Henry U.S. Survival Rifle (courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
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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 a 70-year-old design, one of my childhood favorites.

The .22 LR AR-7 was probably the first semi automatic rifle I ever fired. I was introduced to this rifle when I was a boy.

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

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.

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

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

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

This version looks a little different than the one I used as a kid. The True Timber-Kanati camo, at least for my area, definitely does the job of concealing the gun.

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

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

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

The entire gun, loaded mags, and all, is packed and sealed inside the butt stock. Stowed away, it’s only 16½ inches long, weighing right at 3.5 lbs.

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

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

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

If you have at least room temperature 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.

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

Unlike the original, Henry’s Survival Rifle has a rail integral to the receiver so that you can actually mount a red dot or a scope 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.

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

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.

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

The magazine release is inside of the trigger guard, directly opposed 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.

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

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.

That 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 finished testing the rifle. It was noticeably lighter after a few days and 500 rounds or so.

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.
Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

I lubed up the rifle prior to shooting. I usually use RemOil as I can find it anywhere. The rifle wasn’t cleaned or lubed again during the 500-round cycle.

Unlike most reviews, I disassembled and reassembled 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 just about 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.

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review
Courtesy Henry Repeating Arms

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 its 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.

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

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.

If I backed it up to 100 yards, I got six-inch groups or better every time, no matter what ammunition I used. 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.

Henry US Survival AR-7 rifle review

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. Spending a little more time with it as an adult reveals why. 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 some minimal self-defense, or to put meat on the fire.

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

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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: $344 – black, $420 – camo (retail about $299 or $369)

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 really supposed to be; a reliable, accurate, bet-your-life-on-it gun. Everyone should have one. And so should their kids.

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  1. I always thought those were cool little rifles. Back in the day I almost bought one more than once. One thing always stopped me. The thought, “Why wouldn’t I just carry a .22 LR handgun?” It’s on my belt. Both hands are free when I’m not shooting. I can carry a centerfire rifle and a .22 LR firearm. Etc… Still, I like it. Maybe I’ll pick one up. Being cool is reason enough.

    • It is every bit as cool as Jon described. Mine was, for all its faults. You can’t help but get a shit-eating-grin on your face when you pick one up.

      It’s perfect for tossing behind the seat in a pickup and mostly forgetting about it…

      • I’ve encountered these guns for decades. I’ve never found one that would replace any of the other .22s I’ve had and still have.

        My former bil in WV had one of the older ones. He hillbilly rigged a detachable folding metal skeleton stock for it. Explaining the NFA to him was a lost cause. He was also pretty good at making things splode that weren’t supposed to.

        He was almost as crazy as his sister but he was handier to have around. I should have got him in the divorce.

      • The Rossi rs22 or Marlin 795 are much cheaper (and probably better) options for tossing behind the seats of the pickup.

        The AR7 is a cool novelty gun.

        • I’ll second the 795. It was my second gun purchase. I still slip past my “better” guns to grab it.

    • We had a Charter bersion back in the 70s. I wanted to like but like it …. But it was crap.

      Inaccurate, jam-o-matic, and frail. So I kept shooting my Springfield bolt action and Marlin 39A.

      Now it sound like Henry has made it what it should have been. I think I’d still rather have a Marlin Papoose, but they are hard to find and way more pricey.

      Maybe I’ll pick one of the up. Thanks for the review. Can’t have too many 22s.

    • Gadsden Flag,

      The utility of the Henry AR-7 survival rifle is:

      (1) You get the significant increase in accuracy of a rifle over a revolver.
      (2) You get the significant decrease in STORAGE size over a standard rifle.
      (3) You get weather-proof storage.
      (4) You get a storage package which floats if you drop it in water.

      If you will never be in situations where those factors are important, then there is no utility to the AR-7. If you do expect to find yourself such situations, then the AR-7 is hard to beat.

  2. “I remember the AR-7 of my youth as a finicky, fairly delicate, but super cool, fun little rifle.”

    Exactly. I bought mine well-used from a buddy’s pawn shop for 50 bucks.

    It was every bit as un-reliable as yours, so a few years later I traded it off. I do believe I will replace it with the new one in the near future.

    The barrel is aluminum with a rifled steel liner, could it be threaded for a standard 1/2 24 TPI can? Or are threaded barrels available?

  3. I’m planning on doing a lot of kayaking as soon as the water gets warm enough Wendy.
    This riffle floats.
    Not real enthused aboutbplastic sights and barrels though.
    $300 that gets a *
    Made by Henry, uhh well -*
    More then likely I am going to have my gunmshop guy order me one.

  4. Mine is about 10 yrs old and it lives under the rear seat of my truck along with 2 mini mags.
    My only complaint is it will not load Federal Auto Match. Loads the 1st one, then hits the bottom of the feed ramp putting a nice crease in the middle of the bullet. Runs everything else with no problems

  5. Great review and reminder. I also lusted for one decades ago but never rose to the top of interest/”need” (for the reliability issues). Have more than enough 10/22 will get one soon.

    Seems like this would be born for a QD Red Dot.

  6. Odd question. Was there ever a single shot .410 shotgun that broke down and stored like the AR-7?

    I ask because I thought I saw that very thing in a Sears catalog when I was a little kid in the 1970s. (They still advertised firearms in the catalog, even though you could no longer order them directly to your home (GCA 68 and all) ).

  7. I had it’s Grandaddy Charter Arms Explorer II. Was fairly accurate with it as it had a long barrel. I guess I liked it’s odd appearance. Steel sleeved aluminum barrel if I recall.

    • “Steel sleeved aluminum barrel if I recall.”

      Charter Arms. That’s the pawn shop special I had.

      Crappy reliability at the time… 🙁

    • I did purchase a simular ammo pouch for my AR7 that was in the video. And a sling for it as well. They worked out great.

        • “Now you know what I look like”

          Indeed, Mr. ‘A’…

          You could have been a boring corporate lawyer, but you get paid to play with guns! 🙂

    • I forgot to give you proper credit. Because it was your video back then, that motivated me to go looking for a proper sling. And an ammo pouch for my AR7 in the first place. Thank you.

  8. Thank you for the review. I’ve owned the Henry AR7 for several years now. It’s a great gun. And I’ve been using it as a truck gun for quite some time now. That is until the knob that you use to unscrew it fell out. I had to take it to a local gunsmith to have it repaired. I’m looking forward to getting it back soon.

  9. I found “twins” years ago and still consider them to be one of the best purchases to date. They aree not long range guns but at 25 yds. and under they are great. My thoughts are that if you have to shoot much further than that to feed yourself in a survival situation then you deserve to starve. These are a generation behind this one as they only have storage for one mag and I had to add the florescent front sight. One lives in my main pack and is always there. I like to shoot and these are just fun. Shooting Aguila CB rounds are so quiet if some is talking you may not hear it fire. Now, that being said it is only a single action using these. I love them for what they are built for. Eric in Oregon, there is a website ar7.com that sells A LOT of aftermarket accessories for them, at least they did several years ago.

  10. Bought 1 several years ago Much better than the older model a friend of mine had back in the day. Handy enough, but couldn’t hit a barn door beyond 50 yards. The Henry model is fairly accurate as far as I’m going to shoot with open sights today. If I need anything better, the little AR-7 will get me to the better gun.

  11. I’ve considered this one off and on but never bought it. The AR7 is just too low on the list I guess. Although a lever action from Henry still remains quite appealing. Truthfully, for 22lr I’d rather have a 10/22.

  12. This is a re-print of an article I wrote quite a few years ago. I like to read these, just to see if my current perception of the gun is any different than it was at the time of the review.
    In this case, after shooting a different AR7 I purchased after the review, my opinion remains exactly the same. Great little guns, tons of fun.

    • Avoid the Charter Arms version at all costs. 🙁

      I don’t know if they are made any more, but I had 25 round ‘banana’ mags for mine…

  13. Article prompted me to check one I happened to have handy – turns out to be the Armalite version, for what it is it is a good choice. I just wish that Henry would upscale it as needed to a .22WMR, suggested that to them but haven’t heard anything back from them.

  14. Glad you mentioned glueing the front sight, mine started walking after shooting and is my only complaint.

  15. You loaded those 8-round magazines 62 times? You must have been enjoying this review to commit to that.

  16. Let us not forget what AGENT 007 taught us, that the AR-7 is also a deadly anti-aircraft weapon; at least against civilian helicopters.

    • Technically Bond didn’t shoot the helicopter down – he shot the guy getting ready to drop a hand grenade which fell on the floor of the helo 😉
      BTW, IIRC in that movie they said it was .25 caliber……………………

    • Bond’s version also had an infra-red telescopic sight that his buddy used to kill an assassin.

  17. I don’t know who was producing the AR-7 in the early 80’s, but the one I bought was a Jam-O-Matic piece of junk. Two months after I’d bought it, I sold it to some other sucker. Went together easy enough, but you were lucky if you could shoot 3 rounds without a misfeed of some kind. Never understood why it was designed to use an 8 round Mag versus a 10 round Mag. Accuracy was only so so, certainly not good enough for the higher price you paid for one. My old Remington Nylon 66, I’d had since 1969, shot circles around it, and rarely had any kind of malfunction.
    Glad to hear Henry has addressed many of the issues that plagued the one I briefly owned.
    I’d still point out that now, just as it was 40 years ago, it’s overpriced for what it is.

  18. The article is spot-on. I have a Henry AR-7 and it is a very well-made little gun. Don’t expect a lot out of it because it was designed to be a SURVIVAL gun, nothing more. It stores in a very compact package, easily assembled, and accurate enough to take small animals if you need to feed yourself. It could even head shoot a deer or turkey under 30 yards if need be under survival conditions.

  19. This seems essentially correct. I bought a Henry AR7 on impulse a few years back. It is, like most .22s, fun to shoot. I should shoot it more, but the trigger is horrible. The break is crisp enough but it has to be up around fifteen pounds. Also, on mine, I have to check the barrel nut every magazine or two, because it will loosen. Also, when I shoot more than a few magazines and it heats up, the point of impact moves low and left. I would have preferred an all-metal barrel, and a narrower front sight. Mine runs very well with ammo it likes. It doesn’t like Remington Thunderbolts. The last box I tried was a third duds, with good looking firing pin imprints. It is very easy to disassemble and reassemble for cleaning and lubrication.

    Things I wish Henry would change: that plastic recoil spring guide is fragile. Metal, please. An all metal barrel with a metal front sight, and the front sight being narrower, to make it easier to shoot precisely, would also be good. And the muzzle being threaded 1/2×28 would allow additional options, though I suppose the AR7 is probably not on anybody’s short list of ideal suppressor hosts.

  20. I couldn’t do it. A gun should look proper. When I see this I think it looks bulbous, chunky. The percent chance it’s primary characteristic will be the difference maker for anyone reading this is about zero. For zero percent it should at least look ok.

  21. I have long lost my original Armalite AR7, but for whatever reason it perked flawlessly. Not one malfunction the years I had it. Wish a “friend” hadn’t stolen it either.

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