Henry’s Frontier Octagon awakens your inner John Wayne

If you’ve ever spent a sleepless night groggily watching infomercial, you’ve no doubt seen Henry’s, “Made in America or not at all” piece. I’ve probably seen the same Henry Repeating Arms commercial around 200 times by now, which speaks more to my insomnia than the commercial’s prevalence. Say what you will about them, but the commercial works, especially when coupled with their website which bombards the viewer with nothing but nostalgia and Old West imagery. By the time you finally log off of Henry’s website, you’ve either downloaded the soundtrack to, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” to your iPod or have saddled up you’re imaginary horse, calling everyone “Pard” or “Pilgrim”. This Old West sickness, makes shooters blackout only to snap to inside a gun shop that stocks Henry rifles. At this point the only control you’ll have over your hand is to point it in the direction of which Henry you want to buy. Once you lay your eyes on one, you can’t leave empty-handed. It was at this point that I had a tough time deciding between the flashy Golden Boy or the Octagon Frontier. After an embarrassingly drawn-out inner struggle, I finally decided on the more traditional Frontier rifle, whose octagon barrel profile helps me fulfill my fantasies of shooting alongside Lucas McCain in The Rifleman.


While the Henry Frontier Octagon isn’t a replica of any particular rifle, it manages to evoke the nostalgic look and styling of an Old West lever rifle. One aspect that distinguishes the Henry from the competition, is its 20 inch, blued heavy octagonal barrel. Not only does this help to give the advantages of a bull barrel, it also gives the rifle its identity and a way to stand out amongst the crowd. The wooden furniture is made from a nice piece of American walnut with a satin finish. Not too flashy, but not too plain either. Capacity is 24 rounds of .22 short, and 16 rounds of .22LR.  The receiver cover is an aluminum alloy with a baked on black finish. It’s plain, but it does its job while looking nice and saves on both weight and cost.

Unlike many bull barreled rifles, the Octagon Frontier is topped with iron sights. Specifically a Marbles semi-buckhorn rear sight, and a brass bead front sight. For a little extra class, there is a white diamond insert in the buckhorn rear sight. While it looks great, and is historically correct for old fashioned rifles, they can be a bit tough for those without perfect vision. If you don’t have perfect eyesight, or prefer to use optics regardless, the top of the receiver cover is grooved for mounting optics. Hi Viz also sells a fiber optic front sight, while Williams and Skinner Sights produce aperture sights for the rifle.


Three things will stand out against most of the magazine fed .22LR rifles these days. One of them is great, the other isn’t, and one should appeal to traditionalists. The great part is the rifle’s action. It feels like ice sliding across a greased up piece of glass. It is incredibly smooth and easy to work, feeling nicer than vintage Marlin 39’s.The not-so-great part is the loading method. It’s a tube loader, and for .22 rifles; tube loading is cumbersome and slow. If you’re wondering why there isn’t a loading gate, it’s because Marlin discovered in the late 1800’s that a loading gate on a .22 rifle would often rip the bullets out of the casings. However the original 1860 Henry Rifle was a tube loader, so I suppose they are following in those footsteps. One aspect that will be lauded by traditionalists is the lack of a manual button or sliding tang safety on this rifle. Somehow the owners of Henry convinced their lawyers that the only safety a lever rifle needs is a person with common sense, an empty chamber, and a half-cock notch. I totally agree, and it’s a welcome change from most modern guns that include a myriad of unnecessary features in the name of safety. A gun company standing up to lawyers in an overly-litigious society, Jeff Cooper would be proud.


On the range, the Octagon Frontier might turn a few heads thanks to its styling when compared to most other .22 caliber rifles. It truly gives off the appearance of a classic, vintage piece compared to most small bore rifles today. But looks don’t mean anything if the rifle can’t shoot. Luckily the Frontier Octagon shoots great, if you can master the sights. As I mentioned earlier, the traditional buckhorn sights are a little tough to use. It will take a bit of concentration to line up the notch, diamond, and the front sight to put your rounds on target. With Federal Auto-Match I was able to achieve one inch groups at 25 yards. Not bad considering how fine the sights are. Rock Island Armory plated hollow points didn’t perform quite as well, grouping one and a half inches at 25 yards. Not bad considering the sights being used. The trigger, although a little heavy, has a fairly crisp break, much better than most lever rifle triggers I have tried.


Instead of shooting paper however, you’ll have the most fun and enjoyment shooting steel plates and tin cans at 25 and 50 yards. Firing off one round after another, ringing steel over and over again is the raison d’etre of this rifle in my opinion. There is something so fun just working that action, and it gives a greater enjoyment than a semi-auto or bolt action. Jim Grant commented during his Big Boy review that you’ll go through way too much ammo shooting your Henry rifle, since you’ll have too much fun to care about how much ammo you have. The Octagon Frontier is no different. You’ll quickly forget how many rounds you’re sending down range as you lose yourself in the moment ringing steel or destroying tin cans over and over again.

The Henry rifle is the perfect tool to bring new shooters into the fold, especially with its reasonable $450 MSRP.   Hand them one of these rifles, and they’ll keep asking you for more and more ammo. For veteran shooters, this rifle is a great alternative to the often expensive vintage rimfire lever rifles made by Winchester and Marlin. For those who love Westerns, this rifle transports you to the dusty trails and cattle towns of your favorite movie or tv show. You’ll feel like you’re standing alongside men like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Tom Mix, Gene Autry, and Chuck Connors. Yes this rifle is just that fun. Lucas McCain would be proud.

Source Article from http://www.guns.com/review/2014/10/02/henrys-frontier-octagon-awakens-your-inner-john-wayne/

Charles is the editor for 248 Shooter a midwest based gun news and gear review site as well as Online Content Director for On Target Magazine. He is an avid student taking classes from top tier trainers around the country. Charles shares his love for training as well as experience and opinions on some of the most talked about gear and products used by competitive shooters, military, leo and civilians.