Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a big fan of the 22 WMR or 22 Magnum cartridge–especially in a lightweight defensive handgun role. But all in all, the 22 Magnum was designed for shooting varmints and pests out of a rifle and the cartridge’s power is best displayed out of that platform. With all the high tech offerings out there, my first taste of a 22 Magnum rifle was with a new spin on an old classic, the pump action “gallery” gun.
Many decades ago, the pump action 22 rifle reigned supreme for its reliability, accuracy, and quickness to operate. Rifles like the Winchester 1890 were the choice of small game hunters and carnival gallery shooting booths for a very long time before semi-automatic 22 caliber rifles started to supplant them in the marketplace. As a result, the 22 pump is scantly produced today. But Henry Repeating Arms seems to believe the pump action 22 still has a place in the world of sleek autoloaders with their Pump Action Octagon Rifle in the classic 22 LR or the more powerful 22 Magnum.
Introducing the Henry Pump
Henry Repeating has made their great reputation on their lever action rifles, so it came as a surprise to me and quite a few fellow shooters that Henry actually made a pump action rifle. Indeed, this slick lightweight rifle that boasted similar lines to those early Winchesters has been on my radar since 2011 but only recently have I pulled the trigger on one.
At the heart of the Pump is its blued octagonal barrel that comes in just a hair under twenty inches. The barrel wears an adjustable Marbles rear semi-buckhorn sight and a front brass beaded post sight dovetailed into the barrel. The alloy receiver is grooved at the top for the use of 3/8 inch scope mounts.
The slide action forfend is grooved in the classic gallery gun sense with parallel gouges and is made of good American walnut, as is the buttstock that comes with a checkered hard plastic buttplate.
Like all Henry rifles, and most manually operated rimfire rifles for that matter, the Pump feeds from a tubular magazine that runs underneath the barrel. The magazine holds thirteen rounds of 22 Magnum. The capacity increases if you choose the 22 LR version.
A swift rearward flick of the forend brings the extruded steel bolt to the rear, cocking the checkered hammer. Slamming the forend forward, picks up the next round and chambers it. This is a simple and quick operation, however if you wish to eject an unfired round, you will have to depress the action release tab in front of the triggerguard to work the action–similar to that of a pump action shotgun. Like a traditional pump or lever action gun, the Henry comes with a simple half-cock notch in the hammer as the only safety feature.
To start with, I brought out a variety of ammunition to see if the Henry Pump plays favorites with certain types of ammunition and to get an idea of power by running them over a chronograph.
Brand Cartridge Velocity 5 Shot Group
CCI 40 grain Maxi Mag FMJ 1827 fps 3.9 in.
CCI 40 grain Maxi Mag HP 1913 fps 3.0 in.
CCI 30 grain Maxi Mag HP+V 2206 fps .5 in.
Hornady 30 grain V-Max 2231 fps .75 in.
Loading the Henry is easy. After verifying that the chamber is empty, turn the knurled magazine spring knob counter clockwise and pull out the brass springloaded tube. Drop in the rounds individually into the loading slot and replace the tube. Cycle the action and you are ready to go.
The magazine tube being withdrawn for loading.
I was rather surprised here, but it seems this particular rifle likes the 30 grain fodder best when it comes to accuracy at a distance of twenty-five yards. But all of these offerings grouped minute of coyote. With that settled, I moved off the bench and did some fun offhand shooting at both fifty and one hundred yards.
At fifty yards, the Pump Action Octagon performed very well with all of the ammunition used in the site in, hitting a steel silhouette with regularity. The brass bead front sight helped differentiate the black target from the surroundings. The serrated trigger helped greatly when shooting because of its lack of take-up and a break at just under four pounds. Working the action was a little harder than I expected since the action bar has to overcome the hammer and push rearward. Compared to a lever action rifle, it feels that more effort is needed. I also noticed it is a bit easier to try to fire the gun out of battery. On two occasions, I had two failures to ignite cartridges, but this was simply due to the bolt not being all the way forward when pumping the action. Without the visual feedback of a lever, like on Henry’s lever actions, it is harder to detect if the bolt is out of battery. But when care is given to work the action vigorously, there were no problems. Despite having a tougher action than a lever action rifle, the Henry Pump felt much faster to me when running the gun in a hurry without the need to break my grip to cycle the gun. The rifle had no actual cycling or feeding problems and empty brass is thrown clear out of the way on the rearward rack of the slide. Despite the fact that loading takes a little time, I had to be careful after emptying the magazine. The thick octagonal barrel does get hot with these magnum loads, but not enough to be hazardous.
At one hundred yards, things started to go downhill very quickly. I had trouble landing hits in the prone, squatting, and standing positions. The heavy octagonal barrel is conductive to steady shooting, but the rifle itself at only six pounds, wavered at that distance. The iron sights, as traditional as they come, are more conductive for fast point shooting than long range precision and they covered up a good bit of my target at that distance. Thankfully, the receiver has provisions for scope mounts so you can get the most out of the rifle at longer ranges. After some two hundred rounds downrange without any gun induced hiccups, the Henry Pump came through with flying colors.
Despite the fact that the Henry Pump isn’t as smooth and doesn’t have the romantic appeal of a lever gun, I believe the Pump comes through and deserves to be on an equal footing. Over the 22 lever guns out there, I find the pump to be much faster and intuitive to work. But the Henry Pump, like their lever action offerings, can cycle a variety of ammunition and power past grime to keep firing–something the newer autoloader 22s simply cannot do. So whether you fancy ventilating some soda cans on weekends or keeping coyotes out of the pastures, the Henry Pump just might be an option. Paired with the 22 Magnum cartridge, it brings the reliability and timelessness of a classic design into the 21st century with more than just plinking in mind.