Henry’s new Long Ranger may change your perception of lever-action guns. The action is tight, it shoots modern cartridges, and it combines all the nostalgia of the Old West with modern design and manufacturing. Is it the next rifle for you?
I’ve been using the Long Ranger chambered in 6.5mm Creedmoor quite a bit lately from the shooting range to the open range. I’ll introduce you to its intricacies as well as its quirks.
It’s Still A Lever Action
Let me say straight away that if you’re a lever-action lover, then you will probably like this gun. It’s engineered for tighter performance and it’s chambered for modern rounds. It shoots more like a modern bolt-action gun, but you still get the satisfaction of thumbing the hammer and swinging the lever. It’s enjoyable to shoot and it is certainly accurate enough for hunting and plinking, but it’s probably not going to be sweeping the PRS competitions by storm.
No matter what you think of lever-action guns, there’s something really satisfying about working the lever to cycle the action and chamber another round. This gun has done away with the tube magazine ubiquitous under the barrel of most lever-actions. It’s also got a sportier profile with a tapered barrel. With less drop to the toe of the stock that should make it easier to shoot consistently. It’s still a lever-action, but it’s definitely crossing into the 21st century.
The barrel is round and free-floating above the walnut forend. It does not come in an octagonal version, so don’t ask. It’s also got a sporter-style taper. It’s 20″ long unless you get the 6.5mm Creedmoor, then it’s extended to 22″. The barrel has a blued finish. It mates to the action with a 6-lugged extension for a tight lock-up.
The Long Ranger looks like a traditional lever action, but it is significantly updated over original designs. It is still cycled with the forged steel lever, but that action is now geared and runs smoothly every time. You’ll notice the teeth on the chromed steel bolt. The bolt runs smoothly and tightly from open to close.
The exposed steel hammer is requisite in a gun like this. The gun ships with the unadorned hammer, but the box includes an asymmetric hammer extension that makes the lever much easier to reach and work with your thumb. Although there’s an extension included, I’d recommend the Hammer Expander, an $11 upgrade on Henry’s website. It extends both to the left and right sides of the hammer, not just one, and I had issues with the included expander coming loose and falling off. The upgraded one has stayed secure through a couple of hundred rounds and many many miles of trail.
Working the lever opens the bolt and cycles ammo, but the whole process is improved if you use your thumb to cock the hammer first. It’s then much easier to work the lever. If you don’t cock the hammer first, it takes a lot more initial power to break the lever loose and cycle it. In fact, it’s so stiff that most people think there’s something wrong the first time. The stiff initial set of the lever keeps the action from inadvertently falling open, though.
Since it’s a lever action, left-handed shooters have a very similar experience to that of righties. With the upgraded Hammer Expander, you can even shoot it interchangeably.
The lever is finished with rounded edges and is comfortable to work. My only gripe is that the magazine can’t be removed when the action is open.
The bolt is chromed steel with a rotating head that securely grasps the cartridge. The bolt has six lugs that lock in place against the chamber at the back of the barrel. The lockup is tight and there is no play. I never had any trouble with extraction.
There is no safety button or slide. When the hammer is down it is kept from contacting the firing pin by an in-hammer sliding transfer bar. It can’t fire if it’s dropped on the hammer.
It is single-action only, so you must cock the hammer before you can fire. Pulling the trigger with the hammer down has no effect. Henry says this is easy to use, even when wearing gloves.
When you chamber a round, the hammer is also cocked as part of the cycle. The only way to decock is to put your thumb on it and pull the trigger, as you might do with a revolver. And you’ll want to do this when hunting because you don’t want to carry it cocked and you don’t want the big noisy movement of running the action to chamber a round when you have game close at hand.
The thing is that every time I try to do this, I pull the hammer back with my thumb and try to gently pull the trigger. But, if you pull the hammer all the way back, it won’t release. The hammer has to be in a neutral position to decock, which always makes me nervous. It takes two hands to do it, and it’s a long gun, not a revolver.
The Long Ranger uses a detachable box magazine, instead of the typical tube magazine most lever guns employ. This is great because it keeps the weight off the front of the gun and allows the barrel to float freely for improved accuracy. It also eliminates the old danger of ammo in a tubular magazine creating a chain detonation.
The magazine holds four rounds in .243, 6.5, and .308, or five in .223. There’s a button on the right side of the receiver to eject the magazine.
Pay attention that you seat the magazine well. Sometimes it doesn’t quite click into place without a solid tap. Double-check that it is secured before hiking off after game.
The trigger is heavy but fairly crisp. It’s got a little play at the front but that takes up tight, then it breaks cleanly and hits the back wall. The overall travel is acceptable. It’s between 4.5 and 5 pounds.
The trigger itself lacks refinement. It’s a flat piece of steel with 90-degree edges on all faces. You’ll notice the square edges when you use it, but I’m not sure they negatively affect shooting.
The stock is American walnut with a beautiful satin finish. It looks great with the blued barrel, and the wood is exceptionally hard. The forend and rear grip are both checkered for grip. The checkering feels sharp and looks classy. I’ve put some hard miles on this gun, including a fall off the bench at the range, and it’s holding up really well.
The length of pull is about 14″. With the long barrel of the 6.5 Creedmoor model, this gun is about 42.5″ long.
In true lever-action fashion, the stock drops pretty significantly from the action, but less than a classic lever gun.
When you buy your Long Ranger, you buy it without sights or with sights. the sighted version includes a notched rear sight and hooded front sight. I got the one without sights intended for use with a scope.
A scope (not included) mounts with included Picatinny plates that you mount to the receiver. Talley also makes custom-fit rings. Although plates are included, I went with the Talley rings.
It is undeniably fun to shoot a lever-action gun off-hand at large targets. There’s a certain romance to swinging that lever. It seems easier to make fast followup shots than with a bolt-action and easier to keep your eye on the target. The 6.5 Creedmoor version has a 22″ barrel, but I think the 20″ barrel on the .223, .243, or .308 would be a little more fun for plinking. A carbine-length in .223 would be a blast.
As far as accuracy, I had a hard time shooting really tight groups with this gun. Most guns shoot better than I do, but I think I’m pretty evenly matched with this one. I shot 5 different brands and got similar groups with four of the five–but the worst groups were just over two inches.
I worked it at the range on four different days, and I even changed scopes. I can say that each ammo shot consistently every time, if consistently poorly.
I thought I was just a bad shot until I shot Browning’s BXS Solid Expansion 120-grain hunting rounds. These are all-copper bullets. My groups improved dramatically with these rounds. Each time I ended up with 1″ groups at 100 yards. (It’s not because they are all-copper, by the way — the SIG hunting round is, too). I still thought it was a fluke, so I shot groups two more times on different days, but I got similar results. The Browning BXS rounds shot markedly better for me.
This ammo proves the gun is capable of shooting well. Might just have to find ammo it likes. My editor tells me I should have tried some Hornady.
I took the Long Ranger hunting bears throughout the Spring. I hiked about 30 miles on four trips, and I packed it 25 miles on a horse. Packing it on a horse was a lot of fun — just that Old West feeling. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a shot at a bear on the horse trip.
I did finally get a shot at a bear deep in the wilderness, across a river, and up a glacial basin…but I missed. I can’t blame the gun for my miss (as much as I’d like to blame something other than me).
Packing the gun was always fun and I looked forward to using it on an animal. The romance of the lever gun is one thing, but having actual take-down power and accuracy gave me piece-of-mind.
Who’s This Rifle For?
With a tight lockup, scope mounts, and modern dimensions, I’d say this rifle is ideal for those who want to hunt with a lever action. It comes in .223/5.56 NATO, .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Win. You can choose a modern caliber appropriate for most game in North America. You’re not limited to lobbing a 30-30, .45-70, or .44 Mag downrange, and you can add a scope for precision at distance.
Although it’s chambered for highly accurate rounds, real precision required the right ammo. It’s certainly precise enough to kill big game, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for a competition.
Having shot about 200 rounds through the 6.5 Creedmoor, I’d love to have the .223 version as a varmint gun. I think that’d be fun.
If you want to hunt with a lever gun, Henry’s Long Ranger would be an excellent choice.
- Caliber: .223/5.56 NATO, .243 WIN, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 WIN
- Barrel: 20″ tapered, matte-blued, 22″ in 6.5 Creedmoor
- Overall length: 40.5″, 42.5 inches in 6.5 Creedmoor
- Action: Lever, forged steel
- Bolt: 6-lugged rotating, chromed steel
- Magazine: Detachable box, steel, 4-round, 5-round in .223
- Stock: American walnut, checkered
- Sights: Hooded front, notch rear, or includes Picatinny mounts
- Safety: Transfer bar in hammer
- MSRP: $1,066