Gun Review: Henry Repeating Arms Small Game Carbine (.22 WMR)

After spending some quality time with Henry’s Frontier Model Long Barrel 24″, a fine .22-caliber lever action rifle that helped me regain a bit of my wishful childhood, I was left wanting little more from a lever action rimfire target and small game shooter. Then I opened the Small Game Carbine . . .

The .22 Magnum Henry Repeating Arms Small Game Carbine (above, bottom) is quite literally the cooler, tougher brother of the sleek-sister Frontier Model Long Barrel 24″ (above, top), and for good reason.

The two rimfire rifles were cut from the same Frontier Model cloth, but with a shorter barrel, larger lever loop, Skinner sight, and more powerful caliber (though it’s also available in .22 LR), the Small Game Carbine is a serious step-up for small game hunters.

At first glance, the most obvious change is the length of the 16.25-inch blued steel octagon barrel. What the shorter barrel gives up in the way of sight radius it rightfully earns back with quicker swing and more compact profile. The reduced length is also the primary cause of its 5.75-pound weight, a 1.75-pound reduction from the 24″ LR Frontier model.

Like its sibling, the Small Game Carbine sports a nice flat crown and 45-degree chamfer that is somewhat consistent across models (above, right).

Upon further inspection of the barrel, shooters will notice what is arguably the most exciting upgraded feature of the Henry Small Game Carbine rifle – a bump up to .22 Magnum (aka .22 WMR).

However, the magazine tube is shorter to match the carbine-length barrel and the cartridges longer, so capacity of the dovetail-set tube is limited to nine rounds.

The large lever loop is most likely the second most noticeable feature, and the only “embellishment / extra” listed for the Small Game Carbine. In fact, only two “embellishment / extra” features are available throughout the entire Frontier Model line of rifles. “Suppressor-ready” being the other feature; found on the Frontier Model Long Barrel Threaded Barrel 24″ rifle.

Designed to accommodate gloved hands and make shooting bigger-bored rifles more comfortable, the large loop isn’t exactly necessary for this caliber. However, it’s a welcome addition for those planning to draw this carbine from a sheath – or anyone that prefers a little extra finger room.

Mechanically, the lever takes charge of a high-quality black-finished aluminum receiver that plays host to a “Slickest Gun in the West” action. And with a silky-smooth feel and distinct, resonating feedback, the Small Game Carbine’s action lives up to its name.

Now, this isn’t the most precisely-made rifle in the country, and on paper it’s a lower-end model, but I was impressed with how well Henry buttoned-up the Small Game Carbine rifle’s receiver. The folks making these rifles clearly take pride in their work.

Atop the rear of the receiver sits a solid steel Skinner sight. Equipping the Small Game Carbine with this style of rear sight is ideal for small game hunting because it allows the hunter more visibility around the bead. And given critters’ propensity for perpetual, stop-and-go movements, a Skinner sight can aid with quick adjustments and follow-up shots.

Fully adjustable, the sight pivots off of the forward top screw for windage adjustment. A small set screw on the side of the sight releases the peep which, when rotated, allows for changes in elevation.

Skinner peep sights offer a range of interchangeable apertures to suit each shooter’s needs. The Small Game Carbine came with a “Standard” model screw-in aperture (0.096″)(above, left). Removing the aperture insert returns it to a wide-open “Ghost Ring” (0.200″)(above, right).

A top view of the two Frontier Model rifles (above) shows the difference in rear sighting systems. The Small Game Carbine (above, bottom) has a drilled and tapped receiver, while the Long Barrel 24″ (above, top) has a dovetail cut in the barrel and accompanying set screw.

Henry kept the bright brass adjustable front bead consistent across all Frontier Model rifles. It looks just as good atop the Small Game Carbine, as any.

Working in unison, the Skinner rear sight and bright brass bead front sight allow for precise shooting and wide peripheral vision. The sight picture above shows the Standard Skinner rear aperture.

If your preference is glass, the 3/8″ dovetail grooves paralleling the top of the receiver play impeccable host to a mounting bracket such as the BKL Technologies BKL-261 scope mount, which was used in conjunction with a Vortex Diamondback 2-7×35 Diamondback scope for accuracy testing.

True to the Frontier Model line of rifles, the Henry lever gun features a 1/4-cock safety. It can be enabled with either a round chambered or an empty chamber by simply pulling the hammer back about 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch until it clicks. When engaged (above, right) the trigger will be unable to release the hammer.

The Small Game Carbine’s trigger appears to be the same as the Long Barrel 24-inch rifle; classic grooved curved-blade trigger sits fourteen inches from the end of the stock. It’s both comfortable and controllable.

However, the trigger’s sequence is an improvement over that of the Long Barrel 24-inch I reviewed. The Small Game Carbine’s trigger has zero take-up, just about 1/16-inch of smooth creep, and an abrupt and crisp break at 3.2-pounds.

The Carbine’s American walnut furniture is once again above its pay grade. Very well-finished and extremely smooth to the touch, the guys at Henry put together a nice matching set of dark pieces for this rifle which display a pleasing grain.

As previously experienced, the buttstock and end plate were seemingly finished as one piece and are seamless to the touch. The end plate’s polymer composition detracts from the overall quality feel of the rifle, being as it is the only plastic part to be found.

On one unfortunate instance the rifle, up in a vertical wall rack, tipped over and contacted another rifle about a foot away. It was seemingly a light contact, but proved to be enough to put a nice ding (above) in the forestock — one that surprised me, given how well the rest of stock has held up during testing.

At the range I set up for standard accuracy testing and some good-old-fashioned plinking. I found the Caldwell Stinger to be the perfect rest for the rifle, allowing consistent, unobstructed cycling of rounds without breaking my sight picture.

Munitions consisted primarily of Armscor 40-grain jacketed hollow point, CCI 40-grain MAXI-MAG HP jacketed hollow point, CCI 40-grain MAXI-MAG total metal jacket, and Hornady 30-grain V-MAX ballistic tip rounds.

Rounds are loaded into the Carbine one a time through the loading port, located in front of the forestock on the underside of the magazine tube.

Once the spring-loaded magazine tube has been removed, simply line up the shape of the cartridge to the shape of the port and drop them in. If the round you’re attempting to load isn’t the same shape as the port, don’t load it!

Given I was practically attempting to dodge rain drops, the Henry Small Game Carbine fared well on paper. At 50 yards CCI’s 40-grain MAXI-MAG HP managed 0.78″ groups while Armscor’s 40-grain JHP measured in at just under an inch, 0.99″.

I was rooting for the Hornady V-MAX but, unfortunately, even with consistently-great 3-shot groups, I just couldn’t put tougher a respectable 5-shot group with it.

Shooting a gun on the bench is what it is; there’s a purpose. But a lever gun is mean to run free, swinging from target to target with report on arrival. And I’ll tell you, the Small Game Carbine is just as fun to shoot as most MSRs. It’s extremely maneuverable, reliable, very accurate, and has a manageable recoil that will put a smile on any shooter’s face.

The Henry Repeating Arms Small Game Carbine in .22 WMR is a fantastic lever action gun. The $125 price increase over its 24″ Long Barrel relative doesn’t quite feel right to me, but the shorter barrel, larger lever loop, Skinner rear peep sight, and .22 WMR caliber sure do feel great.

Additionally, with a very smooth action, reliably accurate octagon barrel, and American walnut furniture, this Frontier Days lever action rifle is a classic gun to consider for your collection, cabin, or caballero accoutrement.

Specifications:

Henry Repeating Arms Small Game Carbine (.22 WMR)

Price as reviewed (Model # H001TMLP): $620.00 MSRP
Technical Specifications:

  • Calibers: .22 WMR
  • Barrel Type: Octagon Blued Steel
  • Barrel Length: 16.25″
  • Rate of Twist: 1:16
  • Overall Length: 33.75″
  • Length of Pull: 14″
  • Weight: 5.75 lbs.
  • Receiver Finish: Black
  • Rear Sight: Skinner Peep Sight
  • Front Sight: Brass Bead
  • Optics Mounts: 3/8″ Grooved Receiver
  • Stock Material: American Walnut
  • Buttplate/Pad: Plastic
  • Safety: 1/4 Cock
  • Embellishments/Extras: Large Lever Loop

Ratings (out of five stars):

Quality: * * * * *
From the American walnut stock and foregrip, Skinner rear peep sight, and large lever loop, to the “Slickest in the West” action, Henry Repeating Arms is committed to delivering a high-quality product.

Reliability: * * * * *
Henry’s Small Game Carbine cycled, fired, and ejected all 40-gran and 30-grain .22 WMR loads we tested from a variety of manufacturers.

Accuracy: * * * * *
This .22-caliber carbine’s 16.25″ blued-steel octagon barrel has no trouble touching rounds on paper. I wouldn’t hesitate to take the Small Game Carbine out on a small game hunt.

Overall: * * * * *
I don’t consider .22 WMR to be a “plinking” or target practice load. It’s a small game hunting load. Henry Repeating Arms’ lever action Small Game Carbine does the caliber justice with a host of top-notch features and a nice octagon barrel that can surely take any game within its Skinner peep sight.

comments

  1. avatar BLoving says:

    (Satisfied sigh…)
    No comment on the rifle, Henry’s speak for themselves… even their “lower end” guns are leaps ahead of anything else in the same category.
    I just wanted to say “thanx” for giving us something lighthearted and pleasant to read after way too much depressing/infuriating news for the past few cycles…
    🤠

    1. avatar Michael says:

      I hate the peep sight.
      I hate the BIG ring
      I hate the throw
      And I hate that there is not one full length picture of the rifle being reviewed anywhere in the article.
      I love 22WMR. There is absolutely no comparison between 22 lr and 22 wmr.
      Henry is a great rifle, beautiful materials.
      Why ruin it with a huge ring, 30-06 length lever throw, and a sight newcomers will not do well with?
      I don’t get it.
      P.S. There are currently 6 types of 22wmr ammo to try….why did they only shoot 30 and 40 grain?
      Federal makes a 50gr, theres also 35, 25, and 20…in tnt projectiles and in ballistic tip…..saving money?????

  2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    pretty much what i want. not sure about the heavy barrel.

  3. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    While Henry’s are a great quality firearm, I sold mine after firing 9 rounds.
    That stock drop would not allow me to get any cheek rest.
    Kinda depressed me. I’ll keep on the lookout for a Winchester.

    1. avatar BLoving says:

      Were you shooting from a bench? Stand up. The comb drop of lever action rifles work best from a standing posture whereas the stocks of many bolt actions seem engineered for bench/prone shooting.
      🤠

      1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        No bench. Just offhand at some steel.
        Lesson learned though. Never order something up without thoroughly handling first.

        1. avatar Michael says:

          Exactly.
          Any firearm is like clothing, it has to “fit” the shooter.
          Great point.

    2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      https://www.henryusa.com/rifles/varmint-express-17-hmr-rifle/

      for now the only model with a monte carlo stock. .22mag could happen…

    3. avatar Michael says:

      SAVAGE A22.

    4. avatar Michael says:

      SAVAGE and CZ USA both offer 22 WMR in Semiauto.
      I went with savage for the adj. Trigger, 21″ barrell and butler creek makes a 25 round clip for it.
      I’ll post some targets when I’ve shot it.
      I’m DYING to….damn rain.

      1. avatar LazrBeam says:

        Roger that on the damn rain. I got the CZ 512 semi auto in .22 WMR. Beautiful rifle, the cut of the stock, it’s receiver, and general layout reminds me of a Browning BAR. Can’t wait to shoot it. Now, in fairness to the rain, duck season has had our local range shut down as well. Does every year for a couple of months (Dec-Jan) as the river and sloughs where the ducks fly in are in very close proximity to the range. Duck season just wrapped up, now rain/mud. And, in fairness to Henry, I also just got one of their .327 Fed Mag lever actions and can’t wait to shoot it either. I smell a twofer range day a comin’!! WOOHOO!!

  4. avatar Art out West says:

    Thanks for the nice article. I’ve been thinking about buying a higher powered rimfire rifle (22mag/17hmr/17wsm). I’m leaning towards the .17wsm in a Savage bolt action. My main use would be longer range sage rat sniping (past the range of my .22lr rifles), and also having something to bridge the power gap between .22lr and .223.

    Anyone have experience with the .17wsm?

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      limited. my brother has a savage a17. delayed semi action. from what i’ve seen, as long as you don’t want to eat the sage rats that round could fit the bill. it sort of vaporizes a good part of a chipgopher. which really have few good parts.

      1. avatar Art out West says:

        Even .22lr body shots are pretty devastating on those little guys. We don’t eat them. It is pest control/fun in orchards etc.

        Is that a17 pretty reliable?

        1. avatar Michael says:

          Ive seen too many non lethal hits to thinknit is good for anything but target shooting…ethically speaking.
          Prey deserves a swift kill….its a responsibility in my opinion.

        2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          we’ve had it out a few times with no probs. he takes it out a lot and claims it runs dependably.
          online forums suggest some mag (lip?) feeding issues. he says not.
          i would like one based on my time with it.

    2. avatar Montesa_VR says:

      I have a Savage bolt rifle in .17 HMR. I bought it specifically for shooting Minnesota striped gophers. The tiny things are hard to get close enough to get a good pattern with my .410. My Savage has a wonderful trigger and is accurate, and the round is very destructive, which makes it three ways superior to my son’s Ruger 10/22. Other than that there is certainly nothing cool about it — sheer utility.

      I really want a lever gun but I think I’ll go with Henry’s .357 Big Boy Steel.

      1. avatar Michael says:

        SAVAGE A22 in 22WMR or CZ USA.
        I got the A22 in 22wmr….been raining too much to shoot it.
        I got cci’ A22 mag ammo…designed specifically for my rifle, also got cci Jhp, fmj, federal 50 grain, and some tnt projectile new on the market.

        22 WMR IS BACK BABY……

    3. avatar Michael says:

      22wmr out shoots the 17s. Especially with the 50 grain federal ammo.

      1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        mikey seems correct.

        http://chuckhawks.com/compared_17HMR_22WMR.htm

        .22mag may be a better killer at all distances, out to 200 yds.
        this comparo suggests that the.17mag is everything else: flatter shooting, faster and consistantly more accurate. for tiny vermin reach for that one.

        1. avatar Marty says:

          I have a friend who has killed 17 fox with his 17HRM, all one shot instant kills. All of the Fox were within 50 yards and all of them were attempting to forcibly enter his chicken coop. There is nothing wrong with the 17HRM cartridge. However this could easily have been duplicated with the 22WMR. Both are good cartridges.

  5. avatar SkyMan77 says:

    Dexter’s doing gun reviews?

    Just kidding…. Well done… I love me some leeeeever action Henry’s!!!

  6. avatar Marty says:

    I have the Henry Golden Boy in 17 HRM. It is a great gun to shoot but I have one problem with it. The wood on this rifle is outstandingly beautiful and I don’t want to take it out hunting fearing I may get it scratched. I also have a Winchester 9422M. Wood is nothing special and I shoot this one often. Outstanding shooter but unfortunately is no longer made or serviced by Winchester, probably due to the expense of producing such a high quality rifle.

  7. Shut up and take my money!
    Although I’d have to get the .22 LR model, because my local gun club doesn’t allow “Magnum” ammunition (not even 22 Magnum).

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