The tubular magazine found on most lever actions proved to be their Achilles’s Heel for long distance shooting.
Because cartridges in a tube mag are stacked tip to primer, bullet selection is limited to flat-nosed projectiles. If a pointed, or spitzer, bullet were used, an explosive chain reaction would ensue as soon as the trigger was pulled and recoil caused a round to dimple the primer of the one in front of it in the mag tube.
But flat meplats are not as aerodynamic, and don’t lend themselves to long distance accuracy. This doesn’t much matter with most of the straight-wall cartridges used in lever action rifles, as their range is limited anyway.
So, with some exceptions like the Browning BLR, the lever gun is usually relegated to brush gun duty thanks to it’s quick handling characteristics, relying on heavy, flat-nosed projectiles to get the job done on distances inside of 100 to 200 yards max, depending on caliber, without using specialized (and expensive) ammo like Hornady’s LEVERevolution ammo line with its Flex Tip technology.
To make a lever gun that could really reach out and touch something with common long range cartridges, Henry’s engineers devised a detachable box magazine that would work with the geometry of a lever action. The result is the Long Ranger, a lever gun with traditional lines and a 1,000-yard pedigree.
The Long Ranger was initially released in .223/5.56, .243. and .308, giving shooters access to flatter-shooting calibers that were previously unavailable in a lever gun. With options for everything from varmints to elk, hunters flocked to the new line. It was a boon to recreational shooters as well, who were able to work a lever that could be fed cheap surplus 5.56 ammo.
Henry followed shortly after with a Long Ranger chambered in what is has become one of the favorite rounds for long range competition and hunting: the 6.5 Creedmoor.
The addition of 6.5 CM chambering gives enthusiasts a serious long distance lever gun chassis, capable of doing everything from ringing distant steel to ethically harvesting big game. A look at the podium in any precision shooting contest will give you an idea of the accuracy inherent in the quick round, and it can carry its own in the field too.
I know more a few folks that regularly take elk with the cartridge, and they have no plans on going back to their .30-06s.
The Long Ranger is built with the impeccable fit and finish that Henry is known for. Like all Henrys, the Long Ranger is built here in America, of American steel and walnut by American craftsman. Wood meets metal with tight tolerances, with classic lines and an exposed hammer.
The lightweight aerospace alloy receiver ejects casings from the side, like all Henry rifles, and the top is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. The flush-fit magazine has a steel floorplate and a steel release button is located on the right side of the receiver.
Other Long Ranger models come with a 20-inch barrel, but the 6.5 CM model has a 22-inch barrel to take the most advantage of the round’s ballistics. The barrel is free-floated and supported by a two-piece oil-finished American Walnust stock with laser-cut checkering, sling swivel studs, and a solid black rubber recoil pad.
Like the company’s other centerfire rifles, the Long Ranger has an in-hammer sliding transfer bar as a safety instead of a manual safety.
The finely figured stock features deeply cut checkering that provides plenty grip while being easy on the eyes. Despite having a 22-inch barrel, the Long Ranger has all the smooth handling properties inherent in Henry’s lever action designs. And it’s just flat-out fun to shoot.
Other big differenced from Henry’s other lever guns includes the Long Ranger’s gear-driven action, which is just what it sounds like. The lever turns a gear that runs on teeth cut into the bolt, which moves it back and forth. It feels a little different than a typical lever action, but is consistent and smooth.
They also feature a machined and chromed steel bolt with a six-lug rotary head that is driven into a rear extension of the barrel for a strong and consistent lock up on par with bolt action rifles.
The detachable box magazine on the Long Ranger really is the star of the show. It gives you the ability to choose anything from polymer tipped rounds designed for rapid expansion to bonded rounds for larger game to custom competition makes designed with 1,000-yard performance in mind.
Filling the 4-round mag with rounds is as easy, or easier, than an AR-pattern mag. Inserting and removing it from the rifle is accomplished with equal ease.
High Pressure and Function Test
To make the Long Ranger work with the increased pressures of the bottlenecked rounds, Henry gave it a rotating bolt similar to what you find on a modern sporting rifle.
Despite the longer than normal throw needed to accommodate the 6.5, the action was just as smooth as it was on every other Henry I have had the privilege of using. I was worried about failures to feed due to the longer than normal stroke, but I didn’t encounter any with the variety of ammo I used.
The trigger was another of the Long Ranger’s high points. It broke smooth and crisp on every pull, with no creep. The report and recoil surprise me each time—just like the trigger on a serious long distance rifle should.
In my testing, it only took 7 to 7.3 pounds of pressure to get the trigger to break. While that’s not benchrest territory, it runs way faster than any gun that was designed to ride bags. A transfer bar safety keeps the gun drop safe without adding any unnecessary steps to getting a round off or to interfere with trigger feel.
I outfitted the Long Ranger with a Burris 3-15x50mm Veracity scope, though it felt a bit odd mounting so much glass to a lever gun. Most of mine are chambered for slower, straight-walled cartridges, so they wear optics of the 2-7x30mm variety. But with a bullet capable of extreme range, I felt the increased magnification was warranted.
The view was bright, crisp, and clear throughout the entire magnification range. Living in the Northeast, it’ll be set to 4x most of the time. But having the option to crank to it up to 15x means I can air it out whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The large bell gobbles up plenty of light, providing a bright sight picture during the crepuscular periods of dawn and dusk when game is most active. Those out West would find this to be the perfect combo for a truck or scabbard gun, with 3 power dealing with close up or moving targets handily but with enough magnification in reserve to shoot clear across the canyon.
I used an assortment of ammo intended for everything from plinking to big game to test the Long Ranger. I didn’t bother with any match offerings, as I only had access to a 200-yard range, which is just scratching the surface of what it’s capable of.
The diet included Hornady American Gunner 140-grain soft points, Federal’s Non Typical Whitetail stuffed with a 140-grain soft point, and Remington Core-Lokt with a bonded 140-grain pill.
The best groups I was able to squeeze out were with the Federal rounds, coming in at 1.92 inches at 100 yards. The Long Ranger digested everything with ease, with the largest group only stretching 2.24 inches.
The groups opened a bit more when shooting 200-yard targets, but the sideways rain was seriously hampering visibility. I’m confident the gun would print better under more ideal circumstances, and fully expect it to ring steel or drop an antelope out past 500 yards with a solid rest.
The real fun began once I had shot all the groups I needed to, and started taking off-hand shots. Even with the longer barrel, the gun handled just like you would expect a lever gun to handle. I’m looking forward to spending more time with the Long Ranger, in the woods and on the range.
Henry Long Ranger SPECS
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
- Capacity: 4+1
- Barrel Length: 22″
- Barrel Type: Round Blued Steel
- Rate of Twist: 1:08
- Overall Length: 42.5″
- Weight: 7 lbs.
- Receiver Finish: Hard Anodized Black
- Rear Sight: None
- Front Sight: None
- Scopeability: Drilled and Tapped
- Scope Mount Type: Included
- Stock Material: American Walnut
- Buttplate/Pad: Black Solid Rubber Recoil Pad
- Length of Pull: 14″
- Safety: Transfer Bar
- Best Uses: Target/Hunting/Large Game
- Embellishments/Extras: Swivel Studs. Removable Magazine. Hammer Extension and Scope Mount Included.
- MSRP: $1,105