still a keeper!. I’d always wanted an AR-7 ever since I saw James Bond do some good work with one. I was around 12 years old at the time. Now that Henry has done their magic on the gun it actually works. Mine feeds everything I can load in the magazines but likes high velocity jacketed rounds the best. I replaced the stock with a collapsible tubular aluminum version that I picked up on line and added a cheap red dot scope. I can break the gun down into two sections and put it into an old ballistic nylon laptop briefcase with a couple of hundred rounds of CCI stingers. The case can ride behind the seat of my pickup or next to the spare tire in my Outback. I know that its not a “real” gun but .22s out of a rifle barrel are pretty potent at short range. All you have to do is crack a zombie skull and let the air in. The AR-7 is a fun gun that actually works.

  21. avatar explainist says:

    mine will not get through a magazine without a stovepipe. three factory mags, five aftermarket mags, a dozen different nrands of ammo. stove pipes every 5 rounds

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