A blog by Bob Rich. Squirrel Hunting, Henry Rifles, Reloading, Range Shooting and More!


Friday, April 6, 2012

Six hours of gun testing: Henry AR-7, Bog Boy .357 mag and .44 mag. and a few more.

The Henry AR-7 with target at 25 yards. I was told by the range officer that the target needed to be brought out to 50 yards before I could shoot. 25 yards is the right range for this survival rifle. 50 was pushing it.

I've been putting in a tremendous amount of high-pressure hours in work over the past few months, so I finally decided to take a break by extending the Easter holiday by a day, taking today (Thursday) off. When I shoot with friends, we always spend a lot of time throwing the bull, which is one of the reasons we spend an afternoon at the range. But this week I decided that I needed to have a serious shooting session, so I hit the range by myself to get some things accomplished. I have two Henry BigBoy center-fire rifles (.357 Magnum and .44 Magnum) with Skinner peep sights that needed sighting in. The Henry AR-7 required range testing to see how well it shoots at a distance, so today was going to be that day. Over the past month I worked up a new, hot load that I've been wanting to shoot, so I brought those along as well. I also took the Ruger SP101 .357 Magnum. All-in-all I spent six serious hours shooting today. The first rifle tested was the Henry AR-7.

The last time I shot this rifle, I bagged one squirrel with one round at about 20 yards, so I didn't expect that this would be any big deal. Boy was I mistaken. The rifle was literally shooting all over the place, and it took me about 200 rounds to get the problem worked out. I was shooting CCI Mini Mags and some cheap WalMart Federal ammo. I discovered that the CCI ammo shot about a foot lower than the Federal, which really surprised me. I was expecting an inch or two difference, but when I had the rifle sighted in with Federal and switched to CCI, I started hitting the dirt under the frame! That meant that I had to start the sighting in process all over again. Then I'd land a couple in the red, and the next 4 shots would be 4-5 inches away! I couldn't seem to get a consistent, decent pattern no matter how hard I tried. I finally came to the conclusion that this rifle simply isn't consistent enough for this type of shooting. I have a feeling the thin light barrel was heating up after the second shot and the following rounds were off target. At 25 yards this likely wouldn't be noticed, but at 50 it was off by inches. My conclusion is that this is a good, fun short range rifle. If you realize its limitations, you won't be discouraged when you miss that squirrel at 50 yards. You'll likely take down a chuck, but a squirrel will be iffy. Get within about 25 yards before you drop the hammer and limit yourself to a couple of consecutive rounds so the barrel has a minute to cool. After all, this rifle was designed to be a survival rifle and not an assault rifle.
"I discovered that the CCI ammo shot about a foot lower than the Federal"
Next I brought out the Henry .44 Magnum Big Boy. Some time ago I had my gunsmith install a set of Skinner Peep Sights on both my Big Boys. The sights included front sights, which are intentionally made over-sized. Cutting these sights down on the shooting bench would prove to be a lot of work. One of my readers commented that he used the standard front sight with the Skinner Rear, and that worked well for him, so last night I decided to give that a try. I took a wooden dowel and a hammer, knocked out the Skinner front sights and replaced them with the Marble originals. I then put the LaserLyte green laser in the barrel, aimed it at a distant tree in my back ward and put the sights into alignment with the laser dot. That should at least get me on paper.

At the range today both rifles were a pleasure to sight in after struggling with the AR-7. Both were only inches off at 50 yards prior to sight adjustment. If you look at the target to the left, you'll see holes to the right. They were my original 7 rounds. After a few taps of the front sight to the right, I was hitting a group of about 4". Not bad in my opinion considering that at 50 yards, the front sight almost totally covered the target. I centered the ball on the front sight over the target at fired. I'm guessing any error was due to me and not the rifle. Also, I was using mixed junk ammo, so there's no way I could expect to get a group better than this. I was very pleased and put the rifle away. This one is set.

Next I brought out the Henry .357 Magnum along with the new load I had recently worked up. It consisted of a 158g Hornady jacketed bullet with 16g of Winchester 296. According to the Hornady reloading manual, this is the maximum load on the chart. I realize that some might load even hotter, but I believe in staying within the manufacturer's specifications. I could tell immediately that the round was hot, but after examining the cases, it was obvious that there were no visible signs of stress on the case or primer. My first shots were about 2" high (see below), but after a rotation of the rear peep sight, I started whacking the bulls-eye one after another! I was very happy with that, considering the size of the front sight and my vision at 50 yards. It looks like this will be my new standard .357 rifle load.

 The .357 Magnum with the new round

Skinner front sight was removed and replaced with the stock Marble sight

The rear Skinner Sight

This sighting system virtually eliminates the rear sight. You sight and shoot like it's not even there. Your eye goes straight for the front sight and there's no front/rear sight alignment. Very quick target acquisition.

And finally, two older gentlemen were shooting at my left. Both had 17HMR's (which I found unusual, being a fairly new caliber). One had a bolt action, and the other, a Henry Golden Boy with a bi-pod mount. I've never seen a set-up like that before but it obviously works. I was told that he had the forearm tapped to accept the stand. Note the cantilever scope mount. Nice set-up. When the owner walked by me, he remarked that I had his rifle's "big brother". I asked him if he'd like to shoot the .44 Magnum, and he agreed. After firing one round, he said "You can really tell you're shooting something!" and he put the rifle down. I asked him if he's like to shoot more, and he said "No thanks". I guess if you're used to shooting a .17HMR, the .44 Magnum must feel like a cannon.

A final note (Monday night) I went to Cabela's Saturday and bought 200 more Hornady 158g jacketed GRXTP jacketed bullets for the .357 Magnums. Thursday I went to my local gunshop and they were out, so when I saw two boxes on the shelf at Cabela's I scooped them up. Last night I reloaded 200 rounds with the 16 grain Winchester 296 load that I shot Thursday. The mother-in-law was over Sunday and her and the wife were watching a lousy movie, so it was a good time to hide in the basement and get some reloading done. I'm looking forward to shooting this bullet at a bit closer range so I can better test the grouping, as well as putting the rifle out to 100 yards. It would be fun to put a scope on this rifle. I think I'll contact Henry to see if they have recommendations on how to approach this. I won't do it if drilling is required. I wonder if there are pre-drilled holes under the rear sight?

I also took the scope off the AR-7 because it obviously isn't a long range rifle. It's going back on the Henry H001T .22LR rifle.

1 comment:

Bob Rich said...

5/17/2017 If anyone is interested, I just bought that same bipod for my son and myself for just $20 each on Amazon. The regular price is $50. It's extremely well made and we installed them on our 15-22s. Awesome.