Saturday, March 12, 2011

Putting Henry Back Together Again or The Survival Of My Henry Survival Rifle

It was a boring day for me, in Phoenix Arizona in April 2010, when I decided to pretty much detail strip my Henry Survival Rifle to give it a good cleaning. I had the little black beast for several years and could not remember ever taking out the bolt to clean it and lord knows it needed cleaning after having recently put another 750 rounds through it. Now, while I am into guns and shooting, I am certainly no grand wizard of an expert when it comes to taking them down beyond a filed strip for a normal cleaning. So I looked to the Internet for advice on how to get the job done. I came across a web site, here, that gave a fairly good description of how to do the job and it had pictures too. I gave it a good look and, while I wished it had more details and more pictures (because I am not high in mechanical prowess and have little self confidence when it comes to doing things like this), I decided that the job did not seem too difficult regardless of a bit of advice given by the site's author when he wrote:

"Once the hammer and trigger assembly clear the receiver, remove the magazine catch with caution. The tiny spring is very easy to lose."

Yes, you know it, I lost the spring! It wasn't during disassembly but while I was trying to reassemble it but that does not matter much. What mattered was that I spent enough time crawling around on the floor of my apartment to get carpet burns on my knees over the several hours I searched for the spring. When I could not find it, I put all the other pieces in a Ziplock freezer bag and put them in a closet. As luck would have it, two days later, while walking barefoot on the carpet, I felt the tiny trouble making spring stinging my heel. Even after feeling it, it took several minutes of crawling and feeling to find it in the thick carpet. I was just about to sit down to eat, was in no mood to try to reassemble the Henry Survival Rifle and so, away went the tiny spring into the plastic bag with all the other parts. Then I proceeded to promptly forget about it for way too long.

How long did I forget about it? Well, first let me say, neglect it would be the better term? As a matter of fact, my misadventure of losing the spring took place exactly 11 months and 2 days ago. I know because I wrote a blog post about it 2 days after I lost it, that would be the day I found it - precisely 11 months ago to this day. I don't know exactly what got me to thinking of it today, I have thought about it a few times over the past 11 months, but whatever got me thinking of it today was different than other days if only because it got me thinking seriously about putting it back together. After I got done with bill paying, online banking, cleaning up some of the mess in the basement, vacuuming, and so on, I sat down at a folding table in the basement and laid the parts out in front of me. I gave them all a good cleaning, then got called upstairs for dinner. After my appetite was sated, and thus in a good mood, I looked up the blog on which I had found the disassembly instructions last year to see if there were any reassembly instructions. All it said was reassemble in reverse order. Oh there was no joy in reading that. I much prefer detailed instructions and usually lack the confidence needed to get something done without them but, today for some reason, I figured would just do it.

The truth be told, while I had wished them to be more detailed, those disassembly instructions were good enough, along with the great photos that accompanied them so that I could follow the instructions in reverse while looking at the pics, to get the job done. I owe a debt of gratitude to Derek from The Packing Rat blog for that. I also owe him a nod and thanks for his allowing me to use that blog post as the background in the snapshot, of my reassembled Henry Survival Rifle, that accompanies this post. Without those instructions I would have had to take it to a gunsmith who probably would have charged me more than the rifle is worth to reassemble it.

There is no moral to this story, no warnings not to take your guns apart to clean them. I do think that proper maintenance is the best way to assure your guns last a long, long time. Of course, I do recommend being familiar with the how to get the job done before doing it. Good, step by step, illustrated instructions are just about a must for me when taking apart or putting together firearms. I would not have tried to detail strip the Henry, without a very detailed set of disassembly and reassembly showing each and every step in photos, except that it was disgustingly fouled. It was bad enough that the bolt was starting to operate sluggishly a bit because it was so dirty. Mind you, I am not knocking the instructions found at The Packing Rat, they were pretty good, they were illustrated with good photos, and they were the only ones available. While I usually prefer manufacturer's instructions, since Henry did not supply any, I depended on those from Derek's blog. I am happy I did because in the end they helped me a great deal to get the job done. My little black survival rifle has survived being in parts for most of a year, apparently no worse for the wait to be reassembled. I consider myself lucky that The Packing Rat was still online and that it still had the instructions available. There is now a link to that blog over on the right side of my blog page.

Oh yeah, in case you were wondering, the Henry seems to be operating properly. The bolt travels smoothly, the hammer cocks, the trigger releases the hammer and the firing pin moves forward. That last was easy to tell because the Henry Survival Rifle is a take down rifle and when the barrel is off of the receiver, the action can still be operated. I simply cocked it, put my finger on the bolt face over the firing pin channel, pulled the trigger and felt the sting of the firing pin on my finger tip. I have not shot it yet, maybe I will do so tomorrow. I will let you know how it shot once I have done so. I already have a bit more self confidence in my abilities to get such things done and you can be sure that if it fires as it should that self confidence will be even stronger. Thanks Derek!

All the best,
Glenn B