A Practical Survival Rifle Upgrade

The Henry Arms AR-7 with one of my original Ram-Line 25 round mags.

The first AR-7 I bought back in 1988 was from Charter Arms. Over the years, I’ve put thousands of rounds through that rifle, and taken plenty of small game as well. I still have it, and on average, it will shoot inch sized groups at 25 meters (Minute of Squirrel/MoS), but no better. That being said, it’s hard to deny it fills its purpose as a compact and lightweight survival rifle well.
About 15 years ago, I bought a newer version of the AR-7 made by Henry Arms. Compared to my original Charter Arms model, the finish has held up much better (The black paint on the CA version has chipped off in many areas) and it can carry an extra eight round mag, compared to the CA’s one mag limit. The Henry Arms model shoots about the same group sizes as my CA model, but was reliable out of the box, without having to tweak it like I did with the CA model, by reaming the rear of the chamber for more reliable feeding.
A while back, I was looking for spare parts for my rifle, and I found a company called “AR-7 Customized Accessories LLC”. They make spare parts, stocks and barrels for this iconic firearm. I’ve always wondered what the AR-7 could do with a higher quality, heavier barrel and a quality scope attached via a cantilever rail. It is impractical to mount a scope to the receiver if you plan to continue storing the rifle receiver and barrel in the stock, as designed.

A comparison of the barrel profiles for the original barrel (bottom) and the AR-7 Customized Accessories LLC barrel (Top)

AR-7 Customized Accessories LLC makes such a heavy barrel with cantilever scope rail for approximately $200. The barrel is threaded for the 1/2×28 AR pattern, so a suppressor can be attached as well as most other AR muzzle accessories. I do not have any suppressors, so one of my old M16A1 flash suppressors went on to protect the threads, and after confirming reliability, camo paint was applied to the barrel.
When testing the accuracy, I zeroed it initially at 25 meters. It did so well (1/2” five shot groups), I took it to 50 meters. The final results were one 1” five shot group, but averages were in the 1 ½-2” range. A point I noted when firing from the benchrest bag, concerned its lack of a forearm. When resting your rifle for a steady shot, rest your hand under the area where the barrel attaches to the receiver. Resting any part of the barrel on a bag or other type of rest will cause your groups to open up. By the way, the barrel shoots exactly the same, whether it’s attached to the Charter Arms or Henry Arms receiver.
As a cost comparison of semi auto .22LR “Survival Rifles”, the AR-7 is generally about $225-$275, while the 10/22 Takedown runs in the $500 range and is nowhere near as compact or lightweight. The Marlin 70PSS “Papoose”, if you can find one (still trying to determine if it’s still being made), is at least a half a pound heavier, not as compact and costs about $100 more. The new Savage 64 Takedown is almost two pounds heavier and breaks down like the Papoose, so it’s not as compact. It costs about the same as the AR-7, and is available in a right- or left-handed model, which makes it unique.
Total weight for the AR-7 with the new barrel and a Sightron 3-9X Mil-Dot scope, is 7 pounds. This includes the regular barrel still in the stock, along with the spare 8 round mag. Many might say, this barrel modification is akin to “Makin’ a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. Maybe, maybe not. Adding the ability to use your super lightweight and compact “Survival/Go Bag Rifle” as your regular small game gun, is a nice option, especially if you only have one .22 rifle. I plan on extensively using mine for small game this Fall, and I’m sure it will fill the bill.

The Bushbastard

3 thoughts on “A Practical Survival Rifle Upgrade

  1. I owned one of the original CA AR-7s…. gosh… it must have been 35 years ago! Carried it in my Ford Bronco. Packed up into the stock nice and neat and, it floated! Would have made a great canoeing accessory had it shot accurately, which mine did not. Maybe it was due to the cheap-ass sights. It just never grouped reliably with any ammo I tried. Glad to see you have much better performance and possibly Henry Arms has improved the overall quality. Still, I’ll stick with my 10/22 Takedown. It may have cost more but the quality was there and I didn’t have to spend extra to bring it up to acceptable performance. Different strokes and all that.


  2. I bought one of these about 10 years ago. I had a hard time getting it to cycle without running the hottest .22LR rounds I could find. My neighbor said it needed to be bathed in gun oil, which also helped the reliability quite a bit. Just my 2 cents for your success!


  3. I’ve owned a Henry AR-7 for about two years but haven’t shot it that much. It’s accuracy is very similar to what you describe with yours. With factory irons and inside 20 yards – okay. Beyond that – iffy. Iffy doesn’t fill the skillet. And game deserve a swift death.

    You make a great point about this model’s self-contained ability to be packed along while carrying another ‘long gun’. I’ve heard about AR-7 company but not a target barrel for it. The integral scope base rail makes sense – the receiver bases for this model are not easy to find. I should also look at this barrel harder.

    Thank you for this post.


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