Don’t overlook this Henry single-shot .243 rifle for simplicity during the hunting season.
In a field where “tacticool” has become more than just a popular buzzword for marketers, why would a company produce a new line of firearms that could fit right in with the gun market of 1905?
Check out the extensive selection of single-shot rifles and shotguns from Henry Repeating Arms that fits this description.
These old-style singles come in five calibers — .223, .243, .308, .44 Magnum and .45-70 — and debuted in late 2017. Henry sent a .243 model for review,and several things were obvious even before I took the gun to the range.
The rifle’s wood was dense, dark and nicely grained, which seems to be the rule with Henry products. At a time when black polymer stocks are quite popular, seeing wood on a rifle can be a flashback experience, and even more so when a prime cut has been turned into a stock.
Likewise, the rich bluing was pleasing to the eye. Amazingly, all of this came on a gun with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of just $448.
It would be easy to assume that Henry obtains wood from the abundant tree crop near its Rice Lake, Wisconsin, assembly plant, but the company relies on other suppliers.
“We use American black walnut sourced from Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas,” said Henry Arms owner Anthony Imperato. American is the operative word here, Henry’s motto is “Made in America, or not made at all.”
Henry’s new line of singles comes with ambidextrous locking lever that opens the action when pushed to the left or right. Since there is no bolt in the face, this type of action is especially well suited for left-handers.
Upper Midwest winter weather made it difficult to take the rifle out for testing. A brief trip to the range on a blustery day provided some trigger time with the Henry. Giving up deer hunting many years ago meant I was rusty on shooting guns made for the field, so there was a certain eagerness to try this one out.
The mild recoil of the .243 Winchester cartridge combined with an ample rubber recoil pad made the Henry soft on the shoulder. Clearly, this single shot would be a good choice for a wide range of hunters.
It’s capable of bagging whitetail or mule deer, pronghorn antelope and small- to medium-sized hogs.
Testing was done with an adjustable folding rear leaf sight paired with a brass bead at the tip of the barrel. This setup will work at short range, but the rifle comes drilled and tapped with three holes accommodate optics mounts, so most hunters will opt for a scope mounted on a Weaver 82 rail.
Some experimenters have gone to a red-dot sight on a Picatinny rail, which might seem odd on such an old school rifle. It isn’t difficult to visualize an adjustable peep sight on the Henry as a classier option.
My first few offhand shots were in the 2-inch range from 50 yards offhand, but cold and shooter error are to blame for groups opening up after that. Winchester and Remington 100-grain ammo was used.
With more practice time in a warmer climate and the addition of a scope, there’s no doubt the Henry has minute of angle potential.
The 22-inch barrel has a twist rate of 1:10 and, when combined with the short action of a single shot, makes for a dandy rifle that handles smoothly and carries nicely while hiking in the woods. I didn’t put a
gauge on the trigger, but it broke around 6 to 7 pounds — lighter than a double-action
Generous checkering provides a firm grip, and everything was assembled to tight tolerances. My only complaint was Henry’s choice of an extractor rather than an ejector for spent cases.
All calibers are available with steel frames, but collectors might prefer the brass-framed version available in .44 Magnum and .45-70. (The MSRP is $576 for brass models.) Henry also produces a brass-framed single-shot shotgun in 12, and .410 gauges. Prices for steel and brass-framed shotguns are identical to the single-shot rifles.
One-round rifles are a niche market with dedicated fans. When Harrington & Richardson — the former leader in single-shot sales by volume — left that market a few years ago, it created a void that begged to be filled.
Is that why Henry chose to add this new line of hunting arms?
“Consumers and some of our dealers asked us to make single shots,” Imperato said. Since Henry is known for traditional lever-action rifles, extending the firm’s line to single-shots made sense.
Hunters who enjoy the challenge of going afield with just one round on tap have other reasons to opt for a single shot. These rifles are sleek and handle smoothly. A well-made single-shot is much more than a utilitarian game getter.
Looking for more of a hunting challenge? Take a Henry single-shot rifle or shotgun on your next trip. It
combines simplicity and the art of the gunmaker.
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This article is an excerpt from Gun Digest 2019, 73rd Edition.
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