Henry Small Game Carbine: Worth a Peep?

For those of us who like lever-action rifles, Henry Repeating Arms is a company that is hard to ignore. Henry filled in the gap in the lever gun market when Winchester ceased domestic production in the 1990s and Marlin faltered in the 2000s.

My first experience with a Henry was when I got the chance to plink at some aluminum cans at an elderly neighbor’s home. It was an H001 in 22 Long Rifle. The first round in the chamber was a load of Federal #12 rat shot, followed by twelve rounds of CCI Mini Mag hollow points. It was a smooth shooting rifle and I have since been warm to the idea of a 22-lever gun just by virtue of the fact that it will cycle different types of ammunition.

Since those first shots, I have worked around quite a few Henry lever action and pump action rifles—all of which deserve a shot. My only reservation against their rifles is the iron sights that come stock on them. Most come with a semi-buckhorn rear sight and a thick, brass front post. While fast to acquire, I always struggled to see and hit small targets at distance. When I discovered the Henry Small Game Carbine that comes equipped with Skinner sights, I was ready to give it a whirl.

The action of the Henry Small Game Carbine
The Small Game series is available as a 20-inch barreled rifle with a standard lever loop or a 16-inch carbine with a wide loop. In my case, I received a carbine with a standard loop.


The Henry Small Game Carbine is essentially their Frontier rifle with Skinner sights instead of the typical semi-buckhorn and post arrangement. The carbine wears a blued 16-inch octagonal barrel and is chambered for either the 22 Long Rifle or the 22 Winchester Magnum cartridge. Likewise, a full-length Small Game Rifle is available with a 20-inch barrel in those same chamberings.

Like other Henries, the Small Game Carbine comes stocked in walnut and uses an enameled zinc alloy receiver cover over action. Aside from a checkered plastic butt plate and barrel band, the carbine is all carbon steel.

Operationally, the Small Game Carbine is lever action and usually comes stock with an enlarged lever loop for cycling the rifle with gloved hands. My particular example came with a standard lever, which comes stock on the full-length rifle. The rifle has no manual safety except a half-cock notch on the hammer to keep it off of the firing pin when carried in the field.

The carbine feeds from a tubular magazine housed under the barrel. The 22 Long Rifle version can feed 22 Long Rifle or the shorter 22 Long and 22 Short cartridge. The carbine will hold thirteen rounds of 22 LR or seventeen rounds of 22 Short. If you opt for the 22 Magnum version, you have nine rounds to work with.

A view of the hammer and rear sight of the Henry carbine.
The Skinner rear peep is adjustable for elevation using an Allen key included from the factory.

Both versions come with a Skinner rear peep sight mounted on the 3/8 inch scope rail and a Marbles front brass beaded post. The front sight is no different than other Henry rifles, but the Skinner rear sight offers a longer sight radius and nothing to obscure the target as buckhorn sights can. To make the peep sight finer, it is as easy as unscrewing the included threaded aperture and replacing it with a smaller one. To make the sight larger in view for close and fast work, unscrew the aperture and you will have a plain ghost ring rear sight to work with.

Although I am something of a traditionalist who appreciates the buckhorn style sights, as a working gun the Henry Small Game Carbine offers the ability to hit those small targets, like small game, quickly. But on the range, I was a bit underwhelmed.

On the Range

Terril lays the Henry carbine on a bench rest in between strings of fire.
Looking at the target between strings of fire.

I shot the Henry Small Game Carbine off and on for a year. Aside from short-stroking the lever a few times on an empty case, I had no failures to feed nor any dud rounds in about a thousand rounds downrange. In spite of its short appearance, only 35 inches in overall length, the carbine’s heavy octagonal barrel made for a steady hold both on and off the bench like you would expect from a longer rifle.

The carbine with its tube magazine open for loading.
You know your magazine is fully loaded when you see a round in the loading port.

Loading the Henry Small Game Carbine is like any other tube-loaded 22 rifle. With the action empty or open, twist the knurled knob at the end of the magazine tube and withdraw the brass inner tube. From there you can drop in your rounds one at a time or with a speedloader. I got into the habit of carrying around ten-round Bianchi speed strips for reloading. But once you see ammunition in the tube, the rifle is fully loaded. After you replace the tube, all you have to do is work the lever to chamber a round.

Although it can be tedious to load, you can get plenty of ammunition on board; since it is tube fed lever action, the Henry will cycle just about anything. I had no issues cycling CCI 22 Short 29 grain loads, Federal No. 12 rat shot, and low-powered subsonic loadings like CCI 22 LR Quiet loads.

A look at the Henry's front sight.
The original front sight was too short and pressed tight in its dovetail. Removing and replacing it proved turned into a chore.

As a shooter, the Small Game Carbine can be loaded for anything from getting snakes out of the barn to coyotes minding the fence. Unfortunately, the sights that I had high hopes for frustrated me until the end. The Skinner sight was easy to adjust to and survived many hard knocks. However, with the sight torqued as low as it could go, my rifle came out of the box shooting two feet high at fifty yards. The front sight measured .375 inch off the barrel—too short. I went through several Marbles front post sights during my testing. One was a very fine bead that hit to the point of aim, but was so tall off the barrel that the bead sheared off after the rifle fell on the ground.

Henry carbine displayed next to a paper target and a box of ammunition.
Federal Automatch ammunition isn’t always consistent, but it did consistently well in the Henry Small Game Carbine. Or at least, better than anything else.

I settled on a slightly shorter and thicker bead that got my point of impact to about four inches high from the point of aim at that same distance. Accuracy on paper varied wildly, but in my final setup, I could reliably get 3.5-inch five-shot groups using Federal Automatch 40-grain LRN ammunition. That was about as good as my groups got. Doubtless, a good low-powered optic can shrink that considerably but given that the iron sights are the main draw of the Small Game Carbine, I was left disappointed.

Parting Shots

Skinner Sights makes among the most durable and useable iron sights out there. For years, he has offered different setups to upgrade the sights on all of Henry’s rifles and it took a while for Henry to bring out a rifle with Skinners out of the box. The Small Game Carbine is a welcome addition to the Henry family but one that has to be well-regulated with an appropriate front sight out of the box. This version of the peep sight sits higher over the receiver than the old semi-buckhorn sight does on the barrel, giving you less elevation leeway to work with any given front sight.

Functionally, the Small Game Carbine is a good choice but the inclusion of a few, extra front sight blades would go a long way to get your zero and get into the field quickly.

Terril is an economic historian with a penchant for all things firearm related. Originally a pot hunter hailing from south Louisiana, he currently covers firearms and reloading topics in print and on his All Outdoors YouTube page. When he isn't delving into rimfire ballistics, pocket pistols, and colonial arms, Terril can be found perfecting his fire-starting techniques, photographing wildlife, and getting lost in the archives.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap