Henry Moves History Forward

Henry Repeating Arms is celebrating 25 years of advancing the classic lever action.

Henry Moves History Forward

It’s estimated that 20 million Americans own AR-15s, many purchased in the last two decades, which has led some in the shooting sports to label the AR-15 “America’s Rifle.”

All due respect to the fine and very functional platform that is the AR-15, but America’s rifle has been and will likely always be the lever action. The lever action connects Americans to the Old West and the cowboy, both of which are concurrently historical realities and are deeply ingrained American myths about individuality, freedom and adventure.

The lever action is a staple of our popular culture, too. From John Wayne to Walt Longmire, if there’s a cowboy hat being worn in a movie or television series or a Western vista being shown, you can bet someone’s carrying a trusty lever action.

Among those gun makers who’ve kept the lever action alive and well is Henry Repeating Arms Company, which shipped its very first rifle in March of 1997 and this year, 2022, celebrates a quarter century of successful manufacturing.

The company has made such an impact on the shooting sports and lever-action markets under the leadership of founder Anthony Imperato, that it opened its third manufacturing and shipping facility in October 2021, in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. Henry facility Number Two opened its doors in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, in 2011 and eventually became the company’s headquarters.

What started in Bayonne, New Jersey, with a relative handful of workers is now a major gun maker boasting nearly 600 employees and over 250,000 square feet of facility space. Henry Repeating Arms offers consumers 207 SKUs in its latest catalogue, plus another 55 SKUs exclusive to Henry partners and not usually available through normal retail avenues. The company has literally made and sold millions of rifles.

The company is also a major supporter of brick-and-mortar FFLs. 

“I grew up working behind the counter in my family’s gun shop,” Imperator says. “That experience allows me to better understand the challenges our retailers face. Henry will continue to prioritize our retailers’ need to make a profit with improved product availability, timely answers to questions, and immediate resolution to any issue that may arise. We will always keep an open channel, listening to retailers and striving to do the best we can for them, even in a very challenging environment."

Today, Imperato acts as Henry’s CEO and is the company’s principal owner, while Andy Wickstrom, longtime Henry general manager, assumed duties as Henry’s president in May 2021; Wickstrom oversees operations from the Rice Lake HQ.

Cutting Edge

The very first Henry Repeating Arms rifle manufactured and sent to retailers 25 years ago was the H001 Classic Lever Action .22 rimfire, and it is still produced to this day. In December of 2017, Henry built its one millionth H001.

All of which means that in the last quarter century, Henry has been on the cutting edge of lever-action manufacturing.

“Many Americans grew up admiring lever-action rifles,” notes Wickstrom. “Maybe your grandfather had one, and like me, you could only dream of owning it or one like it someday. And there are countless other connections that we, as Americans, have to the lever-action rifle, from our history and our pop culture.

“However — and this is important — Henry does not make that rifle,” Wickstrom adds. “While the form and function of our lever actions are loyal to the era of my grandfather's rifle, the modern Henry rifle uses state-of-the-art technology that surpasses Grandpa’s rifle in every way.”

Not surprisingly, Henry is a major player at thousands of gun shops across the nation.

“We’re a Henry Top 100 Nationwide Gold Dealer and we almost never have less than 70 to 80 Henry rifles on hand at any one time,” says Duane Hammaker, co-owner of Guns Plus in Duncannon, Pennsylvania. “Right now, we’ve got around 120, and they are going fast. We actually have a separate room for our Henry rifles, the Henry Repeating Arms Shop at Guns Plus, where we also offer Henry Pride items like hats and slings.”

Jay’s Sporting Goods in Gaylord, Michigan, is another prominent Henry retailer. Owner JJ Poet says he appreciates that Henry is always producing fresh new products. “They cover all the bases from people that are going to really use the rifles and shotguns to people who just want a beautiful wall hanger. I believe they look for voids in the market and they work to fill those voids with quality products.”

Henry rimfire lever actions are the most popular at Poet’s shop, with the original Hoo1 Classic Rimfire his top seller. The newly launched AXE .410 shotgun/handgun has quickly developed a strong customer base here, along with the Henry Big Boy chambered in .44 Remington Magnum.

“At Henry, we take great pride in our work and are continually improving our line of firearms,” says Peter Etlicher, director of engineering. “Improvement drives innovation. Our engineering team pushes the rules in all areas: firearm design, CNC machining techniques, integrating robotic automation, state of the art quality control, to name a few. It is key to Henry that our partnered suppliers share the same vision for innovation and success. All of this brings a high standard to our firearms that we all can be proud of."

Proven Versatility

Introduced in 2020, the AXE .410 features a distinctive “axe handle” pistol grip from which the gun takes its name. With a barrel length of just under 16-inches and an overall length of just over 26-inches, the AXE can be stored in far more places than your average shotgun, and yet has the same five-round capacity of 2.5-inch shells as its larger lever-action .410 shotgun counterparts. The barrel is topped off with a brass-bead front sight and the muzzle end is internally threaded for invector-style chokes. The AXE .410 is available in a hardened brass or a matte blued steel finish.

And a consumer doesn’t need an NFA $200 Tax Stamp to purchase and use the AXE 410. Given its dimensions, the AXE .410 is legally considered a handgun.

Henry’s X-Models are also innovative in their tactical form. Chambered in .410 gauge, plus a variety of centerfire rifle and handgun calibers, the X-Models feature both Picatinny and M-Lok accessory slots, while the carbine-length barrels are topped off with highly visible fiber optic sights, fore and aft. The muzzle comes threaded for a suppressor or a muzzle device.

The company’s marketing is also a big help in generating in-store sales, most recently with Henry’s “Protect and Provide” campaign.

“I don’t think a lot of customers thought of the lever action for personal protection,” Hammaker says. “But the ‘Protect and Provide’ marketing that Henry did and does put a different spin on things. You can use the AXE .410 for home defense and still use it for squirrel hunting if you need to. Same thing with the X-Models.”

Henry launched its Protect & Provide advertising and marketing campaign to highlight SKUs like the X-Models, imprinting the idea on consumers that these firearms can be just as successful at the bedside for home defense as they are in the field.

“The lever actions are versatile enough to play that double-duty role,” says Daniel Clayton-Luce, Henry’s communications director. “They can protect your home and family and provide at the same time by putting food on the table. While a lever action may not be the very first thing that comes to mind for home defense or even hunting, there is no doubt that the platform can be incredibly versatile if executed correctly, and I feel that we've proven it.”

Dealer Advantages

Another reason for Henry’s impressive growth and success: Henry listens, both to its dealers and consumers.

“We keep every line of communication as open as possible, and while that makes for busy days, it is critical for keeping our ear to the ground,” Clayton-Luce noted. “We have a dedicated product ‘suggestion box’ on our website that feeds us monthly reports, we have around 1 million followers on social media that we love to engage with, and someone can always pick up the phone and call us to get a real person that will make sure their feedback or suggestion is sent to the right place.

“On a weekly basis, I probably get around a dozen emails to my personal email address from customers asking if we have plans to produce a firearm in a specific caliber or configuration. In short, we try to be as engaged as possible and then prioritize feedback as we start to see patterns emerge.”

What are the advantages of being a Henry dealer? In addition, that is, to offer their high-quality and increasingly popular firearms?  For one, Clayton-Luce notes, Henry sends out thousands of catalogs that have been requested by interested buyers.

“Inside that catalog envelope is a cover letter with some important background information for how firearms are purchased,” he says. “On the back of that letter is a personalized list of dealers in or around that person's ZIP code. We do a really good job of directing our customers to brick-and-mortar retailers, big or small.”

For its retailers, Henry also offers in-store signage, floor mats, brochures and other point-of-sale items. Plus, Henry is always ready to help out the FFL retailer and is just a phone call away.

“As an FFL, I would also like to say that they are one of the best companies I deal with,” says Poet. “I know when I call them, they just want to help me and not make me jump through hoops. They get any request I make done in a timely manner. I really can't say enough about them.”

Wickstrom says more people are being drawn to lever actions as Henry modernizes and expands its offerings, which will continue to be the company’s focus. “We are actively pursuing new designs that will continue feeding America's passion for the lever-action rifle, while advancing performance, accuracy, and ultimately the owner's satisfaction of a well-made American rifle.”


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