For some lucky youngsters, a .22 caliber lever gun is their first firearm. Not me. My first gun was a .22-caliber bolt-action rifle. A firearm that made me concentrate on each shot, but was nowhere near as fun or cool as Lucas McCain’s weapon. So, with a chance to regain a bit of my wishful childhood, I embarked on a review of the Henry Repeating Arms Frontier Model Long Barrel 24″ . . .
There’s something about a lever-action rifle (LAR) that makes you stand tall, fingers indexed inside the lever’s loop, at the ready. It’s a firearm of action. The Frontier model especially.
Part of that’s down to The Frontier’s balance point: just inside the palm of my support hand. My control hand wrapped around the stock and through the lever loop with room to spare, and my thumb easily reached the hammer.
Bringing the stock of the skinny rifle to my cheek and shoulder, I welcomed the snag-less, smooth satin finish of the American walnut. After bouncing back and forth along the top of the blued steel barrel the sights came into focus, brass bead gleaming above the rear sight’s white diamond.
The fit was appropriate and comfortable. Cycling the action with the lever felt natural and sights remained on-target; more confirmation of a well-balanced firearm.
And that’s the first thing anyone wants to do with a LAR, right? Cycle the rifle over and over and over? Maybe sometimes one-handed, even? With plenty of room for three larger or small fingers and comfortable, rounded edges, the Frontier’s lever loop invites even the most timid hand to actuate the action.
The more I ran the rifle’s lever, the more it began to come to life. The crisp sound of the precise mechanics rang out with confidence. “Click-clack; Clack.” Music to my ears — not so much for small game.
The Frontier’s black-finished alloy receiver can’t compare with its bigger-bore brass brethren. However, brass is overkill for .22 LR, hence “brasslite” and nickeled-alloy receivers on higher-end Henry rimfire rifles.
And alloy suits this model just fine. Henry’s attention to detail, even on the basic models, is apparent in their high-quality, well-fitted and finished Frontier receiver.
Granted, Henry certainly isn’t aligning case screws on this entry-level rifle. But the Frontier’s action is a satisfyingly consistent set of mechanics. Impressively tight tolerances all-around, including only the slightest amount of side-to-side play in the lever and hammer.
The Frontier rifle lives up to its “Slickest Gun in the West action” reputation.
The Frontier rifle’s receiver plays host to a 3/8″ dovetail groove for easy scope mounting.
As befits a rifle called The Frontier, the Henry lever gun features a 1/4-cock safety. It can be enabled with either a round chambered or an empty chamber.
There are two ways to engage the rifle’s safety. One: with the hammer fully forward, bring the hammer back about 1/8-inch until you hear a click. Two: with the hammer fully cocked, hold the hammer with your thumb while releasing the hammer by pressing on the trigger momentarily. Then lower the hammer down to the “safe” position. [Careful! Manual de-cocking risks a slipped hammer and a fired gun)
With the hammer in the “safe” position (above, right), the hammer will not be released when the trigger is depressed, and a blow to the rear of the hammer won’t cause it to strike the firing pin. There’s no red/white indicator so you’ll need to study the slight difference in hammer position to know visually if it is in the “safe” position.
To fire the rifle, simply cock the hammer the remaining three-quarters of the way back and pull the trigger. Or actuate the lever and eject the cartridge to clear the chamber.
An operator may also hold the hammer, release the pressure on the hammer by depressing the trigger, and lower the hammer down.
A classic grooved curved-blade trigger sits fourteen inches from the end of the stock. While the relatively short length of pull helps children better control the rifle, it isn’t so short that it will keep adults from slinging lead just the same. Simply put, it’s both comfortable and controllable.
More importantly, the Frontier’s trigger also performs beautifully. The trigger sequence begins with just under 1/16-inch of somewhat sticky take-up, followed by near-zero creep. The trigger breaks very cleanly and crisply at 3.2-pounds, sending the hammer home with resonating force.
Technically speaking, the Frontier Model Long Barrel 24″ is a simple step up from the basic H001 Classic Lever Action rifle. As the name indicates, the upgrade features a high-grade 24″ octagon barrel with a 1:16 twist rate — a stylish change from the Classic’s round 18.25″ barrel.
A classically blued steel barrel with flat crown and 45-degree chamfer gives the rifle a desirable new look.
An adjustable semi-buckhorn rear and a tall beaded front sight sits above the octagon barrel on a dovetail fixture. The front bead is bright brass. The rear sight features a white diamond at the bottom of a traditional “U.”
Stack the brass bead on top of the diamond, then your target on the bead and you’re in business.
Adjusting the sighting system is straight forward. Front and rear sights can be moved side-to-side within the dovetail slot, the rear sight has six elevation step-adjustments, and the diamond inside the “U” allows for fine elevation adjustment.
The diamond contains two notch sizes. To switch between them, simply loosen the fine elevation adjustment screw, remove the diamond insert, flip it over and re-install it.
A field-grade American walnut stock set (foregrip and buttstock) ties everything together. A standard band ties the sleek foregrip together with the barrel and magazine tube.
While extremely well-finished, they weren’t a perfect mate-up to the receiver on either end, leaving some room for debris and moisture to creep in.
On the positive side, Henry’s craftsmen matched The Frontier’s foregrip and buttstock color/staining extremely well.
Though perfectly attached to the stock, the plastic end plate doesn’t feel “frontier” to me. A receiver-matching alloy end plate would be a better choice.
On the firing line at the range, I flipped The Frontier upside-down (muzzle pointed up and outwards) and removed the magazine tube rod to uncover the loading port — after unlocking it from the standard steel magazine tube with slight pressure and a quick counter-clockwise turn.
Cartridges are loaded one at a time through the port, which is sized and shaped to help prevent anything except .22-caliber Short, Long, and Long Rifle cartridges from entering the tube.
The Frontier holds up to sixteen rounds of Long Rifle and twenty-one rounds of Short.
Shouldering the 24″ octagon-barreled Henry for the first time with live ammo gave me the itchiest of trigger fingers; thank God the range was hot because soon after the octagon barrel was, too.
The weight of the seven-pound rifle and density of the wood stock absorbed the energy of each round; recoil was merely a tap on the shoulder. The Frontier rifle swung with ease from target to target, the lever tossing brass to the right after each shot out front.
The iron sights needed only a slight adjustment and I was easily tagging three-inch bits of broken clay target on berms out to twenty-five yards. For accuracy testing I installed a Vortex Diamondback 2-7×35 Diamondback scope to the Frontier’s receiver using a BKL Technologies BKL-261 scope mount.
Scoping the rifle was a walk in the park and well-worth the effort. The correctly positioned optic left plenty of room beneath the ocular lens’ bell for my thumb to control and manipulate the rifle’s hammer.
Henry’s Frontier rifle proved itself a hungry little fella, eating everything in sight including American Eagle, Blaser, CCI and Federal without any issues. Alternating Shot and Long Rifle rounds proved no tall task; it cycled them impressively well.
LIke most firearms, The Frontier preferred certain types of ammunition. At 50 yards, the rifle delivered 1.20″ groups with American Eagle High Velocity 38 gr. (above, left), 1.28″ groups with CCI .22 Short HP 27gr (above, middle), and 1.43″ groups with CCI Mini-Mag 40gr (above, right).
Inclement weather may have skewed the results. After dodging raindrops and gusty weather during several trips to the range I feel tighter groups are easily attainable, regardless of the ammunition.
At less than $500 off-the-shelf, it’s easy to see why Henry Repeating Arms “starter” .22’s don’t stay there long. The Frontier’s octagonal barrel and not-so-easily-scratched receiver make it a suitable firearm for knock about kids. Or adults hoping to recapture a youth they never had.
Specifications: Henry Repeating Arms Frontier Model Long Barrel 24″
Price as reviewed (Model # H001TLB): $494.00 MSRP
• Calibers: .22 Short / Long / Long Rifle
• Barrel Type: Octagon Blued Steel
• Barrel Length: 24″
• Rate of Twist: 1:16
• Overall Length: 42.5″
• Length of Pull: 14″
• Weight: 7.00 lbs.
• Receiver Finish: Black
• Rear Sight: Fully Adjustable Semi-Buckhorn w/ Diamond Insert
•Front Sight: Brass Bead
• Optics Mounts: 3/8″ Grooved Receiver
• Stock Material: American Walnut
• Buttplate/Pad: Plastic
• Safety: 1/4 Cock
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Quality: * * * * *
Every part of the Frontier rifle meets or exceeds the quality you’d expect from a $500 lever action rifle. The plastic end plate is incongruous and disappointing, but other parts like the gorgeously blued octagon barrel and American walnut furniture make up for the shortcoming.
Reliability: * * * * *
This iconic lever gun showed no signs of difficulties across a variety of ammunition types and brands. With tight tolerances throughout, especially within the action, the Frontier rifle should run smoothly for a lifetime or more.
Accuracy: * * * * *
The Frontier Model Long Barrel 24-inch is more than adequately accurate with a variety of compatible ammunition brands and types.
Overall: * * * * *
An American classic. Everyone should have one in their collection.