Mister, you ever see what a Henry rifle can do in the hands of someone who knows how to use it? That line from the classic western Silverado certainly had an effect on my love of lever action rifles. In fact, that entire movie, which I still watch at least twice a year, was in no small part responsible for me loving cowboy guns to this day. When you factor in that 22 Magnum is hands down my favorite cartridge, it makes sense I’d get a Henry Frontier Model 22 Magnum, right?
Henry Frontier Model 22 Magnum Features
Like all the Henry Repeating Arms rifles, the Frontier Model uses American walnut furniture, giving the rifle a rich, dark appearance. The aluminum alloy receiver’s finish is a dark matte that goes quite nicely with the real feature on this rifle, the barrel. The 20 inch octagonal barrel’s deep blue finish is lovely to look at, but is also functional. The brass bead front sight pairs nicely with the elevation-adjustable rear sight. Additionally, the rear buckhorn style sight has a white diamond to aid aiming.
Why Get a 22 Magnum Henry Though?
22 Magnum is my favorite cartridge, hands down. Counting the Henry Frontier Model, I have four guns chambered in 22 Winchester Magnum, including a Heritage Barkeep model. My first gun was a 22 Magnum, a Marlin 25M bolt action rifle, a gift from my father. I passed that rifle on to my oldest nephew. I have a memory from my teenage years about that rifle that really stuck with me.
My friend and I were shooting at a range in the SoCal foothills, him with a .54 caliber muzzleloader and me with my “puny” .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire. Our target was a mild steel plate that his fat, slow roundballs splattered on. Meanwhile, the 40 grain FMJ from my rifle, at around 1800 FPS blasted divots out of the steel plate. I was young, I didn’t know you shouldn’t shoot some steel with rifles, and in retrospect I feel bad about that. Regardless, that was the beginning of my 22 Magnum love affair.
Shooting the Henry Frontier Model 22 Magnum
Whenever I review a gun I always try to establish objective criteria to base the review on. My limited supply of 22 Mag ammo also forced my hand a bit in this review. So, for this review I wanted to focus on practical uses of the rifle inside of 50 yards.
Loading the Henry Frontier is easy, simply remove the tube under the barrel and drop cartridges in the loading port on the magazine tube. Henry’s website says the lever action holds 12 rounds, I found you can fit 13 in there. The lever action itself is lovely. The throw is short, the movement is smooth, and it has that undeniably satisfying tactile feel to it. As mentioned above, the brass bead sight contrasts well with the buckhorn sights, making practical accuracy out to 50 yards possible.
To test the Henry lever action 22 Magnum’s practical accuracy, I performed two drills. The first was firing three shots off-hand at 25 yards (after verifying the rifle’s zero). As you can see from the image above, all three stayed in the black on a B8 target. The second drill was what’s called a “walk-back” drill on an 8 inch steel target. Starting at 10 yards I fired one shot, then took five steps backwards. You stop walking back when you miss. In this case, I reached the end of the 50+ yard bay before I missed.
A 22 Magnum Lever Action Makes Real World Sense
Of course, in this modern age of 30-round semi-auto rifles, why even buy a lever action in 22 Magnum? Well, first off, why not? Guns are cool, and as I mentioned in my ACE Farley Slipjoint review, not every gun or knife has to be for something. That being said, I actually think this is a very practical rifle for a number of reasons. It would be a great first rifle for a new shooter to learn the fundamentals of sight alignment and trigger control. If you live in a rural area, the .22 WMR cartridge is powerful enough for animals up to coyote in size, which we all know are a problem. With the right projectile it’s perfectly capable of harvesting small game without destroying the meat. It’s also capable of vaporizing squirrels with a different projectile, if you’re into that sort of thing. Plus, at less than 7 pounds fully loaded, you’re never going to be bothered by this rifle’s weight. If I was backpacking and wanted a light, handy rifle that could handle the dangers of South Carolina, this would be the one.
For me, it’s also fun. After I finished testing the rifle for reliability and accuracy, I ran a plate rack with this lever action 22 Magnum until the 20 inch octagonal barrel was too hot to touch. That was a lot of fun. In fact, that might have been the most fun I had all day. It also had testing value that you can run this rifle pretty hard and it will keep going.
Really, if there’s one complaint I have about the Henry Frontier Model 22 Magnum, it’s that I can’t compete with it. For some reason, 22 Magnum isn’t legal for Cowboy Action Shooting or Steel Challenge, so there’s no venue to test the rifle in a competitive environment. I love competition shooting, and I’m always looking for matches to shoot my guns in. That being said, this gun, like all my other 22 Magnums doesn’t really need to be tested in a competitive environment. If I want to do something challenging with it, I’ll take the Henry lever action small game hunting, and test my marksmanship skills against some rabbits.
The Henry Frontier 22 Magnum is nice to look at, it’s fun to shoot, and it has practical value. It’s affordable too, retailing for under $500. Sure, .22 WMR is more expensive than .22 LR, but it’s also cooler, right?