Even at a quick glance, it’s immediately obvious to lever gun fans that there’s something different about the new Henry Magnum Express rifle, which is chambered in .22 WMR. The rifle is entirely devoid of fixed sights. While that may seem to be a sacrilegious omission to some, it’s entirely by design. The Magnum Express is specifically designed to be used with optics, and that’s a big plus for those who like to hunt small game or dispatch varmints with the most potent .22 rimfire cartridge, or those with aging eyes that don’t work so well with iron sights.
The rifle is optics-ready out of the box with a pre-installed Picatinny rail atop the receiver that provides a solid base for mounting a scope or other optic. Because the stocks of lever-action guns often have a fair amount of drop at comb, that can sometimes create an issue with getting proper eye alignment with a scope atop a lever gun. Henry addressed that with a Monte Carlo stock design that results in comfortable, quick, and instinctive eye alignment with an optic, and I found that the arrangement worked perfectly with the new Bushnell Rimfire rifle scope I used for testing the rifle.
Before we get to the results of my testing, which left me impressed with the gun’s accuracy, a few words about the utility of the 22 WMR cartridge are in order. I have long been a fan of the 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire cartridge because it shoots flatter and hits harder than the 22 Long Rifle. Comparing both rounds loaded with 40-grain bullets, the 22 WMR has roughly twice as much energy at the muzzle than the 22 LR, and with the right bullets, it delivers better penetration and expansion. I’ve killed everything from cottontails and jackrabbits to ringtail cats, raccoons, and foxes with the 22 WMR. I haven’t killed coyotes with it, but I know a number of people who have. The 22 WMR is, in short, a great round for varmints and predators out to 125 yards or so.
That’s especially true with a fast-handling rifle like the Magnum Express. The rifle’s scope-friendly Monte Carlo stock is made of actual walnut, which is a rare-enough commodity at a time when dealers’ rifle racks seem to hold nothing but synthetic-stocked guns. The walnut on my test rifle wasn’t of the high-dollar, premium-grade variety, but it had nice grain, color, and figure, and I found it quite pleasing to the eye. The stock has nicely executed checkering in the grip and forend areas, and it sports a quality soft rubber recoil pad. That’s not really needed on a rimfire rifle, but it dresses up the gun nicely. The overall look is one of understated elegance.
The rifle employs a round, blued-steel, 19.25-inch barrel that squeezed a little more velocity out of 22 Win. Mag. ammo than I anticipated. Riding beneath the barrel is Henry’s iconic tubular magazine, which holds 11 rounds. Loading is via a cartridge-shaped port on the forward bottom end of the magazine tube. I found loading cartridges a little tricky, at first, until I realized that simply angling the cartridges into the cutout base-first was the way to go. When I did that, rounds dropped into the magazine tube as fast as I could push them in.
The heart of this gun is, of course, Henry’s lever action. Like all Henry rifles I’ve tested, this one cycled with exceptional smoothness, and the lever had a fairly short throw. The gun loaded, fired, extracted, and ejected rounds without a single issue in testing. I even found that I could, with a bit of care, load single rounds into the rifle via the ejection port while testing the gun at the bench. The black finish on the action nicely matches the finish of the blued barrel, and the wood-to-metal fit was quite good.
People who love lever-action guns tend to love them for several valid reasons, including the fact that they are easy to operate quickly. They are, in a word, handy, and the Magnum Express is no exception. With a weight of just 5.5 lbs. and an overall length of just 37.5 inches, it’s easy to carry this gun through the woods all day and swing it quickly to get on target. The length of pull is 14 inches, which should fit most shooters nicely. In testing, this gun was a joy to run, and I found it easy to trigger quick follow-up shots without removing my eye from the scope.
Lever guns as a class aren’t exactly famous for having exceptional triggers, but the trigger on the Magnum Express proved to be a pretty decent one. It broke at an average pull weight of 3 lbs., 2 oz. The trigger had a small amount of creep in it, but it was consistent and predictable to the point that, with a very slow trigger pull, the trigger behaved almost like a two-stage trigger. In shooting at game, you’ll likely never notice it. Notably, the rifle has no visible external safety. Rather, it employs a ¼ cock safety so you can safely carry the gun with a round chambered and the hammer in the ¼-cocked position. With a scope mounted, space is a little tight for manually manipulating the hammer with your thumb, but this can easily be addressed with an aftermarket hammer extension. Henry makes one that fits all Henry rimfire rifles.
While I normally test rimfire rifles at 50 yards, and .22 WMR ammo isn’t especially noted for producing stunning accuracy at longer distances, I decided to push the envelope and test the Henry at 100 yards to see what the trim little gun could do. The results demonstrated that the gun was plenty accurate for most purposes at that distance. Of three loads tested, the worst of the bunch produced 1.69-inch average groups at 100 yards. Things tightened up a bit with Hornady’s Critical Defense load with a 45-grain FTX bullet. That load clustered bullets into average groups of 1.30 inches with a 1.15-inch best group. The top performer tested was Remington’s Premier Magnum Rimfire load using a 33-grain AccuTip-V boat tail bullet. That load delivered the best group measuring just 0.72 inches and average groups of 1.09 inches. All tested loads shot sub-MOA groups at 50 yards.
All testing was done using Bushnell’s new 3-9x40mm Rimfire scope. This lightweight scope, which proved to be a perfect companion to the Henry rifle, has a one-inch tube and features crisp ¼ MOA adjustments, ultra-wide-band multi-coated optics, and an IPX7 waterproof rating. Parallax correction is preset at 50 yards, and you can use Bushnell’s ballistic app to get accurate hold-over information.
Velocities, interestingly, were mildly faster than factory-stated numbers for the two most accurate loads. The Remington AccuTip-V load stepped out 59 fps faster than the factory-stated velocity of 2,000 fps, and I clocked the Hornady Critical Defense load, with its heavier bullet, at 1,816 fps, which is 116 fps faster than the advertised speed.
The rifle has no sling swivel studs, but Henry makes a special leather sling that can be used with the rifle without the use of studs.
If you enjoy hunting small game and predators and want a little more punch than you’ll get with a 22 LR, the Henry Magnum Express may be just what you’re looking for. Make no mistake about it – this rifle is designed purely for hunting, and it’s one that any hunter would be proud to carry in the field. It also wouldn’t be a bad choice to have around as a survival tool. The rifle has an MSRP of $622.00, and all Henry firearms come with a 100 percent lifetime satisfaction guarantee.
Henry Magnum Express
Caliber: 22 WMR
Action: lever action
Barrel: 19.25-in. 1:16 twist
Magazine: 11-round tubular
Sights: None, Picatinny rail installed
Safety: ¼ cock
Overall length: 37.5 in.
Weight: 5.50 lbs.