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Ultimate Hunting Rifle… the Henry “Long Ranger”

The Quest for the Ultimate Hunting Rifle Takes a Strange Turn

For several years I have been on the search for the ultimate hunting rifle. I do a variety of hunting (deer, pigs, varmints) and I also needed a daily utility rifle for the truck and UTV.

My listed of demands included:

1.       Accuracy with out punishment – 1 1/2 inches or better at 100 yards

2.       Light weight – 7 to 9 pounds

3.       Modular – the ability to add rails for lights and optics and a collapsible or folding stock

4.       Detachable box magazine – (for easier unloading and the ability to carry extra mags).

I went with the 6.5 Creedmore and wish I had when it hit the market several years ago. This cartridge is a hand-loader’s dream come true with a wide variety of factory ammo to choose from. I handload, so, I went with the Hornady 143 grain EDL-X bullets with H 4831SC powder and Federal Match primers. In our small circle we have all switched to the 6.5 and hunt with my handloads.  We are far from professionals. In fact, one look at our rag-tag group makes most people snatch up their small children and head for the nearest exit. After all, we’re just working class dudes who love everything outdoors.  Over the past 3 hunting seasons we have shot 10 whitetails, 1 hog, 2 coyotes, and a bobcat from ranges of 30 to 350 yards. The 143 grain EDL-X has performed flawlessly and is absolutely devastating.

Testing for the Ultimate Hunting Rifle

My first test rifle was a Live Free Armory AR 10 with a 24″ bull barrel. This rifle is absolutely incredible. If I did my part right, I had no trouble shooting 5/8 to 3/4 inch groups. This AR had a collapsible stock, which helped with getting in and out of blinds and vehicles, but in reality this rifle is a beast. Its somewhere in the 10 pound plus range without optics or a loaded mag. And, even though you could attach anything under the sun to it, it was just too big and cumbersome for what I wanted.

Ulitmate Hunting Rifle
Assembled rifle with Chassis from American Built Arms

Rifle number 2 was a chassis rifle that I assembled. I started with a Howa 1500 barreled action with a 22 inch regular barrel and mounted it on an American Built Arms MOD X chassis. I also installed their folding stock attachment . This was also a great rifle; it had a folding stock, detachable magazine, and more rails and mounting options than I knew what to do with. It averaged 1 to 1 1/4 inch 5 shot groups and was very maneuverable.   This rifle weighed in at 10.5 pounds with scope and mag in place. It ended up being heavier than expected but was well balanced. Despite looking like something from Call of Duty {which was a bonus, especially watching the old-timers in camp when you pulled it out of the case) I really liked hunting with it.

The Strange Turn

Ultimate Hunting Rifle
Henry Long Ranger in 6.5 Creedmore

Rifle #3: This is where the story takes a strange turn. I built rifle number 2 for our annual January pig and doe hunt at the Bar 9 Ranch in Decatur, Texas. My buddy Steve also purchased a new rifle for this year’s hunt and he surprised us all by getting the new Henry Long Ranger in 6.5 Creedmoor. Unfortunately, Steve was not able to go to Texas with us due to medical issues so, he requested that I, and our buddy Tommy, take the gun to Texas and give it a work out.

I was familiar with this rifle; a buddy of mine purchased one two years ago in 243. This rifle is a lever action with a 4 Rd detachable magazine and a 22 inch barrel, weighing in at 7pounds before optics. Steve mounted a rail on the receiver and topped it of with a Leopold 3×9 scope. We averaged 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch groups with my handloads and I really believe once this rifle is broke in, and I get used to the trigger, I can get them around the 1 inch mark, which is plenty good for what I am intending to do with this gun.

But, what blew me a way from the start was the attention this rifle received from the other hunters in camp and the guides as well. Most of them hadn’t even heard of this
rifle. In the days of everything black and tactical the beautiful walnut stock and forearm just begged to be held and caressed. I have a Henry in 357 magnum (which might explain why this Henry rifle felt like and old friend) and was very eager to get this rifle, the “Long Ranger”, in the field. I shot two white tail does on the hunt, one at 75 yards and the second at about 120 yards. Both were very impressed with the 6.5 and neither went further than 60 yards.

Final Review

At the start of this experiment I was sure rifle #2 – the chassis rifle I assembled – would be my go-to hunting/utility rifle but, after handling and hunting with the Henry, it is now for sale (if all the stars align during a full moon on February 31st)!  Although the “Long Ranger” doesn’t have a folding or collapsible stock, it meets all of my other demands. Its lightweight; well balanced; a rail can be mounted for scopes, red dots, or thermal; it has a detachable box magazine; and to me. is a true testament to another era where you depended on your rifle to survive. One other wonderful feature is the faster follow up shot (my opinion) with the lever action versus the bolt action.

In the days of the modern sporting rifle, chassis guns, and synthetic stock bolt actions (which I LOVE ), I ended up going in a direction I had never considered. I can not wait to get the funds to order this rifle; there is just something special about it. It’s a modernized throw back to the days of the frontier and the wild west. Two words: IRON and WOOD.

I look forward to many of adventures with this rifle and when I’m dead and gone it will make a great family heirloom (if they can pry it out of my fingers)!

Good luck hunting in 2020,

Brian

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