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Henry's New Homesteader 9mm Semi-Auto Carbine: Review

Known for lever guns, Henry has thrown its hat into the semi-auto ring with the new Homesteader 9mm carbine.

Henry's New Homesteader 9mm Semi-Auto Carbine: Review
The traditional-looking Henry Homesteader can “bug out” in the 21st century.

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Until recently, Henry Repeating Arms produced an impressive array of manually-operated actions and a single rimfire semiauto evolved from a licensed design, the AR-7. The Homesteader 9mm carbine is their first foray into self-loading guns, and a rather ambitious one! Endowed with classic Henry looks, it contains several technical innovations, some of them non-obvious. The first entry in the Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) category married modularity and high performance with the traditional look and feel, topped off with excellent accuracy and ergonomics. The 6.5-pound blowback design with fancy wood furniture follows the tradition of the Marlin Camp Carbine but on a whole new level of quality and durability. The stock is American walnut, with prominent grain, sealed finish against harsh weather, and pre-installed sling swivel studs.

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As far as muzzle rise, none detected on the Henry Homesteader, and, as you can see, no compensator is installed.

The modular design gives options to fit many popular companion handgun magazines. The baseline magazine is a proprietary all-polymer straight box holding five or 10 rounds. Extremely lightweight and reliable, these magazines provide just enough capacity to fit every state’s legal limit. They are also easy to load. The magazine release is a protected ribbed paddle just in front of the mag body. The five-rounder fits almost flush with the receiver, making for more comfortable handling. Whenever compatibility with handguns is needed, Henry offers Glock and SIG/M&P magazine wells also. Those have side release buttons, same as the eponymous handguns. Additional magazine wells only add $31 to MSRP. Swapping them out takes under a minute. So, if you want to insert a 33-round Glock magazine, not an issue. Take down is easy. Punching three pins out of the aluminum receiver lets the buttstock with the trigger mechanism slide down and out of the receiver along retaining grooves, and the magazine well just lifts out.

The lower-capacity magazines keep this carbine legal in several anti-freedom states (except New York due to the threaded muzzle). Higher capacity magazines, stick or drum, bring much more purposeful associations. With a 33-rounder raking back from the Glock mag well, Homesteader is more visually reminiscent of the Reising submachine gun...but a better performer on many levels. And it looks the part. Blued steel and walnut combined with the aluminum receiver made to look steel-like with anodizing. The strong lines of this carbine resemble the Browning BAR automatic rifle and Model 5 shotgun more than the current crop of hunting rifles. It has just enough detent strength to make the engagement positive but not labored.

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The Homesteader with a SPECTRA Dot from German Precision Optics and a sling.

Homesteader has a very unusual sear: it is rigidly attached to the pivoting trigger, so the safety technically locks both. It’s the best of both worlds, providing a positive feedback if a trigger pull is attempted, and also guaranteeing SAAMI-tested drop safety by arresting the sear motion relative to the hammer notch. The trigger is crisp, feeling lighter than the measured five pounds of pull. The reset is quite positive, so controlled rapid shots are easy to accomplish. Magazine release and safety slider are protected against accidental activation, but can be accessed readily even with winter gloves on.

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Ambidextrous magazine release, and the bolt handle swaps to either side of the receiver in seconds (right). Glock mag well with left-side release. Twin bolt lock tabs are visible in front of the trigger guard (bottom left). Henry magazines are easier to fill than typical pistol mags, and they protrude less.

The rifle is equally friendly to right and left handed shooters. The charging handle swaps easily from left to right with just a hard tug against the ball detent, the safety and bolt lock tabs are ambidextrous, as is the magazine release with the Henry magazine well. The bolt lock tabs do not release the bolt from the hold-open position, that must be done with the charging handle. Moderate drop of the stock makes for natural point shooting with iron sights, but also makes for an easy sight picture with red dot sights and scopes.

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Homesteader field-stripped.

The receiver top is flat, but a Weaver 63B rail offered by Henry mounts quickly and easily. Compact red dots and scopes on low mounts line up well with the eye, while taller mounts and sights like EOTech benefit from a cheek riser. My experience with the carbine suggests at most a 4x scope, a 2x could also be sufficient. The forend is solid enough to allow sling support without barrel deflection from the tension. Despite the drop stock, Homesteader shows minimal muzzle rise, thanks to the innovative bolt design.

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Sear and hammer (top). Forend is retained by a single hex screw. Recessed safety slider.

A lightweight bolt is attached to a reciprocating weight in the forend with action bars similar to what you would find in a pump shotgun. That way, the receiver can be shorter, the space inside the forend is put to use, and the muzzle rise is negated by the weight moving forward at the end of the cycle. Depending on the distance from the target, two to four rounds per second is possible with complete control of the aim. Now to the sights. The rifle comes with a sturdy front sight post without illumination of any kind, complemented by a ghost ring rear sight dovetailed at the back to the barrel. The rear sight has elevation and windage adjustments: windage is by loosening and tightening of two screws, elevation is by rotation of the threaded aperture. In keeping with the traditional hunting look, the front sight blade has no protective wings. While the rear sight can be placed on the back of the receiver, it would require a taller front sight to zero correctly. An aftermarket front sight would increase the sight radius considerably, but Skinner Sights already offers a Picatinny rail with an integrated peep sight placed lower than the factory part, allowing the long sight radius without changing the front.

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Muzzle with a thread protector. A very simple and yet sturdy rear sight. Skinner Picatinny rail with integrated peep sight, a great accessory to have (top).

The muzzle is threaded the usual 1/2x28. No flash hider or brake is necessary, but a linear compensator or a sound suppressor would both reduce the already mild report even further. The rifle has been unfailingly reliable, suppressed and unsuppressed. With a sound suppressor, very little gas blowback occurred until the heaviest bullets were used. Homesteader cycled everything from 65-grain to 147-grain subsonic ammunition and runs 100% reliably with a sound suppressor, but I’ve had a few short cycles without a can when using longer aftermarket magazines. With lighter-weight bullets, felt recoil is reduced to levels below a typical rimfire rifle. The soft, springy rubber buttpad attenuates what little recoil impulse exists.

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Classic look, modern performance.

Accuracy with iron sights and red dot is similar, but the red dot is a little faster. I kept getting inconsistent results, so I enlisted the famous science fiction writer Michael Z. Williamson, a far better marksman than I, to help. I found out that the Weaver rail kept loosening despite blue Loctite until I turned the screws a little harder than seemed reasonable. Once the rail was secured, having a second marksman to check my results gave me a ranking of numerous loads for accuracy. Look at the chart for details, but the overall conclusion is that the carbine’s preferred loads are in the 92- to 124-grain range. I found no real difference between ball and hollow points, but everything in that weight range grouped two to 2.5 inches at 50 yards. The 147-grain subsonics, no matter what bullet style or construction, shot much looser. Four to six-inch elongated groups were typical, and most 147-grain JHPs did not feed 100% reliably either, with two to three failures per magazine when fired unsuppressed. However, 147-grain ball ammo fed and cycled fine. The good news is that 147-grain JHPs work reliably once the rifle has additional backpressure from a sound suppressor, which is the whole point behind subsonic 9mm.

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A “sound muffler” is always a welcome accessory. All groups shown for Precision One which came in at 5.5" for its best, Norma at 1.7", and SAR at 1.5". (See chart for details.)

The cheapest and simplest 115-grain FMJ and JHP were the best performers, including a budget Sellier & Bellot JHP that consistently shot two inches at 50 yards. Super light G2 Telos frangible copper hollow point speed up to about 1,700 fps from the longer barrel and would work very well on coyotes and similar size varmints. ARX 65-grain frangible ammunition also worked reliably, grouping around three inches at 50 yards. With the muzzle velocity of just shy of 2,000 fps, they work well as short to medium range varmint rounds.

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Shallow but grippy texture works better than checkering (right). Action bar that connects it to the bolt (top). The bolt weight in the forend.

Regular 9mm loads speed up nicely in the 16.4-inch barrel, gaining 100–200 fps over handgun barrels. I would estimate the effective range to be 150 yards. Ammunition hand loaded with slower powders would up the velocity up to 300 fps, extending effective range another 50 yards. The four advantages of pistol caliber carbine; greater kinetic energy, flatter trajectory, improved accuracy, and faster effective rate of fire are fully realized in the Homesteader. Federal Punch 124-grain JHP at close distance expanded to .60 caliber and penetrated 14.5 inches in gel, a very credible performance for home defense. Hornady Critical Defense 135-grain projectiles expanded “only” to .51 caliber but penetrated 17.5 inches in gel, reasonable numbers for bringing down modestly sized Tennessee deer.

Recommended


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Excellent terminal performance thanks to the longer barrel.

At the same time, it doesn’t stand out to the eye as a modern black rifle, a major advantage in unfriendly jurisdictions. Another advantage is a much quieter report than from a full-power rifle, especially if subsonic ammunition is employed: it’s easier on your ears and, in a survival situation, doesn’t broadcast your location and actions quite as far. Coming from Henry Repeating Arms, it is backed by an excellent warranty and service. Not surprisingly, this model instantly became a bestseller, especially among the brand fans. While other PPC options exist, this one combines excellent performance with the traditional Henry look and feel. It’s equally at home in a hunting camp, ringing steel at the range, or laying down short-range cover fire in a post-apocalyptic scenario. Homesteader might look fuddy, but it works fine with 33-round stick and 50-round drum magazines.

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All groups shown for Telos which came in at 1.7" for its best, Belom at 1.8", and Federal at 2". (See chart for details.)

Henry Repeating Arms Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Barrel Length: 16.37 in., round blued steel, 1:10-in. twist
  • Overall Length: 35.75 in. 
  • Weight: 6.6 lbs. 
  • Finish: Hard Anodized black
  • Sights: Adjustable aperture (rear), screw-on post (front); drilled and tapped for optics; Weaver 63B
  • Stock: American Walnut, rubber buttpad
  • Length of Pull: 14 in. 
  • Safety: Top-mounted thumb safety
  • Extras: Swivel Studs. 5-round and 10-round Henry magazines included. Threaded Barrel (1/2x28). Ambidextrous bolt handle. Additional magazines and adapters available separately.
  • MSRP: $928
  • Contact: Henry Repeating Arms 

If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.




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