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Possibly The Ultimate Survivor’s Companion

Many call the Henry Repeating Arms AR-7 the ultimate survival companion, and few can disagree. It says something when three major manufacturers have made a version and owned the patent on this rifle and it is still around after more than fifty years (having been introduced in 1959).

It’s not perfect (although no weapon is), but if given a choice between it and nothing, very few hunters, fishermen, outdoorspeople or off-gridders would pass this opportunity up, especially considering the miniscule price tag.

It’s important to note that this is NOT a varmint hunting tack driver made for extreme distances.  This is a firearm made for packability, portability and ease of use.  It is made to put dinner over a fire should you find yourself in less-than-comfortable accommodations—say, lost in the woods.

It’s a gun that fits in its own butt stock, assembles in less than forty-five seconds and shoots semi-auto with a couple of eight-round magazines to help dispatch some squirrels or other assorted animals.

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Reasons the Henry Repeating Arms AR-7 makes sense:

  • It’s incredibly lightweight
  • It floats
  • It shoots cheap, abundant, and easy-to-use ammunition
  • It packs well
  • It’s relatively accurate
  • It has history
  • It’s inexpensive and easily obtained

The guns is lightweight at only 3.5 pounds and has everything you need contained within the stock.  The barrel, action, and magazines all have a special compartment in the butt stock organized by a formfitting case to keep the rattling to a minimum (in fact, the new Henry version has zero rattle).

The stock is high impact and waterproof. It floats with the gun inside it or when it is fully assembled, allowing this gun to be used in the canoe, boat, float plane, or marshland without too many concerns.

The chambering is in the .22LR, a round that everyone has used and no one is intimidated by.  It is also a round that is easy to find, cheap to buy, and more than enough if you know what you are doing with it.  With such a cheap and lightweight round, you can carry a large quantity without impacting weight too much and without breaking the bank. The gun actually digests ammunition much better than its predecessors have gotten credit for, and once you find the right round for it, you can expect excellent reliability and potency.  It doesn’t work well with hyper-velocity or subsonic rounds, so you need to stick with normal, run-of-the mill .22LR, with the CCI Velocitor actually working well in it for next to no cost.

The AR-7 packs well with a just under seventeen inch overall length packed, and a thirty-five inch OAL fully assembled.  It is completely self-contained, and if you thought hard enough, you could figure out how to get a full box of ammunition into the butt stock too (alongside the loaded dual eight-round magazines). It’s much prettier than the previous incarnations, and the look is a lot slimmer and more polished, coming in the traditional camo and grey, with upgraded and updated color variations compared to the original Charter and Armalite versions. The finish on the rifle is pretty weather resistant, though admittedly it isn’t as durable as it perhaps could be.  It has Teflon finish on the metal and high-quality plastic parts integrated throughout.

No gun is ever going to be accurate enough for some people, but this little rifle can shoot respectable groups at fifty yards with the open sights—something like an inch at fifty yards off hand. If that’s not good enough to hit a squirrel, you should probably start practicing your aim. The rail on the Henry version allows for optics to be mounted, but it does kind of defeat the purpose of the self-contained unit and the portability of the gun.

Speaking of versions, the gun has three versions, one each made by Armalite, Charter Arms, and Henry Repeating Arms. This newest version is hands-down the best made, the most user-friendly, and the most durable.  It is also the most accurate, and if you adjust for inflation, it’s the cheapest version.  Some things just come as a result of better materials, better engineering, and good reputations.

The history is somewhat awkward, because very few rifles have as many detractors as they have loyal supporters.  Perhaps it’s a disconnect between the reality of what this gun was made for and the shooter who has come to expect entitlement by the firearms manufacturers.  For what it is, the Henry AR-7 is incredible.  It represents one of the best pure plays in the survival arena, and represents perhaps one of the better values in the sector as well.  Only perhaps surpassed by the new Ruger 10-22 take-down rifle in function and form, it sits at under half the price of the new Ruger, with adequate capabilities.

Running about $240 from many dealers, with an MSRP of $275, you can in fact find the gun occasionally for sub-$200. Pair that price with the cheap-to-shoot ammunition, and you have a recipe for frugality. Add about $65 for the camouflage version, and you start approaching the price of more capable rifles.

But don’t take that last sentence at full face value; the AR-7 isn’t incapable— it just isn’t as fully capable of much bigger, heavier, and more expensive guns in some areas.  It does enjoy good accuracy at 50 yards, but it isn’t perhaps that great at 125 yards or so.  It does have awkward plastic sights that aren’t perfect for shooting at any distance really, and the durability leaves something to be desired. Other more expensive non-takedown or heavier bulkier guns might outshine it in some areas.

Essentially, while it may have started as a novelty in many civilians’ minds, it was in fact carried by Air Force pilots in its early years (and for decades actually), and the Henry model makes improvements on an already pretty good design.  For the money, you’d be hard pressed to find something more portable and reliable for the specific purpose.

©2012 Off the Grid News

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