Although no longer a “new” design, the .22-caliber AR-7 is…

Although no longer a “new” design, the .22-caliber AR-7 is still leading-edge modern and fills a compact survival role that no other rifle does.

Though Henry rifles were considered “tactical” during the War Between the States, since then, they’ve become classic collector’s rifles. Successor Henry Repeating Arms has earned their spurs in the gun arena with quality revivals of those rifles you wanted as a kid but didn’t have money for until they had become “collector” guns—mostly lever-action repeaters in pistol calibers—all proudly American-made.

The common thread to Henry’s modern iterations and the U.S. Survival AR-7 rifle is that, like their handy lever-action rifles, it’s another design just too good for Henry’s visionaries to leave out of production.

Bailout Rifle ABCs
As rifles go, the AR-7 was a special-purpose tool intended primarily as a bailout rifle for foraging and very light defense by downed pilots, and its handiness and overall reliability have kept it a favorite among those who frequent the bush for purposes other than hunting. It has been issued for special missions, but in the role for which it was designed. Only Hollywood has the technical expertise to turn the .22-caliber AR-7 into a general-purpose anti-personnel/anti-tank/anti-aircraft weapon.

Although the .22 LR is a lowly meat-for-the-pot round, it has been made in tracer and chem/bio hollow points, so one could surmise without telling any secrets that because of its compact dimensions the AR-7 would be a logical platform for such mission-specific rounds in a tactical setting. The AR-7 has served ably as a USAF bailout survival rifle, and in a modified form with the Israeli Air Force.

At less than a yard long assembled and barely more than 16 inches long stowed, the AR-7 is an easy rifle to carry in a hunting pack, under the seat of your plane or ATV, or in the trunk of a patrol vehicle for public-safety issues from street lights to injured or diseased animals. As a permanent component of a field pack, its 2.25-pound weight can make you forget it is there.

Few people head for wild country with the certain knowledge they will have to survive with what they are carrying, but next to attitude and training what determines whether they will come back is the quality of their gear. If that contingency gear includes a firearm, the AR-7 would be at the head of our list—the .22 LR that you have with you trumps the .223 that you do not.

Not only does the rifle break down fully, but the receiver, barrel and spare magazines fit in the stock for a compact, floating tool just in case.

The salient feature of the AR-7 is that the barrel and action readily come apart and stow in the stock, similar to various European stocked pistol designs. The AR-7’s added benefit is that this stock with the rifle stowed inside will float, and the assembled stock will keep the rifle afloat if you drop it in the drink.

When originally designed in the late 1950s by Eugene Stoner, the AR-7 was one of the first rifles to take advantage of modern materials and manufacturing techniques. The receiver was, and still is, of aircraft-grade aluminum. Then it was anodized, now it is Teflon-coated. The original barrel was aluminum with a steel sleeve. Now it is steel, with a bonded jacket of ABS and a Teflon coating—not a bad compromise when one considers potential problems with bimetallic corrosion. The original synthetic stock has been upgraded to ABS, a synthetic that is not only plenty strong for the purpose at hand, but one that also has a tough resilience, making it very impact resistant.

The latest AR-7 is an intelligent design combination of synthetics, steel and aluminum alloys—all made in the U.S.A. by Henry Repeating Arms.

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  • kawa1

    I first saw this unit in 1954 when I was assigned to a USAF bomb squardron. The rifle was inserted inside of a seat type cushon along with other survival gear and ammo. The crew member sat on this cushon and it was snapped to the parachute harness. If the crew member had to eject or bail out, this cushion and gear went with him/her (we didn’t have many “hers” crew members as I recall)