Eugene Stoner designed the AR-7 survival rifle while working for ArmaLite. Production has passed from company to company since 1959 and continues today at Henry Repeating Arms. If you are considering an AR-7 as a survival rifle or a kit gun, my humble suggestion is that you avoid buying anything used; buy a new one from Henry so you have some factory support in case anything goes bad. Notably, Henry uses a plastic for the stock that may be more durable than the plastic used by previous manufacturers. Further, the Henry stock holds two eight-round magazines instead of one. Since I do not own a Henry AR-7, I truthfully do not know firsthand how their version compares to the quality or reliability of older rifles. I have read that the Henry is better.
Probably the biggest advantage the AR-7 has over other bedroll rifles is its weight, a very light 2.5 pounds. I’ll venture a guess that it would not take much force to bend the barrel if you take a fall while traveling rugged country with the rifle assembled; saving weight often sacrifices strength. The rifle floats if lost overboard. With everything stored in the stock, the rifle is small enough to fit into a daypack.
My shooting is not very accurate with this rifle. I figured a survival rifle should be able to bag a squirrel at reasonable distances, so years ago I gave it a couple of field trials. The peep sights of this rifle failed to work with the limits of my vision. While using the iron sights on a Remington Nylon 66 never was a problem for me when squirrel hunting, I could not measure up to the challenge of bagging the mighty squirrel when using this AR-7. Using it for target shooting, I was mediocre at best. It has been years since I have fired this rifle, so before I would again pack it into a kit I would need to re-prove its reliability with some select ammo and see if my cataract surgery improved my accuracy with it. The butt-cap on my rifle is so loose I would need to seal it with electrical tape if I were to pack it for a trip, or buy a new cap and hope that it fits; new parts sometimes don’t fit well on older guns. The safety on this rifle is a pain in my… thumb… to use, something I hope Henry improved on. In fact, since Henry is the only game in town for new AR7s, I wish they would resize and reconfigure the stock so a scope could be included for storage.
IMHO, this is an affordable, expendable rifle. When weight and size are critical for packing, it is something that I can carry for use as a last resort, something that may be just barely enough gun to do get me through an unexpected crisis. It will never be my first choice for a kit gun or a survival rifle; it is an alternative.
Manufacturer instructions state that this rifle is suited for standard and high velocity ammo, but advised against using “super-high-velocity” ammo so I never used CCI Stingers or similar loads in it. I have heard the Henry version has a stronger recoil spring and may not work well with subsonic ammo.
While it will never be as popular as the versatile Ruger 10/22, the AR-7 does have a following. Only you can decide what would be a good fit for your kit.
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