One of the most enjoyable aspects of working in the shooting sports industry is watching well-established manufacturers surprise us. This year, one gun maker that is shaking things up is Henry Repeating Arms. In business for nearly three decades now, the company has become a key player in the lever-action market by offering a broad selection of all American-made rifles and shotguns with a well-earned reputation for high-quality and smooth actions.
The Homesteader features a traditional sporting rifle look and feel.
Thus it was something of a surprise when Henry announced that not only would it be launching its first ever semi-automatic rifle, dubbed the Homesteader, it would be a pistol-caliber carbine (PCC) chambered in 9 mm. That's about as far as you can get from a lever-action .30-30 Win. along the rifle design spectrum. Even though PCCs tend to be tricked out in tactical features, Henry took the gun in a different direction which is both a familiar and fresh take on the platform. Here are five reasons why the Homesteader is a stand-out option in the crowded PCC market:
The receiver is drilled and tapped for red-dot optics or magnified rifle scopes, like the tactical Athlon Optics scope shown here.
Henry's Old-School Charm
The Homesteader is a from-the-ground-up design which successfully blends a variety of in-house features with others drawn from a variety of existing platforms. Although it takes a greater investment of time and resources to launch a new gun like this one, it gives the manufacturer complete control over the form and features. In this case, Henry stayed true to its tradition of producing long guns with classy good looks and reliable operation.
Henry currently offers three types of magazine well adapters for this model.
The Homesteader's receiver profile, rounded barrel and American walnut stocks fit right in with the traditional bolt-action, lever-action and pump-action long guns. And let's be honest, science has yet to produce an injection-molded polymer that can replicate the heft, feel and good looks of polished hardwood stocks. This carbine employs a blow-back operated action, which is known for being rugged and reliable with a broad range of 9 mm ammunition.
For those of us who are able to enjoy a full range of shooting sports products where we live, it’s easy to forget that others are not quite so lucky. In several regions of the country more tactically minded rifles, and PCCs outfitted with AR-15 type features, are restricted or banned from civilian use. These restrictions often focus on cosmetic features that make the guns look “scary” and “military-like,” including interchangeable pistol grips, adjustable shoulder stocks and muzzle-mounted flash hiders. As a result, the Homesteader's hardwood stocks and traditional lines have dual benefits. Not only are they pleasing to long gun traditionalists but they also meet certain regional feature requirements. This allows the Homesteader to be sold in areas where other models may not be available.
This rifle was tested primarily with Glock factory and Magpul pistol magazines.
Nevertheless, Henry was careful to incorporate key features that PCC fans prefer. The sight system consists of a fixed blade up front with an XS Sight Systems adjustable aperture at the rear which is useful for quick target acquisition. The receiver is drilled and tapped to accept Weaver 63B-compatible scope rails (sold separately). For this evaluation I used Henry's 5" 12-slot Picatinny rail (HEGW9/10PR), which is ideal for a variety of red dot and magnified optics, to support an Athlon Optics Talos BTR Gen2 1-4x24 scope using Athlon's Armor Cantilever mount. This scope and mount combination are intended for AR-15s but they were also a great fit for this gun.
Henry's lever-action rifles are configured to be easy to use for right- or left-handed shooters. The company maintains that ambidextrous tradition with the Homesteader. The shoulder stock and fore-end have a neutral shape that can be used from either side. The external safety slider is centrally mounted at the tang of the receiver. The bolt hold-open has right and left side levers located in front of the trigger guard. The Henry magazine well adapter centers the magazine release lever in front of the magazine while the Glock adapter has a left-side release button that can be switched to the right side.
The square-profile hardwood fore-end houses the recoil assembly and a sliding weight that works to reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise.
But one of the smartest features of this gun is the reversible bolt handle. I remember someone cleverly pointing out that we landed people on the moon before we figured out that attaching wheels to luggage was a good idea. So too I wonder why it took so long for someone to come up with such an easy-to-use bolt handle solution.
The adjustable XS Sight Systems rear aperture sight allows for quick target acquisition.
When the Homesteader arrived, the bolt handle was stowed in the box along with the magazines. It has a curved, grooved grip surface with a dual-port extension. Closer examination of the bolt, as seen through the right-side ejection port, showed a small slot with a spring-loaded ball detent inside. This slot goes all the way through the bolt to the left side of the receiver where there is a horizontal slot. To install the bolt handle into the right side of the receiver, just press it into the bolt's slot until the detent locks it in place. To move the handle to the left side, pull it out and re-insert it on the left side. That's it, no disassembly or tools required. It's one of the easiest to work with that I've seen so far.
Interchangeable Magazine Well Adapters
All Homesteaders ship with a removable polymer magazine well adapter that supports Henry's proprietary straight-profile removable magazines. Developing a reliable magazine is no mean feat. But Henry wanted to make sure to maintain quality and production schedules so rolling out their own was the best way to go. This also allowed them to develop the included 5-round magazine which fits flush to the receiver. A 10-round magazine is included as well.
The American walnut shoulder stock is capped off with a soft rubber recoil pad.
Customers also have the option of ordering the Homesteader with a second magazine well adapter that is sized for either Glock (H027-H9G) or SIG/S&W (H027-H9S) magazines. This means the rifle can be configured to use the same ammunition and magazines as a defensive semi-automatic pistol you already own. This simplifies things when staging the Homesteader for home defense since only one type of magazine is needed for both.
The Homesteader proved to be a soft-shooting carbine that was enjoyable to shoot both on off of a bench rest.
Mild Mannered Handling
The Homesteader proved to be utterly reliable with a wide variety of practice and defensive-grade loads of ammunition. I did my best to push the limits with bullet weights and power levels as well as with ammunition ranging from relatively slow sub-sonic 147-grain rounds up to a speedy 68-gr. +P load. The carbine fed, fired and ejected them all from a mix of Glock-type magazines without any malfunctions throughout the course of testing.
The Homesteader proved to be reliable with a variety of bullet weights and velocities.
The Homesteader proved to be capable of sub 2" groups at 50 yards with an average extreme spread of 2.31" across four different loads fired from a bench rest. It's worth noting that 9 mm ammunition's performance can change significantly when fired from a 16" carbine barrel instead of the typical 3" to 5" pistol barrels. Here are the range results for the Homesteader using ammunition from Remington, SIG Sauer, Underwood and Winchester:
Henry made the less common choice of moving the recoil assembly into the interior of the walnut forend instead of situating it inside of the shoulder stock or the receiver. The assembly incorporates a sliding weight, or, a “reciprocating mass” if you prefer the more technical term for it. This means there's a bit more weight up front. But this 9 mm carbine balances nicely once shouldered and it produces exceptionally tame levels of felt recoil and reduced muzzle rise. This makes an already easy-going gun and ammunition combination even more enjoyable to work with.
Breaking into a new segment of the shooting market can be a tricky business for established firearms manufacturers. But Henry took their time, did a good deal of research and turned out a semi-automatic PCC that is reliable, enjoyable to shoot and easy on the eyes. I don't think anyone would have been offended if this company had cranked out yet another “tacti-cool” carbine. But once again, Henry opted to offer something unique with the consumer appeal that's integral to all of the guns they make.
Manufacturer: Henry Repeating Arms; henryusa.com
Model: Henry Homesteader Model H027-H9G (Includes the Glock Magazine Adapter)
Action: Blow-Back Operated Semi-Automatic
Caliber: 9 mm Luger
Barrel: 16.37" Round Profile, Blued Carbon Steel, 1/2x28" Muzzle Threading
Receiver: CNC Machined 7075 Aluminum Forging, Type 3 Hardcoat Anodizes
Stocks: American Walnut, Satin Finish
Overall Length: 35.75"
Length of Pull: 14"
Trigger Pull: Single-Stage, 4-lb. 3-oz.
Accessories: Two Magazines, Two Magazine Well Adapters, Lock, Owner's Manual