Review: Is the AR-7 all it's cracked up to be?

I tested the Henry Repeating Arms AR-7 and their recently released survival kit

By now many people are familiar with the idea of a “bug out bag”, or a “get home bag”… little bundles of joy kitted out, tucked away inert, until you need help to get through a crisis.  I am a true believer in having the right gear in my immediate vicinity when I need it. I have often written about essential gear to have with you when you sally forth, whether on your daily journey or on some type of adventure or mission. I recently tested a couple of items from Henry Repeating Arms and I would like to strongly recommend you consider them for your kits. Some of you may already know about the venerable AR-7, but Henry has also recently made a survival kit. I put them both through their paces for a review.

Reaching back through the annals of time, the AR-7 was developed in the 1950s by none other than Eugene Stoner… the father of the M-16/AR-15. This platform was largely based on research and development (done by Armalite) of other weapons systems like the AR-5 and M6, survival weapons which were issued to USAF pilots at the time. Their compact nature made them perfect to deploy from the cockpit and they greatly increased a pilot’s survivability. Running along that same philosophy of use, the AR-7 has changed companies a few times, but has stayed with Henry Repeating Arms since 2007.

The modern concept is an adaptation of the original. Within this roughly 18-inch butt stock is packed away an unassembled, .22 caliber, semi-auto survival rifle with two, eight round magazines. Henry has definitely improved upon the original, adding blaze orange to the internal of the butt-stock, a blaze orange front sight, and smoothing out some magazine issues. The target audience now seems to be backpackers, survivalists, and anyone who might be caught out in a bad situation and may need to take a few squirrels or rabbits to stay healthy. I endeavored to find out if this rifle was all it was cracked up to be and contacted Henry.

Customer Service
On the Henry website I did not see a media contact so I reached out to Anthony Imperato, the president and owner, with my request. It seemed odd to me to be able to contact the president of a company with even a media request—normal channels require navigating a morass, multiple contacts, and maybe a yes or no. Within minutes, Mr. Imperato replied and arranged for delivery and testing. I was stunned. To reach out to an American company and have a dialogue with the head cheese is not something I’m used to. And this was not some secret media site, but the main contact page. Mr. Imperato squared me away and even said he would send a survival tin they are now selling. Needless to say, I was anxious to try both.

In time, both products arrived and I was able to head to the mountains for testing. The Front Range of Colorado is great for career opportunities but offers more challenges when you try to go out and enjoy the great outdoors. Heading in to the nearby mountains, I could pick up the jawbone of an ass and fell a thousand outdoor enthusiasts within arm’s reach; they are everywhere. Despite this, I was able to test some aspects of the Henry Survival Kit and AR-7 just fine.

Far Afield
The main objective I had in mind for testing the rifle in the field was, would it float? I could not shoot anywhere outside of a 200-mile radius without threatening fisherpeople, rafters, kayakers, climbers, campers, backpackers, hikers… (you get the idea). I can tell you throwing a perfectly good gun, not used in a crime, into a body of water was one of the strangest things I have recently done. I did so and the rifle performed admirably. The cap on the buttstock did not prevent water from entering, but the entire unit floated nonetheless. I retrieved the gun and took it to an indoor range for controlled testing.

Here the testing seemed normal at first but I ran into a phenomenon strange to me—people are dating at gun ranges! I walked in and started assembling my rifle. The couple already shooting looked at me like I was an assassin from a 007 film. I shot from the 15-yard line standing and was impressed with the grouping. The .22 does not carry the authority of a .308 but delivers a satisfying “WHACK” with every pull of the trigger. Pushing out to the 25-yard line I set up a bench and was nailing my target with a decent group, until the smell hit me.

Ralph Lauren’s Polo assaulted my nostrils as two more couples entered the range and instantly transported me back to a memory of an awkward prom from my teens. The smell was so overpowering, overwhelming the air filtration, I reached for a gasmask but had none. “Aphrodite protect me!” I exclaimed, suddenly realizing the situation was a valid survival scenario. I frantically gathered my gear and made for the door.

That being said, the rifle performed admirably with no failures to functions at all. Henry recommends quality ammunition to ensure firing and cycling of the weapon. I was impressed with the accuracy afforded to a weapon I had just assembled from parts stowed in the buttstock. I noted the pattern I completed would have well covered a rabbit, squirrel, or similar critter at 75 feet.

Survival Kit
The tin itself was another matter. In the wild, uninhibited from the presence of my fellow man, I was able to deploy its contents and test them against the elements. The kit contains the following: Basic Survival Instruction Sheet, Aloksak Water Tight Bag, Personal Use Fishing Kit, Mini Map Compass, Mini Rescue Flash Signal Mirror, Beeswax Tea Light Survival Candle, Tinder Quick (10), Type 1A Utility Cord (20 ft), Photon Micro Light, Sewing Kit, Spiral Wire Survival Saw, 1 ft flexible latex tubing, Trauma Bandage and Gauze Roll, Adventurer Compact Repair Tape, Adventurer Compact Fire Starter, Rapid Rescue Survival Whistle, Snare Wire (20 ft), Adventure All Weather Matches (10), Utica Kutmaster Mini Multi Tool, Flat Coffee Filter, Water Bag, MicroPur Water Tablets (05), 12 Hour Light Stick, Space Survival Blanket, Compact Signal Panel, Silica Gel, Fresnel Lens Fire Starter, Derma Safe Razor Knife, The Survival Kit Box, and more.

The Henry Repeating Arms AR-7 is a superb little rifle that simply delivers. It sits in a pack only 18 inches long and weighing 3.7 pounds until it is deployed. Once levied against the critters of the forest, I’ve no doubt it could harvest some desperately needed calories. The Henry Survival Kit is well thought out, contains multiple use items, and shows redundancy in critical areas like fire starting, medical gear, and light. The included components are not cheap substitutions for gear you would otherwise buy, but quality items. A person would do well to add both the Henry AR-7 and Survival Kit to their pack. Along with a quality knife and other personalized gear, you would have an excellent setup enabling you to get home from nearly any situation. Thank you to Mr. Imperato for setting the bar in customer service and thanks to Tony at Rocky Mountain Shooter’s Supply for the use of the range.