Bolt-Action rifles dominate today's manually operated hunting rifle market. This is because these rifles are strong, accurate and relatively cost effective to build. While many people enjoy using a quality bolt gun for harvesting big game, this action design is not always the best fit for everyone who wants to participate in the hunt. Cycling a bolt-action rifle requires a multi-step maneuver using the shooting hand.
It starts by grasping the bolt’s handle and swinging it upward to unlock the action. Pull the handle straight back to open the action and eject the spent cartridge case. Press the handle forward to load a fresh cartridge into the chamber and close the action. Swing the handle back down to lock the action and then reestablish a shooting grip on the stock. It’s not difficult to master the operation of a bolt-action, nevertheless, it's not the most intuitive design available.
One of my favorite rifle types to work with is the lever-action. These guns use a much simpler bolt cycling process: Swing the lever down with your shooting hand to drive the bolt open, eject the spent cartridge case and cock the hammer, all in one sweeping motion. Then, swing the lever back up to drive the bolt forward, chambering a fresh round and reforming your shooting grip. That's all there is to it. The only down side I've found is that levers need plenty of clearance under the gun to operate, so they are not as good of a fit for table top or bench rest shooting. However, that's not much of a concern when hunting.
In the past there was a more diverse selection of lever guns to work with, including models chambered for bottle-neck rifle calibers suitable for varminting and big game. But over time the hunting models went out of production while the cowboy carbines and rimfire models continued to thrive. Fortunately, in 2017 Henry Repeating Arms released a new model called the Long Ranger. Inspired by the sleek, classic lines of the Browning’s BLR Lightweight '81, the Long Ranger has been available chambered in popular calibers including .223 Rem/5.56 NATO, .243 Win. and .308 Win. Just recently the company started offering this model in 6.5 Creedmoor, and I just had to give it a test drive.
The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge was designed by Hornady primarily for target shooting matches with targets set out to distances of 1000 yards. It was originally lauded in competitive circles for its long-range accuracy and moderate levels of felt recoil. But folks in the hunting community were quick to recognize that the flat-shooting 6.5 Creedmoor was also an ideal round for medium and large game. Today it's a standard chamber option from several gun manufacturers and there's a good selection of top quality hunting loads available.
At a time when so many gun makers are turning to matte black finishes, molded polymer stocks and other nips and tucks to cut the costs of their rifles, Henry still indulges shooting enthusiasts with fine blued steel and richly finished hardwoods. The Long Ranger's stocks have a slim profile with deep checkering providing a comfortable grip for all hand sizes. Four rounds of ammunition fit in the removable box magazine. An aerospace grade aluminum alloy receiver is paired with a tapered profile 22" barrel for a nicely balanced gun that weighs in at 7 lbs., unloaded.
The top of the receiver is drilled and fitted with threaded steel grommet-like supports. These supports accept the retention screws of the two-piece Skinner scope mounting system provided with the rifle. The company thoughtfully includes an ambidextrous hammer extension. This comes in handy if you need to manually lower or cock the hammer when an optic is in place. These rifles are available with or without a set of back-up sights consisting of a dovetailed white-bead blade in the front paired with a fully adjustable rear sight which folds down in order to accommodate an optic.
If you are looking for a 2-point shoulder sling to use in the field, there's no need to settle for a plain Jane nylon strap in tactical black. Sandstorm Custom Rifle Slings offers custom, handmade slings braided from American-made 7-strand Paracord and outfitted with top grade hardware. Choose from a variety of braid patterns in your choice of subdued color schemes or brightly colored cords that show off your personality. These slings are all day comfortable on your shoulder and also provide a convenient way to keep several yards of Paracord at hand should it be needed in an emergency.
Formal 100-yard accuracy testing was conducted using the top notch Nikon Black FX1000 4-16x50SF IL scope with an illuminated FX MRAD reticle. Today's long-range optics are so much more compact and light weight than they used to be, it only makes sense to take advantage of the greater magnification and wider sight pictures they have to offer. The test loads included hunting loads made by Federal Premium, Hornady and Norma Ammunition:
The 6.5 Creedmoor version of Henry's Long Ranger proved to be the handy, well-balanced and soft shooting rifle I hoped it would be. The rifle was utterly reliable with all of the test ammunition fired. There were no mechanical issues as the action cycled smoothly round after round. The company's choice to build magazine-fed, lever-action rifles specifically for big game is not an original idea but it's definitely one that still has merit in a market dominated by bolt-actions. The all American-made lever gun is one you can take pride in owning for its good looks and quality that can be enjoyed for years to come.
Manufacturer: Henry Repeating Arms
Model: Long Ranger H014S-65
Action: Lever Action
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
Receiver: Matte Black Aluminum
Barrel: Blued Steel, Round Profile
Bolt: 6-Lug Rotating
Safety: Transfer Bar
Trigger Pull: 4 lbs. 6 oz. (As Tested)
Fore-end: Checkered American Walnut, Blued Steel Cap, Sling Swivel Stud
Shoulder Stock: Checkered American Walnut, Straight Grip, Rubber Recoil Pad, Sling Swivel Stud
Front Sight: Black Ramp with Ivory Bead
Rear Sight: Folding, Fully Adjustable
Optic: Two-Piece Skinner Scope Base
Barrel Length: 22"
Overall Length: 42.5"
Length of Pull: 14"
Weight: 7 lbs.
Capacity: 4+1 Rounds, Removable Box Magazine
Twist: 1:10" RH
Rifle Grooves: 6
Accessories: One Magazine, Skinner Scope Bases with Hardware, Hammer Extension Lock, Owner's Manual