Gun Review: The Henry Classic Lever Action .22 Rifle

Henry Classic Lever Action .22

Travis Pike for TTAG

There are very few things that deliver a quick hit of dopamine as fast as working the action on a well made lever gun. The Henry Classic Lever Action.22 is most certainly one of the better-made rimfire guns and an excellent example of a fun, affordable lever-action rifle.

Semi-auto rifles mostly dominate the rimfire world, and the .22 LR is an excellent cartridge for it. Among the boatloads of semi-auto .22s, we get the Henry Classic, a lever-action rimfire rifle. This gun has been around forever, it seems. I know this because we’ve had one in my family forever. 

Henry Classic Lever Action .22

Classic American design of the Henry Lever Action .22 (Travis Pike for TTAG)

This particular model of the Henry Lever Action .22 has seen its fair share of use and what must be thousands of rounds downrange. The Henry lever action guns are remarkably simple. In a time where companies put manual safeties on single-action revolvers, the Henry Classic Lever Action stays pretty true to the classic lever gun design.

Your controls are a trigger, a lever, and a hammer. It’s simple, robust, safe and reliable. This rifle puts the responsibility for safety entirely on the user, a that is an important feature for young shooters. 

Breaking Down the Henry Rifle Lever Action Rifle 

The Classic Lever Action .22 loads through a tube magazine under the barrel and can handle .22 LR, .22 Long, and 22 Short ammo with varying capacities. This gives it an edge over semi-autos.

One task this gun and I were dedicated to at one time was clearing rats out of a barn. I was 13 at the time and it was a lot of fun. Armed with this Henry rifle and a ton of CCI Ratshot .22, I cleared them out eventually. This gun isn’t ammo picky like a semi-auto. 

Henry Classic Lever Action .22

Hmm Lever Actions (Travis Pike for TTAG)

More than anything, the reason I love this gun over a semi-auto is the lever-action. It’s a different kind of feeling to work the lever after every shot. My dad is a big western fan, and a little bit of that must have leaked into me. The Henry lever action makes me feel like The Rifleman

The little Henry Classic Lever Action .22 is sized more or less for kids. My hands are a bit big for the lever loop. The length of pull (14 inches) is a little short and the forearm feels like it’s set too far back.

However, as a small .22 LR, these issues aren’t significant. The negligible recoil isn’t enough to hurt my hand in the loop, and I have no problem controlling and accurately shooting the meek Henry rimfire.

The rifle’s layout is practical, and your thumb sits perfectly in place to grip the hammer and squeeze it into a de-cocked position. The stock fits perfectly into the shoulder, and the Henry is a joy to handle.

The front-loading tube magazine eliminates a side loading gate, and I believe the purpose of this is for reliability. I’ve never seen a side-loading .22 LR, and anyone who has handled .22 LR knows it isn’t hard to bend the projectile from the case and cause issues.

Also, I can’t imagine my fat fingers could easily manipulate a round into a tiny loading gate designed for .22 ammunition. 

Henry Classic Lever Action .22

(Travis Pike for TTAG)

This isn’t a gun you’ll be fighting bandits with or robbing trains with, so I don’t think it’s a significant issue. 

The Henry rifle has an 18.5-inch barrel and weighs 5.25 pounds. It’s thin and lithe and straightforward to handle. The wood stock and forend are quite attractive and done very well.

The wood is American walnut, and this rifle is made in the US of A. It’s an excellent example of American workmanship and craft. The finish is stronger than it has any right to be and has remained scratch and gouge free over a decade and a half. 

On the Range 

This morning I loaded my tube with 15 rounds of .22 LR and waited like a small child for the rain to stop. Late December rains are a real cold affair, even in Florida. I finally manned up, strapped on a jacket, and went out to start blasting. I forgot about the cold and rain after the first 15 rounds of .22 LR were sent downrange. 

In a real rush, I reloaded and shot more, and more, and more. The Henry Classic Lever Action .22 rifle is such a fun gun to shoot. I forget just how much fun it is to shoot this little gun.

The pow, followed by the ding of steel and the noise and feel of the lever action cycling make it a fun and highly enjoyable experience. It is so much fun to plink with, way more fun than my 10/22.

Nothing against the 10/22, but for me, it’s just not as fun to shoot as a lever-action rifle. 

Henry Classic Lever Action .22

The Best Feeling (Travis Pike for TTAG)

When it comes to accuracy, the Henry rifle is spot on. Like a little laser within 100 yards. Outside of popping rats with shotshells, this little gun has put a lot of squirrels and rabbits into early graves (and on top of rice and into stews). And that’s just shooting the gun with its standard iron sights. The rear sight is adjustable and the front is an hooded post). 

The Henry rifle is more than capable of accurately hitting small game and small targets. The trigger is excellent. It’s light and concise. Impressive is an excellent way to describe it. The rifle’s lever action is also very smooth and feels fantastic. It’s short and sweet and just plain satisfying. 

Henry Classic Lever Action .22

Perfectly placed hammer (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Manually operated firearms are quite reliable, and the Henry rifle is no different. This one has eaten everything and been abused for years, and it keeps on chugging.

Maybe one day I’ll even clean it, but I never have before. I spray some CLP into it and work the action and call it a day. This reliable, dependable firearm is an excellent gun for plinking, for teaching new shooters and reenacting my western film love. 

Henry Classic Lever Action .22

Made in America (Travis Pike for TTAG)

This classic American made lever action rifle retails for less than $300 on average and is worth every single penny. 

Specifications: Henry Classic Lever Action .22 Rifle  

Caliber: 22LR 22 Long and 22 Short
Capacity: 15, 17, and 21 depending on caliber
Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
Overall Length: 36.5 inches
Weight: 5.25 pounds
MSRP: $378 (about $280 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Ergonomics: * * * *
It’s a little on the small side for most adult shooters, but is still well designed and put together. The classic lever-action layout is present with the Henry .22. For smaller shooters, this gun will be a ton of fun to handle. 

Accuracy: * * * *
The gun is perfectly accurate, especially for a 22LR and the ranges in which a 22 LR is used. This isn’t a 1 MOA rifle, but if you want to make a small target dance at close range or make accurate headshots on small game, this gun will do. 

Reliability: * * * * *
It’s a lever-action rifle and it’s hard to mess it up. It’s not picky about ammunition and can be used with any powered load, including rat shot. It doesn’t demand to be clean often either and seems to eat whatever I feel like tossing at it. 

Cool Factor: * * * * *
This western style classic is an excellent replica of lever actions of the day. Sure it’s not period correct, but it gives you the experience of an old school lever gun. 

Overall: * * * * 1/2
The Henry Classic Lever Action .22 is a fun gun and one of my favorites. It’s reliable, accurate, and fun to shoot. Plus, .22 LR is once again cheap so that I can hit the range a more often with my beloved rimfire guns. If you need a firearm for the little one or a new shooter in your life, they’d be well served by a Henry. 

 

comments

  1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    I wish they had the same stock angle on the golden boy.

    1. avatar Frank M. says:

      I had some older shotguns with stocks like that and I always shot them better than the ones with the slight pistol grip.

  2. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    The Evil Roy was too short for me, traded for my favorite rimfire Henry. The small Game Rifle, can shoot 3″ groups at 25 yards with CB shorts all day! I love it.

    1. avatar John Bryan says:

      Jeff the Griz – I’ve wondered about the Evil Roy edition – it looks like the stock is rather short. Perversely I wish Henry offers the Small Game rifle with the shiny finish of the Evil Roy – wouldn’t be ideal for being discreet in the field but I’d like it!

      1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

        They do. It’s called the Silver Boy

  3. Great little rifle! Personally, though, I’ve got my eye on its cousin, the Frontier with the threaded barrel.

    BTW – You’ve got a bad link at the top of the article, Mr. Pike. Instead of taking me to the Henry page for their Classic Lever .22 it goes to a TTAG article on the VA 2nd Amendment sanctuary movement. I do believe you want to use this URL:
    https://www.henryusa.com/rifles/lever-action-22-rifle/

  4. avatar Geoff "Bah, Humbug!" PR says:

    “There are very few things that deliver a quick hit of dopamine as fast as working the action on a well made lever gun.”

    What is it about lever-actions that does that? (And ‘arcade’ gallery pump .22s)? Is it that you are keeping sighting down the barrel while working the action?

    1. avatar Ing says:

      I think that’s part of it. And the lever itself is wonderfully tactile.

      You can feel and hear the c-click-click-snap of the bolt and lever smoothly doing their jobs as you move through that short arc and back again, followed by the soft clink of brass hitting the ground, and the whole time you’re laser focused on where that next shot will go.

      It’s magical. There’s nothing else in the world quite like it.

  5. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    This was My first rifle purchase. Then 30 minutes later I got a ruger 1022. Two the same day!! I’m glad I live in a free state. During the start of the 2012 ammo shortage the aguila colibri 22 ammo was the only 22 round available. It ran great in the Henry. And very accurate. For over a year it was the only one of my guns I could get ammo for.

    Semi’s are ok. But everyone needs to have a manually operated gun. Pump, break action, bolt, or lever.

  6. avatar Klaus says:

    Good review. I don’t understand the not cleaning your guns bit. It speaks volumes though.

    1. avatar Travis Pike says:

      I clean my guns, but blinkers arent exactly that critical to me.

    2. avatar Travis Pike says:

      Plinkers

    3. avatar Mike V says:

      Volumes?

  7. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    This article was originally posted earlier today. I commented along with others, and half an hour later it was pulled down, only to reappear again tonight. I’ve noticed this happen several times over the past few months. Why, Dan?

  8. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    ‘…manual safeties on single-action revolvers…’

    Whatchu talkin’ about Willis?

    1. avatar dph says:

      Heritage Rough Rider.

  9. avatar VC says:

    Good work on this one

  10. avatar Lawbob says:

    “Among the boatloads of semi-auto .22s, we get the Henry Classic, a lever-action rimfire rifle. ”

    Is a lever action among the boatloads of semis?

    1. avatar Geoff "Bah, Humbug!" PR says:

      In gun bans, they are often treated as as such, like Washington state, if memory serves.

      That’s what you get when when people who know nothing about an item, except that they hate them, are allowed to make ‘rules’ about them, such as whether or not you should be ‘allowed’ (outrage) to own them…

      1. avatar Ing says:

        The Washington state thing does impose onerous training and registration requirements (which have about zero compliance as far as I’m aware), but doesn’t ban anything. And it only applies to semiautomatic rifles, not leverguns, pump actions, or bolties. WA isn’t quite that stupid…yet.

  11. avatar James A. "Jim" Farmer says:

    This gun looks like it will be a lot of fun.

    1. avatar Ing says:

      I can confirm that this little .22 levergun definitely is a lot of fun. Insanely fun, as a matter of fact.

      Every time I take it out to shoot it I remember why it’s my favorite gun in my collection. (Although to be fair, I think the same thing about my Marlin .30-30 every time I take it out. It’s a levergun thing, I guess.)

  12. avatar Dave G. says:

    This is a nifty little rifle. I don’t say no, but I want a Henry PUMP action .22.

    1. avatar Bill Hodges says:

      I have the above .22 lever, along with the Golden Boy in .22WMR.
      I also bought the new pump-action, but due to a shipboard accident, found it painfully hard to operate.

  13. avatar mike says:

    I like mine, shoot it more than bolt .22s or my 10/22 or my MP5/.22

  14. avatar Craig in IA says:

    I picked up an old version of one of these in trapper length for $90 last summer in a pawn shop near my summer digs in N MN. Perfect gun to leave there all winter, I think this one must be one of the early ones after they purchased the tooling, etc. from Erma. Not a fan of pot metal receivers but it eats up .22 LR just fine and I don’t need to haul my little 9422 up there in the summer now.

  15. avatar Steve H. says:

    I own AR’s, semi-auto plinkers, and my Henry. This rifle is a tack driver right out of the box, and hands down, my favorite rifle to shoot. If you have big mitts, try the model with the large loop lever: H001LL in Henry’s lineup. You can also buy just the large loop lever on their website, and install it yourself. Video on the website shows a complete teardown and re-assembly of the rifle. Super easy.

  16. avatar MouseGun says:

    This was my first rifle. Even when I was a kid, the non-adjustable, screwed in place front sight was a deal breaker for me and I traded it to my cousin for an old mossberg bolt action

  17. avatar John W Weber says:

    I’ve owned my H001 Henry for about 4 years now and it’s the epitome of a fun gun. Well made, great looking, reliable feeds anything. I would like to see Henry offer a rimfire replica of a Winchester low wall or a falling block rifle.

    1. avatar Dave G says:

      @John W Weber:

      “I would like to see Henry offer a rimfire replica of a Winchester low wall or a falling block rifle.”

      How about a Stevens Favorite replica, but with Henry quality???

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