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Monday, June 1, 2009

Survival Arms AR-7 Survival Rifle

Here is another take on the concept of a kit gun. The erstwhile Survival Arms, Inc of Cocoa, Florida made this particular rifle; I bought it new in 1994.

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.

Click here for AR-7 repair parts and customized accessories.


Hammer said...

I always liked it for the floating feature.

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Silly me never once thought to toss mine into the cuddy of our boat (when we had one) ... always had SOME gun or another there, just never once thought about bringing something that would float. If I am ever again fortunate to own another Lake Michigan boat, I may make it a permanent home for this rifle.

Chango said...

I have had one for a while now. It is one of the funnest guns to shoot. Not for any real reason I can put a figure on but seem to shoot it a lot more then the 10/22.

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Hey Chango,

Thanks for stopping in and for your comments.


Anonymous said...

I have two of these rifles, one a battered Charter Arms, the other the same as above, only camoflauged. I too am frustrated a bit - practical accuracy with peep sight supplied does not work. Boring out a bit to make aperture larger helps - about 1/16" larger.

The Charter seems to be better made, but because of age factor it, cannot really compare with the NIB Survival Arms. Definitely agree with above - a good boat / canoe gun.

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Anon, thanks for stopping by and for your comments.

John Britely said...

This is one of the few gun purchases that I regret. I found the sight awkward. One magazine jammed every shot. The other jammed about once every 3 or 4 shots. Sold it at a loss. Bought a Marlin 39 Mountie that I love.

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Thanks for your comments, John. Yeah, there were many people not happy with the performance of some makes of this rifle.

Will said...

I have a Charter Arms one. Picked up for $75 last year. I do love the gun. It does have issues with ejecting, about once every magazine. I will be putting it in our B.O.B. for now since I can't really afford anything more expensive at the moment. I'm definitely thinking about getting one of the stock/barrel sets from ar-7 industries though. Picking up some magazines from Sportsmans Guide soon too. Thanks for the post.

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Hey there, Will. Thanks for the visit. Heck, $75 is not a bad price for that rifle. Should be a nice addition to your B.O.B. Sometimes a change of ammo brand can work wonders for the feed / ejection problems. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

One thing to check on these rifles when experiencing loading or ejection problems is the firing pin. It often broken by people "dry firing" them. It is quite fragile. I always keep a couple of spares on hand.

garrett said...

well in my run ins whith this gun id call it a back packing pliker just to go camping in the midel of no whar and plink

Anonymous said...

I have the Henry AR7 and I find it to be a fine little shooter for what it is.Its not a tack driver but surprisingly accurate out to about 50 yards with the peep sights. It has shot everything that I have fed it so far.Mini mags,Bvac,aguila and remingtons.So I have no complaints

Anonymous said...

I have the Henry version and I can say that it is a very reliable and well put together rifle.

I also have the Charter Arms version and it is everything the Henry isn't...totally unreliable and not well put together.

Henry uses steel barrels (coated in polymer/Teflon) while the CA uses aluminum and the CA barrels had a tendency to warp. CA reportedly used composite barrels towards the end of the prodction run which were even worse, but I can't verify that.

As was pointed out already, Henry uses ABS in the stock which is much more durable than the plastic used by CA and others.

One tip I can offer is when shooting the AR-7, don't put pressure on the magazine...it seems like a good place to hold (like an AR-15) but will lead to feeding problems.

Also, with the Henry, High Velocity .22 results in nearly perfect reliabilty...it will work with SV, but you get a few more feed failures.

Great little gun and affordable (I picked mine up brand-new from Buds Gun Shop dot com for $159 delivered in June, 2009)!

Anonymous said...

I was going to buy a new Henry survival rifle,But opted for the Marlin Papoose instead .The marlin barrel is removable making the rifle a very small package. It stores in a small floatable case..Shoots great , very acurate & you can mount a scope on it if you want!! The sights are superior & are high vis glow.. Glen

Anonymous said...

i have a henry AR-7 i bought it NIB at the range i go to myself and another gentelmen shoot 1" circles of orange paper at 50 yards and it takes good gun and trigger controll to do it but thats what makes it fun i can hit it about 4out of 5 times he uses a little 597 and they are equally accurate. so i would buy another one in a hearbeat, oh i did bore out peep sight a tiny bit from 5/64 to 3/32 and it does help. and if you dont like it after you do change it the henry's blade sight flips over so you have another peep hole at factory size, and my stock is watertight and floats bit some in stores ive seen do have small cracks in them on the seam by the end cap wich is fixable or for for $30 get a new one, and holding the mag as you shoot does seem to leed to ftf (failure to feed)issues but superglueing a small metal/plastic shim on the fron totally fixed that issue i uses a piece of a plastic bullet box for a shim it is .015" thick thats 15 thousands of an inch thick 1/4 in wide and 1" long. remmington yellow jacket and viper work very well so do thunderbolt american eagle ammo works well too thats SV rounds too blazer shoots well feeds well but always leaves alot of well gunk behind i dont know if its unburnt powder or what but they are very very dirty and will start to jam it up and cause issues, thats after about 100-150 rounds i love this gun i havnt shot my savage 93 22 mag much because this gun is soo much fun to shoot. very light very accurate, just keep the barrel nut tight a quick check after every box of ammo is all it takes to keep it tight and keep it accurate, consider this a rave review for the henry AR-7 holds 3-5" groups at 100yds and as tight as you can shoot at 50

Jon Blaylock said...

I got mine when I was 12 (1989) for working in my aunts gun store. It would have cost me $75 then. I think it was used but not sure. I have loved that gun my whole life. I have shot many different types of ammo out of it. CB shells and the shot shells do not automatically eject. Everything else I have shout out of it does great. I have had few jams/misfeeds. I have shot over 100 squirrels with it (I like using the CB shells), many armadillos, and once shot a crow out of the sky (second shot) at 100-125 yds. I never cleaned it growing up and it still shot superb. Mine was made by Charter Arms. I tripped going down an enbankment once and the screw that connects the stock to the gun broke. I recently requested a new on from Henry and they gladly sent the part to me for free (WOW). I just bought a telescoping stock with pistol grip but havent shot it yet. I cant wait. My son has shot this gun and was an instant success with it. I would love to find a pistol barrell for it. Any ideas? Thank you guys for your posts.

Anonymous said...

I have 2 of these one an origional issue and one my oh so wonderfull wife just bought for me for my AT trip this summer. The issue model (found at a yardsale for $20.00 us)I dont really shoot much anymore due to it's age but was a fun investment when I boutght it. The NIB Henry shoots very well for me using Federal Lightning Ammo (shoots tight enough I've gotten a squirrel at 25 yards in the head) mine doesn't like winchester High Velosity though. Also I like the room for a 3rd mag in the stock. I'm currently debating how to add a clianing kit into the stock.

Anonymous said...

I prefer the Marlin "Papoose" .22 rifle It also Breaks down small.& fits in to a small Floating soft case....Glen

Gene said...

I have owned a Charter Arms version of the AR-7 since the 80's and have loved it. While not the most accurate 22 I own, it is acceptable and it functions very well. Fits well in my truck/boat survival kit and is great to hike with. Well worth the money spent in 1980.

Gene said...

My wife gave me a Charter Arms version of the AR-7 in the 80's. While not my most accurate 22, it has shot well enough to hit small targets and has functioned very well. Has been a nice fit into my truck/boat survival bag and great for hiking. I would by another one without hesitation.

Bryan OShaughnessy said...

For a few months I've been searching for a used AR-7, thinking one is as good as another. I'm glad I found your blog; it seems that the Henry version is far superior to earlier models. I appreciate one commenter's note that the rifle is cheap enough new that it is worthwhile to buy it n.i.b. to achieve warranty coverage during shake-down shooting. I also like the comment about shot-loads. My intention is to keep one mag full of hi-vel .22's and the other full of shot-loads for bird-shooting. I guess I could live with having to hand-clear a bad ejection, in order to have the flexibility with ammo. A question: if gripping the mag is not recommended, where do you all hold the front of the gun? Is it hard to hold the barrel and keep your fingers clear of the sight-line? Does the barrel get too hot to hold during a session of target-plinking? Thanks, ---Bryan O

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Hi Brian, it's nice of you to stop by.

The birdshot loads probably will not cycle the semi-auto action so you would need to do it by hand.

It's been a while, but I believe I used to use a two handed wrap around hold (the way I shoot a pistol) when holding this rifle to my shoulder. The barrel can get pretty warm...

Not too long ago Glenn B did a write up on his latest range session with his rifle... I'll look it up as soon as I get a chance and email you the link to the post he has on his blog site.

Good to meet you!


Anonymous said...

To the gentleman that wants to put a cleaning kit in the stock -

Easy enough. Buy Rem-Oil wipes and a Bore Snake made by Hoppe's... both found at Walmart.

You can always wipe down the snake with the wipe and then send it through the barrel. Use the wipe to clean off the rest of the gun. I'm sure more than one wipe will fit in the stock along with the snake.

Anonymous said...

I have a Armalite AR-7 since I turned 18, back in 1972. You had to be 18 to purchase a rifle. The stock is a mix of colors as I understand the originals were, I can't swear to that bit of information though. I've put many thousands of rounds out the barrel and can say I'm still very happy.

Duke said...

I won a charter arms ar7 in a card game and have toted it to the field for over 20 years and had it overseas several times. Mine is really reliable after adjusting the feed lips on the magazine and I also use round nose bullets. Used it mostly for plinking and target shooting around camp. It has taken quite a bit of small game also. I continue to carry it while fishing and camping. It has been a fun gun for a long time and my kids grew up with it and still love it. I do have many other guns at my disposal.

Anonymous said...

I looked at the ar7 a few years back ,but decided to buy a Marlin Papoose carbine break down .22 rifle instead..better sites also mounted a small scope on it ..the barrel detaches & the synthetic stock & the barrel slide in to a foam padded case that "floats"...also mounted a strap very light & handy ,but easier to shoot more accurately than the ar7 Glen

Anonymous said...

I have a Charter Arms version and would like to find out the year it was made. I went to CA and they refered me to AR7 dot com but they were no help either. You would think going to CA would be the direct ticket but no.... unless I got someone who didn't know better, it was a manager

Anonymous said...

I bought a Henry AR7 last year.

It's reliable with decent high velocity ammo, like the Winchester Super-X that come in the plastic trays of 100, and is mostly reliable with Federal bulk pack (but those who shoot bulk pack .22 LR ammo will notice how many duds you get in every carton, no matter what firearm you shoot it in--it's cheap for a reason). With Federal American Eagle I get no duds, but I do get 2-3 failures to extract and failures to eject in every magazine, but every semiauto .22 I own does the same thing with it. It's very dirty and noticeably underpowered and inconsistent, and doesn't seem to have enough powder to move the bolt back consistently.

And unfortunately in the Obama Era we can't pick and choose which .22 LR ammo we'll buy--it's whatever's available at the indoor range today, if they have any at all.

The last time I had it out, I shot some 2" groups with it standing offhand at 25 yards, then at 50 feet, with elbows braced on the little table between the range dividers (prone or position shooting not permitted at this indoor range) I put eight of eight through a 1" target in slow fire; if the group was 3/4" center to center, that's about 4 MOA. And I haven't tried Mini-Mags or Federal Gold Medal HV Match in it yet. So mine, at least, is up to headshots on squirrels out to 25 or 30 meters if I am.

The trigger is horrible, at least twelve pounds, and does not seem to be breaking in. The break is crisp enough, but when I'm pulling the trigger of a two-pound rifle and I can SEE the front sight start to wobble and move in a four o'clock direction, that's bad. The little rifle would be a lot more pleasant to shoot, and a lot easier to shoot well, if the trigger were better.

Also, I'd really like to see an all-metal barrel, even aluminum with a steel rifled sleeve inside it. When I start shooting with it, it's dead on or maybe around an inch high at 25 yards, but as that barrel heats up--and a steel liner in a plastic shell heats up FAST--I can see the point of impact moving left and down group by group, until after about 100 rounds in 20 minutes it's moved four inches in an eight o'clock direction. Also, if anyone from Charter Arms is listening, I like the highly visible front sight, but I don't like how thick it is. In addition to an all-metal barrel, can we please have a metal front sight about .062" side to side? Square blade or brass bead, I don't care, but I think I could shoot the rifle more precisely if that great big thick hunk of orange plastic weren't obscuring the targets.

Lastly, since there are places to stow three mags in the stown rifle (there are two slots for mags inside the buttstock, and the receiver will fit in the buttstock just fine with a third magazine in it), I kind of wish the rifle came with three mags.