There’s no doubt that the lever-action rifle is about as American as an American rifle can get. They tamed the west and by a wide margin have probably killed more deer than all other types of rifles combined over the last 150 years. Lever action rifles like the Marlin 1894, Savage 99 and Winchester 94 helped pave the way for modern smokeless powder cartridges as well.
While lever action rifles are considered somewhat antiquated by today’s modern accuracy standards with bolt-action rifles, there are a couple more modern lever action rifles that are worth mentioning. Both the Browning BLR and the rifle we are looking at today, the Henry Long Ranger, utilize similarly functioning mechanisms and outward appearance, but that’s where the similarities end and the differences begin.
Introduced in 2017 the new Long Ranger from Henry Repeating Arms is the first new lever action design with a detachable magazine box to hit the market since the 1960’s. Henry’s original new design uses a rack and pinion mechanism to move the bolt fore and aft much like the Browning BLR, but unlike the BLR the trigger mechanism stays stationary in the receiver when the lever is cycled. The result is a significantly better trigger than could ever be had on the Browning. Another feature shared with the BLR, and a big reason these lever-actions are substantially more accurate than their predecessors, is the use of a rotating bolt with lugs that lock into an extension on the barrel similar to an AR-15. This lock-up design allows the Browning BLR and the Henry Long Ranger to produce a degree of accuracy that equals and in some cases surpasses many bolt-action rifles.
Offered in .223 Remington, .243 Winchester and .308 Winchester the Long Ranger doesn’t offer a wide selection of cartridges, but the selection is sufficient to take most game in North America with proper bullet selection. One can also have their choice of open sights or no sights from the factory, and for this review I opted for one with the open sights. As with all rifles from Henry Repeating Arms, the Long Ranger is proudly Made in America.
The metal detachable box magazine used in the Long Ranger is a simple yet functional design. The magazine is released by depressing a button that sits flush with the right side of the receiver which is located just below the ejection port. The button being flush helps to ensure that it won’t get bumped or accidentally depressed while in the woods resulting in a lost magazine. The placement also puts the palm of your hand right where it needs to be to catch the magazine when it releases when depressing the button with your thumb (at least for us lefties). The .243 and .308 magazines each hold four rounds while the .223 magazine will hold five.
Since I know someone will ask in the comments below: No – there are no higher capacity magazines available for the Long Range as the design simply can’t support them due to the sweep of the lever.
All variants of the Long Ranger come outfitted with a free floating 20″ medium sporter barrel that measures just shy of 0.600″ at the muzzle. Open sight models feature a ramped dovetail front sight with white bead and a fully adjustable fold down rear dovetail sight. Steel scope bases made by Skinner Sights are included for mounting an optic. A hammer extension is also included to allow easier manipulation of the hammer when an optic is mounted.
The aircraft-grade aluminum receiver on the Henry Long Ranger has a matte black hard anodized finish while the barrel wears a traditional blued finish. Threaded steel inserts are used in the scope mounting holes on top of the receiver to prevent stripping. The furniture is nicely figured American Walnut with an oil finish and features laser cut checkering on the wrist and forearm. The buttstock provides a 14-inch length-of-pull and the half-inch soft rubber recoil pad that does a good job of absorbing the recoil of the .308 Winchester tested here – even when shooting heavy-for-caliber bullets. Sling swivel studs also come standard.
As mentioned earlier, the trigger mechanism on the Long Ranger is stationary to the receiver rather than being attached to the lever like on the Browning BLR. This allows for direct engagement with the hammer which results in a much better feel at the trigger. The pull weight on this example averages just a hair over three pounds. Actually trigger movement is minimal when pulled and the break is extremely crisp with absolutely no over-travel to speak of. It is, by far, the best factory lever gun trigger my finger has ever had the pleasure of pulling.
One surprising feature of the Henry Long Range is the complete lack of a manual safety. Unlike the “lawyer approved” lever guns currently marketed by other brands, Henry has held true to the belief that putting a manual safety on an exposed hammer firearm is like putting teets on a bull – they just don’t belong together. That’s not to say the Long Ranger isn’t a safe firearm, quite the contrary. Like every other Henry rifle, the Long Ranger is fitted with an in-hammer transfer bare safety that prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin if the trigger isn’t depressed.
Overall length of the Henry Long Ranger is 40-1/2 inches and the weight for all variations is listed as 7-pounds. My example, fitted with a Leupold FX-III 6x42mm optic and fully loaded magazine tipped the scale at nine pounds. MSRP for the model reviewed here (H014S-308) is $1066 as of the time of this writing.