When I think of the Henry brand, I don’t typically think about survival rifles. The company is much more well known for their lever-action powerhouses. But Henry makes other things, too, and the U.S. Survival Rifle, or AR-7, is a winner. It is compact, practical, and the AR-7’s accuracy will make you think twice about your go-to rimfire rifle.
The basic concept is simple. Henry has refined a design that works into a rifle that blows away a lot of the competition’s rifles that don’t come apart. The U.S. Survival Rifle is a minimalist platform that works. When compacted, as it will be most of the time, the AR-7 is easy to stow. When put together, it is easy to use and surprisingly accurate. And the cost stays consistently under $300–sometimes well under.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, take a look at the image below. The barrel unscrews from the receiver, the receiver unscrews from the stock. Both the barrel and the receiver and two magazines fit inside the stock. When capped, it will float. It is small enough to stay in the car, and innocuous enough that it doesn’t much look like a scary gun (even when it is assembled).
|Capacity||8 round magazine (comes with 2)|
|Length||35″ assembled 16.5″ when stowed|
|Sights||Adjustable rear, blade front|
|Finish||Teflon coated receiver and coated steel barrel|
Everything fits where it should. There’s no way that the gun can fire when disassembled. The stock will hold two loaded magazines (which hold 8 rounds each), giving you 16 rounds of rimfire to work with. Is that enough to survive? I guess it depends on how long you want to survive. One of the best things about the AR-7 is that it floats–at least for a while. It isn’t 100% watertight, so some seepage may occur, but it bobs long enough that you should be able to retrieve it.
Why go to such lengths? Who needs one of these? It is, above all else, a last resort gun. At least that’s how I was thinking about it before I shot it. It would be an ideal gun to take along on any kind of camp out or canoe trip. It is the type of gun that hides well in a car or truck, and won’t take up too much room. You could even toss it in a plane–if you are lucky enough to fly your own plane. In short, this is the gun you go to when everything goes wrong. But it would also make a good first (or second) gun for a young shooter, too.
It isn’t a man stopper, necessarily. Not that the .22 LR isn’t capable–it just isn’t what most of us would choose first. With that in mind, I’d still pair the AR-7 with a good handgun–probably a revolver in .357. But I digress. The AR-7 is big enough to take small game, and accurate enough to do so without ruining the meat. It is head-shot-on-squirrel accurate. In short, I wouldn’t put the AR-7 high up on the list for most preppers–though it could clearly be a part of a bug out combination–but it does make a handy one gun solution for short term stays in genuine wilderness.
Assembly takes just a few seconds. All of the parts are self contained, so there are no small parts to lose. The nuts are large enough that they can be turned with a gloved hand, even. Bolt the receiver onto the stock. Screw the barrel on. Pop in a mag and cap up the stock. Charge and make safe.
Let’s talk a bit about the functionality. This rifle feels small because of the thin lines of the barrel and the diminutive receiver. The stock, on the other hand, feels swollen. It has to hold everything, after-all, so it has to be big. The charging handle is the hardest part to master, as it is small and slides in and out of the bolt.
The sights are very easy to see, thanks to the front sight’s blaze orange color. It is a wide blade, but it gets the job done. The rear sight has an odd structure. It is a tube built into the receiver. Alone, it would work as a wide ghost ring, but it has a cap which is kind of like a Popsicle stick sized slat that screws into the back of the receiver. There are two holes in this, so it can be flipped so that wider or narrower holes can be used. It can also be adjusted up and down to allow for adjustment or personal preference.
The only feature of this gun that I would want to work on is the safety. This rocker bar design is really easy to dislodge. The very first time I used this gun, I went hunting for a squirrel. I wasn’t paying attention to the safety, and I found it in the not-so-safe position several times. I took to carrying the AR-7 with my thumb on the safety, holding it back. I’m not sure if this can be tightened–I assume it can, but I haven’t gotten around to that level of tinkering yet.
Now let’s talk about accuracy. I’ve shot these before, so I wasn’t completely blind-sided by the performance–but I was the very first time I shot an AR-7. Still, with this one, I pulled the trigger 5 times. I knew I was on target, as I was shooting at a rather wide target board, but still I had that pit in my stomach that comes from a gun that does exactly what you want it to do.
I stood back at 25 yards and popped off a round, rather casually. It clipped the bulls-eye. I pulled the trigger again. Again. 5 times total. Almost one ragged hole. It looked more like 3 shots than 5. I did it again. And again. I shot from 50 yards. The shots were wider, but still well within the kill zone of a squirrel.
I wish I could tell you that I did kill a squirrel. I didn’t. Not because I didn’t try. I was actually looking forward to it. It seemed like a bit of an adventure. Long story short–I was out checking on game cameras on land that belongs to one of the GunsAmerica writers when I blew out a coolant hose on his Jeep. When I cranked up, the hose split and I could hear the engine dumping coolant, splash splash, splash. I was more than 5 miles down a road that required 4×4 low… anyhow. If you want to read that story, you can read it here. It involves a practical review of Henry’s Survival Kit–which they sent with the AR-7 for our review.
All I have to say is that those woodland squirrels are more gun-shy than New York Democrats. They’d bark at me, and then go silent. I had about an hour of daylight in which to secure dinner. I didn’t kill a damned thing. It wasn’t because I couldn’t, it was because I never saw anything to shoot.
I even had enough ammo, thanks to this whizzbang gizmo. The Marble Arms Catch .22. Unlike the exquisite Joseph Heller novel of the same name, or the trope that has grown out of it, there’s nothing confusing about the Catch .22. It is simply the best way to hold 50 rounds of .22 LR, and should be included with every sporting or survival .22 sold.
Take a good long look at the AR-7. It is so much more than a gun that you toss behind the seat of the truck. I’ve got to do some side-by-side testing under more controlled conditions to see how it ranks against the Rugers and Marlins–but I think it would either hold its own or out shoot them. I know it would if it had narrower sights. Smells like another article to add to the to-do list.