With its intriguing US military backstory and modern design from a famed Wisconsin gunmaker, this semiauto in .22 LR is ‘the right tool for the serious survivalist.’
Story and Photos by Nick Perna
Serious firearms enthusiasts should have a firearm for every need. Like the tools in your toolbox, each one is designed for a specific purpose. You have your self-defense weapons like modern sporting rifles and tactical shotguns, as well as suitable handguns for concealed carry and self-defense. If you hunt, you have weapons for taking different types of game, plus plinkers and target shooters for fun and practice.
If you are a person who likes to experience the great outdoors, hiking and fishing, a survival gun is something you should have with you. If you get lost, your vehicle breaks down in the middle of nowhere, or you get socked in by bad weather, a survival rifle may mean the difference between life and death.
Going back to the toolbox analogy, the survival rifle’s main functions should be for the taking of small- to
medium-size game for subsistence, defense against fourlegged predators and, in a pinch, to deal with two-legged ones.
I RECENTLY BOUGHT my “survival tool” that fulfills
the aforementioned needs. The AR-7 survival rifle, manufactured by Henry Repeating Arms, is a semiautomatic magazine-fed gun chambered in .22 Long Rifle. Based out of Wisconsin, Henry USA is known more for their quality, American-made lever-action guns. In truth, they manufacture a wide variety of excellent guns, including the AR-7. Although they are the only current manufacturer of it, the AR-7 is not a Henry Arms original design.
It initially started out as a survival rifle to be issued to Air Force pilots in the late 1950s, and saw use with the Israeli Air Force as well. The gun was designed by Eugene Stoner, the mastermind behind the most successful sporting military rifle in history, the AR-15/M16 (sorry, Kalashnikov).
The AR-7 soon became popular with civilian shooters. Originally built and sold by ArmaLite, they sold the design to Charter Arms. There were a few other manufacturers as well. The weapon suffered from some teething issues, due mainly to faulty magazines. Since 2007, Henry has been the sole manufacturer and
reliability has been restored.
It’s a simple blowback design, weighing in at 3.5 pounds with a 16.5-inch barrel. What sets this rifle
apart from just about every other weapon available today is that the barrel, receiver and magazine can be quickly and easily disassembled and stored in the stock, which is also water-resistant and floats!
The interior portion of the stock is waterproof, keeping the action, barrel and mags dry if submerged. This makes it a superb backpack rifle: concealable yet quickly assembled and put into action. Henry updated the design, adding a Picatinny rail for mounting optics. I’d recommend using something with a QD, or quick detachable, mount.
This will allow you to remove the optic before storing the receiver in the stock. Also, the front sight on the rifle has an easily replaceable plastic piece that can be swapped out for aftermarket fiber optic models or front sights in other high-visibility colors.
The Henry rifle comes with two magazines that both fit into the stock. I thought this was a nice feature since few rifles come with two magazines. For me, assembling the rifle is reminiscent of some sort of secret assassin’s weapon. You can pick one up for around $300. Henry makes them in basic black and camo.
I RAN THE gun through its paces. I found that the cap on the stock that keeps all of the components safe and dry can be a little hard to take off. But I’m assuming that is by design to ensure that no water seeps through.
The AR-7 has a cool mag release. It is located along the trigger guard, on the left side of the weapon. The
shooter can use their trigger finger to push it forward to release the magazine. The location is ideal,
and I didn’t have any issues with accidentally releasing it.
I was impressed with the gun’s unless of course there was no other option. Because the AR-7 is semiauto with a decent magazine capacity (there are aftermarket mags that hold more than eight rounds), it would give the user an option for follow up shots in a self-defense situation. It is a good round for taking small game. In a short-term survival situation, small game like squirrels and rabbits are ideal food. They are plentiful, and easy to take, clean and cook. The AR-7 is the right tool for the serious survivalist.