Let's be honest, getting family members excited about emergency preparedness is about as easy as psyching them up for a trip to the dentist's office. Lectures on water purification and boring survival skills manuals are followed by even drier granola bars. It's important preparation but not exactly as much fun as a barrel of monkeys.
One product I've worked with over the years that successfully bridges the gap between family readiness and enjoyable shooting sessions at the range is the Henry Repeating Arms U.S. Survival rifle. Here are a few of the reasons why this rimfire semi-automatic takedown rifle can also be a family fun gun.
A High “Nifty” Factor
When I first showed this rifle to my family and went over how it works, the general consensus was, "Wow, that's really cool!" The U.S. Survival Rifle is based on Eugene Stoner's AR-7, which he developed as an emergency rifle for stranded aviators. Because it needed to be light weight, portable and easy to fit into small, dirty storage spaces, he took the design a few steps further than just giving it a folding stock. Henry's interpretation of this .22 LR sticks pretty close to the original design with a few key changes and improvements.
The U.S. Survival Rifle is based on the AR-7 aero survival rifle developed by Eugene Stoner for the U.S. Airforce.
When the rifle is stowed away for storage it's just 16.5" long and weighs in at 3.5 lbs. The ABS plastic stock features a removable black end cap and a long receiver screw which is captured in the stock's grip. Removing the end cap exposes a bright orange storage compartment which contains the receiver assembly, the barrel and the two 8-round single stack magazines the company ships with the gun. To assemble the rifle, remove these components from the stock and replace the end cap. Set the rear of the receiver assembly into the shoulder stock and tighten the screw in the grip finger tight (do not over tighten). Then set the barrel into the front of the receiver. A pin set into the top of the barrel's chamber aligns with a notch in the receiver, so make sure they are aligned properly.
This rifle is currently available in all-black (top), True Timber-Viper Western camouflage (center) and True Timber-Kanati camouflage (bottom) finishes.
With the barrel in place, hand tighten the polymer barrel nut (no tools required). The charging handle is a round pin which is pulled out from the right side of the bolt assembly though the ejection port. A thumb safety lever is located on the right side of the receiver just above the shoulder stock. It can be pulled back into the SAFE position or pressed forward to fire. Insert the magazine, manually cycle the bolt and the rifle is ready to fire. It's not exactly a high-speed assembly process but it is simple and straight forward. Once you get to know the process it only takes about a minute or so to unpack, assemble and make ready to fire if a magazine is already filled with ammunition.
This rifle’s receiver, barrel and magazines can be stowed inside of the shoulder stock.
The AR-7 rifle's takedown features and unique appearance give it a mystique and nifty factory which has only been enhanced by its appearance in Hollywood movies including classic James Bond movies like From Russia with Love(1963), Goldfinger (1964) and On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). Much like one of Stoner's other popular civilian semi-automatics, the AR-15, the AR-7 has been cloned by different manufacturers over the years. Not all of them have been well made. But Henry has done a great job of preserving the concept while maintaining a high level of quality.
More Cool Features
The original AR-7 was reportedly able to float when dropped in water due to its foam-filled Cycolac stock. However, the Henry version is not listed as being either water resistant or as having a floating stock. Nevertheless, folks want to know if it can float. The answer is sort of. When NRA contributor Jeremiah Knupp wrote his top notch treatise about the AR-7 a few years ago, he said, "The Henry’s buttstock cap doesn’t make a waterproof seal, so the stock eventually becomes waterlogged and sinks. With the rifle stored inside, that occurs in about two minutes—or about six minutes with the rifle assembled. Either would be ample time to recover the AR-7 if it were dropped in water."
The components are secured in the stock by a bright orange liner. Here you can see the rear sight plate with its two apertures.
The bright orange polymer front sight blade is dovetailed into the barrel which allows it to be adjusted for windage. The rear peep sight is secured in place by a single standard screw. This screw can be loosened to rotate the blued steel rear sight plate which has a larger aperture at one end for close range shooting and a small aperture at the other end for longer shots. One of the upgrades incorporated by Henry is an integral 4.5" long optics mount sized for 3/8" groove scope rings. These are the same rings that fit their lever-action .22 LRs. This makes it easy to attach a magnified scope to the receiver for small game hunting.
The rifle ships with two magazines with room for a third inside of the stock.
This rifle is currently available in three finishes, including the classic all-black version (H002B, $335) along with a classic True Timber-Kanati camouflage (H002C, $408) and a True Timber-Viper Western camouflage (H002VWP, $408). The camouflage versions have whole-gun coverage which looks sharp. I've mentioned that I have daughters who would love to see this rifle in something like a Muddy Girl finish, but I have yet to hear if something like that is in the works or not.
Enjoyable to Shoot
The U.S. Survival Rifle can't be directly compared to other popular sporting options simply because its design is so unique. Nevertheless, it exhibits shooting characteristics that .22 LR carbine fans can appreciate. Most of the rifle's 3.5-lb. weight is located in the aluminum receiver. The barrel consists of a slim steel bore couched inside a polymer sleeve and the polymer stock is hollow. This gives the rifle a light, well-balanced feel with quick handling characteristics. The single-stage trigger exhibits a clean break at around 4 lbs. 8 oz. of trigger pull. The magazine release lever is conveniently located against the left side of the trigger guard so that it can be operated with the trigger finger.
This captured screw in the shoulder stock’s grip is used to secure the receiver.
I've fired these rifles with a variety of high-velocity ammunition ranging from bulk-box loads to premium hunting rounds. The rifles have run reliably with the only issue being the occasional bad primer, which is a fault in the ammunition, not the gun. A reliable rifle is a must in an emergency but it also contributes to the fun of shooting it as well. And because it's so portable, it can be taken along on outdoor adventures where other rifles would most likely be left at home.
With the receiver, thread-on barrel, magazine and end cap in place, the rifle is ready to use.
A Few Tips
I've found these rifles to be reliable with a variety of .22 LR ammunition. But one I like especially well when traveling in hot weather is CCI's 22 Clean target loads. The majority of .22 LR cartridges fire bullets treated with a waxy lubricant. This waxy substance can get quite greasy in the hot weather and contributes to dirty hands and gumming up of the rifle's action. The CCI Ammunition's Clean loads use bullets treated with a polymer coating that does not turn into bacon grease when the temperature rises. The cartridges are less slippery to handle and reduce action fouling.
Extra magazines and easy to pack ammunition will come in handy!
Do yourself a favor and buy a pair of spare magazines. The company sells an 8-round magazine 2-pack on its website for about $42. This rifle arrives with two magazines with designated slots inside of the shoulder stock. However, the storage compartment allows for a third magazine to be stowed in the rifle's receiver. Semi-automatic magazines of all sizes and styles can be dropped, lost or damaged in an outdoors situation, so having one more is not a bad idea. The fourth one can be stowed elsewhere in your go bag or backpack. It's also helpful to have additional magazines on hand for casual plinking. While one is being used in the rifle the others can be reloaded by observers.
Henry also offers handy survival accessories including a zippered, multi-pocket carry case and the U.S. Survival Kit sealed in a water resistant tin. For more information, visit henryusa.com.